Going to the doctor is an important part of making sure you stay healthy. Doctors can also answer any questions you have about puberty, your body, and sex.
When do I have to start going to a gynecologist?
A gynecologist or obstetrician–gynecologist (called ob-gyn or “gyno” for short) is a doctor who knows all about vaginas, uteruses, breasts, periods, pregnancy, birth control, and other reproductive health stuff.
It’s a good idea to start seeing a gynecologist (or a nurse who specializes in this stuff) when you’re 13 to 15 years old for check-ups. Also see your ob-gyn if you:
feel pain or irritation in your vulva or vagina
have problems with your periods
You can ask one of your parents or another adult you trust to help you find a gynecologist. You can also call your local Planned Parenthood health center — our staff has ob-gyns, nurses, and other sexual health experts who can give you the care you need.
During your first ob-gyn appointment, your doctor or nurse will talk with you about your body and staying healthy. And they can answer any questions you may have about what happens during a normal ob-gyn visit. Your doctor may also give you a physical exam, and make sure you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations (like the HPV vaccine). Read more about what happens at the gynecologist.
Do guys need to go to the doctor?
Yup! It’s usually a good idea to get a check-up once a year to make sure you’re healthy and up-to-date on your vaccinations (like the HPV vaccine) — this kind of doctor’s visit is sometimes called your yearly physical. And see a doctor whenever you feel sick, have pain that doesn’t go away, or are worried about your body or health. You can ask one of your parents or another adult you trust to help you make an appointment.
Once you start having oral, anal, or vaginal sex, visit your doctor or local Planned Parenthood health center to get tested for STDs and make sure your sexual health is on point. You should get tested on the regular for STDs. When you go the first time for testing, ask them how often you should get tested. Don’t worry — STD testing and other things your doctor does during a sexual health checkup are usually quick and painless. Read more about what happens at a check-up.
Testicular cancer is actually most common in younger adults, so it's also a good idea to get to know your testicles. That way you’ll know what they normally feel like, and can tell if anything changes. If you feel any kind of lump in your testicles that wasn’t there before, go to a doctor or Planned Parenthood health center right away.
What should I talk with my doctor about?
Doctors and nurses are usually pretty good at asking the right questions to help them keep you healthy. But no matter what your doctor asks, always tell them if you:
have had vaginal sex, oral sex, or anal sex
have had unprotected sex (sex without a condom)
think you might have an STD
feel any pain, itching, or discomfort in your genitals (penis, testicles, vagina, vulva, or anus)
have really bad cramps, PMS, or other problems with your periods
notice any lumps in your testicles
think you might be pregnant
don’t feel safe in a relationship or at home
Doctor’s visits are the perfect time to ask questions about puberty, periods, your body and genitals, sex, pregnancy, STDs, relationships — anything you’re curious or worried about. Doctors and nurses are experts on bodies, and they’ve seen it all. There’s no such thing as a stupid question and they aren’t there to judge you, so ask away! And if you don’t understand something your doctor or nurse is saying, ask what they mean.
Most doctors and nurses won’t tell anybody — including your parents — what happens during your appointment. Many states have special laws that protect your right to get private sexual health care, even if you’re under 18. But laws are different in every state. And in certain places someone from the doctor’s office might contact your parent or guardian when you’re under 18. If you’re worried about privacy, call the doctor’s office or health center to ask about their privacy policies.
If you use a parent’s health insurance to pay for your doctor’s appointment, they might get a statement in the mail that says what services you got. If you’re using a parent’s or anyone else’s health insurance and don’t want them to know about your doctor’s visit, call the insurance company to find out about their privacy policies (the number is usually on the back of your insurance card). Or talk with your doctor about how to keep your visit private.
You can also check with your local Planned Parenthood health center to see if they can give you free or low cost health care, without using your parents’ insurance. And some states have special programs that help teens get their own private health insurance plan for sexual health services.
Even if you’re worried that talking to your parents about your body and sexual health will be awkward, it’s a good idea to ask for their help (as long as you feel safe). Your parents were your age once, and they know what it’s like to be a teenager. They might even be proud of you for being responsible about your health. Get more tips on talking to your parents about sex and your body.