BRYN MAWR, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Having a good relationship with a doctor or clinic is essential for getting the best care. That relationship includes sharing personal details, such as your gender identity or sexual orientation.
It's the time of year to sign up for or renew your health insurance and that gets many people thinking about their primary care provider.
Caitlin Lawrence, LPC, NCC, ACS, a psychotherapist at the Main Line Health's Women's Emotional Wellness Center, says even if you haven't come out to family and friends, tell your doctor.
"When you're under an immense amount of toxic stress over time, it causes massive health issues, you know, heart issues, diabetes, cholesterol," she said. "Your lived experience is vital to us treating you holistically. And we want to know it all."
You doctor can help you manage that stress if he or she understands the cause.
Lawrence says knowing your orientation can help providers better include partners or spouses in case of hospitalizations, or counsel you on necessary care, such as mammograms for transgender men over age 40 and regular mammograms and gynecological care for lesbian women.
Providers can also keep you updated on specific LGBTQ+ health issues.
She recommends asking in advance if a provider practices "inclusive care."
"The onus is on the healthcare system to signal that we're a safe place. And whether that's wearing a rainbow lanyard or a pronoun pin, to have affirming documents that when we're doing intake, we're saying - Hey, tell me your pronouns. Tell me your gender identity," said Lawrence.
To break the ice with your provider, mention it when reviewing your medical history, or when you're asked about sexual activity or contraception.
Or simply say: "Is it safe to tell you something? Or I would like to talk to you about something that's really important and private," said Lawrence.
Providers who are in the know can help dispel myths patients might believe and help patients with health-related LGBTQ+ issues for couples.
Lawrence says she's now seeing 65 or 70 year old patients coming out for the first time, happy they can finally live their true life and get their medical needs properly addressed.
For more information on building a candid relationship with your providers, go to Main Line Health: Coming Out to Your Provider.
And to learn more about Main Line Health's Inclusive Care program, CLICK HERE.