The awkward, inevitable visits to the gynecologist

By Zaninka Umutesi
On 17 September 2022 at 02:58

Gynecologists are physicians who have completed specialized training in the female reproductive system. Women around the age of 21 to 29 are recommended to visit gynecologists at least once a year for a regular exam. However, stories from the women who have visited the gynecologist are both funny and scary.

Dossy Uwera (not real names) is among girls who went to a gynecologist for consultations. As she says, the first visit was fairly interesting.

Irakoze was accompanied by her mother but was caught in dilemma to hear the first question from a gynecologist who wanted to know if she was sexually active.

“This forced my mother to turn to me waiting for my answer,” narrated Irakoze.

“Between having to undress, the cold liquid referred to as ‘KY JELLY’ and having a man ask me questions such as; ‘do you plan on having a baby? Are you pregnant? Are you on any contraceptive pills? You go blank and don’t know what to say especially when your guardian is around,” said another young girl.

A 20-year old girl who also spoke to us on condition of anonymity has recounted her experience when she found herself in a situation where the only option was to consult a gynecologist after having unprotected sex.

“I was at the gynecologist because I had sex for the first time. A few weeks later, my vagina was itchy and I started to notice a few bumps on the sides. After a lot of Google searches, I got suspicious that I had contracted a disease or infection. I remember how scared I got.

I decided to go to a clinic and consult a gynecologist with whom we had a conversation that will forever be on my mind. Trying to precise where I had a problem was almost impossible. I could barely see the doctor in the eye and consider leaving right then or just lying to relieve the stress on me,” she said.

At some point, a patient will be asked to remove their trousers or raise their dress or skirt and lay on a little bed in the doctor’s office for an examination. As invasive as this sounds, it is the reality and triggers mixed reactions whether from an emotional level, religious values or cultural context.

Some checkups end with not only a doctor seeing patients’ private parts, but also some doctors do require to physically touch the private parts of their patients as part of the process to identify the right cause of suffering.

Poor communication during this procedure can cause a lot of misunderstandings, which can make the patient feel uncomfortable and push her to avoid the next appointment.

Knowing a patient’s medical history plays a significant role for the doctor to know if a patient has been sexually active or pregnant, hence informing his decision to recommend prescriptions matching with their health conditions.

Besides, this question is very important, especially in finding out whether the potential mother is aware that she is pregnant or not.

According to Dr. Magnifique Irakoze an Obstetrician/Gynecologist and Lecturer at the University of Rwanda; health care providers, be it doctors, nurses or midwives, rely on the patient’s information gathered through a conversation not recorded medical history.

This conversation helps the health care provider to get to know where to focus on for physical exam and know right laboratory tests. A good medical history contributes around 80% to to better treatment and right diagnosis whereby lying to a gynecologist could lead to worsened health conditions or take long to recover.

As Dr. Irakoze explained; the Gynecologist, like any other doctor, asks you the reason for the visit, an opening question like; how can I help you? Why did you come to see me today? What is the problem?

After the patient’s response to those questions, the doctor proceeds to ask additional questions and this will imply what physical exams to be done, which symptoms to focus on most, and any para-clinical exams needed. This can be laboratory or imaging exams.

Dr. Obed Budoromyi, another medical doctor who spoke to us has shed light on the relevance of frequently asked questions and their contribution to the healing process.

“They ask if you are sexually active because some of the diseases can be transmitted to sexually active people. They are more exposed than non-sexually active people and remember that if you are sexually active, you are more prone to getting pregnant than a person who is abstaining from sex,” he said.

Dr. Obed Budoromyi further revealed that contraceptive pills have a very huge impact on a woman’s health as they do not work well with other medication in some cases.

When asked what the worst scenario would be if a patient lied about their answers to their gynecologists, Dr. Dr. Budoromyi, explained that the gynecologist will not be able to diagnose a patient accurately which also affects prescriptions.

A patient or guardian has the right to ask for detailed explanations before undergoing any testing or treatment and have their questions answered. The doctor is required to give accurate and honest answers that can be comprehended by the patient or their guardian.