Is there a special "down there" doctor's exam?
When addressing reproductive health concerns, care and treatment often require attention to parts of your body that are normally left unseen by all but your most intimate partners. Having never had sex before, it is understandable that invasive pelvic exams and procedures would make you feel uncomfortable. The fact that you are choosing to look for ways to address your discomfort rather than foregoing care is great!
Feelings of violation often come about when there is uncertainty or a lack of control over a situation. In a clinical setting where much of the jargon, instruments, and procedures are foreign and intimidating, it is no wonder feelings like this may arise. However, it is the responsibility of your health care providers to guide you through the process of getting care. As a health care consumer, you have the right to know what is going on with your body, how to address those issues, your options for treatment, and the details of the treatment you choose.
Most health care providers receive some training in addressing the emotional concerns of their patients. Let your providers know that you are uncomfortable. If they are aware that you feel violated, they may be able to explain procedures in advance and walk you through them while they are occurring. Talking through your concerns and learning the how's and why's of the procedures may help you feel more in control of the situation and therefore, more at ease.
If you find it difficult to get this conversation started, here are some ideas to keep in mind:
Your health care providers are human, too, and they have probably heard and dealt with concerns like yours before.
The role of a health care provider is to examine, educate, and treat you, not to judge or criticize.
If it makes you feel more comfortable, have a family member, friend, or another member of the clinical staff sit in on your appointment for moral support.
Write down your concerns and questions and bring the list with you to your appointment. This way, you don't forget to ask everything you need to ask and discuss everything you need to discuss. If you are nervous, simply hand the list over to your health care provider.
There is no need for you to feel traumatized by this experience. If you still feel uncomfortable and your health care providers are not responding to your requests, try going to another provider. To make an appointment, Columbia students can call Primary Care Medical Services at x4-2284 or log on to Open Communicator. If this sense of violation goes deeper, Columbia students may find it helpful to talk through their feelings with a professional by contacting Counseling and Psychological Services.
You are on your way to being a proactive health care consumer. Just remember: your body means your rules. Although your condition requires medical attention, there is no reason you have to remain in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Emotional concerns don't show up on x-rays or blood tests — it's your responsibility to let your health care provider know how best he or she can help you feel at ease with the procedures you're facing. Good luck and good health!