Holding a new life that wasn’t there a moment ago is a magical experience. My hands have felt previous baby human beings thousands of times, but the moment of joy and excitement is the same every time. The moment the expression on a mother’s face goes from extreme pain to extreme joy. The whole family rejoicing, hugging each other, taking pictures, calling their loved ones, and announcing the arrival of a newborn. Nothing matters that is not this precious newborn and how amazing it is to be a part of such an important milestone in someone’s journey. Then I decided to give it all up.
An Obstetrician’s Journey to Better Health
I worked as an obstetrician and gynecologist my entire professional life. I always have and still love delivering babies. So, why did I give it up? It was not an easy decision. I debated in my mind for months. But ultimately, I decided to give it up for good.
The year I turned 40, I started feeling changes in my own body. From a traditional medical perspective, I wasn’t sick. There was nothing wrong with me physically, but I knew something wasn’t right. I had low energy, constant migraines, always felt bloated, couldn’t lose weight no matter how hard I tried, and low to no libido. No physician could give me an answer. All I got were normal results, all indications that I am healthy. I did not feel healthy. It’s true, however, that I was not sick.
The question I wanted to know the answer to was: “Am I healthy?” I started looking for answers beyond the traditional medicine I was taught in school. I read, researched, and started making changes in my life. I added and eliminated certain foods and behaviors, focused on the psychological elements of health, and finally started to feel “better.” My migraines disappeared, my energy came back, I felt stronger and my libido improved. Most importantly, I became happier. I also became aware that many of my patients and other women were going through something similar. I knew that if I could, I wanted to help them change it for the better.
I was 40 years old when I decided to make a change. To live the last half of my life intentionally. To live with a healthy mind and body, feeling my best both inside and out. If possible, I also would like to avoid diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, or Alzheimer’s, to name just a few common conditions. It’s true that genetic risk factors play a role, however, many of these conditions have multifactorial causation. What that means is getting a disease is not based on genetics alone. Our lifestyle makes a huge impact on how healthy our bodies become. Living a certain way, eating healthy, sleeping well, exercising, maintaining optimal weight, supplementing yourself with essential vitamins, and minerals can treat and even prevent many of these diseases. You may still need medication for certain diseases but a lesser dose and fewer numbers.
The Time for Change
Not feeling good physically on a chronic basis can have a negative impact on mental health, further exaggerating the physical symptoms and vice versa, leading to a never-ending vicious cycle. The more I started asking my patients how they felt, the more I realized how common not feeling well really is these days. Many women had even stopped complaining about many symptoms because they felt that it was just a normal part of life and there is no solution. Many women probably got the same answer I got when I tried to speak up, “you are fine,” “there is nothing wrong with you,” “everything looks normal.” Even though most of these women knew something was not right, they had just resigned to accepting sub-optimal health as the only option available.
That realization was a milestone. I saw my own changing health and new possibilities for my patients. Something needed to be done.
In medical school, we learn about diseases. We don’t get enough education on all the things that can prevent disease, like nutrition, food, stress prevention, and exercise. We learn to say “lifestyle modifications” as the recommended treatment for everything, but we don’t spend enough time learning and practicing them. During OBGYN residency, we spend most of our time on the labor and delivery floor. We are highly trained in delivering babies, and skilled at managing anything and everything that can go wrong during the process. We learn complicated surgeries removing the uterus, ovaries, and other procedures to manage physical gynecologic problems. What we don’t learn enough is how nutrition, stress, and hormones impact our life and bodies both in positive and negative ways.
We are fortunate to have many skilled obstetricians in our community. I worked closely with many of them over the years and love and respect them. We do have different practitioners’ who provide hormonal therapy but most of them are not trained gynecologists. However, there is a gap in trained gynecologists who understand women’s reproductive health from a scientific point of view, the aging process, nutrition, and how exercise and stress management impact women’s reproductive function and overall health.
Mark Twain said, “if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem begins to look like a nail.” Similarly, if you are proficient in using only pharmaceutical medication, you would only use that method to take care of a problem. Same with nutrition and any other type of therapy. We need someone who has various tools in their toolkit and can use them wisely and appropriately.
Learning Lessons in Integrative Women’s Health
I have always believed in quality rather than quantity. When I started this practice, I chose to limit the number of pregnant patients we deliver every month because I wanted to know each of them, their families, and to take a bigger part in this amazing life-changing experience. We kept a limit for a while, but it did not last long. Our returning moms would come back after we reached our monthly limit and I couldn’t say no. This resulted in getting very busy and ultimately feeling overwhelmed. I found myself leaving the office for delivery too many times, which resulted in other patients in the office waiting too long. Apart from the busy clinical practice, being a wife and mother of two young children, my hands and days are also packed with housekeeping and kid’s activities.
I realized that if I wanted to focus my energy intentionally on integrative women’s health, I need to make a choice. In order to focus on combining the science of medications and surgeries with nutrition and stress management to achieve a healthier state for my patients, I will have to create the time in my life. Hence, I made the decision to give up obstetrics and I know that my patients will be well taken care of by my skilled colleagues in town. This creates the time and space needed to appropriately devote my skills and energy to a “Journey to Health” for myself and my patients.
To begin your own Journey to Health, reach out to Galleria Women’s Health to book your first telehealth appointment today. Together, we can begin feeling healthy one step at a time.