labor nurse has been reborn and shares her experiences as a new nurse-midwife, woman, and blogger

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fathers at the Gynecologist's Office

I was doing an annual gyn visit with a girl in her young 20's and it came up in conversation that when she was 13 her father brought her to a gynecologist because of her irregular periods that were heavy and painful when they occurred. She told me that they took her aside and asked why would her father be bringing her to a gynecologist? Was there something wrong with her father? Was he molesting her?

She was quite taken aback, because this wasn't the case at all. She tried to explain this to them. Despite her denying any molestation, the physician contacted authorities and her family was investigated for abuse. Fortunately, nothing came of it, but it was a trying time for her family.

I was flabbergasted. I am sure this is not the first time such a thing has happened. Several months back I talked about Polly, who was also brought in by her father. There were some comments that suggested that perhaps Polly's father was sexually molesting her, but I never thought this was the case. Actually, I think that it's commendable that these father's are seeking medical care for their daughters gynecological problems. I'd imagine most fathers would not want to deal with such matters out of embarrassment or denial that their child is going to turn into a woman like creature.

And sure, there probably are some fathers out there that are molesting their daughters and have taken an interest in getting them birth control, or whatever, but does a father need to be investigated even when the daughter denies any abuse?


Anonymous said...

Deluking here... 16 years ago, my dad took me to my first gyn appt because my mom had to work. I had to get on the pill because I was going onto Accutane (an very strong acne drug for those that don't know). I am glad that no one call the authorites about it.


Anonymous said...

I love you and your blog but I do have to disagree a little here. As a social worker who, sadly, has too much experience working with people who are victims of abuse, this would raise a red flag with me.

While most dads in this situation are probably innocent, fathers who take an active role in their daughters' gynecological care are much more likely to be sexually abusing their child. Also, it's unlikely that a victim will report abuse to a stranger during an initial exam. Looking at the high percentage of women who are sexually abused in general, let women with increased risk factors, I can understand why someone would be concerned.

There are lots of theories about why father involvement in their daughters' reproductive health care correlates with abuse (e.g. lack of boundaries, interest birth control or STD control, or just sexual control in general) but the important thing is that we know women in this group are at risk. So sad. So it might be worth looking deeper when something like this comes up. And I think most father (aka innocent fathers) would appreciate knowing hoq seriously their health professionals take their daughter's safety.

Wabi said...

I find that these days fathers of girls are all-too often considered criminals before they are considered innocent. While I could sit on a park bench without my kids around and watch children play without incident, I'm sure that if my husband tried that without our girls in tow, there is a 50/50 chance to cops would get called to check him out. And for my husband to host a playdate when I'm not at home? There are many moms I know who talk a good turn about equal rights for their daughters, yet turn around and say that they don't trust a man to chaperone a playdate EVER, under any circumstances, because you know, he just might be a molester. So much for equal rights for all. Let's just slander a full half of the population.

This really bothers me. Because of course there are girls being molested by their fathers. But, I think most of the time, those guys are flying under the radar. It's the earnest, nonmolestor guys who are blundering along innocently trying to be involved with their girls who too often get caught up in people's suspicious assumptions.

So, I say bravo to a guy for bringing his daughter to the gynecologist. He's showing her how to be responsible and not to be ashamed about anything to do with her body.

Anonymous said...

How terribly sad that people can jump to conclusions so quickly. There's a Dad, doing the right thing by his daughter and all he gets is the authorities turning up? What happens to this girl now? Does she go it alone without the proper adult support she requires? Does so now have a fear of the authorities getting involved? Does she miss out on proper treatment because she's scared to get help? Does she feel guilty for what happened?
I'm 1 or 3 daughters and I must say my Dad did keep this 'girls issues' at arm's lenghth, but had we needed his help, he would have done it without question.
Yes it better to be safe than sorry, but an instance like this could damage a family quite quickly and severly.

Anonymous said...

How terrible! What if he was a single father? What if there was abuse by someone other than the father and he was being responsible to get the girl checked out? What if the mother was not able to bring the girl so he did it? What if he was a family doctor and brought his girl in for the new vaccine? Why can't a dad do this?


Molly said...

From a slightly different angle--this story made me cringe because it can be so very disturbing for a young girl if a gynecologist or nurse implies that there's something wrong with her, or with her need for or manner of obtaining gynecological healthcare. When I was fourteen, I also experienced an unusually heavy period and had to have my first GYN appointment way before I was emotionally ready for it. Then, after I said 'no' to 'are you sexually active?,' the doctor sent my mother out of the room to grill me in a pretty harsh way about my sexual behavior, which at the time was utterly nonexistent. (I think they believed that I was miscarrying.) My point is that I've been screwed up about it for well over a decade now and faced serious anxiety regarding prenatal care and my son's birth--all because someone wasn't sufficiently aware of how freaked out a child can be when (all in a day's work for the doctor) a stranger sticks a finger in her vagina and then implies that something sexual and shameful has been occurring. I do understand that it would be deeply irresponsible for caregivers to ignore signs that something may be amiss--but I wish they would all remember, every single time, to consider the emotional experience and future of the young person they're trying to protect--and to keep in mind that lots of people really aren't in the imagined worst-case scenario.

Anonymous said...


I had a really similar experience with my first OB visit (I wasn't emotionally ready and the dr. made me feel shamed and confused by insinuating I was sexually active when I wasn't.) Since then I've avoided gyn. care whenever possible and I, too, struggled throughout my pregnancy with prenatal care and had anxiety about birth. No one understood how traumatized I was and I ended up having a planned c-section because I couldn't face being "re-abused" by the doctors during the birth. Even now, months later, I'm having flashbacks and anxiety.

I wish I had a healthcare professional like this midwife. Maybe I could have avoided a c-section and felt something other than humiliation and pain about birth.

Labor Nurse said...

I had never thought of the first gyn visit as a traumatic experience in the way Molly and Anonymous have. I suppose there are providers out there that are biased that all of their patients must be sexually active; but when I have interviewed younger girls about their sexual activity, I believe what they say. For the most part, many of them are sexually active seeking birth control and seem to handle the exam well; the others are seeking treatment for irregular and or painful periods and not sexually active. I don't do an exam on them because they are younger than 21 unless there is something about their symptoms that I feel needs to be examined; pap tests aren't necessary in girls younger than 21 if they are not sexually active. But I guess not everyone practices that way.

Anonymous said...

Another one here who had bad experiences at initial gyn visits as a young lady (16)l. I was abused all right, by the GYN.

I was having a vaginal u/s for ovarian cysts. It was very painful, he had trouble finding my right ovary and was jamming the probe around and hurting me. Finally he left without finding the ovary and left the probe hanging out of my vagina and grumbled something unintelligble at me. Tech apologized, removed the probe and told me he had it in the wrong way and wasn't even looking in the correct area and that he really didn't know how to use u/s (he was in his 60's at the time and this was 20 years ago). I left that office in tears and took me a long time to get over what he did and how he treated me. This was supposedly *THE* OB/gyn in the area. All the women just looooved him. He was a pig.

But if I had had a single father take me to the gyn to evaluate pelvic pain instead of my single mother there may have been allegations of abuse by my father?? Makes a lot of sense.

Thankfully we found a doc (still a man) with a kind and gentle soul and no prejudice against young women who did take care of me.

tz said...

How would they explain single fathers? I was raised by my dad and as such he was responsible for my care, health and other wise. I would be mortified if our doctor implied anything other then my dad was being a responsible parent. It's too bad that the 'bad' dads who are a minority have ruined it for the good dads out there.

Rebecca said...

My friend's dad took her to the gyn when she was 16. She told him she was going to be sexually active and wanted to start birth control. He was a single father. While I think one must be alert to and assess for abuse, I certainly don't think that one needs to alert social services in cases where the daughter denies abuse and there are no other suspicions.

Anonymous said...

I lost my wife to cancer when my daughter was very young. As she became older things like taking her to the doctor and all the the things that a mother were a problem. It is hard to be a god mother when you are the da.