One of the most common questions parents often ask is when should I make the first appointment for my daughter with an obstetrician/gynecologist?
The initial visit for reproductive preventive health care services and guidance should take place between the ages of 13 and 15. This first visit provides an excellent opportunity for the obstetrician/gynecologist to start a patient–physician relationship, build trust, and counsel patients and parents regarding healthy behavior while dispelling myths and fears. The primary goal of the initial reproductive health visit is to provide preventive health care services, including educational information and guidance, rather than problem-focused care. The visit also allows patients and parents the chance to visit the office, meet the health care provider, alleviate fears and develop trust.
The details of this first visit will depend on the young lady’s need, medical history, physical and emotional development, and the level of care she is receiving from other health care providers. A general exam, a visual breast exam, and external pelvic examination is often part of the first visit. Usually an internal pelvic examination is not necessary during the initial reproductive health visit, but may be appropriate if issues or problems are discovered in the medical history.
An age-appropriate discussion about reproductive health-related topics, including pubertal development, normal menses, timing of routine gynecologic visits, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy prevention, sexual orientation and gender identity, and acquaintance rape prevention is important.
Parents should be familiar with state and local statutes regarding the rights of minors to consent to health care services and the federal and state laws that affect confidentiality. If a parent desires time alone with the health care provider, this should be discussed with the adolescent patient and occur before the health care provider spends time alone with the patient, if possible, to reassure the adolescent patient that her confidentiality will be maintained. Health care providers should try to accommodate patients’ requests for privacy from parents during the visit when possible and appropriate.
Although this first visit can be intimidating, it serves as an excellent opportunity for the patient learn more about the health care resources available to her whenever she has a specific reproductive health care need.
Kamakshi Vemareddy, MD, FACOG, is a member of the medical staff of the Bristol Health Medical Group, and she is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Vemareddy’s office is located at Bristol Hospital, 41 Brewster Road. For an appointment, please call 860-585-3295 or for more information, please visit www.bristolhospital.org