Dear Doctors,

17 Jun

This is a post that I dug out from when I was infrequently blogging for my Creighton Center a few years ago.  While my days in the Creighton field are coming a close at the end of the month, I am still very passionate about women’s health.  This post speaks about an issue that continues to plague countless couples. 

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A few weeks ago we had our presentation at the Med School at Michigan State University. Dr. Courtney Slonkosky gave an excellent presentation that provided a lot of valuable information to these up and coming doctors about alternatives to addressing infertility, polycystic ovarian disease, endometriosis, PMS, ovarian cysts, PPD, among many other topics. I believe that the research that she provided to support Creighton’s approach to these issues was quite compelling to many in the audience.

As I sat listening to Dr. Slonkosky, I found myself thinking about my own journey, as well as those of so many of my clients. Countless couples that I have worked with have been put through hell trying to get answers—many of whom have struggled with infertility. Why this is, completely baffles me. Why, oh why, is it so difficult for doctors to listen, ask questions, and truly care about getting to the bottom of their patients’ concerns?

I found myself coming up with a list of all of the things that I wish I could say to some of these doctors. Below are some of my thoughts:

· Your patients are real people with real concerns. They have come to you hoping that you are the answer to getting them effective treatment for their issues. It is very disheartening to be made to feel like you have their situation figured out before they have even finished telling you their story.  Further, common courtesy etiquette, like looking your patients in the eye when they are talking, not interrupting, asking questions, and engaging in a 2-sided discussion are really helpful keys in establishing a good relationship with them.

· Going through infertility (or any reproductive abnormality) is incredibly emotional for a couple. Recognizing the heavy burden that so many couples are carrying in their hearts does wonders in establishing trust. Believe me, they have heard all of the classic advice from everyone in their families and all of their friends. As their doctor, they need to know that you are going to do everything in your power to get them help and answers. This alone can provide so much peace and reassurance to a couple.

· Infertility couples can be high maintenance. I know this from personal experience—I was and am one of these patients. I don’t like waiting senselessly long for tests results (like I have had the results via snail mail for days, yet I haven’t heard a word from my doctor’s office). And nothing drives me more insane than being made to feel like I am “bothering” my doctor’s office (even if I am). This is the very reason that my family has recently switched doctors offices, as have many of my clients. A simple kind phone call letting us know that you haven’t forgotten about us goes a long way in easing anxiety. And I mean, come on, they are MY results, don’t I have a right to the information?

· Don’t be afraid to listen to your clients and their suggestions for getting answers. I once had a client who was experiencing repetitive miscarriages. Very early on in her charting, she exhibited the classic signs of low progesterone. I encouraged her to talk to her doctor about having her progesterone levels drawn in her post-ovulatory phase. When she asked her Ob-GYN about it, she informed her that, “You can’t take progesterone levels—they fluctuate throughout your cycle.” Well, DUH! Of course they do, they are supposed to! But, if you can identify when ovulation is taking place (via a method like Creighton), you can have blood levels drawn at the right time in your cycle and get accurate results about this important hormone in maintaining pregnancies. Interestingly, this client went to a Creighton doctor who did draw her levels, determined that they were low, supplemented her with a bio-identical form of progesterone, and she now has a healthy 5 month old. Praise be to God!  But, I can’t help but wonder how much heartache could have been spared if her doctor had listened to her from the get-go.

· Don’t be afraid to refer your client to someone who has more experience with these things than you do. God gives all of us different talents, and the mark of a truly knowledgeable person is when they can admit that there is someone else out there who can better help their situation. Sending your couple through a game of Russian roulette is nothing short of draining and overwhelming.

· Finally, the pill is NOT the answer for everything. It does not “fix” polycystic ovarian disease, it does not take away endometriosis, it does not cure PMS (and the litany goes on). Putting this little band-aid into a woman’s body does NOT heal their underlying issues; in fact, any Creighton doctor would likely argue that it does far more damage than good. Nothing breaks my heart more than when I hear about teenage girls being put on the pill because of their heavy and painful periods (I was one who was offered this same “treatment” as a teen). I cannot help but wonder how my infertility journey would have played out differently had a doctor taken my concerns seriously—you know, like, run some tests, performed a surgery, anything to determine why I had such terrible periods. Young girls turn into women who want to have children and getting them help with their concerns early can quite possibly save them a lot of heartache down the road.

So, my dear doctors, you have been given the great and awesome responsibility of helping women and couples with their concerns. I invite you to do it differently. Look at your patients as real people and treat them with the same dignity and respect that you would want (you know, that little Golden Rule that you learned as a child—“Do unto others as you would want done unto you”). Apply that idea and I promise you, your patient-doctor relationships will flourish.

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One Response to “Dear Doctors,”

  1. Katie June 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    this is an outstanding post, Amanda. I was lucky to have doctors who listened to me with our miscarriages and then later with my ppd/a, but I know SO many who are not as lucky. I am sharing this post everywhere.

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