What is a Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecologist?


A Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecologist is an OBGYN with subspecialty training in caring for children, adolescents, and young patients with gynecologic concerns. Most OBGYN residencies don’t include comprehensive training in how to care for pediatric adolescent patients. While some of the medicine can be applied, developmentally, patients of every age have different needs. A pediatric and adolescent gynecologist can fill the gap in clinical and surgical care for reproductive health - helping younger patients with the overall goal of providing care that is patient-centered, developmentally appropriate, and educationally focused.

How do I know if I need a Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecologist?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends the first reproductive health visit between the ages of 13 and 15.  The purpose of this visit is to provide preventative care and guidance and to address specific issues.  Some of the problem-based visits are for things like:

• Menstrual concerns
• Early puberty
• Late puberty
• Vulvar skin issues
• Contraception
• Congenital anomalies
• Ovarian masses.

What happens when a patient comes in for an appointment?

As part of fellowship training, I gained exposure and experience in treating younger patients, and the way we approach the visit is very different. The first thing I do, especially for adolescent patients, is let them know they do not need a pelvic exam. This is often not indicated, and their concerns can be addressed appropriately without it. So much about a Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology visit is about listening and providing education and reassurance. Many patients also come in with an adult caretaker who also has questions, and it is an opportunity to dispel some of the myths and correct some of the misinformation that exists in reproductive health care.

Gynecologic concerns of young patients can be very sensitive. Patients often share things that they might not talk about with anyone else. I aim to normalize their concerns and remove some of the mystery surrounding gynecology.  It is also important to note that the visit with an adolescent patient can be kept confidential.

Gender-Affirming Care

We offer gender-affirming care which you can read more about here. Patients sometimes come in for a visit if they are experiencing gender dysphoria. That’s the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned at birth. We can help with issues related to menstrual suppression or other concerns patients may have related to reproductive health. 

How to schedule an appointment with a Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecologist

To learn more about our department or schedule an appointment, click here.

Erin Barlow, MD is the only fellowship-trained Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecologist in Rhode Island. She is a dedicated advocate for reproductive healthcare for all ages. Her passion is providing comprehensive gynecologic care to this often vulnerable population, as well as empowering patients through education.