I want to get a Pap smear because I'm sexually active. But each time I talk to my mom about it, she says I have to wait until I'm 20. What can I do to convince her? - Nicola*
First, congratulations on knowing how important it is to get a gynecologic exam if you're sexually active. The next step is helping your mom understand how important it is, too.
You could start by showing your mom our article for parents called "Your Daughter's First Gynecological Exam." Doctors now recommend that girls have their first gynecological appointment between the ages of 13 and 15.
Most girls don't need Pap smears until they are 21, but any girl who's had sex needs to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and might need to have a pelvic exam. Girls who have problems with their periods, lower belly or pelvic pain, or abnormal discharge also may need pelvic exams.
If you've told your mom that you're having sex, tell her that you want to get tested for STDs. Let her know that you want to avoid complications with having kids later on — and prevent getting really sick now. Even if you've been using condoms (the best way to protect against STDs if you're having sex), you should still get tested.
But what if you feel like you can't tell your mom you're having sex or if you still can't convince her you need an exam? Tell her you want to go to the doctor to get something checked out "down there" — like a concern about your periods. At the appointment, ask to talk to your doctor privately without your mom in the room. Explain why you think you need STD testing and might need a pelvic exam.
If you're not able to get an appointment with your family doctor, you can still be examined by visiting a local health clinic, such as Planned Parenthood. Check your phone book or go online to find a location near you.