Six Things Your Doctor Wants You To Ask Them
Throughout history, women have been socialized to hand over the authority over our bodies to our fathers, husbands and male doctors. These men were often well-meaning, sometimes exploitative. The discourse around our health and our participation in medicine has been dictated by others and this objectification continues today, despite the huge advances we have made as a society. One only has to glance at media and advertising to realize the extent to which our bodies are scrutinized, policed and judged by others.
Does anyone else sense a change in the tides, though? We women have rapidly become a multi-faceted, vocal, dynamic, economically independent and socially significant group. Intakes of students at medical school are in fact tipping into the favour of female numbers. With female physicians and more understanding and educated male doctors around now, the time has come for women to reclaim ownership over our bodies.
Nowadays, information about our health and wellbeing is increasingly being sought online in the digital universe. This is an immensely empowering space, but unfortunately also a source of incredible amounts of myth and misinformation. It is now our responsibility, as the women who inherit this legacy, to take back the control over our health and well-being.
One way we can do this is within the relationship we create with our doctor. For those of us who choose to have families and children, it is also true that overwhelmingly, women play the most vital role in maintaining healthy families and accessing the health care system across lifetimes. We must challenge the notion that the doctor-patient relationship is one with a power imbalance. It is in fact a partnership and we are no longer passive bystanders in the conversation around our bodies.
For these reasons, here are six things every powerful woman should ask their doctor.
1. Could you write that down?
The human brain is such that it tends to remember the first and last points in a conversation. Along the way, important details can be confused and forgotten, particularly as your doctor may use language that is normal to them but unfamiliar to you. Be assertive and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If your doctor allows it, record your visit.
2. Why am I so tired all the time?
Fatigue and tiredness are common but vague symptoms that patients dismiss and doctors can miss. Ask about your thyroid gland, Vitamin D levels and whether you’re iron deficient. Perhaps it’s sleep you’re lacking, so ask about how to enhance your sleep at night. Sleep hygiene is an important skill that will allow us to make the most of our busy lives.
3. How should I take this medication, and what should I look out for?
There is no such thing as a perfect drug. All medications come with side effects and work best when they are taken as directed. Humans, being a unique and varied species, can react differently to the same drug. Ask about side effects and allergic reactions, and whether the benefits outweigh the risks for you.
4. What contraception is best for me?
Perhaps you want a family someday (but now’s not the time), you have a family (and don’t want to add to it) or your life plan doesn’t include having children. There’s a huge range of birth control options available, and it can be hard to choose. Talking to your doctor about what is important to you can really help clear the confusion. Your sexual independence is yours to enjoy, so don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to ask the questions.
5. Can I get a second opinion?
Doctors do the best they can with the information they have, but there is plenty of grey area within medicine. You have the right to question a treatment, diagnosis or plan if you have concerns. Very often, doctors can approach other doctors at their own practice to help, or you can seek another opinion from a family doctor or specialist. This is much more helpful than punching your symptoms into Google and getting overwhelmed by the information available. The internet can be a wonderful ally and a false friend too – don’t feel like you are offending anyone by seeking out more information and reassurance.
6. Why do I feel so low?
Have you lost interest in the things that used to make you happy? Do you find yourself feeling sad, tired, anxious or lonely? Don’t ignore these feelings. Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, are incredibly common and asking for help is the first step in reclaiming your happiness.
When working with your doctor towards your own mental health, it is important to remember that well-being requires a holistic approach. Medication can be very helpful because often mental illness develops because of a neurochemical imbalance in the brain. Making this journey towards life’s pleasures and burdens requires self-care and insight, as well as a plan that works for your preferences with diet, exercise and therapy. All of us deserve a dynamic and fulfilling life story – there is hope, and many stressors can be addressed with one step at a time. Begin to see yourself as a whole person who has worth and value as a woman.
Author: Natasha Trilokekar is a medical student from the sunny shores of Auckland, New Zealand. She likes adjectives and will probably be found near the buffet.