Lately I have been thinking I should get my first pelvic exam, but when and where do I do this? Will I get checked for STIs and whether I can have children in the future?

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Smiling doctor talking to her patient in an office at the hospitalMost health care providers agree that a woman should have her first pelvic exam whenever she has a symptom such as abnormal bleeding, discharge or pain, or when she turns 21, whichever comes first. Your primary care doctor may be able to do the exam, if not, you can make an appointment with a gynecologist (a specialist who cares for a woman’s reproductive health) or a woman’s health nurse practitioner. Part of the pelvic exam is to check for STI’s such as Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, as well as infections that are not sexually transmitted, such as a vaginal yeast infection.

There are other important reasons to have a pelvic exam.

These reasons may include:

  • Unexplained pain in your lower belly or around the pelvic area, where your vagina is
  • Vaginal discharge or wetness on your underwear that causes itching or burning or smells bad
  • No menstrual periods by age 15
  • Vaginal bleeding that lasts more than 10 days
  • Missed periods, especially if you are having sex
  • Menstrual cramps so bad that you miss school

Remember, it doesn’t matter how old you are or if you are sexually active. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should make an appointment with a health care provider.  Many girls worry about fertility, especially if they have had sex and didn’t get pregnant right away. If you have normal menstrual periods and therefore a normal uterus, you should be able to have children when you are ready. The best way to stay healthy and fertile is to avoid getting STIs by using condoms or not having sex. Typically, fertility testing isn’t done until after a couple has been trying for about a year without any luck.

For more information on pelvic exams, see our health guide: Your First Pelvic Exam