I have done a lot of pelvic exams in my career. Women tend to apologize for legs that aren’t shaved or apologizing to me for having to ‘go down there’. I’m not sure why women feel the need to apologize; I always explain that I am there to help them embrace and keep their genitalia healthy. I always offer to let women see their cervix as part of the exam.
It’s still amazing to me how many women have never been offered the chance to see their cervix. I’ve slowly realized that women have a lot of shame around their vagina. Sometimes it comes from abuse, sometimes it’s the message their mother taught them. And sometimes it is low self-esteem. Sadly all of the above reasons are far more common than they ever taught us in medical school.
I had an amazing experience recently. I offered to let a woman see her cervix as part of a normal exam. She was very excited at the idea , and she sat looking at it reflectively for a few minutes. She handed me back the mirror, and we continued with the exam. She started to cry and I asked if she was in pain or if I was hurting her. She shook her head no, as it took her a few minutes to get the words out. Eventually she thanked me. She said she had never seen it, and she felt blessed to see the part of her that gave her beautiful daughter to her. She told me it was the highlight of her day, and she was grateful for the gift of the sight.