How to prepare for your first doctor visit/questions to ask if you suspect you have PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome
As I mentioned in my blog introduction post, I was mis-diagnosed for a long time. Every doctor I went to said I was just overweight and I would get my periods if I stopped stuffing my face with food and exercised instead. At one point I almost gave up and thought that I would just have to live with the way I looked as well as my infertility. Luckily I didn’t give up and found a doctor who knew to put everything together.
Now if I have to do it all over again, I would have:
- Searched online sooner. Enter a couple of symptoms you are experiencing and research the “possible” causes. Lets take me as an example, I didn’t know I had PCOS, but I knew I had irregular periods, I was obese and I had facial hair. So stringing them together and googling “irregular periods obesity facial hair” gives PCOS as an option in 5 out of the 10 results on the first page.
- Made a list of symptoms for PCOS, check which ones I had and framed my questions to the doctor based on that.
- TALKED to my doctor instead of just listening. I accepted my obesity excuses for too long. I wouldn’t do it now. I would ask questions until I was convinced the doctor knew what he/she was talking about.
Compile your medical history
Collect all your previous medical reports and any notes you might have from your previous doctor. Jot down some notes about your menstrual history (how regular are your periods, when was your last period, how long your periods last), reproductive history (have you ever been pregnant, did you have any miscarriage, did you go through any fertility treatment before) and your weight history (did you put on weight recently, have you always been overweight)
Make a list of symptoms or problems you are experiencing
If you suspect that something is wrong with you and think you “might” have PCOS, start with getting a basic understanding of PCOS. Then, browse through this list of symptoms and see if you have any.
Note: The list of symptoms in the post above is NOT a checklist. Not everyone with PCOS will have all the symptoms and having a couple of symptoms might not confirm that you have PCOS. Use that list as a talking point, Don’t assume a problem isn’t important or isn’t related. I always ignored my dark patches of skin and skin tags as something “my body has”. I didn’t know it was a symptom.
If you have any additional symptoms not mentioned in the above post but which worry you, don’t hesitate to bring them up, whether they are relevant to PCOS or not. Some might seem unrelated but will still be pertinent to your diagnosis.
Know your family’s medical history
No one knows what actually causes PCOS, but studies have shown that this syndrome run in the family. If your mother or sister has PCOS and you experience a lot of these symptoms, PLEASE do yourself a favor and talk to your doctor as soon as you can. It is useful to know other major medical problems in the family.
____ Does your mother or sister have PCOS?
____ Does any of your close relative have diabetes and/or high cholesterol
Add any other problems you think might be important. You don’t have to tell EVERYTHING to the doctor, but when she asks, it is better to have the answer than guessing.
Write down ALL the medication you are taking
Make a list of all the medications you are currently taking (or have taken until recently). Include the name of the medication, why you were prescribed a certain medicine, what is the dosage and how frequently you take that medicine. Don’t forget to include all the over the counter stuff, vitamins, herbs… any supplements, write it down.
Talk to your doctor
Try not to immediately overwhelm him or her with your questions. Give your doctor a chance to get to know you by taking a complete medical history and performing a physical exam. Then talk to her about your list of symptoms and ask her about your major concerns. During the course of your discussion you might find answers to your concerns, have more questions and plan a future course. Here are some questions to get you started -
- What do you think is causing my problem?
- What are options/tests available to diagnose the problem?
- Will you test me for other problems associated with PCOS? (Example Insulin Resistance)
- Will these tests (whatever your doctor is recommending) confirm whether I have or not have a particular problem? What will the test show?
- Is there anything I need to do to prepare for the tests?
- If I am not diagnosed to have PCOS, what else could it be?
- Some doctors prescribe a birth control pill as soon as you mention that you are not getting your periods. If that is the case, ask her what the side effects are, short term and long term. How she expects the birth control to fix the root problem.
- (If you are overweight) Do I need a dietitian or a nutritionist to help with my weight loss? If so, how do I find a dietitian to help me develop a good, long-term weight-loss plan?
- How soon will I get the results? When do I have to come back for a follow up?
You will have a lot more questions for your follow up based on the results. You can save the pregnancy questions and treatment options for the follow up visit, but this initial visit should give you an idea of how comfortable you are with your doctor.Based on the results, your doctor might say either you have PCOS or not. I will post the questions that might help with both these situations. If you do have PCOS, you are in this for a long ride, you will need a supportive doctor. These questions will give you an idea of how you feel about the relationship with your doctor – Was your doctor receptive of the information you brought in to the consultation? How were you treated? Did you feel comfortable with the doctor? Did she listen to you or brush everything away in a hurry? Did she give you an explanation on why she thinks you have/don’t have PCOS or did she just dismiss it saying “eat less exercise more” (unless your only symptom is excess weight)?
You can download the complete pre-diagnosis questionnaire to assist you with the first consultation. (click on the link, it should open the pdf file within your browser or right click and select “save as” or “save target as” to save a local copy.
If you are afraid to talk to your doctor, find a New Doctor!