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Questions and Answers with Nurse Maria

There are many things we love about our Twin Cities clinic. It’s just blocks from the light rail, has some amazing views of Downtown Minneapolis, houses our EmpowerLine, and has a certain Nurse Practitioner Maria providing gynecology care every Tuesday and Thursday.

We, WholeWomansHealth.wordpress.com the person, like to talk with Maria regularly about her experience with reproductive health and this time we’ve decided to record the conversation:

What is a Nurse Practitioner? Why go to a Nurse Practitioner?

NPs can be licensed independently in the state of Minnesota. You don’t have to be associated with a physician or a clinical practice. I can have my own patients, prescribe medications when necessary and really build a relationships with the patients that I see.

What inspired you to pursue women’s healthcare?

I wanted to educate and empower women about their bodies!

What’s your opinion on how gynecology has evolved over the years?

We used to hold women hostage, so to speak. Practices would require women to come in and get breast exams, pelvic exams, pap smears and more every year in order to access contraception. It was a prerequisite to birth control. Now the trend in reproductive medicine is to remove barriers and look at evidence supporting healthcare and contraception. Now we don’t do pap smears until the woman is 21 and we do them every three years, and we’ve been able to see other improvements with the HPV vaccine and long acting birth control.

So, what’s the point of a pap smear if it’s not required regularly and you don’t need one until the age of 21?

It’s the screening test for cervical cancer (HPV). Most sexually active women are exposed to the virus and previously if a woman would display abnormal cell changes the provider would lob off (not the formal medical term) a part of the cervix through a LEEP procedure. Of course we still perform LEEPs, but not so readily as in the past. We used to be quick to choose the surgical option rather than waiting and allowing the body to naturally heal itself. Now it’s a nice combination of both.

To follow that, why get an annual exam, or a Well Woman’s Exam, if a pap isn’t necessary?

It’s an opportunity to touch base and share any concerns with a health care provider. It’s an opportunity to explore the family medical history and screen for risk behaviors, as well as look for preventative or motivational treatment options to help the patient pivot and change directions.

People tend to operate thinking that how they feel now is how they will feel in 20 years, when that’s not necessarily true. Without treatment or intervention a risk factor for untreated hypertension (high blood pressure) now could turn into kidney problems down the line. Or undiagnosed or untreated diabetes could turn into loss of vision or loss of kidneys down the road. So yes, we’re looking at your reproductive health, but that’s just a part of your whole health.

What are some of the common themes you notice across the patients that you see? Common questions that people are concerned about when they come to visit with you?

I get a lot of questions about vaginal discharge. Many women are really concerned about it – is it too much, is there not enough, color, cycle, changes through the month, etc. There are many normal ranges that come with vaginal discharge that change through the month as you go through your cycle. The biggest red flags are if there’s an itch or odor or if you feel you’re at risk for an STI.

There’s also some misperceptions about how diet can impact your health. What you put into your body has a strong impact on your well being and will effect you over time, so I definitely like to spend time focusing on diet choices while discussing health histories.

Are there questions people should be asking when they get their annual check up that you notice aren’t being asked?

I see a lot of bias – people want to project themselves 20 years from now and often think that how they are now will be just how they are down the road, when that’s not really the case. What you do now has a definite impact on how your body will feel 10, 20 years from now.

If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Maria, please call our EmpowerLine at (877) 835-1090 or visit us online at www.wholewomanshealth.com

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What Really Matters to Patients on the Day of Their Abortion

The reasons for having an abortion are as many as the women who have them. As holistic medical providers, we pride ourselves in our ability to meet our patients where they are at. This means understanding what their concerns are so we can provide attentive, personalized care.

One of the best ways we do this is through regular patient evaluations – asking the women and people we serve what they’re most concerned about, how we did at meeting those concerns, and places for improvement. We do this in all of our clinics to ensure that every patient receives the personalized treatment they deserve.

The following is just a sample of things our patients think about as they prepare for their abortion and dig into the question of “What mattered most to you today?” 

  • Being taken care of safely
  • Privacy
  • Service
  • Polite, courteous service
  • Side effects
  • Being treated fairly
  • Making everything clear and getting my needs met
  • Getting the procedure over with
  • Confidentiality
  • Getting it done
  • Feeling happy and comfortable
  • Privacy
  • Having everything run smoothly
  • Getting to the clinic on time
  • Feeling comfortable
  • I didn’t want to feel bad about what I was doing
  • How I was treated
  • Birth control
  • Time and privacy
  • Discretion and understanding
  • Answering all my questions
  • Not having to worry about an unwanted pregnancy any longer
  • The abortion
  • Being safe and well taken care of
  • Info on what to expect
  • Being comfortable
  • Info on the procedure, side effects, etc.
  • Feeling safe
  • Just support
  • Time
  • That my pain and fear of physical pain after the procedure would be taken seriously, and not ignored/blown off
  • Timeliness
  • That I’m not being judged for the decision that I am making
  • All that matters is for everything to go well
  • Not being judged
  • The procedure and safety
  • Privacy
  • People being kind
  • Understanding the procedure
  • Letting me know whatever I choose would be ok
  • Confidentiality
  • Not feeling rushed
  • Feeling safe
  • Having all my questions answered
  • Not being judged
  • Privacy
  • Privacy and safety
  • Comfort and friendliness
  • Getting the abortion
  • Feeling less ashamed of my decision
  • Getting information on contraception
  • Feeling comfortable and safe
  • Getting the procedure done safely
  • Information, support
  • Getting help and having someone to support me.
  • Compassion
  • Privacy and pain management
  • Emotional support, ease of process
  • Obtaining all the information I needed to make the best decision for myself
  • Feeling like I wasn’t alone
  • Having the confidence to walk into the clinic and going through with the abortion
  • Feeling like I was in a supportive environment..
  • That I felt comfortable. i was sooooo nervous….
  • Finding out how I would feel after
  • Confidential and compassionate care
  • That it got done
  • Making sure I could get the IV sedation, great my insurance pays for it
  • Feeling comfortable
  • Being able to talk to the counselor before the procedure
  • Kindness and being well taken care of
  • Detailed information about the method. Your staff explained everything I asked. Made me more comfortable in my decision.
  • Just by helping me…
  • Attitude, positivity
  • Confidentiality and supportive staff
  • Support
  • Feeling comfortable, relaxed, not having judgment
  • Getting through this experience
  • Feeling informed and comfortable
  • Feeling comfortable
  • Being well aware of everything and staying informed
  • Being informed of every step taken
  • Being comfortable in my decision
  • Kind service
  • The care I need is provided with respect
  • Knowing the information
  • Support
  • Speed of the process
  • Being in good hands
  • Being 100% comfortable and not being judged
  • Customer service
  • Getting the abortion
  • Clear communication
  • Non-judgement and professional staff
  • Going through with the surgery
  • Understanding, nonjudgmental people to help me in my decision
  • Feeling safe
  • Timing – I have to go to work at noon
  • Getting my questions answered
  • Support and understanding
  • Knowing my options and being flexible
  • That I was treated humane
  • That I felt comfortable
  • Feeling comfortable and safe and receiving effective care.
  • Getting the procedure done
  • Getting my questions answered
  • That the pregnancy is ended
  • Private and politeness
  • Making sure I was still able to get pregnant and how they treat you in their care
  • Good, happy people that care about you
  • Ending the pregnancy, feeling comfortable

What Does Holistic Abortion Care Even Mean?

At Whole Woman’s Health, we take a lot of pride in saying (and giving) what we call holistic abortion care. It’s a foundation to the way in which we provide medical care and it results in a better, more compassionate experience for the patients we see.

When we eagerly tell others that we function holistically, we sometimes get looks like these:

And we can tell that inside their heads they think we’re doing something along the lines of this:

(Not that there’s anything wrong with this, Hermoine rules.)

But really, treating patients holistically is an actual thing, and it results in better healthcare. To start, let’s look at what the word holistic actually means.

ho·lis·tic (hōˈlistik)

Pretty neat, right?

Applied, this means that we see our patients for more than the particular reason for their visit. We see beyond the unplanned pregnancy or the STI test. Our team sees the patient for all of their circumstances and all of their needs, honoring the head, heart, and body in the care that we provide. The result looks something like this:

  • When patients make the initial call, our EmpowerLine asks open questions to determine if there is any need for financial or logistical help, and then goes ahead and helps them. 
  • Rather than make assumptions, we ask questions like “What matters most to you?” or “What brought you here today?”. We give the space to let the patient tell their story, uninterrupted.
  • We offer pregnancy and abortion options counseling, so that if there is a conflict between the head and the heart we can help the patient navigate these feelings and come to a decision that her whole self can support.
  • Each of our rooms is dedicated to an amazing woman, from past or present, complete with their quotes on the wall. This is to honor the heart, and to remind everyone who walks through the door that great women and people often face adversity while on the path to self determination. It reassures, the architectural version of a hug.
  • At the end of the visit, we provide each patient with a warm cup of TranquiliTea – our custom tea blend to ease cramping and lift the spirits.

The list goes on from here. If you live in Texas, New Mexico, Minnesota, or Maryland, and you are seeking an abortion or reproductive care across the spectrum, or you would just like to see what holistic care looks like in action, please give us a call or stop by. We would be honored to care for you.

To the Staff at Whole Woman’s Health

The following is from a letter sent to us from one of our amazing patients:

I’d like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. This has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made. As a mother of three, who manage to keep me very busy, I’ve known for some time my family is complete. That said, I never imagined I’d be faced with this situation. We had some issues over the last week and although they were frustrating you all made me feel comfortable beginning to end.

This can’t be an easy job some days. Compassion isn’t something you can fake and the genuine care and compassion you all show is amazing. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel walking out of here today but for the most part what I’m feeling is peace and calm. I’ve missed that feeling the last few weeks.

Thank you for restoring some of the shine I was missing.

Amy Hagstrom Miller Speaks Out About Stigma

These last few days Whole Woman’s Health has been at the Abortion Care Network’s Annual Meeting – an inspiring conference of the nation’s independent providers and our allies within the activist, art, legislative, faith, and journalist communities.

Yesterday our Founder Amy Hagstrom Miller spoke to attendees about how her drive to rid the world of abortion stigma manifests in what we do at Whole Woman’s Health. Below is a final excerpt from her speech:

“Speak up and out, do not let anti-abortion rhetoric go unchallenged. Do not allow our opposition to hijack the moral high ground. I’d like a world where no person comes into my clinics thinking they are the only person they know who has had an abortion. Thinking they are the only Christian that has had an abortion. Thinking they are the only good parent who has had an abortion.

Whole Woman’s Health clinics offer an oasis from the stigma and shame surrounding abortion in our culture, from the voices and judgments of others that often make it difficult to sit quietly and contemplate a big decision. In our clinics we have a moment to affirm that people are good, to affirm that people are moral and kind, and to affirm that they are not selfish. We can witness their dreams and their aspirations and affirm that they are put on this Earth to see them out and to act on their own gifts. Let’s make sure all people hear these messages both inside and outside our clinic doors.

Thank you again, so very much.”

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In Honor of Dr. Mildred Hanson

Dr. Mildred ‘Millie’ Hanson was the first MD I ever worked with – my first job in the field in 1989 was as a staffer at Planned Parenthood on Ford Parkways in St. Paul, where she was the medical director. A feisty Norwegian and a fierce advocate. She did the first abortion I ever saw and I gently excused myself from the room mid-procedure and fainted in the hallway. 

She was forward thinking, one of the first women doing work in abortion care in the country. She is the one who discovered laminaria when she was visiting Japan and she brought back a suitcase of it the USA to introduce to the NAF community here for cervical prep. 

She was an expert technician in abortion care, especially 2nd trimester abortion. Everyone still to this day learns the “Hanson” technique when they are training. She was outspoken, super smart, a leader, a spitfire and a great example to many of us. We give thanks for her example, for her making trails for many of us to follow in and for her work with thousands of women over her many years in the field. 

Amy Hagstrom Miller

President & CEO of Whole Woman’s Health

Trust. Respect. Access.

Today we, along with our coalition partners NARAL Pro-Choice TexasACLU of Texas, the Texas Research Institute, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Progress Texas, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and the Texas Freedom Network, are at the Texas State Capital for Advocacy Day: Trust. Respect. Access.

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We’re working with Texans from across the state to ask their legislators to support policies that restore trust in Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, to restore respect for health care professionals, and to restore access to safe, timely abortion care.

In addition to our advocacy day, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of the Trust. Respect. Access. website: trustrespectaccess.org. Here you’ll find more detailed information about our campaign, how legislative ignorance impacts Texans’ ability to provide and access necessary healthcare, and ways we can come together and move toward a better Texas!

Whole Woman’s Health is committed to changing the conversation around abortion, building a movement for reproductive freedom and pushing for more proactive rights. Texans have endured tremendous political interference and it’s eroded access to quality healthcare across the state.

In 2013 and for nearly a decade before, extremist Texas politicians lied. Today we unveil the beginning of our proactive policy work and begin a strategic roll back of some of the most restrictive policies on reproductive healthcare affecting thousands of Texas families.

– Amy Hagstom Miller, Founder & CEO of Whole Woman’s Health

So, what exactly does Trust. Respect. Access. mean?

1. We Trust Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, including the timing and spacing of their children. 

2. We Respect healthcare professionals’ medical and ethical judgment about the care each patient needs. 

3. We work to guarantee Access to safe, timely abortion care for all Texans. 

About time!

Extremist politicians have gone too far in restricting access to reproductive health care in our state. Texas can do better. And we can start today.