Young women often feel uncomfortable seeing gynaecologists, some of whom can be extremely judgemental about the marital status of the patient
A young girl was in pain. She learned about her physical condition and became worried. She sought the help of her mother.
Her mother took her to a gynaecologist.
After all, is that not what all of us do – go see a doctor – when we are in pain?
But in this case, instead of suggesting medication, the doctor allegedly suggested rape while the mother and the daughter sat petrified.
When the girl put up a post about her horrific experience on social media, she was supported by many other women who said that they too had had uncomfortable visits to gynaecologists.
The alleged hospital has since published a statement denying all the allegations against the doctor. The post has also been removed from social media.
However, feeling uncomfortable at the gynaecologist's chamber or being judged by doctors is not a new experience for many female patients.
According to young women who have had unpleasant experience with gynaecologists, some doctors consider being single synonymous to being sexually inactive. Therefore, an unmarried yet sexually active patient is judged severely in many cases.
It would appear gynaecologists hold the position that women should not be bothered about their sexual or reproductive health unless they were married or were about to be married.
More than often, getting married or having children is prescribed as a solution to serious gynaecological issues like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Saima (pseudonym) had irregular periods since she was young. Being a handball player, she was more active than girls her age.
At the age of 16, while playing at a national event, she faced a terrible injury and when the bleeding would not stop, she went to a doctor. It was her first ever visit to a gynaecologist.
What happened afterwards remains a bigger trauma for Saima than her injury.
"The doctor told me she knew how athletic girls from my school are and the injury must have happened differently. I told her that the accident was recorded live on national television and she could see it herself if she did not believe my words. It was especially worse when she told my mother to keep my injury a secret. Otherwise, she said, my life would be ruined, and no one would marry me," said Saima.
She went to a number of doctors and most of the time, she was shamed for not being married "so that her condition improves".
A few years after, when Saima was in the UK for higher studies, a doctor there informed her that she actually had a heavy form of PCOS, a common hormonal disorder among women. It affects millions of women around the world.
The doctor in the UK also told Saima that she could have children in the future.
"No one in Bangladesh told me that I had PCOS. I had years of wrong diagnosis and faced bad behaviour from doctors. Once, when I was abroad, one of the doctors asked me something and I naturally expected it would have something to do with shaming me for not marrying or having children etc. When I retorted, he calmed me down and told me that they were least bothered about my relationship status. They just wanted to know about my trauma and give me the right treatment."
After years of being mishandled, Saima finally found a compassionate gynaecologist in Dhaka who understands her and does not judge her.
This is essentially what every patient seeks from a doctor, to be understood and not be treated with scorn for their chosen lifestyle.
A fresh graduate, Raisa (pseudonym) has never visited a gynaecologist, fearing that she may have to listen to unwanted things. "I have a phobia about going to gynaecologists. I think I will be judged and given unsolicited advice, and it will end up being a bad experience. I would rather not face it," she said.
Some users on social media shared their personal experiences after visiting gynaecologists.
One of them wrote, "Some doctors want to invade the patient's personal space, which becomes a problem. For example, once I accompanied my friend to a gynaecologist and we actually prepared a script beforehand to avoid any unwanted situation. Right off the bat, she was asked whether she was married. Rather than teaching social or moral values, it is perhaps more important to provide patients with proper medical guidelines."
It is a doctor's duty to ask questions and understand patient history, but maybe it is the approach that makes patients uncomfortable.
When she was 15, Kanta (pseudonym) went to a veteran gynaecologist who prescribed her a medicine. Out of curiosity, Kanta searched for the medicine online and saw some information on its appropriate dosage which she wanted to clarify with the doctor.
The physician told her that it would do her more good to read her textbooks rather than information found on the internet.
Former head of gynaecology and obstetrics department at Dr Sirajul Islam Medical College and Hospital, Professor Dr Kaniz Fatema, is currently working as a consultant at Bangladesh Specialised Hospital.
According to her, treatment of single and married patients vary when the latter wants to conceive.
She said, "When young patients with hormonal imbalance, period irregularities etc come to us, we check their weight and ask them about their lifestyle. If they are overweight, we ask them to lose weight because that cures many problems. Sometimes, we refer them to nutritionists for that reason."
"When married patients have trouble in conceiving, we treat them accordingly. Our only concern is our patients' wellbeing so that they live a healthy life and, those who want, have safe pregnancies," she added.