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How to Advocate for Yourself at the Doctor’s Office

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advocate for yourself at the doctor

It is common knowledge that women or those born with a uterus face some of the most hardship in hospitals. I’m not talking about the trauma associated with childbirth — those with a uterus go more undiagnosed than men, resulting in years of painful symptoms in addition to death. According to a recent study1 of 6.9 million Danish people, “women on average were diagnosed when they were about four years older than the age at which the conditions were recognized in men.”

Those born with a uterus are going to be more in touch with their bodies. We learn about periods in school in the fifth grade, for crying out loud! We have to be in tune with our bodies because there are always so many changes happening. Those with a uterus basically go through several “puberties” throughout life, in a way; our first period, our period worsening in high school, maybe the adjustment after going on birth control, how our cycles change if we bear children, pre-menopause, menopause, post menopause... The point is, hormones want to control the way we feel, hormones change a lot throughout our entire lives and we have to be in tune with what they’re doing to us physically, mentally and emotionally.

So, now that I’ve gotten that straightened out, know this: You’re not crazy. You know your body. If something is wrong, something is likely wrong. You are not being dramatic. If you’re in moderate or unbearable pain, you are valid. The first step is to know that much. Don’t let people who don’t know your body try and squash you for responding to its cries.

Pep talk over. The remainder of this piece will dive into some communication techniques specific to the doctor’s office.

The running theme here is to be firm but not aggressive, informed but not a know-it-all, patient but not passive, and totally detail-oriented. Yes, I know, it’s a bit overwhelming. It’s no secret that people nitpick women’s speech. Sexism in the doctor’s office is a common problem women face. While you shouldn’t have to worry about sounding aggressive or hysterical when you’re already in uncomfortable pain, this is just the world we live in today.

1. NBC News, Women are diagnosed years later than men for same diseases, study finds, March 25, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/women-are-diagnosed-years-later-men-same-diseases-study-finds-n987216 

2.Cedars Sinai, Time: Women Die From Heart Attacks More Often Than Men. Here's Why & What Doctors Are Doing About It, April 5, 2019. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/newsroom/time-women-die-from-heart-attacks-more-often-than-men-heres-why--and-what-doctors-are-doing-about-it/


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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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