Being a parent, you have probably been scheduling your child’s doctor appointments since she was only a few days old. As she approaches the teenage years, you should be actively involved in planning her first gynecology appointment. While it may feel awkward (and it’s one more sign that she’s growing up right before your eyes), it is important that you set her up for gynecological health from her teens. To help you through it, here are a few things you need to know in order to keep her first gynecology appointment as comfortable as possible.
Before the Appointment
Before you head in, ensure that your daughter knows what to expect during the experience. A gynecologist appointment is extremely personal and intimate, even for those who are veterans at the annual exam. Your daughter may feel better equipped for the experience if you are able to arm her with information about what will happen (and why). If you aren’t quite sure where to start, check out this question and answer page from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
While you’re talking about what to expect, make sure that you inform her why an exam is important in the first place. As Kids Health puts it, gynecological exams are important for three reasons: information, prevention and treatment. Your daughter can get reliable information about her body, sex and any questions she may have. She can also learn methods of preventing pregnancy and infections and diseases that can be passed through different types of sexual contact, including cervical cancer. Finally, your daughter can establish a relationship with a doctor who can help her with medical concerns such as missed periods or even painful cramping.
During the Appointment
Once you and your daughter have covered the why and what to expect, make sure that she knows her options and rights during the appointment. First, let her know that you can be in the room during the exam if she would like you to or you can wait elsewhere. Even more importantly, let her know that she doesn’t have to make that decision right away. She’ll feel better for knowing she has control over these options and can change her mind at any time. Having you in the room for her exam could make her feel safer, more confident and less nervous. However, having you near could also make her feel self-conscious or awkward. Let her know that you will respect her decision no matter what, and that you are available if she needs you.
Finally, make sure that you and her doctor cover confidentiality with her during her appointment. She may be keeping certain questions or lifestyle details a secret from you, but she should be open with her doctor, knowing that information remains confidential (as long as it isn’t causing herself or anyone else harm). Stress to your daughter that her doctor is a safe place to get answers to any questions — no matter how embarrassing or disconcerting — she may have. Truth-telling is an important part of the gynecologist-patient relationship.
After the Appointment
Once the appointment is over, make yourself available to answer any questions or talk about anything that happened in the appointment. Support her in tangible ways such as filling any prescriptions or researching any recommendations from the doctor. Finally, be sure that you continue with an annual exam schedule unless her doctor deems otherwise.
Ready to make that appointment? You can do it at UVA.Learn More