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What Age Do I Take My Daughter to the Gyno?

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Doctor Liz: The official answer to this question from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is that a woman should have her first cervical Pap test three years after the onset of sexual activity or at age 21, whichever comes first.

teen with doctor

I have a couple of problems with this plan.

First, you really cannot be certain at what age your daughter becomes sexually active. I wish I had a dollar for every mother-daughter pair where the mom is sure her daughter is not yet having sex, and then the daughter (after Mom goes to the waiting room) confides in me that she had sex, but didn't tell her mom because she didn't want to disappoint her.

Second, is she using reliable contraception during those three years? Is she using condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections (so she won't be infertile later)? Does she have someone reliable to answer her questions? I know -- hopefully she can turn to her mom, but she may not.

Which brings me to my answer: Unless your daughter has a great pediatrician who is willing and has the time to address adolescent issues, you should bring your daughter to an OB/GYN doctor as a teenager, regardless of whether she is having sex yet. She does not have to have a pelvic exam; she just needs her own doctor if she has a problem, such as with her period, and for a reliable source of information.


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14 comments so far | Post a comment now
Selfish Mom May 26, 2009, 3:57 PM

Yeah, your concerns are totally valid. I had to stop my mother in the middle of “the talk” to let her know that I was on the pill.

tracy May 26, 2009, 7:55 PM

I took my daughter this year at the age of 10. Though it was NOT because she was sexual active, but I had a concern about a (growth on her inner labia) which turned out to be just…big!..I felt foolish for my concern, but the doctor said that vagina’s are like finger prints..no two are the same. How was I to know? I’m only 37. The result was we both were embarrassed, but glad I did it because I learned something new.

Rachelle May 26, 2009, 8:15 PM

I had always heard that it was at the point that you become sexually active or 18. Whichever came first. And I would more likely stick to something similiar to that if/when I have a daughter. I had my first pap test at 14 after being admitted to the hospital by my pediatrician. I had an unusually painful period and some hardness in my abdomen. Turned out it was Ovarian Cancer. So I owe my life to my mom for taking my complaints seriously, and my pediatrician catching the disease at just the right time. ALL young woman should have an OBGYN.

Doctor Liz May 27, 2009, 12:07 AM

Thank you for these comments! I love this website and the people who frequent it! - Doctor Liz

RachelAZ May 27, 2009, 2:07 AM

I will start taking my daughter to an OBGYN probably in middle school. You can never be too careful! And while I plan on having an open relationship with her, sometimes teens don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents. I want her to be well equipped for anything that may come her way!!!

Durangochck May 27, 2009, 6:27 AM

I took my 13 year old daughter recently. She has her first “real” boyfriend and I wanted her to have someone other than her parents that she can go to if and when she decides to become sexually active. I spoke to the pediatrician and they agreed with me that it was a good thing to get her established with a gyno.

Allison May 27, 2009, 9:17 AM

I would feel so uncomfortable if I had to go to the gyno with my mom. I think it is important to be open with your child and let her know in her pre-teens that when she is ready to go, that you will help her find a doctor, go with her, etc. but I think it’s absurd if a mom is bringing her daughter to the doctor just to get on the Pill… it seems so many of our kids are medicated, and this is just another mediciation to give them.

Doctor Liz May 27, 2009, 12:06 PM

Here is further clarification on the official ACOG recommendations on this topic: “ACOG strongly recommends that an adolescent girl’s first visit to an ob-gyn for health guidance, screening, and preventive health occur between ages 13 and 15, ideally before sexual activity has occurred. Data show that over 60% of adolescent girls have had intercourse by age 18, which puts them at risk of acquiring STDs, including human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that can cause cervical cancer. Both parents and adolescents need to understand that an adolescent’s initial visit does not necessarily include a pelvic examination or a Pap test. Annual visits, whether they include a Pap or not, are strongly recommended.” As I like to say, and as said in the posted comments, it is always a question of knowing one’s own daughter and her needs.

Doctor Liz May 27, 2009, 12:11 PM

Here is further clarification on the official ACOG recommendations on this topic: “ACOG strongly recommends that an adolescent girl’s first visit to an ob-gyn for health guidance, screening, and preventive health occur between ages 13 and 15, ideally before sexual activity has occurred. Data show that over 60% of adolescent girls have had intercourse by age 18, which puts them at risk of acquiring STDs, including human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that can cause cervical cancer. Both parents and adolescents need to understand that an adolescent’s initial visit does not necessarily include a pelvic examination or a Pap test. Annual visits, whether they include a Pap or not, are strongly recommended.” As I like to say, and as said in the posted comments, it is always a question of knowing one’s own daughter and her needs.

pinchbuggies May 28, 2009, 4:11 PM

I also thought that I would take my 14 yr.old daughter to the gyn when she was sexually active, but now that I’ve seen such informative comments I am thinking that before is a lot better! Why not get her in touch now with the person that should be the next closest person to her own body!? I certainly don’t want that person to be her boyfriend! I know that she talks to me about not being sexually active but maybe she will be more talkative to the doctor. And I don’t ant her to be getting her “life” answers from another 14 yr. old!

LissaLou July 17, 2009, 5:25 PM

What a great article! My daughter is only four, but this is advice I am certainly glad to get ahead of time. My mom ignored my own concerns with problems “down there” when I was 13 because she thought I was too young to have any thing going on, I lost my left ovary at 17 because I didn’t get the treatment I needed. Thanks for this article, Dr. Liz!

Chelsea March 20, 2010, 11:36 PM

I’m 21, not sexually active, never had a problem w/ my period, and no other problems “down there”. And I’ve never been to a gyno. I asked my mom why she never took me and she said she never saw any reason to. I’m thankful for that .

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a girl January 22, 2011, 4:55 AM

I am 14, i have horrible periods, they are far from heavy, but i get cramps that are unbearable. my mom is very aware of this becausee i would much rather be at her house: where there is feminine hygine products, than at my dads house where there is none. i get them throughout my week and a day period, and i wake up in the middle of the night for hours from the the cramps, my mom is a nurse, and she has tried every pain medication, and heating pad possible, and none of them help, i have to take tests and i cant concentrate, ive teared up in school and have been sent home. i play sports and im not over wieght. my mom wants to put me on the pill, but just like everything else, her and dad fight about it. and to be honest, i am afraid to go to the gyno, i understand its essential, and i talk to my mom about everything, i have a boyfriend, but im not sexually active yet. what am i suppossed to do, the pill seems like the answer, but i dont want people to stick tools inside of me and have no say in it


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