Like I said in the comic, please check out these resources for MUCH more in-depth descriptions and explanations of what to expect at your gynecological visit! Also, you can find a clinic to get yours done by using the “Find a Health Center” feature on Planned Parenthood.
• “Pelvic Exam” on Planned Parenthood
• “Your First Gynecologist Visit” on Scarleteen
• “The Pelvic Exam” on WebMD
• “Do I really need a pelvic exam?” on Scarleteen
• “How do I deal with the results of a medical trauma or abuse?” on Scarleteen (Your doctor needs to listen to you and respect your feedback during a pelvic exam, IT SHOULD NOT BE PAINFUL.)
If vaginal penetration of any kind IS consistently painful, you may have vulvodynia, which is a catchall term for chronic vulvar pain. One manifestation of it is vaginismus, which I covered in an earlier comic!
Scarleteen provides in-depth, non-judgemental information on reproductive and sexual health and is run on donations and volunteers, please donate to support them!
Planned Parenthood provides invaluable healthcare to America’s most vulnerable populations, please support them with a donation as well.
EDIT 8/16/16: Farore Nightclaw, one of my savvy readers, shared these helpful tips on getting through your pelvic exam if you have experienced sexual assault. Read on!
Farore Nightclaw wrote:
I realize it’s probably too late to amend the comic itself, but I feel like it’s worth noting that if you ask, the doctor will let you put the speculum in yourself! This can be GREAT for sexual abuse survivors as it sort of tricks your brain into ‘oh, this is something /I’m/ doing so it’s okay’ instead of ‘a stranger is making my genitals uncomfortable’, plus it’s easier to make it less uncomfortable since you can feel what’s going on down there as you insert it.
Also, due to the shape of a closed speculum, it can sometimes pinch a little going in – usually a sign that the doctor did not put enough lubricant on it, so ask for more if duck lips is biting you! Most doctors will give you tissues to clean up the excess lube with afterwards, but I also highly recommend you go pee when the exam is over, to flush out your bits and make sure you don’t get irritated or just uncomfortable from the lube. They usually err on the side of ‘too much’ rather than risk ‘not enough’ with the lubricant so your junk can be kind of messy after the exam.
And, if you’re a sexual abuse survivor: TELL THE DOCTOR. They are experienced with this and will usually do their best to make it as quick and comfortable as they absolutely can, and may do things like telling any potential assistants or other medical staff to leave the room (to restrict how many strangers you have to deal with), speaking to you soothingly and/or describing what they’re doing as they perform the exam, skipping non-vital portions of the exam (with your permission) to get it over with faster, and so on.
It’s totally okay for you to bring a trusted friend, loved one, or partner, and/or a stuffed animal or other soothing item to help you get through it. I’ve even had a doctor give me as long a time as I needed afterward to cry and get myself together, and not come back in until I stuck my head in the hall and said I was ready. They’re VERY understanding.