Birth control for depression/healthcare privacy
Heather Corinna replies:
My girlfriend is having a rough time emotionally and that is leading to physical pain such as stomach and headaches. She wants to go to a doctor, preferably a gynecologist (in case birth control may regulate her hormones better) but her parents won't like that idea. If she goes will her parents find out through the doctor or insurance report? She's a legal adult so she should be able to take care of this stuff as her right but she still lives with her parents. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
One thing to understand about hormonal birth control is that it's sometimes NOT advised for women dealing with depression, because the particular hormones in birth control can make some kinds of depression worse for some women. Sometimes they may have no impact on depression at all, but it's unreasonable to expect BCPs to make depression better because of the part hormones can play in depression.
Ultimately BCPs and other hormonal methods just aren't appropriate medicines for emotional disturbances or depression/anxiety. There are, however, medications which ARE appropriate for those issues, which her healthcare provider can talk with her about.
Given her having emotional distress, and having stomach and head complaints because of it, I'd suggest she see a more general doctor or a therapist, rather than on OB/GYN, because the visit to the gynecologist just may end up being wasted if she is only going in for these specific complaints. In other words, a GYN will likely just tell her these are issues for a general practitioner, especially if she's wanting to talk about medication to deal with emotional issues.
If, however, she wants to see a gynecologist for birth control because she needs birth control, then she'll want to make that appointment in addition. She may also talk to a general doctor about birth control as well, though, so again, I'd just suggest she start with a GP.
When it comes to her rights to privacy per her medical information, if she handles her own medical care -- uses her own funds or insurance -- there is no reason a doctor or doctor's office would be contacting her parents, and they are not legally permitted to share her information with them without her permission. If, on the other hand, she is on their insurance, and using that to pay her bills, then yes, they will likely find her visit on their insurance statements.
So, to assure her privacy completely, she'd just need to be sure she's paying her own way. She may also always ask her doctor's office to send her statements to a different address if she's not comfortable receiving them at home.