So I had my annual visit to the lovely lady doctor recently and when I left, I couldn’t help but reflect on how horrible all of my experiences have ever been.
I literally had high blood pressure during my visit. The nurse asked me, “You feeling anxious, honey?” “Honestly, yes,” I answered her, too eager to get the whole thing over with to mince words. “I’m probably overdue for this visit, but I haven’t had many good experiences.” She offhandedly said they’d take care of me and launched into a series of monotonous questions.
As I walked out of the appointment, I called my mother and processed through my first TERRIBLE gynecology visit with her, for the first time. “Why didn’t you tell me,” she asked me. And I admitted that I’d felt really embarrassed and ashamed by the whole thing. My first gynecologist offered me no helpful education and made me feel really insecure about my body.
Why, I thought, WHY is this so difficult? Have I just had bad luck? Is my experience typical? If my experience is typical, is a good experience too much to ask for?
When I got home, I googled how to find a good gynecologist. And what came up but an article called, Why Is It So Hard to Find a Good Gynecologist? Here's a little excerpt:
"After sitting in a waiting room... I'd get a brusque and formulaic appointment that consisted of a pelvic exam, Pap smear, and a quick question about birth control, and then I was sent on my way. There was nothing horribly wrong with the care that I got, but having [had] an excellent general practitioner who was extremely thorough and spent a lot of time with me during my appointments addressing my questions and concerns [before], I suspected that it was possible to be more satisfied..."
It rung so true to me! Though it seemed to suggest that this is a single woman / non-pregnant woman phenomenon, while I’d go further and say it’s an overarching issue for most people. As for me, personally, this is what I'm still looking for, when it comes to finding an Ob/Gyn:
A Welcoming Atmosphere
In a perfect world, I would enter my gynecologist’s office to a lovely person offering me a glass of water with some cucumber or some fruit on the bottom of the glass; then I would be led to a massage chair, and I’d snack on dark chocolate until my name was called to see my doctor.
In the real world, I’m satisfied to sit in a reasonably comfortable chair and flip through magazines (magazines that show people who like myself and my family and my friends... just putting that out there 'cause I'm often a little salty about the lack thereof...).
Overall, this aspect of my gynecologist visits, though, tends to be just fine.
A Qualified, Caring Doctor Who Talks With Me
I’ve found that at most of my gynecologist visits, I’ve had doctors who’ve talked AT me, rather than with me. At this appointment more than any other I’ve had, I felt like I was on a clock. It was like a stopwatch had been started the moment I went into the room and it was just tick, tick, ticking away with every word I said. There was a tangible sense of impatience in the air when I mentioned that I had a list of questions that I had wanted to make sure I asked. At some points I felt talked down to. And overall, I just felt like the whole experience was an impersonal blur.
P.S. doctors, The American College of Physicians says there's "monetary value to [patient] comfort." (source) Good for me and for your bottom line! Let's do it.
A Genuine Attempt to Make Uncomfortable Exams as Comfortable as Possible
Well, of course some parts of going to the gynecologist are just uncomfortable. That’s health, that’s life. But I’d really appreciate an authentic attempt to curb that discomfort.
For me, I like to know what’s about to happen when my body is on a medical table. Asking for a patient’s preference on exam approach would be an easy enough thing for a doctor to add to their bedside manner. But realistically, it seems it’s probably something I’ll have to declare. Just a solid, “Hey, I’d really appreciate it if you just gave me a head’s up before you started something so it doesn’t catch me off guard.”
Also... redesigned speculum, anybody? The speculum dates back to the 1840s, an invention of James Marion Sims, "Father of Gynecologist," who experimented on slave women without anesthesia. The design is pretty much the same today as it was back then. Seriously.
Over 150 years later, we put a man on the moon, have phones that recognize faces, and speaker systems that talk to us, but the same damn cold metal device that people literally avoid gynecologist visits to stay away from.
Honestly, that’s all I want. It's pretty straightforward and simple. I want a comfortable wait, I want a doctor who’s not rushing me out the door, and exams done in a way that makes unavoidable discomfort a little more bearable.
It is NOT too much to expect a positive Ob/Gyn visit. Our reproductive health is too important for us to feel like we can’t talk to the health professionals who are supposed to care for us! Or have to mill in and out of their offices according to some arbitrary clockwork. Plus... shouldn't visiting doctors not just be about managing potential / current problems, but reaching higher levels of health / bodily satisfaction?
Have thoughts? Share in the comments below!