It’s that time of year again! We’re going on a trip. No I’m not talking about your long overdue yearly vacation to Hawaii. I’m talking about your other yearly trip; to the gynecologist.
For many women the acronym OBGYN can be as off-putting as PMS. But it’s an important aspect of taking care of our health. Sometimes a woman may have had a bad experience with a doctor, and so they put off going to another one for many years.
There are numerous reasons for why and when a woman sees a gynecologist. Most commonly it’s for their yearly pap smear. I was 13 when I first had to see a gynecologist. I was experiencing irregular periods, which later doctors found out was caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome which I battled for many years.
For me, my OBGYN visits evolved from health issue as a young girl, then to sex, and then my regular yearly checkups. I’ve experienced many types of exams and seen many different OBGYNs. Some were wonderful and some were awful.
Women’s attitudes towards their visits vary. Some express fear, while others find it relaxing. I asked several women recently about what they liked and didn’t like about going to the gynecologist. Their answers ranged from, “I feel like I’m going to accidentally close my legs in on the doctors head” to “It’s just so cold.” One woman commented, “My favorite thing about going to the gynecologist is weeks later when I get the results that everything is normal!”
We women are complicated creatures, aren’t we? Especially when it comes to the medical examination of our genitals. For example, why do most of us find it so important to shave our legs and fold our underwear so neatly before our gynecologist comes in the examination room? I don’t know if most of us fold our socks when seeing an orthopedic doctor.
For one reason or another, some women still just fear going to the doctor, and especially this doctor. But there are issues greater than just our sex lives to consider when needing to go visit a gynecologist. There could be problems brewing such as issues with our pelvic floor or an asymptomatic STD. In these cases, as with anything health related, seeing a doctor regularly to discuss any issues you have can put you on the road to stopping something greater from happening later on in life.
Fortunately for me, after having to see a gynecologist early in my life, I was pretty comfortable being able to talk to my OBGYN about almost anything when it came to my body. But for some women, there’s still so much anxiety that surrounds going to see this doctor.
Regardless of what your personal feelings about or experiences with gynecologists have been in the past, here are some tips for making sure your OBGYN visit is one you don’t have to dread.
Know What to Expect
If it’s your first time visiting an OBGYN, regardless of your age or reason, be sure to let your doctor know. If you’re nervous about what something might feel like, they will be able to put you at ease.
The first time I was examined as a young teen I was very nervous (as would anyone having something very shiny placed in their nether regions). Relaxing our muscles and not clenching will make the exam less uncomfortable, which is why not being nervous is key. My first doctor kept telling me to relax and that I wouldn’t feel pain. She was also extra gentle.
Having other types of exams and procedures over the years, I always communicated any nerves to my doctor and their assurance that I’d feel fine was a huge assist to the experience. Our doctors are not there to hurt us. And a caring OBGYN will go that extra mile to make you feel as comfortable as they can when you’re experiencing something new.
Welcome the Difference in Doctor’s Attitude
If you had a not-so-great doctor who left you feeling frustrated or uncomfortable, don’t let that one person affect you finding the right doctor for you. Some doctors have a certain bedside manner that is off-putting. They are very well educated and experienced, but when it comes to connecting with patients they might as well be yelling at them in an ancient made-up alien language.
Some doctors, on the other hand, are so talkative and overly personable that you only end up spending thirty seconds talking about your issue and forgetting to address any other issues you may be experiencing.
I have experienced both of these scenarios as well as two gynecologists who were incredibly rude and made me feel bad about my body. But nevertheless, my health was important to me. How I felt as a woman was important. And once I found the right doctor, everything fell into place.
Choose the Right Sex of Doctor For You
Many women would argue the pros and cons of a female gynecologist versus a male gynecologist. Some women feel that only a woman doctor can relate to their issues because we share the same anatomy. While others feel male doctors might have more empathy for our issues since they don’t experience it themselves (i.e. sympathy when we’re on our periods).
No one is wrong in how they feel. Regardless of the sex of the doctor, it’s important that you feel comfortable with them and that you’re well treated. Communication is the most important thing with any doctor and especially when it comes to discussing an intimate topic like sex. So having someone you can be open with is key.
Stand Your Ground When Needed
If you’ve had a terrible experience with a certain treatment method such as a medication (I have gone through many birth control snafus in my day), it’s important that you be able to get your doctor to understand why you simply do not feel good about their suggested method.
There is a time to trust a doctor’s expertise and give something a try, but then there are times when you need to speak up about what you’re personally experiencing. Sometimes if a doctor has never used something (like a medication), they may only be treating the patient based off of the statistics on the effectiveness of a treatment. So while one medication might work and have no side effects for some women, you might be the exception. And if that’s true, then it’s up to you to stress why you’d like to find an alternative option. Let your voice be heard.
Having your legs spread apart while a doctor sticks their head between them can seem incredibly awkward. For me, finding the humor in the situation to be extremely comforting.
I have a twisted sense of humor so many times I’ve cracked a joke prior to my doctor heading down there as an icebreaker and as a way to keep my own nerves at bay.
However, I suggest not making a joke (especially the laugh out loud kind) while your doctor is actually doing their thing, for obvious reasons. There’s no need for you to practice your standup routine while your doc is trying to focus with tools and hands inside you.
In life, a little humor never hurt anybody. Just don’t fart. Or do, just make sure your gas related humor is on point. And definitely apologize.
My advice to you is have no fear when it comes to your OBGYN visits! No matter what age you are or what your reason is for visiting a gynecologist, feeling comfortable is crucial to a beneficial visit.
Don’t let negative past experiences or fears of the unknown deter you from taking your health seriously. Your doctor is there to help, and trust us, they’ve seen and heard it all. Countless times. As long as you don’t let one rip, you’re fine. Although come to think of it, they’ve likely had that one happen once or twice too.