Can Female Gynecologists Be More Sensitive to Women's Modesty?
Before modern medicine was established
in the 1800s, male medical personnel were not allowed to be
present at births or other procedures that dealt with the intimate
parts of women due to religious doctrine. Midwives took care
of gynecological needs.
Once the field of medicine and the arena of pregnancy and childbirth
were usurped by modern medicine – all doctors, including
obstetricians were men. Medical schools would not admit women
for a number of years. The first female doctor to graduate from
medical school was Elizabeth
Blackwell back in 1849, although it took more than a century
and a half for female doctors to be considered “normal.”
Check out the historical progression of pelvic exams at the
physicians treating Female patients: Issues, Controversies and
For many years, women had to endure male gynecologists because
female gynecologists were rare. Fortunately, in the past 20
years there has been a big increase in these female doctors.
Overall, women are comfortable with male doctors and male nurses
for non-intimate procedures. For example, many women choosing
a female gynecologist would oftentimes welcome a male orthopedic
surgeon for knee surgery.
Most big cities with 100,000 or more in population have at least
one all-female ob/gyn practice that can guarantee a woman her
baby will be delivered by a female doctor or midwife. In some
big cities specialty female doctors—such as gynecologic
oncologists—are rare or non-existent. Women facing gynecological
cancers should always have the option of a female specialist.
A woman from Minnesota required a hysterectomy, but she did
not want general anesthesia and she wanted a 100 percent guarantee
for an all-female surgery team; also, that her husband be present
for the surgery. Her first female gynecologist said those wishes
could not be accommodated. This patient decided to find another
female gynecologist. This doctor was wonderful because she worked
with her hospital’s administration to accommodate that
patient’s wishes. We need more female gynecologists willing
to accommodate patients’ wishes for modesty.
Here are a few examples of female gynecologists who are not
sensitive to modesty:
1.) A lady required a C-Section and requested
that no medical students be present and her female gynecologist
ignored her wishes. Because of this bad experience, she decided
to not have any more children.
2.) A lady chose a female gynecologic oncologist
from an all-female practice to do her hysterectomy. This lady
made clear that she wanted an all-female team for her surgery
and her wishes were ignored. When she expressed how upset she
was that there were male nurses and anesthesiologist present
for her surgery, her gynecologist argued that they were professionals.
We encourage all female gynecologists
to work on being more sensitive to patients’ modesty.
Below are some tips to use as a guide.
Tips for Female Gynecologists:
starting an all-female practice in an area that does not have
an all-female practice. Keep that practice separate from other
practices utilizing and rotating with male doctors. It is important
for a woman to have the choice of an all-female practice and
a guarantee that her baby be delivered by a female provider.
2.) Consider putting a ‘Do Not Disturb’
sign on the exam door so other medical personnel do not randomly
enter during intimate exams.
3.) Let the woman have the choice of who she
wants to be present for her exams. Some women have expressed
they prefer no nurse present. One woman stated her wishes for
the nurse assisting her gynecologist instead stand at her head
rather than watching during the pelvic exam / pap smear.
4.) Work to give women maximum modesty for
procedures. For example, an abdominal ultrasound should be used
as much as possible instead of a transvaginal ultrasound.
5.) Never push a woman to accept medical students.
6.) Don’t argue with women that they should accept
male medical personnel because they are professionals or very
7.) Keep in mind that most women who have gynecological
cancers care about their modesty and dignity.
8.) Always have a list of female gynecologic
oncologists you can refer women to if it is suspected that they
9.) During general anesthesia patients continue
to expect dignified care. For these modest patients who require
surgery at a hospital or an outpatient surgery center commit
to helping them get an all-female surgical team.
Be open to using local or regional anesthesia whenever possible.
This allows the patient to remain awake and alert during a procedure.
It would give that modest patient peace of mind. Also, they
should have the option of having a personal advocate such as
their husband present.
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