Jennifer Ashton, MD: Not Your Mother’s Gyno

I am not a reporter, but I sometimes get to pretend to be one. My tween and teen were invited to the National Tween Summit in D.C. in October. I tagged along with them. While they participated in a very elaborate program of sessions, speakers, musical guests, and breakout sessions, I had a chance to don my reporter’s hat.

The National Tween Summit was for tween girls between 9 and 14. The age range is wider than the range of preteen — 9 t0 12 years of age — over at  TypeAMom. There were some 8-year-olds at the Tween Summit as well.

girls,moms,sex education,puberty,Dr. Jennifer Ashton

As part of the conference program for moms, and a few brave dads(!), there were speakers on nutrition, health and fitness, bullying, and gynecological issues. One of the people I had the pleasure to interview was Dr. Jennifer Ashton. Dr. Ashton is not your mother’s gyno. She specializes in treating all her patients, some of who are tweens and teens, as individuals. Dr. Ashton is the CBS Medical Correspondent.

Dr. Ashton recently published The Body Scoop for Girls: A Straight-Talk Guide to a Healthy, Beautiful You. The Body Scoop for Girls is this month’s Silicon Valley Moms Book Club selection. At the time I interviewed Dr. Ashton her book — The Body Scoop for Girls: A Straight-Talk Guide to a Healthy, Beautiful You — was still in production.

She explained to me that her book is set up in a series of blog posts on topics ranging from periods to genital piercing to sex. The target audience of her book is teenagers, with a secondary audience of moms. She decided to write this book as most books dealing with puberty are aimed at girls are skewed too young. The American Girls book — The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls — is too juvenile for teens.

Dr. Ashton described how tweens have evolved over the last 30 years. For many of us, we seamlessly transitioned from “kids” to “teens.” There was no tween stage. Tween or preteen is a relatively new term and age definition. Tweens are exposed to information on TV and on the internet, which is often not age appropriate. Girls are getting their periods younger, sometimes as early as 9 years old. Dr. Ashton sees that many tween and teen girls need guidance to handle their lives and the world around them.

One of the moms asked Dr, Ashton when a tween/teen should see a gynecologist. Dr. Ashton responded that girls between the age of 13 to 15 should see a gynecologist. She asserted that when a teen sees the gynecologist for the first time that the visit should be a consultation without a pelvic exam. The gynecologist should establish an open dialogue with the teen — a “periods and pimples” discussion.

My tween and teen’s conference passes and our transportation to the National Tween Summit was covered by EA Play.

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