Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Please, dirty ob/gyn secrets

In the past week, I have read this blog post, which heavily praises a male OB who supported a mom in a VBAC after 3 previous c-sections.

I have also read this Washington Post article (and also this and this) about Nikita Levy, the male OB/gyn who committed suicide after being caught out for secretly filming and photographing his patients. And no, he wasn't working in some sketchy, no-name practice. He worked for Johns Hopkins.

I can't link to this because it was in Birth as an American Rite of Passage, but I have also read the birth story of a woman who had a male OB with major anger/control issues who repeatedly screamed at her while she was in labor and cut a huge, ugly episiotomy apparently for spite, since she would not consent to a c-section when there was nothing complicated going on with her labor.

I've also thought about my mother, who had an awesome first birth with a progressive, naturally-minded male OB, but who was severely abused and disrespected by all of the other male OBs she ever had to work with--hence why 3 of us, including me, were born at home with midwives.

What is to be done? I have written before about my general feelings on male ob/gyns. Yes, I'm aware that there are honest, hard-working, high-quality male ob/gyns in the world. I'm glad that they exist. I'm glad there are awesome, natural-friendly, VBAC supporting male OBs out there. Some of them have made all the difference for their patients. Some of them have helped women achieve their dream birth. Male ob/gyns can be very good doctors. But honestly, how as a woman can you make sure you're not seeing a Nikita Levy?

It's just hard for me to understand how so many women are comfortable with male care providers for their reproductive health. I feel really uncomfortable when other women casually talk about weekly "cervical" checks by their male OBs, or go into detail about their male OB's assessment of their vagina. And then there's the even more nauseating premarital gynecological exam recommended to young women in certain states out west--young LDS women who have probably never had any sexual encounters of any kind, and who are encouraged to have a gynecologist--often a male gynecologist--"stretch them out" before their wedding night so that their wedding night isn't painful. Wow, I can't believe I just got through typing up that description without vomiting. It is something I have been aware of for a long time, but has horrified and revolted me so much that I have rarely, if ever, been able to bear thinking about it.

We're talking about the most personal part of your body, and biologically, the only reason a male would have interest in/access to that part of a female is for sex. I think that a male who can successfully repress all sexuality when looking at and touching a woman's lady parts is the exception, not the rule. I'm not saying 100% professional male ob/gyns don't exist. I'm just saying...Nikita Levy created a lot of evidence about his secret rapes. There are probably thousands of other male ob/gyns who are just as creepy and sexually abusive but don't fill up 10 computer hard drives worth of images and video.

Okay, I'm going to say it--it's not probable. With the jacked-up sexuality of our culture and the INSANE porn industry in today's world, it is certain that there are thousands of other male ob/gyns who are just as creepy and sexually abusive as Nikita Levy. It is certain that many, many male ob/gyns get sexual pleasure out of examining their patients. In the Post article, a rep from Johns Hopkins said this was "such a unique situation." I don't agree. I don't think male ob/gyns just flip a switch and turn off their biology when they walk into an exam room. It is not impossible. I just don't think it's common.

This is all conjecture, of course. I doubt there have been surveys/studies done of male ob/gyns that ask, "Oh, by the way, do you get sexual pleasure out of doing pelvic exams on your patients?" Even if there were research done, what ob/gyn would ever admit it? It would be completely damning for them individually and for their colleagues as a whole. Nikita Levy killed himself after being caught.

So how can a woman ensure her own safety and privacy when it comes to reproductive health care? There's no easy answer, especially since most of Nikita Levy's patients loved and trusted him. But some possible ideas?

  • Choose midwife care or a high quality female ob/gyn
  • Only use a male ob/gyn if absolutely necessary--ie, female care providers are not available or cannot provide the particular medical care that you need 
  • Go to appointments with a spouse or friend? This may be more possible/comfortable for some people than others.
  • Minimize pelvic exams. Cervical checks during pregnancy really truly mean nothing and can do more harm than good. Sometime, I may write an entire blog entry about why I plan to never have a pelvic exam during pregnancy again. For non-pregnant state, the recommendation for a pap smear is every 3 years, so unless you have specific reason for concern, you shouldn't need a pelvic exam more often than that. 
  • I'm not saying you shouldn't be nice to your care provider, but...I dunno. If it's a male care provider, consider keeping things strictly, strictly business. It makes me feel pretty queasy to read about how all these women were confiding in Nikita Levy and telling him private emotional things all while he was sexually exploiting them. 
  • Be informed about what is supposed to happen during pelvic exams. Be informed about what instruments need to be around. (Nikita Levy was finally caught because a female colleague noticed an unusual pen hanging around his neck during appointments. Turned out to be a pen camera). Even if it feels awkward, ask questions about what is happening and make sure there is no extra or unexplained time taken.
  • Listen to your instincts and keep your creepo sensors set to high. Never hesitate to change care providers for any reason!
Yeah, those are just my thoughts. I'd love to hear some more ideas about this, because...I have felt really disconcerted by this news about Nikita Levy.

Some people may think I'm being paranoid, harsh, or overly cynical. But my mama didn't raise no fool.

5 comments:

  1. Oh, I agree so whole-heartedly. SO whole-heartedly. I have met some great male OB/GYNs... I even went to Dr. Parker once when the midwives at Timp weren't available and he was awesome. But yeah, as my best friend Kaitlyn said to me once: "a male ob/gyn is like a car mechanic whose never driven a car." (I'm sure she didn't make that up)

    They just. don't. get. it. Even if they aren't creepy and sexually exploiting you. And I've had midwives who didn't have children, that's not it. It's the entire female experience.

    And don't get me started on the "stretching" thing. Seriously, WEIRD. And why does your wedding night need to be a perfect sexual experience? Rarely anyone's first time will be great... but it's the exploration and newness that's so fun. You won't have multiple orgasms and figure everything out the first night, but I think Mormons have this weird skewed perspective on THE WEDDING NIGHT. Looking back, I wish we hadn't even had sex... we were super tired, and it would've been nice to have waited :)

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  2. Ugh, what a creepster. To add to that, I have a story about my mom's Ob/Gyn (a male... and in Texas, to boot). Apparently one of his patients (thankfully not my mom, but a friend of hers) went into labor at full term, but because the doctor had a golf tournament that weekend, he gave her some kind of shot to delay labor until he got home, putting her in extreme discomfort for 48+ hours. After hearing that, my mom switched doctors, heh. Granted, it was a long time ago, so I hope he wouldn't be able to get away with that today.

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  3. There are bad doctors in all fields. I will agree that this doctor was a creep. But there are creeps everywhere, in all fields of medicine. Really, in all fields of life. I can understand how a story like this can shake your faith in the system and give you a sense of distrust for your providers.

    That said, I think it is unfair to lump all male OBGYNS in the category of "weirdos and perverts" or "just not getting it." Firstly in response to the "a male ob is like a car-less mechanic" argument. This logic is simplistic at best. Does your cancer doctor need to have cancer to be a good provider, or to understand the "cancer experience?" Does the fact that I've been a child at one point make me a great pediatrician? The answer is no.

    As far as "vaginal stretching," I've never heard of that or would condone it except for certain specific medical conditions (ie - mullerian agenesis).

    And finally, in response to your comments about "turning off my sexuality." I know that your vagina is special to you. It's not special to me. During our appointment I'd be too busy with assuaging your worries about cervical cancer or your pregnancy to be ogling your privates.

    I got into this field because I love delivering babies, and I'm great at gynecological surgery. Period.

    Right now male OBs make up about 25% of the population, so in no way is it a male dominated field. I understand if you don't feel comfortable seeing a male OB. I completely respect that. However, I do feel that it is misguided to go on a crusade to sway other females opinions about their provider choices. Thank you.

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  4. I think you make a very good point, as with any field some people just don't belong in it. If you go into it for the wrong reason then you'll have trouble later on. I am looking for obgyn in Pueblo, CO. Any suggestions? Male or female would be fine.

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  5. I like anal rape.
    That's what my social worker and foster mom forced me into when I was a minor. So I could keep my horse and live there. And the poor ob/gym didn't know he was being set up by the social worker b*tch because her daughter had reported something. I had to have an anoscopy without lube or anesthesia. The anoscope was blunt, steel and 2 3/4 inches thick. I had never had anything in my reconstructed-from-thigh-tissue-butt before. It took him an hour to get it into my a**. I lost my mind for 37 years and couldn't remember it.
    I had never had anything in my ass before. He was a sweet doctor.
    Later he had his whole hand up my butt and another in my vagina. But with anesthesia and lube. So it didn't hurt.
    I didn't come though. I never come.
    Because I was raped and sodomized at age 6.
    And I was shredded and septic. Very sick. All my poop was in my vaginal ruins with sticks perforating everywhere, and they shoved my hard up my ass with sticks.
    So all of my parts were rebuilt with skin from my thigh. It took 24 hours of surgery. I had a patch of raw skin on my thigh. But my nerve endings are messed up. So an 'orgasm' feels like somebody tapping you lightly once or twice. And it is gone.
    It is pointless trying to come.
    But he had both hands in me. Maybe trying.
    He was my first ob/gym visit and he saw all the old scars on my parts.
    So now I do it to myself. I have had 6 rapes in my life. And I am hoping to bleed to death this way.
    lol.

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