Health Self-Exam for Women

About the way to give a self-exam for women, health and gynecology information.

Self-Examination for Women

At 1st, the idea of a woman examining her own vagina may seem peculiar or even physically impossible. Most women are encouraged from early childhood, subtly or directly, not to touch their own genitals. Because of this conditioning, along with the simple fact that the vagina is not so naturally accessible as the penis, women tend to masturbate much less than men. Nor do women handle their genitals when they urinate. Lacking an easy friendliness with their own bodies, young girls anxiously consult the printed instructions that come with their 1st box of tampons and many nearly give up in despair when they attempt to insert a diaphragm. Many adult women have only a vague picture of what their outer genitalia look like, and the cervix--if they know of it at all--is a mysterious organ deep inside them.

So this important area of a woman's body, felt to be far away and scarcely belonging to her, is delegated to the gynecologist. In America the gynecologist is almost always male, usually charges high fees for each visit, and rarely shares his expertise with the passive, sheet-draped, and embarrassed patient. Consequently, many women wait until a severe itch, heavy discharge, or pain signals something wrong "down there" before they go to the doctor--and by then the problem is often well-advanced.

Recently a growing number of women have recognized that they want better medical care and more information about female anatomy. These women have established more or less formal clinics all over the U.S. and in Europe at which groups of women meet to examine themselves and one another. With regular examination of the vagina and cervix by means of an instrument called a "speculum" (available free or at nominal cost from self-examination clinics), a woman can become familiar with her own unique structure and the normal changes associated with her menstrual periods. She can detect infection at the earliest possible moment, while it is still easy to treat.

Although it can be done alone, self-examination works best in a group of mutually supportive women. It is not meant to usurp the gynecologist. On the contrary, an informed and confident client will know when to see her doctor and, once there, be better able to function with her or him as a team.

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