My doctor said I need a well-woman visit every year. What is that?

    If you just saw your doctor for your annual checkup, well done! All teens (girls and guys) need a general health check each year. A well-woman visit is an additional checkup just for girls. These once-a-year office visits focus on the female reproductive system and sexual health.

    The point of a well-woman visit is to keep you healthy. You'll learn the best ways to take care of yourself and help protect yourself from having health problems. Regular well-woman visits also let your doctor find and deal with any problems that do come up when they're still small — before they turn into big issues.

    You'll spend most of your well-woman visit talking with a doctor or nurse about things like periods and breast growth. He or she will probably weigh you, take your blood pressure, and check that your vaccines are up to date. The doctor or nurse may also take a quick look at your breasts and the outside of your vagina to make sure everything is OK. If you've ever had sex, your doctor might want to check for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

    As a teen, you probably won't get a pelvic exam at your well-woman appointment. The only time doctors do pelvic exams on girls younger than 21 is if there's a problem like pain or an unusual vaginal discharge.

    Well-woman visits don't replace routine health checkups, but your doctor often can do both checkups at the same time. Some girls decide to see a gynecologist for their well-woman visits.

    No matter which doctor or nurse you choose to do your well-woman checkup, the main thing is to feel comfortable talking about personal things. You want to know that your doctor or nurse will give you straight answers on things like puberty, body image, periods, sexuality, pregnancy, and birth control — and that he or she can keep private discussions confidential.

    Doctors recommend that girls start getting well-woman checkups sometime between ages 13 and 15 because that's when most girls start going through puberty. They're a great thing to do for your health, so call your doctor and schedule yours today!

    *Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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