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You may not be very excited about your first visit to the gynecologist, a doctor who specializes in women's health. But you may actually end up enjoying it. It’s an opportunity to start becoming actively involved in your own health care. It’s a chance to ask all those questions you have about your changing body and to pick a doctor you’ll want to talk to about private issues.

Here’s what you can expect at that first visit and at your first pelvic exam. 

Preparing for Your First Visit

You should have your first gynecologic exam by the time you're 15 years old. You may want to take your mom to your first visit for moral support, and to help answer the doctor’s questions about your family health history and the vaccines you’ve had. It's your personal choice whether you'd rather see a woman or man gynecologist. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with and trust the person.

You don’t really need to do anything before a visit or exam. But you might want to write down when your periods started, when your last period was, and how often you have them. You could also write down questions so you don’t forget them. There really is no question that is too strange. “We’re pretty impossible to shock,” says Melisa Holmes, MD, who co-wrote Girlology Hang-Ups, Hook-Ups, and Holding Out: Stuff You Need to Know About Your Body, Sex, & Dating.

What Happens at the First Visit

Your visit may include:

  • A conversation in the gynecologist’s office. Before you undress for the exam, you may sit and talk in the doctor's office. The doctor will ask you questions about your health and lifestyle. Tell your doctor that this is your first gynecologic exam.
  • A physical exam. You probably won't get an internal pelvic exam, in which the doctor looks inside your vagina. Instead, the gynecologist will examine your outside genital area -- your vulva -- and your breasts. The doctor will press lightly on different parts of your breast to feel for lumps. If your doctor is a man, don't be surprised if he asks for your mom or a nurse to be present during the exam. That’s common.

If you are having pain with your period, unusual discharge, or abnormal bleeding, the gynecologist may want to do a complete pelvic exam. If you are not sexually active and have no problems, you may not need a pelvic exam until your late teens or later.  But you should have one by the time you're 21.

What Happens During a Pelvic Exam

“I love being able to do a girl’s first pelvic, so I can help her realize it’s not a big deal,” says gynecologist Holmes. “First, I show her the speculum we use on teenagers -- it’s about the size of a super tampon.”

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