If your daughter's body is changing and she has questions, concerns, or is near the end of her teen years, she needs to have a well-woman exam. Young women can feel nervous about their first gynecological visit. Learn about and understand the information for the exam and the tests to help your teen feel more comfortable going into the appointment.
The gynecological exam is different from your teen's typical well visit at her pediatrician's office. But even though your daughter knows that this exam is different, she probably still has plenty of questions. Open up the discussion to her questions and add plenty of basic information. Start with the general steps or parts of the exam. These typically include:
- The general examination. This part of the woman's well visit is much like a regular physical. A nurse or medical assistant will take vitals (such as blood pressure and heart rate) and the doctor may listen to your daughter's breathing.
- The question and answer section. The doctor knows that your daughter is nervous - many young women are. They'll ask your daughter if she has any questions or concerns. Your daughter can ask about her reproductive health, sexuality, birth control, body changes, health issues, or the exam itself.
- The pelvic examination. Depending on your daughter's health issues, she may or may not need a full pelvic exam during the first appointment. If she does, explain that the doctor will insert a medical instrument called a speculum to look inside. The doctor may also use their gloved hand to feel internal organs.
- The external examination. The doctor will examine the exterior of the pelvic region.
- The breast exam. Even if your daughter performs self-breast exams, the doctor may manually feel the breast and armpit area to check for lumps or abnormalities.
Mothers can share their own experiences, helping the teen to feel less alone at this anxiety-producing time. If you don't have your own experience, an adult female relative or very close family friend can step in and ask your daughter if she has any questions.
Along with the examination, this well visit may include a variety of medically necessary tests. The specific tests depend on your teen's needs and current health status. Even though you may not think twice about these tests, your daughter may not know what they are or what to expect. In general, tests that a women's health provider offers include:
- Pap test. As part of the pelvic exam, this isn't always the most comfortable test. But your daughter needs to understand the importance of checking for abnormal cells. Explain that this preventative test is potentially lifesaving.
- HPV test. The HPV virus can cause cervical cancer. If your daughter is sexually active, explain that this beneficial test is one a doctor performs at the same time as the pap. Nearly 42,700 people are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers annually in the United States.
- STD tests. Again, if your daughter is sexually active, the doctor may suggest STD testing. The specific tests depend on information that your daughter provides the doctor with. Also, explain that this information is confidential and that the doctor won't tell you or anyone else what she says.
A teen or young adult often feels shy or nervous about discussing their sexual activity with anyone, including a doctor. However, your daughter should understand the importance of knowing that anyone who is sexually active could contract an STD - whether they've had one partner or many. She also needs to understand the importance of treating an STD early and effectively.
Does your daughter need her first woman-well visit? Contact Alafaya Woods Family Medical Center for more information.