Tips for Talking to Your Doctor
Here at RepHresh, we strongly encourage you to discuss all of your vaginal health issues with your doctor. But, we also know that it can be hard to talk to your doctor about your most embarrassing feminine health issues.
And they do not make it easy for you! If your visits are anything like ours, they go something like this: First, they lead you into a freezing cold room where they ask you to strip bare naked and put on what amounts to a large napkin. Then, they leave you sitting alone with nothing to read but medical pamphlets on scary topics like breast & ovarian cancer and menopause and endometriosis. When the doctor finally arrives, they make you flip onto your back, put your feet in freezing cold stirrups and bare the one area of your body that you have been taught to keep private since the day you were born. And, that's when your doctor asks you if you are having any problems. Is it any wonder that the things that you wanted to talk to your doctor about suddenly fly out of your brain? Or that you don't want to make things worse by asking that embarrassing question that seemed so important just a few minutes ago?
We want to empower you to take control of your feminine health! So, here are some suggestions that can help you to better communicate during your next doctor visit.
Keep Track of your Vaginal Health over Time
Your doctor will ask you questions like, "When was your last period?" and "Are your periods regular?" and "How often do you have these symptoms?" If you're like most women, these can be very hard to answer. Our busy schedules can make it difficult to determine exact dates and spans of time. But this information can be very helpful for both you and your doctor in evaluating your vaginal health. So, keeping a calendar of vaginal symptoms, periods, products used, etc. can be an excellent tool for you to use with your doctor. This will immediately show the start and end dates of your periods, the time span between your periods and when you had itch or odor. This can help you to look for patterns in your vaginal health. For example, you may see that itch and odor often occur several days following your period, a connection you might not normally make but that is common due to the high pH of blood during your period which can lead odor-causing bacteria to flourish.
Does tracking your vaginal health seem too time-consuming? RepHresh has a free and completely anonymous tool for you to use, the Feminine Health Planner! This simple tool will allow you to track your health and then to print out a report, if you wish, to share with your doctor.
This may seem obvious, but when the time comes to tell your doctor about that funky odor, uncomfortable itch, or unprotected sexual encounter, it can be hard to say the honest truth. Resist the urge to hold back, to sugar-coat it or to skip the conversation. Whatever you have to say, your doctor has heard it (and much worse) before. So, be honest and tell them every embarrassing symptom, every lapse in judgment, every question that you might have. You will feel better afterwards, and you will be giving your doctor the information they need to give you the best medical care.
Talk to Them in your Own Words
Don't worry about impressing your doctor or looking stupid to your doctor. Doctors don't expect you to know medical terms or to pre-diagnose your condition. In fact, they would prefer to hear about your own problems in your own words. It is difficult enough when a doctor talks in medical jargon. When a patient tries to use medical terms, the doctor then has to try to separate what they understand that term to mean from what the patient thinks it means. That is a recipe for miscommunication. Instead, explain your symptoms and concerns in your own simple language. It is OK to say "It smells weird down there" or "The way I smell down there has changed" versus "I am experiencing vaginal odor which may be caused by the amines from odor-causing bacteria."
Take in Props
Don't expect your doctor to know everything about every product in the feminine hygiene aisle. Most doctors do not receive extensive training in these over-the-counter products. Unless the product has had published clinical studies, they learn about these products the same way you do - from the packaging and the advertising. So, if you would like your doctor to evaluate whether a product is right for your situation, bring in props - the package, if you have already purchased it, or, if not, the information about the product from a website or internet retailer. Many gynecologists are familiar with RepHresh because of the published clinical studies on our products. If your doctor has not read the clinical studies for RepHresh Vaginal Gel they can find them in the Medical Professionals portion of our website.
Write it Down
If you still find the prospect of discussing these issues with your doctor frightening or embarrassing, write it down. Put all of your questions down on a piece of paper and hand it to your doctor. This will allow them to review the questions and respond to your areas of concern without as much embarrassing personal probing. Just be sure that you provide the list early in your visit so that your doctor can respond to them as they are completing your physical exam. Your doctor will not appreciate it if you spring a list of questions on them just as they are trying to wrap up the appointment.
Most gynecologists are more than happy to answer all of your feminine health questions and will be delighted if you have good information to share with them. And, trust us (we work with a LOT of gynecologists), there is nothing you can ask or say that they have not heard before. So, it is up to you to have the confidence to open the channels of communication.
The best way to feel empowered during the visit is to prepare before the visit. That's why it is so important for you to do your homework in advance of the appointment. Who knew that you needed to study for a pap test?