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Publications

She just turned 13 – Is it really time to see a gynecologist?

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Why you shouldn't worry about your daughter's very first trip As you watch your daughter blow out 13 birthday candles, you suddenly envision your little girl growing up. You see her first boyfriend walk through the door. You see her back her first car out of the driveway. You envision her first appointment with the gynecologist . . . Perhaps her first visit with the gynecologist didn't really appear in your daydreams. But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, parents should consider making an appointment for their daughters between ages 13 and 15. "Thirteen isn't as early as many parents may think," says Susan Kaufman, DO, Virtua Health adolescent gynecologist. "It isn't unusual for girls to get their periods as early as age 9. However, parents often hesitate to bring their daughters in for a visit because they fear their daughters will get pelvic exams. This is simply not the case. Our ultimate goal is to let young women know about the changes happening to their bodies, how to stay healthy, and what to expect in the near future," she advises. During a young woman's first visit, the gynecologist usually screens for menstrual and development abnormalities, addresses topics such as breast self-examinations, sexual activity, and the possible use of birth control to manage menstruation issues. Dr. Kaufman suggests that a young woman go to one consultation between ages 13 and 15, and again right before she attends college. However, if a young woman is sexually active or has gynecological problems such as abnormal development, irregular periods and excessive hair growth, she should see a gynecologist regularly. "We monitor young women who have gynecological issues, and only prescribe medication or perform pelvic exams if necessary," says Dr.Kaufman. "Otherwise, a complete pelvic exam is only recommended for a woman who is sexually active or age 21 or older." For sexually active women, gynecologists also can check for sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or the human papillomavirus (HPV) which can lead to cervical cancer. The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved a vaccine called Gardasil, that protects against four strains of HPV - two strains responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancer and two strains responsible for about 90 percent of genital wart cases. "About 75 percent of parents who bring their daughters to my office ask about the vaccination because of media reports and advertisements," says Dr. Kaufman. "And although we suggest that females receive the vaccination when they're 12 or 13, we also encourage parents to talk to their daughters about sex and making wise choices." Dr. Kaufman advises parents to start conversations about sex around age 10 or 11 and discussions about their daughters' first periods around age 7 or 8.
PHYSICIAN PROFILE

Susan Kaufman, DO, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She earned her medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Kaufman completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She is a clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Robert Wood Johnson Medical Schools and a member of the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.