On Sept. 9, 2019, Dr. Jen Gunter posted an article to her website which brought to light an exam colloquially known as a “Premarital Exam”. The article included screenshots from the U’s gynecology webpage, which encouraged patients to “get ready for your wedding night with a premarital exam.”
Though commonly referred to as a premarital exam, which could allude to an archaic and perhaps invasive process, the U officially calls the exam a Sexual Health Visit. (The U’s website has been updated to better reflect this terminology. The original tagline has also been removed.) According to Katie Ward, an associate professor and Specialty Track Director of the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Program who has worked at the U’s OB-GYN clinic since 2002, a sexual health exam is more like an “annual wellness check. In fact, that is how it’s most often billed to insurances — as an annual preventive medical check.”
“It is an exam that is usually requested by patients,” Ward said. “It’s not anything anyone is supposed to do. Depending on the age and comfort level of the patient, this appointment could entail a variety of things. If the patient is 21 or over, we will offer to do a pap smear, we could also do STI testing and other prenatal testing if need be.
“Generally, we will talk about family planning, types of contraception, consent, how to become comfortable with your anatomy and any other questions the patient might have. As a healthcare provider, it is a good opportunity to educate patients and meet them where they’re at for whatever they may need.”
When asked why the U might offer an exam like this, Ward said, “It’s largely due to interest from the community we serve. It’s a unique request.”
“We have offered this for at least the past thirty years, though if anything, the number of people requesting this exam is decreasing rather than increasing,” Ward said. Several times throughout the interview, Ward alluded to the idea that the predominant patient base who request these exams are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Emilee Christensen, a current microbiology student at Brigham Young University and a member of the church, further explained the cultural background. “As far as I’m aware, this is not something that is required by the church to get married, though I’d imagine it might be something moms suggest their daughters request,” she said. “Personally, I would rather have a discussion about such important and intimate things with a medical professional rather than a family member. I think it’s just important that people are educated. Regardless of their background, education is important.”
The University hospital says that this exam is designed to meet the needs of their patient base. It’s an opportunity to educate the population and keep them safe. “In the end, it’s all about permission, protection and pleasure,” Ward said.