Like me, there are some of you who have given birth multiple times, and so many doctors, midwives, and nurses have seen you mostly nude and maybe, like sweating and screaming, that a trip to the ob/gyn for your yearly exam seems like NBD. I’ve joked that it’s less painful (physically and emotionally) than, you know, meal planning. There is, however, a large population of women who are just, no, no, a million times no, about a medical professional getting near their girl parts. Let’s talk about this. Fun, right?
Guy readers, don’t be scared. We’re all going to be grown-ups and get through this post together, and if you want to pass this along to a little sister with the caption “EW” or keep it in mind for your daughters, that’s totally fine. And listen, if there’s a post that you want me to read about testicular health, I mean, I’ll get through it. Send it to me.
There are a lot of women who do not regularly see a gyn, simply because they are not sexually active, for religious reasons or otherwise. My goal is to convince you that even if you’ve committed to remaining celibate until marriage, or even if you’re someone who never has any intention of getting pregnant, yearly exams are still important. All my homegirls that are in their 20s and 30s whose feet have never graced a set of doctor’s office stirrups? Y’ALL NEED TO GET YOURSELVES TO A GYN.
Why? Because a yearly exam consists of way more than just chatting about birth control. I consulted with Mallory, my regularly-featured-on-NF midwife, who has also attended every single one of my daughters’ births and has seen me in more compromising positions than I can count.
If you’re under 21 and not having any issues that would warrant an exam, I generally have you keep your pants on – even if you’ve been sexually active. A lot of your first gyn visit is talking. I start routine pap smear screenings at age 21, but I like to think I am more than just a pap smear. I check a patient’s breasts, ovaries, and uterus. I screen for STDs. I help people with menstrual and other hormonal problems. I treat ovarian cysts and breast masses. I take out tampons that have gotten stuck. I treat vaginitis. I provide vaccinations against cervical cancer. And for my younger patients I usually like to see them before I ever need to do an exam, so we develop a relationship. A visit before becoming sexually active is ideal, so I can help prepare my patients to make the choices that are best for them. I discuss birth control (more than just pills) and abstinence. I don’t force exams on anyone. I have some patients who cant ever tolerate an internal exam with my hands, so we find creative solutions. I have taken three visits just to psych someone up for a pap smear. My goal is to make my patients comfortable with me so that together we do what’s best for their bodies.
Obviously I have an incredible midwife, and I love that she likes to schedule a pants-on appointment before a pants-off appointment. If Mallory’s speech convinced you but you’re a little squeamish, my suggestion is to ask around for a referral for someone in your area, then schedule a pants-on appointment to chat. If you’re not yet convinced, here’s a little story.
I started going to the gyn when I turned 18, around the same time my mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer and ovarian cancer. I was having weird symptoms (which later I discovered to be endometriosis, which is maybe a story for another time, but I’ll mark it as another reason you should totally visit a gyn) and due to her diagnosis, my mom was paranoid and insisted that I see a doctor. My gyn started talking to me about the importance of breast exams. I was like, uhhh, what? but because ovarian cancer and breast cancer are directly linked, and can often be hereditary, she insisted that I start doing monthly self-exams.
Okayyyy this is weird, all I want to do is wear a cropped t-shirt to a Dave Matthews Band show, can I go now?
Sidenote: how early 00s is this photos? Shell necklace, hot pink sundress, CI poster, chillin in my college BFF’s bedroom.
I forgot about her instructions, and then one day, on a whim, I did a self-exam and felt two distinct cysts in my breast. Doctor’s appointment. Ultrasound. Cysts aspirated, tested, and came back benign. Normal scenario, but it was a scary week for a 18 year old girl whose mom was in the throes of a difficult battle with cancer. And then I was all what if it wasn’t benign and I just let these cysts languish undiagnosed under my favorite Gap t-shirt bra? O__O and then I had greater appreciation for the not-as-cool-as-Mallory-but-still-cool doctor who told me that breast self-exams are muy importante.
While uterine, ovarian, and cervical cancer is rare in women under 40, those diagnoses still happen, and it’s just wise to make sure all of your parts are on the up and up. You know, being pro-active about your health and all. So, dear reader who has never been to a gyn, I’m not the boss of you, and my goal isn’t to strong-arm you into picking up the phone, but if you needed some gentle encouragement and a slap on the butt, here it is. Complete with a hug. \(._.)/