I Was Extremely Dissatisfied With My Doctor & Health Care
As I sat in one of the most vulnerable positions a woman can be in, on the table with my legs spread apart, my gynecologist asked me the inevitable question, “what type of birth control are you using?” Trying to sound casual, I responded, “The Fertility Awareness Method.” “Oh,” she responds “so you’re just playing Russian roulette?”
At the time of this visit I was 21, married for about 8 months, and was successfully practicing FAM to avoid pregnancy naturally. You might think that I would’ve been used to responses such as hers. I mean, I know FAM is alternative and “against the grain”. I’ve heard a lot of, “oh good luck with that”, or “I know a friend who tried that but now she’s pregnant”. Despite these comments I chose to do my research, learned how to track my cycles, and trust my body. After nearly 4 years of success, I can proudly say without a doubt that FAM works!
For some reason I expected my gynecologist, who was trained in how a woman’s body works, to have been at least somewhat familiar with FAM and say something like, “cool, glad that works for you.” But instead she continued, clearly surprised that I was not pregnant yet, “do you have any concern that you may struggle with infertility?” “NO! I track my fertility signs every month and I can say as a matter of fact that I am fertile and have data to prove it.” But of course I didn’t say that, because I was only 21, and at my first ever gynecologist appointment, and was not about to argue with a trained doctor twice my age. I managed a polite, “no, I’m not concerned.” She responded, “okay, well I want you to start taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid because it greatly helps reduce the chances of Spina Bifida in a baby if taken before conception.” I interpreted that to mean, “you’re bound to get pregnant any day now, better get on some folic acid!” For the icing on the cake she added, “have you ever heard of the Plan B pill?” I decided, “Ya, I’m never coming back here again.”
Can There be a Balance?
Here at Hana Wellness I write a lot about preventative health and natural living. I love taking my health in to my own hands and taking care of my body through food, sleep and fun; however, the reality is, we need a trained doctor when things are beyond us. I believe in balanced and rational living where preventative and natural health can coexist with a trusted doctor. Unfortunately, many have not found a doctor they trust, therefore go without seeking help when help is in fact needed. Or, like with my story, women feel shamed and ridiculed for the choices they make for their body, birth or their children’s care. This is NOT okay. With limited choices for doctors in your health insurance’s network or offices not taking new patients, it can feel like jumping over hurdles to find a doctor, let alone a doctor who you can trust and who respects your values.
Dr. Wen and the Transparency Manifesto
Dr. Leana Wen spoke about this issue in a TED conference in 2014. Dr. Wen’s mother was battling Stage 4 breast cancer. After her third round of chemo she found out her mom’s oncologist was a highly paid speaker who spoke on behalf of a drug company who promoted the same chemo he had prescribed her. This discovery led Wen to ask herself, “is he treating my mom with what’s best for her, or is he treating her based on how much he will be paid?”
Dr. Wen saw such a need for transparency between doctors and patients that she started doing her own research. She sought out what patients really want to know about their health care and doctors. Besides wanting to know that their doctors are certified and competent, patients wanted to know things like: are they unbiased, are they making decisions based on evidence and science or on who pays them, are they comfortable with LGBT health, where do they stand with women’s reproductive choice and rights, and do they practice preventative health and alternative medicine?
“When you go to a doctor for back pain, you may want to know that he is getting $5,000 to perform spine surgery, or $25 to refer you to physical therapy.”
Dr. Wen decided to challenge her fellow colleagues in Who’s my Doctor? The Total Transparency Manifesto, asking doctors to volunteer to answer certain questions with full transparency. Many participated, however, Dr. Wen also experienced extreme backlash from doctors, accusing her of being a traitor.
See first hand how Dr. Wen shook up the medical community in a pursuit to advocate on behalf of patients:
Finding a Doctor & Health Care You Trust
I love this discussion that Dr. Wen begins. I feel so fortunate to have now found a doctor who respects my values, believes in preventative care and alternative medicine, and who has earned my trust with honesty and transparency. How did I find this doctor? I was referred by a good friend, but learned that this particular doctor didn’t take my insurance. I had been paying a substantial amount for insurance yet was highly dissatisfied with the limited list of doctors in my network and dissatisfied with the care I had received from the ones I’d chosen (hence the story above). I felt stuck and was looking for a better-suited solution. After much research, I decided to leave my traditional health insurance, and f*** the system, so to speak.
I decided to join a non-profit cost sharing program through Christian Health Care Ministries (I get no kick back from sharing this, just am a happy member). I’ve since cut my monthly payment in half, and haven’t had to make any compromises on coverage. I pay my monthly “premium”, and then pay out of pocket for any basic health costs, such as seeing the doctor of my choice. I make sure to put away savings every month to draw from for when I need to pay out of pocket to see my doctor. Then, if I ever have an issue that is over $500, my “health insurance” kicks in they will cover it, ALL of it, no matter how big.
This may not be the answer for everyone, but this has give me so much freedom and peace. Not only can I choose the doctor I trust, but I can also have the birth I want when that time comes. My traditional health insurance wouldn’t pay for a home birth or midwife, but Christian Health Care Ministries does. As a doula, I’ve seen many women not get the kind of birth they want because their insurance won’t cover it and they can’t afford to pay out of pocket. This is not acceptable to me and I believe
“every women should have total freedom in choosing what is best for her.”
I don’t have the exact answer for how to find the best health care and doctor for you, but I write all this to encourage you to SEARCH and NOT SETTLE. Ask for referrals from friends, ask doctors tough questions, and find a health insurance and a doctor who works for your best interest. You deserve to have your body, values, and beliefs respected. You deserve to have both great care and what is best for you, whether it be for a flu or cancer, a home or hospital birth, alternative or traditional care.
If you are in the San Luis Obispo area and are looking for a doctor, my doctor is Dr. Susan Lundgren at Ptera Wellness and her amazing partner, Dr. Terra Dallman is taking new patients.
Have you found a doctor you trust? Share with me how you found them!