A Note to Teens & Their Parents
Part of growing up is learning to take care of your body. This means making good choices for your health, avoiding things that can hurt you, and seeing a doctor for routine health care. If you have never visited an obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) before, you may have questions about what will happen at your first visit.
Real talk about periods
Young patients, their parents and even their doctors are often unsure what represents normal menstrual patterns during adolescence. Our own Dr. Merritt joined the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Radio Rounds podcast to talk about the first few years of menstruation, including cramps, tampon use and when you may need to talk to your doctor.
Listen to the podcast:
Young women should have their first gyn visit between the ages of 13 and 15 years. The first visit may be just a talk between you, your parents, and your doctor. Your doctor may ask a lot of questions that seem very personal about your menstrual period. It is important to be as honest as possible with your doctor, and it is also important to ask any questions that you may have. Your doctor will also give to the opportunity to speak to her without your parent if you would like more privacy. Most parents understand, and will respect your need for confidentiality (privacy). Your doctor will explain important health issues to you and your family at the end of your visit.
You may or may not have an examination at your first visit. It will depend on your age and the reasons for your visit. If you choose, a nurse or family member may be with you for any part of your exam. Your doctor will probably review the anatomy of the pelvic area. Many young teens do not need a speculum exam (a speculum is a special instrument designed to help your doctor look into the vagina), and the current recommendations for a pap smear have been changed to age 21.
Additional reasons for teens to see a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist, besides these routine annual visits, include problems with menstrual periods (pain, nausea, heavy or irregular bleeding, frequent or absent periods), hirsutism and acne (which may be signs of polycystic ovarian syndrome or other endocrine problems), pelvic pain that is not responding to standard treatments, pelvic masses, ovarian tumors, or congenital anomalies of the reproductive orders. The pediatric and adolescent gynecologist is experienced with medications for problem menstrual periods, polycystic ovarian syndrome, contraception (birth control), treatment of sexually transmitted infections, endometriosis, and the new vaccine which can prevent cervical cancer and genital warts (HPV vaccine).
Meet our gynecologists
Our doctors have specialized training and are highly experienced in gynecologic treatment and care for teens and young women.
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Diane F. Merritt, MD
Division Director, Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecology
Fellowship Director, Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecology