How to get the most out of your doctor

It took me about 24hrs after it was confirmed that I am pregnant to realise I do not know how to be pregnant.  This might seem very weird considering we have been talking about this moment for more than two years now.  Once we started trying to conceive I just of buried my head in the sand.  I didn’t want to jinx our chances by buying a book about it, and I started to avoid all pregnancy related websites and apps after 6 months of failing to succeed in our quest to make a baby.  I know the basics, like smoking is a big no-no, drugs are dangerous, avoid raw meat and reduce caffeine, but really, that is the limits of my knowledge.  So yesterday we went to the book store and bought two books on pregnancy.  One was the standard text book “Great expectations: Your all in one resource for pregnancy”, and the second was “Expecting Better”, beautifully demonstrated in this picture by Sushi:

Sushi, my book keeper

Sushi, my book keeper

This second book interested me because I have always wondered whether Japanese women stop eating sushi, or French women stop eating brie when they are pregnant.  Really?  I don’t think so.  I hope that this book will enlighten me to what the conventional wisdom really means.  But when I started reading the first chapter I didn’t need to go much further with it to be completely satisfied with my purchase.  Why?  Well the author, Emily Oster, is not so different from me, she was not happy with what her doctor was telling her.  I realised that my experience with my fertility clinic’s doctors and the feeling I had that there was a poor lack of communication.  All of this was because I was not asking the right questions.  I didn’t know I needed to ask them.  And this is silly because all along I had the key questions in the back of my mind…I use them everyday at work!!!

In my job I help leaders make decisions every day…I do this by presenting the evidence, the facts – for and against a decision – I do some analysis on the data that supports the decision, I try to be unbiased and objective in my analysis, and then I present a recommendation to the leader on the best course of action.  The leader doesn’t always go with my recommendation, but I have presented them with the facts and figures to make their own mind up.  Sometimes I feel a bit hurt, but then I remember, I am not the one taking the risk.  So when it comes to our healthcare and doctors, WE are the decision makers.  We need to be presented with the arguments for and against, and be told what the supporting evidence is.  WE are unique in many different ways and the decisions we make will be unique, blanket guidelines are not always appropriate for everyone.

I think a good example of this is when we were told we should do ‘ICSI’ because of our unexplained infertility.  We didn’t ask the questions:  What are the pros of ICSI?  What are the cons of ICSI?  What are the improved success rates with people like us? (i.e. what’s the supporting evidence/data?)   We were not armed to make a decision, we just went with what the doctor said, and in the back of my mind I felt like I had not been given a chance to make a decision.  I did actually do a lot of this research myself, but it would have been better if my doctor would have told me – after all I am not the medical professional, I just have the fortunate ability to interpret statistics from studies and experiments.  So although I was finally happy with the decision to do ICSI after my research, something inside me was niggling about our doctor’s communication.

Another example is when it came to our embryo transfer.  We were told that it is the standard practice at the clinic to transfer 2 embryos on day 3, unless there were over 6 fertilised embryos then maybe we would be a candidate for waiting to Day 5 to transfer 2 blastocysts.  We did not ask the questions: what are the pros of us waiting to Day 5? What are the cons of us waiting to Day 5?  What are our personal chance of success with 4 fertilised embryos compared to if we had had 6? (i.e. what’s the supporting evidence/data?).  Again, I did a lot of this research myself.

I could go on with other opportunities throughout our infertility treatment where I could have asked these three simple questions that would have revealed the knowledge I needed to feel like I was in control of making a decision.  We rely on doctors to make the decisions for us…and most of the time I am happy with that fact, but there were times that I felt like we should hold that responsibility for a decision.  When it comes to my pregnancy I want to be able to ask these questions to my doctors and nurses so I can take the responsibility for making some of the big decisions such as prenatal testing or birthing plans.

Emily Oster suggests reading the book “Our medical mind: How to decide what is right for you” by Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband.  I think I might try it, and I’ll let you know how it goes.  Has anyone read this one?

In the meantime my friends, next time you are in a consult with your doctor, remember these three simple questions to help you make the best decision, for you, and get the most out of your doctor….

  • What are the pros (for me)?
  • What are the cons (for me)?
  • What is the evidence/what are the chances (for me in particular)?

12 thoughts on “How to get the most out of your doctor

  1. lyra211 says:

    Oh, enjoy! I loved Expecting Better — read it before I got pregnant, and then again during my first pregnancy (I haven’t gone back to it in my second pregnancy yet — maybe I will when I’m finally in new territory and have to think about things I haven’t gone through before, like the third trimester and labor and delivery). I just love her approach of laying out the statistics and giving you all the information to let you decide for yourself. Interestingly, my decisions have been different between this pregnancy and the last, for no reason other than that my values and priorities have shifted through experience. In the first pregnancy, I was all about taking small, sensible risks (eat this soft cheese that I’m not 100% sure is pasteurized? Sure, why not? I’m in the US, after all, so chances are it’s pasteurized, and even if it’s not the risks are small). After our 2nd trimester loss, I’m not even taking non-risks, like swimming in our local lake instead of a chlorinated pool — because now I’ve had the experience of losing a pregnancy and questioning every single little thing I did that might have contributed (but probably didn’t) to our loss. Or even things that were slightly dangerous (like biking), but probably an overall positive for my health. It’s just not worth it to me anymore. And her book is still perfect for me to read, because she totally gets that decision-making process and the way we all weigh risks differently in different circumstances — love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

      I just randomly picked this book up off the shelf!! I can understand your approach. Part of me thinks how much we have invested, and how much time we have invested in getting pregnant, the least I can do is try everything within my power to stay pregnant!!! But this book really is good at just laying out the facts and where I can find more, so I’m pretty happy with it so far!


  2. EmilyMaine says:

    It’s all about risk management really. Like the first poster said – at different times in life different things seem important. Now that I’ve just had a miscarriage I am probably going to be REALLY anal about what I’m prepared to eat during my next pregnancy. I won’t be taking any chances. I was reasonably strict in my first pregnancy (no major complications) but made a few exceptions. I doubt I’ll be so flexible in future! You just need to do what is right for you but I gotta say, 9 months goes pretty quickly and you are usually flat out just managing to find food that is appealing. Sushi probably isn’t even going to be on your radar 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

      Oh yes, I just made a comment to lyra about that…I can totally understand your reasoning…and part of me thinks with all the time and effort invested in these little ones, being stricter to some of these things can only be a good thing? The good thing about this book is that is just lays out the evidence – which I really have zero clue about, whereas the other ‘textbook’ I bought doesn’t really explain why we should do X or Y.

      Hehe, yes Sushi is most likely to be off the radar for me; when I was pregnant about 8yrs ago, I went to a fish restaurant and seriously could not bear to sit there the smell was so gross to me. But I had such severe morning sickness then so everything was off – I really hope I don’t get that again because I ended up in hospital with dehydration :-s bleughhhhhhhh.


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