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Case study: Genital Examination of children

MagazineMay 1996 (Vol. 7 Issue 2)Case study: Genital Examination of children

I have been trying to figure out how to fight a standard medical procedure, the examination of the genitals of children during routine physical examinations, barring any obvious medical problems

I have been trying to figure out how to fight a standard medical procedure, the examination of the genitals of children during routine physical examinations, barring any obvious medical problems. I am sure there are many people (especially women) who feel as I do, but have either buried the memories or would just rather forget the whole thing.

When my oldest child was 7 and had to have a shot to go back to school, he too underwent genital examination and was extremely uncomfortable. I asked the doctor if it was necessary. He said yes. I asked until what age it was necessary. He said until adulthood. Then he went on to say that oftentimes little girls are so uncomfortable that they have to transfer out to a female pediatrician. In the late 60s and early 70s, my mother found a pediatrician who also forced me to remove all my underclothes, lay on my back and spread my legs so that he could spread my vagina with his hands and get a "good look". I never remember a visit forgoing this experience until I was well into my teens. No explanation was ever given to me, and my "panic attacks" prior to the visit were considered to be quite ridiculous. L B, Miami Springs, Florida.....Thank you for calling attention to this subject and for sending in photocopies from a medical textbook on physical examination of infants and children. It emphasizes that it isn't essential that the child be completely undressed during the course of the examination only the part of the body being examined and that direct visualization of the vagina and cervix aren't considered part of the ordinary physical examination.

Our advice would be for parents to avoid "well children" general examinations; to save doctor visits for times that something specific seems to be wrong, and then ask the doctor to only examine the relevant body part. If your child has something wrong with his plumbing requiring that his genitalia be examined, it would be wise for you to explain beforehand that the doctor is going to have a look at it and why, and perhaps for you to demonstrate it yourself so that your child is not taken by surprise. Of course make sure to always be present. If your child clearly doesn't want it, never force or restrain him.


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