Things that are NIAW: How to be your own advocate

As National Infertility Awareness Week comes to a close I wanted to encourage you to be your own advocate in regards to your fertility health.

There are so many reasons we need to be an advocate for ourselves and for our bodies. I will give you a few examples from my own life. I have been to the doctor a number of times for physicals. Each year they do the routine pap exam (though it’s not as frequent anymore) and draw blood to check cholesterol, white blood cells, hematocrit, etc. FYI they don’t (at least at my doctor) check vitamin levels unless you ask.

There have been a number of times I have gotten a call letting me know that my blood tests came back within the normal limits. That’s great that my results are in the normal limits, but what if they were on the upper or lower limit of being normal. There was no way to tell just by what they said over the phone. Yet, all I have to do is ask them for a copy myself, and the clinic is required to share.

Another experience, last April I went into the doctor because I was told Vitamin B deficiencies run in families, and so I thought I should get checked out. The doctor I went to (not my normal doctor) didn’t seem curious, and I got the vibe that he was annoyed with me wanting to know. He also told me that checking vitamins aren’t always accurate and can be misleading. I thought, does that mean all of the blood tests that they do are then inconclusive?! He then said there have been studies shown that having thyroid issues can play a role on fertility and cause infertility. I for 1, already knew that and 2, my fertility doctor had already addressed that issue. After getting my blood drawn, I hadn’t heard from them a few days after so I called to get my results and asked for a copy of my results. All vitamins (including my thyroid) were normal or even high, but my vitamin D was on the low end of normal, yet they told me everything was normal.

The last example is during our IVF cycles with our fertility clinic at every appointment they would do a follicle scan, and check my estrogen levels. There were several days where I would walk out of the clinic not knowing how many follicles I had, and when they called they wouldn’t tell me my estrogen level. I had to ask them, every time. It can be tiring to ask every time and at every appointment. It is worth it to know how you progressed, so you can keep track and ask questions to the doctor if your IVF cycle happens to fail. Or for journaling purposes if your cycle is successful you can get an idea on how it went the last time.

Here’s a few ideas on how you can be an advocate for your own health:

1. Research the crap out of everything. It’s important, and with how much information is on the internet you can find different things to try or bring up to your fertility doctor. They know a lot, and can carefully explain why they think it is or isn’t a good idea.

2. Have a list of questions to ask your doctor. Use the support groups on Facebook, ask your Instagram followers. You can check out BEATinfertility – Heather has created a support group app that isn’t connected to Facebook. Be sure to ask for clarification on what certain procedures/tests are for so you fully understand them.

3. Take pen and paper to take notes. You could even record your visit with your doctor so you can reference back to it, and take more detailed notes.

4. After your visit, talk to your significant other about what was discussed. You want to make sure you have a plan that you both agree on. You can also pray about what was discussed and decide if moving forward is the right thing for you.

5. Speak up if you aren’t comfortable with a test or procedure, or if you aren’t ready to move forward with treatments. For example, I was very uncomfortable when I got a saline ultrasound and they tried to hurry as quickly as possible knowing how uncomfortable I was.

6. Ask a friend who has gone through it before to go to an appointment with you. It’s also helpful if you feel you are too scared to ask questions or speak up on your own.

7. You can always, always get a second opinion. Sometimes it’s nice to have a fresh set of eyes to scan through your chart.

8. AND last but not least, you can always switch doctors if you feel that you aren’t being taken care of.

How have you been your own advocate for your health?

P.S. I sell Infertility Awareness Shirts in my Etsy Shop!

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