May 9, 2006 (Washington) -- Girls should make their first visit to a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
"The goal is to get acquainted with the provider before you need care for a specific health problem," says Mark R. Laufer, MD, chief of gynecology at Children's Hospital in Boston and chairman of ACOG's Committee on Adolescent Health.
Among topics that should be discussed are menstruationmenstruation, sexuality, healthy nutritionnutrition, eating disorders, and normal development, Laufer says.
The new ACOG committee opinion was released at ACOG's annual meeting.
Opportunity to Ask Questions
Instead, it's an opportunity for girls to start learning about staying healthy and to confide their sexual history to a nonjudgmental health expert.
"It provides an opportunity for teens to ask questions they may be too embarrassed to ask family or friends," he says. "It also helps ensure that gynecological myths are not perpetuated on the school bus."
Most Teens Sexually Active
Lesley L. Breech, MD, assistant professor in the division of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, says the visit is also an excellent opportunity to discuss pregnancypregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted diseases.
"This is crucial," she says, "as more than 85% of them will have had some form of sexual contact by age 19, and nearly one-third of ninth graders and more than 60% of 12th graders report having sexual intercourse."
If a teen is sexually active, she should be screened for sexually transmitted diseases, Breech adds.
Breech also recommends that parents be included in an initial discussion. "Conversations regarding normal pubertal development and menstruation can be reassuring for both mothers and daughters, as neither frequently knows exactly what is normal and what is not."
But after that initial talk, the teen and provider should be left alone to develop a one-on-one trusted relationship, she says.