Monday, August 03, 2009

I Don't Want To Go To The Gynecologist!

It's sometimes tough to have a job where no one is happy to come see you. Yes, I have a good relationship with my patients, and there's even a wait to get an appointment with me. But even my long-timers sometimes grit their teeth at the thought of coming in for their annual exam. Through talking with patients--and looking at search terms from my blog readers--I've identified 4 major barriers to getting a gyn exam:
  • Modesty. You may know that your doctor looks at boobs and vaginas for a living, but it may not make it any easier to get naked and put on one of those awful, one-size-fits-nobody paper gowns. You worry about how you look and how you smell. You wonder if the doctor notices that you haven't shaved. You fear that she's comparing you - in any way - to any other patient.
  • Fear of pain. Especially if you haven't been to the gyno in awhile. Thoughts of the speculum placement - the cramp with the pap smear - the achiness with the internal exam...it's enough to make anyone's knees lock together.
  • Fear of arousal. Your arousal - what if you get turned on during the exam?? And the doctor's arousal - after all, don't straight men and gay women get turned on looking at a naked lady?
  • Fear of bad news. Bad enough you have to endure the indignity of an exam, but then you need to wait a few weeks for your lab results to hear that you're in good health...or not.
No wonder it sucks to come see me! But here's what I think about each of these things:
  • You're just like every body else. You most likely look and smell completely normal. I don't care if you're shaved, or waxed, or powdered, or toned, or not. I do care if you're pierced, only so I can advise you on safe piercing practices. While I care about all aspects of your personality when we're talking, when you're undressed I'm only caring about the square inches of skin I'm examining. And that's all I see at that moment.
  • I really don't want to hurt you. First, because I want you to have a good experience. But if you're in pain and pulling away, I can't examine you as well as I need to. So the exam goes better for both of us if you're comfortable.
  • There's nothing sexy about a GYN exam. I'm a straight woman, and I have gyno friends who are men and who are lesbians. We all agree that the clinical environment of a gynecologist's office--the bright lights, the creaking stirrups, the frigid temperature--does not breed sexy thoughts. And I've never had a patient get aroused, much less climax, during an exam.
  • Knowledge is power. And knowing even the worst, is better than being in the dark. A good gyno will deliver your test results in the way that works best for you--whether that means a return visit to talk about them in person, or a phone call, or even an email.
So what can you do about all of this? Go to a gynecologist who makes you feel at ease. Tell him or her your concerns about the exam, and see if they'll work with you to ensure your maximum comfort. And know that you're doing the best thing possible for your health...and you don't have to go again till next year.

Photo credit: maigh

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