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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," says Dimino.

THE LIE: "I'm not a big drinker."

martini_glass_liesDoctors 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 legs."

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 accidents.

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.

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