Factors Influencing Young Women's Preparedness for Their First Pelvic Examination

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To understand factors contributing to women's level of preparedness for their first pelvic examination.

METHODS:

We conducted semistructured interviews with young women, aged 18–24 years, who had undergone at least one pelvic examination. This analysis explored 1) gynecologic and health care experience before the first pelvic examination, 2) preprocedure expectations and concerns, and 3) preprocedure knowledge about the examination. Interviews were transcribed and computer-assisted content analysis was performed; salient themes are presented.

RESULTS:

Thirty women completed interviews. Thirteen women described feeling poorly prepared for their first pelvic examination and 17 women described feeling prepared for the examination. Factors influencing women's level of preparedness for their first pelvic examination included 1) age at first examination, 2) pre-examination knowledge of the examination, 3) medical trust or mistrust, 4) overall comfort with one's body, and 5) prior sexual experiences and trauma.

CONCLUSION:

Preparedness for the first pelvic examination emerges as a subjective concept shaped and determined by the interplay of many factors. Although some factors such as age and personal sexual and reproductive health history may not be modifiable by clinical practice, other factors, including information that young women receive before experiencing their first pelvic examination, may be modifiable by clinical practice.

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