What You Should Know About Trans-Inclusive Gynecology
Making Your Visit a Positive and Comfortable Experience
Published June 2022
Going to see a gynecologist can be uncomfortable for anyone, especially the first time. But for transgender and gender-diverse people, the experience can be distressing. A negative experience can worsen gender dysphoria: the emotional stress you may feel when your gender identity and sex do not match. It can even lead to a lack of trust in your care team.
Angela Chaudhari, MD, is the chief of Gynecology and Gynecologic Surgery at Northwestern Medicine. She is also a surgeon and gynecologist in the Northwestern Medicine Gender Pathways Program, and performs gender-affirming surgeries, such as hysterectomies and ovary removals.
"In the gender-diverse patients I care for, gynecological care has, historically, been a big area of fear and discomfort," she explains. "Even making a gynecologic appointment or coming into the office can be a source of dysphoria."
But it does not have to be this way, she explains. There are ways that both healthcare teams and patients can create a more positive and comfortable experience.
Dr. Chaudhari says that a great way to begin is to recognize the discomfort that may exist at the start of the visit. So, you may hear open and honest phrases from your care team, such as:
- "Please let me know your expectations and boundaries for today so that I can care for you in the safest and most comfortable way."
- "We never want you to feel like you have to do your own research for what's best for your health, so please ask any questions you have. I may not know all of the answers, but I can certainly direct you to someone who does."
- "I know certain discussions can cause dysphoria about your body. But it is important that you are aware of how your body impacts your overall health, and we will work to discuss those areas directly and efficiently."
"We look to foster a welcoming environment, set expectations and acknowledge any discomfort in the room," Dr. Chaudhari says. "Through that, more well-rounded, educational and directed health care is possible."
If you are a transgender or gender-diverse person preparing for a gynecological appointment, Dr. Chaudhari says, when making an appointment or at the start of the visit, feel empowered to ask questions of your care team to make sure you will receive the affirming care you deserve:
- "Do you have private waiting rooms? I prefer to wait elsewhere until you are ready for my appointment."
- "Do you have trans-inclusive bathrooms and other facilities?"
- "Does my physician regularly treat or have experience caring for transgender patients?"
- "Do you have a way for me to include my pronouns on my medical chart so my care team knows how to refer to me?"
- "My legal name and preferred name differ. Can you please note that in my record?"
- At Northwestern Medicine, both you and your care team can update your pronouns and preferred name through MyNM.
As the patient, you are your best advocate, Dr. Chaudhari explains. Be vocal about your needs, expectations and level of comfort. Care teams with less experience working with gender-diverse patients may themselves be uncomfortable in situations for fear of making a mistake. By opening up lines of communication during the visit, you and your healthcare team can create a safe space for a respectful visit and begin to build trust in each other.