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Is it true that I should go to the OB/GYN after my first period?

Ruby Moon (she/her) from Team August, verified by Dr. Heather Irobunda (she/her), MD, OB/GYN | 12.16.2022

Going to the OB/GYN may seem like a very mature adult thing to do…but we’re here to ease some of that worry!

Dr. Heather Irobunda (she/her), MD OB/GYN, an expert on the August Medical Board, gave us all the pro-tips you need to get ready for your first visit to the OB/GYN.

Keep reading to get answers about what the OB/GYN checks for, what age you should go for your first visit, and even advice for parents on how to start conversations about puberty.

When should I go to my first OB/GYN appointment?

That decision is up to you!

Most OB/GYNs recommend going when you start menstruating just to meet a doctor, build a relationship, and get an opportunity to ask all your menstrual cycle questions.

More officially, it’s recommended that you book your first visit once you’re sexually active, have reproductive health concerns, or you’re 21 – whichever comes first.

How often does a young menstruator need to be seen by their gynecologist?

This is a great question to ask your gynecologist during your first visit!

  • If you have no other reproductive health concerns and a period that’s regular, relatively pain free, not too heavy, and with no other symptoms, then you only need to go in every 1-3 years.

  • If an issue is found, your doctor may suggest coming in every 6 months to a year to keep more regular tabs on your reproductive health.

"What is the process of going to the gynecologist? I’m nervous and have never been before."

It’s totally normal to be nervous when going for your first OBGYN appointment.

  • It may help to bring someone you trust along with you. Also, let your physician know that you are nervous, so they can help ease any concerns you may have.

The first visit may be just a talk between you and your doctor.

  • They’ll likely ask questions about you and your family history, your menstrual period and sexual activities.
  • If you’re concerned with confidentiality, you and your doctor should talk about it before you answer any questions. Much of the information you share will be kept confidential.

They may also start off with a few preliminary exams to get a foundational understanding of where your body is at.

  • During the general exam, your height, weight, and blood pressure will be checked. You also will be examined for any health problems you may have.
  • The physician may look at your vulva and even give you a mirror so that you may look as well. This is a good way to learn more about your body and the names for each part!

At that first visit, you’ll find out what to expect at future visits and get information about how to stay healthy.

What kind of things do OB/GYNs check for?

A general Gynecological Exam will likely include:

  1. Basic body questions to check in

  2. Pelvic Exam: consists of the external genital exam (to look at the outer parts of your vagina), the internal speculum exam (an instrument is used to gently open your vagina to see your vaginal canal and cervix) and the bimanual exam (the doctor will insert their gloved fingers into your vagina while using the other hand to apply pressure to the lower part of your belly, enabling them to feel your ovaries and uterus).

  3. Pap Smear: checks for precancerous or cancerous cells

  4. Breast Exam: is a breast cancer screening that checks for lumps or bumps; is a way for doctors to check for any concerning growths

  5. Urine Sample: may or may not happen, depending on the clinic/practice you go to. This can help check if you're pregnant or if you have signs of a UTI

As a parent, how should I start the conversation with my child about puberty and menstruation?

  • Most importantly, try to eliminate any of the stigma or shame you may have been taught.

  • Ask them whether they have heard about puberty and find out what they know about menstruation so far.

  • If you yourself are a menstruator, speak from your experiences, offer them advice based on what you’ve learned in your menstruating years.

  • Invite them to ask any questions they may have and answer them clearly.

  • Correct any wrong information, or, if you can’t answer their questions, point them in the direction of resources that have the correct information.

Here are some resources that you can lean on:

  • The #AskAugust database of more than 250+ Q&As, all medically verified by our Medical Board of experts.

  • Go to your family doctor, Planned Parenthood, or other healthcare clinics that you trust.

  • Find books or media that is inclusive, shame-free, and educational that you can watch alongside your child.

    We’d specifically suggest the book by Dr. Jennifer Lincoln (she/her), MD IBCLC, another member of the August Medical Board. Her book answers all your burning Questions…without making you feel embarrassed for asking! Find it here.

"I just immigrated to the US, where do I take my child to get a check up about a vaginal infection?"

First of all, welcome! And second of all, kudos to you for being so engaged with your child's health.

To answer your question, definitely utilize clinics like Planned Parenthood as well as public health systems. These clinics provide low cost, or even free, services, especially if there is concern for an infection, the need for birth control, or even general health check ups.

Check to see what is available in your community. Many places also take care of undocumented people without fear of deportation or reporting immigration status to ICE.

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