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Author Topic: Vaginal Exam
PandaYoghurt
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Hi, I have a query that you can hopefully help me with.

I've been on the pill for some time now. When I first went to my doctor about it, she gave it to me without giving me a pelvic/vaginal exam (not quite sure what to refer to it as?).

Then I went back to get my prescription refilled after three months, but this time I just saw a nurse who did a blood pressure check and asked if I was ok to stay on my current pill and I was.

She gave me a 6 month prescription but advised me to make an appointment with my doctor (as opposed to seeing the nurse again) after those 6 months were up.

At this next doctor's appointment, do you think she is likely to give me a pelvic/vaginal exam? I'm 20 years old (although I'll be 21 at the time of the appointment). If she is planning on doing so, will she tell me prior to the appointment?

Thanks.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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If you're reaching 21, it's time for you to start pelvic exams and pap smears regardless, so even if she does NOT want to do one then, I'd suggest you go ahead and schedule one for that next visit regardless.

It's particularly important to get started with them then if you have been at all sexually active.

So, I'd just schedule it yourself, rather than waiting on them. But if you choose not to, then yes, you should be told in advance they want to do an exam.

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PandaYoghurt
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Ok, my appointments are usually made with the receptionist there, rather than actually speaking to my doctor on the phone. Should I say it to the receptionist that I'd like to schedule one? I don't really want to talk to the receptionist about that kind of thing. Would it be ok to ask for one once I actually got into the doctor's office? Or should I notify her some way in advance? Sorry, I don't really know what's involved.
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Heather
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Can I ask why you don't want to schedule the exam with the receptionist? That is who patients would usually schedule exams and tests with.

I don't know how things go in your clinic or doctor's office per any kind of exam, so I couldn't say if asking for one at the time is something that'd be sound or not. In many cases, it won't be, just because the amount of time doctors have scheduled with patients is usually set, so a doc expecting to just do a consult might not have the time to also do an exam on a given day.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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PandaYoghurt
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Ok, I see.

Well I suppose it's just because I don't particularly like the receptionist and she is quite indiscreet.

I have heard her on more than one occasion talking about patient's health with them loudly at her desk, while I have been sitting in the waiting room.

I know some people might not mind her doing this at all, but I personally just don't want random strangers in a waiting room knowing stuff about any part of my health (sexual or otherwise).

The time I went into the nurse for my blood pressure check I did schedule the appointment with her and she knew why I was seeing the nurse. Then when I went to her to pay and she said "so you had your pill blood pressure check with the nurse? That's great, isn't it? Very handy, I'm on the pill as well and I only have to see my own doctor every 6 months/year as well".

I'm just uncomfortable with everyone in the waiting room hearing that. And just uncomfortable with people (doctor's receptionists included) making smalltalk about about my personal issues unless I explicitly bring it up with them.

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Heather
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Okay. So, if you're up to it, I'd make a complaint against her. That's in direct violation of HIPAA policies in the Unites States, if you're here, and it's serious. (In a word, she's breaking the law, and in most places, that'd get her fired.)

And really, most people mind. It's not like wanting your privacy in healthcare protected is you being hypersensitive or something. We have these policies for very good reason.

So, this given, maybe next time you're with the nurse or doctor, you can ask for the exam, but also say why you didn't schedule it with the receptionist?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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PandaYoghurt
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Hmm, really? Well I'm in Ireland so I'm not sure what the legal situation is over here. To be honest, I've been considering changing my doctor specifically because of her and her actions. I may just do that instead of lodging a complaint, as I'm not a particularly assertive person and she's been working there a long time, so perhaps others don't have a problem with what she's doing. The only reason I don't want to do that is because they have my medical history there, but also I like my doctor there and feel she takes me seriously (which I have found that other doctors don't....maybe because of my age?).

Anyway, you've given me something to think about, even though this thread seems to have strayed from the original topic! I think there's an article up somewhere on the website about what to expect from your first gynaecological exam so I'll try and find that. I'm feeling a bit nervous about it. I'm dreading it actually....

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Heather
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I'm afraid I'm running out the door, so I wasn't able to specifically find information about patient rights around privacy in this, but they should be there: http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/healthcare_e/healthcare_nhs_healthcare_e/nhs_patients_rights.htm

Also happy when I'm back to talk more about what you're worried about with a pelvic exam. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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PandaYoghurt
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Nope, don't think they would be there, as I'm in the Republic of Ireland, not Northern Ireland. We are not under the NHS here. I can have a look around the web myself anyway rather than you using your time doing it, thanks.

I'll just go ahead and talk a bit about my worried relating to a pelvic exam so that you can respond when you get back, if you have the chance. Although I'm sure my worries are the usual ones!

I have a lot of body image issues and have never been comfortable at all with any part of my body. I'm actually happier with the way my vulva looks than areas such as my stomach, thighs, etc. but it is just such a private area and the only people who have ever seen it saw it after a really gradual process (i.e., first they felt it through clothes, then without clothes, then saw it in the dark, then saw a 'good' picture of it, etc., haha). I know it's different because it's a doctor and she literally sees genitals everyday, but even though I know that, I just can't get the feeling to stick!

It seems like such a vulnerable position and she can just see every part of you and your legs are up in the air and you're just exposed. I feel kind of panicky even thinking about it.

I also have issues with body hair. I know that it's ok for anyone to have any amount of body hair, and I so admire people (particularly females) who don't remove hair if they don't want to. I personally spend so much time and money removing my body hair, and have lots of issues with sensitive skin, shaving rashes, ingrown hairs, etc. I'm just not brave enough to let some of it grow, I suppose! Anyway, I do have a lot of hair on my inner thighs and even on my bottom, which has always embarrassed me and made me feel so insecure (in front of other people, that is). So I know that if a doctor was going to see me down there, it would be either embarrassingly hairy, or irritated because of hair removal.

I suppose I'm not really worried that my vagina isn't 'normal'. Your site has helped a lot with calming that worry down actually, so thanks!

I suppose another worry of mine is that I don't know the etiquette. Like I don't know whether she'll tell me exactly what I need to do, or whether she'll leave and expect me to just take off everything. And her room is at the end of a corridor that other people walk down so if she's gonna be walking in when I'm naked from the waist down, I really wouldn't be comfortable with that. And sometimes that receptionist I mentioned earlier comes and knocks and lets herself in without waiting for a "come in", etc. And I'm just so uncomfortable with the thought of that.

Sorry, I know that's a lot of stuff, and it's probably just the usual worries that everyone has but writing it down helped me to identify aspects I'm most uncomfortable with so thanks!

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Karybu
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Hi PandaYoghurt, I think I may have found some information for you on your rights as a patient in Ireland. You do have a right to privacy, although I'm not clear on the details of what that entails, but these links might be helpful:
http://irishpatients.ie/news/your-rights/european-charter-of-patients-rights-in-ireland/european-patients-charter/
http://www.eu-patient.eu/Documents/Projects/Valueplus/Patients_Rights.pdf (The information for Ireland starts on page 15)

I'd say if you're not comfortable dealing with the receptionist though, there are usually other options than your GP for getting sexual healthcare, and we can definitely help you find something in your area.

Per your worries about the exam itself, they're all very valid concerns and you're definitely not alone in having them. Many people feel uncomfortable at the thought of a gyn exam, and it can be an experience that makes people feel especially vulnerable. Good doctors understand that, and if you mention that you're uncomfortable with the idea of an exam, they will generally do their very best to help you with that. Just because it's an everyday experience for them, and they see all sorts of bodies and genitals and amounts of hair, they know that it's not an everyday experience for you, and there are lots of ways to make it a bit less intimidating.

When it comes to the actual exam, generally the doctor will sit down with you first and ask if you have any particular concerns about your health, tell you what the exam will entail, and then they'll leave the room so that you can get undressed. If they don't go through the details of the exam with you at that point, it's always okay to ask them to walk you through it first. You won't just have to sit there naked from the waist down though - you'll get a sort of blanket-type thing to put over your lap (sometimes it's fabric, sometimes paper) so no one will be able to see anything.

Does that help at all?

[ 11-26-2012, 07:56 PM: Message edited by: Karybu ]

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PandaYoghurt
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Hi there, thanks for your response and sorry for the delay in mine, I've been very busy with school.

I'll have a look at those links now. I've been thinking I might start going to my college doctor. It's free as well. I think that could be better.

The thing you told me about the blanket-type thing has eased my mind a bit. I know I'll just have to get used to the idea of the exam, hopefully I can do that.

Thanks for your help!

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