Diary of a Pelvic Exam

doctor health-drs-swscan01630-copy-copyI grew up on Our Bodies, Ourselves.

I understand the importance of looking after one’s health.

Recently I wrote what I call a diary-in-a-list when I found a pea-sized bump under my skin in an awkward place.

Here is what I did.

1.  I tried to find a mirror to do a self-exam.

2.  I finally used the one in my compact.

3. After looking at my lump, I Googled health care sites.

4.  I diagnosed my lump as a benign cyst.

THEN I WENT TO THE DOCTOR, WHO CONFIRMED MY DIAGNOSIS.  THEN THE PROBLEMS BEGAN. 

1.  My doctor barely knows who I am, because I am a very healthy person. (And that is a good thing.)  He/she knows me only from the records on his/her tablet.

2.  He/she confirms my diagnosis, but wants to know the date of my last pelvic exam. I do not have that data in my memory.

3.  The doctor asks if I have all my “lady parts.”  I do wonder why none of this is in my records!

4. But I have no qualms about putting my feet in stirrups, because I have had, of course, many pelvic exams.

NOTES ON A PAINFUL PELVIC EXAM.

1.  The speculum, an ice-tongs-like instrument that is used to hold open the vagina so the doctor can examine the cervix, is not a one-size-fits-all device.  The type of speculum used for a menopausal woman is different from that used for a menstruating woman.  (I learned this after the exam.)

2.   He/she tried to shove the speculum in.  I was in such pain that I instinctively shot up into a half-sitting position and told him I couldn’t take the pain.  I have never had this kind of pain before.

3.  He/she said he/she was almost done.  The nurse looked concerned.

4.  Instead of screaming, I endured the pain.  I was sure something was wrong with ME.  It wasn’t till later that it occurred to me the speculum was the wrong size.

5.  I went home and wept.  I had a burning sensation in my vagina and cramps.

6.  And then I went online and learned from Our Bodies, Ourselves that new guidelines from the American College of Physicians say pelvic exams are unnecessary for most healthy women.
The article says,

There are no data supporting the effectiveness of the screening pelvic examination (including speculum and bimanual examinations) in the asymptomatic average risk woman for any indication other than periodic cervical cancer screening. The procedure causes pain, discomfort, fear, anxiety, and/or embarrassment in about a third of women and can lead to unnecessary, invasive, and potentially harmful diagnostic procedures. …

There are also potential procedure–related harms. For example, researchers report that heavier women are more likely than women of average weight to report more disrespect and embarrassment during a pelvic exam. Women with a history of exposure to sexual violence are also more likely to report fear, embarrassment and anxiety.

So this was an unnecessary procedure for me.

I guess we have to research everything before we go to the doctor.  But we can’t.

I’m sure family doctors have only a two- or four-week gynecology rotation during their residency.  This is not their expertise.  And perhaps they don’t treat many post-menopausal women.

Next time, I’ll go to a gynecologist.

10 thoughts on “Diary of a Pelvic Exam

  1. Ouch! That’s nasty! It infuriates me when we get dealt with by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Definitely go to a gynecologist next time!

  2. I’d never considered it was a GP doing such an examination! I have a gynecologist. I think the GP overstepped his/her boundaries. The exam should not have caused such pain. Better find another GP too!

  3. And people wonder why many avoid vaccine. We rightly distrust physicians’ advice. That person ignored your pain.

  4. It’s a life lesson I’ve learned too, though not as painfully as you! That only a gynecologist is thoroughly used to doing these exams, usually behaves tactfully and would be more sensitive to your discomfort. GPs don’t do many of these and treat them like they’re discovering some new interesting part of the human body. Always: gynecologist. Though I’ve skipped going since mine retired a couple of years ago. As you say – it doesn’t seem to be strictly necessary. Perhaps they don’t make more of a public informational outcry about this because they don’t want a whole generation of women feeling like fools for having undergone these exams routinely when they didn’t have to!

    • Yes, medical care is not one-stop shopping, as I have been reminded! When I was younger, I always went to a gynecologist. Now it seems that the GPs have taken over some of these procedures.

  5. I am sorry that you had to experience this. Let me recommend trying to find a female gynecologist too. I have had much better experiences with them, there is a depth of sensitivity present that can be so lacking in even the most qualified males. I dont want to be flamed out as being sexist, but our experiences are just so different.

    • The thing is that I didn’t even need a pelvic exam! Yes, I’ve gone to gynecologists in the past, and it is a much better option. I still can’t believe this happened to me!

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