The pelvic floor exam is an essential procedure for diagnosing and treating various conditions like pelvic pain, incontinence, and prolapse. However, as the cases of abuse by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar came to light, it's crucial for patients to be aware of the process and their rights during this examination. In this guide, you will understand the details of the pelvic floor exam, the lessons that can be learned from the Nassar case, and how to protect yourself from potential abuse at the hands of medical professionals. Share this information to help others stay informed and safeguard their well-being.
1. What is a pelvic floor exam?
A pelvic floor exam is a medical procedure conducted by a healthcare professional to assess the functionality of the pelvic floor muscles, which are responsible for supporting the bladder, uterus, and rectum. The examination includes a visual inspection of the external genitalia and an internal manual examination to assess the condition of the muscles, joints, and soft tissues.
2. Pelvic floor exam steps:
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- Initial discussion: The healthcare professional should start by providing an overview of the exam and addressing any concerns or questions the patient may have.
- External examination: With the patient lying down in a comfortable position - usually with their feet in stirrups - the examiner observes the external genitalia for any signs of infection or injury.
- Internal examination: The healthcare provider then inserts one or two gloved, lubricated fingers into the vagina or rectum to assess the strength, tone, and control of the pelvic floor muscles. They may also examine the bladder, cervix, uterus, and ovaries. This part of the exam should never involve more than two fingers or be performed without gloves.
3. From the Nassar case: Red flags to look for
- Inappropriate touching: Medical professionals should never touch the private areas for an extended period or without an acceptable medical reason. Larry Nassar, for example, conducted "intravaginal adjustments" without proper justification.
- Lack of communication: Healthcare providers must explain the steps and purposes of the exam. An uncommunicative examination could be a warning sign.
- Limited supervision: Pelvic exams should be conducted in a professional setting with supervision or a chaperone present if requested.
4. How to protect yourself during a pelvic floor exam:
- Know your rights: Understand that you have the right to refuse or pause the exam at any time, request a chaperone, or have a witness present.
- Trust your instincts: If the health professional's demeanor or actions make you uncomfortable, voice your concerns.
- Find a certified provider: Choose an examiner with the appropriate credentials and a positive reputation in the medical community.
Pelvic Floor Exam Nassar Example:
Imagine a scenario in which a woman schedules a pelvic floor exam for chronic pelvic pain. She diligently researches and chooses a medical provider with excellent reviews. During the appointment, her doctor takes time to explain the exam process and address her concerns. The doctor also offers a chaperone, though she declines. She is comfortable with the professionalism displayed and trusts her chosen provider, leading to a productive examination that ultimately helps her find relief from her chronic pain.
A pelvic floor examination is a crucial part of understanding and treating many health conditions. Though the disturbing Nassar case reminds us to stay vigilant and informed, it's essential to remember that there are many highly skilled professionals dedicated to helping patients achieve optimal health. By being educated about what to expect during a pelvic floor exam, recognizing red flags, and knowing your rights, you can take control of your health journey and have confidence in the examination process. Don't forget to share this guide to spread awareness and empower others to seek the care they need without fear of exploitation.