You go for your yearly exam. Your exam goes well. You get your pap smear and off you go without asking the questions you really want to ask. How does that happen? Many women believe that their health care provider will ask questions and initiate discussions if something is important. Also, let’s face it, legs in stirrups, speculums, pelvic exams are, although intimate, not exactly a good way to put you at ease and get you talking. Women often remain embarrassed, suffering in silence from vaginal dryness, painful sex, vulvodynia and other intimacy roadblocks.
Health care professionals have an obligation to listen to you and help find answers to your questions. Unfortunately, they are sometimes poorly trained in sexuality and embarrassed to talk about sex. Due to our healthcare system, many health care professionals are rushed and have a laundry list of medical and psychological issues to address in the short medical visit.
How do we address the conspiracy of SILENCE? Here are some techniques to help broach the topic with your health care provider.
Put pen to paper. Write down your specific concerns in order of importance and bring this list to your next appointment. You may also want to print the Menopause Symptoms Checklist and bring it to your visit. This checklist may be given to support staff to jumpstart many conversations.
It may be the medical assistant, nurse, or front office person that you are more comfortable with when it comes to talking about vaginal dryness and sexuality. Find someone and gather up the courage to relay your concerns to a health care professional.
Prepare for the visit
You may need to practice and run through some scenarios in your head. What should I say? How should I say it? What are the correct words that I want to use? Being prepared is half the battle. Practice what you will say in front of a mirror.
During the visit
Be an active participant in your treatment plan. Don’t be rushed. Review your list and make sure you have addressed your agenda for the visit. Maintain professional rapport with your provider. Make eye contact. Put the phone and the magazine down when they are talking. It’s important to be engaged, to ask questions, and expect answers. Be direct and honest.
A last comment
Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion or find a new doctor who specializes in treating women going through menopause. While there are many health care professionals who are comfortable addressing vaginal dryness, painful intercourse and other menopause symptoms, some may not want to talk about it. You may also want to try the North American Menopause Society website (www.menopause.org). You can search for a new provider by entering Find A Menopause Practitioner.