Women Need Doctors Who Listen

By Megan Woodhouse Needham

Megan lives in Connecticut with her husband and son. She is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon).


The first gynecologist I ever saw told me I needed to see a sex therapist because I was a virgin.  She said that religious teachings about chastity, “mess people up.”  She wrote me a prescription for The Pill without talking to me about side effects or other birth control options.  When I asked her about getting an IUD instead (with no hormones), she refused to discuss it.  A few months later, with my wedding on the calendar, I started taking The Pill.  I ended up with highly irregular periods, weight gain, dizziness, and nausea when what I had wanted was a few months of marriage to get used to my husband before diving into parenthood.

Because she didn’t listen and because she imposed her version of morality and sexual normalcy on our doctor-patient relationship, I received hormonal treatment I didn’t want that did more harm than good.  Naked, with my legs in stirrups, I was mocked for my religious devotion.  And I left her office lacking any unbiased medical advice regarding my personal reproductive health goals, which included having a child within a few years.

A few weeks after my wedding, I decided to throw the rest of the pills in the trash.  It took five months for my hormones to return to normal, but when they did, my husband and I learned I was pregnant.  Unfortunately, the joyous occasion was marred by yet another practice of OBGYNs who failed to listen.

At our first prenatal visit we were pressured into expensive genetic testing for Down’s syndrome and other Trisonomy disorders.  The OB insisted that everyone does this three-part test.  That appointment was the first of many times I would tell my doctor that we were having this baby no matter what.  She must not have heard me because when the blood work came back showing an elevated risk for Down’s Syndrome, she was the one who panicked.

I was 18 weeks pregnant when the test results came back, and my doctor insisted that I see a genetic counselor and perinatologist immediately.  She pushed an amniocentesis brushing aside its risks to the fetus.  She couldn’t provide any medical reason for her urgency, especially in light of my reminder that abortion was not an option we were considering.  I consulted with other doctors and learned that an amniocentesis was unnecessary.  I pushed back, found my own referrals, and chose my own specialists for genetic counseling and advanced ultrasound.  Instead of an amniocentesis, I was able to have the non-invasive, more affordable Harmony blood test that provided the same information without any risk of harm.  Soon after, I attended a prenatal class hosted by my OBGYN practice.  The nurse practitioner leading the class emphasized abortion and the importance of having an “unflawed” baby.  Realizing that the practice was not focused on the health of mothers and their children, I left.

The story has a happy ending.  I spent my third trimester of pregnancy and the past 18 months of post-partum gynecological care with doctors who do listen to their patients.  They saw me through multiple complications, including gestational diabetes, Bell’s palsy, and a Cesarean section and delivered a healthy, 9 pound, 6 ounce baby boy.  Post-partum, my doctor was willing to discuss all birth control options with me and was supportive when I declined both The Pill and an IUD.   I feel relieved knowing that I have found doctors who listen, but I am concerned.

The Affordable Care Act mandates that hormonal birth control be covered as preventive care.  However, the hormonal birth control options covered by the ACA only attempt to prevent one condition: pregnancy.  They can and frequently do cause a multitude of side-effects while failing to guard against sexually transmitted diseases.  Mandating that certain birth control options be entirely covered by insurance, while excluding other non-hormonal forms, including counseling for natural family planning (NFP), ignores the perspective of a substantial number of women and encourages doctors to prescribe hormonal birth control without accounting for the desires of individuals.  The ACA mandate discourages doctors from listening to their female patients by skewing the market for birth control options.

Women deserve to have their own voice.  Women deserve doctors who will listen to them.  Women deserve to be heard because women speak for themselves.

Megan lives in Connecticut with her husband and son. She is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon).

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