By Linda Perelman Pohl
Published in Resolve for the journey and beyond, Winter 2009
Whether or not a woman ever becomes pregnant is often dependent on the doctor she chooses. Finding the right doctor is essential. Many doctors represent themselves as “infertility specialists,” when, in reality, they are not. Sadly, it is the patient who suffers by not getting to the root of the problem in a timely manner.
As an infertile woman, I saw several doctors during my attempts to become pregnant. All of them told me they could help me. Unfortunately, I did not question them and I believed that, since they were the “doctor,” they would know what to do. I was wrong.
Although I presented with symptoms commonly associated with endometriosis, one doctor, who claimed he was a “specialist,” told me that the pain I had with every period was all “in my mind.” He also suggested I drink wine during my fertile days. His exact words were, “Relax, have a glass of wine and I’m sure you’ll become pregnant.” He said I wasn’t becoming pregnant because I was “trying too hard” and “thinking about it too much.” It was this same doctor who, during the painful hysterosalpingogram, became annoyed when I moved. He said in an aggravated tone, “I told you not to move and you moved. Now, I may have to repeat the entire procedure.” At no time during the procedure did he show any compassion or empathize with what I was experiencing. Shortly after that experience, I decided to see another doctor.
Sadly, the second “specialist” was not much better. Although he did identify and treat the endometriosis, his knowledge of the disease was limited. After six surgeries and years of shots, consultations, medications and emotional pain, this doctor prescribed an incorrect dosage of medication, causing my endometriosis to return to its initial severity and leaving my insides virtually destroyed.
Emotionally, my husband and I were devastated. It seemed we faced disappointment wherever we turned. Whenever Iwould see a pregnant woman or a family out with their baby, my heart would break. I wondered if we’d ever become a family. There was nothing I wanted more, yet I didn’t know if our dream would ever come true. How many nights I cried myself to sleep; my husband holding me and promising me that everything would be all right? His unwavering love and support were what got me through those painful times.
When we saw yet another “specialist,” we were told that if I had plastic surgery on my fallopian tubes, I might have a 10% chance to conceive. It was a chance we decided to take.
The “specialist” whom we saw for this procedure was one of the rudest physicians I’ve ever met. I wondered how he could call himself a “doctor.” When I asked him where the incision would be, he looked at his watch and responded in technical language that he knew I wouldn’t understand. Although I felt like crying, I rephrased my question and asked if the incision would be horizontal or vertical and how many inches long it would be. He hastily replied, glancing again at his watch. My husband had taken off from work to meet him. When he asked the doctor how frequently he’d performed this surgery, the doctor folded his arms and said, “Either you want me to do the surgery or you can look for someone else.” He never answered the question.
The importance of women knowing their choices and empowering themselves at doctor’s visits is imperative. Doctors need to listen to their patients and be held accountable for their actions. An MD next to a doctor’s name does not make that doctor an infertility specialist. Nor does a residency in obstetrics and gynecology make a doctor an expert in the field of infertility. A true infertility specialist will have done a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology. Choose your doctor wisely, research his or her background thoroughly and don’t be afraid to ask questions and to insist upon answers in language you understand.
In our case, it was sheer perseverance that led us to a wonderful, caring physician who helped make our dreams come true. After enduring many obstacles, we became a family through adoption. We are forever thankful that our prayers were answered and know in our hearts that successful, happy families can be made in many different ways.
Linda Perelman Pohl is from Williamsville, NY and can be reached at email@example.com.