Hysterical Women of the Week: 31 March

A special Mothers’ Day and #EndoMonth roundup

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Hello, and happy Mothers’ Day to anyone who’s celebrating – and love and best wishes to anyone for whom Mothers’ Day is difficult. This week’s Hysterical Women weekend roundup is a little different from normal, because I wanted to use it as an opportunity to look back over this month’s content – both from our #EndoMonth series and from our spotlight on ‘neurotic mothers’.


#EndoMonth

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and we’ve published posts featuring four amazing women who all live with the condition:


Neurotic Mothers’ Day

Also this month, ahead of Mothers’ Day, I wanted to put a spotlight on the idea of the ‘neurotic mother’. These posts – published yesterday and Friday – explore how women’s concerns about their own perinatal or maternal health, and then later their children’s health, are dismissed or minimised by healthcare professionals.


In other news this week…

I kept saying ‘I’m in pain, this isn’t a joke’ – then everyone looked shocked when my daughter popped out

On the theme of ‘neurotic mothers’, Poorna Bell spoke to BAME women about their birth experiences for The i. A 2018 report found that black women in the UK are five times more likely than white women to die as a result of pregnancy or birth complications, while South Asian women are twice as likely to die.

35-year-old mother Tinu Alikor described feeling ignored throughout both pregnancy and child birth:

Honestly – I’d never felt so invisible. I felt like I was having an out of body experience; I was in so much pain, no-one was listening, and I felt I had to somehow concentrate on giving birth. I was screaming for help and… nothing.

32-year-old Manisha felt she was spoken down to because she wears a hijab:

The midwife ignored my concerns and insisted I leave the labour suite and go to the ward upstairs where women who had been induced but were not showing signs of labour and new mums were staying. Not being heard, not being trusted, and treated like a stupid, naïve girl who didn’t know what she was talking about was extremely upsetting.


Are sexual abuse victims being diagnosed with a mental disorder they don’t have?

A piece in The Guardian this week explores psychiatry’s emerging understanding of Complex PTSD, and how survivors of sexual abuse are frequently misdiagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) because C-PTSD is not officially recognised.

This misdiagnosis affects sexual survivors more than anyone else because they commonly display the psychiatric symptoms common to both disorders, such as anxiety, mood swings, depression, emptiness and displaced anger. As a result, “Someone who is dealing with complex trauma will be told that they are having a problem regulating their emotions,” Sarkisova explains.

This means that sexual abuse victims have to wrestle with receiving a BPD diagnosis that is pejorative and stigmatising (they are told their personality is “disordered”; they are called “difficult”; and as the condition can’t be cured, some psychologists avoid treating them.)

“It was sexist,” argues New York-based Katherine Porterfield, a child psychologist at New York University’s Medical School. “Yes, this was happening to women because they are more likely to be abused, but it was also because our field was dominated by men, and the men were seeing these women as ‘difficult’.”

“It’s powerfully and deeply ironic to me that women who experience profound trauma [ie sexual abuse] are pathologised as having a personality disorder,” explains Torontonian freelance journalist, artist and resilience coach Lisa Walter, 50, a sexual abuse victim who says she has been misdiagnosed with BPD. “I think it makes it easier for the world to flush us down the toilet.”


Why has it taken so long to wake up to the danger implants that caused 1,000 deaths?

Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, writes for The Daily Mail:

I’ve heard of women who’ve had the Essure contraceptive device — which is placed in the fallopian tubes, where it stays and helps form scar tissue as a form of sterilisation — who’ve needed hysterectomies because of what the device has done to them.

And as the Mail has highlighted, some women given vaginal mesh to treat incontinence have been left crippled by pain, needing a number of operations to remove fragments of the mesh that had splintered into their tissues.

Often the damage can’t be undone simply by removing the device. The patient may need another operation, and in some cases these faulty devices have led to deaths.

New regulations were put in place in April last year, which should put more burden on manufacturers to provide more technical data, among other things. There will be a three-year transition period before this is enforced. But I think the language used is so vague it will have little impact. I would like to see a national registry that keeps lifelong data about patients with implants. That way we can identify patterns and safeguard patients.

It is also time that we have safeguards with the MHRA — so that an outside agency decides when an investigation into a device is warranted. At the moment the MHRA in effect decides when to investigate its own decisions.

I would also like to see more people — and it is mainly women who’ve been affected by these devices — who are suffering terribly as a result of harm brought by a device, to have a full apology.


Why the sexes don’t feel pain the same way

An interesting article in Nature, exploring sex and gender differences when it comes to pain.


And finally…

Some good news – Tampon tax fund to support women with mental health problems:

Thousands of women living with mental health problems across England are to receive help from a new project backed by the Government’s Tampon Tax Fund.

The Tampon Tax Fund allocates money generated from the VAT on sanitary products to projects to improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls. It is open to charitable, benevolent and philanthropic organisations from across the United Kingdom.

Through the £1.8m initiative, which is called Women Side by Side, it is hoped the women will be able to find community-based peer support set up through around 70 projects.

The initiative is being spearheaded by mental health charity Mind and Agenda, an alliance which campaigns for women and girls at risk and last year received a share of the £15m Tampon Tax Fund from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The projects will try to tackle mental health problems, homelessnessdrug and alcohol misuse, abuse and violence, family breakdown, offending or a combination of these through the “pioneering peer support initiative”.

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