Column: Put the awkwardness aside and your health first

Megan Ivey, Associate News Editor

Editor’s note: This is the first installation of a series of columns in recognition of Women’s History and Awareness Month.

It’s a moment every woman dreads–her annual women’s health exam.

According to Health Services, women ages 21 and older are advised to have a Pap smear, a screening for cervical cancer, each year.

If sexually active, it is recommended to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases/infections before each sexual partner.

Last week, I took my first exam. Like most women, I was not thrilled to join this passage of womanhood.

There are a lot of parts leading to the exam that exude awkwardness.

A nurse escorts you into a room, where the environment smells stale, full of sterile equipment.

You remove your clothes, cover up with what feels to be an oversized-napkin, and wait for the doctor patiently.

While waiting, the only reading material are medical posters hung about the room. The charts and diagrams do one of two things: one, teach you about biology you never learned in school, about parts of yourself you did not even know you had, or two, show all the possible abnormalities that could happen “down there,” scaring you into believing you have some sort of mutation.

By the time the doctor arrives, you have played through every exit scenario in your head.

“Can I make a phony emergency call?”

“How hard would it be to jump out the window and never look back?”

Of course, putting the dramatic thoughts aside, the exam is not so bad.

It is not necessarily the doctor who makes it uncomfortable.

Yes, the small talk can seem odd, especially when you cannot make eye contact because you are on your back, legs spread and facing the ceiling, but it could be a lot worse.

The room smells sterile because the nurses and doctors follow protocol to keep the environment safe and clean.

The medical charts and diagrams are placed to be used as easy reference for questions and relevant information.

The doctor is making small talk because they treats their patients as people, not simply some object they have to inspect for faults.

For OB-GYNs, this is what is routine.

It is not the nurse or doctor that makes the ordeal uncomfortable — it is the patient.

You are the factor in which makes or breaks the tone of the exam.

I wish I could say that my first women’s health exam was not awkward, but I do not think any woman can say she is 100 percent comfortable when present in the situation.

However, the uncomfortable feeling should not hinder a woman’s knowledge about her sexual health.

You are not the first woman the doctor has seen, and you will not be the last.

Ask questions, get informed and take the doctor’s counsel.

Megan Ivey is a sophomore journalisn major.  She can be reached at [email protected].