Are You Afraid of Your Doctor? 5 Tips for Communicating with your O.B.

talking to your doctor

They call it the “white coat syndrome.”

It’s that instant a doctor walks into the room and the mood shifts. Suddenly, everything gets a bit more intense. Blood pressures start slowly creeping up. Anxieties start to mount.

And whatever that doctor says?

Well, of course you’re going to agree with her. She’s a doctor, right?

While some women and their partners develop really good relationships with their care providers during pregnancy, others struggle with an open and working partnership. It can be difficult to really get to know something during the span of fourteen prenatal visits, especially when said visits seem to consist of quick pee in a cup-measure your tummy-any questions, rinse and repeat cycles.

Or, even worse, you could feel very close to your care provider, but end up with a different doctor or midwife for your actual delivery.

And that’s where the trouble can arise. I’ve seen a parent-to-be go from confident and prepared to unsure and fearful in a matter of seconds when a new doctor, or a doctor they are not comfortable with, enter the room. When fear and anxiety about a new situation starts to trickle in, complications are more likely to arise during labor.

Although your doctor or care provider is the main source of knowledge and advice for your pregnancy, labor and delivery, I do think it’s important for women to feel empowered to view their relationship with their doctor as the partnership that is. After all, your doctor is working for you, right?

If you find yourself getting nervous around your doctor, hesitant to ask questions, or falling prey to the white coat syndrome, here are 5 tips for succeeding at communicating with your health care provider:

  • Have a plan. Write out your questions before your appointment and tell the doctor right away that you have some questions you’d like to discuss at the beginning of your visit, so he/she doesn’t rush.
  • Be confident in your speech. Make an effort to speak in a clear, professional manner. It sounds silly, but I find some people are nervous about sounding “ignorant” in front of a doctor and not being taken seriously. Practice your questions out loud if you have to.
  • Avoid the Internet. Do not, under any circumstances, start a sentence with the phrase, “Well, I read on the Internet…” or “My friend said…” You will be written off. Unfair? Completely. Accurate? Yes. If you have done some research, online or not, just lead right into your question and skip over your source.
  • Be nice. This one should be obvious, but I’ll be honest with you—health care workers, doctors or not, get a lot of crap. It’s scary coming to a hospital and feeling out of control and a lot of times, people take out that fear through anger at their nurses and doctor. While you may not be feeling the best or you may be scared out of your mind, be sure to be polite and maybe even smile once in awhile—we are there to help, I swear.
  • Remember that you’re in charge. Yes, the doctor has the knowledge, expertise, and advice that you need, but it’s always good to have a little reminder, that ultimately, you are in charge of you and your baby’s health, no one else.  You always have the right to refuse a doctor’s suggestion or to seek a second opinion.

Do you find you have “white coat syndrome” when you go in to see your doctor?

What do you think?

Are You Afraid of Your Doctor? 5 Tips for Communicating with your O.B.

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of "Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy" and "The Moments That Made You A Mother". She also runs Passion Meets Practicality, a community of tips + inspiration for work-at-home mothers. ... More

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1 comment

  1. Profile photo of brittney brittney says:

    This is extremely helpful at this point in my pregnancy! I have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and i was told by my sister who is an RN that usually a pregnant girl wont be put on oral medication to help control it. My doctor put me on Glyburide, an oral medication. I have been getting sooo many comments about how risky it is for me and specially for my little guy. Im scared to tell my doctor that i don’t think its the right decision for us and that i’d rather have insulin shots because i don’t want the pill to cause any defects with my baby!!! Ahhhh scary!!!

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