Gender Bias Medicine: How to Break Free of the System

By Isa Herrera, MSPT

Gender Bias Medicine; How to Break Free of the System 1

We are living in a challenging time — I don’t have to tell you that.

We’ve experienced some unprecedented and strange circumstances as of late.

But at the same time, we’re facing challenges we’ve always faced.

Challenges created by a system that was created for and by men.

Essentially, the field of modern medicine has been built upon the idea that the average patient is a 165-pound white male.

Did you know:

  • Until the 1990’s women were pretty much excluded from clinical studies of drug efficacy (1, 2)
  • When visiting an ER for a heart attack, women are more likely than men to die (3)
  • Many traditional medical devices and implants are designed based on a man’s anatomy (4)

And that’s not all. 

When it comes to pain management, women’s pain is often dismissed. They are viewed as emotional or overactive. Sometimes, very real and extremely painful conditions like endometriosis or prolapse are dismissed as “just part of being a woman.” (5)

In fact:

  • A 2014 survey showed that 91% of women with chronic pain felt discriminated against by the healthcare system (6)
  • Men wait an average of 49 minutes before receiving pain medicine for acute abdominal pain. Women wait 65+ minutes for it — or don’t receive it at all. (7)
  • Women are less likely to be prescribed opiates for pain in the ER — despite having the same pain index scores (8)
  • Women are more likely to be sedated than given pain medication (9)
  • In 2016, researchers found that women suffering from chronic pain are more likely to be misdiagnosed with mental health issues and prescribed psychotropics — as doctors dismissed their legitimate concerns as “hysterics.” (10)

>> These aren’t stories from 100 years ago — this is happening right now.<<

Gender Bias Medicine; How to Break Free of the System 2And still, these statistics don’t touch on the times that a woman is taken seriously in the doctor’s office only when she’s accompanied by a husband or boyfriend.

They don’t tell the story of women who go unheard and are unable to secure paid time off when they try to talk to a male supervisor at work about an illness or pain they’re experiencing…especially when it’s something gender-specific like pelvic pain, or difficult to treat issues like chronic migraine, rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia.

And they certainly don’t tell the story of the women on the front lines of this crisis, working in ERs without the proper protective gear or cashiering for thousands of customers in the checkout line at the grocery store. (If they’re lucky enough to have a job — 55% of job losses recently have belonged to women, especially Black and Hispanic women)

Are you angry yet?

Me too.

Become A Self Advocate

Gender Bias Medicine; How to Break Free of the System 3So, what can we do about this egregious inequality that permeates our healthcare system?

Well — we certainly can’t wait for the system to change.

We have to stand up and speak out as loudly as we can.

Even when we’re afraid.

I mean, we’ve all been conditioned to be just a little afraid of the doctor, right?

As kids, we’re taught to be quiet, stop squirming, and let the doctor poke us and prod us. To be “good patients.”

We’re taught that his word is the gospel. What he says goes. And that he’s smarter than us.

But this just isn’t true — a doctor is not inherently more intelligent than you are. Sure, he’s had more schooling…but YOU are the expert on YOUR body. And you do not need a lab coat or a Ph.D. to know when something is wrong.

I know it’s easy to lose your nerve when you’re being addressed by someone whom you’ve been taught is an authority figure. 

Heck, it’s easy to lose your nerve in the salon chair when you hate what the stylist is doing, but you’re too afraid to say so.

It’s because we’ve been socialized to put others and their feelings before ourselves. 

Want to learn more about top ways you can improve your pelvic health without a single doctor’s visit? Sign up for my upcoming Complete Pelvic Floor Reset Workshop.

We’ve been taught that it’s not ladylike or appropriate to speak up or speak out or disagree.

And It’s really hard to rebel against those kinds of deeply ingrained societal norms.

But now is the time. 

It’s more important now than ever to take the reigns and advocate for yourself and your health.

If you don’t like what you’re hearing or you know it’s wrong — insist. Keep asking for more until you get what you want. 

Resist the urge to be the “good patient.” 

You do not get a good girl sticker for suffering in silence. 

Seek Out Alternative Providers

Gender Bias Medicine; How to Break Free of the System 4If you’re not finding success within the traditional medical community — there’s a reason for that.

The traditional Western medicine machine is inherently biased against women. It’s how it’s built — and until that changes, you may need to go outside of the box to get what you need.

Physical therapists, functional medicine practitioners, and naturopaths almost always began their training as Western doctors.

And when they become frustrated by the 7-minute office visits (who can accomplish anything in 7 minutes?) and handing out prescriptions they know are only band-aids…they start their own practices so they can actually help people. 

When healthcare professionals no longer have to adhere to certain expectations set by huge insurance conglomerates and they are no longer slaves to pharmaceutical companies — you win.

This means that you actually get a thorough office visit. You get to be heard. You get to be seen. You’re not treated like a number. You’re given therapies and remedies for root causes instead of pharmaceuticals…And you finally get some answers.

Celebrating Feminine Wisdom

Gender Bias Medicine; How to Break Free of the System 5There is no power on earth that compares to a woman who is tuned into her power and her intuition.

And I’m honored to share with you my story and how I was able to overcome my fears to find the courage to stand up for myself and my health in this video.

In it, I share my very personal journey from another victim of the healthcare system to a fierce and proud women’s health advocate. 

I hope it inspires you to find your voice, take your health into your own hands, and stand up for what is right for all women. Join me for my upcoming interactive workshop to take back your power.

Isa Herrera, MSPT, CSCS

 

References

  1. “Examining Gender Bias in Medical Care | Cedars-Sinai.” https://www.cedars-sinai.org/research/news/cedars-science/2019/examining-gender-bias-in-medical-care.html
  2. “Gender Bias in Medicine – SAGE Journals – SAGE Publications.” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2217/17455057.4.3.237
  3. “Patient-physician gender concordance and increased … – PNAS.” https://www.pnas.org/content/115/34/8569.
  4. “Evaluating sex differences in medical device clinical trials – NCBI.” 29 Feb. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22378695
  5. The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in … – SSRN.” 27 Feb. 2003, https://www.ssrn.com/abstract=383803.
  6. “Women in Pain Report Significant Gender ….” 12 Sep. 2014, http://nationalpainreport.com/women-in-pain-report-significant-gender-bias-8824696.html
  7. “How much time is acceptable to spend waiting in the ER for ….” https://www.nwhn.org/much-time-acceptable-spend-waiting-er-women-often-find-pain-circumstances-seen-exaggerated-doctors/
  8. “Gender disparity in analgesic treatment of emergency … – NCBI.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18439195
  9. “The influence of gender on the frequency of pain and sedative ….” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00289259.
  10. “Chronic pain: Psychosocial factors in rehabilitation, 2nd ed..” https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1990-98104-000.

About ISA HERRERA, MSPT, CSCS

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