Whenever my doctor asks me personal questions, I immediately clam up and have an urge to answer with either an "I don't know" or tell a lie. I think it comes from the idea that I'll be judged for not knowing something I should already know. Then I force myself to remember that my doctor is here to answer questions. They're supposed to be a confidant and source of information. I probably shouldn't lie to my doctor. While it's certainly easier said than done, it's an area I've been working on. Being honest with your doctor is the only way to get the answers and information you need to be happy and healthy. Luckily, actor, feminist leader, and all around champion of women's rights, Sophia Bush, has advice for how to ask your doctor questions you need the answer to.
As a spokesperson for Teva Women's Health's #NoHormonesPlz campaign, Bush believes everyone deserves equal access to information pertaining to their bodies. Bush recently spoke on a panel focusing on female empowerment and how to ask for what you want at the S.H.E. Summit in New York. She knows how scary it is to have frank conversations during your appointments, but she also knows how important it is. "You would think that we would feel like sitting across from our own doctor means we have the right to ask any questions that we want but again and again the data shows us that that's just not the case," Bush tells Bustle.
"I don't think there's really any issue that's more important right now than talking about women's equal access to health care. And birth control is basic health care for women"
Unfortunately, so much of this fear is learned at an early age and requires real strength to counteract. "Women, from the time that they're young, are cultured to be good girls, to take up as little space as possible, to be as quiet as possible and as amenable as possible, and I think that those are the sort of cultural norms that have effects as you age that you can't quite imagine," Bush says. "And even if it isn't a conscious awareness that you're not asking all of the questions you're thinking about or voicing all of your own concerns, it really is a subconscious permeation of an issue that is really longstanding for all of us."
But a fear of honest conversation with your doctor only hurts you in the end. The hard questions can also have the most rewarding answers. Here are what Bush believes to be the tough questions you should be asking your doctor.
1. Which Birth Control Is Right For Me?
From the pill to an IUD to the other myriad of possible birth control options out there, it's far from a one-size-fits-all solution. However, women far too often rely on what their friends are taking or what they went on 10 years ago, instead of exploring what course of action is best for them in the time and place their body is currently in.
According to a recent Teva women's health study, so many women don't feel empowered to ask their doctors their questions, Bush says. This realization was what sparked Bush to join the campaign — as well as the fact that so many women don't know their options when it comes to birth control. "Over 50 percent of women surveyed have concerns about hormones in their birth control but don't know that they have a non-hormonal option," Bush says. "And I was like, this is a problem. That we don't know this stuff, that people aren't making us aware of all of the facts."
2. What Other Uses Does Birth Control Have?
The choice to use birth control comes from a desire to find a solution to a wide range of issues. Personally, I use birth control to treat what is believed to be symptoms of endometriosis. "Birth control isn't just, as certain people want to phrase it or demonize it, about women being able to have sex whenever and with whomever they choose which, by the way, more power to you," Bush says. "Do you, be safe. That's it. It actually is an imperative because it's the way that we all family plan, it's the way that we all career plan, it's the way that we all manage the trajectory of our education and our higher education."
But it's important to not feel bad about taking control of your body, regardless of why you're using birth control. "This isn't a flippant issue, and for the people who want to demonize sexually active women who also like to demonize everything else about us, birth control access is the thing that drastically reduces abortion rates. So let's make basic health care for women basic," Bush says. Ask your doctor about the variety of ways birth control can help you to get a better understanding of if it's right for you.
3. What Do I Need To Know About My Body?
We may be living in them, but that doesn't mean our bodies aren't a mystery to us at times. It's important to ask about what we should be paying special attention to and how potential actions can affect us. "Every woman has her own very specific needs, whether she does need hormonal birth control or non-hormonal birth control, depending on what she's treating," Bush says. Why do you want to go on birth control? Focus on that and ask how each option will effect that reason.
4. What Does The Government's Fight Against Birth Control Mean For Me?
Our current administration is on a war path against birth control, along with taking away other health care rights for women. If you're terrified— a very understandable reaction — about what this means for your access, ask your doctor.
"I also think that it's incredibly important for women to feel, [first] armed with all the facts to figure out exactly what they need and which options are best for them and [second], yes to call their doctors and say, what does this mean?" Bush says. "What do these laws changing mean for me? What does this mean for my access? We need to know and we need with our doctors, to come up with plans." Talking to your doctor can give you the opportunity to explore options, such as longer-term birth control.
5. How Can I Advocate For My Health Care?
Don't be afraid to take it one step further and ask your doctor what you can do to be a part of the fight to protect your reproductive rights. You deserve easy access to contraception and taking a stand adds one more voice speaking against the actions in D.C. "I figured, 'oh we're treating aspects of women's health like it's a brown bag, bottom shelf conversation' — not anymore," Bush says. "I don't think there's really any issue that's more important right now than talking about women's equal access to health care. And birth control is basic health care for women. That is a fact."
6. Can I Have A Few More Minutes?
If you feel like you're being rushed out of your appointment, say something. You're paying for the time in your doctor's office and deserve their undivided attention. One way to make sure you're getting enough time is to prepare exactly what you want to ask before your appointment and make sure you stay until you've gotten answers to all those questions. "Maybe it's just because everybody is running on the hamster wheel and society moves too fast and we get rushed in and out of doctors' offices," Bush says. "But that means that we have to arm ourselves with all of the facts and then we have to force the conversation to slow down and ask all of the questions we have."
We live in a time where our health care rights, as women, are being threatened time and time again. It's important to have a doctor who's on your side in this fight and who makes you feel comfortable having an honest conversation about your body. It may be scary to talk to your doctor about what's really going on but, as Bush points out, it's always worth it.