As your daughter approaches her teenage years, encourage her to talk to you about the body changes she’ll experience. Together, you can prepare for her first visit to the gynecologist and the immunizations appropriate at this age.
When should you schedule your daughter’s first gynecologic exam? Schedule her first checkup when she’s 13 to 15 years old, or when she becomes sexually active, whichever comes first.
What gynecological immunizations should she get at this age?
- HPV Vaccine: The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is an inactivated vaccine that protects against four major HPV types. It can prevent most genital warts and most cervical cancer cases. The HPV vaccine is given in three doses. The first dose is recommended for your daughter between 11 and 12 years of age. The second dose is given one or two months after the first shot, and the third dose is given six months after the first shot.
- Cervical Cancer Vaccine: Most cervical cancers are caused by HPV. Gardasil and Cervarix are FDA-approved cervical cancer vaccines that prevent most cervical cancer cases if given before your daughter is exposed to the HPV virus. Recommended between 11 and 12 years of age, both can prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer in women. Gardasil can also prevent genital warts and anal cancer. Both vaccines are given as a series of three injections over a six-month time period.
How can you discuss sexually transmitted disease (STD) with your daughter? Studies show that open and honest conversations about sex and STDs help her make safe decisions throughout her life. Some guidelines for talking to her are:
- Don’t wait. You can set the groundwork for this discussion when your daughter is young by being open to questions she has about her body. Establishing a trusting relationship over the years will make a difference when you bring up this topic.
- Get educated. Get accurate information before your discussion with your daughter. Ask your own gynecologist about common STDs and symptoms, so you can answer your daughter’s questions with confidence.
- Have short, meaningful talks. You don’t have to have one big discussion about sex and STDs. Short, occasional conversations can be even more helpful by giving your daughter something to think about and questions to ask you later.
- Draw from her life. Look at what’s going on in your daughter’s world. If a character on your daughter’s favorite TV show is pregnant, for example, you can use this opportunity to begin sharing your perspective about sex.
- Communicate your values. Make sure your daughter knows your values about sex to guide her as she develops her own.
- Talk to her doctor. Encourage open conversations with your daughter and her gynecologist to make sure she feels comfortable asking questions during her annual checkup.