Should gynaecologists ask about marital status to establish if a patient is sexually active?
This question became the subject of a debate on Twitter when a user, Soumya Mishra (@soumya_mishra), complained of being judged by her doctor for being sexually active without being married.
Meetings with gynaecologists are often talked about in hushed tones. Doctors too are hesitant to probe too deeply if they feel patients are not comfortable talking about their intimate relationships. But sometimes it is relevant to the treatment.
While responding on Twitter, most doctors justified these kind of questions and said they are relevant to the line of treatment. Still Mishra got a flood of tweets supporting her complaint. Read their tweets below to see where you stand:
As an unmarried woman, whenever I’ve been to a gynaecologist, I’ve been asked if I’m married which is a subtle way of asking if I’m sexually active. The judgement from people around you, including the doctors is traumatic. Please save your takes on how India is so progressive. 🙄
— Soumya Mishra (@soumya__mishra) June 27, 2022
Soumya gained support from fellow users. People were quick to point out how asking about marital history is irrelevant and comes across as judgemental.
One user said, while asking about marital history in itself is not the issue, using it as a euphemism for sexual history is.
Your use of the word “marital history “itself is wrong and judgmental,Dr … it’s SEXUAL HISTORY …. The words itself reflect the mindset of a Dr( I m assuming by your salutation) and completely validates Soumya s original tweet …
— Geetanjali Singh Bhat (@anasazi02) June 28, 2022
Priyasamagod, another user, clarified how asking about marital status does not answer questions on sexual history.
You definitely need her medical history, in fair detail. But her sexual history and marital status are not necessarily correlated, is all I am saying.
— Priya Samagod (@priyasamagod) June 28, 2022
Asking about sexual activity is a violation of someone’s privacy said, twitter user, @M1Jazz.
Is being sexually active anything to do with her diagnosis ? If not, then it's unethical & a violation of client privacy.
— Jazz (@M1Jazz) June 27, 2022
Pratyusha Parakala, shared her experience with the gynaecologists stating it has been very exhausting.
Literally my story since the last two weeks. Exhausted, embarrassed, annoyed at having to answer the questions repeatedly.
Current state – border line depressed.
— Prathyusha Parakala (@PrathyushaCFA18) June 27, 2022
On the other side, doctors also, justified asking about marital history. While some said, directly asking about sexual health has caused them problems, some were of the opinion that this helps in proper diagnosis.
One doctor posted that asking about marital history determines whether they could proceed with transvaginal ultrasounds.
As a doctor, I HAVE TO ASK. We aren't supposed to do transvaginal ultrasounds in unmarried/virgin females. I have to rule out or confirm pregnancy. Asking for your marital status is a decent way. The only judgemental person here is you. https://t.co/XJGqM74l5g
— Mayukhi Upadhyay (@Dr_May_yay) June 28, 2022
Another doctor shared his experience of being assaulted by a female patient’s family as they deemed such direct questions on sexual health to be inappropriate.
Other side: I once suspected an ectopic in a adult patient who came with amenorrhea. Asked for sexual history. She told her mum > her mum+ dad were EXTREMELY offended > they came into the exam room to yell aggressively at me & stopped work.
That subtlety=workplace safety https://t.co/abEUSbrubQ
— Devpriyo Pal, MD (@drdevrad) June 28, 2022
Sharing a similar experience, Sujeeth on Twitter says a lot of places consider these topics sensitive and this is an appropriate way of asking about sexual health.
Being a doctor who has served in semi urban,rural areas this is the only way u can ask a women if she is sexually active. As doctors, we need to understand the sensibilities of these people.Ill be thrashed from the girls kin if i ask her directly if she is sexually active.
— Sujeeth_RM (@Sujeeth06948306) June 27, 2022
Another doctor on Twitter, Priyam Saikia (@Priyam_Saikia80) said marital status and sexual activity are necessary information from a medical perspective.
Marrital status and sexual activity are important from medical point of view last time I consulted my books. If those questions hurt you, may be we should change the text books. Or how about you suggesting another way to know those details.
— Priyam Saikia (@Priyam_Saikia80) June 28, 2022
User @AnesthesiaMedic weighed in their perspective by saying how people deem direct questions about sexual health to be offensive.
Many women get offended if you directly ask if they're sexually active ! Doctors never judge any patient.All patients are the same for the doctor. Being sexually active is the part of history taking and helps to come to the diagnosis and planning further investigations/treatment
— Dr S (@AnesthesiaMedic) June 28, 2022
@dr_veeprakash elaborated on how asking about marital history helps in diagnosis, and it is not the doctor judging the patient.
All these lovely 'woke' women tweeting about being offended by the question, "are you married," asked by their ObGyn, let me tell you something as a doctor. Martial status is imperative in the diagnosis and treatment of a patient, especially in OBG. (1/n)
— dr_veeprakash (@dr_veeprakash) June 28, 2022
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