DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Our family doctor recently suggested that our 14-year-old daughter be seen by a gynecologist. He said he recommends this for all girls her age. Our daughter is not sexually active, so I'm wondering why she would need to see a specialist. What would the appointment involve?
ANSWER: Many teenage girls have health questions and concerns that involve gynecologic issues. Generally, those issues can be managed through a primary care provider. A referral to a gynecologist may be useful, however, when a specific concern calls for specialty care, or if routine gynecologic care is not provided in the primary care setting of family medicine or pediatrics.
A preventive care appointment that addresses gynecologic issues is often worthwhile for a teen your daughter's age. The appointment can cover a range of topics that are important to teen health and may include a physical exam, as well. The exam itself should be tailored to your daughter's needs and any particular concerns that need to be addressed.
During the teen years, the most common medical concern for girls is their menstrual cycles. It's normal for girls to have irregular cycles for the first year or two after they start getting their periods. But unpredictable periods may raise questions about what is normal.
Also, painful periods are a real problem for many teens. They are the No. 1 cause of school absences for teenage girls. Cramps, bloating, tender breasts, headaches, fatigue, mood swings and food cravings can all affect girls around the time of their period. If home care remedies don't help, a health care provider may be able to offer more effective treatment, as well as answer any questions your daughter may have about her menstrual cycles.
Sex is another primary teen health concern. Your daughter needs accurate information about sex and the impact that choosing to be sexually active could have on her health. Addressing sexuality, birth control and the risks of having sex during the teen years is an important part of providing her with the guidance she needs to make well-informed choices about sex.