As pediatric adolescent gynecologists, we budget a lot of time into our patient appointments to answer “embarrassing” questions about reproductive health. Helping girls and their families feel understood and cared for – and empowered to learn about their health and bodies – is one of the most important parts of this specialty.
Generally, adult gynecologists focus on diagnosing, treating, and managing conditions that affect the female reproductive organs. In our practice – the only pediatric adolescent gynecology center in North Texas – gynecology care is less about pelvic exams and more about building patient relationships and providing education about our patient’s health concerns.
We care for girls and young women from birth to age 18 at Children’s Health Dallas and UT Southwestern's Pediatric Group at Plano. Our specialists get to know our patients and their families while building a safe space to have honest conversations about gynecologic health, including:
- Congenital body differences
- Period problems
- Puberty and developmental concerns
- Reproductive health
- Self-image and body concerns
Reproductive health is personal, and in some families, it is a sensitive topic. We are specialty trained to communicate with young patients, provide answers and ask questions that lead to important discussions – while respecting patient privacy and keeping parents informed.
Our patients are sometimes referred to us by pediatricians looking for gynecological expertise, or by gynecologists who typically don’t see younger patients. Often, parents make an appointment to bring their daughters to establish a relationship with us for ongoing care.
Some patients are born with structural problems, such as a missing or closed vaginal opening, that require early gynecologic care. However, for most girls, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that the first visit with a reproductive health specialist occur between age 13 and age 15.
Establishing care gives girls a safe, comfortable space to learn about their bodies and get answers to questions as they transition to young adulthood. At this age, many girls benefit from talking through their physical, psychological, and social changes – and that’s usually where we start.
The first visit: A conversation, not an exam
We only perform physical exams when necessary – and oftentimes they’re not, even for concerns such as irregular periods or cysts. On the occasion that an exam is needed, we will work with the patient’s and guardian’s concerns and let the patient control the timing and pace of the exam, A chaperone is always present.
This first visit is typically a conversation in which we get to know each other as doctor and patient (and family). We’ll have an open, age-appropriate discussion about their health, answer any questions, and ask a few of our own about concerns that are affecting them right now – such as puberty, their period, and their emotional health.
While our conversations with teen patients are confidential, parents will be informed if the patient is in danger, is at risk of harming others, or cannot make her own decisions. We always encourage families to keep open lines of communication to discuss health and other concerns as they arise.
Types of gynecological conditions we treat
Along with developing a supportive health relationship, we also help manage common and complex gynecologic conditions.
Structural or functional problems: This can include differences of the reproductive organs (vagina, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or cervix) or genitals (vaginal opening, vulva, and labia), whether present since birth or acquired.
Our specialists evaluate, treat, and support recovery for conditions such as:
- Ambiguous genitalia
- Cysts, masses, or lesions of the reproductive organs
- Early or delayed puberty or sexual development
- Imperforate hymen, which blocks the vaginal opening
- Ovarian problems
- Painful or heavy periods
- Pelvic pain
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Vaginal discharge
- Vaginal trauma
- Vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina)
- Yeast infections and other infections
Pregnancy prevention: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more than half of teens have sex before age 18. We help sexually active patients understand how pregnancy happens and how to prevent it. If desired, we can prescribe contraception options that suit the patient’s needs.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): According to the CDC, about half of all new STIs occur in people aged 15-24. Even if a teen isn’t sexually active today, we help educate them about how common STIs are, how to reduce their risk, available treatment options, and the long-term benefits of sexual health.
For example, the human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common and usually symptomless STI. However, some strains can develop into cancer later in life. We talk with families about getting the HPV vaccine – an injection or series of injections proven to reduce the risk of developing cervical or head and neck cancer.
Self-image and general body concerns: We also help patients process the difficulties that can accompany growing up. We can talk through some challenges, and refer the patient to a social worker, psychologist, or another specialist as necessary. Our priority is helping patients feel emotionally and physically healthy and confident in the knowledge of their body and its care.
Educating and empowering young women
Breaking down taboos surrounding reproductive health, especially for girls and young women, can lead to a healthier future. So we work to make our office a place where patients and families can feel comfortable asking the sometimes uncomfortable questions.
Women and girls, especially those who have developed differently than most, deserve high-quality reproductive care. In our office, we care about the health of all girls and women, and we’re proud to provide these services to patients throughout North Texas.
To make an appointment with a pediatric adolescent gynecologist, call