Many people, including myself, have been dismissed or misdiagnosed by doctors surrounding “women’s pains”, and most prominently with period-related pains.
My experience has been with many years of underestimation and dismissal of my endometriosis since I first starting have periods at 11 years old. I was constantly told different things, given different diagnosis’, and had many other people sadly tell me that they related to my situation. The time between first seeing a doctor about my symptoms to the eventual diagnosis of my condition lasted 7 years, many months of missed classes and a laparoscopic operation before getting a solid diagnosis from the surgeons. The worst thing about this whole ordeal was not knowing what was happening to me- doctors would never give me a solid explanation of what I was experiencing, how to cure or ease it, and the huge variety of symptoms themselves.
Having endometriosis is a very dangerous condition as it is so hard to diagnose and massively under-spoken about; many people live with it and have no idea. For me, I experienced immense pain that rendered me unable to walk or do basic day-to-day activities for three weeks of every month, deep depression, heightened anxiety, every-day nausea, headaches, painful and irritated bowels, and many other short-termed symptoms like aching limbs, fatigue and fevers. Living like this for 7 years has made me extremely passionate about creating awareness about this condition and others like it- such as the very similar condition adenomyosis. In fact, during the De Montfort Women’s Health Week in March, I have helped with the Student Union’s Welfare Executive Katie Hobbs in organising an endometriosis awareness programme, so keep an eye out for leaflets and yellow awareness ribbons!
In my opinion, I think it is unacceptable that doctors dismiss period-related pains so easily and claim that “some women just experience painful periods” and that it’s normal. I understand that sometimes pains are hard to diagnose, but doctors should never dismiss women’s pains as it may be related to something more serious. Gynaecologists are better with diagnosis, but I have found that hospital waiting lists are extremely long in this country and it is extremely hard to cope with pain on this level.
My advice to anyone who can relate to me and my awful and long experience of dealing with doctors and uncertainty would be to pester your doctors- do not be passive and accept doctors dismissing your worries. If you feel that your symptoms and pains are not normal, do everything you can to alert your doctors promptly and get help. Always put your health before being polite. For me, I found that by drawing doctors’ attention to how many times you have visited your GP surgery for similar symptoms that have not gotten better is useful in forcing them to take you seriously. Of course, doctors can always suggest medication to ease pain and regulate periods- and this may help in the short term, but I would still suggest that you try to get a clear diagnosis to help in later life, especially if things get worse.