Gynecological exams are valuable to adolescents in many ways. It is important for young women to be assessed early, especially if they are sexually active, and to begin a relationship with a doctor that may guide them through many important milestones in their lives. The adolescent gynecologist provides wellness consultations for adolescents with a goal of establishing a bond of trust and confidence with each patient. Adolescent gynecology is a subspecialty of obstetrics and gynecology, or OB/GYN.
Adolescent Gynecological Exam
A typical adolescent exam includes a consultation, a full medical assessment and a minimally invasive exam. Annual pelvic exams and pap smears are recommended for all women over the age of 18, but younger patients may receive a modified exam. If the patient is not sexually active, a pelvic exam may not be required. A gynecological exam may be overwhelming for a teenager. The doctor will carefully and thoroughly explain the exam process. Patients will have the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns about their bodies as they enter adulthood. The doctors are especially sensitive with younger patients and provide special care and confidentiality to these patients.
Adolescent Menstrual Development
Menstrual development is an important aspect of gynecological care for adolescent girls. This may involve taking a history of the patient's start of menstruation, the duration and frequency of periods or in some cases, the absence of menstruation. Adolescent girls go through puberty and begin menstruation at different times. Some begin menstruation as early as 9 or 10 years old, while others may not have their first periods until their teen years. This may depend on a number of factors, including genetics and ethnicity. Changing hormone levels during puberty can also affect the length and regularity of the menstrual cycle. As a result, it can be a stressful and scary time for the adolescent girl.
Adolescent Gynecological Conditions
There are several common health conditions that the adolescent gynecologist may assess and treat:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
In addition, adolescent gynecologist may diagnose and treat sexually transmitted diseases, as well as discuss issues such as contraception, breast care, and safe sexual practices.
Annual Gynecological Exam
The annual gynecological exam, also known as a gynecological well-visit, is a yearly preventative and diagnostic examination which serves to maintain the wellness of female patients, as well as monitor any ongoing physical and hormonal conditions. This annual visit is an opportunity for doctors to counsel patients about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and minimizing health risks. The annual gynecological exam includes a routine breast and pelvic exam, and may include a screening for sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. A Pap test may also be performed depending on the age and sexual history of the patient. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women begin annual pelvic exams at the age of 21.
During the annual well-visit, a physical examination will be performed to assess the patient's overall health. The examination may vary based on the patient's age and sexual history, but most annual gynecological examinations may include the following:
- Pelvic exam
- Breast exam
- Pap smear
- HPV screening
- Blood pressure check
- Height and weight measurement
- Urine screening
- Cholesterol screening every 3 to 5 years
- Complete blood count
- Thyroid screening
- Screening for blood in stool
In addition, there are several other tests that may be recommended for patients. These may include monthly self examination of the breasts, mammograms, bone density screenings, skin and mole examinations, blood sugar tests and others, based on age, individual medical history, family history, and lifestyle habits.