Preparing for PCOS Medical Appointments
Posted by Allie on 19th February 2016
For some women, getting diagnosed with PCOS may come after a long and difficult journey to get answers. It’s natural to fear the unknown and medical appointments can feel daunting or intimidating for some. It’s important to be prepared as these appointments are an opportunity to speak with professionals to further educate yourself and make informed health decisions.
When seeking a diagnosis or medical advice, the first point of contact for those in the UK will most likely be with a general practitioner (GP). They are not usually PCOS specialists and will refer you on to the appropriate professional, such as a consultant endocrinologist who specialises in assessing and treating hormone-related conditions. In order to be diagnosed with PCOS, you will need to undergo some medical investigations which you can learn more about here.
Preparation tips for attending medical appointments
- If you don’t feel your questions are being answered or you need more specific information, be persistent and keep asking.
- Do as much reading as you can beforehand so you attend your medical appointment feeling well informed about your symptoms, potential treatment options, and can ask relevant questions. Speaking with other women who have PCOS or reading about ways they have managed their symptoms can be useful. Try to get a balanced view though and remember that each woman experiences PCOS differently and what works for one person may not work for another.
- It’s essential to read accurate and up-to-date information from reliable sources in order to make the right health choices for yourself. Also be aware that some information sources, such as websites, may be biased and trying to sell certain products or supplements that are not necessarily evidence based.
- Remember that you’re an expert in your condition and know more about your own experience that anyone else. You may well end up educating some professionals about the condition with your individual experience.
Information to take to medical appointments
It’s important that the medical practitioner gets as much information possible about your medical history and current symptoms. Make sure you’re prepared with the following information for the initial appointments with your GP or consultant:
- The dates of your periods, length of your cycle, and any other details such as any severe period pain and heavy bleeding experienced.
- Make notes or keep a journal of symptoms experienced even if you think they’re unrelated, including as much detail as you can, and take it with you to your appointments.
- Medications, conventional or otherwise, that you have been taking as well as details of any supplements and vitamins taken. Make a note of the dosages you take.
Potential questions to ask your medical practitioner at appointments
It may be helpful to write down all your questions before attending the appointment to make sure you don’t miss anything out. You might also want to consider taking someone with you to help ask questions or recall information if that would be helpful. Some people ask to record information from medical appointments on their mobiles or other devices, and feel free to make notes during your consultation.
Here are some questions you may want to ask during your medical appointment:
- If you’ve not yet been diagnosed, ask about the tests needed and what they involve.
- What are the long term health effects of PCOS and how can I minimise my risks?
- What are the treatment options for my symptoms?
- If you’re not satisfied with treatment options, ask for professional opinions about alternatives such as herbal medicine, acupuncture and nutrition.
- Will I receive a follow-up appointment to check my symptoms and whether treatment is effective?
- What evidence is there to support the treatments being suggested?
- What are the side effects of any medications suggested?
- Is there any written information available about treatment options or PCOS itself and can you direct me to some recommended resources?
- Is there anything else I can do to help myself?
Making a decision about your treatment will hopefully be done in partnership with your medical professional but remember that the decisions are, ultimately, all yours. Don’t feel that you can’t ask questions or take time to make health decisions that best suit you. You may need to do some more of your own research before making a decision about ways to best manage your PCOS symptoms. Make sure those around you, such as family and friends, also have an understanding of PCOS to provide you with appropriate support when you need it.