As a FAM-er, a public health student, and a birth-care provider (doula), I know there are about one million and one reasons it’s important to have a good relationship and open communication with your health care provider. Being open and honest means you get the best, individualized care possible, so you can live long and prosper, right?
Well, I went for my well-woman check-up a few months ago (Side note: Ladies, this is preventative care visit is free through Obamacare! Don’t miss out!), I told my provider, who was a nurse-practitioner at a birth center, that I was using the Fertility Awareness Method for my contraception. This is how that conversation went down.
Provider: I see that you’re sexually active. What do you use for contraception?
Me: Oh, I use the Fertility Awareness Method. You know, where you take your basal temperature and check out your cervical fluid and chart when you’re ovulating.
Provider: (Raises eyebrows) And how long have you been doing this?
Me: (Shifts uncomfortably) The better part of a year.
[The Provider continues the interview. But 5 minutes later….]
Provider: Does your insurance cover maternity care?
Me: Uhhh…I think so? Don’t all the new plans have to?
Provider: And while you’re here, you should tour the birth center part of our practice.
Me: (Shifts uncomfortably) Umm…I’m a doula, so I’ve attended births here before. I promise, I know my way around.
Provider: Well, you should have your partner come sometime for a tour.
Me: (Squirming to leave) You know, I don’t think that’s necessary. We’re not planning on having a baby any time soon…
Do you see how that communication broke down? See what assumptions she made about FAM and its effectiveness? After that experience, I thought I’d share some tips with y’all to make sure you avoid such an awkward encounter.
1) Pick a provider you trust. This is probably the most important item on this list. No matter how much you try to be honest and foster good communication, if you don’t pick a provider you trust, you’ll always wonder if she has your best interests in mind and will be less likely to listen to what she says. Finding someone that you get along with and have a similar philosophy on health is worth shopping around for. Ask your friends and family members – I’ve found this way more effective than just Googling “women’s primary care.” While I’ll probably continue to go to the birth center for my care, I’m definitely going to ask to see someone else.
2) Be honest. For the sake of your health, it’s always important to just lay it all out there for your provider. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Been having some itchy since your last exciting encounter? Tell her! Started taking some Chinese herbs for your period cramps? Tell her! Providers tend to give stock recommendations to patients, so the more you can be honest and share about your health, the more individualized and effective your care will be.
3) Come with your facts straight. When it comes to FAM, some providers will be skeptical. However, when used correctly FAM is about as effective as the pill, and a growing number of women are using it. Your provider should be in the know! Print out the latest evidence, and be sure you can explain how it works. You don’t have to know everything, but you do have know why you’re doing what you’re doing!
4) Be Open Minded. Doctors, nurse-practitioners, and midwives are highly-trained healthcare providers. While you are the absolute expert on yourself, they can help you apply that self-knowledge so you can be your healthiest and most empowered you! After you’ve chosen a provider that you trust, be open to what they have to say. This might make them more open to what you say. Healthcare is supposed to be a team effort, after all.
5) Stand up for yourself. Really awesome providers love clients and patients that stand up for themselves. I went to a birth a few weeks ago where a mom refused an intervention in spite of her midwife’s recommendations. This mom had all the information she needed to make an informed decision, and she stood up for herself! She ended up having a super healthy and empowered birth experience! This is just as important in your regular primary care. Write down your questions, do your research, and go to your provider prepared to have collaborative discussion on how to achieve your optimal health. FAM is all about YOU know knowing your body, so share that knowledge with your provider!