The sex talk, part 2: The premarital exam

From sex ed in schools to sex ed before marriage

In my last article, I focused on the importance of sexual education and the need for it in our public schools. While discussing the issue of sexual education, I also wanted to explore the phenomenon of premarital exams.

A premarital exam generally happens before a woman gets married and is not very common outside of Utah. In other states, a premarital exam is a blood test. In Utah, it can include a full pelvic exam and a Q-and-A portion, where both women and men are encouraged to bring whatever questions they may have to the table. Each exam is different depending on the doctor, but this is the general format.

Having questions before entering a sexual relationship for the first time is perfectly natural. I’m curious to know, however, if some of the questions that couples have are, indeed, questions that may have been answered in a sex education course in school that was more inclusive than abstinence only.

When I started my “Sex Ed” article journey, I thought I knew exactly how I felt about sexual education in schools and in pre marital exams. I had drawn the conclusion that premarital exams were specific to Utah because kids and teenagers weren’t learning important information in schools about sex. Now, even though I think there’s still a connection, I feel that they are essential because of the overall lack of knowledge.

A premarital exam provides women a safe, nonjudgmental environment to talk and ask questions about sex. Every woman needs that.

About five years ago, I went through my own exam in preparation of getting married. It wasn’t my first time at a gynecologist office, so I felt pretty comfortable with the whole thing.

In my own exam, I didn’t feel as though I gained any new valuable insight. I walked away with maybe a couple of new tidbits of information and what I like to call vaginal stretchers: expanding kits that allow women to stretch themselves in preparation of having sex for the first time. Everything else I had either learned in school, at home or from my friends.

I do think that the reason I didn’t learn too much had more to do with the actual doctor than the nature of premarital exams themselves. After talking to the UVU Health Center, it seems that I missed out on a lot of good information essential to me as a woman.

Aside from learning about women’s health, there are certain things that schools will not cover in great detail. Having a doctor’s professional insight can really be helpful, especially since they do an exam and can answer questions and be insightful, specific to you and your soon-to-be partner.

Premarital exams cover information about different types of birth control and provide women with important information about their health, like self-breast exams and pap smears. They also provide information for men about their health, as well.

These exams are also helpful for women who are already sexually active, and these women actually get a pap smear as part of their appointment. All in all, I am convinced that these exams are helpful and think they would also be helpful outside of Utah.

I think the only concern is when a premarital exam is the first time a woman goes to a gynecologist. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women should see a gynecologist as early as the ages of 13-15.

Thirteen seems young, and to be honest, I didn’t go until I was 17, but it makes sense because that’s about the age girls hit puberty, and I think that the sooner women can become comfortable with the gynecologist, the better.

The Student Health Center, which offers premarital exams, says that some of the women who come in have never been to a gynecologist before and this is their first time doing anything like it. I hate to wonder what would happen if premarital exams didn’t exist.

But they do exist, and I would highly recommend women to take advantage of it if they are getting married soon. The Student Health Center recommends going at least a couple months before one’s wedding. This gives birth control, the expanding kit and, if you need a pap smear, a chance to kick in and results to come back.

And if you’re not getting married? Go to the gynecologist anyway, especially if you’ve never been. It is essential to your health as a woman. Women need to get pap smears annually starting at the age of 21. You don’t need to wait until you’re getting married to start being concerned with your sexual health.

Now if only we could get a premarital exam specific to men so they can learn what to do…

4 thoughts on “The sex talk, part 2: The premarital exam

  1. This is pure medical propaganda and insidious brainwashing. No one needs this medical examination.
    It is yet another attempt to exploit women sexually by (mainly) male doctors or female doctors under the control of men.
    It is as bad as doctors using vibrators, which they invented, to stick up women for “hysteria”. If anyone does not know what I’m on about please read “Waking Sleeping Beauty” by Carolyn Herbst Lewis. If this does not frighten you away from doctors of the vagina, nothing will.
    In some countries they try to make compulsory examinations of women’s vaginas a prerequisite to being given a driving license. But men passing a driving test don’t have their penis “examined” by a doctor.
    As usual, sexual power over women is the motivation here.

    Please resist this evil. No one getting married needs it. And what if you fail the medical. Do you cancel your marriage?…

  2. You’ve got to be kidding! The fact that pre-matital exams are “…not very common outside of Utah” should be the first clue that something is seriously wrong with this idea. Utah has extremely paternalistic views on women’s health care, and it’s adversely affecting woman’s health.
    Recently I heard a woman from St. Mark’s Hospital lament the low percent of woman receiving mammograms in Utah–a hospital that routinely employs male nurses and assistants for gynecological procedure. Duh! Treat woman with dignity and respect and more woman will get care–that means: no unnecessary exams, no unnecessary exposure (there is no reason to have males assist during intimate procedures when 90% of all nurses are female), and stop trying to convince woman that a healthcare person knows more about their body than they do.

  3. Premarital exams are basically rediculous. I had one and beyond telling me sex was going to hurt and encouraging me to do stretching exercises there was no way in hell I was ever going to do, nothing helpful was gained. The doc told me straight up I was small and sex was going to hurt if I didn’t get to the point where I could stick 3 fingers up there. Sorry, but no, the expectation a 23 year old virgin was going to be able to stick her fingers where her fingers had NEVER gone and never wanted to go, that was never going to happen. Well, it did hurt. It hurt mightily every single time, but that’s really a minor part of my story.

    There was one pretty simple tidbit this OBGYN could have told me that would have been extremely useful. That was that a woman should urinate after intercourse to prevent bladder infections. For whatever reason my mother did not know this (she’s never had one) and since no one mentioned it in in sex ed, and the Doctor didn’t mention it in my pre-marital, and I had never picked it up talking to married friends, I had no idea what a UTI even was. Well I found out very quickly and landed in the BYU health center where I was berated by the Doctor that saw me for my ignorance, while in severe discomfort. How nice? You grow up in a culture where sex is taboo, go to a Doctor for an invasive, but unnecessary pelvic exam, are told to stretch out your vagina, but no one tells you the very simple and widely known rule that you should urinate after intercourse to avoid a UTI, you didn’t even know existed.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t end there, because a couple months later I became pregnant and again landed in the BYU health center for what I believed was a bowel impaction. I know now that ANY doctor, and I truly mean ANY doctor who encounters a woman in early pregnancy with abdominal and\or shoulder pain, are literally trained to assume an ectopic pregnancy has occurred, but that is not what happened. Instead, I was treated to a lecture by the doctor that anyone of my age (23) should know to go to the drug store for an enema and not bother doctor’s with a “little constipation.” This doctor was so condescending and so rude it is hard for me to even describe it. Meanwhile, I had been in excruciating pain for 2 days which only continued to intensify even after the “fleet enema,” I should have magically somehow have known to go buy when the pain started. Let me be crystal clear here. I knew I was pregnant and informed the Doctor immediately and yet he still ripped me up one side and down the other for the “unnecessary” appointment.

    To the Doctor’s credit his training miraculously kicked in the day after my appointment and I got a voicemail from an assistant that I should consult and OBGYN in case it was an ectopic pregnancy. Let me very clear here. It was the next day, by his assistant, and I had no idea what an ectopic pregnancy was. Because I had already done the fleet enema as he had prescribed and the pain was continuing to increase, not decrease, I had in fact scheduled an appointment with my OBGYN who had called back and told us to get an ultrasound. At the ultrasound the tech brought the radiologist in and insisted we see our OBGYN immediately, because unlike me, he knew exactly what was up. Meanwhile the pain continued to get worse and worse, from unbearable to incrementally worse levels of unbearable, each incrementation a new stage of pain I had never previously imagined.

    The next day I was wheeled into surgery, that same OBGYN I had seen only once previously at my “pre-marital exam” soothingly telling me on the gurney he was just going to make a small incision to “see what was going on.” The fact of the matter is, he already knew, just like the radiologist who insisted on calling him in. He knew I was invested in this pregnancy, which I had just been informed the day before didn’t actually exist, except it still very much did, just not where it was supposed to be. I woke up a few hours later with a 5 inch abdominal incision and a mangled left Fallopian tube which became the bane of my existence until I eventually had 4 children and a total and complete hysterectomy 10 years later.

    In summation the pre-martial exam wherein the only advice given was to sinfully self masturbate by putting at least 3 fingers in my vagina, where no fingers had ever gone and where that was simply NEVER going to happen, could have at least informed me about what a UTI is and how to prevent them. While meanwhile, the BYU health center failed me not once, but twice, and unfortunately the second time could easily have been fatal if it had not finally occurred to said Doctor that “oh yeah, that pregnant patient complaining of severe bowel pain PROBABLY has an ectopic pregnancy, because yeah, excruciating constipation is literally the most common symptom of ectopic pregnancies which are deadly if not treated.

    The Mormon patriarchy failed me in a very big way and even at 43 years old with 4 children, I am not overly inclined to give them a break. This is basic basic stuff in medicine and yet it was me, the devout patient who waited till my wedding day, who was treated like some kind of idiot for not knowing information I had literally zero chance of being exposed to. Shame on them for the way they treated me and shame on them for not taking the most simple measures to inform me in a pre-martial exam, which literally serves almost no actual purpose that peeing after sex is its good practice or failing to recognize immediately that my unbearable “bowel” pain in early pregnancy was indication of an ectopic pregnancy which could very easily have killed me. The patriarchal arrogance of this system is astounding and has zero to do with improving female health.

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