Today’s guest post is by Sarah Cosgrove. Sarah is currently a graduate student in Boston, Massachusetts. When she gets a moment to pull herself away from work, she’s a avid baker and explorer of the greater Boston area. You can follow Sarah on Twitter.
About a week ago I retweeted a link for Feminists for Choice’s blog post regarding pap smears and birth control. Before I retweeted, with my comment encouraging women to ignore the post and to get yearly exams, I read the post entirely and intently. Upon retweeting the link I engaged Feminists for Choice’s Serena in a hearty debate on Twitter about the post and the standard U.S. practice of yearly gynecological exams and pap smears. While I have on numerous occasions been denied renewal of my birth control because I hadn’t had my yearly exam, I was appalled that a blog for women, by women, would discourage yearly exams.
If, as women, we think about our yearly exams as a means to an end, motions we have to go through to get a birth control prescription, then we’re doing ourselves a grave disservice. I agree with the last points of the post – that birth control needs to be more readily and cheaply available – but divorcing the acquisition of birth control from open, frank, yearly conversations with our doctors about our bodies, about our sexual and medical history, and about the need for screening, is dangerous. Blanket suggestions to skip mammograms or pap smears put women in danger. A study reported in the media often leads women to follow guidelines that may not be appropriate for them. How do you know you don’t need yearly mammograms if you do not have a discussion with your doctor about your medical needs? The same goes for pap smears or STD blood tests, etc. If, after that informed conversation, you two mutually decide on a different course of action then is common, fine. But the conversation is key. It is, and I cannot stress this enough, essential and lifesaving. [Read more...]