A birthday weekend roundup of gender bias in women’s health

In case you somehow missed it, on Wednesday we celebrated our first blog birthday. Many thanks again to everyone who’s read and contributed to Hysterical Women over the last 12 months.

Following on from our birthday celebrations, on Thursday we marked World Mental Health Day, with a look back at our mental health content over the last year – from the stigma and gender bias around mental health problems like Borderline Personality Disorder, to the women whose very real physical symptoms have been dismissed as “all in their heads” simply because they have a history of mental ill health.

Elsewhere this week…

Endometriosis: Thousands share devastating impact of condition

The BBC published their research into the experiences of more than 13,500 women with endometriosis. They found – as Hysterical Women readers know – that the majority of those women said endometriosis had badly affected their education, career and relationships. Half said they had experienced suicidal thoughts, and many said they rely on strong, highly addictive painkillers.

If endometriosis affected men and women equally, there would have been an inquiry decades ago

Off the back of the BBC’s research, MPs also announced an inquiry into endometriosis will be launched in the near future. There were lots of comment pieces written, but one of the most HW-appropriate was this one by Annie Corcoran, for The Independent:

Like most other institutions, our healthcare system has a problem with sexism. There is no doubt that huge medical advances have been made in recent years, but women’s health has remained neglected, underfunded and poorly researched.

Women still struggle to be believed by doctors. In fact, they are more likely than men to be misdiagnosed, not taken seriously and told that their pain is all in their head. This is clearly unacceptable and this lack of understanding can be dangerous. So it does not surprise me that MPs have felt it necessary to launch an inquiry into one neglected area of reproductive health: endometriosis care.

Less eye rolling and more understanding is needed

Dr Sonja Cowling – a junior doctor training in psychiatry – shared this insightful tweet on ‘medically unexplained symptoms’ from the perspective of both a doctor and a patient:

31 Stories From Women Whose Doctors Did Not Take Their Pain Seriously

Buzzfeed went all Hysterical Women and shared this powerful collection of stories from women who’ve been dismissed and not taken seriously by their doctors. It’s a real horror story of misdiagnoses – from the ‘anxiety’ that was actually epilepsy, to the ‘haemorrhoids’ that were actually cancer.

Menopausal women wrongly prescribed antidepressants which make their symptoms worse, warn experts

Much like Katie, whose story we shared last World Menopause Day, research published this week found that too many menopausal women are wrongly being prescribed antidepressants – which either don’t work or make their symptoms worse. As The Independent reports:

The What Women Want at Menopause survey of 1,101 women aged between 42 and 55 in the UK found women are more and more hesitant to approach their doctor due to concerns they will not get appropriate support.

Some 84 per cent say their doctor didn’t sufficiently answer their questions, while just three in ten women were satisfied with the help they got from their GP.

Young women face a mental health crisis caused by a sexist society

On World Mental Health Day, Sophie Walker wrote for The Times, that: “new Young Women’s Trust research shows a sharp increase in the number of young women worried about their mental health – largely due to sexism, work and money worries… What too often is dismissed as young women lacking confidence is in fact a crisis in young women’s mental health caused by a sexist society. It is deeply affecting their lives and their economic freedom.

‘Unacceptable’ delays in diagnosing secondary breast cancer

Breast Cancer Now research published this week found that one in four patients with secondary breast cancer had to visit their GP three or more times before they got a diagnosis. As the BBC reports:

Jo Myatt, 43, from Chorley, went to see her GP five times over a number of years before discovering that breast cancer had spread to her liver and bones.

“I felt like a hypochondriac for going all the time,” she says.

Her symptoms started with missed periods and nausea before becoming more serious and persistent, leaving her unable to move her neck.

But no-one had mentioned secondary breast cancer as a possibility when she was diagnosed 10 years previously.

“I was devastated. I felt stupid and naive,” Jo says.

And finally…

Because I always like to end on a slightly lighter note, I really enjoyed this Evening Standard piece for International Day of the Girl (Friday) about some of the brilliant period-positive brands that have emerged in recent years.

Write for Hysterical Women

Are you a woman whose health concerns have been dismissed or not taken seriously by a healthcare professional? If so, and you’d like to share your story on Hysterical Women, check out our submission guidelines and email hysterical@sarah-graham.co.uk