Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
Reproductive Health can feel shrouded in mystery and secrecy. It’s one of those topics that can be so uncomfortable to talk about that we just opt to avoid it all together. This can especially feel true as a woman of color. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Menstruation affects over 50% of the population, it is a natural bodily function — it’s time we start talking about it.
Here are 4 things I have learned that I wish I would have known earlier about menstruation and accessing the healthcare system.
- At the end of the day, your healthcare provider is there to listen & help you.
It can be so easy to want to just get in and out of doctor’s offices. Passively nodding along; taking their first recommendation; not really engaging in the process. My first OBGYN appointment I was so nervous and uncomfortable, that I don’t think I said more than a few words outside of the responses to the questions my doctor asked. But this is about YOU and YOUR body. You should leave the office feeling supported and heard and if you don’t you have the right to change providers or even offices all together.
You should feel comfortable being your whole-self in that room and doing so will even help your provider better serve you. You’re paying for a service — make sure you get your money’s worth.
- As your body and your lifestyle changes — your reproductive needs might need to change as well. That’s 100% okay!
My first form of birth control was the Pill. It was easy, I started on a low dose and it was comfortable for me. Then a year later, I changed pills — I needed a bit of a higher dose because my body had changed but still the pill fit my lifestyle. Fast forward 3 years and I noticed my lifestyle change wasn’t really compatible with the Pill anymore. It was 2016, and I knew I wanted to look at a longer term option that would require less frequent upkeep.
I switched to the IUD and have loved it since. Not everything will work for you all the time, but what remains true is that you should use what works best for you and your lifestyle. Make sure you get all your options so you can make an informed choice and don’t feel locked in to something because you’ve used it in the past. Change is a part of the process.
- If you’re willing to endure 20 seconds of bravery you might find out others have the same questions you do!
When I wanted to switch off the Pill I did a lot of research on my own before going to my OBGYN. Yes, it involved some googling and fact checking, but some of the best information I got was by talking to friends about their experiences with different forms of birth control. These conversations were hard to start, but it was amazing to see how open friends were willing to be once the conversation had started.
The range of experiences and tips I got from friends made me feel more at ease going into my own appointment once I made the decision to get the IUD. Plus, as I found out, I wasn’t the only one who was considering getting an IUD when I was — a few of my friends also were researching the same thing and had similar questions. Twenty seconds of bravery in starting a conversation turned something that felt really isolating into a friendly and supportive conversation.
- Sometimes you have to be your own best advocate.
You are the authority on your body. If someone is trying to dismiss you or your experiences you do not have to take it. As a woman of color, I know that whenever possible I feel more comfortable with healthcare providers who are also of color, but that’s not always the case. And even when it is, I have to make sure I’m looking out for me. That might mean asking if there are specific side effects for Black women, asking for a second opinion, or asking that any refusals are noted in my chart.
Being my own best advocate means asking questions when I have them. Asking for clarification when it’s needed and asking for all of my options. It is hard, and if you need help you can start small. Bring a trusted friend or family member with you and ask them ahead of time, “hey can you make sure I ask about ____?” It can mean writing your questions down, so you have them in case your mind goes blank because of nerves. It can even be calling and asking to follow up after your appointment. It goes back to number one, your healthcare is for you. You should feel in control.
I talk more openly now about menstruation and reproductive health because it’s important. We should know that we don’t have to whisper about a biological process that happens every month for more than half of the world. Periods are a part of health; people with uteri have them; it’s not a secret and we shouldn’t try to make it one.
By Victoria Ellyse
Stay Educated, Stay Supported
Thank you, Victoria, for sharing your insights into navigating reproductive healthcare! If you want to start your conversation about birth control, Pandia Health is here for you. If you live in AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, MI, NV, TX, WA, or WY, sign up at pandiahealth.com for a telemedicine appointment to get a birth control prescription that will be delivered to your doorstep for FREE.
Use the code “VictoriaEllyse” when you sign up for Pandia Health and we’ll donate $5 towards any charity of Victoria’s choice with every successful patient completion. Be sure to check out Victoria’s page for more inspiring insight on topics ranging from beauty and travel to must-read books and women empowerment. Plus, check out the thought-provoking conversation between Victoria and Dr. Sophia Yen, our CEO/Co-Founder, on Facebook Live and YouTube!
Regardless of the state you live in, if you already have a birth control prescription, we can set up birth control delivery — get started on our website today. Remember, when it comes to reproductive health, you are your best advocate, and that starts with making informed decisions about your birth control options.
Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.