From adolescence to early adulthood, there are many changes taking place in a young woman’s body, including the maddening rush of hormones at puberty. Going through these inevitable growth spurts and bodily changes can easily make any woman feel awkward and at odds with her own body.
Which is why seeing a physician – especially a gynecologist – is so important for young women.
A gynecologist is focused on health care for the female body, especially the reproductive organs (vagina, cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes, ovaries) and breasts. This type of physician is the perfect medical expert to evaluate and explain the proper functioning of these parts of a woman’s body.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend a first gynecologic visit between the ages of 13 – 15 years. Annual visits thereafter are recommended.
Proper gynecological care can prevent or aid the early detection of diseases, conditions and infections such as cervical cancer, genital warts, or sexually transmitted diseases. That said, until a woman is 21, the annual OB/GYN visit is usually more of a discussion.
Your First Visit to the Gynecologist
During your first OB/GYN visit, you can expect your gynecologist to review your medical history and conduct a thorough physical examination, which may or may not include a visual inspection of the outer genital area (vulva).
Your breasts will be palpitated with the pads of the fingers to feel for any unusual lumps or other abnormalities. To avoid any discomfort, you may wish to schedule your appointment for a few days after your period so that your breasts won’t be as tender. Your doctor should show you how to do a breast self-check at home.
Urine and blood samples are sometimes obtained to test for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, or infections.
A pap test and pelvic exam are not usually required during a young woman’s first OB/GYN appointment unless she is sexually active, and her history or symptoms warrant it.
A pap test (or pap smear) is used to check for abnormal cells lining the cervix. A pap test is recommended every three years for women between the ages of 21 and 65. During a pap, a speculum is inserted into the vagina, opened so that your doctor or nurse can gently brush a sampling of cells for lab testing. A pelvic examination usually accompanies a pap test, and it involves an inspection of the outer genital area and feeling inside the vagina for any abnormalities in the ovaries or uterus.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a virus that can cause cellular changes in the cervix that can lead to cancer. An HPV test checks for the presence of the virus; a pap test is what’s used to look for the changes that can lead to cancer – both are conducted in a lab with a sampling of cells from a woman’s cervix. While it is unlikely you will receive this test during your first OB/GYN visit, you may want to ask your doctor about whether the HPV vaccine is appropriate for you.
In addition, your gynecologist can answer many questions you may have, including:
- Menstrual bleeding – including what frequency and associated symptoms (such as cramps) are normal, and which may require a visit to your doctor
- Sexual activity – what to expect, plus the risks of sexually transmitted diseases. Even if you are not sexually active now, you likely will be in the future.
- Birth control – such as condoms, dental dams, or other methods
Don’t be shy. This is your chance to arm yourself with the information about your body you will need to be healthy going into your adulthood. And remember: regular visits to your gynecologist are an essential part of growing up and taking responsibility for your health.
At the Unique Wellness Center, we offer an array of gynecological services to meet the needs of women of all ages. Throughout your health care journey into womanhood and beyond, our dedicated board-certified gynecologist and nurse practitioner will be there to diagnose and treat any health condition that may arise.
To learn more about what to expect at your first OB/GYN visit, call Unique Wellness Center today at (954) 368-9656 and request an appointment with Dr. Nisseth Urribarri, or request an appointment online.