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Common gynecological issues for teens & young women

If you’re the mother of a daughter from age 11 to young adult, you may wonder about the following healthcare issues. What is a “normal” menstrual cycle? What possible warning signs or health conditions might warrant a trip to an OB/GYN? When should my daughter have her first OB/GYN check-up?

The American College of Obstetrics & Gynecologists recommends a first visit to an OB/GYN between the ages of 13 and 15. This visit is primarily for education and may include discussion of topic such as body image, weight management, immunizations (including the HPV vaccine), contraception, and prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). This early visit would generally not include a pelvic exam.

The College recommends full well-woman exams, including pelvic exams and pap smears, beginning at 21. However, if a teen is sexually active from a young age, she should see an OB/GYN sooner to screen for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV and discuss birth control options. A recent national survey of teen girls ages 14-19 reported that as many as 1 in 4 teenage girls has had an STD, with many contracted after the girl’s first sexual encounter. Since sterility and other life-long conditions can be contracted through STDs, regular screening is important.

Whenever a teen starts menstruating, it is possible for her to have the same gynecological problems that an adult woman could have. Here are some potential warning signs and conditions to consider.

Menstrual Cycles

Girls typically start menstruating between the ages of 11 to 14 and it is completely normal to have somewhat abnormal periods during the first two years of menstruation. If your daughter is younger than 11 and is experiencing vaginal or uterine bleeding, or is over the age of 15 and hasn’t started menstruating yet, see your healthcare provider.

  • Severe Menstrual Cramps or Heavy Bleeding
  • Severe menstrual cramps, chronic pelvic pain and/or heavy menstrual bleeding that causes a teen to miss school or change her lifestyle is not normal and could be the result of several potential conditions. If your daughter is having any of these symptoms, please see your healthcare provider.
  • Yeast Infections
  • Yeast infections in young women, even in girls as young as 10 or 11, are very common. A girl does not have to be sexually active to contract a yeast infection. The most notable symptoms are itchiness in the vaginal area, a white “curdy” or thick discharge, soreness, a burning sensation during urination, and/or a rash. While there are several over-the-counter treatments now available, your daughter should see a healthcare provider the first time she experiences these systems to confirm that it is indeed a yeast infection — versus some other condition. It is important to use the right treatment option.

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