At what age should a woman start going to a gynaecologist? Here, an an OBGYN in Singapore shares when to take your daughter for her first gynaecologist visit. Plus, how she’s merging medical expertise and motherhood wisdom to inspire openness and confidence among her teen patients throughout puberty and beyond.
An OBGYN on a mission to make teens feel self-empowered
Family is everything to obstetrician and gynaecologist DR DHARSHINI GOPALAKRISHNAKONE. As medical director of Kierauniv International Clinic For Women (the clinic’s name is an ode to her daughters, Kiera, Aurelia and Niveka, “to remember what I am working for and the women I care for”), she helps guide patients through their own family journeys, from pregnancy to childbirth and breastfeeding.
And, as a mum to two tweens and a teen, she certainly understands the impact puberty has in the life of a teenager. She also acknowledges how difficult it can be for adolescents going through gynaecological changes they’re not comfortable talking about. At Ki clinic, it’s her mission to help young patients “get it right the first time around” so they feel heard and cared for at the same time.
“Too often, young girls are ignored when it comes to gynae health, and issues are swept under the carpet as ‘something you’ll outgrow’ or ‘not a big deal,’” says Dr Dharsh. “I am all for female empowerment and getting teens to feel like they can talk to me about absolutely anything that worries them or needs explaining clearly without judgement.”
In fact, Ki clinic has a special open-door policy for young adult patients, who can email at any time with questions or concerns, and are guaranteed a response within 24 hours. This, she says, helps patients feel “secure, listened to, and confident in their health and growth.”
In addition to their first well-teen gynae consults, adolescent patients most commonly come to the clinic for:
- management of irregular, heavy, painful or no periods;
- treatment for unusual vaginal discharge or itchiness;
- sexual health education;
- cervical cancer prevention, including HPV vaccination;
- contraception discussion; and
- sexually transmitted infection discussion and screening.
At what age should a woman start going to a gynaecologist?
“Most teenagers come for their first gynae visit after they have started their first period, and have questions regarding puberty, hairs in odd places, acne and any issues surrounding periods, abnormal vaginal discharges and tummy pains that prevent them from playing sport – or, with questions like ‘Does this look right to you?’ or ‘Is it normal to experience these physical changes during puberty?’”
“Additionally, if a teen is about to embark on her first relationship and has questions about contraception and infection protection, we’re well equipped to have these important conversations while ensuring full privacy at all times.”
However, you certainly don’t need to wait until your teen gets her period or becomes sexually active to arrange a first appointment. There are many issues that could arise before those milestones – and “having a gynae to address them early and correctly is important”.
Choosing a gynaecologist for your daughter
In many cases, a teen’s first gynae appointment is a great opportunity to discuss her development, and establish a rapport and trust with her doctor.
“Once a teenage girl feels heard and opens up about her issues, she’ll likely continue to reach out when she encounters concerns down the road. At Ki clinic, we know exactly how to make teens feel like they’re just having a chat with a nosy favourite aunty! No judgement!”
But, first, let her decide if she’s ready to see someone at all, says Dr Dharsh. “Young women can feel afraid or self-conscious when asked to see a gynae when they’re not ready to. It’s very important that they feel self- empowered enough to make that decision when they’re confident and ready to talk about their issues.”
Dr Dharsh suggests approaching your teen by discussing the issue openly and allowing her to understand the benefits of seeing a gynae. “Trying to steer her into independently making that decision can work wonders.”
Kierauniv International Clinic For Women
#11-48 Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, 38 Irrawaddy Road
6694 0755 | drdharsh.com
This article first appeared in the February 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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