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…