Be My Valentine…

Now that the Christmas tree has been put away, hearts and pink ribbons will soon be everywhere: Valentine’s Day is almost here. Since it is the season of love and displays of affection, it provides an ideal opportunity for you to break the ice and speak to your teenage daughter about “the facts of life”. Part of that discussion should be “When is the right time to start seeing a gynecologist?”

Our experience shows that teenage girls have many questions about themselves and their bodies and for varied reasons find it difficult to share these concerns directly with their mothers – many worrying about being judged or not being taken seriously. A good approach is to consider a first visit to a gynecologist. In fact, it is recommended for young woman to have their first visit around 15 years of age. This is an excellent opportunity for a young woman to discuss various issues related to their female development with an impartial authority – their gynecologist. Topics that can be approached include menstrual periods, emotional ups and downs, and, if appropriate, any questions related to sexuality and contraception. An update on vaccinations is an important part of this visit, with a special focus on the HVP vaccine, to prevent the spread of this virus which is the cause of the majority of the cervical cancers. Your gynecologist is also a great resource for information on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including vaccination as previously mentioned, as well as the use of condoms and abstinence. This first visit may be only just a friendly and informative talk.

Pap smear screening should start 3 years after initiating sexual activity or at age 21, whichever comes first. Along with the Pap smear, a test for Chlamydia should be also performed in all sexually active women under the age of 25.

As mothers we all know how protecting our children sometimes crosses the barrier of personal space: always remember though, that to make this first and future visits a success, your daughter has the right of privacy and only because of this, will she feel comfortable to open her heart to a new friend.