Most kids have a well-child medical check-up once a year. That's what the experts recommend for school-age children and teenagers. But one medical group suggests that teenage girls should have two annual preventive health visits: one a general checkup with a primary care doctor and a second "dedicated" reproductive health visit.
The idea is proposed in the July issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology by an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists committee. The group recommends a girl have her first visit with an ob-gyn between the ages of 13 and 15. The visit should be primarily educational and a chance to establish a relationship with the doctor, according to the paper. Topics of discussion could include puberty, menstruation, healthy eating habits, sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy prevention, sexual orientation and gender identity. A pelvic exam would be performed only if warranted. The visit should include a discussion involving the teenager, a parent and the doctor about patient confidentiality.
Such a visit would "assist an adolescent in negotiating entry into the health care system when she has a specific reproductive health care need," the authors wrote. In a news release, Dr. Diane F. Merritt, chairwoman of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' committee on adolescent health care, added: "Given the high pregnancy and STD rates among adolescent girls in the U.S. compared with other developed countries, we continue to encourage parents to bring their daughters to an ob-gyn for their first visit earlier rather than later."
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has a resource for teens and their parents called Tool Kit for Teen Care.
-- Shari Roan
Photo credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times