What is the opposite of a vacation to the happiest place on earth? For many, it’s their annual gynecologist visit. Let’s be real – this is nobody’s favorite thing.
Gynecologist visits can range from slightly uncomfortable (who likes to get naked then probed with a cold speculum?) to excruciatingly painful. This post is for you if you feel anxious for your gynecologist appointment, have had a painful experience in the past, have a history of trauma, or just want a smoother, more comfortable visit.
1. BYOL (Bring Your Own Lube) to the Gynecologist
Typically, gynecologists use cheap, bulk *garbage* lube that contains chemicals which can be harmful to your vagina’s health. Bring your own and make sure they use plenty.
2. Request Speculum Type
Yes, there are options when it comes to speculums!
Request your gynecologist uses a plastic speculum instead of metal.
Your gynecologist may not have any plastic speculums, but it’s worth a shot. These are much less cold than the typical metal speculums (which were probably designed by a person without a vagina…).
Cold objects can make it more difficult to relax your pelvic floor muscles during the exam. As a result, when the pelvic muscles are relaxed there will be less pain.
If you have pelvic pain, request your gynecologist use the pediatric speculum. If you have pain with insertion of objects, this tip is for you!
The smaller size will decrease the stretch required, which will decrease your discomfort.
3. Do Not Undress
Okay hear me out on this one: Do not undress UNTIL you have met your gynecologist. Your actual doctor. Not an assistant.
I’ll explain why, but first let’s talk through how an appointment typically goes.
- You check in with the receptionist.
- You wait in the waiting room.
- An assistant whisks you into a room, takes your vitals, and asks a few questions.
- As they leave, they hand you a gown and tell you to undress. And say the doctor will be in shortly.
- You wait again. Still nervous and now naked.
In any anxiety-provoking situation, being naked increases fear. In this situation, you may want to discuss your concerns and advocate for yourself prior to the exam. Feeling confident is easier BEFORE you are naked beneath a gown. This is because you are in a less vulnerable position.
Yes, it may take more time for your provider. But you deserve to feel safe, heard, and informed.
4. Advocate for Yourself!
- Communicate. Tell them if you are nervous.
- Discuss any history of trauma or abuse. You don’t have to be detailed. Simply, state your history because this information helps them understand your position.
- Ask them to explain each step to you.
- Request they move very slowly.
- Come up with a safe word if you want them to stop. This could even be “stop” or “wait.” Having a word set up will help you feel more in control.
- If it hurts and you need a break, try using an element from tip 5.
5. Grounding Exercises for Tension Reduction
These techniques are great to use any time you are stressed. You can start these exercises the night before your gynecologist appointment, on the drive over, in the waiting room, and on the exam table! These should help you feel more calm and feel safe.
Scan through your body and notice anywhere there is tension and then release. In this situation where you specifically want the pelvic floor to relax, key areas to focus on include:
- Jaw: Do not clenching your teeth
- Stomach: Make sure you are not sucking in or bracing your core
- Inner thighs: Check that you are not squeezing inner thighs together. This can be so hard! If you are struggling, ask for a pillow or prop to lean against for comfort.
- Glutes: Do not squeezing your butt cheeks together
- Pelvic floor: This is the hardest one. Imagine vagina opening up like a flower. If you can trust your provider to move more slowly, the pelvic floor can relax and not be fighting the speculum.
Breathe slowly and deeply into your belly.
If it helps, count your breaths to help focus your mind on something else.
Grounding with Your Senses.
Name 5 things you see, 4 things you touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, 1 thing you taste.
You can try any combination (just things you see and touch). The point is to focus on your senses and your surroundings.
Affirmations or Mantras
Repeat a helpful phrase to yourself. These will be specific to your personal history and struggles. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- I am safe.
- I am secure.
- I am in control.
In summary, if at any time you are uncomfortable or wish to stop, voice your feelings. You are in control! You are always free to stand up and walk out. You can always return at a later date. You can always visit a different provider. You are never stuck and never forced to do anything. It is your body!
When you complete even one of these steps, it lets your provider know you are informed and will advocate for yourself. You will also feel more control of the situation AND more confidence.
If you try all of these tips and still need more help, reach out to a pelvic physical therapist! If you have questions about pelvic physical therapy, read this post for answers.
Let me know what you think of these tips in the comments. I would be happy to hear your ideas as well!
I am honored to be a part of your journey as you restore your health from the bottom up!
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