Medical Mistakes Busy Moms Make
By Sandra Gordon
Every day, you make dozens of decisions about your health that can impact your well being, such as whether to tough out the flu or see the doctor. But with your family and all you’ve got going on, it’s easy to make micro and macro judgment calls that can do more harm than help. Here are some of the biggest medical mistakes multitasking women (that’s you) make that doctors wish they wouldn’t:
You’ve got an OB/GYN, but not a primary care doctor.
“Women should have both an ob/gyn and a PCP,” says Michael Roizen, M.D., division chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and author of This is Your Do-Over. PCPs have broad-based medical knowledge and training in the prevention area. “There are so many nuances in drug therapy and drug interactions that PCPs are expert in,” Dr. Roizen says. If your blood pressure is creeping up, for example, your gynecologist shouldn’t be the one to write a prescription for blood pressure medication. You’ll also need a PCP to make sure you undergo age-appropriate screening tests and to coordinate your care should you need a specialist.
To choose a PCP, interview several until you find one you’re compatible with. Clues a doctor is right for you: The waiting room has patients similar to your age, and the doctor isn’t near retirement. You’ll want someone who can care for you long term. She’s also up-to-date on what’s likely to happen to you. “If you have a family history of heart disease, for example, you want a physician who focuses on heart disease prevention,” Dr. Roizen says.
You take your kids to well-child check-ups, but you haven’t seen a
physician in years.
You need regular check-ups, too. If you don’t have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose tested regularly, you don’t know if you’re at risk for a major condition such as diabetes, heart attack, or stroke.
Schedule a physical every five years if you’re healthy and under 40, so you know where you’re at in terms of blood pressure (goal: less than 120/80), total cholesterol (less than 200), LDL or “bad” cholesterol (less than 100), HDL or “good” cholesterol (50 or higher for women), triglycerides (less than 150), fasting blood glucose (less than 100), body mass index (greater than 18.5 but less than 25), and waist circumference (35 inches or less for women). Get a well-adult check-up annually if you’re over 40 or you’re younger but have a strong family history of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, or have had an abnormal mammogram, a breast biopsy, a history of an abnormal Pap test, or a history of an ovarian cyst.
You forget to get your prescription filled but go to your follow-up appointment.
“It’s a waste of time to go to your follow-up appointment if you haven’t even taken your medication in the first place,” says Margaret McKenzie, M.D., a physician with the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Institute. Moreover, your symptoms will linger, your condition could worsen, and your doctor won’t have any new information, such as whether the medication is working, to fine-tune your treatment plan.
When you get a prescription, get to the pharmacy right away. “Put ‘fill prescription’ at the top of your to-do list,” says Dr. McKenzie, who takes her own advice. “I write everything down. If I don’t, it isn’t happening.” Then, take the medication as directed before going to your follow-up doctor’s visit.
You are too afraid to mention embarrassing symptoms.
Symptoms related to incontinence or sexuality, such as urine leakage, anal pain or bleeding, vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse, or a decreased sex drive, are the big ones that patients avoid during medical appointments unless the doctor asks. Embarrassment is part of it, but again, so is just being busy. “Women are multitasking so much that in the whirlwind of just getting to my office, they forget about their symptoms,” Dr. McKenzie says.
Make a list of troublesome symptoms and bring them up yourself, no matter how embarrassing or minor you find them. Practice saying them out loud at home or in the car on the drive over, as in “I leak when I laugh,” or “I am experiencing feminine odor.” When the doctor asks the reason for your visit, put it out there, so you don’t miss an opportunity to get treatment.