Having an open and honest dialogue with your healthcare provider can be uncomfortable for many women. Many of us were brought up to believe that doctors know all and that we should follow instructions and not ask questions (if we even know WHAT questions to ask). Fortunately, I believe the tide is turning and women are realizing that menopause and all that goes with it is no longer a taboo subject.
That shift is in its infancy, so it still requires courage to speak up and ask for what you need. I’ve put together this list of 11 steps to help you start building the confidence you need without having to go to medical school.
The courage? Well, that takes practice and requires a willingness to trust your instincts, knowing that your health depends on it.
1. Above all else, trust that YOU know your body better than anyone. Never forget this. Even if your provider says “it’s all in your head”. Your body has innate wisdom that only you are aware of. Trust that wisdom and keep searching for the right caregiver until you find someone who is willing to listen and respects your point of view.
2. Ask yourself high-quality questions when it comes to your health. “Will my insurance pay for this?” isn’t one of them. Higher quality questions include:
- What is the return on my investment if I do XY or Z?
- How will feeling better impact my life?
- What’s it costing me to do nothing?
- Do I REALLY want my insurance company deciding how good I can feel?
3. When you meet with your provider, be organized and to the point. Prioritize your questions and concerns on a written list and address the top ones first.
4. Take an active role in your care. A “doctor knows best” attitude will not serve you. At all. If your doctor is impatient or rushes you, start looking for another one.
5. Do a little preliminary research about your symptoms. Perimenopause has at least 34 symptoms, so you can’t rely on your BFF’s experience to mimic your own. Know a little bit about what your options are and what you want for yourself.
- Hormones or no?
- Willing to make big lifestyle changes or no?
- Antidepressants or no?
- Sleeping pills or no?
The more clarity you have here, the better able your provider will be to make helpful recommendations. And don’t be afraid to say no if things are going in a direction you don’t like. Remember, you are in charge!
6. Consider working with an alternative provider. Most people wouldn’t think about working with a Doctor of Pharmacy to get their hormones balanced. But I offer testing, customized management plans and lots of hand holding. No, your insurance probably won’t cover working with me, but what’s it costing you to do nothing? Plus, I’ll give you a level of care that you can’t possibly get in a 7 minute visit.
Other helpful alternative care providers include acupuncturists (great for hot flashes), massage therapists, naturopaths, and herbalists (among others).
7. Don’t downplay any symptoms or physical complaints you may have. All too often, when you’re sitting in a doctor’s office, you get an attack of the “it’s not really that bad” syndrome and either don’t mention problems you’ve been having or mention them as an afterthought, as if it’s really not a big deal.
Embarrassed by whatever is going on? Trust me – most providers have seen/heard it all if they’ve been in practice for more than a minute. The bottom line is that your doctor won’t be able to help you if you don’t clearly and honestly present any physical complaints to her. Do her and yourself a favor by speaking up (this is where the courage part comes in). A confident patient /client who is upfront about what’s going on gets the best care.
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8. Be sure you understand the doctor’s answers and don’t be afraid to ask for further explanations. Just because your doctor thinks she’s answered your questions doesn’t necessarily mean she has. If your doctor explains something to you, but you’re still unclear about it, simply say so and ask for further explanation. Don’t go home and wonder (or call later and get stuck in phone tree hell).
9. Get information in writing. People remember less than half of what is told to them in a visit. And with the menopausal crowd, it’s probably less than that. I speak from experience.
10. If you’re confused, ask for information in people-speak, not medical-ese. Often a doctor will tell you about procedures or treatments using high falutin’ technical language…and you have only the vaguest idea of what she’s talking about.
Ask for a translation in simple, layperson’s terms. If you don’t understand what is being said, you can’t make educated decisions…which, in the long run, won’t help your provider or you.
11. Once you and your provider have decided on a course of action, keep up your end of the deal. There are few things more frustrating from my standpoint as a care provider than creating an elegant management plan for my client only to have them do nothing.
- Can’t afford the meds? Say so before leaving.
- Do the instructions sound overwhelming? Ask your provider to start with a smaller management step.
- Have no desire to make lifestyle changes? Be honest and say so.
Managing menopause is a big job. It takes a village. Give careful thought and consideration to the people you put on your team. After all, they’re going to help you become a rockin’ old lady. Your healthcare providers are an integral part of that team…at least as important as your hairdresser or your trainer, right? Remember, you’re in charge of your health 24/7 and you will always be your own best advocate.
Dr. Anna Garrett is a menopause expert and Doctor of Pharmacy. She helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. Dr. Anna is the author of Perimenopause: The Savvy Sister’s Guide to Hormone Harmony. Order your copy at www.perimenopausebook.com.
Dr. Anna is available for 1-1 consultations. Find out more at www.drannagarrett.com/lets-