Puberty can be a nerve-wracking time for parents and their children. Not only are there physical and emotional changes, but moms and dads also must decide when it's the right time to start taking daughters to the gynecologist.
Two Circle of Moms members, both named Shannon, are seeking input from more experienced mothers. "My 13-year-old has had her monthly since she was nine, and every mood swing came along with it. Now we have hit a point where most of her friends have had sex, and when I get online and just sit and read some of the problems a lot of moms are facing, it leaves me with the same question every time: 'Do I need to take her to see my gynecologist?'" asks one of them.
The other Shannon shares that her teenaged sister-in-law came to her for advice, asking to be taken to a gynecologist because she has been having irregular periods and cramps. "Her mother thinks she is too young to go to the OB/GYN and won’t let her go. Is this wrong?" Shannon asks.
We've outlined the four times when Circle of Moms generally agree you should take your teen/tween to the gynecologist
1. To Address Certain Types of Symptoms or Problems
A gynecologist specializes in the health of the female reproductive system. Generally, most Circle of Moms members believe girls don’t need to go to this specialist at an early age if she is healthy and not sexually active.
However, if your daughter is having problems like recurring yeast infections, discharge, cysts or bad cramps, then taking her to an expert is warranted, says a mom who goes by the initials JL R. "If my kid had recurring ear, nose or throat issues, I would insist on an ear, nose and throat doctor. If they had heart problems, I would want a cardiologist. So if she is having vajayjay problems, then we are off to the gyno," she shares.
Cassie C. agrees: "A gynecologist has had specialized training in dealing with female issues and would be better suited to helping the child [than a pediatrician]."
For example, Ortiz E. took her 13-year-old to an OB/GYN because she had very heavy periods with clots that lasted for nine days, plus headaches and pain. “The doctor ran some tests and temporarily put her on birth control to regulate the blood flow, she says.
Wendy B. also took her daughter to the OB/GYN as a teenager, to find out why she hadn’t yet had her period at age 16. "[We found] out that her cervix was completely closed off so she couldn’t get a period." She also had a cyst on her ovary and needed surgery.
Cassie C. adds a moderating note, that even if your child starts having her period at age nine, unless there are problems you don't need to take her to a specialist. "I had my first appointment with a gynecologist at age 19, a few months before my wedding. I had not had sex before that and it was not necessary for me."
2. As Soon as She's Sexually Active
Once your daughter is sexually active — or when you suspect she will be soon— it's a good idea to go to the gynecologist to talk about diseases and birth control, says Ann B. "While we all want our kids to wait, I also am smart enough to know it’s probably unrealistic," she says.
The gynecologist prescribed birth control to Ann’s daughter starting at age 17 because her premenstrual syndrome was causing her to miss several days of school every month, and also because Ann suspected she was sexually active after dating the same boy for five months.
"I believe taking your child to the gyno for regular visits should start when they become sexually active, whatever age that may be," agree moms Rosie P. and Sara B.
"If a girl is grown up enough to ask to go to the OB/GYN [or ask for birth control], then they're old enough to go!" adds Samantha D.
3. To Benefit from a Doctor's Advice
Keep in mind, however, that moms might need to guess when their daughters become sexually active. If that’s the case, then it might be best to start going to the gynecologist early so that your daughter learns about preventive measures from another source, and has a doctor to trust and confide in when the time comes, says Carmen J.
"In this day and age, no matter how you have reared a child, you need to be realistic. There is always the possibility of teenage pregnancy," she says. "Being honest and open is what will help most now as our teens age, [but] you may not know when your child becomes sexually active, despite open communication."
Heather agrees: "Our teens need to hear the talk not just from home and school. If we get them used to being able to discuss things with doctors, etc., surely it must benefit them in the long run."
Going to the gynecologist doesn't mean your daughter needs a pelvic exam, says a member named Kimberly. She took her daughters to the OB/GYN when they turned 15 and made sure that the doctor knew that they weren't sexually active. The doctors respected her request to not perform vaginal exams, but advised them on how to deal with cramps. "[Your daughter] doesn’t have to have the exam if she isn't ready for it, and if [you see] a good doctor, they won't want her to until she becomes sexually active," says Kimberly.
Mindy agrees, saying she started taking her daughter to the gynecologist annually at age 13, although she still isn't sexually active. "That way she is comfortable with my doctor before she has to have a pap smear or anything like that. She is not sexually active yet, but I wanted her to be comfortable with a female doctor in case there are questions or comments she feels like she can't talk to me about. When the time comes that she is sexually active, she will be as safe and educated," she explains.
4. Before She Leaves Home
If your daughter isn't sexually active, nor is experiencing any problems, then Circle of Moms members say a visit to the gynecologist can wait until your child is about 18 (or ready to go to college or leave the nest). At that age, your daughter is an adult, and more than likely not seeing her pediatrician any more. At this stage, getting into the habit of going to the gynecologist annually for a checkup is a good idea — even if she’s not sexually active.
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