Gynecology & People With Autism: Advice for Carers

Posted on: 7 August 2015

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental problem that affects millions of people in the United States. Doctors cannot cure ASD, so people with the condition must learn to cope with the symptoms in all situations. Learn how a visit to see a gynecologist can affect somebody with autism, and find out how you can help them cope with the situation.

Symptoms of ASD

Doctors don't yet know what causes ASD, but the condition can lead to many symptoms. Most commonly, people with ASD struggle in social situations. They may find it hard to understand or describe how they feel about something, and people with ASD will often get upset very suddenly. People with ASD often prefer to spend time alone and will struggle to make eye contact with other people.

ASD sufferers can also find it hard to communicate with other people. People with the condition are sometimes prone to sudden aggressive outbursts and will often have a short attention span. All these (and other) symptoms make it harder for people with autism to adapt to unusual situations, and the experience of a visit to a gynecologist could become highly stressful for somebody with this condition.

Autism and gynecology

Somebody with ASD will find it hard to cope with the invasive feeling of a routine gynecological examination, particularly in the clinical surroundings of an unfamiliar treatment room. Even a simple check-up could easily overload the patient with different sensory experiences, so it's easy to understand why many girls and women with ASD could suffer an anxiety attack in these circumstances.

To make matters worse, girls and women with ASD are more likely to experience certain gynecological issues. A 2010 study found that adolescent girls with autism experienced more behavioral issues than any other participants in the research. The study also showed that girls with these developmental disorders were more likely to experience problems like irregular bleeding. As such, regular gynecological health checks are vital for girls and women with ASD.

Helping your loved one cope with the experience

Helping somebody with ASD cope with a visit to the gynecologist isn't easy, but there are various steps you can take.

Talk to the gynecologist before the appointment. Explain and describe the symptoms you regularly see in your loved one, paying particular attention to any triggers you think may cause a problem. For example, some people with ASD may dislike the texture, feel or smell of the latex gloves that a gynecologist uses. Understanding this can help a medical professional take time to help the patient adjust to the situation.

Look for a gynecologist with experience of dealing with people with ASD. Experts who understand the condition will often make changes in the clinic that benefit patients with this developmental disorder. For example, changes to the lighting and background music used can all help calm somebody with ASD who is anxious about the experience.

New patients will probably need time to grow familiar with the gynecologist's clinic. Arrange with the practice for you and your loved one to attend the clinic ahead of the appointment. A guided tour can help your loved one become more familiar with what to expect. Ask the gynecologist or nurse to show the patient instruments like the speculum that they will use during an examination. Most people with ASD can cope with unusual situations far better if they have time to prepare and know what to expect.

On the day of the visit, encourage your loved one to take a familiar object with them into the examination room. These objects can help people with ASD cope with sensory stress. Many people with ASD also use stimming behaviors to cope with stress. Examples include ear tapping, finger snapping or simply staring at the lights. Don't discourage these behaviors, but make sure the gynecologist knows that this is something the patient regularly does to avoid any interruption in the examination.

A visit to a gynecologist could become very stressful for somebody with ASD. If you care for somebody with the condition, take time to prepare for the visit, and work with an experienced gynecologist to make sure your loved one gets the care she needs. For more information, visit resources such as