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    Suffering in Silence

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | September 24th, 2017

    Suffering in Silence

    There are a lot of courses that are offered in medical school, but none of the courses teaches one how to read the minds of patients. If you do not tell your health care provider what is happening, they will not know. Unfortunately, there are issues that some women have where they feel very uncomfortable talking to their provider and would rather ‘suffer in silence’. Often as providers, we are thought that it would be better for us to broach the topic to allow for the patients to open up. That may be a good idea if the provider remembers to ask, but I am hoping that as women, we will start to feel comfortable discussing all issues so that we can live a healthy and productive life.

    There are many reasons why women may choose to ‘suffer in silence’ and these include:

    1. They think the problem is normal and part of normal aging, so why complain.
    2. They believe there is no cure for the problem or not interested in any of the solutions that are available, not realizing that they may not know all that is available.
    3. They think that the problem is unique to them and they are embarrassed to talk about the problem.
    4. They think that the problem will go away with time.
    5. They have no time to take care of the problem.

    In the next few months, we will be exploring some of the topics and I will call it ‘Suffer no more in silence’ series.  My hope is that it will get us all having a conversation. The topics will include:

    Urinary incontinence (leakage of urine not under your control) – This can happen at any age, but is common in older women, women who have just given birth, or obese women. There are many reasons for urinary incontinence that needs to be investigated. Going out to buy diapers or changing your normal activity of daily living should not be your only options. Sometimes the solution might be as easy as making sure you do not have an infection or changing your drinking pattern.

    Heavy menstrual flow – There are women who have to take off work at the time of the menstrual cycle because the flow is so heavy. They will never wear a white outfit because they never know when they are going to bleed. Your menstrual cycle should not dictate your life. Again, we need to find the cause to help with the solution. Some assume the solution is a hysterectomy, but there are many other ways that are not so radical.

    Vaginal dryness – We feel very comfortable talking about hot flushes and less comfortable talking about vaginal dryness. Hot flushes that occur with menopause get better with time, but vaginal dryness gets worse and yet no one talks about it. Instead, we decide deal with the discomfort thinking this is part of life.  There are options to keeping our vagina healthy.

    Emotional/verbal abuse – We focus a lot on physical abuse because it is visible but it is hard for a lot of us to realize that emotional and verbal abuse can be as destructive. It is real and deserves as much attention. It can affect your health and you do not deserve to have anyone abuse you.

    Sexual health – This is part of our wellbeing. It needs to be part of the conversation. If you have concerns, you need feel comfortable talking with your provider.

    I wanted to give you a preview of some of the topics that will be addressed in the coming months under the title ‘Suffer no more in silence’ series. I also wanted to use this opportunity to remind you to talk about your concerns with your provider.  It might take time to get resolved; however starting the conversation is the beginning.

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    Secure Your Copy of Letters to My Sisters by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.
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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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