“You’re the only one who’s examined me and not hurt me.”
I know this is a radical idea, but it shouldn’t be painful to go to the gynecologist. Where is it written that women must “tolerate” pain to get preventative screening and have good health? Some women are even being told, much to their own relief, that they don’t need to go to the gynecologist. Why some people who have never undergone OB/GYN residency training are telling women they don’t need to go to the gynecologist is a completely different issue.
So let’s talk about gynecology procedures. I feel strongly that gynecologic office procedures should always involve some form of anesthesia if it is anticipated that they will be at all painful. It is not difficult to place a little lidocaine gel prior to performing a biopsy and it is NOT okay (and completely ridiculous) to expect anyone to just “take it” and be stoic. Any kind of female biopsy should ALWAYS have anesthesia. It doesn’t matter how many children you’ve given birth to – you should not be expected to tolerate this. I even use lidocaine on the speculum for a pap smear if a woman is especially sensitive! If men had to have a metal object placed in their most delicate parts on an annual basis, this would be a normal part of the exam.
I’m not advocating for lidocaine for every pap smear, but a pelvic exam can be done in a gentle manner and without pain. If a pelvic exam IS painful, then there is something wrong – either with the examiner or the parts being examined. It is up to us as physicians to first do no harm and we have a responsibility to try to relieve the suffering of our patients, not contribute to it.
Ingrid A. Carlson, MD