How many times have you filled out the form at the doctor’s office and lied? Everyone raise their hands (Bueller? Bueller?). Yeah, me too. And I’m a doctor. Why do we do this? Hey, there are some very personal questions on these forms! And you want your doctor to like you and not judge you. You may be engaging in behaviors you know are risky to your health but don’t want to face. You may have secrets you’ve never told anybody before and don’t feel like sharing now. You may be too embarrassed to mention something. You may be afraid your partner or your boss or your mother or your insurance company will find out something about you you’d rather they not know. I hear you.
Does it really matter? Do you really need to tell your doctor the truth? ‘Fraid so. WebMD just interviewed me about this very topic, so I thought I’d share the notes I made for my interview with them. Here are some common things people don’t tell their doctors and some thoughts on why it’s important that we know.
- You’re cheating on your partner- If you’re having an illicit affair, you’re probably going to great lengths to keep your secret, so why would you spill the beans to your doctor? Because you may be putting yourself and your partners at risk. Trust me. It’s much better to tell your doctor and nip a sexually-transmitted disease in the bud than to have your partner discover your affair when she winds up with chlamydia. If we know, we can get you tested and help protect you and your partners.
- You’ve had an abortion- Maybe your husband doesn’t even know about that pregnancy you terminated back when you were in college. And you certainly don’t want him finding out now. So does it really matter? Well, it depends. If you’re trying to get pregnant, yes. It gives your doctor very important information. We know the pipes worked once upon a time and actually improves the likelihood that you’ll get pregnant when compared to someone who has never conceived before. But if you’re having trouble getting pregnant, it’s possible that there’s scar tissue from the abortion.
- You drink too much, use illegal drugs, or are hooked on prescription meds- Your indulgences may be putting your body at more risk than you know. Even small amounts of alcohol increase your risk of breast cancer, while greater intake can put your liver, stomach, brain and many other organs at risk. And you don’t have to be hooked on cocaine for it to cause a heart attack. The more we know, the more we can educate you about how to live most vitally and keep your body healthy.
- You have sexual preferences you may wish to keep secret- Whether you’re a big fan of anal intercourse, a swinger, homosexual or bisexual, or love getting it on in a bunny suit, I promise I won’t judge you. But it will help me take better care of you. If I think you’re straight, I may be pushing you to take birth control you don’t need. And if you love anal sex, you might be having bowel problems I can help with. But I can’t help if I don’t know.
- You’re having problems in the bedroom- Maybe your libido has gone to hell, sex hurts, or you’re experiencing some other form of sexual dysfunction. Maybe you or your partner can’t get it up. We think we’re supposed to be all-powerful, all the time, so many people won’t admit when they’re having sexual difficulties. But owning your sexuality is part of Owning Pink and keeping your mojo alive and kicking. Oftentimes, we doctors can help.
- You’re pregnant and you’re not sure whose baby it is- Maybe you’re in a relationship but you fooled around the month you got pregnant. You may be tempted not to tell your doctor so your partner doesn’t find out. But this could lead to serious repercussions for your pregnancies. Let’s say your husband’s blood type is Rh-, as is yours. Which means that if your husband is the father, you wouldn’t need the medication Rhogam, which is meant to keep you from making antibodies to your baby’s potentially + blood type. But if your boyfriend is Rh+, you’ll be needing that Rhogam. We docs need to know this stuff, or you might be unable to give birth to a living child in the future.
- You’re leaking urine- You may think that urinary incontinence is just a natural part of aging, but it’s not. And we can help. But only if you tell us what’s up down there.
- You’re not taking your medication- Perhaps your doctor has recommended something that doesn’t resonate with you. You’re sure you can get your blood pressure down without pills or you’d rather skip that antidepressant. If we think you’re taking your medication when you’re not, it may throw us down this rabbit hole of diagnosis and treatment that’s completely off base. Tell us the truth. If the treatment we’ve prescribed isn’t right for you, let us help you find something that is.
So next time you’re filling out that form, think twice about fudging. If you don’t feel comfortable putting something in writing, ask your doctor if you can tell her something in confidence when you see her in person.
It’s all part of owning your health. Face it. Deal with it. Accept that it’s true or accept that you wish to change something. Ask for help if you need it. But don’t lie to your doctor. We’re here to help. I swear!
Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get- and keep- their "mojo". Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women’s health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).
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