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Kentucky Kernel

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Women’s healthcare needs to improve

Illustration by Akhila Nadimpalli

When I was a kid I had a horrible fear of going to the doctor.

Between the uneasy atmosphere of every doctor’s office to the threat of being poked with an unnecessarily large needle, I tried to avoid going to the doctor.

Even getting a simple physical made me anxious.

And, at the ripe age of 22, I am not ashamed to admit that I am still afraid of visiting healthcare professionals.

Except, instead of fearing an unplanned shot, I now fear the treatment faced by women across America inside of hospitals.

A study in 2022 found that women visiting for chest pains waited 29% longer than men for a possible heart attack.

More often than not women’s pain is looked over by medical professionals or we are told that we are overreacting.

Ilene Ruhoy, a neurologist in Seattle, sought medical attention when she began experiencing head pain and a pounding in her head.

Even as a doctor herself, Ruhoy struggled to get any other medical professional to order a brain scan. When she finally got one, there was already a tumor on Ruhoy’s brain.

Due to the growth of the tumor, Ruhoy now has to receive radiation treatment on several smaller parts of the tumor.

Ruhoy told The Washington Post that she had heard similar experiences from her female patients, saying, “They’re not validated with regards to their concerns; they’re gaslit; they’re not understood.”

This constant cycle of dismissal in regard to our health concerns is only one part of the negative association most women share in regard to the medical field.

Another part is the unnecessary pain we must endure when seeking treatment.

Last month, The Washington Post ran an article on women who have shared their medical struggles with IUDs online.

Nicole Marpaung is one of such women, as she shared a video in 2022 of her IUD insertion.

In the video, you can hear Marpaung’s physician say to expect “lots and lots of pressure.” The video then cuts to Marpaung exclaiming in pain as her doctor tells her to take deep breaths.

Marpaung told The Washington Post, “The disbelief that I had to go through that, and there was no warning — it just disgusts me.”

Merrily Ruetsche, another woman who shared her IUD experience online, said that she was not prepared for the procedure. Despite being told to expect cramping, Ruestsche was also told to not take ibuprofen prior to her appointment as it can increase bleeding risks.

Ruestsche said that she was not told of any other pain management options.

In her video, Ruestsche describes her pain immediately after the appointment as “awful” and “horrible.”

Going under sedation is an option for IUD insertion, but it is not well advertised within the medical community.

Women’s healthcare is seen as a taboo topic within the medical field, but also within some aspects of pop culture. When we try to openly discuss women’s health, sexual health in particular, it is seen as a distasteful topic of discussion.

Olivia Rodrigo is one such figure who has tried to promote women’s health during her recent concerts.

Various abortion organizations have given out emergency contraceptives and condoms to visitors at the shows.

After photos of the free sexual health tools circled online, Rodrigo and her team received backlash online.

This prompted the decision by Rodrigo’s team to no longer give out the reproductive health resources.

Destini Spaeth, chair of the Prairie Abortion Fund, told Variety, “Sex and sexual health tools — whether that be abortion, Plan B, condoms — are villainized because you’re (seen as being) promiscuous. We don’t look at it as a sign of responsibility … If the kids aren’t getting the education that they need in school, at least they can rely on reproductive health organizations in their communities to get that information and resources to them.”

If we can’t even promote women’s health at a concert, how can we expect better discussion within the walls of hospitals?

I can only hope for the sake of this current generation and those to come that women’s health care can become an open discussion for improvement.

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    Sandra Brown Wattenberger '05Apr 22, 2024 at 8:58 pm

    So sad you are so young and already jaded toward women’s “healthcare”. You have so many more painful experiences, insults and traumatic events for which to look forward. But I applaud and thank you for your bravery in broaching the subject.