The Lies Women Tell Their Doctors
THE LIE: "I've never had an STD."
"Many women are embarrassed about having had a sexually transmitted
disease," says Dimino. Jessica, 37, never let on that she'd had chlamydia
and HPV in college because she was afraid she'd be denied health insurance when
setting up her own business. But she also believed it wasn't anyone else's
affair. "My feeling was: That was then; it's taken care of, so they don't
need to know," says the Littleton, CO, Web designer.
WHY YOU SHOULD COME CLEAN: The ghosts of STDs past can come back to
haunt you later. Hiding that you had HPV may put you at higher risk for
cervical cancer if your gyno doesn't think you need annual Pap tests. Keeping
quiet may also put you at risk for pregnancy complications. For instance, if
your doctor knows you've had gonorrhea or chlamydia — especially if you also
developed pelvic inflammatory disease — she'll watch more carefully for ectopic
pregnancy, since both can scar the fallopian tubes, preventing a fertilized egg
from reaching the uterus. And telling your ob that you have genital herpes when
you're pregnant may help you avoid a predelivery flare-up — and a C-section as
a result. "If you tell me you have it, even if your last flare-up was ages
ago, I can put you on medication to suppress an outbreak before delivery,"
THE LIE: "I'm not a big drinker."
Doctors have an unspoken rule: Whatever you tell them you
drink, they double it. "Lots of women claim, 'I drink once a week,'"
says Rakhi Dimino, M.D., an ob/gyn at the Woman's Hospital of Texas in Houston.
"But then they drink six or seven cocktails in an evening."
"I always lie about drinking," admits Amanda, 33, an entertainment
coordinator from Orlando, FL. "My doctor prescribed me the antidepressant
Zoloft and told me not to drink any alcohol while taking it. Then I went
to a wine tasting and drank anyway." That night, she awoke in a cold sweat
with heart palpitations. "At the emergency room, the doctor asked me which
drugs I was on. When I said Zoloft, he asked if I'd taken any drugs or drunk
any alcohol. I flat-out lied and said that I'd had not a drop."
The ER staff tried to sleuth out what else could be making Amanda ill; then
her blood alcohol test came back. "The doctor said, 'The test shows you've
been drinking, and this is a common reaction with Zoloft and alcohol.' He told
me that I would have saved a lot of time and money if I'd been honest. I didn't
say a thing. I just wanted to get out of there with my tail between my
WHY YOU SHOULD COME CLEAN: Drug and alcohol interactions are very
common. If your doctor knows that you imbibe, even a little, she can prescribe
meds that won't mix badly with a glass of wine. She can also counsel you on
alcohol's risks for women. For starters, having one to two drinks a day can
raise your risk for breast cancer; heavy consumption is linked to liver
disease, brain damage, and stroke and can put you at risk for assault and car
Concealing what you drink may signal another disease: "Denial is part of
addiction," says Brenda Iliff, clinical director of Hazelden Women's
Recovery Center in Center City, MN.