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Trauma-Informed Needs to Be the Rule, Not the Exception

Finding the right health care provider feels a lot like dating—trial and error, dealbreakers, and all. But after my recent experience, I’ve realized that trauma-informed care is a non-negotiable. Here’s how to find a provider who truly listens and supports you.

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By Bianca Devoto, MSPH

July 5, 2024

When you’re dating and looking for that special someone, it can often feel like a lot of trial and error. You go on lots of dates (or if you’re lucky, then just a few), and you look for the qualities you’d like in a partner. Maybe you start building a list. Maybe you scratch some names off. But, you definitely come away with some dealbreakers.

For me, this has been the story of finding a good… OBGYN. And, after my last trip to the OBGYN, I realized that trauma-informed care is my new non-negotiable.

For me, this has been the story of finding a good… OBGYN. And, after my last trip to the OBGYN, I realized that trauma-informed care is my new non-negotiable.

Recently, I went to my OBGYN to get an IUD—what would be my third time changing birth control methods in the last year. When I arrived for my appointment, I learned that a different provider (whom I had never met) would be doing the procedure. Upon entering the room, the provider made several judgmental comments before rushing my feet into stirrups. I was desperate for this IUD to work, but I truthfully didn’t want this provider anywhere near my body. I went through with the procedure (which was incredibly painful), and as luck would have it, a month later I started having debilitating cramps. My IUD had moved out of position and had to be removed. I haven’t gone back for a new one.

Going to the OBGYN, or any sexual and reproductive health care provider, is hard. Sexual and reproductive health is personal, and the decisions and procedures that go into it are vulnerable, stigmatized, and (often) downright scary. Finding a provider that makes this care feel safe and comfortable is challenging, especially for those who have experienced trauma. But, it’s what we all deserve! My most recent visit experience isn’t the first time I’ve encountered provider stigma or judgment, but I’m hoping it’s my last. Trauma-informed care is now my rule- not the exception.

I wonder how much better my sexual and reproductive health journey would have been with a provider who listened to my history, who validated my experiences, and who encouraged me to weigh my options and use my voice. So, I’m sharing what I’ve learned, and several helpful tips for finding a trauma-informed sexual and reproductive health care provider:

Ask around among your friends, family members, co-workers, or anyone who may have provider recommendations.

I’ve hit many a group chat with requests for good sexual and reproductive health care providers. If you’re seeing a mental health provider, they may also have a list of providers they could refer you to.

Do your research to find providers in your area.

I’ve scoured my neighborhood Facebook group, Reddit, Google, or my health insurance website. A lot of these search engines and forums are imperfect, but they’re a good start! Look for any providers or groups that are coming up frequently and see what folks are saying about their experiences.

Advocate for yourself from the beginning.

From the first phone call to your provider, make sure you clearly communicate your needs, history, and any other relevant information. This transparency ensures the provider understands your unique needs and will also help you vet a new provider. If you’re not comfortable sharing information with a provider upfront, you can simply ask if they’re trained in trauma-informed care. Setting clear expectations from the start ensures the provider understands your needs, or gives them the opportunity to refer you to another provider better suited for your care.

Switch it up if (and/or when) it feels right.

Once you find a provider, don’t be afraid to find a new one if something isn’t working. I’ve stayed with providers years longer than I should have for the sake of continuous care, rather than honoring my own anxiety or discomfort. Trust your gut! Again, think of it like finding a healthy romantic partner… if it isn’t working, then there are other provider fish in the sea! Your relationship with your provider is an important one!


How can we make sure providers have the tools they need to provide trauma-informed care? How can we make sure young people feel supported by their sexual and reproductive health providers?

Our Thrivology project is addressing just this! Thrivology is an OPA-funded research-to-practice center that focuses on trauma-informed and inclusive approaches for adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Learn more here!

Bianca Devoto, MSPH, is a Senior Manager in the Innovation and Research Department at Healthy Teen Network. Bianca is all about research that makes good sense (that is, research that’s accessible, rooted in folks’ lived experiences, and leads to real social change!). In her free time, Bianca enjoys running, playing softball, competing in trivia nights with friends, and walking her dog Frankie (short for Franklin Delano Roosevelt). Read more about Bianca.