Women's health care needs change a great deal at different stages of their lives. You may require a number of different doctors for your needs. You may even see multiple doctors for primary care. Alternately, you may see a doctor for gynecologic care and not for other needs.
It's a good idea to prepare questions about your health needs when you visit your doctor. The questions you should ask will depend on the type of care you're going to receive.
Going to see a gynecologist - a doctor who focuses on women's reproductive health - means you're taking responsibility for your body in new ways. It can be very exciting to know you're making sure all is going well with puberty, your reproductive system, and more.
Keep in mind that other doctors also can help with gynecological issues. For example, an adolescent medicine specialist, family doctor, or pediatrician can answer questions and may be able to examine your vagina, too.
Of course, it can be stressful to deal with a whole new type of doctor’s visit, but learning more can help you know what to expect. Read answers to these common questions:
Seeing a gynecologist can:
Your gynecologist can answer any questions you have about the many changes that may be happening to your body. It's great to build a relationship with your gynecologist over the years so he or she understands your health and what matters to you.
Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that teenage girls start seeing a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15.
If you don't go at that time, you should make sure to visit a gynecologist, adolescent health specialist, or other health professional who can take care of women’s reproductive health if:
It's understandable if you're nervous about your first visit. Keep in mind that part of the time will be spent just talking. Your doctor may ask questions about you and your family to learn if you have a history of illnesses. And you can ask the doctor any questions you might have. Don't worry your doctor probably has already heard every question imaginable! You can talk about any concerns you have, including:
During your visit, your doctor will probably go through some of the usual items on a doctor's checkup checklist, like weighing you and measuring your blood pressure. He or she also may check the outside of your genitals and do a breast exam. It's common for young women to have some lumpiness in their breasts, but your doctor may want to make sure you don't have problem lumps or pain.
You may have heard of Pap tests and pelvic exams and wonder if you need them. Most likely you won't need either of these until you're 21. If you are sexually active or have symptoms like an unusual vaginal fluid or a history of problems, there's a chance your doctor may choose to do one or both of these. It's helpful, then, to know what to expect.
A pelvic exam usually involves the doctor examining the outside of your genital area (the vulva). It may also involve the doctor using a tool called a speculum to look inside your vagina and check to make sure your cervix is healthy. Frequently, he or she also will feel inside to make sure organs like your ovaries and uterus feel okay. You probably will feel pressure, but it shouldn't hurt. Try to relax - breathing deeply can help.
A Pap test is done by gently taking some cells from your cervix. These cells are checked for changes that could be cancer or that could turn into cancer.
You have options to make your visit more comfortable: