Vaginas and Disappointing Doctors
I recently watched a programme called “100 vaginas” which was, on the one hand, uplifting and inspiring, and on the other hand, utterly frustrating. It dawned on me that society teaches us not to talk about our vaginas as if they’re dirty or wrong. Periods in particular seem to envoke a response of disgust when they’re entirely natural, although I must admit to finding anything involving blood quite unpleasant, but that has more to do with the fact I’m terribly squeamish as opposed to where the blood has come from. If you haven’t watched it yet, catch it here.
The programme triggered me to think of all the times where I’ve felt embarrassed or ashamed of my genitalia, or where I’ve been let down by the medical profession.
Bad Smear Test
About 12 years ago I was called in for my regular smear test. I’d been in some discomfort before the test but I didn’t know what the cause was, and I explained to the Nurse that I was anxious. She tried to put me at ease and asked me to lay down on the couch, on top of some white tissue paper. The smear test began in the usual way, but I felt extreme discomfort. I explained I was in pain and the Nurse continued with the test, asking me to relax. I then heard her say “There’s some blood” before withdrawing the speculum from my body. I looked down at that moment to see her cupping her hand under the speculum which was dripping blood off the sides. The blood poured onto the floor.
The Nurse put the speculum down, gave me some tissue and asked me to clean myself up, before mopping up the blood on the floor. I looked down at my body, my thighs and groin were red stained and the blood had dripped out of my body and seeped into the white tissue on the couch. Being absorbent, the tissue grabbed onto the blood which spread and it looked like there was a lot more there than there probably was.
I stood up, in shock, and tried to clean myself up. I got dressed and looked in shock at the blood on the floor that was being cleaned in front of me – my blood. From my insides. My cervix is bleeding unexpectedly and I’m not on my period. I told the Nurse I felt faint and she got a chair, telling me to sit down and put my head back (this is incorrect – it should be forward to enable the blood to rush back to the head). She put a pillow behind my head and then realised that instruction was wrong, so she told me to tip my head forward between my legs. She stroked my back to calm me down, before telling me I felt very hot and going to get me some cold water, which I gratefully drank.
After a few minutes I felt a bit better and stood up, and the Nurse let me go asking me to go into the waiting room whilst she got my prescription signed (I was getting some more pills whilst I was there). I walked out of the doctors’ room, still in shock, and decided against the waiting room which was packed full of people. I stood there in reception, trying not to faint again, before noticing an uncomfortable feeling – the lubricant the Nurse had used (which they aren’t allowed to use any more) started to seep out of me and into my knickers and work trousers. I assumed the feeling was more blood, but I didn’t dare look down to check in case I fainted again. However, that familiar, nauseating feeling washed over me again and I ran outside to get some fresh air, grabbing the railings to stop me from fainting again.
After a few minutes of cooling down, I returned to the surgery and asked the Receptionist to find out what had happened to my prescription. She asked the Nurse who was nearby, who seemed surprised I hadn’t got it yet (didn’t bother to check though!) The Nurse went to retrieve it from the Doctor and passed it to me, before I left, went home and called in sick to work.
At my next smear three years later, I went to a different surgery as I had moved house. I told the Nurse I was nervous due to a past experience and she put me at ease, a lot better than the first one did! She did my smear and was very gentle, I had no bleeding and felt fine afterwards. I sat near her to see what she was writing on my medical record and noticed a report of my last smear where the results were contaminated with blood. I spotted the word “Vaginismus” which I recognised but didn’t really understand fully. I don’t know why I didn’t ask the Nurse at the time what it meant, but I decided to google it and found out what it meant. See the NHS website’s description here.
I was miffed that my diagnosis of Vaginismus wasn’t reported to me and if I hadn’t been looking at my medical record, I’d still not know that’s what I had.
Dysorgasmia is a relatively unknown, yet seemingly not uncommon, condition. I’ve suffered with it on/off for around 8 years now.
It’s quite a shocking condition as it can suddenly flare up for no obvious reason. The pain comes on suddenly at the point of orgasm and feels like an intense period cramp. It’s severe enough to make me double over in pain and cry, and I feel my pain threshold is usually quite high. The pain spreads from my reproductive organs into my back and down into my rectum causing diarrhoea. The whole thing lasts for around 15 minutes, so not that long, but it kills the atmosphere and ruins sex. It also puts me off having an orgasm as the pain just isn’t worth the pleasure.
Let down – again
I went to visit my Doctor about these symptoms long before the word ‘dysorgasmia’ was being used online. Explaining the symptoms I was told it was probably just muscle cramps, but I was tested for chlamydia and gonorrhoea all the same. Both results came back clear.
I then decided to try the NHS helpline, before it was abolished. I explained my symptoms and was again told that, unless it was an STD, which I was certain it wasn’t being married, it was probably just my muscles causing me pain as they’re probably “not used very often”. Helpful.
The problem seemed to go of its own accord, then a couple of years later, it returned. I went to my Doctor and was again tested for chlamydia, which came back negative. After this, I felt the Doctors didn’t want to know so I haven’t bothered to return. The last bout of dysorgasmia lasted around four months and almost ruined my sex life, as well as impacting on my blogging. Who wants to write about sex toys when orgasms hurt?
What have I learned?
Unfortunately, I’ve learned that people can let you down when it comes to your intimate parts, and I do feel very let down. But I’m a different woman these days, far more confident and I won’t be fobbed off any more. If I suffer pain or discomfort, I’m going to get it checked out and I will keep returning until the issue has been sorted. If this post only helps one person to decide “enough is enough” and get their medical professionals to take their pain and discomfort seriously, then it was well worth writing. Don’t suffer in silence! If I had my time again I would’ve reported the Nurse who diagnosed me but didn’t bother to tell me. I would’ve demanded my pain be taken seriously and asked for support in treating the conditions they didn’t take seriously.
If you have a similar story, I’d love to hear about it – please tell me about it in the comments below!