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The Lies Women Tell Their Doctors

THE LIE: "I'm not taking any medication."

This one's told so often, doctors say, that they always dig deeper when they hear it. Sometimes it's an honest mistake: "People don't classify over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol, herbal supplements, or vitamins as medication," says Gillian Stephens, M.D., an assistant professor of community and family medicine at Saint Louis University in St. Louis. "But they are." Women also keep mum, though, when they've "borrowed" an Ambien from a friend or bought Hoodia online to lose weight.

WHY YOU SHOULD COME CLEAN: Your doctor may adjust your dosage of a drug if he knows you're taking something else that could alter its effects. "Hearing that someone's taking ibuprofen, which is a weak blood thinner, is useful if you're adding other thinners," says John H. Alexander, M.D., a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center. Not to mention, what he doesn't know could kill you. It's not unusual for doctors to realize that you've taken something you didn't tell them about only after they've given you another medication — and the combination has caused you to stop breathing, have a seizure, or go into cardiac arrest.

THE LIE: "I always use birth control."

"The lie I hear day after day is, 'The condom broke,'" says Millicent Comrie, M.D., vice chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. "Women often say that when they get pregnant by accident and don't want to admit that they didn't use a condom." Sound familiar? How about this: "Women fudge the truth about whether they put their diaphragms in or took them out and whether they take their pills every day at the same time," says Bruce Rosenzweig, M.D., director of urogynecology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "They're embarrassed because they know they should be able to handle these things."

WHY YOU SHOULD COME CLEAN: There are tons of contraception options out there these days. If you fess up to messing up with birth control, your gyno can suggest one that might suit you better. "If you hate to swallow pills, you have oily skin and the patch keeps falling off, or the ring comes out when your partner pulls out, I can give you something else," says Rosenzweig. "But if you don't tell me, I can't make the appropriate recommendations."

Coming clean with your doctor only stands to help you in the long run, as difficult as it may be in the moment. So answer her questions honestly — and even bring up issues that she may be forgetting to ask about. When it comes to your health, there's no such thing as TMI.


Originally published on September 25, 2008


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