I was lucky enough to start my gynaecological life at Planned Parenthood in the US. I went for my first exam and they were brilliant. They helped teach me to relax. I was always in the same position. They had enough light to see. They always had their instruments within reach. They told me what to expect before they started anything. They were gentle. Consequently I feel that internal exams are uncomfortable but not painful.
My one of my first internal exams in the UK I was asked if a trainee could do the job. Well, I was so confident and relaxed I said “No problem!” This idiot put the implements in horizontally, not vertically. He was spreading me wider and wider but had no decent view of my best feature. His supervisor pointed out the error and this trainee – who is still a soprano thanks to his next move – pushed the implement from horizontal to vertical without collapsing it first. It is little wonder that I grabbed him by the soft dangly bits and said “DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN!!”
Generally speaking, the exam is different in the UK. I remember being very confused: I scooted to the end of the table and tried to put my feet into non-existent stirrups. Here, women are expected to lie on the middle of the table with their legs bent. Doctors in the UK have to reach over a leg, move the light several times, and reach back and forth for the instruments just to get to your best feature. It’s little wonder that I spent one year going back and back to the doctors in order for them to find my cervix. At one point I five attempts to get a decent sample for my annual smear test. By the end of it, I was concerned that there was something evil lurking in my best feature but I was finally given the all-clear.
The thing that’s the same on both sides of the Atlantic: you have to lay back and think of England!