Sexual Health Requirements by Ages

Alisha Bridges | Dec 12th 2016 Apr 10th 2017

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Did you know there is a vaccine related to sex that a teen can receive at 11 years old? Many believe sexual and reproductive health shouldn’t be a huge concern until one engages in the act of sex, but this is far from the truth. There are several preventive measures one should take before and after engaging in sex. Check out the following tests, procedures, and vaccines everyone should have and at which age!

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At what age should a young woman visit the gynecologist?

I didn’t visit the gynecologist until I started having sex in my early 20s. I had always assumed there was no need to visit the gyno unless sexually active. To my surprise, my assumption was wrong. According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, girls should make their first visit to this specialist between the ages of 13 and 15.

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What to expect

During this visit, the doctor will ask a series of questions concerning the teen’s physical health, sexual history (if applicable), and family history. The doctor will examine the outside of the vagina for any abnormalities. If the teen is sexually active, an STD test will also be performed. In some states, it’s legal for a teen to seek treatment on her own; in others, a guardian must be notified.

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At what age should a young woman receive a Pap smear?

Twenty-one years old is the magic number for this procedure. A Pap smear is an examination that tests for abnormalities such as cervical cancer. It’s important to know that a Pap smear is NOT a sexual disease test; a woman should speak with her doctor to clarify what test will occur. Therefore a woman who has never had sex could still benefit from a Pap smear.

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What to expect

Did you know pelvic exams and Pap smears are two different things? A pelvic exam is when the doctor visually examines the outside and inside of the vagina for anything unusual, such as sores, bumps, or irritation. This can be performed with the use of a speculum or by the doctor’s hand. A Pap smear is when the doctor collects a sample of a woman’s vaginal secretions and cells and send it off for testing.

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When should a woman take birth control pills?

A young woman can start taking oral birth control as soon as she starts her period, which is around age 12. Birth control pills are not just for people who are sexually active. This type of contraceptive can be given to a girl for issues regarding irregular or painful periods, to help treat acne, to assist with issues related to polycystic ovary syndrome, and much more.

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What to expect

There are a variety of medical birth control options to choose from. But as with any of these options there will be risk associated with them. Depending on what state teens live in, they may be able to receive birth control without parental consent. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “21 states and the District of Columbia explicitly allow all minors to consent to contraceptive services.”

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At what age should a person receive the HPV vaccine?

Gardasil is a vaccine that helps protect people from strains of HPV that cause genital cancer and warts.  In 2008, it was only approved for girls, but a year later it was also approved for boys. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children ages 11-12 receive the vaccine.

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What to expect

The CDC states, HPV vaccines are given as a series of three shots over 6 months. It’s important to know that the cutoff age for receiving the vaccine is 26 for women and 21 for men.

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At what age should a male receive a prostate exam?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that one out of seven men will end up with prostate cancer in his lifetime. But when should one start to be tested?  African-American men are at a higher risk for prostate cancer and should begin exams start around 40 years old; for all other men, 50 is the recommended age.

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What to expect

For a lot of men screenings for prostate cancer can be a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing. The ACS states the most common types of prostate cancer screenings include a digital rectal exam and a blood test. For the blood test the doctor will draw blood and test for prostate-specific antigens that indicate cancer. The rectal exam requires the doctor feel for lumps and bumps within the anus.

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At what age should a woman receive a mammogram?

Breast cancer runs in my family, therefore a doctor recommended I receive a mammogram now, in my late 20s. This procedure tests women for breast cancer. Generally speaking, the ACS suggests a woman should have this test done at least once a year starting at age 40, and every two years after she turns 50.

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What to expect

A mammogram is a low-energy X-ray of the breast to determine abnormalities such as lumps that could be potentially life-threatening. For the test, a mammogram technician places a woman’s breast between the two plates of the mammography machine, which then squeeze together so X-rays of the inside the breast can be captured. It is required that a woman not use deodorant before her exam.