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emmaberry101

Obgyn And Convent?

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emmaberry101
My questions in this post contain somewhat adult content concerning the OBGYN, which is better suited for the 18+ board, but it's a topic relating more to VS. Read at your own discretion.

[spoiler]I am wondering if, in the convent, the Sisters are required to go get pelvic exams, mammograms, and OBGYN-related (or just woman related) checkups. Since they are not having children, I didn't know if they still needed all the things of that nature. On my application, my doctor deferred my pelvic exam and said, "You don't need those kinds of tests where you're going!" I thought that a bit odd-though admittedly I was relieved! I just think this must be mortifying for some of the Sisters who enter right out of high school .. I know it is a matter of health, but it still seems strange to think of a convent of Sisters loading up to go get their pap smears! I appreciate any information or advice you may have about these things, and May God reward you![/spoiler]

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coralieprincess
I actually wondered the same thing... I also wonder if nuns get regular doctor/dentist check ups, or do they only go when they are ill?

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HopefulBride
I wondered the same thing about my order. I know the Sisters of Life use pro-life OBs so that would mean yes the sisters do. I was also told by my former OB/GYN that once you begin your menses you need regular check-ups regardless of having children.

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Lilllabettt
this question will be community specific, how they approach poverty etc.

Some communities allow for well visits and acne medication. Others prefer to avoid medical attention for as long as possible, sometimes because of practical considerations ($$$) or out of solidarity with the poor.

A Sister told me about how in olden times every year without fail every member of the community was presented with a new pair of shoes, whether the old ones were "worn out" or not. They were all nurses and the superiors felt that this apostolate required them to take care of their feet. As time passed, fewer of them remained involved in direct nursing care and the annual shoe replacements stopped.

A therapist will always say you can benefit from more therapy. A teacher will always say there is more you need to know. An obgyn will always tell you that you "should" have an obgyn. It can be helpful to visit a couple times, to establish a baseline for what is normal for your body. But in general a normal young woman who has never been pregnant or sexually active does not need pelvic exams or regular obgyn checkups.

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Blessed&Grateful
as a nurse, regular exams, (pap smears and breast examinations and mammograms) should be a part of every womans health regime. As to the regularity I would agree for nuns it could be less frequent. The church teaches we are to maintain out bodies as temples and not to do so is sinful.

I have known a few nuns diagnosed with breast cancer so nuns are not immune.

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Lilllabettt
there is a lot of debate within the medical establishment about how much testing is needed. I think in general we do too much and it leads to negative outcomes. Its a prudential judgment that communities make. Some are way into natural remedies and that kind of thing. Look into it before signing on the dotted line!

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cmaD2006
In the last religious community that I was in, there was a young sister who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I don't think she was more than 30.

OBGYN visits are part of normal routine preventative care, even if not sexually active. And there are other exams (ex: transvaginal ultrasounds) that can be used to diagnose problems, particularly involving the ovaries.

I think the key here is to pay attention to your body. The sister who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer ignored what her body was telling her, because that particular community really wasn't too accepting of anyone who got sick. She didn't speak up -- and unluckily the consequences was cancer that was at a more advanced stage than if she had spoken up when something with her body wasn't right. That is true regardless of where you enter, or if you marry, or if you stay single.

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Chiara Francesco
[quote name='Graciela' timestamp='1346632669' post='2477705']
"But in general a normal young woman who has never been pregnant or sexually active does not need pelvic exams or regular obgyn checkups" .

I am sorry to have to point out that this statement is erroneous. Well woman gynecological care not only deals with pregnancy issues but also with other possible problems that are unrelated to being (or having ever been) sexually active. Any woman who has ever been sexually active should have pap smears. After three successive annual negative ones, the interval between them can be reconsidered.

Other important reasons for the gyn exam include checking for breast or pelvic tumors which may be present long before a woman has any symptoms. (and a sister friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32 after a tumor was found during a routine well woman exam- so this is not just a concern for older sisters).

I do understand that some communities approach health care as a luxury because of the manner in which they observe poverty- that is their decision but it does not reflect good health care in 2012. I know of a cloistered community whose health care consisted of an aged, retired physician willing to come to the monastery- and the care was neither up-to-date nor of good quality. As a nurse practitioner, I was appalled to see nuns prescribed treatments for supposed diseases without having had the appropriate testing to make the diagnosis.

If one feels their call to surrender oneself totally to Jesus includes whatever inadequate health care may come along with it, that is fine. However, most communities purport to provide their sisters with good quality health care, and avoiding well woman gynecologic care does not fit with this.

Lillabett, you are welcome to your opinions but I would ask you to express them as opinion rather than medical information.
[/quote]

As a nurse I agree with Graciela. You don't have to have been sexually active to have cancers of the breast or pelvic area. I had one community tell me they have women do these exams in case of even STDs - especially if the woman had a previous history where she could contract one, had a conversion and now has a vocation. They said that having an STD would keep them from entering but it would be good to know for treatment, etc just as required blood work shows potential problems. Another community mentioned possible Hep C or Aids if the woman worked in health care (NP, nurse, CNA, etc) who could be exposed to these, just as the chest xray would detect TB, other problems and the blood work diabetes, etc.

Of course, I've come across a few communities (mostly Carmels) who all they wanted was a letter from your doctor saying that your health was either great, good or adequate and list, if any, health concerns or problems the woman had. No psych exam, no blood work, chest xray, etc. Very inexpensive, quick and easy to obtain!

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Lilllabettt
Graciela, I was fortunate enough to spend several years under the supervision of an entire medical team of physicians at one of the finest hospitals in the world. My condition was complicated and involved multi-system organ failure. For this reason there were many different kinds of doctors on my team, including an obgyn. Since my discharge I am required to do regular check ups with many of them - but not with him, until I become sexually active, I turn 35, or I notice something changes. During my time at this hospital I was subjected to a regime of painful procedures for not months but years, and I consider myself quite familiar with which tests are strictly necessary and which are simply "nice" to have. As many doctors as I've seen, not one of them has ever even so much as suggested ordering me a pelvic exam.

p.s. Emmaberry, when I entered the convent, my examining doctor also waived the pelvic. It is an invasive procedure and for most healthy *edit*non-active* women not necessary. Edited by Lilllabettt

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emmaberry
*shudders* Thank you Lilllabettt! I am quite nervous about any invasive procedures at the OBGYN... I will be forced to get over that, eventually. I hope you are doing well now and fully recovered! What a horrible condition you had.

And, of course, thank you everyone for your replies. I will ask the PCCs about this on my next visit. I know that when Mother Mary Angela succeeded Mother Mary Francis, the nuns began to go out for dental exams and things of that nature, while still maintaing their strict vow of enclosure. Normally, I'd be embarrassed about asking about OBGYN visits, but I have a feeling Mother won't care at all...and they may even be relieved someone is thinking about these things before entering, rather than just "I'll take whatever they give me," which I would, but it might be best to know beforehand.

I have PCOS, which I have been treating with a very strict diet. Still, I have heard that it poses increased risk for ovarian cancer and things of that nature. I put all this on my application, but talking to Mother about it will definitely be the wise thing to do. The Roswell Clares are very poor, so they either A) go to a doctor who gives services pro bono (but he is probably not an OBGYN!) and they trust him to recommend them to an OBGYN/specialist when needed, or B) they wait until a condition is very serious and then seek (expensive) medical treatment.

I know the novice had thyroid surgery recently, so I am thinking it is option A.

May God reward you for your help! Edited by emmaberry

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Lilllabettt
it may very well be that they have an obgyn who helps them pro bono in addition to a general family doctor. They call them specialists because they "especially" know better than to charge nuns. ;)

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FutureCarmeliteClaire
My Carmelites do. I can't speak for everyone, but I would definitely think it was necessary for me. I have PCOS, and am not sexually active or ever have been. But, with my ongoing issues, it's definitely going to be a yearly thing once I start needing the exams. Plus, I come from a long line of people with breast cancer, and I have problems related (sorry to be vague, but this is not the NFP forum, and I can't post there. Such is the life of someone under 18...)

Anyway, I think most communities do.

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Graciela
Lillabett-
I remember your previous posts about significant health issues and I am sorry that you have had so many complex issues.

That said, your experiences as a patient are not a substitute for knowledge of the research evidence that supports certain preventive and screening test and physical examinations. Such research is the standard by which recommendations about health care for populations (groups of people) are made and evaluated.

The question was asked about recommendations for women's health care and how religious communities handle them, and your post was just plain incorrect. I felt that some of the young women who might be reading it needed to know the accurate state of current health care recommendations.

When one is not an educated and qualified health professional, it is only fair to indicate as much when expressing opinions on something as important as health care decisions.

As a registered nurse and nurse practitioner with a doctorate in nursing, and someone who has worked in oncology clinical trials for years, it is my professional duty to stay up to date on these types of recommendations, so I stand by the accuracy of what I posted.

All patients should be free to make decisions about what tests and exams they will undertake, in collaboration with their health care providers. But it should be accurately informed decision -making.

Sometimes a good question to ask your health care provider about a test, examination or procedure is "what will we do differently in my health care, based upon the results of this test or procedure?" If the answer is "nothing," then the test or procedure is probably not warranted, regardless of broader population-based recommendation to have it. So, as an extreme example, if a religious community cannot afford or has no health insurance to cover surgery or chemo, having a mammogram to screen for breast cancer does not seem to make much sense..

Grace and peace to all-
Graciela

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mantellata
Just FYI emmaberry - while I [u]totally[/u] understand your feelings at present (such exams are never pleasant) it is [u]totally[/u] normal for Sisters to go to doctors for such exams. If you are not in an area where many nuns in habit are present (and you have had the fortune of not needing such exams for other reasons) you may not have experienced this. In my experience however, people didn't even look at you twice when you were in the office waiting for examination. It's pretty normal, routine and all the rest.

My doctor told me that (as for the same reasons you mentioned) that I didn't need a PAP until I was 35.... but that was also after taking a look at my family history etc.... so it really is best to ask your physician about you in your own particular case. If it is recommended - no worries. It's normal. :)

If your nuns have any health insurance at all - a yearly PAP and breast exam is most often covered for women. So no extra charge to your community to ensure your basic health! :)

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Lilllabettt
Like I said. I consider myself fairly well acquainted with medical tests.

So I know that the broad "population based" recommendations are based on a cookie cutter average person and a lo of assumptions about that person. For example, they assume, among other things, that a woman who has reached puberty is, has been, or soon will be, sexually active.

Some important "educated and qualified" health professionals have lately decided that cookie cutter person does not need so many tests - the decisions about Mammograms, cervical cancer screenings for women, prostate cancer for men, there are others.

But that is besides the point. We are not cookie cutter people, and the thing to do is to find a doctor you trust and WHO WILL TRUST YOU. ( when you say you are not sexually active, for example.) Then you can decide together whether the "broad population" recommendations really are appropriate for you. Edited by Lilllabettt

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emmaberry
[quote name='mantellata' timestamp='1346641311' post='2477748']
Just FYI emmaberry - while I [u]totally[/u] understand your feelings at present (such exams are never pleasant) it is [u]totally[/u] normal for Sisters to go to doctors for such exams. If you are not in an area where many nuns in habit are present (and you have had the fortune of not needing such exams for other reasons) you may not have experienced this. In my experience however, people didn't even look at you twice when you were in the office waiting for examination. It's pretty normal, routine and all the rest.

My doctor told me that (as for the same reasons you mentioned) that I didn't need a PAP until I was 35.... but that was also after taking a look at my family history etc.... so it really is best to ask your physician about you in your own particular case. If it is recommended - no worries. It's normal. :)

[b]If your nuns have any health insurance at all - a yearly PAP and breast exam is most often covered for women. So no extra charge to your community to ensure your basic health![/b] :)
[/quote]

:eek: haha! Oh well, better jump into 'all that' sooner rather than later rather than letting the fear just multiply!

I go to the OBGYN quite often, and I am in a VERY Southern area (with all the typical stereotypes of the South). You'd be amazed some of the glares I got at 14 sitting in the waiting room. I wanted to wear a shirt that said "True Love Waits" just so they'd know I wasn't there for sexual/pregnancy-related purposes. Not a fun place to be when you have no ring on your finger and you are in 'the South,' so to speak.

My OBGYN is actually my main doctor that I go to for checkups..not sure if that is strange or not. Anyways, as kind as he is, and as much as I am not just plain scared of OBGYNs anymore...the pap smear is still just scary, as is the pelvic exam. Sex is not one of those things I was scared of when I discerned religious life, but as I grow closer to actually entering somewhere I am somewhat relieved that I will never have sex or children, in the purely biological sense, though for the first year of my discernment I kept telling God, "I want a husband (and sex) and kids!"

I guess even religious don't get a 'get out of jail free' card on those womanly checkups/exams/issues. Sometimes I wish God would say, "I want YOU to be a Sister!" by not giving a girl any typical mothering attributes (menses, etc)..but I would suppose that severely inhibit the whole free will thing concerning our vocations. It would make life easier in the convent though! Although, if God took away many of those female qualities, then Sisters would be asexual, therefore not really 'Brides of Christ.'

Nevermind-I'm now thoroughly convinced God knows what He is doing. Please ignore me.. :) Edited by emmaberry

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OnlySunshine
[quote name='emmaberry' timestamp='1346637055' post='2477728']
I have PCOS, which I have been treating with a very strict diet. Still, I have heard that it poses increased risk for ovarian cancer and things of that nature. I put all this on my application, but talking to Mother about it will definitely be the wise thing to do. The Roswell Clares are very poor, so they either A) go to a doctor who gives services pro bono (but he is probably not an OBGYN!) and they trust him to recommend them to an OBGYN/specialist when needed, or B) they wait until a condition is very serious and then seek (expensive) medical treatment.
[/quote]

I have PCOS, too, and this is a question I need to ask my prospective community if I am accepted. Fortunately, most of the Sisters are nurses in the order and they keep up to date on medications and medical needs, so I doubt they would go without necessary medical treatment.

My friend entered a Carmelite order back in 2009 and told me that the Sisters get yearly GYN physicals and pap smears. I asked her how they handled it and she said that one of the senior Sisters such as the Novice Mistress or Superior went along and stayed in the room to protect the Sister's rights and make sure nothing fishy happened. She said that she felt a little uncomfortable at first, but got used to it because she knew it was for her benefit. :)

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OnlySunshine
[quote name='emmaberry' timestamp='1346645468' post='2477771']
:eek: haha! Oh well, better jump into 'all that' sooner rather than later rather than letting the fear just multiply!

I go to the OBGYN quite often, and I am in a VERY Southern area (with all the typical stereotypes of the South). You'd be amazed some of the glares I got at 14 sitting in the waiting room. I wanted to wear a shirt that said "True Love Waits" just so they'd know I wasn't there for sexual/pregnancy-related purposes. Not a fun place to be when you have no ring on your finger and you are in 'the South,' so to speak.
[/quote]

I know what you mean! I went to the OB/Gyn at 19 even though I have never been active and felt uncomfortable being surrounded by pregnant and married women. But, my mom insisted that since we have so many cancers in our family history, it's best to keep up with the best healthcare. A few years ago (2010), my grandmother was diagnosed with endometrial/uterine cancer so my OB/Gyn told me that it is important to get yearly physicals to make sure I don't get it.

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