This advice was written by Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute of Reproductive Health
During the more than two decades I’ve spent working in the reproductive health and rights movement, I’ve fought to expand access to reproductive health care, to defeat ideologically-based attacks on women’s health, and to educate women about advocating for themselves in health care settings. While the most common view of advocacy happens in state capitols or courtrooms, the ob-gyn’s office is the site where some of the most important self-advocacy can take place.
For many of us, especially if we’re introverted or shy about sex, it can be tempting to clam up and just get an ob-gyn visit over with, but that may mean missing out on important opportunities to share information and get the care you need. With the right advanced planning, those visits can be really helpful in ensuring your long-term health, as well as helping to support your decisions about sex, gender, fertility, pregnancy, and more — think of them as lobby visits for your reproductive life! Here are 5 things to ask at your next gyno visit that will help you take control of your health and establish healthy and helpful lines of communication.
1. Ask if lifestyle changes affect your health and prescriptions.
Lots of things might have an impact on our gynecological health needs: if you’ve started or stopped smoking, gained or lost a significant amount of weight, changed your relationship status, number of sexual partners, or safer sex practices, or started having migraines — all of these things may affect the kind of care an ob-gyn might provide. This is also a good time to let your doctor know about any supplements you’re taking (including vitamins). So take the time for a life update, and ask how it might affect things like your birth control options, disease risk factors, and STI screening needs.
2. Update your family history.
Most of us fill out a family history form the first time we see a provider, but if it’s been a few years you may need to update it, especially if people in your family have been diagnosed with heart disease, breast cancer, or other conditions where family history can be an important risk factor. It’s certainly not the first thing we think of when tragedy befalls a loved one, but it can help our providers give us the best possible care.
3. Get an advance prescription of highly-effective emergency contraception.
You’ve probably heard of Plan B, a safe and effective over-the-counter emergency contraception pill. BUT – have you heard of ella? It’s a prescription morning-after pill, and there are important benefits you should know about. Research suggests that it may be more effective than other emergency contraception pills for overweight and obese women. Since you never know when or how the unexpected will occur, we recommend asking your provider for a prescription for ella, and then you can keep the medication in your medicine cabinet until you need it.
Most doctors should write you a prescription for ella if you ask them to (there isn’t public data on this), and then you can either hang onto the prescription or get the medicine and keep it at home until you need it. Be aware, though, that in some states prescriptions expire after a certain number of days or months. And as with any medication, check the expiration date before you use it. You may decide the peace of mind and convenience of having ella handy is well worth it!
4. Ask those “embarrassing” sex questions.
Have you been secretly wondering about something your body does during sex? Are you experiencing pain during sex, having trouble with orgasm, or unsure about your STI risk factors? Or maybe you want more information about safer sex practices. Most providers have heard it all, so they won’t be flustered by your question about how to use a dental damn or whatever, and will answer your question in a straightforward fashion. Important — if your provider does try to shame you or refuses to answer, that’s a good signal to change providers. No one should be judged or shamed for consensual sex.
5. Re-examine your birth control options.
Some women stick with a birth control method (or no birth control method) because it works for them, while others just get stuck doing what they’ve been doing for years. Have you been on a pill since you were 16? Did you start using implants because a doctor recommended them but never really considered your options? Consider talking to your provider about different kinds of pills, the patch, the ring, IUDs or other options that may have been less available or well-known when you first started taking birth control. In some cases, the medical guidelines have also changed so you may have different options than the last time you asked. What’s most important is that you know what your options are — and that you pick a method that’s right for you at this point in your life.
If you need to, write these questions down on a piece of paper and bring it into the waiting room with you, or write yourself a note on your phone. At the end of the day, you’re the only one who will prioritize your health, so make the most of each appointment. Your future self (and sex life) will thank you for it!
Article Source: Teen Vogue