A woman standing confidently in a doctor's office holding up her medical records, with her scarf flowing behind her like a cape

What To Do When The Doctor Dismisses You

It takes an average of 7 years to be diagnosed with endometriosis. Doctors often misdiagnose endometriosis as IBS, or plainly dismiss women who complain about heavy periods. It can be disheartening when you doctor dismisses your pain, but you shouldn’t give up when that happens. Over on the Facebook page, we had a discussion about what to do when your doctor dismisses you and there were a few tips I found particularly useful, which I’d like to share.

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Stand your ground

One of the earliest doctors I saw about my horrendous periods when I was just a teenager kept sending me home with increasingly heavier painkillers. I’m not sure what he was thinking, as he kept accusing me of making up the severity of my pain, but he was happy enough prescribing heavy painkillers for my non-existing pain. When I finally reached a certain level of painkillers, my doctor told me those were the heaviest he could prescribe and there was nothing else he could do. I never saw a doctor for my painful periods again.

One commenter in the Facebook group said she kept making appointments to see her doctor until he was forced to take her seriously. I really wish I had gotten that advice when I was younger. If you keep going back to the doctor’s with the same complaint, they will have to do something about it eventually.

Ask for a note on your record

I find I’m quite easily intimidated at the doctor’s. Or, at least, I was until I got too fed up. But if a doctor dismisses your complaints, you can ask them to note in your records that you asked for treatment and that they refused. I think that’s a brilliant strategy and, according to several commenters, it’s quite effective too. No doctor wants to have it on record that they ignored a patient’s symptoms. At the very least they will do some tests, which could lead to either a diagnosis or other tests.

Find another doctor

If all else fails, or if you’re not comfortable with the above strategies, you can always switch doctors. As women, we’re conditioned to be nice and accommodating. We’re encouraged to be quiet and not push back when something doesn’t go our way. So it can be difficult to stand your ground and fight with a doctor.

There’s nothing wrong with switching doctors. You could ask around to find a doctor who takes women seriously. Maybe the next doctor you see doesn’t take you seriously either, or runs some tests and then abandons you, in which case, you should switch again until you’ve found one who doesn’t dismiss you.

Being dismissed by a doctor is a horrible feeling. Doctors have a duty of care, which some of them seem to have forgotten when it comes to women’s pain. You don’t have to quietly accept their dismissal. We have to fight for our care, because if we don’t, then who? But with the right tools, you can find the right doctor and finally get the help you deserve.

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