Trusting Your Fertility Doctor – When Discomfort is Really Pain
There are a few phrases that come to mind about my experience at a doctor's office the other day. (Definitely not a fertility doctor and definitely not Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT)).
One phrase? Practice what you preach.
Second? Walk your talk.
I had to have a procedure done. Not an infertility procedure, but it was hauntingly similar to the procedures done in a fertility program, in that it was new to me, a little scary and being done to investigate something that wasn't working as well as the doctor would have liked to see.
And then there was the similar language.
Especially the part where I was told it would not hurt that much. I might feel a pinch.
That is always a red flag for me. A pinch typically indicates pain.
I definitely felt a pinch. I would go a step farther and say that it did hurt and it hurt a whole lot more than a pinch.
Trusting Your Fertility Doctor
I'm very happy that our fertility doctors and nurses at RMACT give out instructions about certain of our procedures, such as the HSG (hysterosalpinogram, a fertility test), and advise taking pain medication.
There's a reason that we do that. Because we know it can be painful. Not for every patient, and not every time, but enough of the time to advise taking the medication just in case. And because we would like our patients to trust us when we say it's not painful.
A lot of this is about trust. Really, it's all about trust. If our doctor says that a procedure is not going to be painful and it is, it can start to erode our trust in their words and their judgment.
How do we trust them when they say that again?
If they're not trustworthy about a procedure being painful or not, how do we feel about hearing other information from them? How do we trust results or diagnoses?
I'll leave my experiences at the doctors for another day. This subject of trust with our doctors is too important.
There are simple ways of making sure that our patients understand how something may feel. There is language that can be used that is easy to understand.
Is the HSG Test Painful?
How about this?
- Most patients feel only a slight prick. However, some people feel quite a bit more than that. Please don't be alarmed either way, as both reactions are within the range of normal.
- Only 2% of the people who have this test will feel any discomfort at all. If you happen to be in that 2%, please know that it will be over in just a very few moments. Less than a minute, in fact.
- We do everything that we can to ensure that this testing is not painful. However, sometimes, it can be very uncomfortable. Try to stay as relaxed as possible, breathing deeply will help.
Each of those phrases is three sentences.
Any one of those sentences, preceding the painful procedure, would have built the trust that I had in my doctor the other day. Any of those phrases would have better prepared me for a procedure that for me, was not a simple pinch, and did in fact, hurt.
Why Trusting Your Fertility Doctor Matters
Part of the problem with a procedure hurting, is that it's alarming. If we're told that it's not going to hurt, then that's what we expect. If we're expecting that it's not going to hurt and it does, we worry that something's wrong.
We worry that something is wrong with us. Sometimes we even worry that something is wrong with our doctors expertise and judgment. After all, they're the ones who said it wouldn't hurt and they're the experts.
It all comes back to trust. We want and need to trust our doctors.
We want them to be honest, but not alarmist. We want them to say the right things, in the right tone, at the right moment, in the right way.
But we're reasonable. If they don't do all of that, every minute, it's ok. We can forgive them and move on. What we need most is for them to be excellent physicians, not perfect hand holders.
When it comes to pain, though, it erodes trust on a very different level.
So, maybe we should help them out. Maybe when they describe a pinch, and we are actually left gasping with pain, let's make an agreement, right here and now.
Let's tell them.
Let's educate them.
Let's help them understand what to say to the next patient.
Yep, we can change the world, one moment at a time.
We want our doctors to be truthful with us. Let's be truthful with them. If it doesn't hurt, let's tell them.
If it does hurt, though, let's tell them that too.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.