Jennie Thompson’s gynecologist prescribed a medication to be taken the night before a diagnostic procedure was to be performed. Unfortunately for Thompson, her physician did not explain the side effects of the medication.

Thompson, a woman in her mid 40’s visited her gynecologist as a result of heavy periods and pain with menstruation. Thompson’s female OB/GYN sent her for a pelvic ultrasound to visualize her internal organs. During the ultrasound a uterine polyp was discovered, therefore, the gynecologist recommended an endometrial biopsy and prescribed cytotec, which Thompson was told would “soften her cervix” and make the procedure easier for the physician. Thompson wasn’t told that the medication can also cause severe cramping and bleeding. After taking the cytotec Thompson awakened in horror to blood stained sheets, and the most severe cramping she had ever experienced. With the pain and cramps too severe to be able to sleep, Thompson spent the rest of the long night online and researched the medication her doctor had prescribed. She was appalled to find out that in many cases cytotec is not recommended as it can cause even more pain for the actual patient during the procedure. Thompson was supposed to take a second dose of the medication before arriving at the gynecologist’s office the next day, but instead cancelled the procedure completely and discarded the unused medication.

Thompson said that she wanted other women and patients in general to be vigilant about taking a new medication and advises patients to always ask the following questions:

Questions to Ask Before you Start a New Medication

1. What is the medication for?
2. What is the medication supposed to do?
3. What are some of the most common side effects? What should I do if I experience side effects?
4. How should it be taken? Time of day, with/without food, how many days should I take it?

What other things should I avoid including
a. certain foods or supplements
b. alcohol caffeine or others?
c. smoking, driving, operating heavy machinery etc?

5. Will the medication affect my ability to sleep?
6. What should I do if I miss a dose?
7. Do you have written material about the medication?
8. Are there any alternatives to starting this medicine?
a. changes in diet or exercise
b. if it’s a medicine that is “optional” then it is important to find out before filling your prescription so that you, as the patient can make an informed choice about taking the medication.
9. What other medications could be used?

Because physicians these days are so often very busy, it is absolutely critical that patients or someone who can be an advocate for a patient make certain that they are educated about a particular drug before starting any new medication. Don’t assume, just because the doctor ordered it, that the medication will work fine for you, or is the best option to use. Asking questions and staying informed will let your doctor know that you want to be involved as an active participant in your care.

Taking a New Medication – After All, it’s your body, so make sure you know and understand what you’re putting into it!