I ran across this post the other day and was surprised to learn that there was such a thing as a disposable plastic speculum. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about and the image to the left doesn't ring a bell, a speculum is the thing a doctor inserts in a woman during a pelvic exam, during a pap smear and for generally taking a peek around the ol' puddietat. My experience has always only been with a metal speculum, the kind that gets autoclaved and reused countless times on other unsuspecting victims, er, patients.
A plastic speculum seems to be a giant waste of plastic and a wholly unnecessary one at that. If you think about it, the minimum recommended number of pap smears over a woman's lifetime is something like 23. Add in other pelvic exams and the number is much higher.
As a snapshot, there are currently 150 million females living in the US. If all our doctors used a disposable plastic speculum, that would be 3.5 billion speculums going into the landfill by the end of all our lives. Wow, what a legacy to leave behind, huh? If this sounds like a weird thing to focus on, it's really not, because it's something that has a relatively easy to acquire alternative - the stainless steel speculum. The one that was routinely in use before cheap plastics came along.
So, what to do about this? Well, the next time you get a pap smear, talk to your doctor about your preference for a metal speculum. If you are concerned about it being cold, they can place it in warm water beforehand (that's what my doctor does). Discuss your concern for medical waste. There are some things we can't reuse (IV tubing for example), but this one seems like a no brainer. Plus, there's less risk of it cracking or breaking. The last thing I want are shards of plastic lacerating my lady bits. Finally, the plastic speculums tend to not slide as easily as the stainless steel variety, thereby necessitating more lubrication or resulting in a more painful pelvic exam.
If you are a guy reading this, you aren't off the hook either. I'm sure you have a mother, sister, wife, daughter or female friend in your life that could use some educatin'. And, nothing really brings family and folks together better than getting some helpful tips about pelvic exams from a dude.
What kind of speculum does your doctor use?