Many people now know the new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) do not recommend pap smears until the age of 21. This can be a bit confusing and frustrating for parents and teens that still have sexual and reproductive health care needs and are unsure if they should visit a gynecologist or sexual and reproductive healthcare provider (SRHP) who specializes in this area.
Here are some of the most common reasons young people should go to a SRHP.
STDs – Many young people and their partners need to be tested or treated for STDs. They may also want to talk to their parent/guardian and their medical provider to determine if they should receive the Human Papilloma Vaccine. The Gardasil Vaccine is recommended for boys and girls ages 11 or 12. The vaccine is recommended for people ages 9 to 26. According to Merck pharmaceuticals, the Gardasil vaccine helps protect against 4 types of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, 70% of vaginal cancer cases, and up to 50% of vulvar cancer cases. In males and females ages 9 to 26, GARDASIL helps protect against about 80% of anal cancer cases and 90% of genital warts cases.
Vaginal Infections – Infections can occur at any time during our lives and many times have nothing to do with whether we are sexually active (i.e. urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, folliculitis).
Menstruation – Some teens have irregular periods, PMS, painful cramps or heavy bleeding that keeps them home from school or work, acne or other medical conditions like endometriosis or abnormally large ovarian cysts that may require medication, procedures, or an office visit.
Birth Control – A sexual and reproductive health care provider can discuss the benefits and potential side effects of each birth control method and help the patient determine which method is best for them.
Pregnancy – Young people can receive pregnancy tests, options counseling, and preconception health if someone is planning to become pregnant in the future.
Safer Sex – Education can empower people to make safer choices and know their risks if and when they decide to be sexually active.
LGBTQ Health Concerns – Specific information can be given on how to be safer with a partner, medical concerns that impact LGBTQ individuals and referrals to additional resources.