a woman crosses her arms and looks reproachfully at the camera

Our Pain Deserves To Be Taken Seriously

Last updated: June 2019

I got my first period when I was 12, around the same time as my older sister. While she slapped a pad in her underwear and went back out to play with our friends, I lay on the couch, curled up in a ball trying not to scream from the pain.

Living in pain

Over the years, my pain only got worse. My mother, who had initially accused me of exaggerating my pain, was eventually convinced that I wasn't faking it, and took me to the doctor. I was so relieved that I would finally find out what was wrong with me that I practically skipped into that appointment. I came out completely deflated. The doctor, talking to my mother, not me, simply told her that cramps are normal during menstruation and prescribed painkillers. With that, he sent us on our way.

The painkillers helped, but only for a limited time. My trips to the doctor's office became increasingly frequent, and without fail, he would prescribe me stronger painkillers. Despite this, he always tried to minimize my pain (to this day I don't understand how he could justify prescribing opiates to a teenage girl while dismissing her pain). At one visit, he openly questioned my pain, saying, "You're here now, so the pain can't be that bad". At no point did he offer to refer me for further tests.

Why was I ignored?

When my endometriosis was finally discovered by accident, the OB/GYN who performed my surgery asked me, "Did you never have painful periods? With this amount of endometriosis, I would expect you to be in significant pain...". I was 27 and it was the first time a doctor acknowledged my pain. I cried, because I finally realized I was not crazy and my pain was real.

It is proven that endometriosis can cause significant pain, not only during our periods, but even all the time. So why do doctors still dismiss our pain? My story is by no means unique, I wish it were. Recently, someone on Twitter asked for anecdotes of times when doctors (or nurses) ignored or dismissed female pain and the responses were depressing. There was a significant number of women with endometriosis who had had to fight to get their diagnosis.

Why won't doctors take us seriously?

Our pain deserves to be taken seriously. When doctors keep telling us that our pain is not real, we normalize our pain. And when we do that, we are less inclined to keep fighting for a diagnosis; The result is that too many women live too many years in horrific pain. And it's not only doctors who need to take our pain seriously. We need advocates from all areas of our lives: parents, teachers, employers. It should not be normal that a girl, or a woman, can't perform basic tasks due to being in too much pain during their period.

Enough is enough

Why do we accept that women are in pain during their period? Why do we dismiss cramps as "just cramps"? It should not be okay that women suffer any amount of pain during their period, let alone debilitating paid. It's time to take women's pain seriously.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Endometriosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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