We can all be helped if we look at the big picture, not just one’s own situation

We can all be helped if we look at the big picture, not just one’s own situation

Planning for Surgery? You Might Not Need All Those Tests Beforehand.

i tore a labia after having a general anaesthetic for a caesarean at 38 weeks. Eventually the baby was born naturally (still sore, possibly even painful). Now I’m seven months post, I have a problematic labia, and a tumour which needs careful monitoring. My doctor says that there’s no problem, though he does have a few concerns about my blood pressure, for which I have a doctor’s appointment in a few weeks.

The boss gave me my powers of the pen so I could answer lots of questions. Should I join a posh gym where I’d get pedicures and learn fancy hand skills? Should I have hormone tests after a tumour develops? Is my mum right that I’m too young for surgery? I kept wondering if perhaps I shouldn’t have my blood pressure checked at all. But I was going to an appointment anyway, so it was just a matter of cutting to the chase and asking the question.

People who are considering having a vaginoplasty – which we’re all familiar with – often assume that the answer is yes, they need to prepare themselves for scans, or that they’re going to be put under general anaesthetic. As patients we don’t really understand what is going on, what we need to prepare for – and whether we should make a decision. We need to see the big picture, not just one’s own situation. I’ve noticed that there’s still a lack of trust between doctors and patients. Doctors just assume that patients always want the best outcome and that they understand the risks and benefits.

What would I do differently if I could repeat my surgery at any point in my life?

While the moment of surgery is the absolute pinnacle, it’s not the end of the journey. Many women after a vaginoplasty say that they’ve had problems with leakage and period pains. Plastic surgeons have discovered a wide range of problems, including bacteria, a buildup of waxes and scarring. These problems can continue to be detected and treated long after the birth of a child.

Gynaecologists and plastic surgeons are increasingly working together with patients, listening to and supporting each other. This is also helping to improve training for doctors. It’s vital that we work together to improve diagnosis and management of the condition.

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As patients, we’re often looking after ourselves, so sometimes it can feel that we have a selfish interest in listening to the advice of doctors. But we want to be reassured that we can make an informed decision. Perhaps a surgeon or general practitioner might say: “What about, I don’t want to have this done at the moment, but I’d like to know what might be likely to happen in the future, just so I can be prepared?” And, sometimes, we just want to hear the truth.

“The truth” has the negative connotation of “meaningless”, “bad”, “impossible”. But sometimes the truth is actually pretty nice.

Do you have a question for Joanna Moorhead? Email [email protected]

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