I often get questions from young people or adult virgins about when it’s time to visit a gynecologist, how often they should get Pap tests, etc. If you have never seen a gynecologist or are a little anxious about what to expect, and how the examination will go, I have asked Dr. Yasir Bukhar, an Obstetrics and Gynecology resident of McGill University in Canada to give us an inside look. This is what he had to share.
People around the world casually visit the doctor all the time, yet gynecologists are still frequently considered intimidating. While urologists examine their male counterparts, it seems that men seem to have fewer problems talking about their private parts or their sexual life. Since all women in the world should be seeing the gynecologist regularly starting as a young adult, this article is intended to help ease the tension surrounding the idea of going to the dreaded gynecologist appointment.
To explain in detail, let’s start by introducing who the gynecologists really are and what do they do. Gynecologists are doctors who specialized in all things to do with women’s health. They spend their days rotating between the clinic where they see patients for regular follow-ups, and in the hospital. In the hospital, gynecologists often play a double role of also being an obstetrician, hence the nickname “OB/GYN.” There, they take care of all things to do with pregnancy and delivering babies. Gynecologists can also play another role—that of a surgeon, where they frequently visit the operating room to perform procedures for women who need it. This being said, one can only imagine how many women these doctors see in a day, a week, a month, or a year.
Women visit the gynecologist in their clinic for a wide variety of reasons. Some common reasons are to discuss contraception and family planning, to get their annual health screenings that might include a Pap test, to test for sexually transmitted infections, or to address any questions a woman may have about her sexual health.
Women can feel intimidated when even presented with the idea of having to visit the gynecologist. The intimidation stems from different reasons. Many are intimidated by having to show their private parts to a stranger, the fear of being judged on what they look like “down there,” being labeled if they discuss STIs or contraception, or having to discuss their sexual life and activity.
Consequently, from your gynecologist’s point of view, you are another patient of many, as you would be to any other doctor, say an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT). Your gynecologist will routinely examine and look at vulvas and vaginas daily. This makes it become a habit, just like checking the patient’s temperature. To them, this is neither boring nor exciting. If you are nervous about what the gynecologist might think about you, just remember, they have seen so many bodies before and will see so many after you, that is that remarkable to them anymore. They will likely not remember someone’s physical appearance, but rather their health and wellbeing.
The gynecologist’s office would be a perfectly suitable place to discuss sexual aspects of your life. Your gynecologist will only know about you as much as you tell them. They will not pressure you into talking about subjects you are uncomfortable with, and none of what is discussed will ever be repeated to anyone else. All doctors practice patient confidentiality under their medical ethics oath. In other words, what is said in the office, stays in the office.
Another thing that may scare a woman is the discomfort of the gynecological exam. In a typical gynecological exam, you should not feel any pain. Some discomfort or pressure may occur, but this is nothing abnormal, and it won’t last more than a few minutes. Like any medical exam, these sensations can be reduced when the body is calm and relaxed. The speculum, an instrument used for the exam, comes in many different sizes. Your doctor will make sure to use the most appropriate one to minimize any discomfort during the examination. In addition to this, your doctor will use an appropriate lubricant that has been specially developed for these exams to further reduce any potential discomfort. However, in the end, the most important tool you have to ensure your exam goes smoothly is the trust between you and your doctor. You must choose a doctor with whom you feel comfortable and at ease with, and with whom you are capable to verbalize any questions or concerns you may have.
Finally, it is highly recommended to bring someone you trust to the doctor’s visit, be it a partner, a mother, or even a friend. This person does not need to be in the exam room with you, but should you need support, you will have a comforting hand to hold.
In summary, you should know and believe that your gynecologist is someone you should trust, rather than fear. Your sexual and reproductive health is their main concern, and you can trust that they will do their best to make your experience as comfortable as possible.