As you get older and your body is changing, the time will come when you have your first visit to a gynecologist. What is a gynecologist, when do you go, what happens, and why go at all? Read on for all the answers.
What is a gynecologist (and how is a gyno different from a pediatrician)?
When you're a kid, you go to a pediatrician or family doctor. A pediatrician treats boys and girls, gives checkups, immunizations, helps you when you're sick and helps you stay healthy. A gynecologist specializes in the female body, and only treats girls and women. A gynecologist knows all about puberty and periods, hormones and development, and pregnancy and giving birth.
When should you schedule your first gyno visit?
You should have your first gyno visit between the ages of 13 and 15 or when you become sexually active, whichever comes first (and even if you haven't had your first period yet). After your first visit, you should go back once a year for a checkup. Unless you have health issues or concerns, you probably won't have a full exam on your first visit.
Here's a cool fact you may not know: When you're in your early teens and visit a gynecologist for a checkup, you mostly just sit and chat!
Why do I need to visit a gynecologist?
As your body changes, it's important to visit a gynecologist to help you answer questions about the changes you're going through and check if your development is on track. Your doctor can chat with you about everything that's going on—not just your body changes, but your emotions and questions about pressures, friends, eating, school, and just about anything else.
What happens when you get there?
When you first arrive at the gynecologist's office, you'll check in and usually sit in a waiting room, just like at any other doctor's office. The only thing is: All the patients here are female!
When you're called in, you may first see a nurse to have your blood pressure, temperature, and height and weight checked, or you may go right in to see the doctor. They may check to see if you need any shots.
When you go in to meet your doctor, sometimes you sit in a chair in an office at a desk, other times you go right into the examination room. Your doctor will come in and you'll all introduce yourselves. Your doctor will want to learn all about you. Be prepared for a comfortable, easy conversation.
Here are some things you may talk about:
Periods, development, zits, eating, favorite activities, favorite subjects at school, feelings, friends, family, how much sleep you get, how often you shower and wash your hair, how often you poop, what you like to do to relax, and other stuff about you.
Here are some things about your body and puberty your doctor may ask:
Have you gotten your period yet? If you have, when was your last period? Do you get it regularly? What products do you use when you have your period? How heavy is your period? Have you noticed any changes in your body? Do you have discharge in your underwear? Are you in a relationship? Are you dating? Do you have sex? Do you smoke, drink, or use drugs?
It's really important to your health that you answer these questions honestly.
After that, you get to ask the questions. You may want to come prepared with a list of what you want to ask—either in your head or on paper. Some girls like to write their list of questions in a code or shorthand so no one else can read it if they get their hands on it! Here are some things you might ask about:
Normal development, discharge (stuff in your underwear), pain or discomfort in your breasts or genitals, confusing feelings you may have, periods, sex and sexual relationships, weight gain or loss, exercise, skin problems (like zits, redness or itchy patches), hair issues (like dandruff, greasy hair or hair falling out), and general health questions.
After your conversation, your doctor may examine you. You'll most likely just get a general physical exam, much like your pediatrician or family doctor would do. Your doctor will check your breast development and pubic hair to see how you're developing physically.
When examining your private areas, the doctor usually will only look on the outside. You can ask for a nurse, medical assistant, your mom, or a friend to be there to make you more comfortable during the exam. Your doctor may touch the outside of your genitals to demonstrate answers to any questions you may ask about stuff going on down there, or teach you about personal care and hygiene. If you are having pain or menstrual problems, your doctor may examine your genitals more thoroughly.
Can I tell my doctor really personal things?
Privacy is an important part of your relationship with your gynecologist so that you can talk openly about your problems and questions. You'll have time to talk with your doctor in front of your parents, as well as alone, without your parents listening in. Your doctor should make it clear what he or she will share with your parents and what will be kept just between you. Most of the stuff you talk about will be kept under wraps. But, if your doctor feels that you may be in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, or if someone may be hurting you, he or she will have to share that with your parent or guardian.
What if I don't like my doctor?
A gynecologist is an expert on the female body and can help you through the roller coaster of adolescence. Your doctor can talk with you about issues relating to your body's development, weight, personal care, hygiene and general health. He or she can be there for you and help you answer a lot of questions you don't feel like you can go to your parents for. For all these reasons, it is important to have a trusting and comfortable relationship with your gynecologist. If you don't feel comfortable with your doctor, talk with your parent or guardian about your feelings—what makes you feel that way and what would make you more comfortable? Together you can decide how to move forward, whether it's working with the doctor to help you feel more comfortable or changing doctors.
Your first gyno visit can be the beginning of a great relationship with someone who knows a lot and can be yet another trusted resource to go to when you have questions and need good answers!