No one actually likes going to the gynecologist. The steely, prying tools and cold ultrasound jelly are pretty much what nightmares are made of. But for many women, it’s not just the invasive procedures and creepy rubber gloves that turn them off: It’s the gynecologist themselves.
This week a Reddit user anonymously revealed her first experience at the gynecologist, at age 14. The woman, who goes by carlinha1289, says she visited the doctor to ask about a burning sensation she was experiencing. She knew it could be a sign of an STD, and wanted testing. Instead, she left the office in tears.
“I skipped school to go to my appointment and when I met the doctor I grabbed all the courage I could and answers his questions honestly,” she recounted. “’I am 14, yes I am sexually active, no I do not use birth control, yes we do have unprotected sex.’”
That’s when the doctor gave her a stern look, and a rebuke she would never forget.
“You’re 14, sexually active and using no protection,” he said. “Can you imagine the shame your parents would feel? Is this something you’re proud of?”
Carlinha says she ran out of the office crying, and did not return to a gynecologist for 7 years.
Stories like Carlinha’s are more than just cringe-worthy horror stories: they are deterrents for women seeking crucial health care.
Studies show that women — especially young women — use gynecologists for a variety of necessary functions. One study found a large percentage of teens use their OBGYN as a reproductive specialist, general practitioner, and even mental health counselor. An emotional connection with their gynecologist is proven to keep women coming back for these essential services.
But unfortunately, negative experiences like Carlinha’s are far too common. One survey conducted in Turkey found more than 80% of women felt emotional discomfort after a gynecological examination. The problem is even more prominent for LGBTQ women, many of whom believe that revealing their sexual orientation would hinder their care.
The most common words used to describe treatment for LGBTQ women were “adequate,” “variable,” and “poor.”
Revelist asked women about their own worst experiences at the gynecologist, from the strange to the down-right horrifying. Their answers revealed a concerning trend of doctors shaming their patients, for everything from their weight to their sexual history.
Revelist has reached out to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for comment.
Below, see what the women had to say:
“Once [my gynecologist] told me I had too many piercings and was too tan, and assumed I had many partners for those reasons … But then I told her that I was monogamous and [the tests] came out not pregnant and completely clean, and she was like ‘Then why are you here?’ And it was just for a yearly! That was the last of her.”
“I once had a gyno tell me she was surprised I was sexually active … I was probably 19 at the time and just started dating my husband (who would turn out to be the only partner I’d have intercourse with) so I asked about birth control. I’m a plus-size woman, she looked me up and down and said, ‘REALLY? Huh, ok well…’ and then launched into options.”