I am a fairly well-informed lady in my 30s. I get the odd reproductive health symptoms. Am I allowed to do a self-analysis of my symptoms and make some decisions without necessarily cross-checking everything with my gynecologist?
Thank you for this query which resonates with many other women. We are living in an age where reproductive health information is readily available, and literacy levels are on the rise. Nothing really ever stops you from weighing in your symptoms, and making a well-reasoned decision about the appropriate steps to take.
Your initial judgment should always try to differentiate between emergency situations, and more mundane symptoms. Emergency situations don’t really need spelling out to anybody.
Examples are heavy bleeding, sudden onset severe pelvic pain, or the common danger signs in pregnancy. If any of these occur, trying to get your gynecologist on phone to make decisions for you just wastes precious moments. Your best bet is always to make your way to the nearest health facility.
Hospital-based emergency teams would normally step in to stabilize you, and get your doctor in pronto. You may end up saving your own life with quick decision-making when faced with emergencies.
When suffering from symptoms which are not life-threatening, you have ample time on your hands to make unhurried decisions. We are talking of symptoms like mild pelvic pains, an unusual vaginal discharge, or some unscheduled bleeding.
You can make yourself useful by looking up various resources to work out what may be happening. Transient symptoms can be watched, most will disappear within days. Nobody says you can’t try simple home remedies, like painkillers to ease some nagging discomfort.
You don’t really need to call your gynecologist in the middle of the night when all you is needed is to see how minor symptoms evolve.
When you get to the point where you feel a gynecological consult is required, go ahead and contact your healthcare team. It may end up being a phone consultation, an electronic review and advice, or even a physical visit to your doctor’s office.
There is no reason why all this cannot be timed to coincide with normal working hours. A delay of a day or so, even in the face of some progressive but non-urgent symptoms, will not really affect your eventual outcomes. No use stressing yourself out, and your doctor, every time you experience and itch or an ache that is of no immediate consequence.
Yes, you can self-analyse and make lots of healthcare decisions for yourself. If your symptoms are mild and worth watching, go ahead and just do that. If some home remedy appears warranted, no reason not to try that in the first instance. If you can’t easily explain your symptoms, or they persist, arrange a physical check. But emergencies can’t wait, always seek immediate medical help.
— Dr Alfred Murage is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist