Women’s Health: Advocating for Yourself at the Doctor’s Office

Carbon Health Editorial Team
May 19, 2022
5 mins

For many women, just the thought of making a doctor’s appointment can trigger a variety of anxieties and fears. Worry about being judged, worry that their health concerns might not be taken seriously, and a general feeling of unease keep some women away from the doctor’s office for years at a time — and this can lead to serious health issues down the road.

Having a relationship with a primary care provider is key to good health: they can help you define and reach your wellness goals, suggest screenings and preventive measures based on your individual risk factors, answer questions, and follow up with you after appointments to see how, for instance, recommended lifestyle changes or new medications are working for you. (For more, read “How a Primary Care Provider Can Help You.”)

A good provider will also listen to you — because when it comes to your body, you know it best. At Carbon Health, our providers want to be partners in your healthcare. We encourage you to take an active role in your health, and to advocate for yourself and what you need from us. 

Women’s bodies go through a number of changes throughout their lifetime,” points out Carbon Health primary care physician Neeru Singh, MD. “It’s important that our patients know and understand that your providers are here to help and guide you through all of these changes. I encourage you to ask questions about your overall healthcare needs, and it is OK to ask specific questions about treatment, management, and care. Your doctor will always collaborate with you to make the right decisions for you and your body.”

(Have a sensitive topic you’re shy about discussing with your healthcare team? Read “How to Discuss ‘Embarrassing’ Topics with Your Doctor.”) 

However, Neeru and other providers understand that speaking up may be difficult or uncomfortable at times, so we have some tips — things you can do to feel empowered the next time you go in for an appointment:

1. Exam Room Allies 

If you need to, you should always feel welcome to bring a trusted loved one with you into your appointment or exam room. Some people find doctor’s offices and/or physical exam procedures triggering, for a variety of reasons, and having that trusted person in the room with them can allay fear. A partner or loved one can also help guide and ask follow-up questions. Talk to your provider about your concerns and why it’s important for you to have another person in the room. They should be responsive to your concerns and adjust how they work accordingly. (If they don’t, you have every right to look for another provider, one who will work with you and listen to your concerns and needs.)

(For more tips on coping with medical anxiety, read “Does Visiting the Doctor Make You Nervous? Learn How to Ease Medical Anxiety and Stress.”)

2. Bring Notes, Take Notes

Have you ever gotten settled into an exam room and had your provider ask a question about your medical history or condition — and then had your mind go totally blank? You’re not alone. It happens to all of us! Going to the doctor can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to get flustered or forget key information when a provider is asking you questions. That’s why bringing notes — whether it’s details about your family’s medical history or questions you have —  can be extremely helpful. It’s also totally fine to take down notes during your appointment. Many providers offer an after-visit summary, but jotting down the information in a way you can digest and remember is always encouraged.

3. Find the Right Fit for You

Something not feeling right during your appointment? Did your provider not answer your questions, or did you feel like it wasn’t a good fit for another reason? That’s totally OK. Sometimes finding the right provider for you and your needs might take a few tries. Trust your intuition! Do a little research before booking a provider, to get a sense of whether they are what you’re looking for. See if they have a bio on their clinic website, or look for information online. Make a list of what you must have in a doctor and what’s a deal breaker. This can help you in your search. 

4. Don’t Ignore What Your Body Is Trying to Tell You

Only you know what it feels like to have your body — which means only you know when something doesn’t seem right. Listen to your body and what it’s trying to tell you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for clarifications if something doesn’t make sense to you. If a recommendation feels off to you or if you’ve already tried something and know it doesn’t work for you, don’t hesitate when it comes to speaking up and telling the provider. If they don’t appear to be listening to you or believe you, refer back to the second tip in this list and consider looking for another provider.

5. Research! Research! Research!

We’re all human — even your provider — so doing some research on what you think might be going on before you get to your appointment can be helpful. Use this research to ask questions and to open a dialogue with your provider. And again, if something doesn’t quite make sense to you, feel empowered to ask clarifying questions or have the provider explain how they reached their diagnosis. 

6. Get a Second Opinion

Not sure about a diagnosis? It’s never a bad idea to get a second (or even third or fourth) opinion on something if it will help you get to the root of the issue.

Our Commitment to Inclusive Care

Carbon Health’s mission is to provide great healthcare to everyone — and we mean everyone. We understand that women and members of LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC communities may have had negative experiences with healthcare in the past. So we are constantly working to make sure our clinics are welcoming, judgment-free, and inclusive. We promise that our providers will listen to you with compassion and respect as they support you in reaching your health goals.

Book a virtual or in-person appointment today. 

Carbon Health Editorial Team

The Carbon Health Editorial Team is a group of writers, content creators, and thought leaders who are here to empower you to take charge of your health.