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Speculum self-insertion: an alternative method for gynaecological examination?

Family Practice 2024 April 16
BACKGROUND: Speculum examination is an intrusive practice in the clinical care of women. It requires privacy and patients may experience discomfort or anxiety related to the procedure, which can result in delays or avoidance of necessary healthcare. Speculum self-insertion originated in the United States in the 1970s as part of the self-help movement. However, this clinical practice is largely unknown among healthcare providers and has rarely been assessed.

AIM: This study investigates the women's views and healthcare providers' experiences of the self-insertion method.

METHOD: A qualitative study was conducted between December 2021 and October 2022, including fieldwork combining semi-structured interviews (10 women) and focus groups associated with individual interviews of 13 healthcare providers. The data collected were independently coded by 2 authors and analysed using an inductive approach and grounded theory method.

RESULTS: Speculum self-insertion was described as a way to decrease discomfort and facilitate speculum insertion. Self-insertion was proposed as a means of allowing women to participate in the examination, reducing their vulnerability against power imbalances in the doctor-patient relationship. Both patients and healthcare providers have reported that speculum self-insertion is a method that can contribute to improving trust and communication during the examination.

CONCLUSION: The practice of speculum self-insertion during the consultation is an alternative to traditional practitioner insertion and may be offered to all women by any practitioner who wishes to use this technique.

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