When I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2012, I sat inside of a cold, quiet exam room waiting for my doctor to come in.
I already knew I had it. My energy levels were never consistent. My periods were absent for months at a time, and I’d been battling with excess facial hair (or hirsutism) beyond the normal mustache or light peach fuzz that us ladies tend to get. I just wanted to know what solutions were available to me to make the symptoms manageable.
The wait seemed to take forever. But eventually my doctor, a sweet, middle-aged woman with a heartwarming smile came in. Pleasantries were exchanged as she flipped through my file, catching up on the information a nurse gathered from me earlier in the visit.
“You have PCOS,” she confirmed with a nod.
Finally!, I thought. Now I’d know how to combat some of these side-effects and get back on track.
But that didn’t happen.
Instead, I left feeling more confused, anxious and helpless than I had before I ever went in!
Four years and several doctors later, I finally know where I went wrong. When you have PCOS, finding the right doctor is so important. So what’s the first step to finding your medical match?
Find an Endocrinologist.
All doctors serve a purpose. When we have a common cold or some other ailment that over-the-counter meds just won’t kick, general practitioners, or GP’s, are the perfect solution. They go to school for years to study the human body extensively, so even if they aren’t experts on a particular subject, they’ll at least have an idea of where to start.
But like the old saying goes, a jack of all trades is a master of none.
The same goes with your OB-GYN. They probably have a better idea of how to treat PCOS than your GP; it does affect the reproductive system, after all. But they may not be able to pin down the source of your PCOS.
An endocrinologist is the best choice for discussing your PCOS systems. Why? They specialize in diagnosing and treating glandular syndromes and diseases. Since women with PCOS may suffer from hormone imbalance and adrenal fatigue, these doctors are equipped with more information than your average GP or OB-GYN would have.
You can find an endocrinologist by asking for a referral from your regular doctor or your healthcare provider. You can also search for an endocrinologist through Hormone Health Network.
Tell Them Everything.
Yay! You’ve found your endocrinologist, set your appointment and are ready to go. So what’s next?
If you’ve gone to other non-specialists in the past, you’ve likely answered at least one of these questions before (some of which are asked for normal doctor’s visits):
- When was your last menstrual cycle?
- Have you been tested for thyroid disorders?
- Do you have issues with facial hair?
- Have you experienced any weight gain/loss?
- Are you experiencing any hair loss?
And the list goes on.
My advice? Answer all of these questions and provide any information that the doctor didn’t inquire about. Seriously. Even if it has the potential to be embarrassing. It’s better for you to lay everything out on the table then hide it out of fear of judgment. Chances are, your doctor is a good doctor, and he or she is there to help you.
Here’s a great example. When I met with an endocrinologist for the first time, I gave him far more information on my struggles with hirsutism than I did the first doctor I mentioned earlier in the post. He prescribed me a medication that didn’t get rid of the excess hair, but definitely lessened the density. Who knows if that would have been the case had I not mentioned it up front?
Make Sure They Listen.
It’s just as important for your doctor to listen to you as it is for you to tell them everything. Unfortunately, some doctors don’t listen as much as they should. This was definitely my experience and I bet it happens too often to women with PCOS.
A big mistake I’ve experienced doctors make is judging a patient by their outer appearance. They, out of all of us, should know that sometimes the outside does not reflect what’s going on internally and vice-versa.
When it comes to PCOS, women who are overweight may have a tendency to be brushed off a bit more than women who aren’t. Or women who are only experiencing one or two symptoms versus several may not be taken as seriously.
When you find the right doctor, you’ll likely know it sub-consciously. You’ll feel comfortable talking to them. You’ll be content with the answers they give in response to a question or concern. Most importantly, you’ll schedule another appointment in the near future.
But what happens if you still don’t feel like you’ve met the ‘right’ doctor to address your PCOS-related concerns?
I know. It’s really irritating to hear. After doctor #2, I was about ready to give up. But, in my humble opinion, trial and error really is the only way to find the right doctor to suit your needs.
There are some things you can do to cut down on the tediousness of your search. Try to get a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or family member with PCOS in your area. And sites like Yelp aren’t just for restaurant reviews anymore. You can actually find reviews for physicians now, too!
Have you found the ‘right’ one or are you still looking? I’d love to hear about your experience.