I needed to go to the doctor in a foreign country which was downright terrifying. While living in France after having my son, I needed to go to the doctor for complications with my C-section recovery. It can be terrifying to seek medical help when you're in an unfamiliar territory speaking an unfamiliar language. I had a lot of anxiety in the beginning, but after a few appointments, I got my footing, and I was pleasantly surprised by the care I received.
I'd like to think I've got the basics of doctor's appointments down: how to prepare for them, what you need to bring/ask/understand, and how to follow up in a productive way. Here is my personal list of what I make sure to do for every doctor's appointment for anyone who gets "doctor anxiety" or who, like me, is going to the doctor in an unfamiliar place.
1. Be up to date on your/family's medical history.
If you've never switched doctors or you have been with the same one for a while, it can be easy to rely on your doctor's records to know exactly what treatments you've had done and when. I think it's really important to take control of your medical history and to even keep a copy of it with you. When we were living in France, I had to bring my son's medical history with me and memorize his vaccine schedule and other milestones that he had or had not reached so that I could pass the information on to the doctor. The information came in handy multiple times and it was really useful to have his medical records at the house. I used to view medical history as something that was "over my head" and best left for the Doctor's office to sort out, but it's not complicated and it's your history, so own it, it will make every other step that much easier.
2. Don't hesitate to call the office.
If you have questions leading up to an appointment or want to verify anything, don't be afraid to directly call the office and just ask. A lot of times when my son was little, calling the pediatrician and speaking with a nurse actually saved me a trip to the doctor. Getting an informed, calming presence on the phone is sometimes all you need when dealing with a stressful health situation. Of course, this depends on the quality of your doctor's office customer care, and if you have a doctor's office that does not provide phone assistance, you could always consider switching doctor's, which leads me to number 3.
3. Switch Doctors!
Do you have a doctor that you love and trust? If so, great! If not, do not hesitate to Doctor shop. I am a creature of habit, and switching doctor's was never something I considered until I was 38 weeks pregnant with my son and decided to switch OBGYN's. Yep, you read that right. I switched doctor's when I was ready to go into labor any minute, because I wanted to deliver at a different hospital than my Doctor served. For some reason, this seemed like I was breaking some sort of rule and I was really nervous, but I was shocked by how easy it was to switch and was so glad I did. If you aren't happy with the services your doctor provides or completely comfortable to ask your questions; look into finding a new one. Of course, finding a new doctor makes knowing your medical history and having a copy of it (as mentioned in number 1) absolutely essential.
4. Bring your tools.
Whether it's a pad of paper and a pen, your laptop, your medications...bring along whatever it is that you used to stay calm, in control and organized, and don't be afraid to write things down. Doctor appointments can be emotional and stressful, and sometimes you will feel like you understood everything in the moment only to look back a few hours later and forget exactly what was said and what next steps you need to take. Do what you need to do to stay on top of things and remember what was said...your doctor will understand and can help you.
5. Just go.
Sometimes we explain away going to the doctor and push off going, whether it's because we feel too busy or because it makes us nervous. But even if you aren't sure something is wrong, never hesitate to go to the doctor if you are able. The peace of mind it will give you is worth the extra effort.
So there you have it! Those are my tips for going to the doctor after having some interesting doctor experiences of my own. Comment below on your own doctors experiences and what you do to stay calm and organized.