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Aibu to ask you to tell me your experiences of being dismissed by medics as a sick woman? I promise to listen

(581 Posts)
Graphista Mon 22-Oct-18 19:29:39


I was thinking of maybe posting this in FWR, or health - but I've chosen to post it here because I think it's important and it affects ALL women not just those of us with a particular interest in FWR or healthcare.

It affects us, our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces... ALL of us and I think it's a scandal it's not major news.

I've posted before about research I was shocked to read which said that women take 3-4 times LONGER to get a dx (including for non-specifically women's illness) than it takes for a man.

Due to discussion on another thread where @Helenadove kindly posted a link, I ended up doing some more reading - and I've barely touched the sides I fear!!

I really strongly feel this is an important issue that's being ignored.

"Unconscious and conscious bias work together, to ensure that women's health complaints are minimised, ignored, trivialised and belittled. Female patients are told they're hysterical, hypochondriac, anxious or paranoid - that it is all in their head" - X 1000 if you have a mh dx!!

They even coin a term for it "healthcare gaslighting".

Venus Williams pnd pre-eclampsia and burst c section, blood clot

"As is so often the case for women experiencing pain, both the nurse and doctor dismissed her claims"

Such attitudes are KILLING us:

Coroner: "Gross failure to provide basic medical care"

I'm allergic to the same medication.

"women are more likely to be given sedatives as treatment, instead of pain-relieving drugs"

And apparently it's the one time being good looking works against you:

"doctors subconsciously assume people who look ‘better’ on the outside, are healthier and subsequently require less treatment."


I've had ovarian torsion too. Incredibly painful, worse than endo or labour and frightening because one second you're fine then next in a heap in agony! I was lucky, as I'd that already previously had an ectopic pregnancy (also less painful but I was worried it was happening again) and dx of the endo and surgery for same, the medics straight away assumed a gynae issue. But I know from 2 friends who've had the same that it could have been very different. One was assumed initially to have appendicitis, the other like the lady in the article kidney stones. Thankfully in time these diagnoses were found to be wrong but not in the general course of things but in one case by a neighbouring patient suggesting it, and the other the ct scan person suggested it - before doing the scan!

Sonething I know a LOT of mners have experienced and a relative of mine too - again several YEARS of appointments and telling several Drs of the symptoms. That's UNACCEPTABLE.

So I would love to know your experience of being dismissed by hcps as "exaggerating" "hysterical" "anxious" rather than having your symptoms investigated, tests done and referrals made.

I'd also like to ask WHY don't Drs LISTEN to patients?! Especially women?! (And in my experience the female Drs can be as bad as the men!)

Graphista Mon 22-Oct-18 19:30:40

Links are clicky on app but not on site no idea why sorry.

AbsentmindedWoman Mon 22-Oct-18 19:36:32

I feel strongly about this too.

I'm sick to the back teeth of muddling along with a raft of different symptoms and gps being generally nice but at the same time dismissive. Others, less nice and more passive aggressive and impatient.

I am tired of being chronically ill.

Graphista Mon 22-Oct-18 19:38:28

I'm so very sorry to hear that. But not at all surprised.

What are your symptoms? What has been checked so far?

OhBuggerandArse Mon 22-Oct-18 19:43:22

Oh, I had a perfect example of that when I had really painful thrush in both breasts when trying to establish breastfeeding. Doctor looked at me with head on one side and said 'oh, yes, it's such a difficult stressful tiring time, isn't it. Is there anyone who can take the baby out for a walk in the pram?' and then refused to prescribe any medication.

I went back to another doctor, got a prescription, and managed to breastfeed successfully. But I still remember the utter frustration, and the sense of powerlessness - it was infuriating and upsetting, and absolutely the last thing I needed at the time.

gendercritter Mon 22-Oct-18 19:44:39

It took me 13 years to get one diagnosis. I was treated very badly. Lots of eye rolling and huffing from doctors. One sexual assault. I'm afraid I'm not going to detail everything here but I was treated terribly. I was a child.

With another (M.E) - well where do I start? Have a watch of Voices from the Shadows free online or Unrest on Netflix. I could write a full length book on how poorly M.E patients are treated. Lynn Gilderdale's story is worth googling, as is Sophia Mirza's.

I know of several girls who were diagnosed with cancer after months of being fobbed off and told they were attention seeking.

It is a very serious problem in the medical profession. Chronic health problems are treated as hysterical in many cases

HelenaDove Mon 22-Oct-18 19:46:00

Ive had an overactive bladder since my early 20s (im now 45)

i was told it was normal.

OpalIridescence Mon 22-Oct-18 19:46:54

I went to doctors after having a section where I had a massive bleed. I was terrified because along with a BP crash I had listened to them talk over me about growths they had found.

After the drama of the crash was over I insisted they tell me about the growths. Turned out to be four fibroids.

When I told the doctor (I went because I was having heavy bleeding) they gave me a take to the library for a book about health anxiety!

Totally dismissed, I knew I had fibroids because a surgeon had been looking straight at them, I can't imagine trying to get treatment if they were just a suspicion.

My sister has endometriosis, anyone who has tried for a dx with this will know the struggle.

TheOud Mon 22-Oct-18 19:47:16

I agree totally. I’ve felt exhausted and had a big list of seemingly unrelated symptoms since childhood. It was when DD aged 30 was asked by a rheumatologist if there was any history of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome in the family, that I finally got diagnosed aged 56. It’s clesrly what my late DM, my aunt and my DGM had. Granted there wasn’t much, if any awareness of this condition until the last few decades but I was written off with fibromyalgia for years. DD was also sent away time after time before someone took her mucusy, bloody diahorrea seriously enough to get further tests done and diagnose her 5 years on, with ulcerative colitis. She was at uni and moving around a lot but even so blood and mucus in poo and severe pain and weight loss should have been treated seriously. She was diagnosed with IBS, stress etc for years. I’ve also had a serious bladder condition missed so that in all the time they were banging on about interstitial cystitis and menopausal issues, the condition has become chronic and very hard to treat. After getting nowhere fast in the NHS for the last 4 years I’m paying to see an expert privately because it’s ruining my life. I can’t help but feel if it were a bloke with the same symptoms he would haven’t have been fobbed off with hormone issues and told there was nothing much else they could do.

Familyfeud22 Mon 22-Oct-18 19:48:56

A good few years ago I had awful chest pain and a productive cough, so I suspected a chest infection. Went to the walk In drs who wouldn't even listen to my chest, said because my oxygen saturations were 100%, there's no way I'd have a chest infection despite my symptoms and diagnosed anxiety!!
Luckily I was a student nurse at the time and had one of the drs at the hospital listen to my chest - was definitely a chest infection!

HelenaDove Mon 22-Oct-18 19:49:58

I lost 10 stone 16 years ago.. I got gallstones and it got so bad i couldnt eat SOLID food. i went through months and months of excrutiating pain and A + E admission. In and out of A + E for TEN MONTHS. then doctors coming to my home to give me morphine injections whenever i had an attack . Finally a doctor prescribed me morphine pills which melted under the tongue that i took every time i had an attack. First attack was 3 July 2002 Scan was on 19 Dec 2002 after months of A + E admissions . Early Feb 2003 i got a letter telling me id have to wait for ANOTHER YEAR. I cried my eyes out and actually considered suicide. It was only after a private consultation with a surgeon and then another admission to hospital and an NHS appointment with the same surgeon that my op was promised within 6 weeks It was done 5 weeks later on 28 April lost 8 stone by the time i had my op. The surgeon and two doctors told me it was caused by losing weight too fast. (slimming world) The pain was excrutiating and the first attack appeared after id lost nearly 4 stone. Back then i had no idea fast weight loss could cause gallstones I was losing a stone a month and whenever i did try to slow it down i either stayed the same or gained.

I actually did seriously consider suicide especially after i got the letter telling me id have to wait ANOTHER YEAR. I thought it was beyond cruel especially when id lost the weight by myself with willpower.

i believe due to mixing tramadol with as many over the counter drugs as i could in the early months to stop the pain i have been left with long term issues and its also left a bitter taste in the mouth TBH. Im grateful for the NHS but i was in so much pain i was thinking of overdosing (which i was bloody close to anyway) i also think the fact i won Class Slimmer of the Year and started to appear in our local papers may have been a factor in me getting the op sooner than that awful letter said but i shall never know.

Bearfrills Mon 22-Oct-18 19:51:30

When I had my youngest DC I was in a lot of pain and was dismissed by medical staff with "you've had a section, of course you're in pain". When I tried to tell them it wasn't my first section and it was more pain than I'd had the previous times I was told it was afterpains. When I started shivering, couldn't get warm despite wearing several layers + a dressing gown + two blankets, and couldnt even drink because the thought of liquid being in mouth repulsed me I was told it was my milk coming in, it can make you feel flu-like. When this progressed to non-stop vomiting of green and brown bile "you've caught a stomach bug from your DC" even though none of my DC were ill. When I said could it be an infection I was told no because my wound wasn't red or leaking and I didn't have a fever. By midnight when I was confused, having muscle spasms, severe abdominal pain bad enough to have me sobbing and writhing around the bed, and still having all of the other symptoms DH decided enough was enough, he said the moment that swayed him was when I suddenly turned lucid, very calmly told him that I was dying, and told him where to find my life insurance documents. They listened to him despite fobbing me off all day long and it turned out I had sepsis, if I'd taken the advice they gave me when I was at the vomiting bile stage of "go to bed and sleep it off" I'd have died.

It doesn't just apply directly to women either, it also applies indirectly. DS has ASD and when I first raised concerns about his development the GP turned it around on me and tried to make out that I wasn't coping so was looking for excuses/attention/validation via DS.

AbsentmindedWoman Mon 22-Oct-18 19:51:55

I'm exhausted and feeling a bit down today, so don't want to drone on about all my issues - but a stand out one that really upset me is related to gynae stuff.

I have adenomyosis, but symptoms are getting worse - I suspect endometriosis with bowel adhesions. I've been discharged from gynae services and asked for a second opinion on account of symptoms getting worse.

GP told me endometriosis is normal for women hmm and said he could only consider referring me again if I agreed to a rectal exam. Now, I fully appreciate that they need to do exams - I get that. But it was the way he said it - he was using the threat of the exam as a tool to make me go away.

TedAndLola Mon 22-Oct-18 19:52:33

I bled (menstrual) for five weeks solid, soaking through a super tampon AND pad within an hour. Every hour. I couldn't stand up without being out of breath.

A few weeks in I went to the doctor. He asked about contraception, I said I had an implant, he said "Ah yes, that'll do it. I'll give you a prescription for iron" and looked at me, expecting me to leave. I asked what to do if the bleeding carried on. Him: "Well, you can come back in a few weeks if you like, but the iron should make you feel better."

After another week I went to another doctor and started crying when explaining how shit I felt (I'm not a crier). She didn't comfort me. She said I'd been offered the wrong dose of iron, gave me another prescription, and sent me on my way.

It stopped as suddenly as it started, but I felt completely dismissed. Can you imagine anybody going to the doctor with a wound bleeding that much and not being taken seriously? But because it's "just a period" we have to get on with it...

SilverHairedCat Mon 22-Oct-18 19:52:34

Yup. I had to take a calendar print out with bright pink highlighter marking on it to show the number of days I had migraine on it to visually illustrate the number of migraines I was having to get someone to take me seriously. He said "bloody hell, there's basically no days on there where you're pain free!" and I said "yes, I've been saying this for months, but no one will listen".

I hadn't see him before, but he had the good grace to look a bit embarrassed, probably by his colleagues.

It was 3 more appointments and me sobbing on yet another Dr before I got an MRI and a neurology referral. I've been having chronic migraine for over 20 years now.

LittleCandle Mon 22-Oct-18 19:56:25

I have thyroid issues and my symptoms are ignored. The endo this year didn't listen to a word I said and told me it is all due to the menopause. I am at that stage, but oddly my 'menopause' symptoms all disappeared when I upped my thyroid drugs. I never feel all that brilliant, but I am not actually ill.

I am due for my yearly medical review and I am going to take a list in and make the poor nurse listen to me. I don't care if they want to drop my thyroid dosage because my levels are 'all right' because my symptoms say otherwise. I have decided that since they know nothing about thyroid problems, I will buy my drugs on the internet if need be, simply so that I can keep functioning. I have had 22 years of feeling a bit shit and utterly exhausted each and every day and I am done being cheerful about it all.

Enterthewolves Mon 22-Oct-18 19:56:52

I was told I had asthma at 39, eye rolled at when I said on a previous visit the GP (female) had said if the cough hadn’t cleared up I needed an X-ray and was fobbbed off with paracetamol. 4 days later was admitted to hospital for a week with bi-lateral pneumonia and blood oxygen so low they couldn’t believe I was conscious.

AbsentmindedWoman Mon 22-Oct-18 19:57:40

Thank you for starting this thread, OP.

Sometimes I despair that I'm just ineffectual in this context, or that it's otherwise my fault somehow.

Cornettoninja Mon 22-Oct-18 19:58:30

I actively avoid the GP to my detriment now. I’m sick of being patronised and dismissed. I have constant back pain and have done for five years (it’s on of those things), dizziness and instability for three years (tried antihistamines which made it worse and was told that was all available), psoriasis (steroid creams made no difference Live with it). Heavy painful periods are just part of life apparently. I know more can be investigated.

On and on... tbh I’m too bloody tired to fight my corner any more. Add in the difficulty getting appointments And one problem per appointment where do you bloody start.

SilverHairedCat Mon 22-Oct-18 19:58:47

Ah yes, then there's my mother who is regularly dismissed because is now in her 60s so is of course invisible.

She is a retired nursing Sister so isn't daft and is fairly clued up on medical stuff. She has osteoporosis. She has been left with a pair of broken ankles misdiagnosed as gout for 6 weeks - that was fun....

And the worst was a broken femur misdiagnosed as her hip playing up. That ended up being pinned.

She recently broke her foot turning around in the kitchen. She's broken that twice standing up getting out of bed or off the sofa.

She's fobbed off all the time even though her medical notes are very clear on her medical and familial history (all of her female relatives are the same - I'm praying I take after my Dad!).

AgathaRaisinsCat Mon 22-Oct-18 19:59:53

Certainly not as bad as most examples but this happened today and I'm cross.

Phoned my GP this morning with a chronic cough (5-6 weeks) and they asked me to go in. When I got there the paramedic on duty (didn't know that they had these at GPs but you learn something new) took one look at me and weighed me, measured me and had a go about weight. I know that I have a problem and I wouldn't have minded if he'd even vaguely addressed the reason that I'd asked for the appointment but he didn't until I pushed for it at the end of the appointment. Then he just told me that it was a cough and would probably clear up on its own at some point.

Why would I want to go to the GP again if they won't even listen to the reason for the visit but make it about weight?

AnnDerry Mon 22-Oct-18 20:00:13

Very short version:
I was told by the GP I had a stomach bug.
3 days later I was unable to keep water down and was hallucinating from pain and dehydration.
Eventually I was seen by the out of hours GP.
When I was admitted to hospital with a severe kidney infection I was so ill that I had to have a glucose and saline drop, and IV antibiotics and needed 3 different types of antibiotic before I was well enough to be released.

All this is in spite of the fact that I have a history of kidney problems, had been hospitalised twice before for kidney infections, and told the GP on the very contact that my symptoms were following the usual pattern of kidney infections and that the D&V were incidental to the appalling kidney pain. The GP read my records and then told me I was being unnecessarily anxious.

HelenaDove Mon 22-Oct-18 20:00:49

Thread from earlier this year.

Bearfrills Mon 22-Oct-18 20:03:20

I had HG when pregnant with my youngest and went to the GP to try get some help. I explained that the sickness was beyond anything I could cope with, that it was constant, that it had triggers I wouldn't have expected like noise, who knew noise could make you sick? She told me that after so many pregnancies I should know what the expect (six pregnancies, four DC) and that morning sickness is normal, sign of a healthy pregnancy, get some rest, it'll pass, blah blah blah and absolutely refused to listen when I told her that I know what to expect in terms of morning sickness and that this sickness was not normal morning sickness. Three days later ended up at EPAU who diagnosed HG and gave me a prescription for antiemetics. When the prescription needed to be renewed the GP refused to prescribe them because "it's just morning sickness" and told me I needed to learn to cope better.

Same surgery, different GP. I went in with symptoms of a UTI. Back pain, feeling a bit hot/sweaty, frequent trips for a wee but only small amounts at a time. They dipped my wee and it tested positive for blood even though it was a normal colour so I got lots of questions about was I on my period (no), was I sure (of course), well did it end in the last few days (no), have I had any spotting (no), have I recently had sex because that can cause mild spotting (FFS). Absolutely refused to believe it wasn't vaginal blood, said I didn't have an infection, back pain was probably age (36!) and raised temperature was due to it being a warm day. A few hours later and my lower back is throbbing, I'm sweating buckets, and peeing bright red pee that feels like it's laced with glass. Off to OOH and yup, it's a UTI.

ThereWillBeAdequateFood Mon 22-Oct-18 20:04:58

I’m lucky with my health but you are banks on the money op.

My mum had hideous endometriosis and heavy periods. It took well over a decade to get any decent treatment.

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