Women’s health has historically been one of the more ignored aspects of medical science. For the longest period of time, hysteria was the common diagnosis for symptoms like anxiety, shortness of breath, fainting, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex.
Women’s issues would be dismissed under the pretext that they were just acting up. This is a practice that continues to exist; we have only become marginally better in the last few decades, centuries as a matter of fact when it comes to women’s health.
So when it comes to the reproductive health of women, you can imagine the taboo attached to it, especially in a country like India. Indian women have some of the highest mortality rates in the world especially in their ‘reproductive’ years.
My gynac told me I was experiencing severe pain during periods bc I am “mentally weak” after learning my diagnosis of depression.— Anjali Singla (@AnjaliSingla20) December 6, 2020
I left her office feeling anxious triggered & ashamed. I do not think she realises the damage she has caused. #LivedExperiencesMatter
And a lot of it can be chalked to careless diagnosis by gynaecologist across the country. And while there are a lot of issues that need to be spoken about, we are going to one particular topic, a problem every Indian woman who has been sexually active faces when they visit a gynaec.
It’s this assumption that unmarried women do not have sex!
Y’all talking about how accessible sexual health services are in India when I’m a cis-woman in a metro city whose every gynaec visit has consisted of doctors unwilling to even question if I have an active sex life. Healthcare is barely available and where it is, it’s inaccessible— Tara // flop era (@preyoncex) May 4, 2022
There is still stigma against sex and a weird obsession with virginity that are responsble for some serious negligence on part of doctors, that can and do lead to health issues in women.
My last gynaec was full of judgment because due to my being an unmarried woman, she refused to check me for a UTI despite my reassurance of it being okay. The assumption of morality and virginity is so rampant in India that going to a gynaec is just never worth it https://t.co/yTyh3HszlX— The end times are here (@sanaonearth42) July 8, 2020
Secondly, this country is obsessed with motherhood. So much so that gynaec care somehow always becomes about pregnancy in India. While we talk all high and mighty about having access to abortion as compared to the US, the fact of the matter is that doctors will treat you with a preference for your fetus’ health, which can be at the risk of your own health.
Why is gynaecological health always about pregnancy in India? Given that many Indian women encounter a gynaec only during their pregnancy but this is precisely why gynaecological public initiatives should go beyond pregnancy. #womenshealth— sharon (@sharroness) September 21, 2020
I got a patient ear, and more initiative and knowledge and help from a dermatologist than gyanecologists for a recurring infection. All I learned struggling from one gynaec to another, is that most of them in India are in the business of childbirth. Not women’s health.— Sharada (@suitcaseindian) December 2, 2020
Even with pregnancy, there is hardly any talk about post-partum depression, which is seriously weird for a country obsessed with making babies and worshipping motherhood.
But we are deviating from subject matter a little bit. Why is it that gynaecologists in India are not sex positive? You did an MBBS. You are a doctor with expertise in the subject? Why is sex such a taboo for you? Marriage is not a requirement to have sex.
According to a survey conducted in 2018, the peak age of first sex for women is lower at 15-19. Sex is already made such a fuss of in our country, like the whole family’s honour is gardened in a woman’s vagina and having sex before marriage just kills it. Women get murdered for less in this country. There are not a lot of safe spaces for them to begin with.
An OB/GYN is supposed to provide that safe space to them so they can talk about sex, be educated, be aware, and avoid STDs, pregnancies, and UTIs among other things.
You have one job. That’s it. That is your job. Why don’t you do it? Do you even understand how difficult it is for unmarried women to even visit gynaecologists? Parents don’t allow them to go before marriage, that’s how terribly medieval we are.
she asked me if I was sexually active. On hearing my response, she asked me where I studied, and on hearing the name of my univ, she asked me, "are you sure?" So, basically, she didn't want to believe my answer. And she hadn't even checked me till then. After examining me, she++— Rachna (@RS_dilli) October 30, 2019
Apparently, one of the most common pieces of advice women receive from gynaecs is to practice abstinence or get married. Who the f**k are you? You have no moral authority over your patients. Teaching abstinence doesn’t work. Even I, a cishet man knows that, that’s how many studies have been published on that!
The answer to everything is “get married”. The extremely judgemental, ignorant and unprofessional gynaecologists ensure women don’t go to one, even less than usual. #MyGynaecStory— Mahima Kukreja (@AGirlOfHerWords) November 5, 2019
How is the cure for PCOD marriage? Where the hell did you get your degree? Why do you still have a license to practice?
I was age shamed by the doctor who did my sonography just cause I was single and in my 30s. She also said the “cure” for my PCOD is marriage, cause marriage will help with all the hormonal imbalance. A legit doctor told me this! #MyGynaecStory https://t.co/L7w4K12Pbe— Amena (@AmenaAAzeez) November 5, 2019
Oh, and the bedside manner, OMG, Dr Komolika aunty, ask if you are sex-positive, what does ‘have you been naughty’ even mean?
Visiting a Gynaec as a single woman, I was asked if I had “been naughty”. Matlab kya, Aunty? Did I steal candy from your reception? She spoke more like gali waali gossip Aunty than a doc.— PratishthaKhan (@pratishthakhan) November 5, 2019
Fortunately, I have found good docs who focus on healing, not probing. #MyGynaecStory
Going to the gynaec as an unmarried woman is already an v stressful experience. The taboo of premarital sex, fear of parents finding out.. all of this makes it very hard to prioritize our sexual health! Doctors should NOT be adding to this by dishing out judgment. #MyGynaecStory— Asmita (@asmitaghosh18) November 5, 2019
#MyGynaecStory While in school I had very irregular periods. My mummy took me to a lady doc (not gyn) & she promptly asks me “Idhar udhar to nahi jaati hai?” to imply sexual activity and possible pregnancy! 🤣It was so awkward, I’d have said ‘No’, even if I WAS sexually active! https://t.co/a1S0YoAfD3— Almas Shamim 🇮🇳 (@Almas_Kiran) June 28, 2019
ultrasound if I’m not pregnant. I’ve been asked why I’ve come without my husband. I’ve repeatedly had to explain it’s because of PCOD and I’m always judged by my symptoms, not for my own health, but because it’ll prove trouble for me to conceive later (my “sole” purpose) (2/)— पल्लवी | pallavi 🍀 (@morallygreydesi) July 1, 2019
#MyGynaecStory my gynec laughed when I wanted to discuss birth control methods before marriage. 🙄 https://t.co/wDgIxV35uy— GoCoronaGoooooo pls (@pinkfuzzymind) August 19, 2019
#MyGynaecStory— Dr. Suchi Gaur (she/her) (@sg4devpt) November 5, 2019
Dr: Beta, if you dont reduce weight then how will you marry and have kids. Also, have kids at right age otherwise they will have serious health issues. Also, do not have sex without marriage. Also, why have you come alone to meet me?
OH MY GOD! How are women even alive in this country? Oh, that’s right, we do have one of the highest mortality rates among women here. Wonder who’s to blame! Medical schools need to teach their students to be empathetic and professional towards their patients. Moral policing doesn’t do anyone any good. And no one needs it, no one has ever asked for it. You are not doing anyone any favour by pretending to behave like parents. People already have those.
There’s a lot more to address here, which I wish I were qualified enough to do. So…Just do your job. Do better. And keep up with the rest of the world, FFS. Millions of lives literally depend on it.