I recently had the privilege of having a phone consultation with one of my readers.
She had found The Perimenopause Blog when we were featured at MSN Health recently and sent an email asking if she could talk with me about a health issue she was having. I happily obliged and we chatted for approximately half an hour.
During the course of the conversation she made mention of how frustrated she was trying to get help from the medical community for an issue that she believes is related to her menstrual cycle.
To date she has not gotten any clear answers with the exception of a few prescriptions thrown her way. And if that is not frustrating enough, the physician also told her that her problem “would probably come back anyway.”
“Why do we go to physicians if they are simply going to dispense medicine like Pez candies and our problems will probably come back anyway?”
As we talked, I couldn’t help but remember my own frustrations when I first became perimenopausal. I too slogged from physician to physician, desperate for someone to listen to me and to help me.
Unfortunately, the only thing I ever walked away with was more frustration. And oh yeah, some prescriptions too – usually birth control pills, synthetic hormones or antidepressants.
But, that said, I am certain that every doctor I went to meant well. I believe they genuinely cared and wanted to help me. Yet, they were inextricably bound and subsequently hindered by their medical training. And therein lies the problem.
During his first semester of medical school in a course called History and Physical Diagnosis, Dr. Hotze recalled the professor telling the class, that if a middle-aged woman had more than one physical complaint, then she was a hypochondriac and should be placed on antidepressants.
“This was a small seed that was sown in the minds of all those young, would-be (male) doctors.” Said, Dr. Hotze. “It was a seed that would sprout years later when they finally began their own medical practices. The first time they had to interview a middle-aged female patient, she would typically describe a long list of complaints. “Voila,” they would think……..and of course, they knew exactly what to do……..prescribe antidepressants.“¹
In deed, this dismissive attitude toward women and their health reaches far back into antiquity. It was Hippocrates who first suggested that ‘hysteria”, a psychological disorder, was a disease of women, attributed to the movement of her womb into her throat, constricting her airways and resulting in panic and anxiety.
When Sigmund Freud suggested in a report to the Vienna Medical Society in 1886, that men could be afflicted with this disorder as well, an elderly surgeon scoffed at the notion saying,
“But, dear sir, how can you talk such nonsense? Hysteria means ‘uterus’. So, how can men be hysterical?”²
While this may sound absurd to us today, the fact that the answer to many women’s reproductive health issues is often a partial or full hysterectomy (and antidepressants) ought to speak to us loud and clear.
Let it be said, however, that I have no interest in sowing seeds of discontent here at The Perimenopause Blog . Neither do I wish to lay the groundwork for the next feminist uprising against male physicians.
I just think it’s worth noting, whether intentional or not, far too many women are being dismissed by male physicians (and perhaps the medical community in general) when it comes to issues of hormonal health.
Get in the Driver’s Seat
Of course, the post serves no purpose if I cannot offer some kind of solution or help for the problem. But, unfortunately, I cannot wave a magic wand and erase biases the medical community may have toward a woman’s reproductive health.
I can, however, suggest that we become pro-active and get in the driver’s seat by educating ourselves and taking personal responsibility for our health. You already know that simply taking a pill is not going to be your cure-all.
Hormone health & wellness is a full-body experience, if you will. It is about lifestyle choices, diet, exercise, your mental attitude and at times, medical intervention.
But, if you’re not getting the answers you need, do not give up. Continue to educate yourself and take that knowledge with you into the medical community.
Remember, ladies: Knowledge is power. Don’t be afraid to use it.
¹Hotze, Dr. Steven F. (2005) Hormones Health & Happiness: A Natural Medical Formula for Rediscovering Youth with Bioidentical Hormones. 10 – 11. Houston, TX: Forrest Publishing
²”Hystera: The Suffocation of the Mother” . February 26, 2011. Psychology.Jrank.org. February 26, 2011. http://www.psychology.jrank.org/pages/1269/hysteria.html