I recently spoke to a wellness group on how to engage with your local doctor. I offered 3 steps and some practical advice for them. I'll explore the 3 steps in a future post, but wanted to share the practical advice now, because it comes from one of my favorite TV characters: Andy Griffith.
Yes, the slow-talking, southern gentleman who sheriffs the little town of Mayberry, North Carolina. It's one of my all-time favorite shows and so it's no surprise to me (although it may be to you!) that living like Andy can help you in the doctor's office.
- Be kind and curious. The Southern phrase "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar" is true. Kindness can get you a long way. Even if you had a frustrated nurse or a rushed doctor during your last visit, that doesn't mean the same thing will happen this time. You can help set a positive tone for the conversation, which may make a difference!
Andy wasn't only kind - he was curious. He asked questions, and it was usually those questions that led him to realize what was really going on in a situation. When a doctor prescribes a new medicine, ask them why! What are the side effects? What issue does it treat? How long will you need to take it?
If the doctor gives a new diagnosis, ask why he/she thinks so! What symptoms of yours match with it, and which symptoms aren't explained by it? What are other possible diagnoses?
What's his/her long term plan of care for you? If this current treatment isn't effective, what's the next step?
You have a right to ask questions and understand the full scope of your doctor's care.
- Move slowly. Do not rush or be rushed. It's very possible that the doctor's office is abuzz with activity. There may be dozens in the waiting room and the staff's frazzled facial expressions let you know it's a crazy day. None of that should change how much attention you get. So when your doctor walks through the door, that's your time - take it!
If your doctor looks like he/she is headed out of the door too quickly, say something like, "Thank you for your help. I have more thoughts on it, if you could give me a few seconds to put them together - I'd like your feedback."
You should not be an inconvenience to your doctor. If they will not stay in the room with you, it's time to find a doctor who values you as a patient.
- Be principled and sure. Know ahead of time what you feel comfortable with and what you don't. So if you know you don't want to take hormonal contraception or pursue IVF, stand firm on those decisions in the exam room. Don't be afraid to ask, "What are my other options?" They likely did not know your feelings on those issues before, and should be able to provide other alternatives or resources.
Andy Griffith always got the job done, but never by being a bully. He was notorious for never carrying a gun. He was simply confident and sure of his role in the situation, and you can be, too.
If you feel you have to be overly aggressive in order to be heard or your doctor refuses to honor your principles, I recommend finding another doctor who will engage in conversation more willingly.
- Partner up. Andy didn't do it alone. He always had Barney (for better or worse). Bring someone trusted with you to the appointment, like a friend, family member, spouse, or neighbor. They can provide moral support, help you remember your questions, and even take notes. Often, they can hear what the doctor says in a more objective way, because they are less invested. This can make a big difference!
Leave the kids at home, though. It can be difficult to fully focus on your time with your doctor with children in the room, and can prevent you from being completely honest with questions and concerns.
The tips above are a little light-hearted, because they are for fairly healthy doctor-patient relationships, These are helpful when patients feel shy or unsure about how to approach a question. If your doctor is belittling, abusing, or mistreating you - I have a totally different set of advice: leave. You deserve to be heard and respected as a patient and a person.
A question I ask each client is whether or not she practices douching. If you don't know what that means, then continue on with your current "down there" cleansing routine! But if this is a habit you practice, let's have a little chat.
Let's start with this amazing truth: your vagina actually keeps itself clean. Isn't that wild? Your body knows exactly what it needs to do to keep important factors like pH and bacteria balanced. When you introduce foreign chemicals, cleaners, or even too much water, you throw off this delicate balance. It then begins working overtime to correct the problem, which could lead to additional discharge, change in smell, and discomfort. Women don't like these symptoms (who would?) and so they "cleanse" again, continuing the damaging cycle.
If you're in this category, try these helpful steps:
If you aren't sure whether the discharge you're seeing is good or bad, talk with me, your FertilityCare Practitioner. Not only will I talk with you about what you're experiencing, I'll educate you on knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy discharge and set you up for long term confidence related to identifying these common infections.
Here's to great vaginal health!
*There's been minimal scientific research to support probiotic supplementation, but doctors and wholistic medicine professionals continue to recommend it. Although there hasn't yet been a lot to prove it, there's been no research that says it's unhealthy. Try looking for a probiotic with Lactobacillus. (I receive no financial benefit from purchases.)
If you’ve ever gone to the doctor and left feeling unheard, you’re not alone. It’s become disturbingly routine to work with a client who has been made to feel her symptoms or concerns were silly, absurd, or unimportant.
Did you read that online?
You’re probably just stressed.
I told you to take the pill, but you said you didn’t want to.
Are you sure those were your symptoms?
Some women have experienced this so often that they compromise on their expectations and no longer hope for healing, feel they’re lucky if they get any treatment suggestions at all.
I wish I could tell you exactly why this is the way it is for so many, but it’s most likely a complicated mixture of medical education, job stress and limitations, personalities, and the status quo. I haven’t found the perfect solution, because that would require systemic change within the education and practice of healthcare, but I can share the best thing I’ve found so far: natural, procreative technology (or naprotechnology, or “napro”).
It’s a funny name for a restorative, whole-person-focused speciality in women’s healthcare.
Created by the developers of the Creighton method, it was developed as a direct result of the research provided from the Creighton method clients. The more data they gained, the more concrete evidence they had for practical solutions to common reproductive complaints (like PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, amenorrhea, etc), all through the lens of restorative medicine.
Napro doctors are OBGYNs, DOs, family physicians, etc who receive additional, extensive education in a restorative, cooperative approach to women’s healthcare.
This means they focus on the root cause of issues, not band-aid solutions that may only treat a symptom or two. They know the value of a woman’s reproductive cycle and work cooperatively within its framework, never stopping this natural process or forcing it to do something it wasn’t designed to do. They use only bio-identical hormones and always work to protect even the possibility of a budding life. (Plus, get this - they don't consider hormonal contraception a treatment plan, which means you won't be told "Just take the pill" ever again!)
Napro doctors are not perfect; they are still human. But, they are the best physicians I’ve found yet within women’s healthcare. Plus, the work that we do (charting cycles, identifying ovulation, paying attention to bodily signs, and learning to be in tune with your own body) is deeply valued by napro physicians — so much so, that they require a few months of this charting before offering a diagnosis or treatment plan. This means that they value the voice of the patient. They want to know what you’ve noticed, how you feel, and what you desire.
These are reasons why I continue to partner with them for diagnoses and treatment of my FertilityCare clients. If you’d like to work with one of my recommended Napro physicians, submit your name here with the comment “Napro physicians.”