Opting Out: Parents Fed Up with Conventional Medicine and "The Look"
Parents today are faced with many challenges and obstacles in their quest to raise happy and healthy children. We get conflicting messages all the time about the “right way” to parent. The most recent study seems to contradict the previous study. Where should your baby sleep? What should your baby eat? What to do if your baby is a picky eater? Can you hold your baby too much? Everywhere you turn you get conflicting data. Vaccine safety is another hot topic loaded with controversy. An increasing number of parents see their children (and others) suffering from chronic illnesses, even though the “why of it” is unclear, and they are justly concerned for their child’s health and safety. This has led many parents to be concerned about the ‘conventional’ medical care their child is receiving. More and more parents are doing their own research on how to raise a healthy child and often find answers lie in direct conflict with current 'conventional' wisdom. Many are deciding to opt out of health care procedures like vaccinations, despite the recommendations from their pediatrician and it's stirring up a lot of emotions and frustrations in parents and doctors. Pediatricians give parents "the look", you know the one that says, "Are we really going to have this conversation again?" I'm hearing from parents all the time that they're fed up with it because they don't feel like they can engage in a conversation about their healthcare decisions without feeling judged. Some can't even count the number of times they've seen "the look". Others are proud they've gotten it and opted out of the current medical system altogether just to avoid the confrontations that go with every doctor visit. Instead they only use 'conventional' medicine for emergency situations. Some parents, me included, are seeking a different healthcare model for their child because they want the best of all medicines - both 'conventional' and alternative or whatever you want to call it (shouldn't medicine just be medicine and not conventional or alternative or complimentary?). Many of these same parents are making choices that are outside the norm for their children regarding nutrition, supplementation, complementary therapies, alternative therapies or vaccinations and feel like they are swimming upstream and they’re not alone—many parents are fed up with the status quo and are tired of battling. Before I continue I want to be clear: this post is not about blasting medical doctors, because there are a lot of really great doctors out there treating kids. The question is what do you do when ‘conventional’ medicine is inadequate or not working for your child? What are your other healthcare options?
I know I’m biased when it comes to this topic. I am a pediatric acupuncturist and the majority of my patients have parents frustrated with their child's doctor or the medical system in general. In some cases they’ve come to me as a last resort because nothing else has helped their child. Others come because they want natural treatments, avoiding medications unless they are absolutely necessary. Some feel guilty that their child isn’t healthy despite doing everything their doctor told them to do (see my post on Mommy Guilt). Some children have been denied medical care because their parents chose not to vaccinate them at the prescribed times! What I’m seeing in my practice is an increasing number of parents dissatisfied with the limitations of our current medical model and looking for more effective solutions. Why are they so exasperated? Here’s what I’m hearing from my patients about their pediatricians:
- The pediatrician adds little additional advice for common problems unless the problem has become critical.
- Most medical interventions are band-aids that treat the symptoms but fail to address the root problem.
- If the parents disagree with the doctor, the pediatrician reacts somewhere on a scale between annoyance to down-right bullying (and maybe everything in between).
- They feel like their doctor has written them off if medical treatments don’t solve their child’s problem.
- They have been told by their doctor that they will no longer provide medical care to their children unless they vaccinate.
- The parents are afraid to share alternative remedies their child is using/taking because they fear the doctor will disapprove.
- If they do share the remedies they are using, their doctor dismisses them, or “poo poos” them, or gives them “the look”.
I understand where these parents are coming from because I’ve been there myself. When my first-born son was 3 months old he started to get eczema. I was assured by his pediatrician that his worsening eczema had nothing to do with the vaccination shots (how he could have been so sure either way I don’t know). By the time he was 9 months old it spread to his limbs, bottom and back so we were referred to a dermatologist and an allergists. The advice we were given was to put chlorine bleach in his nightly bath (no lie!) and rub Elidel cream (a possible carcinogen!) on the widespread areas with eczema. We were also told by the allergists that foods could not have been triggering the problem either. After months of working with the medical doctors we were no closer to curing his eczema, so my husband and I turned to alternative therapies. I also began my first post-graduate training in pediatric acupuncture. With dietary changes (eliminating eggs, gluten & dairy), herbal medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture we saw tremendous improvement in my son’s skin. When I shared all this with my pediatrician did he jump for joy (ok, maybe that’s a bit too much to expect)? Did he want to know what I did so he could help other patients? Nope. He told me I was wasting my money on herbs and homeopathy! Needless to say he did not remain our pediatrician for long. If you have a story like mine or are a parent that wants to use natural solutions and home remedies that work with their child’s body and promote healing it’s unlikely you’ll find it at the pediatrician’s office. Pediatricians often have very little training in nutrition and no training in herbal medicine. They won’t know which herbs are safe for children or which herbs may have interactions with medicines, so most will say "no" to all herbs, even those that are safe and beneficial. Giving dietary advice to meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is very different from nourishing a child. With the current trend in America’s eating habits a child may be well fed but malnourished, leading to a wide variety of health concerns. Rarely will a pediatrician, or any other doctor, make the connection that food may trigger symptoms unless you’re seeing a holistic physician who practices integrated medicine. In my experience food sensitivities that contribute to common conditions like asthma, eczema, allergies and ADD/ADHD have skyrocketed yet are often overlooked by pediatricians. Parents will find very little support at the doctor’s office in discovering food triggers beyond a few lab tests that have high false negative results. This is disheartening for both the parents and the doctor, especially when the child is suffering. In the process of writing this article I spoke with hundreds of different parents, mostly moms, who struggled with these issues. I started digging on the internet and no one is writing about how to help families who are denied medical care when they chose to alter or abstain from vaccines. Are there so few of us that we're not worthy of notice or is it just that no one wants to talk about it? The trends I'm seeing leave many unanswered questions. Where can you turn when medicine is not enough? How can you opt out of a system that's not working for you child and create a more ideal healthcare team? How can you incorporate the best of all medicines? How much medical care does your baby or child need if you're not going in for vaccinations or altering the vaccine schedule? Stay tuned.... that is subject of next post Opting Out Part 2 (to be posted Monday, March 25th).
Are You Frustrated with Your Pediatrician? Been Denied Medical Care Because you Chose not to Vaccinate? Have you Opted Out? Or Are You Happy with Your Medical Care & Love Your Pediatrician? Leave A Comment Below...
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