“How old are you?”
“Are you married?”
“Are you in a serious relationship?”
“Do your parents know?”
Visiting a gynaecologist is terrifying, for more reasons than one in India. While you genuinely sign up for a general health check, it often means you’ve also signed up for the next Spanish inquisition. I’m not saying every gynaecologist out here in this country is terrible. I’ve found myself two decent doctors; one back home, and one here in Mumbai. I won’t say they’re the best, because while they do provide services; I know they’re still holding back. Whether this is by choice due to societal expectations of what a traditional Indian woman should be, or whether they think it’s for my best, I’m not sure.
What I am sure of, is this—my cervix has been bearing the brunt of this backward thought process. At the age of 21, my cervix shouldn’t even be any cause for concern. Now, I know what you’re thinking. It was clearly my fault for not having done something about this sooner. However, five doctors down the line, each taking me apart, accusing me of things I hadn’t even done, wasn’t just ridiculous, it was downright humiliating. It all began at the age of 18, when I first visited a gynaecologist. I was an avid swimmer, and had managed to contract a yeast infection, due to the public pool I used to swim in. (Stop peeing in the pool, for heaven’s sake!)
I can assure you, at this point of time, I was most definitely not sexually active—most of my time was spent behind a computer screen, living on the internet. However, this gynaecologist refused to believe the same.
“Don’t lie to me, young girls like you are always in some relationship or the other.”
I was being accused of being ‘loose’ when all I wanted to know was why my own vagina refused to let me sleep peacefully, all night. My father, who was waiting outside, was also brought into the conversation as a threat by said gynaecologist, as she continued her barrage, “Does your father know?”
Can you even imagine how terrified I was at this point? The internet had failed me, because as usual, it told me I had cancer, as all my symptoms checked out—and now, this lady who I expected to understand and deal with my concerns, refused to even look at me as another patient, as I had no apparent ‘morals’. (All this, while my god damn pants were around my ankles!)
I walked out of her room, shaken up, hearing her insults echo in my head. Her ‘prescription’ (which was a random anti-fungal cream) lay crumpled in my hand, which I handed to my dad, without any words. He asked me if it had gone well, and all I could do was nod, and hope my smile was reassuring enough.
Later that day, my mother visited the same gynaecologist—she returned with glowing reviews.
After that, I refused to step into another doctor’s office, fearful of another encounter that scarred me as much as this one. Her prescription was helpful for a week or so, only. After that, the infection came back for a good year. I simply lived with it, just fearing another doctor’s visit, until I was forced to visit another by my friend, who she said I could trust.
While this gynaecologist was great, he was also incredibly busy. Even if you made an appointment, you’d be waiting for well over an hour, after which you’d walk into his office and walk out, in less than three minutes. While he did ask questions, he didn’t dig too deep into the matter, merely listening and nodding occasionally. He too, dismissed my problem as a simple fungal infection—blaming my lifestyle.
At this point, each time I visited a different gynaecologist, it was only when my ‘problem’ became unbearable. Each time, I questioned my own body’s inability to keep its shit together, having constant breakdowns that my poor mother has been witness to, and altogether, hating on my confused vagina and its inability to just BE. I mean, none of my other friends had to deal with their vaginas failing at the ONE thing they were meant for.
Today, four entire years down the line, I have my answer, as to why this issue keeps recurring. A gynaecologist I met in Mumbai, after letting me voice my concerns, and genuinely listening to me, immediately ordered me to schedule in a pap smear. One week later, I found out that my cervix was now ‘diseased’—simply because I, and my fellow gynacs had failed to curb the infection, years before.
Ladies, your cervix is no joke. While it’s great that I finally know what’s going on in the great land down under, I’m also still under medication, and have been for the last three months. If there’s no improvement once I stop with the medication, I’m probably going to be stuck on said medication till I have my first child, after which, surgery is my next option.
So, think about this. When was the last time you visited a gynaecologist? Stop putting it off. Please, PLEASE don’t push that appointment to next month. Get those check-ups. While we do need more gynaecologists to understand us, and be less judgemental; if I had spoken up earlier, and just voiced these concerns from my first visit to my parents—I wouldn’t be at the stage I am today. Do yourself a favour, ask your friends for trusted gynaecologists, or do some research online, but do yourself a favour and get your vajayjays checked out.
As for you, gynaecologists? It wasn’t just me. It was definitely you too.
And that needs to change. All of you dismissed this case, as ‘just another infection’, simply because I had no ring on? Or was it because I needed to atone for whatever sins you devised in your minds?
Either way, I’m paying.
And all I can say is, it isn’t fair.
Not to me, and definitely not to the next young woman in your waiting room.