Avatar universal

Fear of Gynecological Exam

Over 20 years ago, when I was a teenager, my mother forced me to have an abortion.  It was my first visit to the gynecologist.  I haven't been to the gyn in over 10 years because just being there produces severe panic attacks, and sometimes self-injurious behavior.  Has anyone ever had this happen to them?  I know that nobody LIKES going, but now I am having abnormal bleeding between periods and pelvic pain and I just can't bring myself to go.  Tried therapy...didn't work.   So what now?
53 Responses
Avatar universal
I have the same probelm I passout during the exam, it is hard I know but you should really go.
Avatar universal
I know I should.  I tried to go last week.  I explained everything to my doctor and she seemed very understanding. All I did was cry while I was talking to her.  I thought I could go through with it, but as soon as I saw all the stuff (speculum, gloves, etc) laying out on the table, I just grabbed my purse and RAN.  I cried in the car for about an hour.  Thank goodness my husband was home, but it didn't keep me from cutting.  It has been a rough four days.  This is as bad as it has ever been.  I feel like I am the only one in the world with this problem.
Avatar universal
You can call back and ask for a mild tranquilizer to be taken prior to the exam.  It might also help to bring your husband, too, or other friend who can be there for you.  

In extreme cases of this kind of anxiety, the exam can be done in a day surgery center under anesthesia.  You are not alone, and good for you for at least trying to get this checked out.
Avatar universal
I have asked about conscious sedation.  I need to feel in control, so going completely to sleep freaks me out.  I guess when you let things like this build up for 20 years, this is what you get!  I am just waiting for the doctor to call me back.  This is my family practitioner.  I don't have to make appts to see her, so I thought it would be easier if I could just walk in when I got up my nerve rather than waiting for two weeks and freaking out.  I had previously tried to find an ob/gyn who would sedate me a little, but with no luck.  Most of them just seem to think "deal with it".  

Thanks for all of your help.  Any suggestions are welcome.  It is horrible to feel like I am the ONLY person on the planet with this problem.  Ever since I went last week, I have been having anxiety attacks and nightmares.  It just seems so ridiculous, but that is the way I am, I guess.
Avatar universal
I went for a military medical when I was 18 or 19 years old when I was in the process of applying to one of the officer programs.  I was harrassed when I went in for the gyno exam which resulted in me leaving before they could do the exam and being rather tramatized (probably not on the same level but it caused me to have an enormous fear of going to the gynecologist.)  I went for the first time a couple monthes ago (over 7 years later).  My suggestion (and what I did that helped me a lot) would be to ask your husband to go with you.  Mine was fantastic and held my hand through the whole thing, and talked about something unrelated so I wasn't thinking about what was going on.  If for some reason you aren't comfortable asking your husband (although I think this is the best option) you might want to consider asking a close friend to come with you.  If they stand beside you they won't see anything.  

The other suggestion I would give is to let the doctors know about your fear/past experience when you make your appointment.  If seeing the tools freaks you out, ask them to keep them covered and out of site as much as possible.  If thinking about what is going to happen makes you nervous ask them just to do it not explain what they are going to do.  On the other hand you might feel more comfortable if they explain it.  

For me I needed to get an exam so I could get a birth control perscription.  Because I was so uncomfortable and this was my first time I asked them not to do the breast exam, and I opted not to pee in a cup and stuff ahead of time.  They only did the minimum required to clear me for birth control.  I know that this isn't recommended, and next time I think I might be able to handle having a full exam, but it made the first one easier.

Good luck with everything, and know you're not alone.
Avatar universal
Does anyone else feel pain during the gynecological exam.  If yes, what do you do to ease it?  I am told by most people that it is not supposed to hurt.
Avatar universal
I recently went to planned parenthood to get an exam.  My first time going to a gyno in about 8 years because my fisrt time I was a virgin, and the whole experience traumatized me.  I actually chickened out during part of the exam because the preparation for it was painful and made me really tense and unable to relax.  If there is a gyno who will go through with putting you under sedation of some sort to get through routine exams please let me know.  I wont go back now just because of how much anxiety I have.  I am glad to hear other people who have the same issues, because the doctor looked at me like I was some kind of big baby, and I just left.  I need to get these routine exams done, but I just can't without being sedated.  Any suggestions?
Avatar universal
I have been to the gyn 5 or 6 times over the years. I have always dreaded going, and when I initially went it was to planned parenthood to get on birth control. It was uncomfortable but not painful, however, the woman was rude and condescending, which did not help. 3 years ago I was raped and have only gone to see the gyn only once since then. During that appointment I had extreme anxiety and cried to the point of hysteria the entire time. The doctor explained that the more tense I was, the harder it would be. She was a very sweet doctor though and told me jokes the whole time. I realize that I need to go for the sake of my health, but I do not know if I can bring myself to do it. It is nice to hear that I am not the only one out there who fears it. I just thought maybe it would help to vent.
Avatar universal
It's kind of comforting to know I am not the only one.. I am supposed to make an appointment for January at my Ob-gyn office, but just can't bring myself to do it. I've had the same ob-gyn for years, but I make every excuse not to go. I've had 3 yearly pap smears, they've always been fine so that is why we made an agreement that I visit every 3 years. I guess I could visit more often, but... Last time I went I took Valium and Tylenol and told the doctor about it. He was very understanding, very gentle.  Pap smears always hurt, probably because I am always so tense. They have always been painful.

I was wondering would hypnosis help? I don't think I'll ever get used to these exams. Every time I feel violated, upset, even if there was no pain or discomfort- but there always is because of the smear test. So far I have always refused rectal exam (hemorrhoids make it worse) and always tell the doctor to give me full anesthesia, then he can do whatever he feels necessary. But of course I never get it.
It's kind of early to start thinking about booking the appointment- I can easily do it in early January, but the thought is so disturbing.. Maybe Valium is the only way for me.
Avatar universal
How did it go? Did you make the appointment? I have never thought about hypnosis. What I ended up doing was buying myself a really soft robe (so I did not have to wear the paper gown) and nice socks. It made me feel a little more at ease. I also asked her to not do the breast examination and promised to do it on my own. It just freaks me out to have some one inspecting with my breasts AND vagina. I can only take so much in one day. Doing all of this made it a little better, but by no means a day in the park. I wish you the best and remember - it is only a couple minutes. You could stand on your head for a couple minutes. Take care!
Avatar universal
I think American women are the only women who believe they need routine annual gynaecological exams.
I'm 51 and have had one pelvic exam in my life - when I was symptomatic - it turned out to be nothing....
The medical journals have lots of research and articles to show that these exams are unnecessary in asymptomatic women and can be harmful...
Question the need for these exams.
Also, breast exams are unnecessary in women under 40 - breast cancer is uncommon in this age group.  After 40 or 45 many women choose to have an annual breast exam. (I just started)
This rule would be different if you have family history...

Also, cancer screening has risks as well as benefits - women are not given risk information, so can't make an informed decision. Also, if you're required to have the Test or an exam to get the Pill, you can't consent - it's forced on you...
BTW the only exam required for the Pill is a blood pressure check - some women are forced to have full and invasive exams to get birth control - it's disgraceful to put this hurdle in front of women.
IMO this is about power, control and making money - lots of it...
The medical profession has a long history of disrespect
and abuse of women.
After I did my own research 30 years ago, I refused to have pap smears.  I know lots of women who have been harmed and traumatized by false positives and unnecessary colposcopy/biopsies...
Did you know that 1000 women need regular pap smears for 35 years to save ONE woman from cervical cancer? (Dr Angela Raffles research)
Did you know that 78% of women who have regular screening will have a colposcopy, with only a tiny number having malignancy? (L. Koutsky, Cancer Prevention)
Did you know that mammograms can increase your chance of getting breast cancer? Also, false positives and unnecessary surgery for ductal carcinoma in situ (see Screening Wars by Professor Michael Baum and his other Interviews)
It saddens me that women are still used in this way - treated like children and left in the dark..
We should all demand better treatment - make your own informed decisions - also, never have a male Dr forced onto you for invasive exams - these exams are unpleasant enough - only agree to a male Dr if it's YOUR choice.
My heart goes out to the symptomatic lady - you need to find a regular DR you can trust...you've lost trust - I interviewed three female doctors before finding a Dr I liked, trusted and felt comfortable with....of course, in Australia we don't have routine gynaecological exams (unless a woman asks) so, my exams are more general checks, blood tests and a breast check. (the latter only started a year or so ago)...
The important thing is to take it slowly - once you've found your Dr, hopefully, you'll find the exam bearable...when you know you're having the exam for a reason (symptoms) it makes it bearable (with your choice of Dr)
Good luck everyone....
Avatar universal
I forgot - for women who decide to have cervical screening - write to your politicians and demand access to the new blood test - it's called the CSA Test (Cervical Specific Antigen) - it was patented in around 2004 - unlike the unreliable pap smear - this simple blood test is almost 100% accurate...
The pap smear should be a thing of the past and the only women reporting for colposcopy and biopsies, are likely to have cancer or serious pre-cancer - we won't continue to harm healthy women.
Pathologists and doctors will be unhappy to see the introduction of this blood test - it will mean  the loss of the lucrative pap smear and follow-up "industry"...
Men rejected rectal exams and got a blood test very quickly - I suspect women will have to wait years to get access...unless you fight for it.
Information is found on the Cervius and Onconix websites.
The women worried about not having routine gyn exams - STOP WORRYING - the medical literature and research is on your side - asymptomatic women do not need routine invasive exams and tests.
Also, it's YOUR decision whether you participate in cancer screening.
Stop living in fear - make informed decisions and look after your health, mind and body.
My legal training means I don't just follow the leader - I question the need, find the answers and make my own informed decisions.
Join me - it'll free you up to really enjoy your lives!
Avatar universal
I find it horrible to read how women force themselves into these exams when it causes such severe anxiety and trauma.  You are certainly not the only one (and you can find like-minded people here: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/womenagainststirrups/ )
, it should never be forced on you, but women should also demand better alternatives and see through the brainwashing machine that bombards women with unfounded fears about their wombs and breasts ready to kill them in no time, unless they submit yearly to these invasive, inaccurate exams.

Please, respect yourselves and stop forcing yourself to go through such emotionally upsetting procedures. Stress is a major factor in causing disease, so how much good is a gyn exam going to do that seems to come straight out of some horrifying SM scenario?

Besides, as the poster above me already explained, the pap smear is outdated and inaccurate.  Obviously doctor's do *not* care that much about women's health as they try to make us believe, since they still force women into unnecessary, unreliable tests instead of offering the better alternatives.

And that's why women are going to have to stand up against this B.S. and refuse the current practice, because it's otherwise not going to get better.  Start lifting the veil, inform yourelf and realise it's not for your own good, it was for Big Pharma and the doctor's benefit. Your feelings are right, it is a wrong way to treat women in such a degrading, disrespectful matter.
Avatar universal
I'm 22 years old at the moment.  I've been looking for the past 3 years to find a forum as helpful as this.  I have a pathological fear of going to the gynecologist.  I've tried everything to get rid of the fear, but nothing seems to help.  It made me feel so much better that someone actually fears this exam than me.  
Everyone keeps telling me that there's nothing to be afraid of, but they just don't understand.  I cry at night, I have massive panic attacks everyday that last up to 3 hours or more.  I felt so much better when I read this, and it started to make me feel so much better about not wanting to go.  Sometime's I come to think that it's worse to have people mess with your vagina, especially sticking unwanted things like a speculum and jelly up there, can really screw up your cervical cells.  You don't even know if they cleaned them probably, or maybe they never even washed the speculum because it could have been up inside a vagina that had cancerous cells, and now they're sticking it up inside your vagina.  GROSS!  I don't want that thing stuck up there!
I want to go to the gyno. when I turn 23 and I'm having a friend go with me, but I was able to talk to my doctor a bit and she told me that just because I'm young doesn't mean you have to get the pap every year.  I can go every 3 years, but no longer, when I find very stupid.  I just wanna make sure that everything is ok, but I'm really not sure if I wanna go at all.  Women don't have to get paps if they don't want to.  Getting pap tests aren't the law, if you don't want to get them done don't let someone)(Doctors) force you (which, is what my mom is trying to do to me).  It's about time they rewrote the description on who gets the pap and who doesn't.  The guidelines for them are 50 years old!  Rediculous.  It's about time the Pap Test and smear disappeared for good.
Avatar universal
I have the same "pathological fear" emmartin and all. I found a DR who did everything while I was under general antithesis. Its the only way for me. Wish I could fix this but at least I can get medical help. I hope you find a DR like this.
Avatar universal
Ok...so Im a 21 year old virgin and I just had my first pelvic exam and transvaginal ultrasound today. All I can say is that Im completely traumatized. the pelvic exam was uncomfortable/alot of pressure. I was scared out of my mind but the doctor and nurse calmed me down a little and the gyno was very gentle. I got thru the  pelvic exam with mild traumatization but the ultrasound was horrible. The trasnducer they stick up you felt really uncomfortable for me, i started sliding up on the table and tensing up when the tech inserted it. She looked at me and talked like she was annoyed with me because of this And I started crying. I was very upset with myself for crying cause I felt like I was giving people the impression that I was a cry baby. When I got home I started crying again just thinking about how I reacted and I guess Im just embarrased about it. But she didn't make me feel comfortable or explain the procedure to me at all. After this I never want to go to the gyno again!!! But Im supposed to go back in a year to make sure that a possible dermoid cyst i have  isn't growing. I don't think I can do it.  Im that traumatized. Im scared of ever even having sex now cause of this visit.
Avatar universal
Why did you go the gyn in the first place? Did you have some symptoms that needed checking?
I'm Australian and I've lived in the UK - healthy symptom-free women don't need pelvic exams, in fact, they're a bad idea - they can lead to more unnecessary and harmful things.
As for cysts, if they're not bothering you, they're not treated.
I think American women are often misled by doctors - routine gyn exams are not recommended and can be harmful. (virgin or not)
The only exam/test a woman might think about here is a pap smear. I rejected them as the risks exceed the benefits for me. An Australian woman has a lifetime risk of cervical cancer of 0.25%, my risk is close to zero - my husband and I were virgins and are faithful. You can't catch HPV from another virgin.
The risks of screening are often undisclosed to women and doctor's often exaggerate the benefits, so it pays to do your own research....never accept the advice of a screening authority or doctors, they all have a vested interest in you screening....money and screening targets.
I'm sorry you had such a bad experience, but unless you have symptoms, you just don't need gyn exams and if you choose to have paps, AFTER you're sexually active (don't get talked into them before you're sexually active AND at least 25 or 30 AND if your partner is a virgin too, I'd be very careful with testing - you're most unlikely to benefit and likely to be harmed by false positives and over-treatment, a common problem with screening) don't let doctors over-screen you, you'll end up in day procedure having futile treatments.
A high risk woman has a low chance of benefiting from smears - women always over-estimate the threat from this cancer because doctors are obsessed with it, but they're usually chasing money and targets or worried about legal liability (in the States) and all the women having biopsies, well - most of that treatment is completely unnecessary and caused by false positives.
This testing has lots of problems that are largely hidden from women - I don't agree with that at all.
If you want smears later when you're sexually active - 5 yearly from age 30 - 5 to 7 in total is sufficient and reduces the risk of false positives and over-treatment. You can use self-test kits too, they're often used in the Netherlands.
You should remember that cervical screening is of no benefit if you're under 25 - they are VERY unreliable and unsafe in that age group and cancer in that group is very rare. If you wanted to read up so you can protect yourself from your doctors, take a look at a great website I've been reading...Dr Joel Sherman's Medical Privacy blog and take a look at the references in women's privacy concerns. Really excellent site.
Also, regarding routine breast exams - they're not recommended any more at any age - the Nordic Cochrane Institute website has some information and research on mammograms and CBE.
The former is quite scary - be really careful agreeing to mammograms at any age. CBE's - they don't bring down the death rate, but they cause unnecessary biopsies and some doctors think they can increase the risk of breast cancer.
We need to be so careful with these blanket recommendations - less or nothing is usually more!
Avatar universal
I know it seems like sex and pelvic are related, same region of the body. BUT, for me, its totally different. Doesn't even cross my mind in the process. Actually, makes you feel happy and normal. Hope it will be for you too.

Do NOT go back to the same place you had the transvaginal. The tech was an idiot. You deserve to be treated better.

Avatar universal
i'm 18 and just had my first visit to the gynecologist for pelvic pain. my doctor was rude. the exam was very painful for me because of my intense pelvic pain and i was holding back tears telling her that it was very painful and she just replied "yeah, i would think so" and just roughly used her tools. she immediately assumed that i sleep around like a skanky teenager and basically told me without test results (which ended up negative!) that i definately had chlamydia and dismissed me with an antibiotic for chlamydia and refused to consider anything else...guess what! a month later and my pain is worse, and its really messed things up for me.  i think that gyn's need to be more considerate of their patients.
Avatar universal
I discovered the Nordic Cochrane Institute looked at the value of clinical breast exams and found they don't help, but cause biopsies and some believe they are a risk factor for cancer.
I've decided to be "breast aware", a method devised by Dr Joan Austoker from Oxford University - you look at the shape and texture of your breasts every morning in the mirror after showering (no touching) - and report anything unusual to my Dr.
Breast self-exams have been OUT for years, they don't help but lead to biopsies.
See: Hands off my chest Dr (online) & the research on CBE's at the NCI site.
The entire gyn exam pushed annually in the States is unhelpful and likely to harm you - if you want a pap smear,
look at the risk factors and your level of risk, if you're sexually active and want one, consider the Finnish program of 5 yearly from 30 - any more than that and you carry a much higher risk of false positives and unnecessary and potentially harmful over-treatment and biopsies. Routine pelvic and breast exams are unhelpful, unnecessary and likely to harm you.
Avatar universal
Also, before you even think of starting mammograms at 50, look at the information sheet put together by the NCI - they were so concerned about the misleading and incomplete information given to women, they drafted their own unbiased summary.
"The risks and benefits of mammograms" is at their website.
I don't have mammograms - the risks exceed the benefits, in my opinion...
Make your own decision after reading the risks and benefits.
Avatar universal
A pelvic exam is rape.

"Discomfort/pain, shame/embarrassment, and/or a feeling of being violated, as a result of penetration of the sexual organs by a person in whom a woman has no sexual interest, achieved through coercion, fear, and/or intimidation."

1556906 tn?1294541653
I seriously believed I was the only one. The missed appointment. The crying before, during and after. I've been sexually active since last year, am 21 and have only had one swab test which had to get stopped half way through. The nurse could only get one swab as I couldnt bare it. And that was WITHOUT the speculum/opening device.  I get tense, it is a SHOCKING, stabbing sharp pain and I truly believe the women who say it s only uncomfortable either have a different pain threshold or are not as restricted/tight down there I seriously only see SEDATION as an alternative. And Id love to have the all clear health wise.
I've always gotten urine and blood checked but this is something that makes me anxious, upset and teary everytime I think about it. I believe it will until it gets done. Simply relaxing and taking a pill will not help. I am so sensitive down there and during sex it hurts. Its such a consolation to know I am not the only one. Woen, you are brave for trying to combat this issue, I like some of you do not cry easily but something as invasive as this? I feel your pain. I am seeing a doctor at a sexual health clinic on friday and will keep you updated. They seem so reluctant to provide sedation as 'everyone else has to do it' without considering we are all DIFFERENT.
Avatar universal
Why are you even bothering? At 21 you wouldn't even be tested in most countries - the test risks your health for NO benefit. The UK - 25, Finland and the Netherlands, 30...
Don't take my word for it, look at "Cervical cancer screening" in Australian Doctor, 2006 written by Associate Professor Margaret Davy, Director, Gyn-oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital and Dr Shorne, GP...
"No country has reported any decline in the incidence of or the mortality from cervical cancer in women under 30, irrespective of cervical screening.  Many countries do not perform screening in women under 30".

BUT, evidence and research from the UK and elsewhere shows us young women have a 1 in 3 chance of an "abnormal pap" or false positive - cervical cancer is incredibly rare in the under 30 age group and screening usually misses the tiny number of cases (false negatives). These poor women false positive women are either left worried sick and re-tested in a year or are referred for unnecessary and harmful treatments/biopsies.
Look at the evidence - it is ridiculous to consider sedation or a GA for a pap test - those things carry FAR more risk to your health.
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