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Confident practitioner speaking to patients in hospital

A leading medical specialist offers her advice on when to take your daughter to a gynaecologist rather than a GP.

It’s difficult for mothers to decide if they need to take their pre-pubertal daughter to see a gynaecologist if they experience any gynaecological health issues or are experiencing itching or burning. What should your first course of action be?

Dr Katrien Dehaeck is a leading gynaecologist at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town. She specialises paediatric gynaecology and is a consultant at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. She says: “as a mother, you may feel or know that something isn’t quite right. However,  you’re not sure if this needs to be checked out by your local doctor or a gynaecologist. There are specific symptoms that need to be checked out by a gynaecologist.”

Symptoms to watch out for

You should take your daughter to see a paediatric gynaecologist if she is experiencing any of the below symptoms:

1. A chronic vaginal discharge, especially if there is blood or bleeding involved.
2. A strong smelly vaginal discharge.
3. Lumps, bumps and warts.

“Your daughter may be experiencing an itch or burn that can be caused by a variety of factors. Most commonly, if a girl has an itch doctors diagnose it as Candida. This is not generally something that little girls get as their vaginas are still too alkaline. So, I would recommend seeing a gynaecologist if she gets diagnosed and prescribed Candida medication before going ahead with the treatment,” says Dr Dehaeck.

Precautionary measures

As a precautionary measure for itches and burns in the genitalia, Dr Dehaeck recommends getting your child dewormed and ensuring that her hygiene is optimal. “Some girls are still too small to wipe properly from front to back and get faecal contamination as a result. Assist your child and make sure that she is cleaned properly at all times. Also, avoid washing with strong soaps and do not use bubble bath,” adds Dehaeck.

Not all irritations are serious: some, such as rashes caused by nappy rash or allergic reactions to creams, can be treated with over-the-counter medication.

“My overall advice would be to take what your child says seriously and get her checked out properly. Sometimes foreign objects or even labial adhesion (where the labia minora are stuck together and it seems there is no vaginal opening even though there is), may be the cause of the issue. These can all be dealt with without too much problem. The quicker your child is examined and diagnosed, the better,” adds Dr Dehaeck.

Dr Katrien Dehaeck is a leading gynaecologist in private practice at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Pinelands, Cape Town. She   specialises in gynaecology, gynae oncology, vulvo-vaginal disease and paediatric gynaecology.