If you are an adult who has a vagina, you've probably experienced the
horror joy that is the annual gynecologist appointment. (And if you have a vagina and have never seen a gyno, my god, PLEASE change that. Planned Parenthood, y'all.) Anyway, the part of the otherwise OK visit that many vagina-owners dread the most is the pelvic exam, when the doctor inserts a device called a speculum into the vagina, in order to examine the cervix. And it's pretty uncomfortable.
As it turns out, the reason we hate that part so much (other than the fact that we're naked, vag out, in a cold room) might be the speculum's archaic design. As pointed out by Wired, the speculum has hardly evolved over the past 150 years.
Luckily for us, our health, and our doctors, a new version is in the works.
The speculum was first designed by a doctor named James Marion Sims in the 1840s. To develop the instrument, Wired explains, Sims conducted experiments on slave women, without anesthesia. Seriously. Wired summarizes it best: "So to say that the speculum was not designed with patient comfort in mind would be an egregious understatement."
Over the past decade, some have attempted to reinvent the speculum, but nothing stuck. However, designers Hailey Stewart and Sahana Kumar, who work at a design firm called Frog, are determined to be the ones who finally create a 21st century version of the device.
After months and months of research, building prototypes, and consulting with physicians, Stewart and Kumar have developed a device that they think will benefit both patient and doctor, called the Yona. As detailed on its website, the Yona's 3-leafed design allows for a clearer view, it doesn't force the vagina to open as widely, it only requires one hand, there are no loud clicks or rough edges, it's less cold, and because of the handle's angle, it will eliminate the need for "the last scootch." Oh HELL YES!
Non-vagina owners, if you're feeling lost, here's that Planned Parenthood link again. And yes, it's just as important for people who don't have vaginas to be educated on this stuff. As pointed out in Wired's article, many of Stewart and Kumar's male colleagues had never seen a speculum before, let alone thought about the vulnerability going to the gynecologist requires.
The Yona seems promising, but Stewart says the biggest hurdle is convincing doctors that purchasing and learning how to use a new device will be worth it. "You could create the most beautiful, most unique, most user-friendly device, but if a doctor doesn't want to learn how to use it, your patient's never going to see it," she told Wired.