Aaaaaaaaand every straight male reader I have just closed their browser.
I know, it's kind of unsavory. But really it's not, which is what we're going to talk about today.
I live in the deep South, and down here, we do not discuss such things - particularly in mixed company, particularly on public forums. Topics like gynecology are met with a wince. "Do we really need to talk about that?"
Yep. We really do.
It's because of this taboo that many women are terrified and/or unwilling to see their doctors. We don't talk about it in everyday conversations because of what is associated with that area of our bodies - sex, babies, and intimacy. And that's all totally understandable - privacy and decorum are important and have their place.
The other side of the coin, though, is that a gynecologist is not just a doctor for sex, babies, and intimate questions - a gynecologist is a doctor for women's HEALTH. That includes all of those less-than-dinner-appopriate conversations, but it also means that someone is giving you a good solid once-over - checking the miracle that is your body for trouble spots and medical puzzle pieces that, when put together correctly, paint a picture we just can't see on our own.
So here are five reasons you should go to your gynecologist, with a little help from Dr. Mindy Lahiri, our favorite OB/GYN. And I'm only going to say the word "vagina" once. Ready? Okay.
People, if this isn't a reason enough, I don't know what is. Even if you only see your doctor once a year, that's a guarantee that someone who is not you will check for things like cervical and breast cancer EVERY YEAR. Of course, self-checks are key, but taking advantage of an objective set of medically-trained eyes never hurt anyone. In fact, quite the opposite. You taking initiative and asking questions could be the difference in your quality of life for years to come.
2. Building a relationship.
This may sound weird, but I love my gynecologist. It took me a few tries to find exactly the right person for me, but I am so happy that my doctor is someone in whom I trust and can confide. Every visit, she carves out at least 5 minutes to sit and talk to me about what's going on in my life so that she has a whole picture of me as a person, not just a patient. I have laughed and cried in her exam room, and I feel totally at home with her. The fact that this woman will deliver my future babies is actually thrilling to me.
Similarly, there are lots of doctors who won't be your type. But, as with dating, one bad apple shouldn't spoil the bunch. If you're unhappy with your current gyno, make a change. Somewhere out there is your gynecological soulmate, and you have to find them. Go! Right now!
If I ever had a wake-up call about how little some of our young people know about sex, it was teaching middle school. WOW. Nope, you actually can't get pregnant from oral sex. No, you can't "wash off" an STD by showering. And The Clap isn't a fun dance move.
But the education piece goes beyond young people. Every woman needs to know about her specific, particular body - how it functions, what it looks and feels like when it's healthy, and what warning signs to watch for if it's not.
In my short 27 years, I've met several women who are terrified to go to the gynecologist. Some of these women were afraid something about their visit would hurt; others were under the impression that they only needed to go to the doctor when they became sexually active.
The way to face a fear is to face it. If you are afraid of the doctor, go to the doctor. This is your health we're talking about - not a roller coaster, or heights, or some other avoidable anxiety. And for the record, your vagina (there it was!) is just as important whether you are sexually active or not. In fact, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women see their doctor for the first time between 13 and 15, not at 18 as is the common practice in the US.
And the truth is? Nervousness is totally normal - your doctor expects it! The right doctor will make you feel comfortable and relaxed, and they've seen everything you've got before. Probably right before and right after they see "yours."
5. Because you deserve it.
It's easy to think of gynecology as a specialty, and technically, it is. But in my own mind, seeing my gynecologist is just as important as seeing my general physician. There are so many pro's to seeing my doctor. My annual appointment was yesterday, and I love knowing that all systems are "go" so that I can live my life to the fullest and not fret over my health or my fear of going in to get something checked. It's empowering, and everyone is entitled to that feeling.
You are fabulous, and you deserve to live a long, healthy life. Your doctor can play a huge role in allowing that to happen. So, while you might be fearful, or just dragging your feet to finally make that annual appointment for this year, DON'T. Go. Go to the gynecologist. Be a woman who is proactive about her health and takes charge of her body. Mindy Lahiri and I want you to.