Psychological Harms of Pelvic Exams

There is a lack of research on the harmful psychological effects of pelvic exams.  The lack of research highlights how the harmful effects from pelvic exams have largely been ignored, or have been considered not important enough to warrant investigation.  The small amount of research that exists has mainly been conducted with the goal of addressing women’s “anxieties” with the exam, and has been done for the sole purpose of learning how to harness women’s compliance.

In spite of the lack of recognition given to the psychological harms of pelvic exams by the medical community, many of us do experience harm.  Many of the comments from women on this blog and on other sites have revealed that the psychological effects are often significant and can have a detrimental impact on our lives.  In addition, the psychological effects can be difficult to understand, clarify, and articulate.  This post is a compilation of my own and other women’s experiences of pelvic exams presented in a way that attempts to clarify an issue that warrants more attention.

Psychological Harm #1: Trauma

A woman’s first pelvic exam can be traumatizing, especially if she is unaware of the exam’s invasive nature and/or is coerced into the exam while seeing her doctor for a different reason.  In these cases the woman is unprepared and is not expecting an invasive exam to take place.  In addition, many doctors do not fully explain what the exam involves, explain the reasons for the exam, or offer the woman a choice prior to proceeding.

Here is what one woman has to say about her first pelvic exam:  It’s humiliating, degrading, and painful. The first time I had a pap smear done, I was so traumatized, I now have to take prescription Xanax to avoid having panic attacks when I get pap smears done now. And I’m only 24. How many more am I going to have to have for the rest of my life? What am I going to do when I want to have children and every doctor wants to shove his/her fingers and tools inside me? (Scared Guest)  via Women Against Stirrups – What’s your opinion on the pelvic exam/gynecology?.

Psychological Harm #2: Loss of Control

I can think of no position more vulnerable and undignified than naked with legs wide apart, feet up in stirrups, and a fully clothed doctor standing over me.  Feelings of vulnerability and a loss of control in this position are intensified when I am asymptomatic and do not wish to have a pap test/pelvic exam – but have been aggressively pressured and coerced to the point where I feel I have no choice.

Here is another woman’s thoughts on loss of control and vulnerability:  I am 21 and today i went for my first smear..UGHH i freaked out, cried and had to leave with a vicodin prescription…which is pretty straaaaight. but, the point of my frustration is that I, like you, feel as though i am being violated, and sexually assaulted. I feel overly anxious due to the vulnerability of the situation . . . Its not even like ive never had sex. it is just that i have trouble being prodded and fingered by a metal prong. (Anonymous)  via Awkward Things My Mother Never Taught Me: Just How Violating a Pap Smear Really Is….

Psychological Harm #3: Dissociation

Women have been led to believe that a pelvic exam is a vital part of their health for so long that many no longer question it, or feel they have a choice.  When a woman feels she has no choice but to undergo a violently invasive exam she will often develop a sense of detachment, or numbness, in an effort to distance herself from what is happening to her own body.

Here is what Claire T. Porter has to say:  “Closely connected with the absence of self is the dispensing of existence experienced by women… Women undergoing these procedures report a sense of nonbeing” (Raymond 1993, xv). I cannot help feeling that my body, especially the most private areas of it, has been taken away from me. This surgeon and the horny resident both assess my pubic area. Now the vision of my genitals is held in their brains. I feel I possess my sex less and less and feel them both smug in the fact that they own it. What a power trip for them. Bastards.  via Women Against Stirrups – I’m Taking Back My Pussy!.

Psychological Harm #4: Invalidation

The value women place on the privacy of their vagina is in no way reflected by many practitioners’ attitudes.  There is an expectation that we are supposed to be fine with this type of exam.  Yet have we not always been taught to keep our legs together, sit with our legs crossed, and to not let strangers touch us?  The role we are expected to assume during day to day life versus the role we are expected to adopt during a pelvic exam are vastly different.  How a pelvic exam feels and how we are told it is supposed to feel presents a gap of huge proportions.  The lack of acknowledgment for how we feel confuses us, belittles us, and invalidates us. We lose a sense of stability, trust, and safety.

Chrissy (UK) says: This all goes with the ‘get used to it, you’re a woman’ attitude, or ‘I’m a doctor and therefore entitled to see and touch your body’. I don’t know what they are taught when they are medical students, but there is no way they understand what it is like for a woman to be exposed and spreadeagled on an examination table whist they rummage around in the most intimate part of our body. I still remember my first pelvic examination. I was 17 and the (male) doctor forced my knees apart, as I wouldn’t comply with his verbal instructions to spread my legs. I felt violated – I WAS violated . . .  October 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Psychological Harm #5: Dehumanization

All women have a right to privacy and dignity, except of course when they are in the presence of a doctor.  The name assigned to the “pelvic” exam is carefully nonsexual and yet what takes place during the exam is something more intimate than most women would allow a spouse or lover to do.  It is cruel to expect women to ever become used to this type of extreme exposure, and it is inaccurate to assume women will become desensitized over time.  To expect women to get used to the exam is cruel and dehumanizing.

Yazzmyne says: . . . I also believe that these gyn exams are rape even when a woman consents to it. She may verbally and rationally agree to it, but her body screams NO and most women do not listen or respect their own bodily feelings in this context. With all the fear mongering about cancer and the fear for the exam itself, she can’t even make a rational decision (and not that it has to be a rational one, because rationality is used to justify the whole ordeal and rationalize her feelings of violation away) because the mind is locked in fear and can’t think clear anymore and this is exactly what doctors want. There are so many benefits for them to keep using the medieval pelvic exam:

to satisfy their sexual lusts
for the powertrip
for the money
and the fear this exam generates in women also keeps them traumatized, in fear, unable to think CRITICAL about the so called need for them   October 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Psychological Harm #6: Distrust

A lasting, pervasive sense of distrust is likely to form when one is violated by someone in a position of trust.  The distrust that results from negative experiences during pelvic exams can present a lasting barrier to a woman’s access to health services.  Women who are traumatized by their physician’s practices related to pelvic exams are far less likely to trust the medical system as a whole.

FerretGirl01 says: I have a terrible fear of the OB/GYN mainly because my very first pelvic exam was so traumatic. I was a virgin and it hurt so much that I cried. And even after I told the doctor to stop, she kept trying to collect the sample after telling me she would stop any time. I felt violated…scared…and I hurt so bad I had to take pain relievers. I was bleeding when I got home and discovered my “cherry” had been popped because the doctor was too rough and rushed with the exam. That made me terrified of ever getting one again . . . via Fear of Gynecological Exam – Women’s Health – MedHelp.

Psychological Harm #7: Fear

There are all kinds of fears that go along with this exam.  There is fear of the consequences of refusing, fear of the consequences of complying, and fear of the consequences of speaking out.

Anonymous says:  I’m 22 and I haven’t been to the gyno! Every time I even think about it I get so freaked out and sick. I’m not scared of being in pain – I’m scared of personal intrusion, of being on my back and not having control. Every time I think about it, it makes me feel like it would be some kind of assault, because I really **don’t want** it to happen, and going would just be me trying to get over my fears and knowing that it’s something I need to do. I’m terrified of anyone touching me when I know that I’m forcing myself to let them and that I feel so insecure and invaded. I haven’t been sexually abused . . . But I’m just SO.TERRIFIED. via extreme exam anxiety.

AVEN Member says: Doctors are always pressuring their patients to get it done, and instilling fear of cancer to those who refuse. I think they insist more on a pelvic exam than they do on quitting smoking. Yes, I am doing the ‘unspeakable’ and questioning doctors . . .  I think the procedure is inhumane. If you think I just need to suck it up, please listen. This is ranting towards people like that. People that think women just need to “suck it up” or “get over it”.  Rant on Pelvic Exams – Asexual Visibility and Education Network.

Psychological Harm #8: Despair

When women repeatedly have their way of understanding the world ignored it can lead to feelings of despair.  When their understanding of what is occurring is discounted and invalidated; when their fears, trauma, and other experiences are ignored, then their place in the world and sense of self can shift.  Women are often left with pervasive feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Anonymous says:  I got my first pap smear yesterday. I’m not a big crying type, but I cried like a baby. It was the most traumatizing experience of my life. I’m 18 and I’ve only had one partner for the year I’ve been sexually active . . . The metal “spectrum” upset me and that was bad enough. But the worst part for me, that has left me horrified and with nightmares, is what came next. Nobody told me going into this that the doctor was going to shove her hand all the way up to basically my stomach. EXCUSE ME?! Why does nobody see this as completely violating!! I cried so hard. Today being the day after, I keep reliving it and I don’t want anyone to touch me and I just feel disgusted . . . I should not be subjected to this, especially at my age I don’t think. Not to mention that I was pretty much forced to get one if I wanted birth control. That just seems wrong to me. I try to be save and prevent a child at this time and my life and what am I forced to do? Be humiliated, violated, and traumatized.   via Awkward Things My Mother Never Taught Me: Just How Violating a Pap Smear Really Is….

Elizabeth says:  On one blog a young woman was so stressed about pap tests she wanted to be knocked out…it’s shocking, she should be told to forget about it and enjoy her life – this testing has robbed so many women from the pleasure of being healthy, young and female and often takes our peace of mind, bodily privacy and dignity, damages our health and lives, destroys relationships and takes the shine off sex, especially after traumatic “treatments” and when women are unable to access the Pill without forced testing…and at age 30 if she’s worried about cc, she could test herself for HPV, but that would be too easy and make too much sense…actually doing what’s best for her, she’ll probably end up being sedated for a pap test…so depressing.  http://blogcritics.org/culture/article/unnecessary-pap-smears/comments-page-175/#comments

In conclusion I would like to say that if you find you have “anxieties” regarding pelvic exams you can take heart because, as you can see, your concerns are valid.   On a brighter note, more women are becoming aware that they have the right to informed consent for screening.  In addition there are now alternative ways to test for cervical cancer, such as the Delphi self-screener, which is available in some countries.  See Singapore – Dutch Collaboration:  http://www.delphi-bioscience.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/Media%20Release_March%2026,%202012.pdf

images.jpgwtf

About forwomenseyesonly

Hi. My name is Sue and I am interested in promoting holistic and respectful health care.
Gallery | This entry was posted in pap test, pelvic exam, psychological harm, trauma and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

579 Responses to Psychological Harms of Pelvic Exams

  1. Elizabeth (Aust) says:

    Welcome Meno
    I see parallels between pregnancy/childbirth and cancer screening, we’re rarely listened to, the system takes over, others make decisions for us and assume risk on our behalf.
    Also, there’s a cone of silence, the system makes women feel uncomfortable saying anything negative about childbirth or pap testing. Some women fear being judged or trivialized, we’re TOLD a healthy baby is all that matters in the end or a normal pap test or mammogram.
    I’ve always believed the system/medical profession view women as second class citizens, our legal rights don’t really matter, they know best…wrong!

    It’s interesting that occasionally when women feel safe, the truth emerges, sometimes followed by an apology or put down, “I know I’m being silly, but I couldn’t understand why there were so many people standing there watching me give birth”.
    So all the natural and normal feelings we have about our bodily autonomy, privacy and dignity are often lumped together as women being immature, prudish, difficult or perhaps, victims of sexual abuse. We’re so often denied these normal feelings, we’re supposed to be okay allowing open access to our genitals and breasts when the system demands it from us.

    Over the years I’ve heard it so often, certainly, in later years, perhaps because women sensed I might have a sympathetic ear.
    My husband and I decided not to have children, I’m pleased to say that fear did not make that decision for me, I know that’s the case for some women. Of course, I would have approached a pregnancy fearing the worst and hoping for the best. I’d selected an ob-gyn just in case, she was highly recommended by several friends – she was a good doctor, she listened, she didn’t judge, she worked with women and she respected their privacy (as far as possible considering the system often couldn’t care less)
    You’re certainly not alone, but it must feel that way when so many women still IMO, feel like they must just accept poor and disrespectful treatment, just get over it…
    I don’t think you can claim the system is a huge success when a healthy baby leaves the hospital with a damaged mother, and we know some damage lasts forever; both physical, psychological and emotional damage.
    Sites like Birth Trauma help but they’re not really out there, we don’t hear much about this issue anywhere else. It’s the old cone of silence that keeps this abuse in place, but it’s not easy to change attitudes and conduct. I’ve always believed with cancer screening it starts with individual women saying, “No, this is not good enough, I’m a human being, not a body or a target”…

    It’s interesting that the system assumes after giving birth we shouldn’t have a care in the world with pap testing, surely we’re “used” to these exams by now (or we should be if we’re “normal”)

    The reasoning is self-serving, they want compliant women so we need to get over any issues with pap testing, “how will they manage when they have children?”….and if you’ve had children, “well what’s the issue?”…
    So it says to me the system is basically saying women should forget about bodily autonomy, privacy and dignity, it’s supposed to be that our health (and that of our baby) is more important.
    I think it’s more that the system does not respect women and the current approach suits and is accepted by many…so many can’t see the wood for the trees. Consent? Informed consent?
    I think writing about your experience will help you and other women – much more needs to be said about the unacceptable way women are viewed and treated by the system
    All the best

    • Elizabeth, thank you so much for bringing up another important issue with your reference to “birth trauma”. Same as women are supposed to be casual about invasive exams and having childbirth treated like a sideshow, birth trauma doesn’t end in the maternity ward for victims of domestic violence.

      Women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth are often under incredible pressure to give up their babies. The leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder by the men who got them pregnant, including men these pregnant women are married to so it isn’t just a matter of covering up some affair with a pregnant mistress. Women who would do fine as mothers if they had a little help to leave abusive relationships are expected to have babies and then just give them away like their flesh and blood was nothing to them while being told that it was what was best for the baby.

      Frightened battered women are told that some organization will “provide housing” for them. What happens, of course, is that these women are pestered to within inches of their sanity about adoption and what a wonderful “choice” it is. Not that these women are actually being given any choice because the whole point of the “free housing” is to isolate them from anyone who might talk to them about alternatives to lining the pockets of the “counselors”. The possibly of relatives adopting the baby or taking care of the baby for a little while while the mother gets on her feet, with adoption by strangers being reserved for children actually in need of loving homes would just get in the way of the transaction with the strangers lucrative to the “counselors”, who would appreciate payment now please. The fact that the women surrendering against their will most likely never see their children again and often suffer from Post-Traumatic Shock Disorder is not treated as any big deal because adoption is “win-win”. Yeah, well, it is win-win-lose because the person who gives up someone her body has nurtured gets nothing but the pain of loss unless she suffers the vilification reserved for the “selfish” whores who won’t sign away her parental rights.

  2. Mary says:

    I have a pdf I downloaded some time ago about the new cervical cancer screening guidelines from the cancer council in Australia. Anyway, I happened to have a look at it and I am appalled.It says that “women who are invited to have a clinician collected sample(HPV test) and decline will not be eligible for self-collection at that time”. OK so a woman’s HPV status is not really that important after all. A doctor collecting their fee is more important. And it says “women who have tested negative on a self-collected sample should be invited to be retested 5 years later and they should be encouraged to have a clinician collect the sample” . “Encouraged”. Oh and how to they do that? Withhold BCPs?

    • Elizabeth (Aust) says:

      Hi Mary
      Yes, more of the same…
      I read a women would have to decline the invasive HPV test for 6 years before she’s be eligible for HPV self-testing. Of course, the angle used is predictable, self-testing is not as reliable as a sample taken by a physician. So they say…

      I don’t think the self-test option (covered by Medicare) will be the Delphi Screener so perhaps, it’s correct that it’s less reliable than a sample taken by a doctor. (I doubt that though…you’re either HPV+ or HPV-, it’s not like interpreting a pap smear)

      The cost of the self-test kit would be a factor but also, if the HPV self-test were promoted as just as reliable as the invasive test, I suspect they’d be a landrush of women after the self-test option. They clearly hope to keep the herd in-tact and just move them over to HPV invasive testing.
      They’ve gone out of their way to cut into online self-testing options, so now if you want to order (and pay) for the Delphi Screener, you have to nominate an Aussie doctor. I’m not sure if they get your results and you have to speak to them, I assume that’s the case, so they get something out of it, keep the woman in the loop, and have an opportunity to dissuade her from further self-testing.
      Vested interests have been making a fortune from this testing so they won’t give that up lightly. Also, the same old attitudes are at work, women are still viewed as fair game, bodies to be ticked off

      There’s no doubt in my mind that the only women who’ll see HPV self-testing are those who buy the test online, or use it overseas or those who stand firm and wait out the 6 years. They obviously want to limit the offer to hard-core refusers, anyone currently in the program will be pressured to stay there…so self-testing will be used reluctantly to try and increase coverage. (probably with the hope they’ll move them over to invasive testing at some stage)
      It’s probably aimed at people like ME….but the reality is the group of women who’ve never screened or those who’ve dropped out of the program, have often made an informed and/or firm decision…and they certainly won’t be tempted by the offer.
      I’d view it as a hungry wolf offering me a chocolate!

  3. Elizabeth (Aust) says:

    Mary
    In the UK they’re making the right noises, obviously to placate informed women and a few others like Dr. McCartney but I don’t think much will change at the Clinic (unless you’re informed)
    Here we’re not even making the right noises, there is no discussion about choice or opting out etc. it’s all must or should, counting us off like ignorant sheep.
    I find it incredible that we had to wait until 2016 before someone thought about writing an article on informed consent in cervical screening. The thinking: well, we’re changing the program, perhaps, we should also, consider informed consent.
    Almost like it’s an optional extra, no one seems outraged that women have been denied both consent and informed consent under our program
    I suspect we’re still a long way behind the UK, and other countries…even the States is starting to take the Pill off script. I doubt that will happen here, that consult is an effective way to capture women for the program, it doesn’t seem to matter that it’s supposed to be elective and it’s never been a clinical requirement for the Pill. I’m not sure why change is so slow here, perhaps, because most women here just accept this testing is a necessary evil, the downside to being a woman.

  4. Mary says:

    I think Elizabeth that here in Australia doctors have a lot of power over politicians. I mean how is it that the law says that we are only allowed to import medication prescribed by an Australian doctor? Give me one good reason why a UK doctor, who is allowed to work in Australia cannot prescribe me medication when in the UK? As Paul Keating said, the medical profession is the strongest union in Australia, It’s very frustrating how relaxed Europe is with prescribing but when you indicate you are from Australia on these websites, then it becomes almost impossible and more and more UK pharmacies are not sending medications to Australia. I wonder if they have got wind of more and more people doing this are have clamped down. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is surveillance going on.
    With hpv self-testing it’s again vested interests not letting women have any autonomy. If the Danes ( I think ) have moved to making self-HPV testing the standard way to screen for cervical cancer then don’t tell me it is an inferior way to test. They wouldn’t put lives at risk. It’s a total different mindset in Europe.
    And then again look at the medical marijuana laws. People have to break the law or suffer. And don’t me started on euthanasia. God we are backwards here.

    • Elizabeth (Aust) says:

      Mary,
      It’s incredibly frustrating, my younger brother has Parkinson’s Disease, cannabis oil makes a big difference to his quality of life but to get it in this country, you need lots of money and a reliable dealer!
      He may eventually get some through the Victorian Govt but that’s not likely to be for a year or so. Thankfully, they’ve started supplying it for children with severe epilepsy
      Some of these kids have permanent brain damage as a result of the seizures and to think the system stood in the way for so long. Hopefully, this damage will be avoided in the future.
      I know some people are against using cannabis for medical conditions, stem cell research/procedures and euthanasia, but I think it’s unfair to stand in the way when people are suffering. We should just get on with it, put the safeguards in place, we can use other countries there, learn from their experience.
      I worked out a long time ago that, “we have to do our own research for local conditions, we can’t just follow Finland” meant, butt out, we’re happy with the current program, it works for US! So few seem to Q the clear stalling measures and desperate need for medical control though…

      I think you’re right, the medical union is all powerful and couldn’t care less about us, patient care comes way behind control, market size and profitability.
      It’s good business but bad medicine…
      I suppose talking about the Delphi Screener on Aussie sites may have tipped them off that WE were aware of something better, it seems getting the message out to women also alerts the system to slam shut another gate.

  5. Shelli says:

    I have thought these sentiments for decades. But this is the first time I have seen them articulated. Thank you so much for stating what has been obvious to women for years: the so called “pelvic” exam is little more than a ritual rape. Further, what were female docs thinking in medical school? They were trained to perform this ritual rape by male professors; why were women in med school so daft and weak that they never spoke up and called these male rapists on the carpet??? Instead, they built careers propagating this rape, in the name of “women’s wellness.” Does everyone know what the number one killer of women is? Heart disease. But how many women schedule an annual visit to a cardiologist? You should. I would gladly say FUCK YOU to my nice but clueless gyn, but the system is such that I depend on her for my hormone prescriptions. Otherwise I’d put an end to the annual rapes I must endure.

    • ChasUK says:

      Welcome Shelli – You could put an end to the annuals as it is your right to refuse and to threaten you by withholding any medication whatsoever is simply not legal/ethical – Why not threaten them with going to the authorities with a complaint….the gyn will be very quick to give you your meds to avoid the complaint. Worth a try. No-one should be put through that by force by any means, your body your rules, no decision about you without you.

    • Alex says:

      You can sometimes get birth control (and maybe other medicine) from psychiatrists. I’m guessing you’re in the UK & I’m in the US, but it might work that way there.

      Maybe explaining that there is a detrimental effect from extrapersonally comported penetration which happen yet NOT occur in a medical setting. The term “iatrogenic assault” isn’t well-known, but “medical attack” is usually clear enough. After all, properties don’t change by designation- just like how if a doctor poisons someone with a needle, it’s still murder. This is true with other things, as well (imposed interfaces with sexual areas, for instance).

      I know that, on some levels, America tends to be very favorable toward things getting strange- especially if it’s done with subtlety. I don’t know if it’s like that where you are, but it’s one of the reasons I want to leave this country. Actually, I notice that there is a large propensity toward trying to “crawl into other people’s skin” here. I’ve also noticed that when someone wants to crawl into someone else’s skin figuratively, they tend to make somewhat literal attempts.

      • Shelli says:

        I am in the USA , Alex. You definitely bring up some thought provoking ideas!

      • Alex says:

        Thanks, Shelli. If you want some more, there’s Birth as an American Rite Of Passage by Robbie E. Davis-Floyd. It’s a mistake to think that someone’s psychology isn’t a factor in their assessments & decision-making. This is true with work & the theories that get dispensed AT work (by someone or a group of someones- their psychology would be present).

  6. Elizabeth (Aust) says:

    Shelli
    You can get the Pill from the pharmacy in California and Oregan and other States will follow, so might be worth a trip.
    Also, the only clinical requirements for the Pill is your medical history and a blood pressure test. Routine pelvic and breast exams are not recommended in symptom-free women and more likely to harm you. Pap testing should be offered to the roughly 5% of women aged 30 to 60 who test HPV+…everyone else is not at risk and cannot benefit from pap testing (but can be harmed)
    You can self-test for HPV too…
    It’s concerning that some doctors are still linking potentially harmful excess to the consult for the Pill, more should be done to stop this unacceptable conduct. Taking the Pill off script is well overdue…they don’t require men to have a colonoscopy before they can have Viagra, do they?
    Or a quick feel of the testicles….

    • Shelli says:

      Thank you all for the comments. I am in my 50s and post menopausal. I’ve been ensuring these ritual rapes for decades, and I’m sick of it. But I do hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms (the herbal stuff didn’t work for me), and if I refuse to let my dr molest me, she’ll likely kick me out of her practice. I wish I could get my hormones without having to go through that nonsense.

      • Elizabeth (Aust) says:

        Hi Shelli
        That’s horrible, I was lucky, managed to get through menopause with no meds, it was uncomfortable for about 2 years. I made a decision I’d only go down the HRT path of it became intolerable, thankfully, I didn’t get to that point.
        I know women who use HRT, they’re reminded/pressured to have pap tests and mammograms, but apart from that, think it’s only a blood pressure test and a review of their symptoms/status. A friend told her doctor straight that she wasn’t having pap tests, HPV- women can’t benefit and would not be having mammograms – sometimes it’s a Q of finding the right doctor. I know it’s harder to change your doctor in the States, but would it be worth an email, sound her out…or finding someone else?

      • Elizabeth (Aust) says:

        https://jeanhailes.org.au/contents/documents/ALM/Managing_menopause/HRT_Initial_consultation_PatientUK.pdf

        “Blood pressure.
        Height and weight.
        Other examination as indicated by the history (routine vaginal/bimanual examination is not required).”

        Of course, they mention this consult can include health promotion like pap testing and breast screening, but they’re not clinical requirements for HRT
        They also, mention breast self-exams, they’re not recommended here at all, at any age…it’s breast awareness now.

  7. moo says:

    Can I ask this? What exactly is HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for? I am 51 and somehwat finished with menstrual periods for not wuite a year. Sure I get cranky and sometimes hot but otherwise I am not dying. So I am ok somewhat would some woman like me need HRT for?

    • Elizabeth (Aust) says:

      Hi Moo
      Some women have a difficult time with menopause and find HRT offers some relief from the hot flushes, sweating, insomnia, mood swings, muscle pain, menstrual issues etc.

      I know women who went onto HRT fairly early, in their mid to late 40s and stayed on it for many years, others used it for a couple of years. Some GPs push it, others are more cautious – my GP understood my reluctance, I was also, unsure about the association between breast cancer and HRT. (so was she)
      Anyway, apart from a couple of minor annoyances, I’m over the worst (fingers crossed)
      I was lucky that my periods just got lighter and lighter and then stopped for a couple of months, another light one…and then after about 8 months with a light period every month or two, that was it.
      A friend had awful flooding, some of these women opt for HRT until this unpleasant and inconvenient phase passes.
      So I consider myself one of the lucky ones…
      My mother had no issues at all, menopause was a breeze for her, we’re all different.
      It’s a natural process, not a disease – that’s the way I view it, just like menstruation and pregnancy.

      • moo says:

        So the hot flashes and all symptoms can go away after the menses stop totally? Or is it for many years adter periods stop?

        My experience was more like yours Elizabeth. I had light periods but they were weird (sparing the details). So far it all stopped but but I still get hot and achy. It could be due to some other health problem.

        I used to ger very itchy but I stopped using anti-acid stomach meds and anti histamines and took vitamin B, mulit vitamin and licorce root (dgl) for the stomach. Mostly the insomnia is due to being hot so I wear less to bed and an eye mask (due to security lights at the neigbouring building).

      • Elizabeth (Aust) says:

        It varies, Moo…
        I get the impression most women continue to have temperature issues etc. for a few years after they say goodbye to menstruation. It’s been 5-6 years for me and it’s only been the last 12 months that the temperature thing has settled down. (it was very uncomfortable for 2 years)
        I’m continuing to have skin issues, my older sister is too, we now have very sensitive skin, the products I’ve used for many years are out, my skin can’t tolerate them anymore. I’ve also, had some minor menopausal acne, not really pimples but painful blind spots that take ages to go away – it’s male pattern too, so around the mouth and jawline. The acne is caused by hormonal fluctuations, too much of the male stuff.
        After the temperature issues and/or joint pain, mood swings, insomnia etc. improve, some women are left with skin and other issues simply because they’re post-menopausal.
        The skin gets thinner, skin eruptions/cuts/burns take much longer to heal and are more likely to scar…
        A workmate started taking HRT and noticed an immediate improvement in her skin, the dryness disappeared, skin eruptions and dermatitis are gone too, but I’m not prepared to take the risk with HRT. I’m trying a few things on my skin, it’s slow progress – but I’m moving in the right direction.
        I’m sleeping better now and that helps a lot, the years of broken sleep and insomnia combined with temperature fluctuations all day left me exhausted and irritable – I always felt grubby too from the sweating. (I’d take a spare shirt to work)
        Thankfully, that stage probably lasted for 2 years, but some women struggle with these issues for 10 years or even longer. I can see why some choose to take HRT…even for a couple of years.

      • Mary says:

        Elizabeth if there is no family history of breast cancer I think HRT is pretty safe. Also the study that was done in 2002 that scared thousands of women away was only done on women using Premarin. There are other types of HRT that may be safe. For example, oestradiol valerate converts to exactly the same hormone our body produces. Maybe you could try topical oestrogen for your skin.
        It’s a personal choice but as the only cancer in my family is bowel cancer, (not familial though) and HRT is supposed to protect against bowel cancer, I probably will consider HRT.

      • Elizabeth (Aust) says:

        Hi Mary
        I should look into it really, I tend to stay away from the medical profession unless it’s absolutely necessary.
        I’ve discussed it with my GP, she also said heart disease was a concern, and there’s a family history of that…not breast cancer.
        I tend not to raise these topics because you can often open a hornet’s nest. My sister’s friend also had acne in her 50s, her GP referred her to a gynecologist to discuss HRT – that poor woman endured a bimanual pelvic exam and TVU – apparently, looking for an ovarian cyst or ovarian cancer.
        This is why I tend to put up with things, or look for something I can manage myself, but I’ll definitely do some research. Thanks for the information

      • moo says:

        Oh …. premarin. Made fom pregnant mare urine… so appealing. I would rather have my little hot episodes. I do not feel too bad. No HRT for me.

        Thanks for the explanation.

        There is not enough info about normal natural menopause on the internet.

    • Miso99 (Canada) says:

      Moo, if your menopause symptoms diminishes your quality of life, you can look into bio-identical HRT. Instead of premarin and provera which are lab created synthetic molecules, bio-identical HRT uses real estrogen and progesterone as they’re made by human ovaries, they extract them from plants, soy or flax I think, so no pregnant horse pee!

      Bio-identical hormones don’t seem as harmful as the traditional prem-pro stuff, and the big 2002 Women’s health initiative study was made with prem-pro, and they discovered that breast cancer risk increases slightly with women taking provera along with premarin. But there doesn’t seem to be any increase of cancer or heart disease with the bio-identical hormones. They aren’t widely known since they can’t be patent, which is the case with prem-pro as they’re lab created molecules, while the bio-identical can be found in nature. In Quebec there’s an MD who makes lots of research on menopause, Sylvie Demers, who published a very good book about bio-identical hormones, unfortunately it’s only in French but I found a few articles about her in English : http://qcdaily.com/essential-hormones/765/

      I would definitely chose bio-identical HRT when I reach menopause if I get bad symptoms, but it should be each woman’s decision if she wants to take hormones or not, as long as she get informed consent about all the different type of HRT available.

      • Miso99 (Canada) says:

        Here’s an English power point Demers made that pretty much sums up her book on bio-identical HRT, she explains why the WHI study was badly interpreted by doctors and media and the differences between prem-pro and bio-identical HRT and the bio-identical meds currently available, I think she uses this material to give training session to MDs to teach them how to prescribe adequate bio-identical HRT :
        http://slideplayer.com/slide/10246391/

        Also, Dr John Lee and his work on progesterone is pretty interesting as well, as he explained the many benefits of progesterone on the female body and how it affects women throughout menopause, because a lot of health care folks think it’s only useful for pregnancy.

        A lot of the medical establishment are ignorant about the benefits of estrogen and progesterone on the well being of women during their whole lives, not just menopause, and it’s partly due to the lack of education on it while they’re in medical school I think. It shows by how badly women are treated, either their symptoms are dismissed and told to live with them, or they’re prescribed prem-pro when a safer and more efficient alternative could be offered to them.

      • Mary says:

        Thanks for the info Miso99. I truly believe women’s menopausal complaints are often dismissed by doctors and they are treated as though they just should put up with it. It’s a woman’s choice whether she wants HRT, it shouldn’t be up to the Dr to decide. No doctor would tell a man to put up with erectile dysfunction.

      • moo says:

        Thanks all for the comments. I was taking vitex herb for about two years and I stopped. I might try something else.

        I read that fat tissue stores estrogen so women who are obese might have a more difficult time. Birth control pills for decades with a one dose fit all sizes is going to have some women difficult for their body to remove all the hormones and adjust to lowering levels.

        I cannot think that all older women’s health problems are hormonal and some “pill” will fix them. “It’s never too late to start HRT”. Yeah. Get the customers for life. I would rather just get some herbal based capsules at a health food store and maybe eat flax seed or soy.

  8. I was raped at a young age and sometimes I have somatic pain in my belly. I had a pelvic exam or pap one time and I was asked if I would allow some medical students in the exam room while the procedure or procedures were being done. During the exam it hurt really bad (like no other exam) and I cried out. I did a Google search before coming across this because my belly was hurting and I happened to remember this. Another time a doctor that I trusted was doing a pelvic exam and didn’t use any gloves. Both have troubled me over the years but definitely the more so the latter of the two.

    • Penelope says:

      Hi MsMeagon Pack:

      Welcome to our site. You have my deepest sympathies. What happened to you is very disheartening. Please don’t let it define you. Don’t let men or women who see your vulnerability and pain from this take advantage of you. Hopefully you’ve found some measure of support and comfort in finding our site and knowing that you’re far from alone. I hope you have friends and family and even a counselor that you can trust and open up to. And remember that we’re here too. Hopefully, after reading all of the information here, you’ll never go back for another so-called regular exam. I think, if I may say so, that they realized your vulnerable state and in their coldness figured that they could take advantage. Their motive is to get paid by building you into their clientele. I wonder, Girls who are molested; and I believe this is what these gyns did to you; unfortunately are targets as their self esteem has been lowered to think that they have to submit to people – men – who want access to their genitals. Please remember this even in your personal life, too. These gyn’s who took advantage of you – used no gloves – and allowed people you’ve never seen in life to stare at your private area may get their punishment in hell, yet. It’s so easy for me to get preachy, MsMeagon Pack, please excuse me. And I started not to respond in order to not offend you. However, you’ve compelled me to speak to you. I just want to inform you to ensure you that you 1. know that what happened isn’t your fault. You were taken advantage of by practiced professionals and you have my deepest sympathies and 2. are educated against going back.

      I notice for those women and girls who have been assaulted it’s mind over matter. It depends on the woman or girl and her resilience. Those that realize that it’s not their fault and that they are more than what happened to them – are those that manage to survive. I see women who’ve had one terrible assault and are ready for suicide. (I pray this isn’t you – please call that hotline – don’t be ashamed..). I see in the news about the young women who were kidnapped as girls – held and raped for 10 or more years – re-enter their lives and forge on to be successful as a women. Success – not meaning business success (that can come later…) – but rather they have successfully claimed back their lives – their spirits are healed and they move on. Who sings that song – “This is my fight song…claim back my life song…..”

      When a woman has symptoms, violating her private area isn’t necessary. All you have to do is realize they don’t require the same of men, to know that it is a sham. Blood work, MRI, abdominal ultrasound and abdominal laparoscopy, self-testing, and if at all necessary – something new – a mammogram that doesn’t squish the breasts, rather it takes images. It reminds me of the machine that takes 360 degree X-rays of your mouth at the dentist’s office.

      A gyn doesn’t have to feel your vagina in order to know something is wrong with your uterus. They just have to feel your uterus. There’s no need for looking at anything or insert anything between your legs. They should know from their description of your symptoms and training what you have or may have and then send you for the tests I mentioned that have nothing to do with stirrups. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had none, one, or many sexual partners. Women’s bodies are designed to be strong, not vulnerable because of sexual contact and childbirth – the lie that ob/yn’s make their careers off of. Some women may have issues with conception and birth, but these bastards have taken full advantage to abuse women. The profession needs to be (and is…being) taken over by women….they just need to change away from the male colleagues habits…or they would be no better than them. The pelvic and the speculum – these things never were really diagnostic tools. From all that I’ve read and studied on the internet, including our site ( all of the veteran commenters should have master’s degrees in women’s health as they bring very educational, fact based information to our site…), the so called pelvic exam really needs to be destroyed. It was more of a tool for gullible Victorian women and lecherous, curious males. It was for feeding the Victorian male gyn’s curiousity about the Victorian female body under all of those long skirts and underwear and corsets. Seeing as it has been about a couple of centuries since “gynecology” was started, you would think that this would have progressed away from stirrups and exposing women in such a barbaric way (and then expecting them to accept it…..) with all of the other technical innovations in medicine. A man will never be forced to get into stirrups or have devices applied to their genitals…they absolutely volunteer to allow it because they want it done- or the urologist will wind up punched in the nose, first). No, in this society, it’s more about pleasure and power. As long as women accept it and drag their daughters into accepting it, it perpetuates. However, too slow for us, there are changes and women are waking up. So glad that you are one. I’m just sad it happened this way for you.

      Please keep in touch, MsMeagon Pack, or at least keep reading all that these special women and men have to say here and be illuminated. I hope someday you’ll feel blessed to know when you’ve become victorious over what has happened to you.

    • katrehman says:

      Moo I take black cohosh sweats and flushes which really helps me. Took 3 weeks to kick in. I really don’t want HRT either

  9. Diane Spero says:

    hi its Diane,
    i need to share with others who understand. I called my Dr ( who I like and teats the whole person), to make an apt for an issue I am having. The staff was rude on hung up on.
    I finally got through .I could not get an apt for a while. What gives these people the right to be so rude?
    I have wondered for a while if i have been ( kinda black listed) in the medical community.
    i really do wonder if my refusal of female exams and bad anxiety make them treat me so rudely.

    i hate going to Dr’s it just re traumatizes me. Please tell me i’m not alone.
    i go twice a yr for thyroid blood work. So i really do stay away.
    I can’t piss in a cup because of my trauma with mandated pee test. ( long story).

    i don’t have anyone to go with me or even talk too about this.

    The medical system is caught up in paper work patient care does exist.
    i am polite to these people, though i am quiet and anxious.
    I am sick of being treated so rudely.
    i will let my Dr know of my experience.

    i Feel my computer is teated better when its repaired , than the way medical offices treat people. Maybe it ‘s Florida I don’t know!
    I can’t be traumatized anymore by rude medical staff. They make feel degraded and dirty.

    its so sad that the medical system become so money hungry that people don’t matter.

    Has anyone been able to over come the trauma?
    I feel so alone, and unable to navigate the medical system! Please help!

    • Kelly Corkran says:

      Hi Diane
      .
      You are not alone. Receptionists at medical centres tend to be rude some more than others. It is not personal. I think it is a reflection of how they see themselves more than anything.

  10. Shana says:

    In response to comments about hot flashes… I’m in my mid-40s and I’ve been experiencing hot flashes for several years now. I first tried Black Cohash. It took about 4-6 weeks to start working, but then stopped being effective after 6 months. I then started taking Flaxseed Oil. That really helped me. I’ve also taken pumpkin seed oil. The last few weeks have been horrible though, for me. A few days ago, I started take soy isoflavones and evening primrose oil. I’m not there yet, but I already notice a difference. Soy seems to really help. I’ve taken it before as an additive to another supplement, and I highly recommend it. I read recently that menopause (I’m actually pre-meno) can take 10-15 years. It is my hope that I will never go on HRT. Vitamin supplements are what I prefer. What works for one person may not work for another, and they take time to be effective.

Speak your mind

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s