Talking to My Doctor: Easier Said Than Done
Originally Published: March 21, 2008
Revised: September 9, 2014
I walk into my doctor’s office. There are lots of little kids with colds, and the office smells like bleach. The receptionist smiles as she looks up my name. Her name is Jill. I’ve gone to this office since I was born, and she has known me just as long. I feel like she knows why I’m here. I feel the color rise to my cheeks as she tells me to have a seat. My mom sits down next to me and begins reading a parenting magazine. Fear sinks in. Could it just be the flu or could I really have a sexually transmitted disease (STD)—just from kissing?
I hear my name called, and I walk to examination room 2—the room with a space theme, where rockets and planets cover the walls. Here? I think. This is where I have to tell my doctor that I think I need to be tested for STDs?
Just as my doctor walks in, I say, “Hey, Mom, would you mind waiting outside? I just want to talk to him.” Thankfully, my mom agrees. I take a few deep breaths. I tell the doctor what my symptoms are and why I am so freaked out about getting an STD.
I wish I could tell you what he said to me, word for word, but I was so nervous, I forgot everything he said the minute I walked out. There are so many questions that I asked and should have asked. And I think it is an important conversation to have, so I decided to ask Dr. LeighAnn Frattarelli, a gynecologist—a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health—about what’s important when it comes to talking to your doctor.
The Doctor Says…
Sex, Etc.: Is it OK to ask your parents to wait outside while you talk to your doctor?
Dr. Frattarelli: Absolutely! You should have the right to request who you desire in the room and who you choose to have stay out of the room. It’s all about you feeling comfortable.
Sex, Etc.: What should a teen say to you or your staff to make sure his or her visit is confidential and that his or her records won’t be shared with parents?
Dr. Frattarelli: To make sure your rights are protected, it is a good idea to ask your doctor about her policy regarding confidentiality and to let her know what things you want confidential.
I once had a teenager who involved her mother in her reproductive health care, but didn’t want her mother to know she smoked. I would never have known that I could talk about sexually transmitted infections, but not smoking, in front of her mom if she hadn’t specifically told me her desires.
Sex, Etc.: What should a teen be prepared to share with his or her doctor?
Dr. Frattarelli: Everything! Don’t hold back any concerns. Be completely honest with your doctor regarding your medical history, and your habits and activities.
Sex, Etc.: Is there anything else you think teens should know about seeing their doctor?
Dr. Frattarelli: There is a doctor for everyone! What I mean by that is if you see a doctor who doesn’t meet your needs or you just don’t “click” with him or her, try another one. We’re all different, just like you are!
Better to Be Safe than Sorry
In the end, I didn’t have an STD. I had been studying STDs and got nervous that I might have contracted one from kissing. I had flu-like symptoms and was afraid that it was more than just the flu, because some STDs have symptoms that are similar to the flu.
But I found out that kissing is pretty safe. Herpes is the disease most commonly spread through kissing and is generally spread when one person has an open sore on the mouth or lips and then kisses another person. It’s possible, but less likely, to spread herpes even if your partner doesn’t have an open sore. If you have an open sore, you should definitely keep your lips to yourself until it clears up. And keep in mind that if you’re going to do more than kiss, like have oral, vaginal or anal sex, make sure you use condoms and Sheer Glyde Dams.
I know that I most likely jumped the gun thinking I had an STD, but the experience forced me to be open and honest about what’s really going on. When it comes to talking to your doctor, stick with honesty. That way, you’re more likely to get the treatment you need.
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