Having regular gynecologist visits is an important aspect of maintain overall women’s health, but for most, the process is an arduous one. From frustrating scheduling to unsympathetic doctors, it is common to find that women feel a degree of uneasiness looming over every visit. In some cases, the discomfort is due to not knowing what to expect during an exam and feeling uncomfortable with your medical provider. While your gynecologist should take care to lessen the anxiety before, during and after your visits, not all doctors in the field are up to par. But how can you tell when it’s time to make a change?
To make sure you have the best possible experience managing your health, here are five clear signs that it is time to find a new gynecologist.
1) You don’t feel comfortable talking about bedroom behavior
Talking openly about sexual behavior is an integral part of having thorough, beneficial gynecological visits. Your doctor needs to be aware of your activities, even if that includes unprotected sex, multiple partners or a dismal sex drive. While the gynecologist is the person you’d want to discuss your bedroom behavior with, you’re not alone if you feel uncomfortable doing so. In a recent study published in the Medical Care Journal, nearly 40% of women surveyed said they weren’t completely honest when sharing details about the subject.
Health issues linked to bedroom behavior, including sexual transmitted diseases, hormone level changes and infertility, can be prevented or detected early on when you’re open with your gynecologist. If your doctor makes you feel uncomfortable or judged because of it, you’re best to start the search for a new provider.
2) Your exam feels rushed or incomplete
In addition to feeling comfortable talking freely about your sexual activity, or lack thereof, the time spent with your gynecologist should include a thorough examination. Most patients fail to realize that an exam should include a discussion of changes to your body since the last visit, your menstruation cycle, and any concerns you may have. The physical exam should consist of a vaginal exam in which the Pap test is conducted, as well as genital and breast palpation. If your provider bypasses any of these crucial steps, or fails to explain what is being done, it may be time to seek out a different doctor.
3) Second opinions are discouraged
One of your rights as a patient is the ability to seek out a second opinion when a diagnosis or recommendation for surgery is handed down from your gynecologist; however, most bypass this right because of the perception of trust and expert knowledge from the doctor. Second opinions are crucial in gynecology, especially as it relates to the common health issue of fibroids – non-cancerous growths that appear in the muscle wall of the uterus. For years, fibroids have been surgically removed because of the potential problems they may cause down the line for patients. Nearly 30% of all hysterectomies are performed because of the presence of fibroids, despite the fact that the majority of women show no symptoms of fibroids and do not require treatment.
A hysterectomy is one of the six most common surgeries cited as medically unnecessary, yet hundreds of thousands of women go through with the procedure based on the recommendation of their gynecologist. According to a study analyzing 1,000 medical negligence cases, 14% of patients claiming medical negligence do so because they discussed the issue with another medical professional. If you feel as though the recommendation for surgery is extreme or questionable and your current provider does not encourage you to get a second opinion, it is certainly time to find a new gynecologist.
4) When you feel as though you aren’t being heard
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical providers spend an average of 20 minutes in the exam room, per patient. While that may seem like a long enough time to complete interview questions and gain full understanding of the health issues at hand, the majority of patients report that they can barely get a word into the conversation without interruption. A gynecologist must be willing and able to listen to your concerns, without interruption, prior to making recommendations for follow-up, surgery or prescription medications. If you aren’t feeling heard by your current provider, you’re better off finding a doctor who truly listens.
5) Limited availability
In addition to being heard, it is necessary to have a gynecologist who is also available when you need assistance. For instance, if you are traveling and have a serious concern about a pregnancy or previously treated health condition, it is imperative that you can reach your doctor by phone quickly. The same goes for making scheduled appointments either for follow up visits or for your annual check-up. If you have a difficult time coordinating schedules with your current gynecologist, it may be time to seek out the help of another.
Not every medical provider offers the same level of care in the same manner as the next, but there are clear signals it is time for a change. Make sure you find a provider who does not judge or overlook your bedroom behavior, and who does not rush through your examinations. Additionally, it is important to find a gynecologist who does not discourage second opinions, especially for serious medical conditions or recommended surgeries. Finally, ensure you work with a doctor who takes the time to listen to all your concerns, and has availability when you need it most. Working with the right gynecologist leads to less awkward appointments, and ultimately, a far healthier you.