When should teens and preteens start visiting the gynecologist?

Doctor smiling at young patient during appointment

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), adolescents should have their first routine gynecologic visit between ages 13 and 15 years old. Younger patients are also welcome. Typically, the first appointment includes an introduction to the gynecologist and general health counseling, as well as discussion of any concerns.

As pediatric and adolescent gynecologists, we offer an ideal starting point for young patients who are new to gynecologic care. When it’s time to schedule your teen or preteen’s first gynecology appointment, we want you both to understand what to expect and how we can help.

Building a Doctor-Patient Relationship

Pediatric and adolescent gynecologists have special training and experience in talking to young patients at various stages of adolescence. Preteens and teenagers are not always comfortable asking parents, guardians or other adults in their lives about issues such as periods, sex and birth control. This often leads them to gather misinformation from friends or the internet.

An established, trusting relationship with a gynecologist can help teens and preteens feel comfortable asking private questions. Providing a setting where they can receive accurate answers and advice will help them now and as they continue to mature. For example, if a pelvic exam is required for a more urgent health concern in the future, having already established a relationship with their gynecologist can decrease a young patient’s anxiety about the exam.

Personal Health and Hygiene Education

The first visit not only provides an opportunity for teens and preteens to ask their questions, but it also gives the gynecologist a chance to offer important, age-appropriate patient education.

General topics covered during the first visit may include:

  • Basic hygiene
  • Normal versus abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Puberty
  • Menstruation

Wellness Exams and Assessments

Depending on the patient’s individual needs, the gynecologist may:

  • Discuss physical and emotional development
  • Review medical history
  • Perform a basic pelvic exam and/or breast exam
  • Offer possible solutions to address symptoms or other concerns

Our goal is to make the experience as positive as possible, helping our patients to understand the benefits of routine wellness and preventive care at an early age.

It’s understandable that teens and preteens may often feel anxiety, nervousness or even fearful about wellness procedures, such as their first pelvic exam or breast exam. Although, these exams may be performed under certain circumstances at this age, they typically become routine at age 21. When an exam is necessary at a younger age, starting with a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist is ideal, because we offer unique expertise in providing the best gynecologic care possible for children, adolescents and young adults.

Our goal is to make the experience as positive as possible, helping our patients to understand the benefits of routine wellness and preventive care at an early age.

Understanding the Menstrual Cycle

Most adolescents get their first period between ages 10 and 15. At this age, they may be curious about or already having periods, and they may have questions.

A visit with a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist can help teens and preteens learn about the menstrual cycle and what is considered normal or abnormal. Many times, this can be an opportunity to offer solutions for issues such as:

HPV Vaccination

Teens and preteens can also get the HPV vaccine at their gynecologist’s office. The HPV vaccine helps protect adolescents from developing the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is known to lead to more than six types of cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two doses of the HPV vaccine: the first between ages 11 and 12, and the second six months later. If the child waits until age 15, they will need three doses of the vaccine.

Sex Education

It may be difficult for an adolescent to talk to parents, guardians or other adults they know about sex. However, it is imperative that they have an opportunity to have these conversations with someone who can provide accurate information. A pediatric and adolescent gynecologist can answer questions and provide education about topics such as:

  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Birth control and pregnancy prevention
  • Safe and healthy intimate relationships
  • Gender identity
  • LGBTQ+ topics
  • Having sex for the first time

Diagnosis and Treatment for Gynecologic Conditions

For teens and preteens who have gynecologic conditions or symptoms, forming a doctor-patient relationship connects them with an expert who is poised to provide the specialized care they need. Pediatric and adolescent gynecologists are trained to manage the intricate health needs of children, teens and young adults who have:

  • Complex chronic gynecologic conditions
  • Physical or mental disabilities, such as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy
  • Congenital gynecologic abnormalities (conditions present since birth)
Shashwati Pradhan

About Shashwati Pradhan, MD

Shashwati Pradhan, MD, is a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist. She specializes in helping children, teens and young adults navigate gynecologic conditions while minimizing nervousness, embarrassment and worry.

Learn more about Dr. Pradhan
Julie Chor

Julie Chor, MD, MPH

Julie Chor, MD, MPH, is a gynecologist who specializes in family planning and contraceptive counseling. She also has a strong interest in adolescent health, medical ethics and global issues in maternal health.

Learn more about Dr. Chor

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