When You Must TALK BACK To Your Doctor
Women have a special relationship with their
obstetricians and midwives. The reason may be obvious, but once you can talk to
someone about your vagina, not to mention, surrender to the medical necessity
of invasive inspection, and expose your most vulnerable body parts to essential
scrutiny, it often lends itself to, shall we say, an intimate relationship, of
Yes, you can touch my breasts. Yes, you can
insert your cold metal contraption into my vagina, which seems to have a mind
of its own as it not-so-gracefully defies penetration. I will submit to the
obligatory examination on a regular basis whether you are a man or a woman,
whether you make me comfortable or not, whether you like your job or not,
whether you’ve had a bad day, or not, and I will cooperate under any condition because, well, because
you are my doctor and I know this is just part of the deal.
But in return, I expect you to care about me.
Not a lot, just enough to have my best interest at heart and have enough
respect for my entire self to have a dialogue about how I am feeling. Not part
of the medical paradigm? Oh dear doctor, that’s where you are wrong.
I say to all postpartum women, make sure your doctor
listens to you. It IS part of best practice and comprehensive medical care. You
have a right to insist that before you leave your doctor’s office, you feel
that your doctor has adequately made note of what is most important to you.
If you have recently had a baby, and you
are beyond the 2-3 week postpartum time frame that marks the end of the baby blues, and you do not like the
way you are feeling, here is what I suggest you think about:
First, the obvious, but not easy: Tell your
doctors how you are feeling. Really tell them. Tell them if you are
scared. Tell them this isn’t the way you are used to feeling. Tell them you
don’t feel like yourself. Tell them you need their help.
IF THEY… dismiss you, pooh-pooh you, patronize
you, ridicule you, ignore you – find another doctor.
IF THEY… offer empty reassurance, sound
condescending, make you feel silly for bringing it up – you need to decide if
you want to make the time and effort to educate them.
IF THEY… do not screen you for postpartum
assessment, if they tell you to go relax or take a walk or have a glass of wine
– you need to help them understand that they might be operating with
Second. Remember your healthcare provider is
there to help you. If you are silenced or intimidated or weakened by the
combination of how your symptoms make you feel and how your doctor makes you
feel, that is not okay. You need to respond to that by paying attention to
these cues and stand up against the temptation to retreat, by letting your
doctor know exactly what you need. And what is that? It will be different for
every woman, but fundamentally, it is to be heard.
Your doctor may actually care very much but have
the wrong information. Consider the truly wonderful provider who tells the
4-month postpartum woman who expresses symptoms of sleeplessness, irritability, hopelessness, constant worry,
and panic – that this is just what being a
mother feels like.
YOU are the best advocate for yourself. Just
like you can help your partner help you, you can help your doctor help you. If
you wait for others to take the initiative, you may not get the help you need
until your symptoms get worse. Sometimes, the people closest to you, including
your wonderful doctors, are wrong. Sometimes, they make presumptions that are
not always in sync with what your experience is. You are the one with the best
information that can put you on the road to recovery. Your doctor can only know
what you tell them. Your doctor will be better able to respond to your needs if
you are clear and direct about what you need. If it feels like your doctors
aren’t listening, it may be because they are too busy, they don’t care, they
are having a bad day, they don’t understand, they are overwhelmed, overworked,
depressed themselves, or they are misinformed.
OR, it may be because you are not expressing
yourself clearly enough.
Take a stand on behalf of your #MentalHealth and tell your provider if you do not feel
heard. Your doctor needs to know and wants to help. Everyone will benefit.
If you are worried about the way you are feeling, you need to let your healthcare provider know, now. Often, when we feel unheard, or misunderstood,
we withdraw. We sulk. We get angry or we give up. There are all kinds of
unproductive responses when someone misinterprets what we say or what we need.
Instead of recoiling, the best response to the frustration of not being heard
is to talk back. Reclarify. Reinterpret. Right then, at the moment you sense
that your words are not getting through. Pause briefly. Take a breath, then
speak again. If you can’t do it then, and you don’t realize how bad you feel
until you get home, then call you doctor. Ask them to call you when they have
time to talk, after hours. If their support staff is screening their calls and
wants to know what the call is about, tell them it’s personal, it’s important,
and you would like to speak to your doctor when possible. It’s part of their
No matter how badly you feel, sit up tall, even
if you are crying, speak right through your tears and directly to your point.
Look your doctor in the eyes. If need be, ask him/her to stop what they are
doing for a moment and just sit with you. If you do this right, it will only
take 2 minutes of their time. Really.
can be symptomatic and competent at the same time. Do not let your symptoms
get in the way of you saying or doing what you need to say or do.
“I don’t think you understand.”
Or, “I don’t think you heard me.”
Or, “I need to you give me another couple of
minutes to listen to what I have to say.”
Or, “I’m not sure you understand how bad I
Do not leave until you feel heard. Blogs and
social media are a phenomenal way to find support and strength through a
community of like-minded women with compatible agendas. But until you take this
platform to the doctors who are in position to help you, you will be preaching
to the choir.
Find your voice. Find the words. Be true to
yourself and your body. Spread the word. Help yourself and others by leading
the way. Turn your frustration into a teaching moment. Rise above your
disappointment and create an environment that is more conducive to your ultimate
YOU hold the power to help yourself gain access
to treatment and begin to heal.