As young women mature, so do their reproductive health needs.
“Most girls have their first period around age 12, and many become sexually active in high school,” said MU Health Care OB/GYN Holly Ford, MD. “During these transformative teenage years, even if your daughter is not experiencing any alarming symptoms, it’s important to help her establish a relationship with a gynecologist.”
Working in tandem with pediatricians and primary care providers, a gynecologist uses specialized training to monitor your daughter’s reproductive system and development while also providing sexual health education.
“We might discover underlying medical issues that are impacting your daughter’s ovulation and overall reproductive health,” Ford said. “We could also help her protect herself from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies, and we can address any questions she has about her body, gender identity or sexual orientation.”
Speaking with your daughter about her reproductive health can be awkward, but Ford said it’s an important conversation.
“No one really likes talking about periods and sexually transmitted diseases,” Ford said. “But as a parent, you should try to be as open as possible with your kids and help them navigate puberty. Explain that a gynecologist will be the guardian of your daughter’s reproductive health for the rest of her life. We can take care of her before, during and after pregnancy — and even as she goes through menopause.”
To ease any potential fears, Ford said to tell your daughter that her first appointment probably will be a casual conversation.
“Gynecologist appointments are often associated with invasive exams, but this typically is not the case with pediatric patients,” Ford said. “If your daughter does not have any symptoms or concerns, we focus the appointment on preventative care. If we examine her, it would only be on the outside.”
Everything discussed with a gynecologist will remain confidential — even if the doctor also cares for the patient’s mother. However, Ford advises girls to keep their parents informed on their reproductive health and sexual activity.
“I encourage all of my young patients to have open lines of communication with their parents,” Ford said.