One thing that many of my clients get nervous about is seeing their primary care provider for a hormonal or women's health condition. Sometimes, when it comes to our periods, we are understandably embarrassed about speaking to our doctors, and sometimes we have had negative experiences that put us off seeking help.
Here are a few things that you can do in advance to help you along.
1. Research Your Doctor And Shop Around
I have had to move GP surgeries a few times until I found a doctor that I felt listened to me and took my health complaints seriously. Most surgeries have websites so you can see whether your doctor has a special interest in hormones or women' health and get a feel for them in advance. I appreciate some people don't have much choice in doctor if they live somewhere remote, but many of us do have that choice and it is worth investigating until you feel you have a doctor who listens to you.
2. Put Together The Information In Advance
This is a really helpful tool for holistic therapists as well as doctors but this will give your doctor a clearer picture and speed things up massively. Write down what your health concern that you want to talk to them about. This is especially helpful if you feel awkward saying something out loud (but remember doctors deal with embarrassing issues all day long).
Next is putting together a symptom list. List every single symptom you have, no matter if you think it is unrelated (you'd be surprised how unrelated some seem). Then once you have your full list, start filling it out with more information about each symptom:
When it started
How frequently does it occur?
Can you quantify it, e.g. on a scale of 0-10, how bad is the pain? How much hair have you lost?
Can you describe it e.g. if it is pain, where is it and what does it feel like (aching, bruising, sharp)?
Does anything trigger it or make it worse?
Does anything make it better?
What things have you tried to resolve it already? (It is totally ok to say that some things help, it doesn't mean the doctor will not help you, but it might speed up the diagnosis)
This may seem a bit extreme for every symptom, but this information can be like gold dust and really speed things up, sometimes by several months or even years.
3. Get Clear On What You Want Before You Go
What is the reason you want to see the doctor? Do you want a diagnosis or a referral? Do you want testing so you can explore other avenues of health care, or do you really just want a prescription. There is no right or wrong answer, but it can save so much time if you are upfront about what it is that you really want from your doctor.
Some people just want a diagnosis so that they have a label and feel that they can move on with their journey through another route. But others may go in having researched their condition and want a medication.
Sometimes, it is easier to be upfront with your expectations with your doctor, rather than dancing around unspoken implications throughout the appointment and coming out feeling like you were in a sparring match. It may be that they disagree with your expectations, but if you know what it is you want and why, then they can explain their reasoning and you can work together in partnership.
This is so much more pleasant and better on your stress levels (and therefore your hormones and health) than feeling like you have to go into a battle and one of you "winning" the argument.
4. Do You Need An Advocate or Note Taker?
If you feel you need a bit of support, take in a friend and prepare them in advance about everything you want to cover and ask them to help you push through mentioning all the key things you wanted to ask. Also, this can be useful for follow ups if you know they are going to give you test results. Having a second ear can be useful too.
Sometimes, knowing you have a friend in the waiting room can be valuable too, even if they don't come into the room with you.
By taking these steps, you are moving in the direction of taking an active part in your health and wellbeing. So many women feel disempowered when it comes to their health and the traditional healthcare model, but it is possible to have a more collaborative relationship with your doctor, even if you have no knowledge of healthcare.
I love hearing women taking steps to take back control of their health and I hope these steps start you on the path of a collaborative relationship with your primary care provider.
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