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Meeting your gynaecologist? Stop playing to-tell-or-not-to-tell and disclose all your symptoms for the right diagnosis! Here’s a list of what to tell a gynaecologist!
If you are a woman, chances are that invariably you would have to get yourself an appointment with a gynaecologist at some point in life. But how many of us actually look forward to it? Excluding cases of pregnancy, I think it would be safe to assume that the answer is no one. It isn’t hard to see why. It’s really not fun when your private parts are temporarily transformed into an archaeological site, with the doctor poking and prodding using one cold instrument after another.
Sitting in the gynaecologist’s office is akin to being in a rapid fire round of a quiz contest; I stay preoccupied wondering what to tell a gynaecologist while trying to answer the questions as fast as I can, waiting to grab the prescription and bolt. Once I leave though, I realise that now I am left with more questions than answers, because in my embarrassment and impatience, I have only half listened to the doctor. What’s worse, I’ve often even forgotten to mention all my niggling symptoms. So then, this begs the question, how can the poor doc make a correct diagnosis based on the half-baked information that I have shared?
For many of us, this self-consciousness is often magnified if the gynaecologist happens to be male. While I acknowledge the fact that a doctor is a trained medical professional irrespective of their gender – and let’s face it, must have seen far more female bodies that he could care for – nevertheless my first choice would be a female gynaecologist rather than a male one. Imagine my consternation then, when I found out that the duty doctor who was assigned to me during the initial stages of my labour and delivery was male – and that too a young fellow, definitely far younger than me. I was so tensed throughout the examination that eventually he said, “Ma’am your baby’s head has to come out through this same path in a few hours. Please relax.”
Moreover, many of us today are guilty of indulging in self-diagnosis. Armed with vague and incomplete information gleaned from dodgy sources including the internet, the next-door neighbour and that distant relative from Timbuctoo, we even go to the extent of self-medicating. They say ignorance is bliss, but in our ignorance we risk dismissing seemingly irrelevant symptoms, which might in fact be important.
What are the symptoms that gynaecologists wish their patients could tell them but are often not discussed?
Dr.Bushra Nausheen, a 28 year old gynaecologist based out of UP and author of the book A to Z Of Pregnancy, who also blogs at All About The Woman says, “Patients never explain their medical history clearly. They ignore the minute symptoms that they are going through and merge all the happenings with one word: that they have pain-fever.”
It is important to keep a record of your previous medical treatments and to carry along that file when you go to see a gynaecologist. A symptom which might seem trivial to a layperson might in fact be pivotal in making a decision regarding the course of treatment. Be patient (you are one at the doctor’s office anyway!) and take the time and effort to explain all your symptoms as well as previous medical history.
Dr. Vasanthi Mike from Holy Cross Hospital, Kanyakumari states, “Painful coitus is an important symptom in pelvic inflammation which patients do not reveal due to shyness.” While the population of India is booming, strangely, talking about sex and sexuality is still largely considered taboo. Often, even urban and educated women are unaware that intercourse isn’t supposed to hurt. Painful sex is an important symptom that can indicate a host of illnesses ranging from vaginismus to cervical cancer. It’s dangerous to dismiss it as unimportant.
Dr. Josephin Rosy Madan, a 33 year old Consultant at Apollo Hospitals in Karur shares, “Patients are a bit resistant to visit a gynaecologist because they think they have completed their family and the job is over”.
This is hardly surprising given the fact that our society often considers women to be merely baby-making machines. Many Indian women keep a track of their menstrual cycles and monitor their reproductive health as long as they are expected to bear children. Once their reproductive duty has been accomplished, their sexual and reproductive health takes a back seat.
The truth is even if we don’t keep popping out bonnie babies one after another, we still need to take care of our reproductive system for our own overall well-being. For instance, did you know that bleeding after menopause is a symptom that should never be ignored?
In fact Dr. Madan has a ready list of what to tell a gynaecologist without fail which includes weight gain/loss, excessive tiredness, bloated lower abdomen (which could be a sign of ovarian cancer), too much white discharge and loss of appetite.
It’s all very well to feel unbridled loyalty for your spouse, but let’s not allow false notions of the famed Sanskaari to interfere with a gynaecologist’s diagnosis. Dr. Divya Jyothi, a 35 year old Gynaecologist at Kaade Hospital, Bangalore feels, “Women don’t disclose the symptoms of their partner. Gynaecology is not only about reproductive health it is also about sexual health. Even on probing they do not tell about symptoms of STD in their partner or male performance issues in case of infertility. If they come out with these problems it will reduce a lot of unnecessary tests.”
If a couple do not become parents within a couple of years of marriage, it is usually the wife who has to face the music in India – and this I can say from my own experience. My husband and I welcomed our first child five years after we tied the knot. Apparently this is something absurd in our society and therefore I was often interrogated about our ‘family plans’, either directly or indirectly. Hardly anyone directed these questions at my husband though. Why give further ammunition to a society that is quick to blame and shame women for anything and everything? Remember, you don’t have to feel guilty about discussing your partner’s sexual health with your gynaecologist.
Our hormones have a large role to play in our reproductive and sexual health. Puberty, motherhood and menopause often bring with them hormonal fluctuations which can result in mental health symptoms such as mood swings and depression. Dr. Nausheen comments, “Often women come in a confused state of mind believing that they are over reacting, and downplay abnormal psychological behaviour.”
Awareness about mental health problems such as post-partum depression is abysmally low, especially in sub-urban and rural areas. Women who do complain about feeling low or upset post baby are often viewed as being ungrateful for their bundle of joy and are accused of making a fuss about nothing. I have come across countless sexist jokes about being at the receiving end of a woman who is going through PMS. Many fail to see – or refuse to believe – that depression is a serious illness which cannot be simply wished away. It is vital that erratic psychological behaviour is brought to the notice of your gynaecologist, as it can be an indicator for underlying hormonal problems.
Gynaecologists are there to help us deal with one of the most intriguing and important systems in our body; but they can do so only if we allow and accept their help. Let’s not come to conclusions regarding the severity or triviality of our symptoms prematurely, without first consulting with a trained and experienced gynaecologist. The next time, don’t waste time wondering what to tell a gynaecologist. Come clean!
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