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Seeing doctors as a woman

Ever get really pissed off at a doctor? (What am I saying? I read GroupThink, I KNOW some of you do!) I had an appointment with a neurologist a few days ago that left me seething.

For background, I have a number of medical conditions, including fibromyalgia, severe migraines, depression, chronic insomnia, and a few other things (benign joint hypermobility syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia). I’ve been dealing with this crap for more than ten years now, and I’ve been on well over 30 medications trying to treat these conditions. In 2010 or 2011, I finally found the right combination of meds for me—a combo that manages that pain, keeps me functional, doesn’t cloud my thinking, or anything like that. When I finally started my current pain med, Nucynta, I was finally able to start living my life normally again. I wasn’t constantly in pain, and I could function. With all my experience with medications, an avid reader and researcher on most drugs I put in my body, plus a minor in neuroscience giving me a general understanding of what drugs do, I'm not your typical patient.

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My migraines used to be very severe—around three debilitating migraines a week. I finally got Botox treatment for migraine prevention, and it changed everything. Now I’m down to maybe one migraine a month, and it’s great. Since I just moved, though, I’ve had to find a new neurologist, which is where this story begins.

So this doctor is looking over my medication list and sees that I’m on an opiate. He proceeds to run down the list of other meds. “Have you tried Lyrica? Neurontin? Higher doses of Cymbalta? How about Savella?” He goes on and on. I tell him yes, I tried pretty much all of them, and none of them helped enough. He gets this perplexed look on his face, then proceeds to describe another medication. This migraine preventative can also have beneficial effects on fibromyalgia, and also has the slight side effect of leading to kidney stones (which I have a predisposition to develop and already have between 1 and 5 chilling in one of my kidneys).

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“The thing is, I don’t like to see women on opiates, which, as you know, includes Nucynta. I mean, I’m guessing a young woman like yourself isn’t planning on becoming a nun and taking a vow of celibacy, right?”

“Riiight…”

“Then you’re someday gonna be having babies. If you were a male, this wouldn’t be a concern, but since you’ll likely be wanting to have kids in the future, I don’t like seeing you on an opiate. We know the effects of opiates on pregnancy, and they’re not good. Now this drug, there haven’t been any trials for this other on its effects on pregnancy and the fetus, but I still feel like this would be a safer option.”

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What. In the Ever. Loving. Fuck.

First, just because I’m a non-celibate woman, he assumes I plan to have children? Never mind the fact that I’m already on birth control to make sure I don’t get pregnant, he just assumes that since I’m a woman, I’m planning on birthin’ me some babies at some point. Second, he suggests a less effective and in some ways riskier course of treatment for me than he would for a man, just because I have a uterus and might someday get pregnant. He fails to consider that hey, maybe if I do someday want to get pregnant, it would be PLANNED. I could THEN change my medications to those optimal for a developing fetus, rather than discontinuing the meds that got my life back on track years before any baby came into the picture.

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Needless to say, I shut him down. I told him I was happy with my current medication combination, had no desire to try the drug he suggested, and would keep in mind his concerns.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if doctors treated women as whole human beings in themselves, rather than treating the woman and the potential children she might someday have?

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Am I the only one who has had experiences like this, where doctors treat you differently just because you’re a potential baby-making receptacle? Where a doctor tries to deny you what may be the optimum level of care because you’re a woman? …did you want to slap them? As much as I hope I’m alone in being treated like this by doctors, I have a strange feeling I’m not. Let’s hear your stories of sexist, presumptuous physicians who think they know what’s best for the wimminz.

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