Severely underweight due to over-exercise and an eating disorder, I stopped having a menstrual cycle at age 17. A woman’s menstrual cycle is often considered the “sixth vital sign” because it can be very indicative of underlying health issues (or lack thereof). Because I lacked this crucial aspect of womanhood, I knew that I wasn’t healthy and feared what this would mean for my ability to eventually bear children.
The Search for Health and a Helpful Doctor
So, when I made an appointment to see my doctor, I assumed that she would share my concerns and guide me towards proper treatment and healing. Instead, she simply attributed my amenorrhea (absence of a menstrual cycle) to athletics and low body fat and told me not to worry about it. But, I want to have kids one day, I told her. She half-heartedly assured me that that likely would not be an issue once I stepped away from competitive running and managed to regain a cycle. That sounded simple enough, so I tabled my concerns. I could deal with it later.
As a sophomore in college, an athletic trainer voiced her concerns about my weight and persistent amenorrhea. I saw another doctor, and he agreed that it would be better if I were experiencing a normal cycle. He cited some genuine concerns, such as eventual osteoporosis if we didn’t address the issue. His solution, however, didn’t actually improve my health. I was prescribed birth control and told that, in a month, I would have a period again. The bleeding that occurs when taking the pill is not a true period, though; it’s a withdrawal bleed brought on by the placebo pills.
My hormones were clearly imbalanced, but my doctor insisted on pumping me with synthetic hormones that would completely inhibit my body from resuming a normal cycle. The pill was not my path to health. Nauseated and frustrated after only a few weeks, I quit taking birth control and figured I would just have to seek help elsewhere.
Several years later, after graduating college and leaving running behind, I still had not had a single cycle. I went to yet another doctor at a women’s health clinic that promised “comprehensive and compassionate” care for all women. After relating my history and expressing my concerns, the doctor told me to reduce exercise (as I had been for several months) and wait. But, I want to be able to have kids. Isn’t there anything proactive we can do? The answer remained “wait and see.” No exams were performed. No blood work was done to monitor my hormone levels. I wasn’t referred to any outside specialists. I felt more helpless than ever.
Too many doctors want to prescribe the easy way out (birth control) or not even spend time looking into a patient’s concerns.
Eventually my cycle returned, but it was very irregular. Month after month, I stared at negative ovulation and pregnancy tests. I returned to my doctor, and she assured me that all was well and I was most likely having normal, healthy cycles. She based this on only what I had told her about my cycles. When I pressed her about the negative ovulation tests, she told me I probably was not using them properly. I left her office feeling defeated yet again.
Finding Hope and a Good Doctor
Finally, I found a women’s health clinic that used a combined natural and scientific approach to healing and wellness. At my first appointment, I communicated my history, concerns, and desires to the doctor. She promised me that they wanted nothing more than to help me heal and have children. I knew that she meant it. Extensive lab work was ordered. They found that my hormones were, in fact, imbalanced and that I wasn’t having healthy, fertile cycles. I was immediately referred to the clinic’s fertility specialist and a trusted, outside endocrinologist. They worked together and with me to solve the issue that had been plaguing me for years.
Though the frequent rounds of blood work and appointments took up much of my time and energy, I was extremely thankful to finally have a team of doctors who cared.
Though the frequent rounds of blood work and appointments took up much of my time and energy, I was extremely thankful to finally have a team of doctors who cared. We agreed upon a natural approach to healing that involved certain lifestyle changes (such as switching to low-impact workouts and getting more sleep), focused dietary changes, and natural supplements. Within four months of seeing these doctors, my blood work reflected drastic improvements in my health. I finally had a normal, healthy, functioning cycle. And I received the best gift ever — a positive pregnancy test!
Unfortunately, many women today are suffering through an experience similar to mine. They want to achieve true health that allows them to fully embrace all of the incredible powers of womanhood. Too many doctors, though, want to prescribe the easy way out (birth control) or not even spend time looking into a patient’s concerns. Fertility is a sign of health, but it has been so cheapened and disregarded by an increasing reliance on birth control that women everywhere are being failed. They are not being treated holistically nor are they empowered to pursue a healthy mind, body, and soul.
Therefore, it’s so important that women become their own advocates in the doctor’s office. Going to an appointment prepared, confident in your concerns and hopes and having done your own research, will help you to receive more fruitful care. And if a doctor is unwilling to thoroughly investigate one of your concerns, it’s time to find a new doctor. There are practices out there that truly care about the dignity of each and every woman who walks through their doors. You should never have to settle for a doctor who doesn’t see and believe in your great worth.