Girls share bad experiences of male GPs proving some just don’t understand women’s bodies
‘It took me five years to get an endometriosis diagnosis’
Earlier this week a tweet went viral asking for women to share their negative experiences of going to the doctors.
Dr. Jessica Taylor tweeted asking her followers to like the tweet if they were a woman and had “ever been ignored, gaslit, accused of exaggerating or told its all in your head by a doctor when you sought help for a medical problem.”
The tweet received over 30,000 likes and thousands of women of all ages responded sharing their experiences. And overwhelmingly many of them mentioned male GPs as the ones who ignored them, gaslit them or accused them of exaggerating their medical problems.
Like this tweet if:
– You are a woman
– You have ever been ignored, gaslit, accused of exaggerating or told its all in your head by a doctor when you sought help for a medical problem
I just wanna see something.
— Dr. Jessica Taylor (@DrJessTaylor) January 13, 2021
Of course a bad doctor could be any gender but is unmistakably clear that women are finding it harder to speak to and be taken seriously by their male GPs. There are many wonderful GPs of every gender who go above and beyond for their patients. Especially now with the pandemic we have been able to witness how wonderful our NHS is. We should never be ungrateful for the service they provide.
However it is a far too common occurrence that women leave their doctor’s surgery feeling rubbish about themselves. Not only does it create this feeling but it can also be a serious risk to their health.
And this can be incredibly dangerous. A common complaint from women is doctors misdiagnosing or not taking seriously their PCOS or endometriosis. Both conditions affect one in 10 women, yet it can take an average of seven and a half years to receive a diagnosis for endometriosis.
This, amongst other complaints is not good enough, and it is putting women’s health at risk. The Tab spoke to 11 young women who had all experienced a negative appointment with a male GP, with some so bad they felt they did not want to return to the doctors.
From being shamed, dismissive of conditions, condescend to and even the occasional sexual harassment it is simply not on that male GPs treat their patients like this:
My male doctor said I was making it up
Five years ago I was going through lots of tests for stomach pain that left me debilitated for days each month and my male doctor said I was making it up and I was just depressed. I knew it was to do with my periods and all the male doctors I went to refused to investigate that, even though ultrasounds I had showed there were problems with my uterus. They kept putting me through blood tests to make a point there was nothing wrong with me, and only tested the same things that had already come back negative.
I’m now in the process of being diagnosed for endometriosis, which doesn’t show up on bloods or urines that they kept making me do and should have been evident from my ultrasounds.
I was told my visual and auditory hallucinations weren’t anything to worry about
I once went to my GP while I was suffering from psychosis. I usually request a female doctor, for obvious reasons if you’ve ever had the misfortune to get a male doctor. But I forgot that day and had to sit there while the male GP told me my visual and auditory hallucinations and my paranoid delusions weren’t anything to worry about. I was told I should wait until my period is over to see if I feel any better, then come back to see him.
Needless to say when I returned to the GP, I requested a different doctor and was referred immediately to a psych screening for schizophrenia.
He said: ‘Make sure not to eat like a buffalo!!’
I had a pretty awful experience with a male GP when I was first prescribed the pill. He explained possible side effects and said the pill was known to have an effect on weight/appetite. He looked at me and said “so make sure not to eat like a buffalo!!”
I just thought it was so profoundly insensitive, particularly to a young woman when anxiety surrounding weight is common.
He patted me on the leg and said ‘good girl’
When I was at uni I went to get my pill repeat prescription and the middle aged man GP said: “Do you know it doesn’t protect against STDs?” and I said: “yeah only condoms do” and he patted me on the leg and said “good girl”.
I had two little spots down below and WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING he told me it was herpes
I went to the docs because I had two little spots down below, which turned out to be ingrown hairs. He asked me what my sex life was like, I just had a new boyfriend and WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING he told me it was herpes and sent me with a referral to the STI clinic. The woman was like, ‘it’s ingrown hairs love’, but did a test to be safe, all negative.
I was scared shitless and so angry at my boyfriend for no reason, I changed doctors after that. They didn’t ask [why I wanted to change] but when I phoned the next time and said I don’t want doctor X, they kinda went “ohh him”.
It made me think if PCOS impacted men, would there be more research by now?
When I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) my male doctor stuck me on the pill and told me the only thing I could do was lose weight or I’d never have children. I later went to a different male doctor who prescribed medication that helps my insulin regulate which in turn regulates my hormones and improves my symptoms.
But the first doctor NEVER told me about it, he literally said “lose weight’”even though I was a healthy, 17-year-old girl with mental health issues and an eating disorder.
I went to an endocrinologist a few years later who said the same thing and I ended up crying in his office demanding better care because fat women still deserve to know all of their options not just “lose weight” and eventually someone listened. Not sure whether it’s a male thing or just a lack of knowledge of PCOS but it really affected me for a long time.
It made me think that if PCOS impacted men, would there be more research by now?
He started massaging my groin
During one of my mock exams at school I started getting this crazy high fever so went straight from exam hall to hospital and put on a drip. I was discharged at around midnight and given penicillin.
The penicillin was making me ill and the fever and sore throat wasn’t getting any better so I booked an appointment to see my GP. When I got there I was told he wasn’t in that day so I’d be seeing someone else.
It was this random guy I’d never seen before and I told him what had happened so far. He then suggested he thought I might have glandular fever and asked me to lie down on the bed so he could check to see if I had swollen glands, which I very much imagined would just mean my throat as that’s where the issue was.
But he started massaging around my throat and then slowly started moving under my top to in between my breasts and underarms, and then eventually down my trousers into my groin. I sort of just lay there a bit confused as to why any of it was necessary but the massaging was long – he then just sat back and said: “yeah so you don’t have glandular fever and your groin is fine”. I never had an issue with my groin? I guess it’s because there are glands there but he never really explained that before doing it.
I was so ill at the time (couldn’t breathe, no energy, really high fever) I just sort of didn’t mentally process how strange it was. It was only after speaking to people a year or two after I remembered the incident and how weird it was.
My mental health was really bad, a male GP told me it was just exam stress
When my mental health was really bad, like the worst anyone’s mental health can get, I had a male GP tell me it was just exam stress and basically ignore me and send me on my way despite me properly crying out for help and spelling it out.
I was made to feel like I’d wasted his time
I went to my GP to discuss possibly coming off my pill. A lot of my friends were doing it, and we were feeding off the myth that after 10 years you should come off it. My GP was beyond unhelpful – he didn’t discuss any other contraceptive options and when I questioned whether the 10 year myth was true, he skirted round it and said “you’re fine to stay on it – you can find this information online.”
I was made to feel like I’d wasted his time. If you Google anything to do with the pill on the internet, there’s so much contradictory information that you’d expect your doctor to be the one to set the record straight. All it showed me was that no one seems to know, because clearly women’s health isn’t considered something worth researching.
I was told ‘teenage girls were dramatic’
I had this sinus problem where I literally couldn’t hear out of one ear for months. I went to the to the GP, in discomfort, was fed up and this male GP basically told me that “teenage girls were dramatic”.
He said it in a lighthearted way but he just couldn’t be arsed to deal with me – and he said I was probably just feeling hormonal (how an ear problem is remotely related to that I have no idea). He basically just laughed it off and I was out of there in less than two minutes. I was younger then so obviously didn’t know what to say and just left.
I still haven’t been back to the doctors because of the experience
I always remember when I was about 17 years old I worked up the courage to go to the doctors about my anxiety as it was slowly getting worse. The doctor I saw, after fives minutes, said if I wasn’t losing sleep because of anxiety then it wasn’t serious enough to do anything about. I still haven’t been back to the doctors because of the experience, it made me feel like an idiot.
It really put me off even talking about it with anyone. I’ve changed doctors now I’m at uni and I go to the uni health service but I haven’t been to them regarding mental health majorly because of how that doctor reacted.
How to report a doctor you are unhappy about
It’s important to remember you can do something to change the system you’re unhappy about. If you felt uncomfortable or unhappy with the treatment you received in your appointment you can write to your surgery.
When writing to your surgery not only should you explain your complaint but also suggest what you would like changed, whether that’s a review of their practices or to change your GP.
Ask for a copy of your surgeries’ complaint procedure or simply send off an email using the email address provided on the surgery’s webpage.
Remember to include: who or what you’re complaining about, what happened and when, what you’d like to be done to resolve your complaint and how to contact you.
The NHS constitution says you do have a right to have your complaint thoroughly investigated.
Also it is worth noting if you’re worried about going to a doctor’s appointment alone you are allowed to bring in a chaperone, be that a friend or family member. Or if no one is available to accompany you, you can ask at the surgery for a chaperone to be present in the room.
Do you have a story like this? Get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]
*Some names have been changed