A gynaecologist’s appointment can be difficult for some women. Indian women often complain that gynaecologists make them uncomfortable and sometimes ask questions which they don’t believe are necessary. Some even complain of being shamed for making choices about their own body.
We ask women to share their experiences, and how would they like to be treated at their gynecologist’s appointment.
Sarah, 34, Mumbai
A few years ago, I was living in Bengaluru and I was scared of going to the gynecologist because of the fear of being judged. Once I went to a gynaecologist at a mission hospital to get a birth control pill prescription because the birth control pills I had started taking on my own were messing with me mentally. She was very judgemental; the first question she asked me was if I was married and the moment I said that I wasn’t, her entire demeanor changed. She started saying things about how sex with multiple partners can lead to AIDS.
Even when I told her I was in a committed monogamous relationship, she kind of implied that there is no trusting us ‘pre-marital sex having people’. I got the prescription but I found another gynaecologist and went to her instead, in a month or two. My boyfriend and I went to that gynaecologist together, so right from the beginning she thought that I was married. Honestly, till this day I believe the only reason why they were always nice at the second place was because they thought I was married.
Apoorva, 27, New Delhi
I haven’t visited a gynaecologist separately and I never felt the need to, but it was once as a part of a routine, full-body checkup where it was compulsory to see one. She asked me if I was sexually active. I told her that I used to be. She asked me the same question again – “So that means you’re not a virgin?” It was really irritating. Her assistant was constantly staring at me while I formed my answers. Then she scanned my whole body and asked me if I’d want this to be mentioned in my reports as it’s sponsored by my office.
Her questions felt unnecessary and uncomfortable. I can only imagine how it must be for women who go for their abortions or contraception-related questions. I think gynaecologists need to be sensitive to the fact that while they’re used to seeing women on a daily basis, women don’t discuss their sexual problems every day. It might take them some time to get used to the doctor and open up. I don’t think they understand that.
She asked me if I was sexually active. I told her I used to be. She again asked me the same question saying – “so that means you’re not a virgin?” It was really irritating. Her assistant was constantly staring at me while I formed my answers.
Sophia, 34, Indian woman living in Hong Kong
We are always being told that we’ve got to practice safe sex, and we know we do. But public health systems don’t make it simple, at least not for women. I went to a public health clinic in 2019 for a whole battery of tests for STDs and STIs, and it was unpleasant to say the least. After being asked the usual questions about whether I’m married, I was bombarded with questions about my sexual partners and habits that didn’t seem necessary.
Following that, during my vaginal exam I was told quite rudely to relax if I wanted to be helped.
In this day and age in a cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong, it is surprising that there is so much judgment around sex. I have asked my male friends here repeatedly and they’ve told me their experiences are much smoother and simply no-nonsense.
We are always being told that we’ve got to practice safe sex, and we know we do. But public health systems don’t make it simple, at least not for women.
Sonam, 35, Bengaluru
I once visited a gynaecologist for some problem, and when I told her about it, during the diagnosis she asked my age and my marital status. When I told her that I was 30 and unmarried, her facial expression changed a little. She told me that I should get married soon if I want to have a baby as my biological clock is ticking.
When doctors ask patients questions unrelated to their problem, it’s a violation of someone’s privacy and I think especially in India we need to sensitise doctors about these things. Maybe hospitals and medical schools should do workshops for sensitisation. I am not sure if these things are talked about.
When doctors ask patients questions unrelated to their problem, it’s a violation of someone’s privacy and I think especially in India we need to sensitise doctors about these things.
(Names have been changed as per the sources’ requests)
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