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three women standing with a pink background and text gender inequality in the healthcare system @findyourownhope

As it’s international women’s week I wanted to bring some awareness to gender inequality in the healthcare system. It’s something I’ve discussed before and I will always feel passionate about it. 

Gender inequality within healthcare is something I have always felt. Females are often gaslighted by medical professionals for both their physical and mental health.

“Whether it’s heart disease labeled as anxiety, an autoimmune disorder attributed to depression, or ovarian cysts chalked up to normal period pain, many women’s health issues are likely to be misdiagnosed or dismissed by doctors as something less critical.

One study published in Academic Emergency Medicine found that women who went to the emergency room (ER) with severe stomach pain had to wait for almost 33% longer than men with the same symptoms.”

I live with illnesses that predominantly affect females and I feel this drastically impacts the healthcare and treatment I receive. 

I was disregarded and my symptoms dismissed as doctors would say “periods are just bad for some women” and “yeah, some women faint and throw up” — such comments further perpetuated ableism and made me believe I was weak when in fact I was unknowingly suffering from debilitating conditions. 

Doctors refused to investigate further because I was written off as a “stressed female teenager” and this is NOT good enough. 

I was repeatedly gaslit by medical professionals and people I thought I could trust so much so I began to gaslight myself. It wasn’t until I was bed bound that I forced doctors to take me serious and look for further causes (and yet this still wasn’t easy). 

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month! 

Delayed diagnosis for

Endometriosis is 7-11

years. I experienced pain

from day one of my period

and it took 8 years for me

to receive a diagnosis. 

The disease has been given limited funding, research and attention over the years likely because it impacts the lives of females and people assigned female at birth and women’s pain and health has not been taken seriously. And despite the condition being first discovered in 1860 and later given the name Endometriosis in 1925, little progress on diagnosis and treatment has been made over the years. The only way to receive official diagnosis is through invasive expensive surgery which is not easily accessible.

Another female dominated illness I have is Postural Orthostatic Tachycharia Syndrome (POTS) 

Delayed diagnosis for POTS is

approximately 4 years.

I experienced symptoms from as

young as preschool and didn’t

receive diagnosis till it was too late

and I was bed bound at 18. 

90% of POTS patients are female and most are aged between 12 and 50. Unfortunately gaslighting and misdiagnosis is common with 75% of patients told their symptoms were all in their head prior to diagnosis.

Pain and Hysteria are gendered… 

Historically, women were repeatedly told they are weaker, cannot handle pain but also ‘pain is just part of being a woman.’ 

“The word hysteria originated from the Greek word “hystera”, meaning uterus (making it without a doubt a gendered word from the start) and hence hysterectomies etc. 

It was believed the ‘wandering womb’ could become displaced within the body, causing women to become irrational and emotional.

Pain and referring to women as ‘crazy’ is gendered. Just like how the word hysteria stems from the Greek word meaning Uterus.”

Other health issues

Many illnesses have been misunderstood in women as majority of health studies were performed on men. For example, ADHD presents differently in males and females which has led to extreme oversights and misdiagnosis for females. This means individuals go years without receiving appropriate treatment and assistance. Also, symptoms of heart attacks can differ in men and women, however many people are misinformed and unaware of how they present differently between the sexes.

This is your reminder…. 

YOU know your own body. But when women are told we’re weak, we question ourselves. We have instincts and gut feelings that we need to tune into again. Don’t doubt yourself, advocate for yourself. 

We deserve to be heard and deserve proper treatment. 

My heart truly goes out to everyone who has experienced healthcare gas lighting (and I know it is an issue that doesn’t just impact women). I know how traumatising, disheartening and heartbreaking it can be.

You know your body better than anyone else. PLEASE never stop advocating for yourself. ❤️

Find Your Own Hope

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  • Ann Edwards

    Thank you for sharing your story, Susie, and terrific description of what women can experience in healthcare.

    • Susie

      Thanks so much for reading and for the support!

  • Gentle note that women and female aren’t the same– gender and sex are different and conflating them places added burden on trans and no binary folks. Please be mindful!

    Could you add alt text or captions to all the images?

    This is so important and would love to share!

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