A few days ago, my best friend was texting me, pissed off. She was in need of a new gynecologist and every place she called they wanted to know if she was seeking services because she was pregnant. When she informed them that no, not pregnant but in menopause there was always silence that followed that the statement.
I feel her pain. The reason I went back to my old gynecologist after dealing with Planned Parenthood for so many years was because during my search for a new one, I kept getting asked if I was pregnant and when I would say no, they would ask if I was planning on getting pregnant soon. That would also be a no. Now, I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with me, I’ve had a Pap smear with abnormal, unhealthy cells (no healthy ones found) and an inconclusive biopsy, so my gynecologist moved me to the back burner with the statement; we’ll check everything again in August.
The truth is, if you aren’t a pregnant woman or a woman intending to be pregnant, most gynecologists do not make you a priority. There’s money in pregnancies. There’s money in postpartum care. There isn’t a lot of money in annual Pap smears and breast exams. And for female cancers, most of the money goes to the oncologist, not the gynecologist, so it isn’t exactly paying their mortgages no matter how much money gets made from cancer diagnoses (I’m learning that just testing for cancer is incredibly expensive).
This does mean that once again, I’m pointing out that women who do not have or want children, are treated like second (possibly third) class citizens. Our health is less important because there isn’t as much money to be made from annual exams and menopause as their is from our breeding or attempting to breed counterparts. The average well woman exam costs $400 in the US and is done once a year. The average pregnancy costs $17,500 which is paid to the obstetrician and that does not include the cost of giving birth (around $30,000 for a natural vaginal birth).
My best friend is in menopause. Have they done a panel to see how her hormones are? Is there a need for HRT? Is there a need to increase the frequency of mammograms or Pap smears? Shit goes wrong during menopause, even when it’s “normal” and then there’s the itch that we had to fucking Google because no doctor would take the time to explain it.
So, where does that leave women like my best friend and me? It leaves us sitting in the dark because we aren’t making tons of money for our gynecologists by popping out babies for them. (on a side note, my GP knows more about my current problem including the biopsy and abnormal pap than my gynecologist because he’s salaried and I’m a patient, not a paycheck, so he spent an hour going through all my symptoms, all the notes from the gynecologist and oncologist, forming theories to work with, and honestly, he was concerned by all of it – Also, I considered getting a second opinion from a different gynecologist and found that I would 1. Have to go through the new patient process, tests, exams, etc., and 2. It probably would not be covered by my health insurance because I already have a gynecologist and with as much money as I have put out the last two months on tests, I’m not even sure I could afford to pay for a second opinion out of pocket because it wouldn’t just be a Pap smear; there would be ultrasounds, bloodwork, etc and my insurance is not required to pay for it).