Any search of the web for self advocacy tips will lead you to lists that more often than not start with “Believe You Deserve What You Are Asking For” or “Believe in Yourself”. I wholeheartedly agree that this is true when battling any health issue, particularly infertility, or trying to conceive when the odds seem stacked against you. I also think each individual is the #1 expert in their own bodies and how they feel in them. Healthcare providers are indeed well trained and very knowledgeable in their various specialties, but you are the expert on your body, mind and spirit! So, what is the best way to express that and advocate for yourself in a medical or natural healthcare setting?
“When it comes to your symptoms and health concerns, never shut up until you get satisfaction. I’m serious,” says highly acclaimed MD Herbalist Midwife Aviva Romm. But she also approaches reaching satisfaction by becoming educated, scheduling appointments properly and being persistent while also being respectful, and we agree.
Here are several ways to best advocate for yourself and for your health:
1. Act like a client. Interview practitioners to choose one with expertise in fertility health. Seek support from someone you feel comfortable with, who takes the time to listen to you, is open to considering your wants and to working with you. You are entitled to find another practitioner who will work with you if yours isn’t as compassionate as you need, is disrespectful, or not taking your knowledge of your own body and symptoms seriously.
2. Ask for a referral. If you feel that you may need to find another practitioner or ask for a referral, do it. Your general practitioner may not be well versed in all things fertility health, there are specialists for that. Your Ob-Gyn may not know a lot about endometriosis, etc., there are specialists for that too.
3. Document what and how you feel. No one can instinctively know how you experience the health issue you have, or what you are going through. You have to be able to explain it in detail. Keep a journal with as much detail as you can, including timing of the menstrual cycle and/or when symptoms happen. Be ready to also share in detail why you are concerned.
4. Educate yourself. Enter the appointment educated about your issue and/or what you are interested in (procedure, medication, natural therapy, herb, etc.). You can bring with you studies or information to share, but give the practitioner time to read should he/she wish to. Don’t expect they will read the information thoroughly in a 30-minute appointment. After all, you do want the focus to be on you.
5. Fact Check! The information gathered to share should be reputable, accurate and factual (personal blogs, opinion pieces or accounts of another’s success aren’t the best resources).
6. Ask questions. If something is unclear or you wish to know more, ask questions politely. Questions like:
- What are the positive and negative impacts to my health?
- What are the success rates for women or men my age, with a similar condition?
- What can I do to ease my concerns?
- What if I gave my myself a three-month timeframe to try natural therapies before I/we consider the procedure?
- What if I do not _____ (use the medication, have the procedure, want a prescription)?
- What are the potential side effects?
7. Make additional appointments. Dr. Romm says, “Don’t tack concerns about fatigue, brain fog, and weight loss resistance, or other symptoms onto the end of an appointment for a pap smear or I-think-I-have-the-flu visit. Schedule an appointment specifically to discuss your current concerns, ideas, health care needs, and requests.”
8. Try not to fixate on one single solution. Medicine has its limits, natural therapies do as well. While you may need a medication to cure an infection or medical procedure to help you through a particular fertility health issue, there may also be ways to naturally support the body’s ability to return to health and balance. It is perfectly okay to enlist the support of both a medical doctor and naturopath, herbalist or another specialist in the area you truly wish to address or need help with. Perhaps our guide Combining Natural & Medical Approaches to Fertility: A How-to Guide will be helpful if you are considering adding to your care team.
As you seek the right support…
Be a kind client! Be firm, yet calm and patient. Be open to the thoughts and opinions of others, after all, they have different perspectives, even a different area of expertise or skill set. Be able to clarify exactly what you feel and need. Try not to expect immediate results in one meeting. Change is not always instant or lasting. Sometimes it takes many conversations with or interviews of practitioners in order to find or make a change in practitioner, and it certainly takes time to create a fertility health program and heal.
- Paul, M. (April 4, 2016). Being a Loving Advocate for Yourself. Retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-paul-phd/being-a-loving-advocate-for-yourself_b_9608812.html
- Romm, A. (February 14, 2018). How to Talk to Your Doctor and Get the Health Care You Need (or How to be a Health Care Badass). Retrieved from: https://avivaromm.com/speaking-up-to-your-doctor/