Making regular appointments with your healthcare provider to talk about your reproductive and sexual health is important. Taking the time to speak with a provider helps you stay informed about your reproductive and sexual health options, which keeps you happy, healthy and in control of your life.
Choosing a healthcare provider you feel comfortable with is helpful when it comes to being honest and open about your health history. Having that connection may also help you feel comfortable bringing up health concerns and different options for yourself as they come up. Most health centers have multiple providers you can see. In many cases, if the first provider you see doesn’t feel like a good fit, you may want to make your next appointment with a new provider.
Before Your Visit
Once your appointment is scheduled, get prepared. Write down the reasons you are coming in for a visit. Making a list may be especially helpful in case you forget anything once you are at your appointment. Jot down any concerns you have with your health first. Next make notes about your health history and any medications you take including dietary supplements.
Do some research ahead of time. Make a list of any ideas or preferences you may have. For example, you might want to find a birth control method that will work best for you. Do some online research and bring any information you think helpful to your visit to discuss with your provider.
If you are experiencing symptoms that concern or alarm you, Internet research may or may not be helpful. Online symptom searches often provide information meant for a large audience, which can include conditions and symptoms you do not have. So much extra information may be misleading or scary. Some people find this information helpful and some people may become anxious. If you are anxious, the best course may be not to look and wait to talk with your provider. Either way, do not be afraid to speak up about your health.
Here’s an example of a list you may use for your appointment. You may want to make an extra copy or two for other providers at the office or to put in your file. Some information will be required on your patient intake form, and with this list, you’ll be able to quickly fill out your form without having to look for information.
- Appointment date
- Reason for visit
- Health concerns
- Health history notes
During Your Visit
Be honest. Even if you feel embarrassed, being honest with your healthcare provider will help you receive the best care possible. Honesty about your health history can help determine possible risk factors and safety precautions that you should follow. Voicing your concerns can help your doctor give you the resources and support you need to feel comfortable.
The doctor’s office is a judgment-free zone. Healthcare providers are not there to make you feel embarrassed or judged. They are there to work with you to take control of your health.
Use your list! Feel free to talk about other topics that come up during your visit but remember why you are there. Check your list near the end of the appointment to be sure that you covered all of your concerns.
Take notes. While you are listening to your healthcare provider, take notes about the key points and any other important pieces of information. Write down resources (books, websites, support groups) mentioned as well, as they are easiest to forget. Ask for a summary at the end of your visit. Many providers have them available now.
Ask questions. Speak up and ask questions if you don’t understand something. No question is a bad question when it comes to your health and you should ask as many questions as you need until you understand.
After Your Visit
Take time to mentally process your appointment. Sometimes what you discussed may be a lot to take in both informationally and emotionally. Read over your notes and follow up with resources and next steps when appropriate.
Get a second opinion when you feel one is necessary. There’s nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. Try a new doctor if you still have concerns. Maybe you just didn’t connect with the doctor, and that’s okay, too. You have to do what feels right for you when it comes to your health.
Keep up with the plan of treatment. If you received antibiotics or a referral, be sure that you keep up with these in a timely manner. Go to the pharmacy as soon as you can and follow the directions exactly as instructed. Follow up with referral processes and test results, especially if you haven’t heard back from the healthcare center within a couple of days or the specified timeframe given for results. Sometimes no results mean good results, but you can’t be certain unless you keep in touch. Don’t be afraid to ask. The staff at the healthcare center is there to support you.
Ready to schedule a visit? To locate your nearest NJFPL-supported health center head over to our Find a Healthcare Center page.