How to Prepare Your Daughter for Her First Visit to the Gynecologist

Female doctor examining a teenage girlNo one is excited for their visit to the gynecologist, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth. A trip to the gynecologist, while never anyone’s idea of a fun afternoon, should also not be a traumatic or scary appointment. A big key to helping girls feel more comfortable with the idea of their first visit is knowing what to expect.

Things have changed a bit over the past few years and teens no longer need Pap smears.  The new guidelines recommend Pap smears starting at age 21.  That takes a lot of anxiety and pressure off adolescents as they may not necessarily need an invasive pelvic exam at their first visit.  We can spend more time talking to them and discussing their concerns. To prepare your daughter for her visit here are some things to discuss with her before she checks in. You may want to start the conversation days or weeks ahead of time to get her used to the idea.

1. Brief her on family history especially if you are not going to be in the room with her.

It’s always good for young patients to know as much as possible about their family medical history since sooner or later, they’ll definitely be on their own at the doctor’s office.

Your daughter will be asked about any of her own medical problems, hospitalizations, surgeries, and medications. We will also ask about family history, so be sure to include any important medical information about siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles. If any close family members have passed away doctors will want to know what they died from and at what age to help us make sure your daughter is not at risk for any genetic diseases.  One helpful way to make sure your teen remembers everything is to type up a family history for her to take into the room.

2. Encourage her to make a list of questions she would like to ask.

Sometimes when girls are stressed or nervous during an appointment, they can forget their questions.  Have her think about questions before her visit and write them down. Common topics that we discuss include periods, hormones, birth control, sex and sexually transmitted infections and even other health concerns like asthma.

Consider having her make a list of topics that YOU would like us to discuss with her.  Just as all kids are different, so are parents.  Some families are more comfortable discussing sensitive information than others.  As Ob-Gyn providers we are comfortable discussing or teaching your daughter about delicate topics such as weight, nutrition, periods, sex, acne, hygiene, reproductive anatomy etc.

3. Stress the importance of being clean for the examination.

I get asked about this A LOT. To shave or not to shave? The doc isn’t going to care about how she grooms.  I get patients that are very concerned if they haven’t shaved their legs. We don’t notice or care about that either, I promise.  We also don’t mind if someone is on their period during a visit (unless it is for a Pap smear as it will affect the results). We deliver babies; a few drops of blood from a period won’t bother us if delivering a baby doesn’t faze us.  Now hygiene is a different story. I had a teen patient come to her appointment immediately after spending a day at the beach. She was covered in sand and left it in my waiting room, on my exam table, the floor, and even worse, she had sand all over the parts I needed to see when I went to examine her. A quick rinse off, or even using the moist towelettes we provide in the bathroom is appreciated.

4. If you know your daughter is sexually active, find a way to tell her that she should abstain for 24 hours before her appointment.

If your daughter needs an exam or a pap, semen can make results difficult to interpret and normal redness that occurs after intercourse can mimic an infection.

5. Give her an overview of what to expect during her time at the office.

The following are common:

  • Filling out paperwork.
  • Doing a urine sample to check for pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and urinary tract infections. (Tell her not to pee right when she gets into the office and instead ask the nurse putting her in a room if they will need a urine sample.)
  • Possible pelvic exam. The doctor will do a pelvic exam if the patient has any complaints of lumps, bumps, pelvic pain or strange discharge. Even if your daughter doesn’t need a pap smear, she can ask the doctor to tell her how it’s done and show her the speculum. That way, she’ll know what to expect the next time. You can also describe it for her if you feel comfortable and promise not to scare her.
  • Undergoing a breast exam. If your daughter doesn’t do her own exams, the doctor will show her how to do it.
  • Heart and lung exam with a stethoscope.

6. Encourage her to be honest.

Sometimes, young women can be scared to tell the truth. Your daughter will be asked a lot of personal questions. Remind your daughter not to be embarrassed, that doctors are professionals who see a lot of women each day and ask them the same questions. Doctors really do need to know about sensitive subjects like sexual activity, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and any mental health issues. The only way doctors can safely help is if they have the full story of what is going on.

7. Prep her for after the appointment, too.

  • If she has a pelvic exam, let her know that she will want to clean herself off with the tissues in the exam room before putting her clothes back on.  It’s a really uncomfortable sensation to put underwear on if there is residual lubricating gel still present.
  • If the doctor runs tests, make sure she knows how she will get the results, whether it will be by phone or email or a letter.
  • Let her know it’s OK to call the doctor if questions come up that she forgets to ask.
  • Tell her she doesn’t have to stick with the same doc if she felt uncomfortable or like she “didn’t connect.” A gynecology visit is very personal. She needs to be comfortable both honestly discussing her problems with her doctor and receiving a sensitive examination from this provider.  A doc she likes and trusts will make all the difference in the world!

Amy Herold MD

Dr. Amy Herold is a board-certified OB/GYN who practices in Northern California. She brings her interests in women's health and adolescent medicine to her role as Medical Director of ShimmerTeen.com.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

  1. Marin Tomuta

    Btw, that proverbs verse…its not the place for that here. That verse men should be told about, not women. No women ever forced herself on an unwilling man. She may tempt or seduce him, but he bit the apple willingly, so to speak. And maybe woman herself is the apple (wink).
    Plus a married women is different from an unmarried one. And i think its the fathers responsability that he is aware of his daughter, and the mother for her son, to protect and guide them in this beastly jungle.
    Cheers.

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    • Marin Tomuta

      But also each needs discipline as well and that should come from the parent of the same sex. And love from the parent of the opposite sex. Othrwise men turn out to be ie: abusers and women manipulators, or something or other, but essentially antisocial and the society, culture and world will collapse. We all need to take care of our selves first, and make sure we’re good with god, nature, the force etc.

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  2. Marin Tomuta

    Hi. Im male. Out of interest and to know for myself better what happens, I read some of the article. (I wanted to have a dauther someday, but I know its hard and complex to raise a girl, and maybe its not my business to either.)
    Anyway, i just want to say, i dont think anyone ever should be forced to do or go through something they dont want. To lead is better, so that they choose and trust for themselves. If one is forced, i think trust is also lost, and thats hard to build again, cuz it all has to be forgotten before one trust again.
    So education and providing information to the individual to understand and decide for themselves is best. If a parent sees something wrong with their child, or that their child is straying its the parents responsability to livingly help their child. Ive seem a few poor girls abandoned by their mothers. I just dont think force is ever something caring to do, unless thats what someone wants, then its different.
    Also Lisa mentioned girls need ridicule? What is that all about? Is that some kind of female rite of passage hazing? Is that how women keep each other in line? That is pretty sick! God forbid id have a daughter and her to regret being born cuz of some messed up people in society.
    In my experience its usually those who think something is good for someone else who actually needs that for themselves! That is really bothersome! Maybe women should raise men, and fathers should raise women….but i know there are people out there who are not ready for children, yet they go on ahead and make them still and pass their responsability to others. Children learn from what they observe. How their parents behave they naturally will mimic in their own way. We all need to be more aware of ourselves and our behaviors, i think.
    Sorry if this sounds like a lecture, but i just needed and wanted to express my feelings and comment about what ive read.
    And stick to your guns ladies, dont let any man tell you what to do, but consider everything and take what is good and useful. (Thats what my mother told me.)

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  3. Delores Lyon

    Thanks for sharing this advice on taking your daughter to the gynecologist. My daughter Corrine will actually be going to the OB soon, and I want to make sure she has a positive experience. I’ll definitely encourage her to write down her questions that she may have. That way, she will be more informed about her body.

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  4. Callie Marie

    I visited the gynecologist once in my teenage years, but I haven’t been in a long time. The run down of what to expect when I show up for my appointment is much appreciated. I know it isn’t necessary to be nervous but for some reason, I always am when I go to to doctor. I will try making a list of questions beforehand so I can ask them confidently when I meet the doctor.

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  5. B.P.F.

    Proverbs Ch.6 vs. 29.

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  6. Jane Fox

    Wow, this is bringing up memories! I remember my first time seeing an OB/GYN and how terrified I was. I wish my mother had been a little bit more open with me and prepared me with a list of things like this. Number 5 would have been especially helpful, as I wouldn’t have been so terrified because of not knowing what to expect. Thanks for the great article–I’ll definitely be keeping this handy.

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  7. Jada Daniel

    I’m only 13 (about to be 14) and my mother told me I HAVE to go to the gynecologist. I don’t want to! If I do I know I will have the biggest attitude and not give any useful information about my sexual health cause… I don’t think they need to know! I feel uncomfortable talking about how I feel about my body, my period, boobs, “down there.” That’s only my business… Do I have to answer their questions? Do I have to open my legs and let them see what’s going on? Or can I just refuse permanently. I just don’t want to!

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    • Mia

      Hey, if you have already been I hope it went okay :/ I’ve just turned 13, and have only reccently found out what a gynecologist even is! I saw it on the Internet and when I found out I was in floods of tears. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I have tactile sensitivity disorder, which means I am overly sensitive on my breats, adomden and “down there”, if that’s the correct term. I know my mum will eventually ask me to go, but I know I will adamantly refuse. Quite frankly, I would rather die. I just wanted to know how it went for you? Did you get out of it? Thanks :)

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  8. Lisa Jones

    Why isn’t there more discussion about the immaturity of girls and how important it is to abstain from sex until such a time when it’s healthy, positive and safe? Girls today need lectures, guidance, ridicule, and direction and our society and schools pretend that if sexual issues aren’t discussed everyone is better off. I’m in Florida and can’t even get a gynecologist to examine our daughter. We have to go to a midwife center, where they let the patient in charge of the questions and exam. It’s ridiculous and I’d like to see Junior High girls and teens lectured by professional gynecologists about the entire matter of female exams, disease, illnesses, prevention of pregnancy, positive benefits of abstaining, how bad abortions are and what it does to an immature teen to have to raise a child when they can’t take care of themselves. How come this isn’t provided and or happening in society now?

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