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Info For Teens

Going to the Doctor

Going to the doctor is one way to learn about your body and how to stay healthy. Regular checkups can help identify problems before they become serious and give you an opportunity to talk about your concerns. If you're sexually active, regular checkups are especially important.

Planned Parenthood health centers around the country offer you the health care you need. Our caring and knowledgeable staff provide a wide range of services.

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    When should girls start going to the gynecologist?

    Teens are encouraged to have periodic gyn visits with their health care providers. During these visits, a young woman can ask questions and talk with her health care provider about growing up, changes in her body, and any concerns she has. These checkups help make sure that she is healthy and developing as she should. Most often, these early visits do not include a pelvic exam.

    Women should start getting Pap tests, which happen during a pelvic exam, when they are 21 years old.  They should also see a health care provider if they have very painful periods or feel any pain in their genital or pelvic area. Always make sure to schedule your appointment for a time when you won't have your period so your provider can get accurate test results.

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    What should I do before I go to the gynecologist?

    You should be ready to answer the following questions about your health:

    • When was your last period; how often do you have them; and how long do they last?
    • Do you have vaginal discharge, spotting, or bleeding between your periods? 
    • If you're sexually active, what kind of birth control do you use?
    • Do you experience any pain or bleeding during sex?
    • Have you had any other kinds of medical problems?
    • Have you ever been pregnant, or do you think you might be pregnant?
    • Have you ever had a sexually transmitted infection? Do you think you might have one?

    Women who have sexually transmitted infections don't always have symptoms, so it's important to tell your gynecologist if you've had unprotected sex ó even if you feel fine. She'll also want to know if you have allergies or if you've had problems with any kind of medications in the past. And don't be surprised if she wants to know if you drink, smoke, or take drugs. Answer her honestly ó she's not there to turn you in. She just needs to know the whole story in order to help you stay healthy.

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    What happens during a gynecological exam?

    What happens depends on how old you are and if you've had sex or not. Here's what you can expect in general:

    • Your doctor or nurse might ask for a urine sample.
    • She'll also measure your weight and blood pressure.
    • She might ask you if you've had any pain or noticed anything unusual with your breasts or check your breasts for lumps. It's really uncommon for teenage girls to get breast cancer, but itís a good idea to get to know how your breasts normally look and feel, so you can tell your health care provider if you notice any changes.
    • She may also want to do a pelvic exam. If so, take a deep breath and relax. They only last a few minutes. Wearing gloves, she'll put one or two fingers in your vagina and press on your abdomen with the other hand. She'll feel your internal organs (the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries) to make sure they're OK. You may feel some pressure, but if you feel tenderness or pain, be sure to tell your provider.
    • If you're thinking about having sex, or are already having sex, she may talk to you about your birth control options and help you decide on  method that works for you.
    • If you're having sex, she might also test for sexually transmitted infections. (You may have to ask for these tests specifically, so you should talk to her first and decide together what kind of tests you should have.)
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    Will the doctor tell my parents about my exam?

    Most health care providers keep their clients' information confidential. But for one reason or another, certain providers may not be able to guarantee complete confidentiality. Check with your providers about their confidentiality policies before making an appointment.

    Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health care services that include information, contraception, testing, and education about a full range of options to women, men, and teens across the country. Planned Parenthood's policy is to protect client confidentiality to the extent the law allows.

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    Do I have to tell my doctor if Iíve had sex?

    It's important to be honest with health care providers so they can get an accurate picture of your health and needs. It can help health care providers determine if it's a good idea to test for sexually transmitted infections, prescribe birth control, recognize pregnancy symptoms, or talk with patients who have problems with their sexual relationship.

    Tell your doctor if you've had vaginal, oral, or anal sex, because all of these things put you at risk for sexually transmitted infections.

    The confidentiality of this information is up to the health care provider, so teens who are concerned about confidentiality may want to ask providers about their policies before making an appointment.

    Planned Parenthood health centers strive to provide nonjudgmental, sex-positive services that are confidential and affordable, especially for teens. But for one reason or another, health care providers in certain locations may not be able to guarantee complete confidentiality. Make an appointment at the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you.

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    Do guys need to go to the doctor?

    Even though guys don't see doctors as routinely as women do, if they're having oral, anal, or vaginal sex, they should be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections at least once a year.   

    Many Planned Parenthood centers offer health services specifically for guys. Make an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center near you.

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    I'm a guy. What kind of doctor should I see?

    For STD testing or for an occasional physical exam, you can see a clinician or a urologist ó a physician who specializes in men's sexual and reproductive health care.

    During your physical, the doctor will feel your testicles for any signs of testicular cancer, which is most common among younger men between 15 and 35. The doctor will also examine your scrotum and penis for other lumps, bumps, warts, and sores that could mean something is wrong. The head of the penis will be squeezed to see if there's any unusual discharge, and you'll turn your head and cough to be checked for hernias ó ruptures that can form in the muscles of the abdomen.

    None of these things should be painful. If they are, let the doctor know ó it may be a sign of a problem.

    It's a good idea to ask your doctor how to do a testicular self-exam. Testicular cancer is very rare, but it's a good idea to learn what feels normal so you can recognize any changes. You'll check yourself regularly for lumps, bumps, or any other changes in how your testicles feel.

    To evaluate the prostate gland, the doctor will place some lubricant on a finger and insert it into your anus. You'll probably feel some pressure, but if you relax, it shouldn't be painful, and it's over quickly.

    Many Planned Parenthood centers offer health services specifically for guys. Make an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center near you.

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    Why should I get tested for STDs every year?

    Most people have no symptoms when they have a sexually transmitted infection. That's why so many people unknowingly pass on infections to their partners.

    And thatís why you can't depend on your partner to tell you if something is wrong. She or he may be too afraid or embarrassed to tell you, or may not even know that something's wrong.

    Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections is one of the most important things you can do for your health. But, unless you've asked for a sexual health checkup, doctos won't automatically test for infection ó YOU have to ask. It can be scary to bring up the topic, but it's absolutely essential ó if you do have an infection, it's important to get treated as soon as possible.

    Genital warts, pubic lice, and scabies may be detected during a physical exam. Your doctor will need your help to decide what other tests may be needed. Blood may be drawn to test for hepatitis, herpes, HIV, or syphilis. Urine samples can be used to test for chlamydia or HIV. Samples of discharge can be used to test for herpes, gonorrhea, or syphilis. Tissue can be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or scabies. Saliva can be used to test for HIV antibodies.

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    What questions can I expect before getting tested for STDs?

    Here are some common questions that doctors and nurses ask:

    • How many sexual partners have you had recently?
    • How many sexual partners have you had in your lifetime?
    • Do you have sex with women, men, or both?
    • Do you have oral sex?
    • Do you have anal sex?
    • Do you use condoms?

    These questions might seem a little personal, but it's important to be truthful so that your health care provider gets an accurate picture of your health and the sexual risks you may be taking in order to determine which tests are appropriate.

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