Advancing the field of OB/GYN for all – The Observer
There is no doubt that medicine has advanced tremendously over the decades. These advances have improved quality of life, reduced mortality rates and decreased disease rates. For example, the use of robotics in urological surgeries has helped to speed up the time and accuracy of surgeries. Similarly, other technological advances in imaging, such as MRI, CT and ultrasound, have improved the accuracy of diagnostic examinations, allowing the simultaneous detection of diseases in their early stages. Recently, a certain medical procedure conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center made headlines when surgeons transplanted a pig’s heart into a 57-year-old man. This was the first pig-to-human transplant ever performed, and that says a lot about how far medicine has come. Although the ethics of introducing a genetically modified pig’s heart into a human being is a separate issue, these major advances still raise concerns that certain practices in medicine – which seem almost barbaric – still exist without major development. about them today.
One area that still holds horrible practices is the specialty of obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN). While there have certainly been significant developments in the discipline, it fails to put patients at ease and at ease compared to other fields. An example is the intrauterine device (IUD) insertion process. IUDs are used as a form of contraception to prevent pregnancy and are inserted into the cervix and attached to the top of the uterus. Those who undergo this procedure may experience a lot of cramping, spotting, and irregular menstrual cycles as it is a small piece of plastic pushed inside the uterus, an internal organ. If other procedures involving internal organs such as colonoscopies can use sedation, then why can’t this one? The insertion of the IUD does not have any kind of anesthesia or numbness for the patient; most patients are told to take over-the-counter painkillers before showing up for their appointment, which hardly seems appropriate given the pain they will be experiencing. As to why sedation is not considered necessary for IUD insertions, some physicians have dismissed its need and instead raised concerns about the potential risk. However, healthcare workers allow intravenous (IV) sedation for relatively minor procedures such as wisdom tooth extraction, which is what I experienced.
While it is true that there are risks associated with IV sedation, as well as high costs, it is justified to require proper anesthesia for such procedures. While patients may request IV sedation for their IUD insertions, this is less common and is not commonly offered or discussed by the practitioner. Ultimately, it’s the patient’s safety and comfort that must be the doctor’s top priority, and having a piece of plastic stuck in a sensitive organ to prevent pregnancy doesn’t seem like the most comfortable procedure, nor even something that should be a part of modern medicine.
Likewise, the dreaded speculum is another element of modern OB/GYN that doesn’t seem quite up-to-date for its time, and rather a bit barbaric. The speculum is a “twin-bladed hinged instrument” used to better inspect the cervix during procedures such as IUD insertions, pap smears, and STD tests. This instrument stems from institutionalized patriarchy and racism, as its creator was a white man who tested it on enslaved black women in the mid-1800s. It seems shocking that an instrument developed by a man for women’s health is still used in practice today, as it is not aimed at patient comfort. Many OB/GYN patients have described the speculum as uncomfortable and a source of anxiety and nervousness. This makes patients less likely to opt for these prophylactic gynecological exams, putting them at risk for undetected gynecological diseases.
However, this does not mean that there will never be developments regarding these issues. Fortunately, teams of women are working to redesign the speculum to make it more comfortable and less scary. Likewise, I hope consideration will be given to making anesthetics more accessible during certain OB/GYN practices, such as IUD insertion. When there is a long history of abused women in the male-dominated medical field, it is important that a specialty dedicated to women’s health has the proper tools and procedures in place to maximize the comfort and safety of its patients.