It is not medically necessary to have a pap and pelvic exam to get a prescription for birth control. The only medically necessary procedure is a blood pressure test. Yet in the US, women are routinely forced to endure a yearly pap and pelvic exam in order to renew the prescription. A recent study shows that 33% of doctors always require the exam and 44% regularly require the exam (from Time article).
In my personal experience, I was literally shouted at over the phone by a nurse practitioner when I requested a month extension on my prescription because I had to change my exam appointment. The woman told me that I had already waited too long to see the doctor and absolutely refused to provide the one month extension (it has been about fourteen months since my previous exam, completely within medical guidelines for the pill). When I shared my experience with the doctor, she sounded surprised and said I should have been given the prescription, but she was not overly concerned about the incident and had no interest in further investigation or remedy.
The proponents of requiring pap and pelvic exams for birth control prescriptions argue that while it may not be medically necessary, these exams are important and women should have them done. In essence, requiring women to have a pap and pelvic exam in order to get a birth control requires testing that should be optional– it is a way to force women to have exams that they otherwise might elect to forgo. [Read more...]