Melanie Notkin, the author of the popular book “Otherhood,” and women’s health nurse practitioner Aimee Holland, discuss with College News magazine the importance of GYN health and regular checkups. A new survey helps clarify the confusion over the different types of tests women should be getting. It explores everything from preparing for an appointment to the conversations they should be having with their healthcare providers. The survey also reveals the hilariously surprising things that women think about before they prepare for their gynecological exam.
College News: Melanie, can you tell us more about the survey and its findings?
Melanie Notkin: It’s a hilarious survey! We asked women how they prepared for their gynecological exams and as it turns out, about 85 percent of us are spending a lot of time preparing for when we get to the office! The problem is that we may be focused on things that are less important. For instance, eight and 10 of us are thinking about granny panties over wearing lingerie. Four to five of us are thinking maybe we are going to want to ware socks in the stirrups—so we are picking out our socks! Once we get there, 79 percent of us are thinking—oh no, do we need to go to the lady’s room?
We are thinking about, 'does the robe go this way or that way?!' So we have all this stuff that is on our mind. The problem is, we are not thinking about the important things. We are not spending that extra seven minutes in the shower thinking about the conversation that we want to have, the question that we want to ask. There are no stupid questions to ask your healthcare providers! Women are not preparing for the conversations they should have and that to me was surprising.
"The problem is, we are not thinking about the important things. We are not spending that extra seven minutes in the shower thinking about the conversation that we want to have, the question that we want to ask."—Melanie Notkin
CN: Did you personally relate to any findings of the survey?
MN: Oh yeah! Especially the part about having to go to the lady’s room when you walk into the exam. That is totally me! I totally hide my panties under my clothing. It’s a thing we do! But anyway certainly in my twenties, I didn’t know what questions to ask but even if I did, I was kind of intimidated. I didn’t want to ask them! I thought, well they are the healthcare provider, they know what to tell me, what screening and tests I need and what those tests mean; what HPV is; how common it is. I just left if to them.
I certainly learned that women have to empower themselves with their reproductive health. We know when something is off. Even if we do not know something is off, at least know that we have to ask questions. So I’ve learned now to tell my true story and ask those tough questions and make sure that I’m working with a healthcare provider that I can trust and feel comfortable with. So I related to a lot of it. My concern is that women are not prepared for those exams and I want them to be. Because I know that once I became more secure, it helped me get the right information.
CN: Dr. Holland, were there any results that gave you any cause for concern?
Aimee Holland: Yes, absolutely. As a college health women’s practitioner who provides healthcare for women in college, I understand what is important to women and women tell me what is important to them. So, when I read this survey, I was caught off-guard that women prepare but not how I thought they prepared! I thought they wrote down their questions, thought about prevention or “do I need to be screened for cervical cancer?” What about sexually transmitted infections? What that tells me as a nurse practitioner who takes care of college women, is that I need to ask those questions. What’s important to you? What screenings do you think you need today? I’d like to give a quick shout out to the National Association of Women’s Health and healthywomen.org. Thank you for having us!