I've been practicing as an OB/Gyn for many years now, and I am very aware that most patients are not particularly happy to come see the gynecologist for an exam. And that's ok, I completely 100% understand that it is awkward at best, and can be a downright terrifying for some!
There are many underlying reasons people might feel anxious for their visit. Perhaps it is your first pelvic exam, and you don't really know what to expect. Maybe you are afraid it will hurt, or you have had painful exams in the past. It's possible you have a history of trauma and the gyn visit is a trigger for you. What we know is that if you are anxious, it can become easy to want to skip or put off these important health check-ups - but that could be a dangerous decision. So, what can we do if visiting the gyn makes you anxious?
1. Find a provider that is right for you. The right gyn makes all the difference! Your gyn should do everything they can to make you feel at ease, listen to your concerns, and communicate clearly. If you don't have a provider that checks these boxes, ask your family or friends for recommendations or check online reviews. Also, remember you can always request to talk with the gyn prior to getting undressed for the exam portion of the visit. (If you are in the Orlando area, come see us at Premier! We always strive to make you feel as comfortable as possible!).
2. Ask questions. Make a list of concerns and bring this with you to the appointment. Often, in the moment it is easy to forget what you needed to ask, so a list will keep you on track. If the pelvic exam is what has you in a panic, ask your gyn to explain step-by-step what the exam is like so there are no surprises.
3. Bring a friend or partner with you. Having a trusted support person with you can help to reduce your fear and anxiety. It is up to you if you want this person to be your support for the entire appointment, or just for some portions.
4. Plan distractions. Some of my patients bring in airpods and sing along to music during the exam. Some scroll through Instagram or watch TikTok videos. Some will tell me a story about something going on in their life, or ask that I talk to them about anything non-medical to take their mind off what is going on. This is your appointment - you do what you need to do and we are here to help you!
5. Memorize this line: "Pelvic exams are hard for me." If you are a trauma survivor or if there are other reasons that this is really, really frightening for you - please let your gyn know. You don't have to get into details or share the whole story. Expressing that this exam has been difficult for you in the past or is frightening in the moment is very helpful for us in our approach. And remember, you are in control! If you need a pause or need to stop all together, it is always ok to say so.
So... there are plenty of haunts and spooks this Halloween season that can be terrifying! But remember - you don't ever have to be frightened at the gyn.