When the American Holistic Medical Association was first organized in 1978, a surprising number of women gynecologists were among its new members. In retrospect, the reasons for this now seem obvious. When that generation of physicians was in medical school or their residencies, 90% of physicians (including those in obstetrics and gynecology) were male and there seemed to be only two tools in their therapeutic toolbox: hormones and surgery.
In order to survive in this milieu, most female gynecologists had to start thinking like their male counterparts. In fact, in the early days a patient who switched to a female gynecologist was often disappointed to find her new doctor practicing pretty much like the male physician she’d just left. Female gynecologists even joined in the effort to bar midwives from delivering babies.
Probably the most visible pioneer behind the change to integrative gynecology has been Christiane Northrup, MD, the board-certified ob-gyn who, along with numerous appearances in prime-time media, authored many bestselling books, among them Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause. She managed to incur the wrath of conventional physicians for her very public belief in many alternative therapies: herbs, homeopathy, Chinese medicine, nutritional supplements, and energy therapies like chakra balancing and Reiki.
The combined work of Dr. Northrup and that of Tori Hudson, ND, a naturopathic gynecologist whose book Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine remains the go-to reference for all integrative practitioners, demonstrated to women in the US that there were a lot more options than hormones and surgery.
Integrative gynecology uses an approach that combines the best of conservatively and cautiously practiced Western medicine with nutritional counseling, exercise, stress-reduction techniques, and as-needed referrals to herbalists, clinical nutritionists, Chinese medicine practitioners, chiropractic physicians, homeopaths, psychologists, and Healing Touch practitioners.
Integrative gynecologists routinely treat women for these conditions:
- Excessive or irregular menstrual bleeding.
- Uterine fibroids.
- Hormone replacement therapies.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
- Sexually Transmitted Infection Screening, treatment, and counseling.
- Urinary incontinence.
They also offer well-woman examinations, including medical-gynecological history, pelvic exam with Pap/HPV cervical swab, breast exam, and other screening tests as needed.