May is Women’s Health Month, and I couldn’t let it pass this year without sharing a very personal struggle and putting calling out the very large elephant in the room. This country, the greatest in the world, fails women in healthcare. We do a really good job at prenatal care but anything else sucks. I had no idea until I had 2 kids in a row. I breastfed for 3 years. I started having night sweats, heart palpitations, and extreme fatigue, just to name a few of the symptoms. I kept journals of each day. I never wanted to hurt myself so I knew it wasn’t postpartum depression. I wasn’t depressed. I just felt like crap ALL THE TIME! So what does a good girl do? She goes to her doctor, who then tells her she is depressed and suggests an antidepressant while I am still breastfeeding. Sorry. NO! Again, I wasn’t depressed. So, I find a different doctor. This was supposed to be the best of the best so I was excited. I could finally figure this out and get some help. I waited 3 hours for her with 2 babies in tow. By the time I saw her, my kids were in meltdown, and we were all starving for lunch. She rushes in and barely asks me any questions over my screaming kids. Her recommendation was the pill or antidepressants! What?!!! This was repeated by a third doctor and I had enough. Not one of those doctors wanted to check my hormone levels. They just wanted me to shove a pill down my throat and shut up! I finally ended up at an integrative physician who immediately checked my hormones. He was amazed I was even functional at all. Everything was in the toilet. He put me on some hormone creams that were $9 each with insurance and off I went. Within 48 hours, I was a different human being. My heart palpitations and night sweats went away. I had energy, and I felt so much better. He even called me to check on me. Finally, I was not being treated like I was crazy. It was worth every penny paid out-of-pocket.
Why oh why do many women’s healthcare practitioners dismiss women’s symptoms? The birth control pill and antidepressants are not the only two answers for women! It angers me in so many ways! So many of my friends have reported doctors just pushing these dangerous drugs instead of checking labs. I don’t get it! It could be their thyroid! Maybe, there is an imbalance somewhere else. Maybe, they need to clean up their diets and get their sleep under control. Maybe, there are other alternatives, like yoga or acupuncture that could help. Birth control and antidepressants are not a fix! They are a band-aid, and it can make it worse! There is something to be said about integrative medicine. I have become a firm believer in it because it helped me where conventional medicine refused. I say refused, because they arrogantly looked me in my face and told me I was crazy when I was not! I was not well. It’s time that patients have more say so and doctors are given the time to actually listen to their patients and look for safer alternatives. Just because we are women, doesn’t make us crazy.
While it has taken me years to publicly talk about this, I hope this helps empower someone else. Being a medical professional, I understand labs and how the medical system works. I have worked with many doctors and nurses throughout my career. I am not afraid to question them or ask for labs to be taken. I basically demand it now. You are in charge of your own health and you have a right to have things ruled out before dangerous prescriptions are shoved at you. This is also a huge issue with ADHD medication with children, but that’s another post for another day. Since this happened, I had my mother change doctors. After years of her suspecting her thyroid was the source of many of her problems and begging her doctor to help, she discovered her thyroid was almost non-existent from her new doctor. She had never had a thyroid ultrasound until I intervened. She too was treated as “crazy”. My best recommendation to anyone who feels like they are not being heard by their doctor is to get a new one. Research them! Question them! Ask them what they would rule out if you saw them. You have the right to have someone hear you out and be treated with dignity and respect. The pill and antidepressants are not the only answers!
Author: Betsy Ramirez
Betsy is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, homeschool mom, & fairy tale junkie, who loves getting crafty. Being on my bike and lifting weights are my therapy. Thinking outside the box is my jam!