Learning to Advocate for Yourself

Dr. Corey Babb made a video recently answering a question about vaginismus & pelvic exams. While he appears to address & instruct providers in the first part of the video, he offers some hope for patients in the latter part of the video. At the end, he offers a mic drop: Patients have the right to say,”No, I’m not going to have an exam today.”

Based on the comments on the Tiktok version of the video, this was earth shattering for a lot of women. I’ve known for awhile that it’s okay to say no to an exam, and in fact, I did just that in December. Saying no to an exam for the first time can be scary, but I can tell you, the feeling of walking out of the office knowing that I used my voice to advocate for and protect myself from further harm was well worth whatever discomfort I might have caused the doctor in the process. By saying no once, it will make saying no the next time a little easier. Here are some tips for patients who want to decline an exam:

1) Practice in the mirror before you go–This will help you see your body language and build confidence.

2) Role-play with a friend or loved one pretending to be the nurse, or the doctor–This gives you a chance to see if you feel more comfortable declining to the nurse or directly to the doctor.

3) If you’re seeing a doctor for the first time, communicate your desire to *not* have an exam to the scheduler on the phone.

4) If you’re seeing a doctor you’ve seen before, tell the nurse what you’re hoping to get (or not get) out of the appointment.

5) Take a friend or a relative with you as back up. Tell them ahead of time about your plan for the appointment so that they can remind you if it looks like you’re getting overwhelmed.

Remember, part of healing from complex gynecologic pain is reducing future trauma. Learning to advocate for yourself is part of that process. You are beloved, precious, and mighty, and you have the power to say no to unnecessary, or simply unwanted exams.

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