medical sexism- how doctors ignore women's pain

Medical sexism-how doctors ignore women’s pain

I have long talked about the serious problem of medical sexism and how badly woman are treated by doctors as compared to men. Here’s just a few basic statistics as a refresher about medical sexism:

  • Women who complained of abdominal pain in the ER were significantly less likely to get any kind of pain medication and were 15% to 23% less likely than men to get opioids specifically.
  • Women in the ER had to wait longer the men before they got any pain medicine—65 minutes on average, compared with 49 for men.
  • A 2003 study of doctor’s pain management knowledge and attitudes published in found in The Journal of Pain that women were less likely then men to receive “optimal treatment” for post surgical or cancer related pain.
  • In 2011, the Institute of Medicine published a report called “Relieving Pain in America.” It found that not only did women appear to suffer more from pain, but that women’s reports of pain were more likely to be dismissed.
With that said, let’s talk about what it’s like to be one of the above statistics. I’ve shared my story before, in which it took me years and multiple doctors to find someone even willing to consider the fact that I wasn’t faking my pain.  Receiving treatment for my pain has been even more difficult.  I have been denied pain medication more than once for kidney stones (one of the most painful experiences you can have, yes it’s worse than labor). I’ve been told I just need to get used to the pain and stop exaggerating. After I was given that lecture the next time I had a kidney stone I refused to go to the ER because I knew they wouldn’t help me. This endangered my life as unbeknownst to me the kidney stone had gotten stuck and caused a dangerous infection. I was peeing blood but still didn’t go to the ER because I knew they wouldn’t help me (it’s not something I made up, they straight out admitted they wouldn’t help me). Eventually my husband forced me to go and I ended up having surgery that night. My life was put in danger because of medical sexism. 
women experience more pain than men, but they get less treatment for it
 I was also denied pain medication and told I was faking last year after I had my gall bladder removed. According to the doctor surgery wasn’t a “big deal” and I couldn’t be in that much pain. Even when my blood pressure went sky high because I was receiving no treatment for my post surgical pain I was told to “just calm down.” I eventually demanded to be released from the hospital since they weren’t interested in helping me anyway.

Now we’ll get to the heart of medical sexism. Yesterday my husband was offered pain medication (he didn’t ask, it was offered) for a broken toe. When he turned it down the doctor said just to call the office if he changed his mind. Never once have I been openly offered pain medication for any surgery or medical condition I’ve ever had. I always had to ask which means I get labeled as a drug addict. Even with surgery and kidney stones, being treated for pain was never a given.  Apparently if I need pain medication next time I have surgery I should send my husband to urgent care with a sore neck. Yes, I am aware this is illegal, but it should also be illegal to deny women pain medication based on the “hysterical woman” stereotype. Kidney stones and broken toes are not comparable pain, and yet I am the one who is always accused of exaggerating.

Women experience more pain then men, but they actually get less treatment for it.  Maybe instead of becoming hysterical about the “opioid epidemic”, we should be more worried about the epidemic of women being demonized and abandoned by our medical system.

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4 thoughts on “Medical sexism-how doctors ignore women’s pain

  1. At the beginning of the year, I switched doctors – again! I had given up even asking doctors about my leg pain… It’s been 14 years of pain, & swelling, in 1 leg. Male Drs have told me “there’s nothing there”, “it’s nothing to worry about”, & “you’re just fat, Loose weight, & it will go away”.
    They had all seen my right leg normal size, with no limping. They also saw it twice the regular size, and me with a bad limp. Throughout that 14 yrs, I always stayed within 10 lbs if the same weight. Yes, I am overweight. Walking causes my leg to swell. The elliptical makes my leg swell. Driving makes my leg swell. Exercise us not easy when everything makes my leg swell!
    Had I not been deathly ill with pneumonia, sinus infection, & ear infections, I would not have seen an immediate care dr. In Ja yard. They told me to follow up with my family dr. I hadn’t had one for 2 years, because the last male dr told me I was lying to him! I wasn’t telling any lies.
    The new dr was actually a NP. She treated me for the double pneumonia, & scheduled a follow up. At the follow up, she notice my limp, & asked if I had fallen. When I told her this had been going on for 14 years, she was in disbelief. When she heard what previous Drs had told me, she guessed correctly that they were all older, overweight men. She ordered a test, which was negative, then ordered a second test. I have vein disease, with severely twisted veins in my right leg, with Venus reflux, & a mass the size of a small orange where the main swelling occurs. It has gone on for so long that the blood literally pools in one area, causing the pain, & swelling.
    I see the specialist tomorrow, for my 90 day visit. Hopefully, they will get insurance to approve the surgeries ASAP.

  2. My mother in law was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and the docs had her on some medications which helped the pain , somewhat, but left her foggy and uncomfortable. She then began cutting out all gluten in her diet (this took a few months of avoiding all gluten) and she feels 100%

  3. I went in for a kidney stone the size of a pea that took about 6 hours to pass and i was screaming and delirious from pain but one doctor said “who shit in her cornflakes” and rhe other on wanted to COMMIT me to the psyche ward! My husband told thwm I was in pain and they wouldnt believe him either. I refuse to go to that hospital again.

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