Since I’ve been living in the Czech Republic for two years, I’ve had to go to the doctor for a variety of reasons. As Thai people say – it’s “same same but different.” Doctor’s offices are generally better equipped and my visits are always covered by insurance, but a visit to the doctor is a visit to the doctor. However, when you’re doing an annual pelvic exam at the gynecologist abroad, small differences make a big difference.
What to expect when going to a gynecologist abroad
Of course, here I’m speaking about the Czech Republic in particular, and Prague in particular, and even more specifically about the private Canadian Medical clinic, which probably has at least some North American tendencies compared to a public doctor. But even still, the differences were striking.
In the Czech Republic, gynecology is more of a male-dominated profession, so if you are only comfortable with a woman digging around down there, you may have to wait a bit for an appointment. I was able to get something a week out with the first doctor available.
So what exactly is different between a gynecologist visit in the US and one in the Czech Republic?
More face time with the doctor
In the US, a nurse does the preliminary interview and you wait around for the gynecologist to do the actual exam. Here, I met with the doctor immediately at my appointment time. He asked me some basic questions about my medical history, since it was my first visit with him. Then he did a thorough examination, answering my questions, and even giving me basic tips on how to check myself for breast cancer.
In the Czech Republic, you also get a paper prescriptions directly from the doctor, so at the end of your visit, you’ll sit back down with the gynecologist to discuss anything else and to get any necessary prescriptions.
Less intrusive questions
One thing that I found very curious is that I wasn’t asked about my sexual history at all. A gynecologist in the US won’t even look at you until you’ve disclosed how many sexual partners you’ve had in the past year and what kind of protection you’re using. I even once had a nurse ask me, “Did you mean to circle that you sleep with women on the form or was that an error?” (The answer is: Yes, bitch. I know how to fill out a form AND I sleep with women.)
But in Prague, those questions and the subsequent potential judgment didn’t come. And though I feel that these questions can be useful in some cases, I also appreciated that it was considered irrelevant for my visit. If there was a problem, my exam would show it. So there was no opportunity for any Are-you-familiar-with-our-Lord-and-Savior looks. Whether I’m in a relationship or whether I fucked five different people this month without a condom is technically none of their business.
After our chat, it was time to get down to business. Unlike the US, a pelvic exam abroad is treated with a lot less modesty, because people here don’t really care about nudity. This particular office had a partition for me to change behind, but I’ve definitely heard of gynecologists in Germany and France where you just strip next to the doctor.
When I undressed, thinking about standard procedure back in the US, I asked, “Um… should I put on a gown or anything?” He responded that there were some disposable gowns, but that it wasn’t necessary. I put one on anyway, though to be honest, then I felt kind of prudish and stupid about it. If you’re an expat abroad, know that having a gown as an option is not standard practice in Europe.
Unlike the US, there wasn’t a nurse standing by the whole time to make sure the doctor wasn’t doing anything inappropriate. She was around and in the same room, and she came in for the very beginning of the exam, but she kinda wandered off. I don’t think people here are all that concerned about needing a witness in case a patient sues. Their bedside manner is awesome, so I wouldn’t expect that to be very common.
A more in-depth exam
I always think it’s so funny that doctors here have newer and more advanced medical technologies, whereas the shit doctors use in the US looks like it came from a 1970s Soviet hospital. After getting up in the cushy and automated stirrups, the doctor went through the normal song and dance, first checking for breast cancer, and then doing the pelvic exam. No matter how advanced a country’s medical system is, there’s really no escaping that speculum.
But after the pap smear was done, he did a pelvic ultrasound, because that’s part of a routine checkup here. So I got to see my ovaries and my uterus for the first time ever, and he checked for any abnormalities. In the Czech Republic, ultrasounds are done constantly on the spot by the doctor himself without any bullshit referrals and extra appointments. If you’ve never had a pelvic ultrasound, it’s done with a wand that looks like a thin dildo. But don’t worry, it’s lubed up. Enjoy!
Getting birth control abroad
My primary reason for going to a gynecologist was to get a prescription for birth control. Birth control is not covered by any insurance in the Czech Republic, but everything else is so I really don’t mind paying $20 for 3-months’ worth of pills. And if you need birth control, you actually don’t have to go to a doctor at all. A nurse can give you a prescription or you can even get one online through Gynlink. Emergency contraception like the morning after pill can be obtained the same way.
You can get up to a 6-month supply all at once, so you don’t have to worry about travel plans or going to the pharmacy every month. I’m really not sure why birth control is treated like it’s fucking plutonium in the US (well, I have some idea…), but any normal adult can handle a 6-month supply of medication, and it’s super convenient. If you want any other kind of birth control like an IUD, you would have to obtain that from your gynecologist.
Other women’s health services
If you have gynecological issues unrelated to an annual pelvic exam, there are probably worse things you could do than go to a gynecologist abroad. If you’re pregnant, you would definitely get more frequent ultrasounds than you would in the US. Canadian Medical also offers breastfeeding consultations and prenatal classes for first-time moms.
If you need to terminate a pregnancy, abortion is a legal outpatient medical procedure in the Czech Republic. I’m sure any Czech gynecologist would handle it expediently and with no judgement.
Though it’s a little nerve wracking to visit a gynecologist abroad, I really couldn’t have been more well-taken care of. It’s different – not bad – just different. Just don’t be shy about your nakedness, and you’ll be fine.