About a week ago my body told me it was time to see my huisart (primary care physician). After making an appointment on Monday, I met with her today and ended up with my first physical examination at a Dutch doctor’s office. That is, the first one that involved taking my clothes off. Culture surprise is so much more… interesting… when you experience it in the nude.
If the title hadn’t tipped you off, I was visiting my doctor regarding a few things, but the most urgent reason was a suspected yeast infection. As with previous visits, I met with my doctor and sat down at a desk to discuss why I had come in. This week she had a medical student there as well; a nice young man who she kept translating for and who is now the first male doctor to see me half naked in several years.
The symptoms as I described them seemed inconclusive, so my doctor offered to do an examination (they always ask first here; everything is in your control). Attached to the regular office was a small closet/examination room. She opened the door, pointed to a chair and said “put your clothes there”.
Surprise number one? No gown. That gave me pause. In the U.S. doctors will put you in a gown to check anything above the ankle, but here I just slipped out of my pants and undies right in front of the doctors while discussing whether ‘underwear’ was the right word in English. It was a little embarrassing to be without the medical gown. I never realized how accustom I’d become to them; even when they often seem silly.
Laying down in the bed, I came upon Surprise number 2. No stirrups. How weird is that. I’ve been through zillions of vaginal exams and I’ve never had one done without stirrups. Not that it was bad. The (cold) speculum when in just fine (maybe even easier than usual).
Which brings us to surprise number 3.
“Please hold this here for me.” The doctor instructed, indicating the speculum. She needed me to hold the device in place while she took swab samples. Usually at this point my legs are up in stirrups and the gown has created a wall between me and what the doctor is doing; a weird separation between me and what is frankly a rather intimate procedure. Not this time. After I realized what she was asking I did as instructed, but again, a bit embarrassing (even though it shouldn’t be).
After all that, I was disappointed to learn that I’d have to wait a week for the results to come back in. This seems strange since my doctor in the US had a simple test she could run right in the office. Cheers for being through I suppose.
The other reason I stopped in was to follow up on my birth control, which is a IUD that stays in place for 5 years. Since they don’t do regular pap smears in the Netherlands on women my age, I wanted to make sure I had a record of when my IUD needed to be changed. No need to make stupid mistakes. I was pleased to discover that the office had made a notation of that date on my record for me; despite the fact I had it put in while we still lived in the US. I had given them all my records but it was nice that they actually did something with them. I sometimes think US doctor offices just file them and forget about it.
I also discovered that my referral to the orthopedic surgeon is good for an entire year, but that’s a story for another day.