Women Don't Have to Stand for 'Degrading' Pap Smears

woman laying on doctor bedFor most women, that annual visit to the OB/GYN is pretty much the opposite of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. In other words, it's NOT among one of our favorite things. If you're lucky enough to have a good doctor, your pap smear might not be something you particularly dread. But even then, the drill we go through can range from annoying to cringe-worthy to downright upsetting.

I'm not surprised a big part of the problem is now being attributed to some physicians' total lack of warm bedside manner. At least that's what researchers in the UK say in a study published in the journal Family Practice. They found women feel like they're not always treated with the kindness and sensitivity that they would like by their docs, who can often appear detached and distanced. Yeah, I can relate!


My annual last year, with my cold, sourpuss, now former gyneoclogist, was incredibly frustrating. We butted heads over my thoroughly researched game plan in mind for birth control (long story short, she wouldn't stop pushing the pill on me after I carefully and even cheerfully explained I would never take it again in a million years!). Oh, and by the way, she barely remembered who the heck I was (even though I'd been her patient for three years), but no matter. I also realized she was definitely the type of doc who keeps their hand on the door throughout the whole visit ... Not literally, of course, but you know, she was the in-out-wham-bam "see ya next year!" type.

After having become good friends with a holistic OB/GYN (who I couldn't be the regular patient of, since she lives across the country), I realized I deserved better. My new local doc still doesn't have the greatest attitude about my interest in naturopathic and holistic methods, but she was definitely warmer than the last. Which, you know, is important when a doc is hanging out down there with the speculum!

So, I don't blame lots of women for feeling like going to see their docs even once a year is a miserable experience. Or for feeling frustrated or disappointed when they expect their doctors to treat them like individuals with emotions instead of just another patient in a line-up of vajayjays to examine today. Sadly, though, as I've learned from my OB/GYN friend, sometimes it's really not the doctor's fault. They're just not trained to have a pleasant bedside manner, and the system is broken, too -- they struggle for the time to truly communciate and make a connection with patients.

It's a shame, and there's no real simple fix. But no woman should stand for feeling ashamed or humiliated in her doc's office. There are doctors out there who can take the time to make the annual exam feel more personal and sensitive. If your doc isn't one of 'em, it couldn't hurt to strongly consider making a switch!

How do you feel about your annual visit to the OB/GYN? Have you ever felt like the experience was degrading or embarrassing?


Image via Perfecto Insecto/Flickr

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