Hysterical Women of the Week: 6 October

This weekend’s Hysterical Women roundup

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The heart attack gender gap was the big story in women’s health this week, and I wrote a couple of pieces exploring the issues in more depth – firstly, for The i:

‘Doctors dismissed my heart problems as a panic attack – yet I couldn’t walk 50 yards’

I spoke to 50-year-old Lorraine Kinzel, who was just 44 years old when she had a heart attack. Not only was Lorraine’s diagnosis delayed, but doctors reassured her afterwards that she was fine, didn’t need any aftercare, and would bounce straight back to normal life. When that wasn’t the case, they simply told her she was having a panic attack.

Within five weeks, Lorraine started experiencing angina symptoms of pain and breathlessness. For the next seven months she went backwards and forwards to doctors – even being taken to A&E by ambulance on a couple of occasions – but was repeatedly sent home, her symptoms dismissed as “panic”, and told she was perfectly fine.

Of course, Lorraine wasn’t perfectly fine; she had another blocked artery, and eventually a second stent was fitted – but not until she’d been sent home repeatedly and had to beg for an angiogram. Even then, when the symptoms returned several years later, she was patronisingly patted on the shoulder and assured that nothing was wrong. “I felt so angry, like he thought I was a ditzy woman who didn’t know what symptoms I was having,” she told me.


Yentl syndrome: how this little-known gender bias could be costing women their lives

I also wrote for Stylist about the broader issues at play here, including many of the reasons I started this blog in the first place:

As a freelance health journalist, and founder of feminist health blog Hysterical Women, I see evidence of this danger all the time. There’s a growing body of research into the ‘gender pain gap’, showing that women’s health concerns are less likely to be taken seriously than men’s across a huge range of conditions. Gender bias in healthcare is complex, and deeply ingrained – ranging from the subtle and insidious, through to downright medical misogyny – but it’s time we urgently started addressing it.


Elsewhere this week…

Women of colour face inequality in contraception and colonisation is to blame

A really interesting read by Dr Neha Pathak for Metro, discussing the race gap when it comes to sex and contraception:

We know that there are huge disparities within our field. Compared to white women, lower proportions of women of colour seek contraception from their GPs, Black women have a higher rate of repeat contraception use and South Asian patients often suffer from taboo when accessing services.

People of colour often seek our services only when they are at a crisis point – maybe they have symptoms, require emergency contraception or want to discuss options for an unintended pregnancy.

Many also frequently tell me that medical professionals do not have their best interests at heart – they feel as if they are characterised as irresponsible and that contraception is thrust on them with minimal explanation.


Is there an LGBTQ+ health gap?

And Milly Evans wrote for Patient about disparities and discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ people when accessing healthcare.

“LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately affected by experiences of stigma, which has a knock-on effect on well-being and mental health, as well as on how they seek healthcare,” says Dr Achyuta Nori, a consultant physician in sexual health and HIV at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. “LGBTQ+ people frequently suffer from having their identity, both sexual and gender, questioned or being told what it is instead of being asked. They experience social pressure to conform to what is widely held to be ‘the norm’ both in society in general and also within communities, often experiencing a disconnect between trying to fit in and being their true selves.”


And finally…

The Daily Mail’s This Is Money featured a profile on Elvie founder and femtech pioneer Tania Boler: Orgasms, incontinence and challenging the status quo on women’s health: Meet the entrepreneur who built a business out of tackling taboo:

‘Because nobody talks about it, nobody thinks to build businesses around it – nor do they think there is even a need,’ says the 42-year old.

‘Periods, pregnancy, the menopause; there are so many stages in women’s lives where our bodies undergo huge change. It’s a hidden epidemic.

‘That’s when I came up with the idea for the first Elvie product. It was about taking a problem, one that wasn’t spoken about because it was considered taboo, and turning it into a product that women actually enjoy using.’


Write for Hysterical Women

I want to hear from women whose health concerns have been dismissed or disbelieved by healthcare professionals. If that applies to you and you’re keen to share your story, check out our submission guidelines and email hysterical@sarah-graham.co.uk

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