I'm in Perimenopause: Why Can't My Doctor Help Me?
In one of my recent blog posts, “Physicians Heal Thyself (And Hopefully, Us Too),” I spoke to the frustration many women feel when they try to get help for perimenopause in a medical system which does not seem to really understand women’s hormone issues.
Yes, physicians understand biologically (for the most part) what happens when a woman enters perimenopause. But outside of throwing prescriptions at us hoping something will stick, most physicians truly seem to be at a loss. I even had a reader tell me once that her physician shrugged his shoulders at her when she asked him for help. Shrugged his shoulders!
I can offer plenty of explanations with deep roots in feminist theory as to why I think women are treated the way we are in the medical system. However, outside of inflaming your passions, carping on about sexist attitudes doesn’t really help. We all know they exist. What we need is to know how to get physicians to listen to us. In order to do that, there are a couple of basic issues I think we need to understand:
Physicians are Just People
In Western medicine, there is no question that physicians are able to do near miraculous things. Kings make their way to North America to seek medical care, because, frankly, we have some of the most brilliant and well trained physicians in the world.
It comes as no surprise then, when women seek help for perimenopause they often have grand expectations. But the truth is, physicians really are mere mortals. They are not above reproach. They are not omniscient, and they are as capable of misdiagnosing, misunderstanding, and making a medical mess out of things as you are. There is a reason medical malpractice insurance is so expensive!
Of course, it is also a reasonable expectation that your physician should be able to help you. But, we must also realize that fundamentally, physicians are just people who are limited to the scope and depth of their training (for better or for worse), and that there are no guarantees they will have the answers or be able to help you at all.
The Fluid Nature of Medical Research
Another important issue we need to understand is that medical research is constantly evolving and always changing. As a result, medical opinions about certain treatments (such as hormone therapy, for example) are also constantly evolving and changing as well.
One only has to point to the Women’s Health Initiative study released in 2002, to find the perfect example of how true this is. Since its release, physicians have been hotly debating the safety and effectiveness of traditional hormone therapy versus bioidentical hormones, with both sides citing credible, medical research to back up their position. It is enough to drive anyone mad.
Of course, if you are in perimenopause with your hormones ricocheting all over the place, none of this is very reassuring, I know. What you really need is someone or something to be predictable and certain.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you that guarantee. What I can give you is the unvarnished truth which will hopefully help you feel less victimized and more empowered.
Take Your Business Elsewhere
One reason I am such a fan of a free market driven economy (healthcare included), is that competition makes everyone strive to be better. If they don’t, they will go out of business. So it is with physicians.
If your physician will not listen to you or adequately address your health concerns, take your business elsewhere. There are physicians who will listen to you, but it is up to you to find them.
Remember: it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Though you may feel your voice is drowned out by the dull roar of the madding crowd; I can assure you, someone will hear you if you speak up. I can also assure you, if you don’t, they won’t.
Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women’s health and a women’s freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.