Thirty years ago puberty was something that happened in adolescence. But today, the rate of precocious puberty—the development of secondary sex characteristics before age 8—is on the rise, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health. Girls are […]
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Is Your Daughter Ready for Her First Gynecological Visit?

by Jessa McClure on September 2, 2014

in Parenting

gynThirty years ago puberty was something that happened in adolescence. But today, the rate of precocious puberty—the development of secondary sex characteristics before age 8—is on the rise, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.

Girls are maturing earlier than ever before, which means parents need to know the signs of puberty and when they should take their daughters for their first gynecological visit.

McLane Children’s Scott & White pediatric and adolescent gynecologist, Pam S. Greene, MD, offers moms and dad some advice on dealing with this big step and taking care of their daughter’s gynecological health.

1. Ask about the HPV Vaccination

Girls can receive the vaccine as early as age 9. Pediatricians usually talk to parents about the vaccine and offer the immunization between the ages of 9 and 11. It can be given up to age 26, but the person being vaccinated will often get a better immune response if they receive it at an early age.

2. Know the signs of puberty

If the child has breast development, pubic hair and hair under their arms, then they are probably in the beginning stages of puberty.

3. Watch for signs of early or delayed puberty

There are several puberty-related issues that parents should be aware of when it comes to their daughter’s gynecological health. If the child is showing signs of early puberty (before age 8) or has not showed any signs of puberty (breast development, pubic hair or a menstrual cycle) by the age of 16 or 17, then it might be a good idea to make an appointment with the child’s pediatrician or a pediatric gynecologist.

4. Keep track of your daughter’s periods

If the child starts their period within the normal age range, then someone needs to be keeping track of when she begins, the duration, how often they occur, the amount of pain associated with the period and how heavy the flow. There are many apps available that can help kids and their parents keep track of their menstrual cycles.

5. See a gynecologist

If the child starts puberty too young or if she hasn’t started puberty as an older adolescent, or if the child’s periods are so painful or heavy that she is missing school, then an appointment with a gynecologist might be a good idea. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recommends seeing a gynecologist for a reproductive health visit between the ages of 13 and 18, even if the child is not having any significant problems.

What’s going to happen during the first gynecological visit?

Dr. Greene said the first visit is usually designated for talking with the patient and getting to know her.

“We go over their menstrual history, we talk about her past medical history, her family history and her social history,” the gynecologist said.

The physician will also do a physical exam that includes checking the patient’s thyroid and listening to her heart and lungs. And despite what some parents might think, the first exam rarely includes an internal exam or a pap smear.

“We routinely do not do an internal pelvic exam,” Dr. Greene said. “If we really need to see things, we have better ways of seeing things. If we’re looking for something like ovarian cysts, we can use an ultrasound.”

There are times when the gynecologist might need to examine the outside of the patient’s body to make sure nothing is obstructing the vaginal opening and that normal development is occurring. But the doctor said it is rare that they check private parts until the child is older and sexually active.

The important thing for parents to know, Dr. Greene said, is that the physician will get to know the child before doing genital exam.

Click here for more information about pediatric and adolescent gynecology or call 254-724-KIDS.

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