Know Before You Go

If you are planning to visit a health clinic, you may have questions. Select a topic and get your questions answered.


Getting ready to visit a clinic

At what age should I have my first reproductive health visit?

You should have your first reproductive health visit when you are 13-15 years old. If you are sexually active, your doctor will want to screen you for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and discuss birth control options with you. You may not need to have a pelvic exam.

If you are experiencing severe abdominal or pelvic pain, unusual vaginal discharge or itching, or have been exposed to STIs, you should have a visit as soon as possible.

Why should I visit a health clinic?

When you have regular care, you can get diagnosed early if you have any infection or health condition. You can also get birth control at a clinic if you are sexually active.

Where can I find a clinic?

You may have access to a community clinic or a private clinical practice.

Check out the Clinic Finder to locate the clinic closest to you.

Do I need my parents’ permission to visit a clinic?

It depends. Depending on the state you live in, you may need your parents’ permission. You may also decide to bring a parent for moral support especially if it is your first time having a GYN exam.

Check out the Parental Consent page to find out whether you need your parents’ consent where you live.

What documents should I bring?

For your first visit, you must bring your personal identification and insurance card (if you have it), list of all your vaccinations, and list of questions you may want to ask the clinician.

What health information will they ask me about?

You will be asked to complete a form with some questions. The clinician or nurse will ask more questions when they talk to you. You will likely be asked about health issues you have had, allergies, medications you are taking, sexual behavior, and use of alcohol or drugs, and when you had your first menstrual period, how often they occur, and if you have any problems with them. These are standard questions they ask everyone.

What should I ask the clinician?

You should ask the clinician about any information you want to know concerning your body and health. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask your clinician questions. Some of the questions you can ask include:

– What is a good method to prevent a pregnancy?

– How can I track my menstrual cycle?

Can I bring a friend?

It is not unusual to be nervous at your first appointment, bringing friends for moral support may help calm you down.

What type of tests will they do?

If you are only getting birth control, it is likely that you don’t need a physical or pelvic exam. If you are sexually active, a STI test may be done.

Can I go if I am having my period?

Yes, but when possible it is best to schedule your appointment when you are not on your period in case a pelvic exam needs to be done. If you aren’t sure call the clinic to ask.

Paying for services

Can I pay with my health insurance?

If you have health insurance, your clinical visits should be covered. Depending on the type of insurance you have and the purpose of your visit, a small co-pay may be required upfront. If you don’t have insurance, the health clinic may be able to find you free to low cost options. If you are covered under your parent’s health insurance, you should be aware that they will likely receive notification of your visit.

Do clinics accept Medicaid?

Yes, many clinics accept Medicaid. Make sure you find out if your provider accepts your insurance when you make your appointment to avoid paying for services yourself.

What if I can’t pay?

If you cannot pay for any health service you may contact the clinic directly to ask about your options. Sometimes your school nurse may also give you information about your options.

Types of clinical services

What is a pelvic exam?

A pelvic exam is a way for a clinician to see if there are any problems with the genitals and reproductive organs of women. It has 3 parts: Looking at the external genitals, examining the vagina and cervix with a tool called the speculum, and checking the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries using their fingers. You may feel some discomfort but it should not be painful. It takes only 10 minutes.

Do I need a pelvic exam in order to get birth control?

No, you do not need a pelvic exam for some birth control such as pills, implant, patch and ring. If you decide to get an IUD, you will need a pelvic exam.

What type of birth control can I get at the clinic?

You can get most birth control methods at a clinic and many can be refilled at your local pharmacy. Some methods, however, may not be carried in the clinic at all times. Your clinic may need to order the IUD or implant and you may have to come back to the clinic to have it inserted on a different day.

Can I get a pregnancy test done at a clinic?

Yes, you can get a pregnancy test done at a clinic. If you took a urine home test, the clinic may perform a blood test to confirm the results.

Do clinics test for all STIs?

Yes, all clinics test for all STIs. Talk to the clinician about what kind of tests you would like to have done. Most tests are free with your insurance.

Does my partner need to get tested?

Yes, it is always a good idea for both you and your partner to get tested for STIs. If you get treated, your partner also needs to get treated so you don’t get infected again.

Can I get all my vaccines at a clinic?

You may be able to get some of your vaccines at a clinic. Call ahead and talk to someone to see the services they offer.

Do I need an HPV vaccine?

The vaccine is recommended for girls between ages 11 and 26 years, and boys ages 11 and 21 years. The vaccine is a 3 dose series given over a 6 month period. For women, the vaccine prevents against cervical cancer, genital warts, anal cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer.

Do I need to get a blood test when I go to the clinic?

No, unless you want to be tested for certain STIs (e.g. syphilis) and/or pregnancy.

Do I need a breast exam?

The clinician or nurse will perform a breast exam during your annual visit. Additionally, you can perform self-breast exams on your own at home. Talk to your clinician about how to do a proper self-breast exam.

Privacy and confidentiality

Can my parents find out about my visit to the clinic?

Depending on the state you live in, the clinician may notify your parents about your visit to the clinic. Your parents may also find out when they receive the insurance claim.

Check out the Parental Consent page to find out your rights about accessing birth control and STI services in your state.

Will the clinician talk to my parents after my visit?

Depending on the state you live in, the clinician may notify your parents about your visit to the clinic.

Check out the Parental Consent page to find out your right about accessing contraceptive and STI services in your state.

Who has access to my health record?

Your health records cannot be released to anyone without your permission.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It is a federal privacy rule that protects your health information from being read by anyone unless needed for patient care. You may be asked to read and sign a document about your understanding about HIPAA.

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