Reader Submission: My Experience With a Male Gyno
I had my first appointment with a gynecologist just a few months ago at the age of 20 to be put on birth control. I had just started having sexual intercourse with my boyfriend about a week before the appointment, and sex had been really painful for me thus far. I kind of briefly mentioned it (naturally, I was nervous), and my doctor, who was a woman, said that it was probably because I had just started having sex and a lot of women experience pain the first couple of times. So I kind of brushed it off. My doctor was very sweet and understanding and comforted me when I was worried about unwanted pregnancies and whatnot. Overall it wasn’t a terrible first-time gynecology appointment.
Flash forward a couple of weeks. Sex is still painful for me. Not slightly uncomfortable…I’m talking I can’t have sex at all. My boyfriend entering me in the slightest sends searing pain throughout my entire body. It feels like my vagina is being sliced with a razor blade (seriously, this is the best way I can describe it…it was excruciating). At this point, I’ve never had pain-free sex. I know a bit about conditions such as vaginismus and vulvodynia, which can make sex painful/impossible for women, and I suspect that this is what’s wrong with me, but I hate to self-diagnose myself, so I make a doctor’s appointment at my university’s hospital.
When I get called back into the doctor’s office, the nurse says to me, “He’ll be in here shortly,” and my stomach drops. I had completely forgotten to request a female doctor, which I had done the first time around. So I was immediately nervous. Prior to the exam, I had filled out an online survey about my sexual experiences/what my problem was/etc. So a few minutes later, the male doctor walks in and says he looked over my survey but wanted to hear from me what the problem was. I tried to be as detailed as possible so that I could be diagnosed accurately, but he seemed to cut me off when I was explaining my problem to him. He then asked if I needed a pregnancy test. I said no…I’m on birth control and we use condoms. “Okay, what about an STD screening since you have a new partner?” “I’ve only had one partner…..and I got tested about a month ago….which I said in the survey.” He was very pushy and aggressive about running the tests, which I’m sure is a go-to when it comes to problems like these, but I clearly stated in my survey that I had only had ONE partner and I was on birth control and used condoms and had just recently been screened for STDs. So I’m already a bit tiffed at this point. Then he asks me how often I’m having sex, which catches me off guard. I fumble around for words and say, “…uh, I don’t know, I honstly couldn’t tell you….often I guess? A lot. I don’t know,” to which he responds, “Well if you can’t tell me how often you’re having sex, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it so much!” WHAT? I was floored by how judgmental he sounded, which made it all that much more uncomfortable.
So then comes the actual exam. I’m in my robe and there’s a female nurse in the room, and he starts examining me. There are no cuts or tears anywhere to be found, which is what he expected to find. He even looked at me under a microscope and found nothing. He then goes to feel my ovaries and whatnot, which for those who don’t know, requires the doctor to insert his or her fingers inside the vagina and push up toward your stomach while pushing down on your lower abdomen with their other hand. As I’ve said, I was in an EXTREME amount of pain at this point, and he knew this, so I was tensed up on the table. He kept saying, “You’re going to have to relax so I can do this. Relax. Don’t tense up.” I told him it hurt and he just kept assuring me to relax. I was crying it hurt so badly, and he was being very pushy. He didn’t understand the kind of pain that I was in.
Ultimately, he came back and told me that I had a slight yeast infection, but that wasn’t responsible for my pain. So this was his suggestion: “I’d suggest taking a break from sex. A month isn’t a big deal at all. And when you do it again, how about you get some KY Jelly and just try to reduce friction as much as possible. And tell your boyfriend to take it slow…not to rush things.” This was his advice. I was mortified. I was in all this pain and all he could tell me was to get lube and take it slow? He immediately ran on the assumption that my boyfriend was being rough and wasn’t understanding. My boyfriend was perfectly understanding and always tried to stop having sex when it hurt me, so I was offended that he assumed that he was the problem. My VAGINA was clearly the problem, not my boyfriend. Again, I had read extensively about conditions such as vaginismus and vulvodynia, so I expected to hear that one of those could be my problem. I’ve even read that bacterial vaginosis can cause chronic pain during sex. No tests for any of that. No mention of them whatsoever. Again, I hate to self-diagnose because doctors go to med school so they clearly know more than I do, but don’t you think that those are glaring oversights? There was NO medical reason for my pain whatsoever, and the only test run was for a yeast infection.
So I took the little hiatus (I didn’t make it a month, but I did make it 2+ weeks, so yay me!), got some lube, cleared up my yeast infection….and I still experience pain. Still do now months later. Going to that doctor didn’t help me at all whatsoever. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this male doctor carried an extremely judgmental tone and didn’t understand my pain at all. From now on, I’ll be seeing a female doctor. With a vagina. Who can understand my pain when I’m, crying on an exam table. Who can offer more sound advice than “take it slow, use some lube!” I tried to remain calm about having a male gynecologist, but he was cold and didn’t understand what I was experiencing. So yes, I think your discomfort around male doctors is totally normal and founded. I won’t be seeing male gynos anymore!