Talking about menopause with your doctor can be intimidating 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). And unfortunately, many physicians know little about hormone management beyond birth control pills and traditional synthetic hormone replacement.
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 though, so you may still find yourself in situations that require you to muster your courage and ask for what you need.
Let’s get started! I’ve put together this list of 9 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 respect 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 X,Y 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. Your doctor has about 7 minutes to spend with you (the length of an average visit) so don’t save the most important point for last.
4. Do a little preliminary research about your symptoms. But not enough to scare yourself to death! Know a little bit about what your options are and what you want for yourself. Here are a few things to think about. Will you take hormones if offered? Are you willing to undertake big lifestyle changes? How do you feel about antidepressants and/or sleeping pills?
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!
5. 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).
6. 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. If you’re embarrassed by whatever is going on, trust me. Most providers have seen/heard it all. 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 tell the whole story.
7. 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 you’re unclear, simply say so and ask for further explanation.
8. 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.
9. 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 takes a village. Give careful thought and consideration to the people you put on your team. Your healthcare providers are at least as important as your hairdresser or your trainer, right? These are the people who will be setting you up for a long, healthy old age.
And always remember, you’re in charge of your health 24/7 and YOU will always be your own best advocate!
Visit Dr. Anna’s website at www.drannagarrett.com.
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. Her clients would tell you that her real gift is helping them reclaim parts of themselves they thought were gone forever.
Find out more about working with her at http://www.drannagarrett.com/work-with-me/.