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Finished Puberty - Will My Doctor Do A Pelvic Exam Soon?

Published: January 14, 2013
Dear Finished Puberty - Will My Doctor Do A Pelvic Exam Soon?,
I'm a girl past puberty and I go to my pediatrician yearly for a physical exam. Might he do a pelvic exam on me one year soon?

Dear Finished Puberty - Will My Doctor Do A Pelvic Exam Soon?,

It is recommended that teenagers have periodic gynecological visits with their health care providers, such as a primary care physician, gynecologist, or adolescent medicine specialist. If you have any questions or concerns about puberty or any changes going on with your body, this would be a time to discuss those issues. If you have any questions about sex or becoming sexually active, you could discuss this with your doctor as well. And if you have painful periods or feel any pain in your genital or pelvic area, you could also discuss this with your doctor. While there may be issues around menstruation or other sexual health issues during the teen years, pelvic exams are usually not a part of these visits.

So what is a pelvic exam and when should they start? A pelvic exam allows a doctor to exam the pelvic area for signs of infection or other others conditions. The pelvic area includes the vulva as well as internal reproductive organs such as your cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus and vagina. A pelvic exam might also include a Pap test where cells are taken from the cervix as a way to protect against cervical cancer.

The general recommendation on when to have your first pelvic exam is either in the first few years after becoming sexually active or when you turn 21 – whichever comes first. The following are reasons you might need a pelvic exam even if you are not sexually active and are not yet 21:

  • Unexplained pain in your lower belly or around the pelvic area
  • Vaginal discharge that is causing itching, burning or that smells bad
  • No period by 15 or 16 years old
  • Vaginal bleeding that lasts longer than 10 days
  • Missed periods (especially if you are sexually active)
  • Menstrual cramps so that are so bad you miss school

In your situation, FX would recommend two things. We recommend you speak to your primary care physician about this at your next visit. Find out his recommendation of when you should have your first pelvic exam and ask him if he deals with reproductive health issues (such as menstrual problems, contraception, PAP tests) or whether you need to find a gynecologist or adolescent medicine specialist to meet with instead. Second, even if your doctor does deal with reproductive health issues, we recommend that you think about whether you are comfortable having a pelvic exam with your pediatrician or whether you would feel more comfortable having a separate doctor for those exams, such as a gynecologist or adolescent medicine specialist. If you would rather have a separate doctor for gynecological issues, then get a referral for a reputable gynecologist or adolescent medicine specialist in your area.   

If you don't have a doctor other than your pediatrician and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or you can contact your local teen health center or Planned Parenthood. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network gynecologists or adolescent medicine specialists.

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