When A Doctor Humiliated Me For My Pain During A Scan!

I was astonished. A female doctor had me feel uncomfortable, unworthy, and deficient. However, here, a male doctor made me feel safe and comfortable. I felt treated with dignity and not reduced to some baby-making machine.

Trigger Warning: This deals with gaslighting by health care personnel and violence against women and may be triggering for survivors.

My husband and I had been married for three years, and during this period, we were frequently asked if we had any ‘good news’ to share. That opportunity came, later that year when we travelled from Singapore to India for the annual holidays. I was at my native place when I realized my periods were late. A simple pregnancy test confirmed my suspicion.

My mother, in her excitement, recommended I extend my trip and that we consult a doctor immediately before I flew back. She acquired the contact of a reputed female Gynaecologist who was supposed to be the best in her field.

The next day, Amma and I waited for hours outside Dr. A’s room at the hospital. Finally, it was our turn. Dr. A was all business and insisted that we get a transvaginal ultrasound done to confirm the pregnancy since it was quite early.

This procedure involves inserting a thin probe into a woman’s vagina that helps generate images.

The shock I went through!

I slipped out of my clothes and lay on the examination table with only a thin curtain partition and nurses barging in and out. Dr. A didn’t bother to explain what she was doing. She applied lubricant gel to my insides. When the probe was inserted into my vagina, it hurt. I felt a deep searing sharp pain, like a urinary tract infection. I squirmed, and the probe slipped out.

I thought the doctor would be concerned. Instead, she started shouting at me.

“What is wrong with you? Aren’t you intimate with your husband? Why is this probe hurting so much?”

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I was shocked and humiliated. To make matters worse, a nurse sniggered in the background. Dr. A inserted the probe again, a little roughly. I clenched my teeth and tolerated the pain, because I didn’t dare to complain.

Once the scan was done, she left. I reassured myself that this pain was a small price to pay; after all, I was going to hear about my baby!

My token number was called, and I went into the consultation room with Amma. I thought Dr. A might apologize for her abrasiveness. Instead, she started rebuking me for being ‘sensitive and delicate’.

“How long have you been married?”

“Three years.”

“No wonder it took you so much time to get pregnant!”

We waited for three years because ours was an arranged marriage, and it takes time to forge camaraderie and trust, build a new home, and establish a career.

But why did I need to justify our choice to her? Did she expect us to have conceived on our wedding night?

“Where is your husband?” she demanded.

“He left two days ago to visit his parents. I stayed back for the tests.”

She gave me a scornful look as though my husband had abandoned me because of some problem. My mother was sitting next to me stone-faced, embarrassed at this exchange.

“Please tell me if my baby is OK,” I pleaded.

“You don’t have to be so emotional! You studied biology at school, right?”

What?

I wanted to get out of there. The moment that I had dreamt about had been reduced to shambles.

Was something wrong with me? Was I the only woman to have felt pain?

We returned home feeling glum. I told Amma wild horses wouldn’t drag me back in there. I broke down. She told me she understood and shared her similar experience with a reputed lung specialist.

Amma had needed lung surgery when she was young, but during every visit, the doctor would aggressively advise my grandfather to find a husband for her because surgery would hamper her chances of marriage. She told me that every consultation ended in tears, not just for her, but also for her father.

But they tolerated it, only for the doctor’s expertise.

I had had enough!

I decided that I’d get my check-up done in Singapore. Amma promised she would visit closer to the delivery date. I flew back the following week. I wondered which Gynaecologist I should consult. Finally, I checked with a General Practitioner for recommendations. She wrote down a name.

Dr. T.

“But he is a man!” I insisted.

“He is a very good doctor,” she replied.

I looked up other female doctors, but they didn’t have appointments that week. As luck would have it, Dr. T did have a slot. Two days later, my husband and I went down to see him. Dr. T seemed jovial and cheerful, and put me to ease, despite my initial misgivings.

“We will have to do a transvaginal scan.”

Uh-oh! Here we go again: round two of humiliation.

Dr. T saw the look on my face and assured me that it wouldn’t hurt. I wanted to tell him that I wasn’t normal, like other women. Hadn’t Dr. A implied that?

The nurses were kind and told me it was going to be OK. They stood next to me as the scan was performed. The doctor told me to take a deep breath and spoke reassuringly. I felt mild discomfort and expected pain. But before I felt the pain, the scan was over!

I was astonished. A female doctor had me feel uncomfortable, unworthy, and deficient. However, here, a male doctor made me feel safe and comfortable. I felt treated with dignity and not reduced to some baby-making machine.

I saw that tiny blob on the ultrasound, my baby. Still a cell, but already the owner of my heart and my soul, That moment was beautiful, like how it should have been. I ultimately had my delivery with Dr. T.

Today, I am a mother to a lovely, healthy daughter. One that I am raising as a feminist.  I believe that Doctors are angels; they do God’s work, and I have the utmost respect for them. I’m sure there are Dr. As and Dr. Ts everywhere. However, a little empathy and respect towards patients goes a long way in making this world a better place for our children.

Editor’s note: Women regularly face #MedicalMisogyny from health care professionals. For the WHO World Health Day 2023 theme of ‘Health for All’, identifying this misogyny and ensuring #Equity in healthcare is essential. All of April, we will be sharing stories with you on this these, either personal stories or fiction. Find them all here.

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About the Author

Lalitha Ramanathan

Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...

54 Posts | 75,512 Views

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