Welcome to Harpy Seminar, a regular feature we plan to have at regular intervals, unless we get too busy to have it at regular intervals, in which case it shall appear whenever we have time and inclination for it. Each Seminar begins with a question, which we discuss amongst ourselves, and we then edit the highlights of our conversation into a post. Please feel free to join in in the comments!
So this week I went for my annual look-see at the ob/gyn. The nurse-practitioner I usually see asked if I would be willing to let a student do the exam instead of her, and I agreed. The student nurse, Rebecca, was really cool and we chatted about “Mad Men” (love it!) and the Stupak Amendment (HATE IT!) while she stuck various things in my vagina. It made me glad that women like her are still joining Team Women’s Health, despite the insanity of malpractice insurance, harrassment by right-wing wackjobs and betrayal by our elected representatives.
I’m lucky my insurance covers the feminist, all-women practice I go to (if you’re in NYC, I highly recommend them). Like most women, I’ve had both positive and negative experiences when it comes to reproductive health care, and I had to work to find the right place for me. Today, we’re oversharing about our ob/gyn experiences.
Let’s discuss the good, the bad and the ugly of gynos. Planned Parenthood? Student health centers? Private care? Male doctors? Female doctors?
PhDork: I went to PP from the get-go, pretty much. Spring of my freshman year of college until ’01, when I got a full-time job with coverage, and then back to PP from ’03-05 or so, when I got on the Dude’s insurance.
SarahMC: I went to PP for exams and birth control when I was in college. My experiences were always positive there, as well.
BeckySharper: Have never been to PP. My first pelvic was done by the same nurse-midwife who delivered me (she was always MamaSharper’s health care provider). It was very circle-of-life in an oddball feminist kind of way. That was a good experience.
Then, when I was in college, I went to the student health center. It was state-run (I went to a public school) and in the Bible Belt. It was about as bad as you’d expect. I wrote about it in my post on yeast infections; they basically operated under the assumption that all college women were dirty, dirty sluts, and they should scare us as much as possible so we’d cease our slutty ways. Hence, I was told that my perfectly normal yeast infection might be caused by HIV, even though I’d only had one sex partner. Stories like this were rife on campus; the place was just a pit of alarmist paternalism. Oh, and they used metal duckbills and refused to prescribe Plan B. After one experience there, I paid out-of-pocket to see a private doctor in town.
The student health docs were both male and female, and actually, the most judge-y of the bunch was female, so it kind of blew up my idealistic theory that women ob/gyns are always more sympathetic.
SarahMC: Luckily, my experiences have been fine with both female and male doctors and nurses. I don’t have a particular preference for one sex. Whenever I’ve seen a male doctor, there has always been a female nurse in the room during the exam (which does make me more comfortable).
sarah.of.a.lesser.god: I had a private and male OB when I was pregnant, and he was fantastic. I actually felt far more comfortable with him than I did with the two female GYNs I previously had. I get a yearly pap smear from my regular internist, who is a woman.
BeckySharper: I don’t have a problem with male gynecologists, but I choose to see female ones. I much prefer dealing with women simply because I think their first-hand experience–they have vaginas and they’ve been in the stirrups too–gives them a better understanding of any issues I might have, physical or otherwise.
PhDork: I’ve had almost universally good experiences with the nurse-practitioners. Some were warmer or more chatty, some were taciturn or even brusque, but no horror stories of rudeness or pain or judgment. And, thank Dog, no “so let’s talk about you having babies” stuff, although they have thrown in “if you get/want to get pregnant” every now and again. I just nod. They said “if.”
All of my providers have been women, and yes, I prefer that (although maybe now simply because that’s my normal?). But I agree there’s something to be said for the value of shared genital experience.
What do you think? Share your genital experiences in the comments…