When Is a Teen’s Visit to the Gynecologist a Necessity?
By Zumurud Al Taweel Estefan
Most women often associate the gynecologist with pregnancy and childbearing; they do not consider visiting them until after marriage, disregarding that women’s reproductive health begins from childhood and is especially important during adolescence.
Despite the awareness of many mothers about health issues and despite some health-sexual awareness that teenage girls receive in schools, visiting the gynecologist remains a kind of taboo that is difficult to break or talk about, while it is necessary most of the time.
In an exclusive interview for the “Sharika Walaken” website with Doctor Rola Nakhal, a specialist in gynecology and women’s health for adolescent girls, we learn about the reasons that call for a teenager’s visit to the gynecological clinic.
When should a teenager consult a gynecologist? How do you prepare for this visit?
In accordance with international guidelines, every thirteen-year-old girl should do a routine gynecological examination even if she does not have any significant gynecological problems. All mothers are advised to simply explain to their teenage daughter that they can talk to the doctor about all the problems that bother them and that are usually embarrassing to reveal.
Mothers should emphasize to their daughters that a gynecological examination is simple and is done first by taking a comprehensive look at the girl’s body, and then performing an ultrasound of the abdomen in order to explore the position of the uterus and ovaries. In the event of a problem that calls for an internal examination.
It is possible to resort to a scope tool equipped with a fine catheter not exceeding 3 mm in diameter, which can be inserted from the opening of the hymen into the uterus and does not cause any harm to the latter.
A mother should simply explain to her teenage daughter that she can talk to the doctor about all the problems that bother her and that she is usually ashamed to reveal.
What are the most prominent problems that make a teen’s consultation of the gynecologist a necessity?
The most prominent problems that require a visit to the doctor are related to the menstrual cycle, and they can be placed under several headings, the first of which is the delay in starting the period.
Here, three cases appear:
If a girl has signs of puberty, such as the appearance of breasts and pubic hair, she can wait until the age of 15 before consulting a doctor. In the absence of these signs, and at the age of 13, the necessary examinations should be conducted to find out the causes of delayed puberty. However, if the signs of puberty are accompanied by excessive hair in places other than where hair generally should appear, then undergoing the necessary examinations is required, and should not be delayed after the child is 13 years old. If period pain is felt in the abdomen without menstruation, a doctor should be consulted to investigate the causes of the pain.
Another case would be irregular menstruation, which may indicate the presence of an ovarian cyst, especially if it is accompanied by the appearance of acne, facial hair, or weight problems. An ovarian cyst for doctors, always requires monitoring, as the cyst may grow at any time and cause pain and health problems that should not be taken lightly. In the long term, cysts can cause diabetes and may result in difficulties in conceiving.
The third reason lies in the presence of severe unusual pain accompanying the menstrual cycle that requires emergency admission to the hospital and obtaining a pain reliever serum, and its causes must be explored. This is due to bleeding that accompanies the menstrual cycle and may be an indication of a gynecological problem in the uterus or hemophilia.
Aside from menstrual problems, are there other reasons that require a visit to the gynecologist?
There are several reasons, such as “vaginal discharge”, especially if accompanied by symptoms such as itching, unpleasant smell or redness. It may be the result of infections, fungi, allergies or lack of commitment or knowledge of the proper methods of personal hygiene. What should be emphasized is that external infections may become internal and subsequently affect pregnancy, especially if they are Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).
As doctors and parents, issues related to sexual practice cannot be overlooked if the teenage girl is sexually active, as she must be made aware of contraceptives and STIs, as well as being aware of early pregnancies.
If a teenage girl is sexually active, she must be made aware of contraceptive methods and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as be aware of early pregnancies.
What are the psychological issues that can affect teenagers’ health?
Teenagers suffer mostly from psycho-physical problems related to body image that negatively affect their sexual health, such as anorexia or obesity. As a gynecologist, I can direct her to a specialized psychiatrist, and according to my personal experience, I can say that most teenage girls focus more on physical appearance than on health issues such as breast size, the color or shape of the labia, acne, facial hair. I believe that these are all things that a gynecologist can ease the teenager’s mind on and advise her on the best solutions.
Should every teenage girl get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine even if she isn’t sexually active?
The vaccine can be administered between the ages of 9 and 25, and it is administered in the shoulder area. The younger the girl, the greater the protection and immunity she acquires. The vaccine is necessary and is decisively recommended before sexual relations because it protects girls from the transmission of HPV infection, whether then or later when they have a partner. The younger the girl, the greater the protection and immunity she acquires.