The Real Reason Women Neglect Regular Gynaec Check-ups Crucial In Early Detection Of Diseases!

A woman's body is important only for sex or for producing a baby. She is well cared for during her pregnancy. But after that? Her ‘womanly’ issues are ignored. If she chooses to disclose them, she faces huge opposition.

Every year, ever since I turned forty, I undergo a few routine tests. A chunk of them is gynaecological tests. Pap smear, USG. Transvaginal Screening, etc.  I have a specific clinic where I get these done.  This year, I thought of trying a newly opened branch of a reputed chain of clinics. On reaching there, I billed the details and sat awaiting my turn.

My serial number was three, but to my utter surprise, the next in line was summoned. Imagine waiting for the test with a bladder waiting to burst?

I asked the supervising nurse, ‘Mera number kab ayega? I thought my serial no is 3 and you have sent in 4?’

‘Yes, But where is your attendant?’

‘What attendant?’

‘Someone who accompanies you.’ She informed me.

I replied, ‘There is no one!’

‘Then you have to wait,’ came the curt reply.

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She waved a hand and then disappeared into the USG room.  Soon another nurse appeared and took me aside.

‘Where is your husband?’

‘Are you pregnant?’ She whispered.

‘Nah.’ I tell her.

‘Why do you want to get these tests done?’ She asks me again.

‘All are routine tests and I get them done every year.’

She appeared confused. ‘Where is your husband?’

‘At work,’ I replied.

‘Are you married?

I looked at myself. Not a sign or a symbol to show that I am married. But how are these questions relevant?

‘Sister, what do you want to know? You can stop beating around the bush.’

‘This is a doubtful scenario. You might be pregnant. And your husband is not there with you.’

By then I was irritated. ‘WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ALL THIS?’

‘Madam. There are many such young women who come here to get their tests done. After that, they visit an illegal clinic and get the foetus aborted. ‘

My stomach was hurting with the gallons of water I had drunk that morning on an empty stomach. I was also nauseous. I lost my cool.

‘Listen. I do not care who has what intentions. If a woman chooses to get a foetus aborted, there must be a reason behind it, right?  It’s also a matter of choice. As a woman, you sound highly insensitive. Now kindly get going with my case else I am going to complain to your director. I know him very well. (I was clueless about who the director was. But name dropping often helps.). That had the desired effect. She backed out.  Soon the senior nurse came back and handed me a form. It was a customary form that needs to be filed in before any USG. I had no qualms in signing it.

Soon, the other nurse again came back,

‘The radiologist is a male. Are you okay with that?’ She queried.

I shook my head and asked her to make it fast.

On the bed, the nurse applied a jelly-like substance to a Phallus shaped device and inserted it straight into my vagina. Holding my breath, I gripped the sheet hard. ‘Spread your legs far apart. Don’t worry. Stop being anxious. It’s totally normal. Don’t tell me you are a virgin. Yes yes…. now it’s inside. Just loosen up…’  She kept on muttering while I concentrated on the discomfort in my abdomen.

It was soon over in a while. Relieved, I emptied my bladder and stepped out.

‘If a woman comes for check-ups alone, it’s suspicious only na?’

The nurse drew closer and told me to look around. ‘Do you see all the patients here have an attendant with them? Especially the women.  That woman there…she has her husband with her. That one…has her brother. Over there…she has her mother with her. No one has come unaccompanied. But whenever young girls like you turn up alone, it raises an eyebrow.

I chose to ignore the bit on ‘young woman’. It was no longer a compliment.

‘Yeah, so what does it imply?’  I prod her.

‘That there is nothing illegal happening here. … Also a woman, all on her own sends different signals.’

‘What kind of signals, if I may know?’

‘No family member means she has some secret issue. Often as I told you pregnant women come here. They try to bribe us to know the gender or get details of an illegal abortion. Our job is at stake, Madam.  Then there are sex workers who come here. All those STD’s.’

After a few minutes of silence, she starts again. ‘We usually eye such women with suspicion. People find them bold and brazen, too irresponsible and easily accessible. They give us a bad name. Who wants to service such women?’ Saying this she shrugged her shoulders to express her disapproval and repulsion.

I stand shocked. No wonder everyone was looking at me with disdain. My fault? Well, that I had turned up with no one in tow. There were questions floating around me.

Was I married?

Am I pregnant?

Did I want an abortion?

And they had already decided that I was irresponsible and brash.

STOP putting your moral policing before women’s health

Well, coming back to my favourite refrain. Women for years have been chained up. Her needs were never a priority. And even now, her body is important only for sex or for producing a baby. She is well cared for during her pregnancy. But after that? Her ‘womanly’ issues are ignored. If she chooses to disclose them, she faces huge opposition. A woman’s issues are private. No one else, besides the husband should know. And how many husbands actually keep a tab on their wife’s Gynecological health?

Examination of a woman’s private parts, except during pregnancy is unheard of. That’s taboo. Unless the situation is really critical, she is not taken for a thorough examination. What if the doctor is a man? No question of an examination. I have seen instances where the treatment is either delayed for want of a female doctor or a vague diagnosis by just listening to the woman’s ailment.

A woman expressing her discomfort? No. No. Families are still too conservative to allow their womenfolk to express their medical issues. That’s another reason why gynaecological issues lie unaddressed. Why timely intervention does not happen!

We live in a society where most women do not get regular screening tests done. They are reluctant to open up about their ‘womanly issues.’ No mammograms every year to check for lumps in their breast. No Pap smears to detect cervical cancer. No regular USG or Transvaginal scans. It’s not about money and time. It’s also about the mindset which hasn’t changed. The mindset that forces women to hide behind the curtains.

I hope, we mothers adopt a better approach towards such taboos and educate our sons and daughters better.  It is in our mindset that lies the future of the next generation. Let us not ruin them.

Image source: a still from the film English Vinglish

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About the Author

S Sen

Sreemati Sen, a Masters in Social Work (MSW) From Visva Bharati, Shantiniketan. She is a Development Professional, specialised in Psychiatric care of Differently Abled Children. That hasn’t stopped her from exploring other fields. Years read more...

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