We’ve all had that one doctor, whether its our regular MD or someone we saw for a rush appointment while our own doc was in the Bahamas. Y’know, that doctor that seems to know everything about everything, except they seem to have forgotten all knowledge of beside manner and dismissed any pretense of empathy or kindness.

I’ve recently heard a slew of horror stories from several mom friends and other acquaintances, from having an over-zealous doctor completely mis-diagnose a dark spot as a terminal cranial abnormality at a 12-week ultrasound, to another being incorrectly told by her doctor at 18 weeks that her son had a 99% chance of having Down Syndrome despite a normal nuchal translucency screening and normal blood work, and still others just flat-out being told their pregnancies were not viable for no reason other than not being able to see a heartbeat at very early periods in the pregnancy (i.e. less than 6 weeks). Almost all of these situations resulted in the doctors immediately discussing termination options so as not to “string along” the pregnancies; a decision that is nothing less than heartbreaking and horrific to have to contemplate, particularly when it turns out it wasn’t necessary.

I also had a very negative experience at the beginning of my pregnancy with my son in that I was told my pregnancy was likely not viable despite it being far too early to make such a determination, and despite everything else appearing normal. It seems as though many doctors have forgotten the meaning of cautious optimism, or even ambivalence. I understand the desire to not overly raise hopes and I’m sure there are many legal battles behind this attitude. However, I feel like, “we see a possible issue, but there are many reasons for why that could be and it could simply be because [insert possibilities]” would be far kinder than, “there’s a problem. Your pregnancy is not viable. Let’s discuss all of your termination options.” There is a whole lot of incredibly insensitive and overly-negative jumping-the-gun. For many, like myself, the coarseness and pessimism is completely invalid. Unfortunately for others, sometimes the suspicions turn out to be correct, however there is no need for causing such distress and pain to a possible new mom and her partner.

It’s a very fine line for medical professionals to walk, and I understand that and how difficult it must be to navigate such situations day in and day out. Many doctors handle it beautifully and are wonderful with their patients, but there are a significant portion of them taking a staunchly pessimistic and insensitive approach which I find rather sad and very unprofessional.

Have you dealt with any awful bedside manner or abundant pessimism from a medical professional? How would you suggest doctors handle such sensitive situations?

-Stephanie Ansley

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