A women’s health journey can certainly be complex and taking care of your health should be a priority. It should however also be an enjoyable one. Through expert guidance and compassionate care, we strive to find that perfect balance to make your journey as easy and stress-free as possible.
Your first visit
An obstetrician–gynecologist (ob–gyn) is a doctor who specializes in the health care of women. Girls should have their first gynecologic visit between the ages of 13 years and 15 years.
Is it normal to be nervous before the first visit?
It is normal to feel nervous about your first visit. It may help if you talk about it with your parents or someone else you trust.
You may want to let your doctor know you are nervous. He or she can help put you at ease.
What should I expect at the first gynecologic visit?
The first visit may be just a talk between you and your doctor. You can find out what to expect at future visits and get
information about how to stay healthy. You also may have certain exams.
Your doctor may ask a lot of questions about you and your family. Some of them may seem personal, such as questions
about your menstrual period or sexual activities (including vaginal, oral, or anal sex). If you are concerned about
confidentiality, you and your doctor should talk about it before you answer any questions. Much of the information you share
can be kept confidential.
What exams are performed?
You may have certain exams at the first visit. If you choose, a nurse or family member may join you for any part of the exam.
Most often, these exams are performed:
- General physical exam
- External genital exam
You usually do not need to have a pelvic exam at the first visit unless you are having problems, such as abnormal bleeding or pain. If you are sexually active, you may have tests for certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Most of the tests that teens need can be done by the doctor with a urine sample. You also may have certain vaccinations.
Puberty is the time when your body changes and becomes more like an adult.
When does puberty start?
It is normal for changes to start as early as 8 years old or as late as 13 years old. Puberty starts when your brain sends signals to certain parts of the body to start growing and changing. These signals are called hormones. Hormones are chemicals that control body functions.
What changes occur during puberty?
During puberty, hormones cause the following changes:
- You grow taller and gain weight.
- Your hips may get wider.
- Your breasts grow.
- You grow hair under your arms and around the vulva.
- Your body odor may change.
- You may get acne or pimples.
- You get your first menstrual period (also called menstruation).
What is menstruation?
Beginning in puberty, every month, your body will prepare for a possible pregnancy. Hormones signal the ovaries to release an egg each month. The egg moves into one of the fallopian tubes. At the same time, the lining of the uterus begins to grow and thicken. If the egg is not fertilized by a man’s sperm, pregnancy does not occur. The lining breaks down and flows out of the body through the vagina. This is called menstruation, the menstrual period, or just your “period.”
When puberty begins, your brain signals your body to produce hormones. Some of these hormones prepare your body each month for a possible pregnancy. This is called the menstrual cycle. Hormones cause the lining of the uterus to become thicker with extra blood and tissue. One of your ovaries then releases an egg. This is called ovulation. The egg moves down one of the two fallopian tubes toward the uterus.
If the egg is not fertilized with a man’s sperm, pregnancy does not occur. The lining of the uterus breaks down and flows out of the body through your vagina. The discharge of blood and tissue from the lining of your uterus is your menstrual period (also called “your period”).
When will I start my period?
Most girls start their periods between the ages of 12 years and 14 years, but some start earlier or later.
How long do periods last?
When you first start having your period, it may last only a few days. Your first few periods may be very light. You may only see a few spots of reddish brown blood. Anywhere from 2 to 7 days is normal.
How often will I get my period?
A menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of bleeding in one month to the first day of bleeding in the next month. The average menstrual cycle is about 28 days, but cycles that are 21–45 days also are normal. It may take 6 years or more after your period starts for your cycle to get regular.
Birth Control Pills
To choose the right birth control method for you, consider the following:
- How well it prevents pregnancy
- How easy it is to use
- Whether you need a prescription to get it
- Whether it protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Whether you have any health problems
Which birth control methods also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
The male latex or polyurethane condom gives the best protection against STIs. The female condom provides some protection. With all other methods, you also should use a male or female condom to protect against STIs.
What is the birth control pill?
The birth control pill is a pill that you have to take every day at the same time each day. It contains hormones that prevent pregnancy. There are many types of birth control pills. A health care professional can help you choose the right one for you. If you miss a pill, you need to know what to do. Read the directions that came with your pack of pills. You also may want to contact your health care professional.
What are sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are spread by sexual contact. Sexually transmitted infections can cause severe damage to your body—even death. Except for colds and flu, STIs are the most common contagious (easily spread) infections in the United States, with millions of new cases each year. Although some STIs can be treated and cured, others cannot.
How are STIs transmitted?
A person with an STI can pass it to others by contact with skin, genitals, mouth, rectum, or body fluids. Anyone who has
sexual contact—vaginal, anal, or oral sex—with another person may get an STI. STIs may not cause symptoms. Even if
there are no symptoms, your health can be affected.
What causes STIs?
STIs are caused by bacterial or viral infections. Sexually transmitted infections caused by bacteria are treated with antibiotics. Those caused by viruses cannot be cured, but symptoms can be treated.
What are the risk factors for STIs?
The following factors increase the risk of getting STIs:
- More than one sexual partner
- A partner who has or has had more than one sexual partner
- Sex with someone who has an STI
- History of STIs
- Use of intravenous drugs (injected into a vein) or partner use of intravenous drugs
- Adolescents have a higher risk of getting an STI than adults
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that can be passed from person to person through skin-to-skin contact. More than 100 types of HPV have been found. About 30 of these types infect the genital areas of men and women.
What diseases does HPV cause?
Approximately 12 types of HPV cause genital warts. Two types, type 6 and type 11, cause most cases of genital warts. Genital warts are growths that may appear on the outside or inside of the vagina or on the penis and can spread to nearby skin. They also can grow around the anus, on the vulva, or on the cervix. They can be treated with medication that is applied to the area or by surgical removal. The type of treatment depends on where the warts are located. About 15 types of HPV cause cancer of the cervix. They also cause cancer of the vulva, vagina, anus, penis, and the head and neck. Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by just two types of HPV—type 16 and type 18.
How does HPV cause cancer of the cervix?
The cervix is covered by a thin layer of tissue made up of cells. If one of the cancer-causing types of HPV is present, it may enter these cells. Infected cells may become abnormal or damaged and begin to grow differently. It usually takes several years for cervical cancer to develop. Cervical cancer screening can detect early signs of abnormal changes of the cervix and allows early treatment so that they do not become cancer.
What HPV vaccines are available?
Two vaccines are currently available that protect against some types of HPV:
- One vaccine protects against type 6 and type 11, which cause the most cases of genital warts, and against type 16 and type 18, which cause the most cases of cervical cancer.
- One vaccine protects against type 16 and type 18