A trip to the gynecologist is anything but at the top of my to do list. It’s not something I go to for enjoyment, though provides necessary yearly data to ensure all my eggs are in a row (insert side smirk). While I now have a very pleasant relationship with my doctor, it can be incredibly frustrating to see someone who totally depreciates your beliefs and morals, and presents a single option for a plethora of problems. Irregular periods? Birth control pill. Acne? Birth control pill? Heavy cramping? PCOS? Endometriosis. You guessed it – birth control pill.
We women are complex and nuanced and deserve more than the binary of suffer or birth control. Upon the discovery that so many women face(d) this dilemma, I decided to start compiling a list of resources to just generally make the process a little bit more comfortable. It includes physical tips (hint: bring your own robe), online and book resources, apps, and even ways you can try to steer the conversation to work more in your favor and get the information you’re seeking. This is a growing, growing, growing and evolving list, so if you have something you’d like to add, please just shoot me an email or comment below! Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far! I learn so much from you intelligent, sunflower souls.
Books (bolded came most recommended):
- The Hormone Cure – Sara Gottfried
- The Hormone Reset Diet – Sara Gottfied
- Life-Changing Foods by Medical Medium – breakds down every fruit, vegetable and explains in detail how each one can help with different parts of the body, cancer, symptoms, sicknesses, etc.
- She-ology – Dr. Sherry Ross
- Woman Code – Alissa Vitti
- Birth Matters – Ina May Gaskin
- Taking Charge of your Fertility textbook
- Balance your hormones, balance your life – Dr. Claudia Welch
- Making Sense of Women’s Health – Marita Schauch
- The Garden of Fertility – Katie Singer
- Love Warrior – Glennon Doyle
- Life is your best medicine: A woman’s guide to health, healing and wholeness at every age – Andrew Weil
- Woman’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom – Christiane Northrop
- Women’s Health, 2nd edition – Victoria Maize
- Be Fruitful: The essential guide to maximizing fertility and giving birth to a healthy child – Dr. Victoria Maizes, M.D.
- Period Repair Manual
- Eat the Yolks – Liz Wolfe
- Baby Making and Beyond (Fertility and pregnancy topics) – Liz Wolfe
- A Mind of Your Own – Kelly Brogan
- The Pill – Jane Bennet and Alexandra Pope
- The V Book – Elizabeth G. Stewart & Paula Spencer
- No Period, Now What – Nicola J Rinaldi
- Our Bodies, Ourselves – Boston Womens’ Health Book Collective & Judy Norsigian
- any books from this page: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=herbenick
- brightpink.com (relation between cancer, diet, and hormones)
- Natural Fertility Website
- Laci Green on YouTube and tumblr – sex positive resources and tips
- bedsider.org (***note not .com – that site is porn lololol) – comprehensive guide to birth control with feature for finding local sex positive, judement free medical / gyn care
- A great blog post for survivors of sexual assault: http://www.xojane.com/healthy/i-promise-you-can-get-a-pap-exam-even-if-you-are-traumatized-weirded-out-grossed-out-or-really-really-not-into-those-bits
- Femmehead youtube videos
all natural birth control tools:
- Wink / The Kindara App
- basal thermometry by LadyComp
- The Fertility Computers – brand: Daysy
- The Creighton method
- Natural Cycles
- BabyComp – logs your cycle from your basal temperature without you having to do any of the work
- app called Life – more affordable because you can use your own thermometer and input the information yourself
- copper IUD – lasts 10 years, no hormones
doctors for natural healing – Facebook pages and blogs:
- Dr. Amy Myers
- Dr. Fiona McCulloch
- PCOS Diva
- Dr. Laura Briden
- Dr. Trevor Cates (podcast)
- Healthy Hormones Program by FDN Megan Blacksmith (@gingernewtrition)
apps for cycle tracking / syncing
- Flo Living
- Kindara app – tracks BBT, cycle, cervical mucus, mood, supplements – show this data to your HCP
- Natural cycles app
- Clue app
when you’re in the gyno’s office:
- bring your own robe
- bring your own wipes so that you’re not leaking like a faucet for the remainder of the day
- in terms of lube: there are only certain approved brands that do not cause unsatisfactory pap results – check with your practitioner before bringing your own. What you can do is ask for warm water instead of lube if you so choose.
- wear fuzzy socks and/or leg warmers
- make the whole day a “treat yoself” day so you begin to associate it with a positive rather than a dreaded negative
- diaphragmatic breathing to help relax the pelvic floor / diaphragm for speculum insertion and just for generalized relaxation
questions to ask / ways to indulge curiosity:
- ask about the shape of your cervix – if it is tilted, there may be a lot of discomfort / “digging around” trying to locate the cervix. If your practitioners knows it is tilted or a different shape, it makes the experience shorter and more tolerable
- if the doctor or practitioner says something offensive, call them out nicely! Rather than getting caught up in the moment simply say, “I don’t think it was your intention, but are you aware that you when you say that I feel ____ (ashamed, embarrassed, etc.), and I want this to be a positive experience.”
For now, I will end this post with the input from an extremely thoughtful, mindful, incredible, wonderful / all synonyms for badass magical creature that sent this over to me. Her name is Ellie and she is a saint filled with wisdom. But she comes down from the heavens as a women’s health nurse practitioner candidate.
“Firstly – the vast majority of women are uneducated and/or misinformed about their bodies and how they work. That’s why it’s so important to have these conversations and to make this a “normal” subject to talk about and make visits to your nurse practitioner or doctor a regular, yearly event.
Just a quick clarification on women’s health care providers, since there are a few different types of care providers in this field and it can be confusing/a lot of people don’t know the difference between them (it’s important to understand who your healthcare provider is!) So – when you schedule an appointment at a clinic or an OBGYN office, or Planned Parenthood – where ever you call when you need to make an appointment with the “gyno” – it’s likely that there is going to be a team of doctors (it will say MD – medical doctor or OBYGN next to their name), nurse practitioners (it will say NP or APRN – advanced practice registered nurse next to their name) and certified nurse midwives (CNM) who are the primary care providers at the office. First and foremost, it is important to know that they are all equally competent and knowledgeable in the field of women’s health. They all have the ability to diagnose and prescribe. They all specialized in women’s health/gynecology & obstetrics/midwifery in medical and nursing school so that they could become competent care providers in this field specifically. You should not feel like you have to see someone that has MD next to his or her name to receive competent care. Often times the most compassionate, empathetic care comes from providers who have spent their years of graduate education learning a holistic approach to healthcare, which is often times focused on more heavily in nursing school than it is in medical school. Some (not all of them by ANY means) MDs/physicians have a bad reputation for rushing their patients out of their rooms and treating them as just another filled time slot in their schedule, whereas many people have experiences in which their NP or CNM spends time getting to know them and hearing all of their questions and concerns before examining them. Some people have a preconceived notion that they HAVE to see a doctor or that they won’t receive adequate care unless they see a “real doctor.” Let me assure you that women’s health nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives are just as competent women’s/sexual/reproductive health care providers as their MD/OBGYN counterparts!
Tips on facilitating productive conversation/forming a good relationship with your women’s health care provider whether they are a gynecologist, a midwife or a nurse practitioner:
My first piece of advice is to find a provider who you really love! Opening up (literally) to a new doctor or healthcare provider can be really hard especially when it involves not only physically putting yourself in a really vulnerable/awkward/uncomfortable position but also for a lot of people just talking about vaginas, sex, periods, etc. can be difficult and uncomfortable topics. It may take some asking around or trying out a few different clinics/practices before you find someone, but it is so worth it to find a provider that you truly trust and get along with and who you really feel comfortable being open with and asking questions to. Not every doctor/healthcare provider that you see is going to be the perfect match for you, but when it comes to reproductive health and gynecology it’s really important to find someone that you genuinely like and TRUST.
These two tidbits of advice go hand in hand:
1. Be open and honest with your provider
2. ASK THE QUESTION!!
- It is so important to be open and honest with your women’s healthcare provider. A lot of us have a tendency to just quickly answer “yes” or “no” when she asks if we use condoms EVERY TIME, or if we have multiple partners, but if the answers you are providing are not totally true, you’re not doing any favors for yourself. Lying (or being indirect/beating around the bush) with your provider is a particularly bad choice when it comes to sexual health because of the risks of pregnancy and STIs. Be honest and don’t ashamed or embarrassed of your honest answer!! These care providers are there to make sure you are healthy and it makes their job harder (and can result in you being unhealthy) if you are not honest with them! They want the best for you; they are there to empower and encourage and educate you and while they may advise that you do a few things differently, they are not judging you for your decisions.
- Ask the question. The burning question or concern that you have but that you are too afraid to ask because it is embarrassing or it makes you seem like a “slut” or “gross” or whatever it is that’s stopping you –- put those judgments and worries to the side and ask the question or voice the concern! Just do it! They are there to give you the answers and to educate you. It’s their job! Healthcare providers that specialize in this field are not shy or afraid to answer questions that may seem embarrassing or “gross” to you – they do this for a living; chances are they have answered your question or seen something similar to your concern/complaint at least once before! Asking the tough questions or raising your voice about a concern will only benefit you in the long run – you likely will learn a thing or two and speaking up to ask a question or mention a concern about your body could seriously impact your health in a positive way. It’s also likely that your provider has some great information, tips, tricks and resources for you.
Vaginas, sex, intimacy etc. are hard topics to openly chat about, but finding a great provider who you really like and trust, being open and honest, and speaking up about questions and concerns are crucial components to a positive experience at your women’s health care provider’s office!”