A girl’s first trip to the gynecologist is an unforgettable experience — and not necessarily in a good way. Many of us recall the experience as either awkward or downright horrifying. But does it have to be that way for your daughter?
Most mothers recall their first trip to the gynecologist and want their daughters to have a better experience. How can we best prepare our girls to have a positive experience that will create healthy habits for the future? And what are the rules as far as your daughter’s privacy goes?
We talked with Dr. Joyce Gottesfeld, an OB/GYN at Kaiser Permanente Colorado to get some more insight into how mothers can prepare their daughters and make sure they get the most from this often dreaded experience.
First, Gottesfeld says it is important to know that, in most cases, young ladies do not need a physical exam — they can come in the first time just to talk. She doesn’t perform pelvic exams on her patients until they are 21 unless they are experiencing some other problem. When her patients turn 21, she also advises them to have their first pap test.
"They don’t necessarily have to take their clothes off," she says.
That’s not to say that the first visit isn’t important. Young women should have their first appointment sooner if they are sexually active. They should have a universal screening for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that also includes a urine test for chlamydia. Sexually active women may also want to talk about their birth control options.
"Some kids get this education in their schools or from their families, but you can imagine it varies widely how much girls know about this," she says.
Other health issues, such as weight and regularity of teens’ periods, also come up. Even if you tell your daughter about what goes into a pelvic exam, pap test or breast exam, they likely won’t need it. Certainly make sure they know to inform the gynecologist about their period flow, and that it’s OK to be descriptive.
"Sometimes we’re the only health provider a girl is seeing," adds Gottesfeld, stressing the importance of the visit, especially if the young woman doesn’t see a doctor regularly.
When a mother takes her child to the gynecologist, Gottesfeld advises not being in the room with her daughter.
"I think you want to establish that trust with the younger woman that what they tell you is going to be confidential," she says.
Any matters discussed — no matter how much you don’t know and are dying to find out — are strictly between the young lady and her physician. Letting her know that may help her be able to open up more about her health, and in turn, receive better care.
Gottesfeld says most women take their daughters to their own gynecologist. Not only can the mother share her experiences with the daughter and give her some insight into the doctor, the physician will have a better idea of the young woman’s health history because he or she knows about her mother’s background.
"A lot of girls want to do that; they want to see their mom’s doctor. It’s nice if the mom has met the gynecologist and knows that person is nice and sympathetic and easy to talk to… and then the daughter goes there," Gottesfeld says. "It’s nice if there’s already that family relationship established. But some [young women] want to see their own doctor."
How a young woman finds her doctor varies, as does the sex of the doctor she chooses. Gottesfeld thinks it may be easier to see a female gynecologist for the first visit.
"You want it to be sort of an easy, gentle, positive as possible experience," Gottesfeld says. An encouraging experience can ease a young woman’s nerves and drive her to come in regularly to better manage her own health.
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