Doctor Headache


When I was about 20, I was placed on birth control by a gynecologist to manage irregular periods. This is a very standard treatment for irregular periods, one which almost every woman I know seems to have been on, some as very young teenagers.

About a year later, I started my first part-time office job, which required lots of sitting at a desk and typing. So much computer work seemed to trigger muscle tension in my shoulders, leading to headaches. So, I called to see my general practice doctor.

My regular doctor was not in, so I saw his partner, Dr. Clueless. He looked over the list of my medications and said “So you’re on birth control?”.

“Yes,” I replied, wondering what this had to do with my headaches.

Dr. Clueless: “So you’re married?”

Me: “No.”

Dr.: “So you must be in a monogamous relationship?”

Me: “Um no, not that either.” (I’m now getting annoyed by this line of questioning.)

Dr.: “Well, I hope you’re using condoms!”

Me: “Actually, no I’m not. Because I’m not having intercourse.”

(Doctor looks confused)

Me: “I have never had sex. I am a virgin.”

Dr.: “Well then why would you be taking birth control?”

Me: “I have irregular periods. My gynecologist, who is also a reproductive endocrinologist, prescribed them to me for hormonal regulation. Can we talk about my headaches?”

The worst part of this episode, other than the fact that he had no idea how to help my headaches and muscle tension, was that I left feeling ashamed and embarrassed, even though he was the one who demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge. As a doctor licensed to practice in the US I would assume he would have heard of such a very common medical practice. And even if he hadn’t, there was no reason to give me the concerned father-figure routine.

Oh well, guess it’s #MFIF

-What a Headache, US



33 Responses to “Doctor Headache”

  1. Loren Says:

    I had a doctor who didn’t understand why I might want birth control even though I wasn’t having sex either. I was having irregular periods and terrible cramps every month. Since I wasn’t sexually active she suggested I take ‘2-4 muscle relaxants every two hours until the cramps got better’. I told her that’s what I WAS doing and I still had cramps that made me physically ill. She suggested I up my dosage…
    I switched doctors.

  2. Amy Beth Says:


  3. longanlon Says:

    well, maybe more stunning was the fact that someone can be a virgin at 20…

    • A Different Sam Says:


    • fis Says:


    • H Says:

      Nope. And if you don’t have anything intelligent to say, then…

    • Randomreply Says:

      Cause its mandatory that you lose your virginity when you hit 16 right?
      There is no way there exists people that make the choice not to have sex with someone if they get a chance.

      I suggest you keep your stupidity to yourself.

    • A Different Sam Says:

      On top of the stupid “dere r no vurgins lololol” comment, you don’t even show basic reading comprehension here; the post shows that she’s a virgin at ~21, not 20. And you didn’t capitalize “Well”, so… I’m honestly trying without success to find some level at which your post wasn’t a complete and utter failure and a brilliant symbol of your idiocy.

      Get off of this site.

    • CM Says:

      Go away, nasty little troll.

    • Kristi Says:

      I know, it’s shocking that anyone could be a virgin at 20. So I’m probably going to completely BLOW YOUR MIND when I tell you that I’m still a virgin at the advanced age of 28 (And no, not for religious reasons, not that it’s any of your business). What a hopeless, pathetic excuse for a human being I must be, right?

  4. Enoon Says:

    How can any medical professional not be aware of that. I don’t even…

  5. H Says:

    This post reminds me of the recent ‘scandal’ in the media of how many under sixteens are prescribed hormonal contraception – because, of course, you would only need that if you were having sex. Petra Boynton discusses this in a recent article that you might find interesting:

    It seems to be a really common misconception amongst the general public and journalists, but I’m shocked to hear it coming from a doctor. Hope you managed to see another doctor who sorted out your problems.

  6. Krischan Says:

    Erm. I fail to see his fail. I only see your generalization-fail, that every medic has to know everything. Did you ever had even a small look at medicinal knowledge and heard about “specialization”?

    Not every doctor has to know about the facts of a different branch. And you obviously did not go to a gynecologist with your headache, did you? Or to a oncologist with your chest pain.

    You went to him to get you headache treated. And therefore he has to know what pharmaceuticals you take. And he might be interested why you take them. Just … because it is his jobs to know why headaches develop. It is called anamnesis and you could have been more than helpful by saying “I take birth control brand X to stabilize my hormonal balance.”

    Your obvious fail starts at “I replied, wondering what this had to do with my headaches.” … because it is his job to decide that. The following, slightly unprofessional dialogue could have been averted by your cooperation with your doctor.

    • restlessbynature Says:

      ‘ I only see your generalization-fail, that every medic has to know everything.’

      Actually, you would be wrong there. A GP, or regular doctor, is a General Practitioner. Therefore they should know of all fields to at least some degree, as they have been to medical school to study it all. My uncle is a doctor and although he specialises, he is a GP and therefore has to have some degree of knowledge in all fields in order to be able to practice as a medical consultant.

      ‘Did you ever had even a small look at medicinal knowledge and heard about “specialization”?’

      Not taking into account the blatant grammatical errors in that sentence, yes, he may have specialized. But he is a GP. And as I said before, it is his job, actually. A doctor should behave professionally from the moment someone arrives in his office, regardless of the questions a patient asks. And assuming the reason why a person takes certain medication when her notes will clearly be on a database for him to see is rude and unnecessary, particularly when it is an unfamiliar doctor and the topic may be an uncomfortable one to discuss.

      ‘Just … because it is his jobs to know why headaches develop. It is called anamnesis and you could have been more than helpful by saying “I take birth control brand X to stabilize my hormonal balance.”’

      Haven’t you just said that it is not his job to know everything? Methinks you are now contradicting your own argument. So please, when commenting, do not try and derail by using technical terms that you think others will not know to further stabilise your line of argument.

      ‘Your obvious fail starts at “I replied, wondering what this had to do with my headaches.” … because it is his job to decide that. The following, slightly unprofessional dialogue could have been averted by your cooperation with your doctor.’

      Well thank you for mansplaining that. Naturally, co-operating with a male doctor will stop us worrying our pretty little heads about our own bodies. And please don’t refer to a commenter who has suffered this treatment as committing a ‘fail’. It’s insensitive and any decent adult would realise that.

      As a woman who has experienced incompetence and sexism in a doctor’s surgery, it infuriates me to hear your own mansplanations on why someone should have to listen to generalizations from their trained doctor, who should in all honesty know better.

      To the OP: I feel bad for you, this is shocking. I would file a complaint if I were you.

      • Krischan Says:

        I really don’t know about “in the US a GP has to know”. But I really DO know, as a german (so thanks for the grammar-flame) about doctors.

        A GP is a human, fallible, from a certain generation of students and forgetful. Not every GP does know the “basic facts” everybody thinks he has to know. Some GPs even learn from their charges: some of mine certainly did. And after a short time you stop wondering “why doesn’t he know this” and just tell him the whole story from the beginning – and that is the meaning of “anamnesis”. You are not a car, especially concerning headaches he has to know all (== get all information from you, does this clear up the other content-rant of yours?) to find a possible explanation and help.

        That “GPs have to have the knowledge”-bullshit out of the way: yes, the following dialogue was unprofessional in the way he carried on with it. He got all information I deem necessary for analyzing the problem (social status, prescriptions) but in an inappropriate way.

    • Carmen Says:

      While there’s a very easy joke to be made here, I doubt whether or not she was married was related to her headaches. I take your point Krischan; I had to stop taking a certain brand of the pill because it does cause migraines. Of course it is the doctor’s business to know what medication a patient is on. But checking her marital status because she’s on birth control pills?

    • Lin Says:

      Really? She told him she was on bc and his first question after that was about her marital status. He then goes on to give her a lecture about safe sex. This sounds like a doctor fail, not the OP’s fault.

    • Rie Says:

      That is DEFINITELY something I’d expect a GP to know. GPs frequently prescribe birth control for irregular or painful periods–I should know, because my GP did. Now, it’s possible her birth control could’ve been causing her headaches; however, the doctor’s later comments showed that he was clueless about reasons for taking bc besides contraception…which can be dangerous. It’s such a common medication that I’d expect any GP to know at least the basics about it.

    • Jen Says:

      If a doctor is ‘qualified’ to write a prescription for a medication, I’d damn well hope they knew what it could be used for actually.

    • Medical Student Says:

      @Krischan – you’re talking complete bullshit. The only fail around here is yours.

      Yes of course his first question about the birth control could have been related to the headaches but where he went with it afterwards was not. It was demeaning to the patient (the OP) and he was out of order. Not only that but he sounds like a complete idiot when he asks at the end ‘why would you be on birth control then?’

      And specialisation my arse – the fact that the oral contraceptive pill l is used for reasons other than birth control is very basic knowledge that you get taught early on in medical school. You do not need to be an endocrinologist to have this understanding. A GP should damn-well have this knowledge.

      And she did cooperate with her doctor and I really can’t understand why you imply that she did not. Are you seriously saying because she didn’t understand where his line of questioning was going she was being uncooperative. A GOOD doctor can elicit whatever information he requires from his or her patient without behaving like a jerk.

      OP – sorry you had this experience. I hope your current doctor is better.

    • Cee Says:

      Wait–are you actually trying to excuse a DOCTOR for not knowing that birth control pills are *frequently* prescribed for reasons other than contraception? Really? I thought that was common knowledge.

      Why are you taking the OP so personally?

    • restlessbynature Says:

      @Krischan: I apologise for criticising your grammar as I didn’t know you were not a native speaker. That was insulting of me, and wrong. It was a little harsh, I must admit.

      However, I still don’t understand how you can say that a GP not knowing these things is acceptable. They are trained to deal with stressful and difficult situations, and to behave inappropriately in this situation is one of the worst things that a person could do. Someone who knows doctors, as you say, must realise the impact that their words do have on a person and the fact here is that the doctor behaved unprofessionally and could have, if the OP had not been such a strong person, seriously damaged her faith in the medical profession or even caused her to take other comments as seriously and possibly be misdiagnosed in the future.

      As well as this, I’d like to ask why you think that social status is something you would need to know to analyse a problem on headaches. In this case, whether she was married or not is certainly irrelevant, unless her husband is somehow causing her headaches.

      I would like to point out that I did not intend that to be a rant. But the way you put across your comment was also a damaging explanation to the cause. You clearly care about women as you browse this blog, but at the same time did you ever think about how the position of power that doctors are put into could unintentionally push women back into their place as being ‘cooperative’ towards a predominantly male base of doctors?

  7. hopethishelps Says:

    Or the doctor could have advised why they felt these questions were necessary and what information they were attempting to elicit with them. For example:
    Doc: “Are you taking any medication?”
    Patient: “Birth control.”
    Doc: “What brand and is it for contraception or something else?”
    Patient “Brand X and it’s to regulate my periods.”
    Doc: “Birth control use is related to migraines…”
    If the doctor was clearer with their communication there wouldn’t be the confusion here. A doctor clearly has authority in the room, the patient will generally wait for them to lead the conversation…
    Also, in case it helps. I’ve suffered from migraines since I started using birth control, around 9 years ago for contraception purposes & because I had heavy, painful periods. I stopped using it just over a year ago and have barely had even a slight headache since… and my periods aren’t problematic anymore.
    I also work an office job and get very tense neck & shoulders, I see a therapeutic masseuse every few weeks and she works wonders. Totally recommend it. They can recommend ways to improve your posture & to help relax yourself & be aware of your tension during your work day, little tricks you can try at home/work etc.

    • CM Says:

      “Or the doctor could have advised why they felt these questions were necessary and what information they were attempting to elicit with them.”

      He could have, but he didn’t, and instead chose to use blatantly patriachal woman blaming language.

      “A doctor clearly has authority in the room”

      I get really pissed off with this assumption. They have knowledge yes, but they do not have authority over a person’s body. Assumptions about the type of authority that doctors have lead to problems like this, and worse – a woman feeling shamed because they know better about how they feel or what medication they’re on.

      Assumptions about medical “authority” also contribute towards women not being believed when they report sexual assault by doctors. I dare you to google “Birth Rape”

      • Ryah Says:

        I don’t see Hopethishelp’s post as an attack against the OP at all.

        I read Hopethishelp’s post as a response to Krischan’s idiotic post, not as an attack against the OP, as all Hope’s points seem to counter what Krischan was saying. For example, when Krischan berates the OP for not speaking up and declaring right off the bat she was taking BC for the purpose of period regulation, Hope was pointing out that Doctors usually carry the weight of authority in the meeting so patients usually let the Doctor take the lead in the conversation so it was understandable that the OP was following along with the gross line of question and not an egregious error on her part that she didn’t just blurt out, unprompted, what she was taking and why.

        You missed the part where Hopethishelp says, “If the doctor was clearer with their communication there wouldn’t be the confusion here.” Which is how I took Hope’s beginning dialog – that that was how the doctor should have conducted himself rather than belittling the OP with needless condescending advice.

      • hopethishelps Says:

        CM. Read what Ryah said.

  8. Rayna Says:

    Krischam, you sorta vaguely had a point until “The following, slightly unprofessional dialogue could have been averted by your cooperation with your doctor.”

    Fucking bullshit typical blaming the victim crap, oh so many harassments/inappropriate behaviours could have been averted by your cooperation, so it’s your fault. yfyf.

    In Australia, regular doctors are GPs, as in General Practice, who have to have lots of general knowledge, including basic common things like birth control and it’s many uses. One shouldn’t need ‘specialisation’ for that kind of general medical practice. Is it not the same in the US?
    I think getting a general history is common practice, which can include asking about sex life in relation to birth control, regardless of reason for visit. Your point about its potential relevance to headaches is possibly fair, but… classing her as uncooperative? really?

  9. What a Headache Says:

    Hi, submitter here.

    To clarify, I did explain on all my intake forms all medications I was taking and why, etc. This was also about nine years ago, but even at the time I was under the impression it was common knowledge among doctors that hormonal contraceptives could be used for reasons other than contraception. I certainly had not run into any medical professionals up to that point who thought it odd.

    All that aside, what is hard to convey in the written word is the condescension and shock in the tone of the doctor, which was what made me uncomfortable. I’m older and wiser now, and would speak up about things better, but as I was still a uni student at the time I wasn’t quite savvy in the ways of this doctor who I had never seen before. I’m now all grown up at the age of 30, and a professional medical/health care writer, so yes, I know a bit about how medical specialties work.

    To follow up on the end of the story, I have spent the past nine years visiting various doctors (GPs, neuros, etc) about the headache situation, which has proven to be a really annoying tendency toward muscle stress-induced migraines, best alleviated by taking a day off to sleep in a dark room. Sadly, this doesn’t really go well with having a full-time job, but I get by on aspirin and acetaminophen most days.

    And hi, yes, I was a virgin at 21. No, I’m not bothered by that, nor was I then. I have a lovely partner now, and things are great in that area, and none the worse for waiting a couple of years extra. But thanks for the input! 😉

  10. sz Says:

    Unless she was getting headaches because she was having sex, I really see no need to bring her sexual behaviour into it. He just wanted to know, surely.

  11. Sarah Says:

    To the OP, just a quick message to say have you been tested for Irlen Syndrome? That can cause nasty headaches.
    Info. here:

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