Yesterday, we (Em & Lo) answered Fraidy Cat’s question about how to get over being terrified of visiting the gynecologist, as two women who’ve had some experience on the receiving end of a speculum. Today, actual-gynecologist Dr. Kate tries to further allay Fraidy’s fears as a woman who’s spent her career on the giving end.
You’re not alone — I see women every day who, because of things they’ve heard or past experiences, are terrified about having a pelvic exam. But most of them at the end of the exam say the same thing: “That’s it?” To have the same reaction, consider these 4 things:
- Specify your fear. Think about what you’re actually afraid of. Is it pain? The exam will likely be uncomfortable, but if you’ve had intercourse before, a pelvic exam shouldn’t cause pain. (If it does, TELL THE GYNO, so she can adjust what’s she’s doing.) Is it what the gyno may find? If you feel well, your testing will most likely be negative…and anything that the gyno DOES find, she can treat.
- Knowledge is power. You say that you walk yourself through the steps that you expect — but make sure you have good information (and not horror stories from “friends”). Planned Parenthood has a fantastic overview of what will happen. Also, check out my “How to Have a Better Exam” post on Gynotalk.com. And know that the entire exam will take about 2 to 3 minutes…
- Trust a friend. The best way to find a good gyno is to ask friends who they like. I get many referrals these days from happy patients telling their friends to come to see me. And it may help to have a friend there with you to hold your hand during the exam — your doc will make sure your lower half is draped so your friend doesn’t “see anything.”
- Ask for information. What you can’t see is the most scary, so ask the doc to put the head of the bed up so you can see her at all times. Ask to handle the speculum, so you can get a sense of how big it is (not as big as you think) and what it feels like in your hand. And have the gyno tell you what she’s doing at all times during the exam, so you’ll be prepared for each sensation that comes.
You can totally do this!
Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.