Dr. Ankitha Manohar MBBS, MS, Fellowship in Reproductive Medicine
Consultant OBGYN and Infertility Specialist, Salem
I came across a hashtag on Instagram couple of months back by a popular feminism page called #mygynaecstory. The blood drained from my face as I scrolled down the posts on the hastag. It was full of narratives of women who visited a gynaecologist in anticipation of a solution to the sexual, menstrual or reproductive health issue they were facing – only to be judged, harassed, chided and misinformed about the very problem they went to their gynaecologist with. Most women came out of the consultation with a problem bigger than they had gone in with.
As doctors, we take a Hippocratic Oath – one of the parts of the oath is ‘Primum non nocere’ which is a Latin phrase which means “first, do no harm”. So, the women went through mental harm at the hands of these doctors thus breaking the Hippocratic Oath. I was obviously flustered when faced with allegations against members of my own profession. I recounted my patients and wanted to make sure that I treated them non-judgementally and scientifically.
Each woman should know that her gynaecologist has no right to judge her or body shame her or give unsolicited advice. A few promises are to be made by me (and every likeminded gynaecologist’s) to the women seeking care from us.
1. You will not be body shamed. We understand that women come in all shapes and sizes. Any woman facing reproductive and women’s health issues due to her weight has a right to meaningful and simple advice on lifestyle management instead of being body shamed.
2. You don’t have to worry about whether your pubes are groomed or ungroomed while visiting us. Assessing hair down there is a part of gynaecological examination. Don’t be sorry or ashamed of your au naturel state down there.
3. We will ask you, “Are you sexually active?” and not “Are you married?” A woman’s sexual life isn’t ever going to be dissected in an OBGYN’s office. Although we expect you to answer question sabout sex and sexual partners truthfully, this is only because we want to treat the problem you are facing and not to shame you about the number of your sexual partners or about premarital sex.
4. We will not ask for a partners consent when you choose a mode of contraception. Your body, your rules!
5. We promise to provide unbiased information about every treatment modality available for your condition and allow you to choose the one you want.
6. We understand that marriage is not the solution for your painful periods and that weight loss is not the solution for PCOS. You alone have the autonomy to decide when you want to marry, conceive and have a family.
7. We will not share professional information revealed by a patient over the age of 18 without consent even to a parent. All women have a right to know about doctor-patient confidentiality.
8. We will provide unbiased abortion services in accordance with the legal limitations of our country. But, we request you to listen to our discussion about contraception without dismissing it altogether.
9. We will discuss all interventions with pregnant mothers; help you achieve common ground about various interventions during labour. Formulating a birth plan is very important in achieving a satisfactory delivery experience
10. We will strive to make our clinics gender inclusive and educate ourselves about transgender men and women
Educating oneself from the right source is very important on the path to health. Always check on the person writing the information and their credentials. Hoping to make the gynaecology clinic a better, safer and more inclusive place in the time to come.
Love, Team She