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When should you bring your teen to the OB-GYN?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (OCOG), teenage girls should go for their first OB-GYN exam between the ages of 13 and 15. The first visit at such an age is just to check for normal development and acquaint young girls with the gynecologist, who provides health care on issues that a pediatrician doesn't always address. Girls should be prepared for future visits as they head into puberty, adolescence and adulthood. By the age of 18 all young women should go for their first exam, and young women who are sexually active should go to an OB-GYN for regular check-ups, for Pap smears, pelvic exams and screening for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The first visit at an OB-GYN is more of a discussion on general health, lifestyle and medical history. The gynecologist may ask lots of questions and discuss any family history of medical conditions that may affect reproduction and fertility. Young girls should also feel free to ask any questions about the physical exam and any other questions on women's health issues. An OB-GYN can provide information on preventing STDs, and on sexual and reproductive health and contraception. The first visit doesn't necessarily involve a pelvic examination, unless a girl is having menstrual problems or abdominal pains that need to be assessed, or if she is already sexually active and wants contraception. Yearly OB-GYN visits are important as part of a routine health check-up. A gynecologist usually does a breast exam and a pelvic exam, and teaches girls how to examine their own breasts on a regular basis for any changes.

Parents should be involved in their teen's health care and should accompany their teen on her first visit. Confidentiality should be respected as teen girls learn to feel comfortable asking questions about sexuality and any other concerns they may have with their gynecologist.