By: Sherin George, PA-C
Recently, I was thinking about my journey in holistic medicine. As a new Physician Assistant, I entered the work force by joining an integrative primary care practice that followed a holistic approach. At that practice, a new patient visit was between 40-60 minutes long and follow up visits were 30 minutes long. At other offices, new patient visit was at most 20 minutes (to collect medical history, for physical exams and for discussions) long and follow up visits were 10 minutes long. I learned the importance of listening to the patient’s story fully and looking at the patient as an integrated human being instead of looking as though they are a collection of compartmentalized organ systems. From the beginning as a medical provider, I was convinced on holistic medical approaches.
I was reminded of how I first found myself interested in holistic medicine. It was when I was a PA student at Northwestern University in Chicago. The early months of PA schooling consisted of learning about the main organ systems. When we got to gynecology and hormones, I felt myself at home. I was especially both intrigued and surprised to find out that most of female cycle related issues were treated with the same medication: hormonal contraception!
For heavy periods, use hormonal contraception. For irregular or painful periods, use hormonal contraception. For postpartum anxiety/depression, endometriosis, or PCOS, use hormonal contraception. My classmates and I joked that if there was a gynecology question on the exam asking treatment of choice for a condition, we don’t have to even finish reading the question, just look for the hormonal contraception option and choose that as answer. I found it be backward and simplistic that these numerous female health conditions were treated alike with one band-aid approach. Something didn’t seem right. No other body system had a one fix for all approach.
There are three ways by which hormonal contraception work: it prevents ovulation (egg release), thickens cervical mucus that is important for sperm transport and it thins out uterine lining that is important for implantation and progression of pregnancy. It was especially interesting to find out that for women with PCOS (who often did not have periods for several months in a row because they are not ovulating regularly), the treatment of hormonal contraception was additionally suppressing ovulation from taking place. Many such patients thought that getting their period monthly after starting birth control pills meant that their PCOS was being treated when in reality what they were getting was merely a withdrawal bleeding monthly and not truly their period. It is especially satisfying for me to work with PCOS patients because I like to explain what PCOS is and give different holistic approaches that will address the root cause of PCOS.
As a trained NaProTECHNOLOGY medical consultant, I can read Creighton Model female cycle charts to better diagnose specific fertility related conditions and treat them appropriately without suppressing normal body functions. For PCOS, endometriosis, PMS/PMDD, postpartum anxiety/depression, and history of recurrent miscarriage, there are guidelines for testings and protocols for treatment.