Does the thought of having your annual gynaecological exam make you nervous?
If it does, you are not alone. While some women have no problems with visiting their gynaecologist, many other women experience anxiety and fear just thinking about that visit, especially if it is their first. This is alarming given that the anxiety prevents women from receiving the best care possible.
Going to see a gynaecologist means that you are taking responsibility for your body, specifically your reproductive health. If you don’t schedule an annual check-up yet you are sexually active, you may be putting your health at risk.
Why are women afraid of gynaecological visits?
Women fear going to the gynaecologist because it is a very personal procedure that leaves some feeling embarrassed or insecure. Negative experiences at the gynaecologist vary but some patients feel like their doctors don’t listen to them or worse, the doctors belittle or judge them.
Additionally, one study found that many women avoid gynaecological exams because of the vaginal speculum. The device is widely feared because its design is uncomfortable and even painful for some. Shaped like a metal duckbill, the vaginal speculum was not designed with comfort in mind. What makes it worse is that a majority of the speculums that doctors use today are based on the 1840s configuration by Doctor James Marion Sims. A true Victorian horror story, he tested his invention on enslaved women without using anaesthesia.
How can women overcome their fear?
There may be much more enjoyable activities to do than going to the gynaecologist but it’s a visit that’s important even if it is daunting. The next time you plan on scheduling an appointment, here are recommendations to make the experience more comfortable and less awkward.
- Get a mirror and start examining yourself
The better you know your own body, the more empowered you will be. Exploring with your fingers and taking a look around may feel odd to begin with but it will certainly make you more familiar with your anatomy. Not only will it prepare you for the feeling but it will also help you feel more relaxed during your actual examination.
- Go see a highly-recommended gynaecologist
Ask around your family and friends to find out who the best gyno is in the area. If you’re more comfortable with going to a lady doc, do so. Having a person who can empathise with your body parts and not make you feel more self-conscious than you already do makes a huge difference. Also, let your gyno know if you’re nervous. They might make a special effort to talk you through the entire procedure and help you remain calm.
- Have a close friend or family member go with you
Explain to your loved ones that you’re nervous and ask for help. Schedule the appointment during a time that’s convenient for them so that they can come along with you. If you are really anxious, have them accompany you into the exam room if they’re allowed by the doctor.
The most important thing to remember is that you aren’t obligated to continue seeing a particular doctor if you aren’t comfortable with them. Your comfort is something that you cannot deny yourself so do not be afraid to seek another gynaecologist or to ask for second opinions.