Hey Girl. It’s your vagina speaking.
Well, I’ve always been here, but I thought it might be time to talk to you directly. Think of it like your conscience talking to you, or maybe like the friendly ghost of wise ancestor. Woooo, spooky, but also informative while having your back. Or, more accurately, your cooch.
There’s probably a lot we have to discuss, but at the moment I’m mostly here to talk to you about that weird yet incredibly universal reticence you have of going to the OB/GYN. Right off the bat I’m gonna say I get it, but YOU GOTTA GO, GIRL. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting me checked out by a medical professional.
“But vadge,” you might say, “nothing’s wrong with you. You’re in perfectly good health. I take good care of you, don’t I?” And the answer is yes, you might have an amazing vaginal health routine, but it’s always a good idea to get the obstetric stamp of approval. Think of me like a car; you have to periodically change the oil, even if the engine’s running great. Wait. Actually, it might not be a good idea to compare vaginas and cars. I mean, it’s your life, you can do what you want I guess. Look at what it did for Prince (RIP); “Little Red Corvette” never sounds the same once you know about the vagina-car assimilation.
Truth is, there’s nothing to be afraid of. While you might have compiled a long list of fears that seem to contradict that truth, I can assure you that once you’re lying on that table in a derriere-exposing gown with feet in the stirrups, the most likely scenario is some pressure and/or discomfort.
So let’s get through this, fear by fear.
Let’s say your biggest fear is the possibility of pain.
Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I’m not in your head, I’m only in your genitals. I can’t read minds. But for argument’s sake, I’m placing physical pain at the top of the list. As you may know, sticking things inside your vagina (a.k.a. me) doesn’t always feel like sunshine and rainbows.
Discomfort is sometimes a given when visiting the gyno – you just have to accept it and plow through. Try taking a mental vacay if the pressure of the speculum bothers you, or if you’re particularly sensitive, you can pop an Advil a couple of hours beforehand to dull any potential pain. I wouldn’t recommend getting drunk, since I’m pretty sure that showing up to any doctor appointment is uniformly frowned upon within the medical community.
Now allow me to play my favorite game, devil’s advocate (did you know that each vagina has a favorite game? I once met another vagina who loved mahjong like crazy). So let’s ponder another scenario. You’ve arrived at the OB/GYN’s office, your name has been called by the front desk, you’ve changed into your gorgeous cornflower blue backless gown (which you happen to rock, by the way), and you’re lying down on the exam table.
The doctor finally enters, your heart rate clicks up a bit, and the two of you discuss some standard health questions. Then, as is inevitable, your feet find themselves in the stirrups, your legs are spread apart, and the exam begins. All of your anxieties come to fruition and it turns out that the swab now inside your vagina is excruciatingly painful.
This all sounds terrifying, but it turns out there’s a very simple solution to this: TELL YOUR DOCTOR. Just blurt out what you’re feeling and ask your gyno to stop. Describe your pain to them and they’ll take it from there—it’s true that, depending on my condition, they might tell you that the show must go on, but they might also be able to give you some techniques (breathing, relaxation, meditation), medication, or advice to make the process less painful.
There ain’t no shame in feelin’ pain (sorry for that, us vaginas are just really into rhyming whenever we can), and any temporary pain you might feel is for a good cause. That good cause being vaginal health, so it’s super vital to be overly communicative with your doctor, rather than hold your tongue and power through the hurt.
Fear number two: how will the doctor react to my vulva?
Confession time. Whenever you’re in a group of women, me and the other vaginas have some top secret chat time. We catch up on gossip, whine about the latest hair removal trends, discuss threats to the reproductive organs we’ve grown very close to over the years (me and your ovaries are tight, but your uterus is basically my sister from the same mister), and, most importantly, we discuss how our ladies are doing.
Through these summits, I’ve discovered that many, even most, women are insecure about their vulvas. They worry about the length of their inner and outer labia, the odor, their discharge, color, pubic hair, anything and everything associated with their pubic regions. And us vaginas want to unanimously shout at you, “NONE OF THAT MATTERS!!!!”
Think of it this way. Your OB/GYN has gone to college, grad school, medical school, done an internship, and practiced medicine for years, all to take care of vaginas. Their professional lives are all about studying and inspecting vaginas. They eat, breathe, and sleep vagina. This means that they spend all day looking at… vaginas.
So once they come in the exam room for your appointment, they’ve seen thousands of vulvas, some darker, some lighter, some odorless, some musky, some with razor bumps, some on their periods, some with full bush, some with piercings, some bedazzled, some with warts, some with sensitive skin, some with reconstructive surgery, some with a foreign object stuck inside, some that open up to a fetus…my point is, they’ve seen a ton of vulvas and, not to sound too flippant, but yours is probably not that interesting. I can admit that about myself. That fear you might have the first time you have sex with someone new really isn’t applicable to OB/GYNs, since they literally do this for a living.
Odds are, your doctor will find me utterly unspectacular, in good health, and nothing to lock away in the deepest recesses of their minds. Even if you go to the OB/GYN because there’s something wrong with me (i.e. an STD, a UTI, a yeast infection, or even an injury), your doctor is not going to look at me and go “Holy crap that’s insane!! I’ve never seen a vagina like this! I’m going to remember this forever and tell all my friends about this vagina!” These specialists have seen it all and are able to push down any reaction that might be perceived as offensive.
In addition to being trained in how to check and analyze your sex organs, they’re also trained in how to remove any judgement from the procedure. So when you start to feel nervous that you haven’t trimmed in a couple weeks or if your discharge is especially thick at this time of the month, just remind yourself that your OB/GYN ONLY cares about my health and well-being.
The last fear is actually the easiest one to alleviate, and it’s your nerves about being assigned to a male OB/GYN.
It makes sense. There’s a prevailing and generic idea that women are simply more comfortable being examined by another woman. This is totally regardless of sexual orientation—women at all intervals of the sexuality spectrum tend to prefer their OB/GYNs to be female. There’s a sense of common ground, of camaraderie there, or at least a set of shared experiences that you think a male doctor might not clue into.
If your gynecologist is a woman, then you can tell yourself that even she has experienced some of your OB/GYN dread, so she might recognize your hesitancy in herself. If this is the case for you, just request a female doctor. This is one specialty in the medical field where a gender preference isn’t seen as bigoted or sexist, since it tends to be one of the more intimate specialties. The office will always follow your request (it’s one they’ve fulfilled hundreds of times) and BAM! Fear conquered.
If this is something you feel strongly about and you’re seeing a new gyno for the first time, remember to make this request the first time you call for an appointment, otherwise you’ll be assigned to any doctor that will be available, man or woman. I do feel it’s important to note, however, that all of these doctors are qualified and ready to help you, which are qualities distinct from their gender. You could find yourself in the company of a female OB/GYN that you just don’t like, while you may find a male gynecologist with whom you feel totally comfortable and trusting. It all depends on the person.
At the end of the day, the only way to get over any fear is to confront it head on.
Whether you’re panicking about pain, vanity, or the doctor him/herself, all you can do is punch that panic in the face and make an appointment. What will come will come, and none of it will be as horrific as you amp it up to be. It’s a rite of passage, an absolute necessity.
While it might not seem so during the moment of truth, when you’re halfway to spread eagle and more vulnerable than you’ll be all day, you’re actually the one in control of everything. If you want the exam to stop, it’ll stop. If you need a moment to collect your head and get your heart rate down, your doctor will understand and accommodate you. As I said earlier, the show must go on, but remember that it’s your show. You’re the star, the director, executive producer, casting director, editor, and even that lady that works the boom mike. Well, technically I’m the star, and as it is in Hollywood, you just have to put the talent first.
After all, I’m the only vagina you’ve got.