Quantcast
Broadly DK

Your Pain Is Not Real: How Doctors Discriminate Against Women

Because of sexist myths about health and pain, women have more difficulty getting proper diagnoses and treatment for serious conditions.

Emalie Marthe

Emalie Marthe

As women feel more and more alarmed over threats to their access to healthcare, they may not realize their own doctors could impede their medical care as much as a new conservative policy.

"Unfortunately, women are taken less seriously more often than men when it comes to pain," Dr. Jennifer Wider, a nationally renowned women's health expert and the spokeswoman for the Society for Women's Health Research, told Broadly. "Studies show that doctors, regardless of gender, tend to undertreat female patients and take longer to administer medication to women." A 2001 study published in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics found that doctors often incorrectly believe that women have a "natural capacity to endure pain" and possess more coping mechanisms thanks to the stresses of childbirth. A National Institute of Health study also shows that women tend to wait 16 minutes longer than men when they are receiving pain medicine in emergency rooms. According to the same study, women are 13 to 25 percent less likely to receive opioids when they are dealing with pain.

Most young women have dealt with doctors' stereotypical views of women. I first realized a doctor wasn't taking my pain seriously when I visited a new primary care doctor because an ovarian cyst had burst. Previous doctors had prescribed me the type of painkiller you might flush down the toilet after the pain had subsided, but my new doctor (who could never have experienced a burst ovarian cyst) gave me a cringey smile when I asked for medication. "I don't really love to prescribe painkillers for this kind of thing," he said. "Have you ever tried meditation for managing pain?"

Read more on Broadly.