Ask an OBGYN

What you need to know: From your daughter’s first visit to family planning

Q. At what age should a young woman see an OBGYN?

We typically recommend initiating a visit with an OBGYN at 13–15 years old (or earlier if sexual activity is something to be addressed). The topics of periods, sexual activity, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections can be difficult subjects to broach with an adolescent. However, they are still necessary topics to address. We are here for parents to help facilitate this discussion. It is important a young female finds an OBGYN she is comfortable talking to and that she knows whatever is discussed during visits is confidential. Often girls are reluctant to bring up concerns and activities with their mothers. An OBGYN is a reliable source who can help guide them in lifestyle choices as well as make them comfortable in discussing female topics with their parents.

Q. Why would teenage girls seek out an OBGYN?

Health, nutrition, what to expect with periods, and menstrual issues are common topics of discussion. More importantly teenagers need a venue to talk about safe sex practices, STD testing, and birth control options. It’s important to establish care with a women’s health professional with whom they feel comfortable discussing feminine matters.

Q. What are a teenage girl’s most common needs when going to an OBGYN?

Many girls need help with managing painful, heavy, and/or irregular menstrual cycles. Most also want some form of contraception. Pap smear testing isn’t really an issue until age 21.

Q. Are OBGYNs seeing any new trends from younger patients?

More young patients are starting to use LARC (long acting reversible contraceptives) such as IUDs (Mirena, Skyla, Kyleena) or implants (Nexplanon).

Q. What are common problems with young women trying to conceive?

Ovulatory problems are some of the biggest issues faced by patients having trouble conceiving. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of ovulatory dysfunction, as is obesity.

Q. Are there any new screening tests women need to know about before getting pregnant?

A lot of this depends on family history. If the patient has a known familial history of heritable diseases, then preconception testing can identify those patients with a risk of having a fetus impacted by those diseases. Two of the more common disorders we encounter are sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis. About 7–10 percent of African Americans have a sickle cell trait, and about 1/25 caucasian patients are cystic fibrosis carriers. The most important preconception counseling usually has to do with maternal comorbidity (diabetes, hypertension, asthma, obesity, psychiatric and seizure disorders, etc.) and optimization of disease control prior to conception, as opposed to screening tests.

Helena Geissler Shannon, M.D. is an OBGYN at Memphis Obstetrics & Gynecological Association (MOGA). For more information call 901.843.1500 or visit

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