To investigate specialist clinicians' experiences of treating vaginal agenesis.
Twelve hospitals in Britain and Sweden.
Thirty-two health professionals connected to multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) including medical specialists and psychologists.
Interventions and Main Outcome Measures
Theoretical thematic analysis of recorded verbatim data.
The gynecologist and psychologist interviewees share certain observations including the importance of psychological readiness for and appropriate timing of treatment. Three overlapping themes are identified in our theoretical analysis of the MDT clinicians' talk: (1) the stigma of vaginal agenesis and the pressure to be “normal” can lead patients to minimize the time, effort, physical discomfort, and emotional cost inherent in treatment. (2) Under pressure, treatment might be presented to patients with insufficient attention to the potential psychological effect of the language used. Furthermore, the opportunity to question what is “normal” in sex is generally not taken up. It can be challenging to help the women to transcend their medicalized experiences to come to experiencing their bodies as sexual and enjoyable. (3) The reality of treatment demands, which are not always adequately processed before treatment, can lead to discontinuation and even disengagement with services.
The MDT clinicians in this study emphasized the importance of psychological input in vaginal construction. However, such input should proactively question social norms about how women's genitalia should appear and function. Furthermore, rather than steering patients (back) to treatment, the entire MDT could more explicitly question social norms and help the women to do the same. By shifting the definition of success from anatomy to personal agency, the clinical focus is transformed from treatment to women.
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Published online: January 12, 2018
The authors indicate no conflicts of interest.
© 2018 North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. Published by Elsevier Inc.