A sign of maturity, a rite of passage, a vital medical checkup--whatever you call a first visit to an OB/GYN, there’s no denying the significance of an established doctor-patient relationship in the role of women’s health.
Although that first visit marks the beginning of a lifelong routine of regular care, an appointment with an OB/GYN can be nerve-wracking for young patients and parents alike.
Young patients hear rumors, dread the invasion of privacy, and worry about discomfort and pain. Parents, similarly, fear the awkwardness of routine examinations and worry that this first visit will set an unfortunate precedent.
When is the right time to schedule that first OB/GYN appointment? What can young patients expect? What can parents do to calm their nerves?
When to Schedule that First Appointment
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the ideal age for a first visit falls somewhere between 13 and 15 years old.
Other than this general age range, there are no other necessary conditions to watch or wait for before scheduling your first appointment. Contrary to some beliefs, you do not have to wait until your daughter starts menstruating or until they become sexually active to schedule the first OB/GYN appointment.
It’s important for young patients to establish a relationship with someone who can guide them through their body’s changes and inform them of what to look out for as they age. This relationship can start at any point without waiting for physiological or lifestyle markers. In fact, initiating this relationship is sometimes the most difficult step because of the awkward subject matter.
What to Expect
The first visit to the OB/GYN is more about establishing a relationship than performing any invasive tests or painful procedures.
For this reason, certain exams--such as the pap smear--will not generally be performed on the first visit. Pap smears are typically administered at or after the age of 21, so your young patient has nothing to fear from that particular procedure.
What patients and parents can expect is a very frank and truthful conversation featuring several personal questions intended to inform the degree of care. There will likely be a general physical exam followed by an external examination of the genital area.
Your OB/GYN may choose to administer a vaccine for tetanus, HPV, meningitis, or the flu but only if your patient hasn’t received these vaccines already.
Beyond that, it’s just a routine chat followed by one or two minimal examinations.
How to Prepare
Firstly, it’s important to emphasize that while it’s entirely acceptable to be nervous about this first appointment, there’s no specific reason to be anxious. No matter what parents say or what guidance they provide, young patients will be understandably pensive about this first visit.
If you have experience with an OB/GYN, you might draw on it to put your young patient at ease. “This is normal. I went through this. You have nothing to fear, but it is okay to be nervous.”
Secondly, and since this visit is mostly about establishing a relationship, it’s critical that your young patient answer any questions from their OB/GYN as honestly and candidly as possible. Nothing is accomplished by withholding concerns or fabricating answers.
This relationship will last a lifetime, and a commitment to honesty--while generally important--may also end up saving their lives one day on a future visit.
Nothing to Fear
Thinking back on our younger selves, who hasn’t been made uneasy at an early age by questions of health, change of puberty, or a necessarily evolving relationship with our own physical care?
Yes, there’s nothing to fear, but admitting as much is seldom enough to dispel notions of anxiety. As parents and caregivers, we can understand those nerves and allow them to play out without permitting or fueling them further.
What’s most important is the initial step in developing a lifelong relationship with a physician!
UAB Medical West understands that first OB/GYN visit!
Frank and open care isn’t additional to or a bonus of medical practices--it’s a necessary element to a long and healthy lifestyle. UAB Medical West is dedicated to providing world-class healthcare with a smile and a nod of compassionate understanding. To schedule your young patient’s first appointment, or to learn what more you can expect, visit UAB Medical West’s website today. Serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance, UAB Medical West is here for you from the first visit on!