Wellness

Finding a Functional Gynecologist Near You

Written by: Denise John, PhD

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Published on: December 7, 2023

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While searching for answers for her patients’ chronic pelvic pain, board-certified ob-gyn Suzanne Fenske, MD, turned to integrative and functional medicine. “These women were having multiple surgeries to manage their pain, and I felt that we were missing something,” she says. “There had to be an alternative.” After extensive integrative and functional medicine training, Fenske began using new methods for managing her patients’ pain, among other conditions, and for addressing the symptoms (e.g., sleep abnormalities, mood changes, depression, and limited mobility) that often came along with it.

Fenske says that, together, integrative and functional medical techniques create a comprehensive method for treating gynecological conditions: Integrative medicine focuses on treatment protocols and approaching an illness or a disease systematically, and functional medicine focuses on the reason for (or the root cause of) the disease. “The approach is broader,” she says, “utilizing not just medicine and surgery but lifestyle interventions, supplements, and botanicals—judiciously—as well as nutritional approaches and alternative mind-body modalities.

She says that women experiencing perimenopause, menopause, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hormone abnormalities, and pelvic pain can especially benefit from working with a functional ob-gyn, but it’s important for prevention, too. “Even the woman who’s just coming for her annual examination—her yearly checkup—benefits,” says Fenske. “She’s taking that time to comprehensively approach her life so that she ages well and prevents diseases in the future.” Here are a few things you can expect during a visit.

More time. “The typical visit that we see in traditional medicine is about 15 minutes,” says Fenske. “Usually when you see an integrated or functional doctor, you’re looking at more like an hour—anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, generally speaking.”

An extensive medical history exam. Fenske says that the questions asked about your medical history go beyond adulthood. “They will go as far back as the baby stage of life, childhood, and adolescence,” she says. “And they’re going to dive into your nutrition, movement routine, sleep, stress management skills, and more.”

A comprehensive treatment approach. According to Fenske, a functional ob-gyn doesn’t treat just the symptoms of irregular periods: “[They] get down to the cause of why there’s the hormonal balance, chronic pain, or abnormality in the cycles—more of a root-cause analysis.” This includes extensive testing, like additional urine or saliva tests, gut microbiome testing, and more in-depth blood work analysis with nutritional measurements—vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc. And when it comes time to treat your condition, Fenske says, “you have more options for how you choose or want to approach your medical condition.” Whether it’s the medication you take (or don’t) or the surgery you decline (or have), there’s added collaboration with your doctor on how to move forward with your treatment plan.

If you’re looking for an integrative and functional ob-gyn, IFM (The Institute for Functional Medicine) and AWCIM (Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine) are good sources to find one near you. Note: There’s no specific certification required in order to call oneself a functional gynecologist (gynecologists, of course, go through years of medical training to earn that title). “You do want to make sure that they have done the additional coursework, whether that’s from an integrative medicine fellowship or a functional medicine fellowship,” says Fenske.

INTEGRATIVE AND FUNCTIONAL OB-GYNS

California

Prudence Hall, MD
Location: Santa Monica
Find her at: The Hall Center
Prudence Hall, MD, is the founder of the Hall Center and doesn’t believe in normalizing symptoms like fatigue, depression and anxiety, weight gain, hair loss, acne, or PMS. She works to help her clients achieve optimal well-being using regenerative methods, including bioidentical hormone replacement.

New York

Suzanne Fenske, MD
Location: New York
Find her at: TārāMD
A double board-certified gynecologist and integrative medicine physician, Suzanne Fenske, MD, FACOG, ABOIM, NCMP, uses an integrative approach to optimize women’s health through perimenopause and menopause and to treat hormone imbalances, endometriosis, pelvic pain, and PCOS. She’s also the founder of TārāMD—an innovative gynecology practice that uses functional medicine to support women’s health beyond fertility.

 


 

This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.