Hormonal Health Matters: Tips for Choosing the Right Medical Practitioner

Abstract: Ensure optimal care during perimenopause by choosing the right medical practitioner. Learn key steps to find a supportive and skilled specialist for your hormonal health needs.

One of the most common issues women face is not being listened to, heard, or validated by healthcare practitioners, especially regarding hormonal health.

A top menopause doctor in the US recently revealed on a podcast that during her medical training, practitioners around her would use the phrase “WW” (whining woman) to describe women of a certain age who came in with what they deemed “non-legitimate health concerns” they couldn’t address.

This dismissive attitude highlights the urgent need for healthcare practitioners who understand women’s needs, especially during the challenging times of perimenopause and menopause.

Having a family doctor or general practitioner who truly listens, validates, and understands the unique hormonal health needs of women is crucial as you age. This is especially important for women entering perimenopause and menopause, a pivotal time when hormonal changes can significantly impact your physical, mental, and emotional health. Trusting a practitioner to assess your needs and ensure your long-term well-being is vital.

Having the right practitioner isn’t just important; it’s something every woman deserves. No woman should pass through perimenopause or menopause without a clear and patient understanding of what symptoms are natural or not concerning, and what symptoms may be indicators of greater risks. A compassionate and knowledgeable practitioner will provide the
support and care needed during this transformative period.

You need a practitioner who will work with you through the aging process, listening to your concerns and offering tailored advice. But how do you find one? What should you look for in that relationship? How do you choose the right practitioner, and once you have one, how do you determine what they need to know and what is “private”?

Keep reading to get the answers:

  1. Women’s health specialists 
  2. How to choose the “right” practitioner 
  3. Considerations for women when choosing a practitioner
  4. Your health is in your hands: 7 tips to keep your practitioner informed
  5. Women’s health should be a team effort

Women’s Health Specialists: Finding practitioners for hormonal health

When seeking care for perimenopause and hormonal challenges, it’s important to know the types of medical practitioners who specialize in women’s health.

Here are some key roles and their areas of expertise:

  • Primary Care Physician (PCP): Provides general health care, including preventive
    care, routine check-ups, and referrals to specialists for specific women’s health
  •  Nurse Practitioner (NP): Offers comprehensive care, often specializing in women’s
    health, including routine exams, prescribing medication, and managing menopause
  •  Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB-GYN): Provides a wide range of reproductive health
    services, from pregnancy and childbirth to menopause management and hormonal
  • Gynecologist: Specializes in the female reproductive system, providing care for
    menstrual issues, hormonal imbalances, and menopause management.
  •  Endocrinologist: Focuses on the endocrine system and hormonal disorders, including
    thyroid issues, diabetes, and menopause-related hormonal changes.
  • Integrative Medicine Specialist: Combines conventional and alternative medicine
    approaches, focusing on holistic care that includes nutrition, lifestyle changes, and
    hormonal balance.
  • Certified Menopause Practitioner: Specializes in the management of menopause and
    related hormonal issues, providing tailored treatments and support for symptom
  •  Reproductive Endocrinologist: Specializes in fertility and hormonal disorders related
    to reproduction, including treatments for menopause and perimenopause

Each of these specialists plays a vital role in addressing women’s health concerns, particularly during the transitional phases of perimenopause and menopause.

Finding the right practitioner involves understanding their expertise and how they can
support your unique health needs.

However, it’s important to note that while these practitioners are trained in the areas mentioned, this does not always mean they are well-versed in women’s hormonal health, especially the health concerns that arise during perimenopause. Medical education often touches only briefly on this stage of life, leading to a scarcity of practitioners who are prepared to treat perimenopause not just as a collection of symptoms, but as a comprehensive syndrome. This gap in training can make it challenging for women to find doctors who truly understand and can effectively address their perimenopausal needs.

Choosing a practitioner: the practical matters

When you’re looking for a practitioner, there are a few different things you need to look for. Some are practical matters – which we’ll talk about in this section. Others are more interpersonal, which we’ll talk about in the next section.

For now, let’s discuss the practical matters you need to consider when you’re searching for a

1. How do you decide which practitioners to choose from?

The most important thing about finding a practitioner is to find one that suits YOUR needs.

Here are some practical tips you should consider when exploring practitioners:

  • Talk to family and friends. If your friends or family use a practitioner that they personally recommend, you may feel more comfortable seeking them out as a practitioner.
  • Do they offer after-hour hours? If flexible hours are a priority for you due to your work or medical needs, it’s important to find a practitioner or health team that offers flexible appointment hours.
  •  What is the average wait time? If possible, try to check in with current patients of this practitioner. Are wait times to book appointments with that practitioner very long? Does it take a long time for this practitioner to connect you with specialists or
    remember to send prescriptions to your pharmacy? Are there long waiting times in the practitioner’s waiting room before you actually get in for your appointment? These are important considerations.
  • Do they perform labs in-office? If you want to prioritize routine blood work, explore practitioners who use space in a larger medical facility that includes easy access to blood labs, ultrasound clinics, and other specialists. Practitioners who operate out of family health clinics or hospitals may be best suited to your needs.
  • Do they have a specific education or interests? If you are looking for a doctor who specializes in treating or managing particular health concerns, you may want to include this as a factor when seeking a practitioner.
  • Is the location ideal? If your doctor’s office is hard to get to or far away from where you live, you may want to explore nearer options. Even if you feel comfortable with the drive today, think about the long-term. Will you still want to travel long distances or visit hard-to-access offices as you age? Explore options that are nearer to you and easier to get to.

You should also consider, whenever possible, the long-term. Choose a practitioner that is going to be able to get to know you as you age so that they are aware of any changes over time.

2. Can a practitioner refuse to accept you as a patient?

Physicians are not supposed to discriminate against prospective patients for any reason, and are expected to accept new patients on a first-come, first-served basis.

That being said, doctors are allowed to determine for themselves whether they are accepting new patients or not. If the practitioner you’re interested in isn’t currently accepting new patients, ask if they have a waiting list that you can add your name to for future care as spaces become available.

3. Can a family practitioner drop you as a patient?

Family doctors are allowed to drop patients for various reasons. They need to provide written notification that the doctor-patient relationship is ending, and they are encouraged to give a reason why the relationship is ending, but it is not mandatory to do so.

4. Can you choose your own practitioner?

There can be some limitations to choosing your own family doctor. For instance, if you have a specific practitioner in mind, you need to make sure that the practitioner is currently accepting new patients. Otherwise, you may need to go on a waitlist to be notified once they are accepting new patients. Additionally, your insurance plan may limit who you can see.

In the meantime however, it’s important that you do have a family doctor – even if you don’t have a current health problem, and even if you know you want to explore other options in the future when another practitioner becomes available.

So you know how to find family practitioners, but how do you choose the right practitioner?

Let’s get into that now.

How to choose the “right” practitioner

There are many things that someone might look for in a family doctor, so the “right” practitioner might look different for different people.

Some may prefer a slow and steady bedside manner, and others may prefer the to-the-point
and efficient type.

Some might prefer a female doctor for comfort and relatability, and some may not mind whether their doctor is male or female, as long as they are patient and informative about their medical needs and questions.

When it comes to choosing the right practitioner, what you really need to consider is:

  • Does my practitioner answer all of my questions?
  • Does my practitioner speak to me with patience?
  • Does my practitioner explain medical information to me in a way I understand?
  •  Does my practitioner seem interested in getting to know me and my concerns?

If you answered no to any of these, then you may want to consider exploring other options for a practitioner.

Considerations for women when choosing a practitioner

As women, we experience aging in a way that is unique compared with men.

Men are less likely to experience night sweats and insomnia due to decreases in hormonal fluctuation. Men do not have to fear that menopause will increase the risk of developing dementia in the way that women do.

And men who are experiencing vast changes in their mood or concentration are less likely to be told it’s a “normal part of aging” in the way that women are told this if these symptoms present themselves during menopause.

Having a practitioner as a woman means that you need to be an advocate for yourself.

Women’s health has been vastly misunderstood in the medical world for many years now – and though many female researchers and practitioners are striving to change that, there is a long way to go.

As you enter perimenopause and menopause, you should have a practitioner you can discuss these experiences with in detail – because changes to your physical and mental health and changes to your mood could be manageable symptoms OR indicators of something more serious.

Speaking to your practitioner about women’s health needs

In addition to the above considerations when seeking out a new practitioner, ideally you should also find a practitioner who is able to speak about – or connect you with reliable information on – your hormones.

If you want to get hormones tested, your practitioner should be able to tell you which ones you should test based on symptoms that you describe or questions that you have about your changing body.

Related: Educate yourself about your hormones – read Female Hormones 101.

If you want screening tests, your practitioner should be willing to discuss those with you and help to connect you with the right specialists in a timely manner – even if you’re not currently experiencing a medical problem.

Advocate for yourself with your practitioner

While it’s important that you trust your practitioner to guide and help you, your health is also in your hands. You need to enter into each appointment with your practitioner prepared to ensure that the patient-practitioner relationship is beneficial to YOU.

We want to make sure you get the most out of every medical appointment with your practitioner. To do so, follow these tips below!

Your health is in your hands: 7 tips to keep your practitioner informed

Whether your practitioner is new to you, or you’ve known them since you and/or your children were born, you should always follow these seven steps when meeting with your practitioner for an appointment.

1. Come prepared with your questions

Appointment times are usually short, so it’s imperative to arrive on time and are prepared with what you would like to discuss.

Write down your most important questions or most pressing concerns and arrive at your practitioner’s office with pen, paper, your questions – and be prepared to write down the answers that you get so that you can explore them further in the future when necessary.

Some doctors don’t “like it” when you arrive with a list – but your health is your priority, not their schedule.

If they’re unwilling to talk with you about pressing health concerns, or answer medical questions that you have about your body or your mental health, then you should explore other options for your practitioner.

2. Keep track of symptoms

Some symptoms may be subtle or worsen with time. Keeping a detailed journal identifying any symptoms you experience within the course of a month may help you see trends that weren’t apparent initially. Here are some of the questions we ask ourselves each month:

  • Has my cycle length or heaviness been changing from month to month?
  • Are my cramps more or less severe than they used to be?
  •  Do my moods and/or anxiety levels fluctuate with my monthly hormonal cycle (and if so, how so)?
  •  Do I notice more joint pain or aches during my cycles lately?
  • Are new symptoms a one-time fluke, or do they happen each month around the same time?

These questions (and many others) will help you get a sense of how your body may be  changing as you age.

Did you ever track your cycles when you were going through puberty, and/or when you were trying to conceive a baby?

It’s actually extremely beneficial for your long-term understanding of yourself to continue doing that from puberty to menopause and beyond.

Teach your daughters and granddaughters to track their cycles, too! The more data you have as you age, the better you understand yourself and your body and its changing needs.

3. Keep track of your habits

Diet, exercise, alcohol, caffeine, sleep, sex/libido, changes to vaginal discharge – these can help determine if symptoms are related to your lifestyle, or if they’re hormonal in nature.

This is key, because understanding where symptoms are coming from is the most important step in accurately diagnosing and treating or managing them.

4. Ask follow-up questions at your appointment

This is your time to ask your practitioner, face-to-face, about any questions or concerns you may have about your cycles, your body, your symptoms, your mood – anything.

As we mentioned above, come prepared with questions in advance of your appointment – but don’t stop there. As your practitioner explains things to you, take the time to write down the answers, ask questions to clarify things that you don’t understand, and really make sure you fully grasp what it is that they are telling you (rather than going home more confused
than when you arrived, or worse: Googling symptoms once you’re back home).

Here are some suggestions: Are certain symptoms normal based on your age or an underlying condition you may have? Are there any treatments due, or symptoms (RX or natural). Are there any screenings that are necessary or helpful to better understand your experience?

5. Educate yourself as much as possible

Not every practitioner knows everything about everything – especially women’s health concerns.

So, know when you are due for specific testing or health screenings, be proactive about asking for yearly blood work, and do your research (from reputable medical sources) about which tests are most beneficial.

We don’t mean Googling your symptoms and trusting WebMD or similar websites to accurately tell you what you are experiencing. We recommend that you follow trusted and reliable medical resources that prioritize women’s health.

You can also follow Dr. Kavita Desai / Revivele on Instagram. We are women doing research into women’s health. We take your health seriously and try to share the most up-to-date medical information with women to help us all fully appreciate our unique health needs.

6. Know when to find another practitioner

If a practitioner is dismissive of symptoms or is not willing to discuss or prescribe treatment methods (like hormone replacement therapy or HRT), find another practitioner!

Your practitioner is a trained professional, yes – but your health is in your hands as well. If there’s a treatment you’re interested in exploring, and your practitioner won’t take the time to discuss the pros and cons or provide you with non-judgmental information, then it is within your rights – and in your best interests – to explore other practitioners who are willing to discuss these things with you.

7. Be very open and honest

These appointments are not the time to be shy or embarrassed, even if your symptoms are uncomfortable to talk about.

Physicians have heard it all (believe me), and if it’s not disclosed, it can’t be addressed.

Don’t suffer in silence – share your symptoms and experiences with your practitioner as they arise. Sharing symptoms or experiences may very well save your life if symptoms you passed off as “not serious” are actually indicators of more serious conditions.

Women’s health should be a team effort

Revivele is a company created by a woman for women, with women’s health in mind.

Explore how our Essentials supplements were created to benefit women’s brain health and perimenopausal symptoms as we age to increase women’s comfort, and decrease the risk of developing serious diseases, exacerbated by the symptoms of perimenopause.

To reduce inflammation, improve brain function, reduce sleep disturbance, and repopulate the gut microbiome, we created the Essentials line of women’s supplements.

Related: 5 reasons why taking supplements is essential

Join the Health Hub, made for you

Sign up for our upcoming and exclusive Health Hub: an interactive online platform designed to educate and support women regarding women’s health.

Our Health Hub will feature future-forward services such as lab testing, HRT, telehealth consultations, at-home sleep assessments, and therapeutic tools.

Don’t miss out. Sign up now and be one of the first to be notified when our Health Hub goes live!

Take your health into your own hands

Many women who experience the sudden onset of anxiety and mood disorders may feel like they’re losing their minds. You’re not losing your mind – Dr. Desai addresses this very phenomena in her book Lady Parts: Putting Women’s Health Back Into Women’s Hands.

Being armed with information means you can face each unsettling hiccup in your perimenopause journey with calm attentiveness.

Don’t ignore new symptoms as they arise – bring them to the attention of your practitioner at your next appointment so you can work together to understand what they mean for you.

That being said – don’t let new symptoms panic you, either. Falling into a panic cycle will only make each new symptom more difficult to bear.

You’re not in this alone. Let’s work together to educate one another on what it means to be an aging woman.

At Revivele, women’s health is our mission. That’s why we’ve developed supplements made for women to address certain deficiencies common in women’s bodies as they age, and to help mitigate the difficulty of various symptoms as they arise.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to maintain your health as you age, read our other blogs, which are full of helpful details, research, and woman-to-woman understanding. We’re all in this together!

To learn more about women’s health and wellness, and to understand the beneficial effects supplements can have on women’s bodies as we age, follow Dr. Kavita Desai’s women’s health & wellness company, Revivele, on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

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