I cannot count how many times I have gone here to read and re-read this thread as well as the one I posted on midwifery today forum (in hopes to get more input frm MWs). Everybody had great things to say. I felt encouraged by your kind posts. Thank you all very much for your input, encouragement and sharing. It means a world to me.
But talking about it is really difficult, so I could not bring myself to reply.
Here is what happened since I had posted the thread. I took my initial post here and emailed it to 4 local midwives. (3 of which do homebirths). One never replied, but 3 others did. One answer was short and sweet. Other 2 were more in depth and generally touched my heart more. I am thinking I should post them here. I hope it will be benefitial to somebody like me:
I would go slow if a woman felt so strongly about exams; coming back another time is fine, or even in two more times. But I would really recommend more soul searching or therapy or whatever it takes to get to the bottom of these feelings, because sometime it could be important to get the information from a physical exam. Our bodies are really wonderful, you know, so taking care of them might include getting exams that are really difficult.
Building a trusting relationship with your provider, where you know she will do only what is absolutely necessary, will be important. Is it possible there could be some repressed abuse issues, or something causing shame around body image?
You are very brave. I admire the fact that you are addressing your fears and responses to the gyne exam. Yes, I have had a number of patients who feel vulnerable, fearful, embarrassed, and violated as you do about the exam. Some have a history of rape or child abuse as you mentioned in the posts, some do not. Sometimes knowing why an individual is fearful is helpful to them and to me as a practioner, sometimes we never know.
So, what would I say to a patient that presented with the fears you describe? I would explore what is OK and what is not OK...for instance, do you feel the same way around friends or sisters when you are nude? Your husband? That is just "exposure" Then there is touching...touch on the thigh OK, but not the labia? So, first, it is just getting to know where the fears are. Most women do not like a pelvic exam no matter what, so sensitivity is always a must. Were you sitting up or lying flat during the exam last time? Women should never lie flat and look at the ceiling, they should be sitting up and viewing the practitioner, and the practitioner making eye contact and talking through the exam (ie, you will feel me touch your thigh, now some downward pressure of the speculum...etc)
We have a certified hypnotherapist in our office who works with clients who have fears about childbirth and pelvic exams. We have seen great success with hypnosis.
We have had some women who have used psychologists/therapists for exploring their fears, or using hypnosis for past life regressions (to discover what happened in a previous life that is making them fearful in this life)
We have used "desensitization" techniques for some women. That is exercises a woman does in private at her home in front of a mirror to practice the experience.
There are a lot of options to help a woman ease/confront/overcome her fears so that she can move through their life, have children, take care of their health needs.
Most important is to identify when you are ready to take the first step is just making an appointment. Then you guide the visit with the practitioner: talk, make a plan, exam or no exam, schedule another visit.
Good luck to you.
Wow, this is taking up a lot of your thought and energy & causing you a lot of grief. No one likes pelvic exams, and yes I have several clients who are afraid, hate or resent them for one reason or another.
In reading your posts, however, I have to wonder where this upset is coming from. In reading about abuse of women, I was surprised to find an act of actual physical abuse does not have to occur. Nothing has to actually happen for a women to "feel"as if she has been sexually abused. A suggestion, joke or inappropriate emotional attention or conversation can have a similar effect. Your posts also express a strong need to be in control, especially with the painless OB/GYNE. That is often an indication of a person who has had a real or perceived episode of violation or coercion.
My suggestion, Valeria, would be to see someone with experience in counseling women with abuse experiences that you feel you can trust. I am not sure seeking more gyne care will solve the problem. If you are wanting children at some point in your life, these feeling may cause you a lot of trouble. Not only are some exams necessary, but in labor a women really needs to surrender control to the forces of nature. You are way ahead of the game, Valeria, in looking at this before you are pregnant and by defining it so well. Often that is the hardest part of figuring out anything.
I hope this was useful.
So I had made an appointment with the mw who wrote the second email. Just to talk. It was assumed nothing will be done as far as exams go. Everything was fine until we actually had to drive there. Once we got into the car, I was in hysteric that these words will be put to a face right now. My face. I felt embarrassed. I wanted to escape. But my dh had finally talked me into going in. This mw’s office is very far from our home, we were stuck in rush hour traffic and were late for the appointment. As she had told us later, she saw my name on the appointments list, so she had told the nurses not to bother us much with questions etc, and they did not. They just took us to an exam room and asked to wait. Once in there, a nurse did ask what the purpose of my visit was, but I just said that I’m gonna talk about it with the mw herself and she did not ask anything else. Said OK and left. Because we were late, we had to wait for a long time. The room was tiny with the exam table right into our faces. I just sat there and cried. First, I started to re-live my last gyne experience, whch was pretty bad, then, it was about the email being put to my face again. But the mw made me feel more at ease. She did not look at me like I had 5 heads or like I was a freak (afterwords, I tried imagining myself going to her again for the exam, but I cannot see myself do it).The conversation was somewhat productive, but it was agreed upon that a counselor might be best for me. She gave me a phone number of one, but it took me 2 weeks to make an appointment. It has been 2 years since I last was at the gyne office, and all these thoughts and feelings were tucked into the back of my conciosness. Now they all came back to me and it was overwhelming. I started going to that woman (counselor). It was not easy to open up at first, but I had learned to be more comfortable and really tell her all my thoughts and feelings. So far we had not really made any progress, though. After more soul searching of my own, I had come to the conclusion that I have more issues that are not actualy sexual, but they still influence my body image in a very negative way. I am only 23, but this is already my second immigration (isn’t life tough???) and it is not coming easy to me. My life is not what I think it should be and I started to hate myself a lot. So we are trying to get that out of the way right now. In adition to feeling better about my life in general, I hope I will become more confident about myself as a result and hopefully that will help me deal with my gyne issues. As I had said, we had really made no progress so far, but remain hopeful.
In parallel, I had also phoned the mw that wrote the third email. She seemed to be sort of “nousy” over the phone, if I can describe it as such. I wanted to just call and ask about her office hours. Just as I was abut to say thank you and hang up she started asking me what I need – am I pregnant, do I need a pap? So then I just said that am I the author of the email she had replied to today and she knew. She pretty much said the same things she wrote in the email and said that I can come in and talk to her, if I want, but she would not be able to help me. She promiced to look for a counselor in my area. She had found one and gave me the phone number. Since I am not seeing much success with the counselor I am currently goin to, I decided to see if this one would be better. I have a first appointment with her on Wednesday.
To make things more comlicated … I got a vaginal infection! It does not look like yeast, but I am very red, irritated, and it is hurting around my vaginal opening when I wipe myself in the bathroom (not too much discharge, though). I have it for about 2 weeks already. I am definitely suffering from it as well as my hubby (no sex!), but I still cannot go see anybody! I can do a swab for infection on my own, can’t I??? I should call one of the miwwives and ask if I can come in and do it in the bathroom by myself.
I read a lot about pregnancy and birth and I know that I can go through my entire pregnancy with no exams and possibly even labor. EVEN if I will decide I would like no support fo rmy perineum while pushing (which is unlikely because I believe that a skilled midwife can help in reducing the amount of damage to that area), what I do tear? Somebody will have to check for that and do stiches. Being as self concious as I am is also likely to affect my labor as I might not be able to relax comletely and just let it happen. I will most definitely be planning a home birth when I get pg, but still…
And in general, I feel like I cannot ignore this problem forever. What if I will have a health problem tomorrow that will absolutely require me to expose my breasts and/or vagina??? It might be much worse if my issues will not be dealt with.
So to sum it up, I feel that it is really important for me to deal with it all, but I had not really achieved any progress so far. It is a pretty tough road I am walking, but I hope it is a way to a better me.
Thanks for listening.