“Are you sexually active?”, the young doctor asked just as she was about to swab at the top of my vagina, the second time in a week, for a HVS test. Perhaps the doctor would be able to determine what was causing my now frequent episodes of pelvic cramps, even when I’m not entertaining the witch.
When I replied that I was married and, of course, I can’t help but be sexually active, She said “Oh sorry”. But I could feel the gathering contempt that would have been directed at me if I had simply said I was, and not mention the fact that I was doing the deed legally oh.
Come to think of it, she wasn’t my doctor. All she was required to do was get the sample and get it to the lab, where they would find out anyway if I was sexually active, by the colony of bacteria they would find in the sample. So that question was totally unnecessary. Let’s not forget that I was tense at having to undergo this procedure the second time in one week, but I had heaved a sigh of relief when I saw it was a female nurse the second time around, only to be hit with those unnecessary questions.
I will admit, it was something that I thought about most of that day and I told my baby sister later that day when we spoke, only for her to tell me she had encountered such before at her company’s hospital. She had gone in after weeks of feeling tired and a constant headache that wasn’t going away, no matter the amount of pain meds she was popping.
She said the doctor, whom she later found out as was a Gynaecologist in charge of the maternity unit of the hospital, had asked if she was sexually active and how many sexual partners she had had. On top wetin nau? Tiredness and headache?
She answered and her answers had tinted the rest of the time, she spent in his consulting room. While on one level, his question was a professional one, but was there a need to infuse their own personal perception of right or wrong, or stand on a moral pedestal to condemn their patients who weren’t lying as they would have wanted them to?
Compared to my experience and that of my sister’s, Mayowa’s story was a terrible experience. Mayowa felt like the ground should just open up and swallow her, given the amount of shame she felt and the number of people who got to know the intimate details of her life in that moment.
She had gone to see the doctor and it turned out that there were two doctors to one office. For some reason, her answers to the doctor’s questions were sources of mirth for him. To the extent, he even called his colleague, who was attending to another patient to take a look at Mayowa, “This girl na ogbologbo” and had gone on to tell her some of the things which Mayowa had told him in confidence. At least, it was expected that whatever conversation you had with your doctor was supposed to be confidential, right?
Mayowa said the doctor turned it into a funfair, asking more questions, taking notes and talking about the likely reasons, all the while finding it funny that she had had that number of sexual partners in one year, that none of them had been with her more than once.
He wondered why she hadn’t taken a HIV test in the last six months, all the while hinting she was a prime candidate for a HIV test. Long story short, Mayowa never went back with the test results which he had prescribed. The humiliation was just too much. Instead, she went to another clinic to see a doctor, preferably a female doctor. The experience was a lot better. That former doctor may never remember Mayowa’s face or her history that he knew, but she would never forget him and the humiliation, he put her through.
A lady close to me, that I had mentioned this matter to, also had an experience. She reminded me of a cervical screening our church had organised several years ago. She said her results showed she had the HPV cells and needed to undergo treatment.
Instead of following up with the clinic which did the tests, she went to a Gynaecologist in a public hospital. After the waiting, it was pretty much confirmed that they were abnormal changes to cells on the surface of the cervix.
In addition to getting treatment for that, she also wanted to go off hormonal birth control because it interferes with the body’s ability to shed HPV virus cells. When she told the gynaecologist that, she said, ‘Where did you get that, the Internet? You can’t believe everything you read online.’ And that was it, no confirmation if that was actually true or not. No options. It was almost as if, if you can’t do it the way I want, you can forget it.
Toyin narrated her own experience to me and it couldn’t have been more judgemental. She said painful sexual intercourse used to be a problem for her and she had gone to the clinic to complain about it and seek solutions.
This was not her first time of seeing a gynaecologist about the same issue and each vaginal examination had left her in pain, almost in tears. And she said as much to her new doctor, who was a female. Clearly, she didn’t hear or she was in a rush, so she kind of waved it away and got started.
When the speculum was inserted, Toyin yelled out in pain and her doctor told her to grow up and asked if “bigger things” had not been entering there. That was the last time she went to the doctor, or to any Gynaecologist for that matter. She was traumatised from that experience, not because of the speculum entering her body, but because of the unsympathetic nature of the doctor.
Some of these stories can make one go on a Gynae-strike, but there are still good ones who make you feel good about yourself and your body. But what can one do about the ones who make you feel ashamed to be a woman?
Women have to deal with a lot when it comes to their bodies and keeping everything in tiptop shape. We really can do without unsympathetic doctors and nurses. As for shaming, it should not even be a part of the experience.
It’s time the shaming of women, who go to see the doctor for solution to their health concerns stop. Our sexual activity doesn’t necessarily determine our lives.
Food for thought!
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