I have always believed that Doctors, in general, are pessimistic in nature. They tell you all the side effects of medications, and tell you that so and so procedure has fifty percent chance of success and fifty percent chance of failure. I understand that they do so mostly to prepare you for the worst, and to have you ready for anything, which is fine if we are talking just general medicine. When it comes to reproductive health however, I think the doctors need to be more sensitive. I, just as many others, have suffered from the insensitivity of doctors. When I was TTC, and went for investigations in this seemingly big hospital at Opebi, I spent hours in waiting, despite having booked an appointment, and I was already exhausted by the time it was my turn. So, I entered the Ob/Gyn consultation room, and greeted the man sitting behind the desk. He didn’t look up from my file that he was perusing and just simply nodded. I sat and waited for about five minutes, before he looked at me and asked casually “So, how may we help you?”
I shrugged off the thought in my head to just get up and leave, and said “I am trying to get pregnant and I don’t seem to know what the problem is”. He looked at me, dimmed his eyes and asked again “For how long have you being trying and why is your husband not here with you?”. I told him my husband was busy at work, and asked me to go in for the preliminary meeting first. If there was any need for him, he would come. The Doctor said “Issues like this are best treated as a couple, we have to examine you both, and if your husband isn’t here, it simply means this is not important to him”. I didn’t want to start telling Oga Doctor that having a baby was just as important as having the money to take care of the baby. If my husband loses his job, or gets queried for always being at the hospital, our search for a baby would definitely be put on hold. I just muttered “When he is needed, he would come Doctor”. He started scribbling in my file! Wetin I don talk wey this man dey write already?
He looked up again, and asked how long we had been trying to get pregnant. “Four months”, I said. The doctor looked at me like I was nuts, and shook his head at my ‘stupidity’. At this point I was getting very upset and uneasy; he then says so casually “I can’t help you madam. WHO says you have to have tried for two years before it is termed infertility and we can begin investigations then, so go home and keep trying”.
Go home and keep trying! Chai! I had to beat back the tears that were threatening to disgrace me. Doctor couldn’t even ask if I was eating right, having sex right, being in a good mental place etc. He couldn’t even recommend Pregnacare for me, or zinc and iron supplements for my husband, or even attempt to help me calculate my ovulation. Go home and keep trying! Oh well, I did go home and tried, with the help of Dr. Google, and I never had to go back to that hospital again.
Infertility is such a psychological issue, just as it is physiological, and specialists in this department need to be aware of the sensitive cases they handle. A fertility patient should feel as if her/his doctor is an ally in their effort to conceive. I won’t be the first to complain. We all have firsthand experience in this, or probably know someone who does. Some doctors have this cold, dismissive, arrogant, nonchalant attitude that makes you feel as though you are silly for trying to conceive, or for being so worried. Granted, many of them have seen cases upon cases, so a woman walking into their consultation room distraught because she has ovulation problems isn’t new to them. But they need to realize that it is a peculiar situation to this woman, and it is imperative to be kind, attentive and sensitive. The issue of fertility is private, sensitive and intimate and our doctors must understand this and work in light of this. Often, it is about the solutions they provide, as much as it is about the way they provide these solutions.
On our part, we have to delicately choose and sift through hospitals and doctors until we find the ones that we feel most comfortable with. Make it a point of duty to observe how much the doctor listens to you, answers your questions and treats you. If a doctor rushes through the consultation, or refuses to explain certain medical terms or options, such as surgery without giving good explanations, these are red flags to take seriously. A friend of mine in Port-Harcourt went through an IVF cycle that failed. In the two weeks she stayed at home healing from the pain of disappointment and trying to get back on her feet, the hospital never bothered to call her. If you ask her, she would say that she believes it was the nonchalant attitude of the fertility nurses that was responsible for the failure of the cycle. I asked her why she didn’t change hospitals when she noticed she didn’t like their attitude, but she said a friend recommended the hospital to her, so she decided to stick it through. When she was back on her feet, she went hospital-hunting, and was particularly annoying and demanding in her quest to find the right one. She only settled for the hospital where the nurses and doctors seemed to understand what was crawling under her skin. They answered her mirage of questions with a smile and always encouraged her to be positive. After her initial consultation, as she got up to leave, the doctor got up too, took her right hand in both his hands and said “Madam, this would be over soon. I can assure you that you would carry twins in no time”. No need stating that it is this hospital that she is sticking with; despite having another failed cycle with them, she is positive and ready to try again simply because of the awesome way they treat her.
In conclusion, when it comes to fertility, relationship management is just as important as expertise! So, take note Docs!
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here