Doctors, ignorance about PPD and lack of sensitivity are a bad combo

I just wanted to share with you the letters I wrote to my GP and OB/GYN once I was on the road to recovery and able to peek out from the dark cloud of PPD.  Boy, did it feel good to express my feelings!  

If you are currently suffering from PPD, it’s to your advantage that the doctor you see has been your doctor for a while (so he/she knows your personal history).   But if you’re like me, don’t have a doctor nearby and had to find a new one to treat your PPD, these are signs that you should move on to a new one:

1.  He/she does not spend enough time listening to you, discussing your symptoms with you, answering your questions, and addressing your concerns

2.  He/she does not treat you in a sympathetic and caring fashion

3.  He/she does not perform a thorough evaluation (including bloodwork) to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms, like thyroiditis

4.  He/she minimizes your experiences by indicating that what you’re going through is normal (i.e., “most moms get the blues”) and part of the adjustment to motherhood

If you find yourself needing to find a doctor, see if a relative, friend or neighbor can recommend their doctor to you.   I know in New Jersey, NJ Monthly has an annual Top Doctors list by specialization.  In the past few months, I discovered how reliable and helpful that list really is. 

Here are the letters that I had mailed to my GP and my OB/GYN.  Read them and hopefully you will gain some wisdom from them.

LETTER TO GP (dated Feb 9, 2006):

“I am writing this letter to inform you that I have decided not to retain you as my physician. I am returning to my previous physician who, though he is much farther away, is far better in terms of communication skills. I’ve wanted to stop seeing you since my very first appointment with you last February. However, at the time, I was in such bad shape that I thought your close proximity to my home was priority and I did not have the strength to look for another doctor.

Fortunately, the Paxil you prescribed worked for me, as I understand that it can be hit or miss with SSRIs and other anti-depressants used to treat post-partum depression (PPD). However, your refusal to talk to me while I was in the deepest, darkest stage of my PPD (complete with panic attacks) exacerbated my terribly painful experience. I will never forget your reaction to my apology for calling your emergency # one morning…..instead of telling me “That’s OK, just please don’t do it again…the number is for medical emergencies only,” not even acknowledging my apology, you shook your head with disgust and said “That’s not good.” I didn’t know I was having a panic attack and didn’t know what else to do. Additionally, your previous assistant claimed that I could only talk to you via appointment, as you will not answer questions over the phone or call me back. Finally, referring me to the psychiatrist who happens to be in your building and does NOT specialize in PPD was absolutely of no help.

 I never spent much time waiting for you (in fact, you seldom had other patients waiting for you), which is no surprise since you spend so little time examining and talking to your patients. I never even had a chance to warm up my seat before I found myself walking out to my car. My reaction each time was “Did I really see the doctor, or was it my imagination?” Case in point, when I came to see you about possible conjunctivitis, you asked me if I had a cold, you looked at my throat and proceeded to prescribe me eye drops without so much as looking at my eyes. When I tried to ask you a question, you tried to shrug it off, in usual fashion. You spent less than 2 minutes with me.

It’s as if your main objective is quantity of patients rather than quality of care. A good doctor provides quality care, which includes talking to your patients about their questions and concerns, not rushing through each patient as if trying to win a race.

One final note – with so many women experiencing PPD (1 in 8 new moms), it’s amazing to me how you could know/care so little about PPD. You didn’t even know enough to refer me to someone who specializes in its treatment. At minimum all GPs should 1) recognize that the symptoms of PPD include insomnia and panic attacks and 2) be able to refer these patients to PPD specialists.”

Letter to OB/GYN (dated Feb 6, 2006-names and locations have been replaced):

“It took me until now to decide to write this letter to you.  I am finally winding down on the Paxil that I’ve been taking for nearly a year for postpartum depression (PPD).  I have a lot to thank you for….. helping me to bring [my daughter]into this world and helping me leave [the hospital] alive and in one piece (or shall I say, minus one piece).  I can see how so many women in [town] have chosen you as their OB/GYN. 

However, I am truly disappointed in the way my PPD was handled by you.  Once I told you the fact that I had insomnia, it should’ve alerted you that I might have PPD.  You successfully made me feel like I was all alone with this problem and losing my mind. 

 You should’ve asked me if I had other PPD symptoms and, if so, referred me to someone who specializes in PPD care.  It could’ve prevented me from going through one of the most horrific experiences of my life without professional support and thinking I was nuts forever.

 I still can’t get over the fact that, as soon as I called your emergency number suffering from a God-awful panic attack, you didn’t hesitate to express your frustration for being bothered by me, and then passed me off – saying that you “couldn’t help me any more” – like a hot potato to [your doctor] who, incidentally, has the WORST communication skills of any doctor I have seen in my entire life!!!

 It would be way too awkward for me to continue on as your patient.  When I identify another OB/GYN, you will be notified.”

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2 thoughts on “Doctors, ignorance about PPD and lack of sensitivity are a bad combo

  1. I work in the medical industry so when i called my obgyn to tell her i couldnt sleep and was having panick attacks, instead of saying anything to help me she said ” You work with doctors, why dont you just ask one of them to help you”. I was so desperate that I actually listened to her, and talked to my boss. I shouldnt have had to do that. I shouldnt have been pushed away like that. Horrible system and I am glad that you are speaking up about this.

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