Relax, This Won't Hurt: Painless Answers to Women's Most Pressing Health Questions

by Judith Reichman, M.D.

Published by William Morrow

288 pages, 2000

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Health Without Pain

Reviewed by Beth Dora Reisberg


Relax, This Won't Hurt is a thorough, helpful and readable guide to women's health for all ages. In accessible language, Dr. Judith Reichman addresses a wide range of health issues from hormonal concerns to diet and genetic history. A practicing gynecologist in Los Angeles and the medical correspondent for the NBC-TV's Today show, Reichman answers our most pressing questions frankly and compassionately.

Each chapter covers a decade. From "Your Teens" to "Your Seventies," Reichman responds in friendly, "girlfriend" language to those questions women may be too shy or too rushed to ask their own doctor. A "Top 10 List for Staying Healthy" concludes each chapter, summarizing and reinforcing the daily habits necessary to maintain health. Reichman thoroughly addresses many important questions. What is the ideal birth control? What tests are needed at certain points in a woman's life? What can be done for menopausal symptoms? Who is at risk for breast cancer? When should estrogen be taken? Even though she repeats some information while answering related questions, Reichman never lets the medical details come across as repetitive or boring. Reichman is down-to-earth and often humorous in her answers.

Addressing the "right" time to start having sex in the Teens chapter, she writes:

If you're my daughter, the answer is, "Either at age thirty or after you've finished graduate school, whichever comes later..." But to answer this seriously, I have to separate your body's physical preparedness for sex from your psychological readiness for it. You won't start feeling a real desire (not to be confused with the longings you're told to feel by movies, books and your friends) until your adrenal glands start to produce male hormones. This is the adrenarche that causes you to develop acne, body hair and body odor -- not exactly changes we associate with being sexy.

Reichman is also the author of I'm Too Young to Get Old: Health Care for Women After Forty, (1997) and I'm Not in the Mood: What Every Woman Should Know About Improving Her Libido (1998), both frank and friendly books on specific aspects of women's health.

Reichman is authoritative yet she doesn't claim that medicine has all of the answers, nor does she neglect to mention alternative approaches that exist for treatment. She always clearly states when her advice treats the symptoms and is not a cure. She spends five pages addressing in a fair and honest manner the ways a woman can go through menopause "naturally." She writes:

Two-thirds of women end up using some form of complementary medicine for menopausal complaints.... My feeling is that a woman shouldn't have to leave my office unsatisfied. If you're properly informed about estrogen and decide not to take it, it's my responsibility to help you get relief from your symptoms and feel better.

Reading her book is like having a private consultation with a caring doctor who knows the wonders and limitations of medicine. Relax, This Won't Hurt leaves you with the feeling that you are empowered with the information needed to take charge of your health. | March 2000


Writer and editor Beth Dora Reisberg writes book reviews and interviews of thinkers and writers on the leading edge. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.