NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — At what age is a teenage girl ready to see a gynecologist?
It’s a question that has sparked uncertainty for parents and teens alike.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, by age 21, doctors recommend young women undergo annual screening for pap tests.

“I think when you go to the obstetrician, [or] gynecologist, you’re really looking for information. Not only on things that are concerning you at the time that you go but also for screening,” Dr. Jessica Shepherd said.

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Dr. Jessica Shepherd is an obstetrician and gynecologist, a women’s health expert, and the founder of a women’s health forum. She said preventive health is one of the best ways to prevent diseases.

“So going to the doctor means screening for things such as sexually transmitted infections, but also looking on the pap test, plus HPV testing to minimize and decrease the risk of cervical cancer,” Shepherd said. “And that really is preventable through regular screening and can be done at the same time or the same exam when you’re going to your ob-gyn or your primary care physician.”

When it comes to screening for sexually transmitted infections, chlamydia and gonorrhea are preventable causes of inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility, according to the CDC.

Dr. Shepherd said providers in family practices or pediatric settings should be testing their patients for sexually transmitted infections as some patients may not have an OB-GYN until they are in their earlier twenties.

“It’s so important for this discussion to be included with our primary care practitioners and pediatricians to start talking to their patients about STI testing and preventive care at an earlier age,” Shepherd said.

Sexually transmitted infections are treatable but can lead to infertility. Each year, 24,000 women become infertile due to undiagnosed STIs.

Dr. Shepherd encourages parents to have better discussions with their kids about what it means to be sexually active and make sure to get the proper testing. If younger persons are scared to share this information with their parents, there are opportunities to get tested at Planned Parenthood.