If you're anything like me, nothing is quite as anxiety-inducing as an appointment with your gynecologist. Sure, as much as you need to go, there's just something about having a stranger examine your private, lady-business up close and personal that's just a bit unnerving. Maybe it's the over-sterilized room, bright lights, or oh, I don't know, all the uncomfortable probing that happens, but either way it's not my favorite way to spend a morning/afternoon/any time of day.
But it's important. And during such a vulnerable time, gynecologists need to be empathetic, helpful, and comforting. Unfortunately, not all are as reassuring as we'd like. So next time you're sitting in the stirrups, look out for these telltale signs that you're not getting the care you and your goodies deserve. Then find another doc—stat.
They seem rushed or distracted.
You've sat in the waiting room for a half hour and now you're finally seated in the exam room (hallelujah!). Much to your dismay, your doctor is super distracted and barely making eye contact while shooting off random questions. "One major red flag is rapid, machine gun type questioning without allowing the patient to speak," says Dr. Michael Kyrchman, M.D., Executive Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine Inc. "Constant interruption or checking your phone during a patient visit is a major no-no."
They skip giving you a medical questionnaire.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but a giving your gyno a thorough medical history walk-thru is vital for potential preventative treatment. "If you're going for a general GYN checkup, your doctor should absolutely do a history that includes family illness and medical background," says ob-gyn Alyssa Dweck, M.D., co-author of V is for Vagina. "Any family history like cancer or blood clots could put you at a major risk, so we definitely want to be on the lookout for that."
They don't ask about your daily habits.
It may seem like your nightly glass (or three) of merlot isn't any of your doctor's business, but small habits like drinking or smoking could make a huge difference. "It's important to know about habits such as smoking, drinking, exercising, dieting, or engaging in any other activities that could affect their health," explains Dweck. So, don't lowball your occasional "I only have a cigarette when drunk" relapse!
They don't talk you through their decisions.
When it comes down to it, you're the only person who is responsible and in control of your own body. So, if your doctor suggests something you're uncomfortable with, feel free to say so. "A good gyno is able to individualize care to your specific needs and provide many options for each issue," confirms Krychman. "Sometimes there are multiple ways to treat a specific condition so the patient needs to be engaged in the decision making process."
They lack sensitivity or compassion.
If there's one thing your gyno and your S.O. have in common, it's that you can trust them with your nether regions (well, hopefully). All good relationships are built on trust, and since you'll be talking about very personal and potentially awkward topics, you want to trust that your doctor will be entirely empathetic to your needs. So, call me dramatic but at the first sign of insensitivity please pick yourself up and head straight out the door.
They avoid the awkward questions.
STI's, involuntary loss of urine, problems with sex…the list of awkward topics you want to ask your gyno go on and on. But a good doctor will know to mention those uncomfortable issues so you won't have to. Keep in mind, your gyno is not a mind reader, so write down a list of questions for your doctor if you feel you'll be too embarrassed to bring them up in conversation.
They don't address your individual sex life.
Hiding your sexuality is (thankfully!) a thing of the past, so it's important to be as open with your doctor about sexual history as possible. "It's definitely on the radar now to ask patients if they're sexually active with men, women, or both. That's something we're really trying to make people feel comfortable expressing with us," says Dweck. Yes, sexuality can be a touchy topic, but not when your health is at stake.
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