Why Does My Doctor Ask if Everything Is Okay at Home?
As part of your annual wellness exam, your doctor may ask you if “everything is okay at home.” What does this mean? Doctors want to know whether you feel safe and supported in your personal life. The CDC defines domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, as abuse or aggression that occurs in a personal relationship, whether the abuser is a spouse or dating partner, or the relationship is heterosexual or same-sex. Your doctor’s office also may provide organizations to call for outside support if needed, whether that is an organization you can visit to speak with someone or a counseling hotline to call.
How Your Doctors Can Help
Your healthcare providers value you and are your advocates. This means that whatever is discussed at a doctor’s visit will remain confidential. An OB-GYN or doctor’s office is a safe space to bring up what needs to be shared, especially circumstances of domestic violence and/or abuse. As OB-GYNs and physicians, we’re trained to assist you in these matters.
Asking if things are okay at home is neither easy to ask nor easy to talk about. But doing so conveys the importance of feeling safe in your home and being treated how you should be in your relationship. Never believe that you are unworthy or that someone else’s abusive behavior is your fault.
Domestic violence occurs in all walks of life and can happen to everyone regardless of where they live or how much money they have. If we find that you do not have the support you need at home or if what is happening is negative, we will connect you with a social worker who will help. The City of Orlando provides helpful resources if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence.
Your doctor also may ask during your annual checkup if you are depressed. If the answer is yes that you are suffering from depression, your doctor will often ask if you have the support you need at home. Who are you around the most? What is your relationship like with this person? We want to try and determine the cause of your unhappiness.
Signs of abuse can become more pronounced in the early stages of pregnancy — often because the person usually causing the violence is no longer the center of attention (and they don’t like that).
Know Your Support Network
If you don’t discuss this subject with your OB-GYN, your primary care physician should ask similar questions and be able to help. It is crucial to figure out who around you can support you, and that you have a safety net in place when it’s needed most. Remember, to look after yourself is a heroic act.
Domestic violence is an important topic, one some have a hard time talking about, but you can trust that your doctors are here to help.
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