So you’re not feeling well and you think hormones might be to blame – how do you broach that subject with your primary care physician? Let’s be honest, these conversations can be intimating and rushed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leave feeling heard, understood, and hopeful that you’re on the path to an answer.

It’s important to be your own advocate when you walk into a doctor’s appointment. Knowing what you want to address and having a thorough list of the questions you need answered can help you feel prepared and confident to have an open, helpful discussion. Below are a few great tips for how to prepare and get the most out of your next doctor’s appointment.

Getting What You NEED From Your Doctor

Come armed with your own research.

It never hurts to present a physician with your own research on the topic that concerns you. If you’ve done your homework, feel free to bring along books, studies or other materials on the subject. This can help start the conversation, letting your doctor know that you’re informed and serious about getting answers. Another “research” step you can take is to complete a comprehensive hormonal profile test at home (which can be purchased through the Canary Club) and take the results to your appointment.

Be specific.

If you’ve taken preliminary tests, done your research or have some other reason to suspect a problem (maybe you have a family history of low thyroid or an autoimmune condition, for example), don’t be afraid to ask for specific tests. If, on the other hand, you’re going into the conversation with little information, bring along a list of specific questions. You can then compare your doctor’s answers to your own research – or you can get a second opinion.

Consider a “combined” approach.

While some physicians are great at blending traditional medicine with more holistic approaches, you might need to turn elsewhere for support in areas like nutrition, herbal medicine or natural hormone balance. It may be possible to work with your doctor but also to get support from a health coach, a nutritionist or some other type of practitioner who has the necessary qualifications. This might require a more proactive stance on your end – you’ll need to make sure you’re communicating important information with both the doctor and the practitioner (like your health history, supplements or herbs you’re taking, etc.) But this type of combined approach can work if you’re doing it safely and consulting both parties about the treatment you’re receiving.

Seek until you find.

Finding a good doctor is like finding a good therapist, a good friend or a good job – it can take some time and effort. Do your research, read patient reviews and study a physician’s background, qualifications and approach before you even have a consultation. Like any other relationship, when it’s right, you’ll know.
– via Sara Gottfried MD

If you’re a woman seeking hormone help from your OBGYN, then the specific advice below could be really helpful – both to understand how to approach asking for testing, and the followup questions to ask once the results are in.

It’s ok to ask questions. It’s ok to need help. And if your doctor won’t answer you or isn’t open to hearing your concerns, never be afraid to look for other options. You deserve to work with someone who will hear what you say and truly strive to help you get better.

Your visit to the OBGYN

  •  Get the test taken during the first few days of your cycle (when you have your period), if possible.

  •  Ask your OBGYN for a hormone panel test that includes estrogen, progesterone, FSH and LH (follicle stimulating hormone and lutenizing hormone).

  •  Ask additionally for a thyroid test, blood sugar test (using a glucose meter at home preferably) and Vitamin D3 test. These are also important indicators for hormonal health.

  •  Ask that they also run a general blood test (the kind you’d get at an annual exam) – you want to be checked for iron saturation, anemia, and C-reactive proteins particularly.

  •  Ask for a print out of your results to take home if they are not made available online for you to access.

Three questions to ask your doctor in the most common scenarios:

  1. Everything here seems to be normal, but I am experiencing significant symptoms. Where within the range am I falling that might indicate I am moving towards having a hormonal imbalance?
  2. It looks like my calcium, Vitamin D3 (also other vitamins and minerals) are at a low level. What can I change about my diet to help them improve?
  3. I see you have recommended I use birth control pills/a Mirena IUD/implant to control my symptoms. I would really like to try giving myself 3-6 months to improve the situation first. What kind of changes in my blood work would you like to see so that I wouldn’t have to use these options?

– via Flo Living

Have you discussed your possible hormone imbalance with your doctor yet?