Although there are plenty of milestones to look forward to – first driving lesson, first school dance, first smiling photo with the braces off – first gynecological exam isn’t something teens are eager to add to the books. However, visits to the gynecologist are part of the program for a young woman entering adulthood.
Your teen may feel nervous or ashamed about her upcoming exam. Assurance from a trusted adult can put her at ease, and knowing what to expect can make her feel more confident. Here are some things she should know.
The purpose of the exam.
Let your teen know that she is visiting the gynecologist for guidance, for prevention of problems, and for treatment of existing conditions. Explain that although this type of exam may invade her personal space a little more than doctor visits have in the past, it is for the best and it can prevent much more discomfort later.
What will happen at the exam.
A teen’s gynecological exam is largely comprised of discussion. The doctor will advise your teen on how to stay healthy. He or she will talk about current health behaviors and talk about making adjustments if necessary.
The doctor will also bring up some uncomfortable topics, such as menstruation cycles and sexual activity. Assure your teen that your discussion with her gynecologist is private, and it is important to be honest.
Encourage your teen to ask her gynecologist questions during the discussion. She may ask any health and wellness question, including questions about acne or emotional issues. Any concern of your daughter’s is a concern for the doctor and will be addressed.
Next, the doctor will perform medical exams, possibly including a pelvic and breast exam. (The pelvic exam, likely the source of anxiety, is a very small portion of the gynecologist visit.)
Finally, the doctor will ask for urine tests for STDs (if applicable) get her current on any vaccinations she may need.
About the medical exams.
The doctor and nurse will do a general medical exam, including height, weight, blood pressure, etc. Your teen is likely familiar with these practices.
Explain to your teen what a pelvic exam entails: a speculum is inserted into the vagina in order to open it to give the doctor a view of the cervix. If your daughter needs a Pap smear (a sampling of cervical cells collected with a small brush), it will be performed at this time. Let her know that this part can be uncomfortable, but the more relaxed she is, the easier it will be. You can practice relaxation techniques with her that she may want to try once it is time.
Also, explain that the doctor will examine the size and shape internal pelvic organs by feeling from the inside and outside at the same time. Assure her that this only takes a moment, and that is usually the end of the pelvic exam. She may be happy to hear that the entire pelvic exam takes just a few minutes from start to finish.
Ask what you can do to make her more comfortable.
Let her know that you can be there for any portion of the exam that she wants, or that she may ask you to leave the room at any time.
Unfamiliar situations can be unnerving for teens, but knowing what to expect and having the support of a trusted adult can certainly lessen fears.