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Feeling Comfortable With a Doctor of a Different Gender

Medically reviewed by: Lonna P. Gordon, MD

Seeing a new doctor for the first time may make you a little nervous. It can feel more awkward if the person is a different gender and the visit is about something sensitive. Maybe you have questions about sex, need a pelvic exam, or have a problem like a burning feeling when you pee.

Being comfortable with your doctor is important. You don’t want to delay or avoid mentioning something that could harm your health later. These tips can help you feel more at ease.

How Can I Feel More at Ease With My Doctor?

Know that your doctor has seen and heard it all. Your new doctor has likely seen hundreds or even thousands of people your age. So chances are your doctor has heard all sorts of problems and treated them, including any you have right now. Your doctor will look at you in the same way a doctor of the same gender would — as a patient. 

Have a chat first. You may find that your new doctor makes you feel at comfortable right away. But if you're still a bit anxious, ask if you can spend some time talking before you're examined. It can be small stuff, like talking about pets or classes you like. This can help you relax and get to know each other a little. Then asking questions about your body or being looked at may seem like less of a big deal.

You can also say what concerns you. For example, “Because we’re not the same gender, I’m nervous asking certain questions and having you examine me.” Other people have likely said the same thing, so your doctor can try to put any worries to rest.

Say what will help you feel more relaxed. Some people like their doctors to “narrate” — say what they’re doing as they do it. For example, if you’re having a pelvic exam, you might like your doctor to describe each step so you’re not surprised by anything. If you’d like your doctor to talk about something else, you can also suggest that.

Try a distraction. Ask if you can listen to music or watch a video during a medical exam. Many doctors will think that’s a great idea.

Ask if you can keep some of your clothes on. If you’re given a gown, sometimes you might be able to leave on some clothing, like a bra or underwear. This can help you feel a little more covered up. 

Write down any questions you have. It’s easy to forget questions you want to ask once you’re in the exam room. Write them down ahead of time and refer to them during the visit. If it’s tough to get the words out, show your doctor the list.

What if I’m Still Not Comfortable With My Doctor?

It’s possible that you still may not feel comfortable after meeting your new doctor. If you think it will keep you from asking about your sexual health or having an exam, ask if there's a doctor in the practice who’s the same gender as you. You might be able to see that person instead.

What Else Should I Know?

Your health depends on the information you give your doctor. You need to be able to talk about any issues you have, ask questions, and give honest answers. So it’s important to find someone you’re at ease with — whatever the doctor’s gender.

Medically reviewed by: Lonna P. Gordon, MD
Date reviewed: October 2023