Now accepting Telehealth appointments. Schedule a virtual visit.
Skip to main content

When Should My Older Teen Daughter Begin Pelvic Exams and Pap Smears?

When Should My Older Teen Daughter Begin Pelvic Exams and Pap Smears?

Parenthood has a tendency to bring “adulting” to a whole other level. Not only do you still have your work, school, or home responsibilities to handle, but also suddenly a tiny human depends completely on you as the do-all and know-all.

Babies don’t come with manuals, but there are plenty of resources and guidance from family members and your pediatrician on things like immunizations and screenings. Health recommendations may seem to get a little murky when your children are in their late teens. In this blog, the expert team at Generations Family Practice in Cary, North Carolina, walks you through recommendations for pelvic exams and Pap smears for your daughter.

Pelvic exam versus Pap smear

A great place to begin this topic is to clarify the difference between a pelvic exam and a Pap smear. Often a doctor performs a pelvic exam and a Pap smear in the same appointment. However, they are two different tests that your provider performs separately or as part of a gynecological or women’s health appointment.

A pelvic exam is a physical exam

As its name suggests, a pelvic exam is a physical examination of the organs in a woman’s pelvis. The purpose of a pelvic exam is to check for symptoms of things like ovarian cysts, anomalies of the uterus, sexually transmitted infection (STI), or signs of early-stage cancer.

The typical pelvic exam takes several minutes and includes an examination of external and internal genitals. The way it works is before the examination; your health care provider gives you a sheet or hospital gown and asks you to undress below your waist. Then you lie down on the exam table with your legs raised in stirrups.

Your provider proceeds with a visual examination of your vulva, an external organ, and then moves on to a visual examination of internal pelvic organs. Your provider inserts an instrument called a speculum to keep the walls of your vagina open during the exam. Using a gloved hand, your provider inserts one or two fingers and presses up toward your cervix to feel your uterus and ovaries. At this time, if needed, your provider performs a Pap smear.

Pap smear is a diagnostic test

A Pap smear, sometimes called a Pap test, is a screening that starts in your provider’s office but concludes in a medical lab. The way it plays out is your provider inserts a speculum to gain access to your vagina. Next, your provider uses a small brush or spatula to collect cells from your cervix. Your provider sends the sample to a lab where a technician examines the cells under a microscope to check for abnormal cells, which may indicate pre-cancer or cervical cancer. 

Begin screenings by age 21

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, your daughter should begin getting Pap smears by the time she turns 21, whether or not she is sexually active. The general recommendation for frequency is about every three years. 

However, how often your daughter should get a pelvic exam or Pap smear depends on her age, health history, and family medical history. Specifically, if a mother or sister had cervical cancer, she has a higher risk of developing it as well.

Keep in mind that if your daughter suffers from problems with her menstrual periods like abnormally heavy or irregular bleeding, painful cramps, or issues like unusual discharges, don’t wait. Notify your provider right away so that he can figure out what's going on.

Early detection can prevent cervical cancer

Sadly, cervical cancer was once one of the leading causes of cancer death for American women. While cervical cancer rates have dropped by more than half since the mid-1970s because of awareness and a focus on the importance of screenings, each year doctors diagnose nearly 14,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer. About 4,360 American women will die from cervical cancer annually.

Stay healthy at every stage of life

Here at Generations Family Practice, our caring providers and professional medical team are committed to helping women of all ages stay healthy at every stage of their life – from their first period through menopause and beyond.

To learn more about pelvic exams and Pap smear recommendations or to schedule your daughter’s first women’s health visit, book an appointment online or over the phone with Generations Family Practice today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Is Apnea Wrecking Your Sleep?

The phrase “sleeping like a baby” is a foreign language to most Americans. For some people, winding down after a long day is difficult. But for many others snoring and sleep apnea are the culprits. Read on.
Why Can't I Quit Smoking?

Why Can't I Quit Smoking?

Millions of Americans try to quit smoking each year, but only a small number of people actually succeed. So why is it so hard to kick cigarettes to the curb? Read on.

I Think I Have an STD: What Now?

Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are very common and can be embarrassing to talk about, even with your doctor. Read on to learn more about STDs and what to do if you think you’ve been exposed.
The Importance of Having an Annual Exam

The Importance of Having an Annual Exam

Going to your doctor when you’re sick is natural, and makes good common sense. But what about when you’re feeling well? Should you visit your doctor periodically anyway? Read on to learn more about the benefits of an annual exam.
 Why Do I Have UTIs So Frequently?

 Why Do I Have UTIs So Frequently?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common bacterial infections that are annoying no matter how often they happen. Some women have frequent bouts of UTIs, leaving them questioning why. Read on to learn more.
 The Dangers of High Blood Pressure

The Dangers of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure affects nearly half of all Americans. While a common condition, the dangers of high blood pressure shouldn’t be underestimated as it can cause serious health implications if left untreated and even be life-threatening. Read on.