Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants are the ones who prescribe birth control while nurses are often a trusted resource for discussing options. Such discussions are sensitive and require respectful listening with non-judgement and empathy. In some ways, it stands to reason that since most birth control prescriptions are for women, that women practitioners would naturally be more empathic.
A long time ago, in my early 20s, I was questioning whether I wanted to have children. I remember talking with my gynecologist who was a woman and I decided not to do anything drastic. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have had the same conversation with a male physician. I also remember a male gynecologist telling me, “I’m glad I’m not a women” right before a pelvic exam. Maybe not 100% of the time, but generally speaking, I can’t help but wonder if women practitioners are more empathic about short and long term risks and benefits that women might experience and how these may impact their lives.
For instance, the side effects of Mirena IUD include:
- Devices embedded in uterine wall
- Uterine wall perforation
- Pelvic Inflammation
- Ovarian cysts
- Irregular bleeding
- Migration of the IUD into other organs
- Pregnancies and miscarriages
Does the gender of the practitioner make a difference in weighing and teaching about these possibilities? Are they fully explained with the patient’s circumstances in mind? Even a small risk could result in traumatic outcomes. There are so many social, political, religious, and familial concerns that may impact a woman’s decision. Consumers are almost assaulted advertising campaigns whose primary goal, it seems, is to sell a drug or medical device. Isn’t it part of our job to help our patients sort out what media emphasizes and what it doesn’t with their circumstances and preferences in mind?
According to drugnews.net, the FDA gave Bayer multiple warnings about failing to disclose risks while meanwhile Mirena IUD ads offered women help with intimacy and promises that they would look and feel great. The marketing approach was eventually discontinued, but only after giving women repeated enticing messages without full disclosure.
I think that patients should have an opportunity to talk privately with someone who will listen and empathize and offer full disclosure of risks allowing time for questions. And although I realize there are many exceptions to this, best person to do this might just be a well informed female nurse.