real life

LANA HIRSCHOWITZ: “The doctor asked me to get undressed in front of him. Is that normal?”

I’ve often wondered why most women, me included, worry about what undies to wear when they have a medical appointment which requires pants off. In my past experience, when you go to the doctor they leave you to undress, fold your undies deep under your clothes and then lie pantless beneath a sheet before going any further. They never actually get to see your undies

I’ve always appreciated the discretion they provide by turning away and not looking while I scuttle my undies deep under my jeans/top/shoes combo.


Until recently that is, when I discovered a couple of doctors who definitely didn’t offer that discretion and I can’t help wondering if it’s a trend, if maybe the medical school talk on turning away at pivotal times has dropped out of the curriculum.

A few weeks back I broke out in a rash that covered my body from neck to toe and my inner hypochondriac reacted swiftly, via Google, to the GP.

I presented myself to a new GP as my regular doctor was away. I sat in the chair opposite her and described my rash being careful not to share the medical knowledge I had picked up via Google on the way (most doctors don’t appreciate Google oneupmanship.)

She listened carefully and then stood up and asked me to show her. I was made to go to the bed and lie down, lift my top and let her examine me. But she stopped me and asked me to lift my top before I even turned to get to the bed. No big deal, I did as she requested and she hardly recoiled at all.  Clearly she had seen worse rashes at medical school.

Three days later the rash was worse and she referred me to a dermatologist. This made perfect sense because I wasn’t sick, just itchy and full of a red rash that a dermatologist would probably love. (Do not Google rashes on body parts – trust me).

I chose my undies with care, knowing he would probably need to see the extent of the rash and it was pretty bad on my stomach, back and thighs.

Dr Ginni Mansberg shares the biggest misconceptions women have about their bodies. (Post continues after audio.)


He called me into his rooms and I sat across from him and went through the same thing I had done with the GP. Until examination time, and that’s where I became a bit uncomfortable.

Without so much as a nod to my modesty or comfort he asked me to get undressed. Just like that while I sat there and he sat opposite me. He didn’t move. Nor did I. I waited for him to turn, leave or show me to a change room. He didn’t.

I didn’t feel uncomfortable about my rash, he was a doctor after all; I didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable about my body; I’m sure he wasn’t interested in it and I’d been picky with my choice of undies so it wasn’t that, but it felt really uncomfortable and very non-medical to undress in front of a stranger. Even if that stranger was a doctor only interested in what was making me so goddamn itchy.

After a few uncomfortable seconds passed, I bit the bullet and started to undress. It wasn’t traumatic but it made me uncomfortable and a little irritated that I was made to feel so vulnerable at the doctor. Undressing in front of the doctor felt very different to undressing at the doctor.

Like the GP before him, he examined me standing up and uncomfortable, this time just in my knickers and my bra.

I’m not sure why I felt standing there in the middle of the room in my underwear felt way worse than being examined on the bed. I’m not sure if I’m being old fashioned and hanging on to tradition. Does it make a difference where the examination takes place? Does it matter if you take off your clothes behind a curtain or in front of the doctor?

Probably not. Well not physically anyway.

But one thing for sure I know I won’t be making another appointment to see that doctor – even though his advice to me was to come back in four weeks.  

PS The rash cleared itself.

Lana Hirschowitz is kind of a worrier who is trying very hard to transform into a kindness warrior. It remains a work in progress. In between worrying (and reminding people to be kind) she espouses her opinion on most things on Facebook here.

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