Years ago, I found myself apologizing to a doctor for taking up his time with all my questions.
I had been newly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He gave me the best advice I have ever gotten from a healthcare professional.
“Never forget, I work for you. You are the head of your medical team.”
Wow. The entire dynamic of our relationship changed.
Women make 80% of the healthcare buying decisions in the United States, yet this astounding statistic doesn’t translate into attention to women’s health concerns from the healthcare industry. Do you know any other industry that would not pay attention to the voice of 80% of their customers?
Fortunately, we are seeing an explosion of innovation and attention to the fact that how our health and gender come together is more than our reproductive organs or breast health. Who would have believed five years ago we would now see:
Companies offering broad fertility and family-building benefits to attract new employees.
An article in the New York Times calling for better training for medical professionals on the clitoris. Or even the word clitoris in a New York Times headline!
Celebrities talking about menopause and even starting brands with lines of products specifically for women over 40.
Yes, women’s health is having a moment.
So how does the average woman have hers? Here are 4 things to consider when embarking on your healthcare journey in any capacity, whether it’s for a chronic illness, finding a general practitioner, or you are pregnant and searching for an OB-GYN.
1. Be Clear on The Healthcare Provider-Patient Dynamic
When considering your relationship with a healthcare provider, it’s important to ask yourself, “Who works for whom?” Remember that you hire your doctors and pay their salaries indirectly through your insurance. Ask your questions – all of them – no matter how long it takes.
If you don’t like the advice you are getting or feel your concerns are being dismissed, hire someone who will listen.
2. Get To Know Your Body and Your Health
We live in these bodies all day, every day. But how well do we know them? 94% of women failed a basic test on women’s health topics like the leading cause of death among women and risk factors for breast cancer.
The more you know about your body and how being a woman impacts risks for certain illnesses or the symptoms you may experience, the better you can advocate for yourself.
That’s why we founded Eve Was Framed and launched our free weekly newsletter. Our mission is to help all women learn about their bodies and health.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
I remember hearing my mother say to a doctor “You may do this procedure 100 times a week. But I’m only going to have it once. It’s not routine to me.” Way to go, Mom.
There are myriad routine scanning and diagnostic tests and procedures you’ll have in a lifetime. Treat each one as if it’s the only time you’ll have it. Ask some basic questions:
Why am I having this?
What’s the ideal outcome and what’s a bad outcome?
How do I need to prepare for this? What’s the experience like for me as a patient?
Will I experience pain or discomfort?
If something isn’t going right during the test or procedure, what would that feel or sound like to me?
When will I get results and how will you deliver them to me?
4. Approach Your Care Like You Would for Someone You Love
We are always willing to take better care of others than we are of ourselves. Women are more likely to postpone their own healthcare and yet you wouldn’t do that for a loved one.
The number one action you can take to have your own women’s health moment is to prioritize care. Make a list of all the routine appointments and screenings you need. Don’t skip over vision, dental and mental health! What have you delayed on that list? Make a plan to catch up.