Gynecologic care can span a lifetime, now often starting earlier in life. Pediatric and adolescent gynecologists are a unique group of specialists who have undergone postgraduate fellowship training in order to incorporate pediatrics and gynecology in their OB/GYN practices.
Kristl Tomlin, M.D., physician with USC OB/GYN, wants the community to be aware of the importance of pediatric and adolescent gynecology starting at birth for some patients. She says, “Often, we receive referrals for newborns who may have an ambiguous or abnormal appearance to their genitalia. We also see newborns who have been diagnosed with ovarian cysts while still in the womb or shortly after delivery.”
Tomlin says that the need does not stop there, but it follows young girls throughout their whole lives. She describes seeing patients as little girls and toddlers with vaginal abnormalities such as labial adhesions or fusion of the lips of the vagina, and even for various skin conditions that can affect the vagina and the vulva. Many of her patients also suffer complaints of discharge, itching, pain and odor.
“We also are involved when young girls have a straddle injury from a bicycle or a horse ride, and need an exam or a repair under anesthesia, or if there is concern of a foreign object in the vagina,” Tomlin said.
As her patients start to progress into the early ages of adolescence, Tomlin is able to relieve them of some challenges they may be experiencing with puberty which might include breast problems or heavy and painful periods.
“Up to 20 percent of adolescents who present to a doctor with heavy periods are diagnosed with an underlying bleeding disorder,” she said, “We have a large role to play in making this diagnosis and managing their care.”
There are a few conditions in gynecology that involve unique anatomy, such as differences in the shape of a girl’s uterus or even the absence of a uterus. Often, these girls and women need specialized gynecologic care to manage their periods, which can be disruptive to their lives. “We love being able to help them,” said Tomlin.
Gynecologists like Tomlin also play a huge role as adolescents begin to explore their sexuality by helping their patients through counseling and managing all types of contraception.
Tomlin and her team also pride themselves in being a safe-space for transgender youth who are nervous about seeking care but still need gynecologic care.
“The young women we treat benefit from receiving care in a specialized, comprehensive practice setting,” she said. “My team and I are proud to be able to provide care for them and their families.”
The Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Clinic at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital provides specialized care and is a resource for gynecological issues affecting children and teens.