The difference an hour can make when it comes to women’s health

So one of the things that sets Naturopathy (and Verve in particular) apart from other health modalities is the very extensive questioning and history taking that we engage in when our patients first come to us.  For those of you that have experienced it I can see you nodding your head in agreement! 

We go back to childhood and take a complete history of illness and significant events that you have experienced in your life. We cover information that you often haven’t told a health professional before; what you were like as a baby, operations, medications, overseas trips, sometimes even when you moved house.

For women, we ask when you started menstruating and what that was like for you. We go through your current details; sleep, food, energy levels, bowel motions, stress levels, current menstruation cycle, your support structure and what you like to do for fun.  It’s a very full consultation and takes between 1 and 1 ½ hours (sounds like a long time but, trust me, it’s often not long enough!).

We do this because all the events in your life have led you to where you are now; in our office looking for answers or asking for help.  As Naturopaths, we look beyond the symptoms to uncover the cause behind the cause. As you can imagine, your history plays a huge part in putting that puzzle together.  It’s amazing what we can uncover because of the extensiveness of our consultation.

Which brings me to my next point…

Just last month I had a patient come in who had been trying for a baby for a year.  She had some good blood tests with her that didn’t show anything really obvious that could have caused contributed to the difficulty she was having, and she and her husband were in pretty good health too. 

She told me that her GP said the next step was to refer to a gynaecologist for IVF treatment, but she wasn’t quite ready for that yet so she thought she would try a Naturopath. She had not seen one before and she had seen that I was interested in women’s health.

As I took her history, she told me about how difficult her periods were when she was younger. She experienced diarrhoea and vomiting and had intense pain that radiated down her upper legs.  It was so bad that she would lose two days out of every month because she was so sick.  Her GP at the time put her on the oral contraception pill. She was 15 and she stayed on it until she and her husband decided they wanted to try for a baby. 

As we talked, she told me that some of the same symptoms were gradually coming back. She was losing a day of work because of pain or diarrhoea. 

All of this information raised a number of red flags in my head so I asked her if the possibility of endometriosis had ever been discussed with her. It had not.

(If you’re not sure what endometriosis is, read this)

Although she had seen the GP all those years ago because of the troubles she was having with her period, that 10-minute consultation was not long enough to cover her menstrual history, and she was never asked to share the extent of the pain she was having.  Even now, it seemed she wasn’t being asked many questions at all.

I sent her back to her GP with a letter querying the possibility of endometriosis.  Her GP agreed that endometriosis was a strong possibility, so she was referred to a gynaecologist who also agreed it was likely.  

In the space of a week and a-half, this woman went from a year of questioning to being booked for a laparoscopy to confirm endometriosis (at this point in time, unfortunately, a laparoscopy is the only real way to determine the existence of endometriosis).

Endometriosis Australia says that there is currently a SEVEN TO TEN YEAR delay in endometriosis diagnosis. 

Nope, that was not a typo.

Seven to ten years to diagnose a condition that can impact a woman’s fertility. 

Sadly, this is actually often how women find out that they have endometriosis; they have been trying unsuccessfully for a baby and then further investigation is done.  They often had period pain that was pretty unpleasant but they thought that this is just part of the deal of being a woman…

I can’t help but wonder if that delay could be shorter if women no longer tolerated the depth of pain and symptoms that some of us experience on a monthly basis. 

If we demanded a solution that didn’t involve the Pill, I wonder if doctors would look a little longer at the person in front of them.

I wonder how long my patient would have continued on the path she was on before someone thought to ask some more questions about her. 

This is why we do what we do, the way that we do it. 

We can’t find out what is behind your symptoms unless we take the time to ask you all of the questions that tell us how you arrived at this point. 

This is the difference an hour and a-half makes. 

In this case, 7-10 years.

If you’re suffering with period pain or you’re having difficulty conceiving; we urge you to seek help. And, we hope that this blog has helped to bring to your attention the fact that it’s not normal to suffer through your period each month.

Knowledge is power.

Power to you, ladies.

Love,

Wendy (Naturopath, Herbalist, Nutritionist, Women’s Health Warrior)