The first gynecological exam: 5 tips for teen girls

by Kaiser Permanente |
Parent reassuring teen before medical appointment

Girls and young women go through amazing changes during their adolescent and teen years. As they approach adulthood, they often have new questions and health concerns. During this time, it’s helpful for young girls to have guidance to help them develop great health habits.

"Visiting a gynecologist is part of the journey," says Fonda Mitchell, MD, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology in Georgia. "It empowers girls and young women to learn more about their bodies and sexual health."

When to make the first appointment

Girls should have their first gynecology appointment somewhere between the ages of 13 and 15. Note: This visit could just be an opportunity for a girl to talk with her doctor without a physical exam.

A little knowledge and preparation go a long way

It would be understandable for a girl, or her mother, to be nervous about this first appointment. If you’re a young girl approaching her first visit, or the parent of one, remembering these 5 tips will help you relax and get the most from your appointment:

Know why gynecological exams are important. Regular gynecological exams serve 3 main purposes:

  • To make sure your body is healthy
  • To give you opportunities to learn about pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted infections, and healthy lifestyles
  • To offer confidential, accurate answers to any questions you might have

Schedule the exam in the middle of your menstrual cycle (between periods). This is probably the most comfortable time for a girl to have her exam. Also, you should avoid the following for 2 days before your appointment:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal douches
  • Tampon use

Dress and groom for comfort and cleanliness. Shower normally the day of your appointment, and wear comfortable clothes that are easy to put on and take off. Body powders and creams can affect test results, so don’t wear them that day.

Know your family history. Since this exam covers women’s health, it’s especially helpful to be familiar with the health of your mother and/or sister(s), if possible. Knowing whether they had painful periods, endometriosis, pregnancy issues, or any ongoing conditions will help you and your provider spot and treat any potential health issues early on.

Try not to be embarrassed. During an exam, your reproductive system will be examined, and a nurse may ask for urine and blood samples. Your doctor or nurse may also have questions about your period and your sexual history. Although the questions and procedures might seem uncomfortable or even invasive, staying relaxed can help in many ways. Not only will it ease any physical discomfort you might feel, but it will free you up to be candid with your doctor about important health issues.

An opportunity to empower yourself

"Concentrate on the fact this is an opportunity for you to build a trusting relationship with your physician," says Dr. Mitchell. "Everyone understands how awkward this can be — especially the first time — but we are here to put you at ease and make sure that you receive the health care that you need."

When you’re relaxed and prepared, you can look at your first gynecological visit as an opportunity to talk privately about any concerns you might have about your health. In fact, it’s a good idea to prepare a list of questions and concerns before your appointment. In the end, it’s all part of growing up to be a healthy young woman.