lifestyle

The 9 things gynaecologists really wish their patients wouldn't do during an appointment.

Image: We wonder if OB/GYN Dr Mindy Lahiri would agree with these. (via The Mindy Project).

As patients, there are a number of services and qualities we expect from our gynaecologists. We want them to be good listeners, sensitive to our needs, and reasonable in their advice.

However, a medical appointment isn’t a one-way street. You mightn’t realise it, but there are some things patients do during checkups or procedures that concern, confuse or even frustrate their doctor — and make their job just that little bit more challenging. Here are some of the most common ones:

1. Withholding important information

“It can be quite frustrating to spend a lot of time with somebody trying to solve a problem for them, then making a suggestion only to have somebody say, ‘Well another doctor tried that and it didn’t work!’ or, ‘Oh, I had that test done and it was normal…’ when they could have let you know about it earlier,” says Dr Stephen Robson, Vice-President of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG).

RELATED: Heading to the doctor? Here are the services you should expect.

“Maybe it’s not conscious, but making a plan for somebody, only to have them suddenly pull old letters from previous doctors out of their handbag, is really a pain. People need to open up completely in the first instance.”

2. Not engaging in the decision-making progress

"To have people not really want to engage with decisions about their own health can be a bit frustrating" (Image: Knocked Up)

According to Dr Robson, "Just do whatever you want to do, doctor..." isn't really what your specialist wants to hear during an appointment.

"Most of the time, there are various options that might be appropriate for people, and it's great to be able to explain what they are and try to sort out the best treatment option for the individual.  It's one of the things that makes work worthwhile. To have people not really want to engage with decisions about their own health can be a bit frustrating," he explains.

3. Worshipping Dr Google

It's great to take an interest in your health, but keep in mind your favourite search engine doesn't have a medical degree and years of experience under its belt. You know who does? Your gynaecologist.

"People come with a preconceived notion, and unfortunately that preconceived notion sometimes is derived from blogs and Dr Google," explains Dr Joseph Sgroi, an obstetrician, gynaecologist and IVF/fertility expert and RANZCOG representative.

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RELATED: You can't trust Dr Google with your health, but you can trust this new Aussie website.

"Under the weight of so much supposed evidence on the internet, it's difficult to say to someone who feels so convinced of what's going on, 'Well, in actual fact, with my level of expertise and the fact I've actually trained for 15-20 years to get where I am, I don't think that actually is'."

Ultimately, however, Dr Sgroi sees this as an opportunity to discuss the issue with a patient and provide them with clear, precise information and recommendations that are scientifically and medically relevant. (Post continues after gallery.)

4. Putting too much faith in alternative healthcare information

Dr Sgroi believes everyone has the right to choose their healthcare provider; however, he cautions that in some cases the information supplied by practitioners of alternative medicine could be inaccurate, so be sure to talk through it with your doctor.

"The only concern I have is when providers of alternative health care are offering advice to patients which we may feel is out of their depth or perhaps contrary to what we would believe to be common practice ... it's just like, 'Well wait on, this is completely the wrong thing'," he says.

5. Not requesting a female doctor if you're honestly uncomfortable seeing a man

"Male doctors get no sexual enjoyment from these exams."

In a recent Reddit thread on this topic, GP 'npatchett' wrote that some women are uncomfortable having a man perform their pap smear but aren't always open about it, which can be frustrating.

"If you are open about your needs, I will work effusively to accommodate you, but if you just act awkward I won't necessarily identify the issue quickly," he explained. "Male doctors get no sexual enjoyment from these exams... A vagina out of context is clinical and sexless. It's like looking in your ear, but a bit messier."

RELATED: What your doctor is thinking during a pap smear.

"I think the most important thing is from a clinician's point of view is to say, 'Are you okay for me to do the pap smear?' and obviously if they say no, I say, 'Then go and get one with your GP'," Dr Sgroi adds.

6. Not talking to your doctor about pap smear anxiety

The pap smear experience is often described as uncomfortable, but Sydney GP Dr Ginni Mansberg says for some women, the procedure is a source of intense anxiety — particularly if they've had a particularly painful pap test before or they've experienced sexual violence.

In this case, let your doctor know as they can recommend techniques to make the experience less worrisome. "There are herbal anti-anxiety pills you can take to prepare you, things like St Johns Wort, but check that it won't interact with any medication you're using," Dr Mansberg explains.

Even a piece of dark chocolate could help to calm you down while you're waiting for your appointment. (Post continues after video.)

Also, wearing clothing that will allow you to stay as covered-up as possible can help alleviate anxieties. "If you come in in something like a jumpsuit, you're basically going to have to get naked in order to have the test. So make sure you're comfortable — you know, feel free to leave your socks on," Dr Mansberg says.

7. Bringing kids if there's a choice not to

"It's not a frustration for me, but I think it's hard on a mum if she turns up to a pap smear with two toddlers and a baby, and the baby's grizzly and toddler trashes the places," Dr Mansberg says.

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Of course, it's not always going to be possible to leave children in the care of a trusted relative or friend. But if this is an option, Dr Mansberg says attending the appointment alone results in less stress for the patient — and less distraction for her doctor.

If you can make you appointment alone, it's generally easiest.

"A pap test is, for some women, an uncomfortable experience at the best of times. If you have kids who need you to be hands-on, taking them along with you is not your ticket to a good experience. And for me, if my room is being trashed I can't concentrate on the pap test and it'll take that much longer," she adds.

RELATED: 11 things your doctor wishes you wouldn't do before a pap test.

8. Not taking periods into consideration

According to Dr Mansberg, there's no need to cancel your pap smear appointment if you're at the very beginning or the tail end of your period when flow is light. "If there's just a little blood, I can mop that off and do it normally," she says.

RELATED: Awkward comments and missing cervixes... When pap smears go awry.

However, if your period is particularly heavy it could make the test less effective, because the increased numbers of red cells can make it difficult for the sample to be read. "If you do have a heavy flow during your period, it's not unreasonable to cancel your pap test... If you are gushing and it's a regular flow day, it's probably not the best," Dr Mansberg says.

9. Answering your phone

smartphone effects on health
Save your conversation for after your appointment. (Image: Girls)

This one isn't specific to gynaecologists, but as you might imagine being glued to your iPhone is a major source of annoyance.

"What gives me the shits more than anything is when I'm snowed under and everyone's having to wait for hours, and I get [a patient] who puts their hand up and says, 'Wait, I can't come in, I'm on the phone right now'. Then everyone else has to wait as well," Dr Mansberg says.

RELATED: 10 ways the pap smear process will be changing in Australia soon.

"Or they take a call in the middle of the consultation. I understand that time is precious — I'm not keen on sitting around and listening to people's conversations. You'd be amazed how often it happens."

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