Medical studies in the past few years have proven that period pain is very similar to the pain felt when having a heart attack. So, if women can withstand that kind of pain once a month, every month, for a large chunk of their lives, why don’t medical professionals take their pain seriously?
Gender bias in the medical field is and has been a medical problem that has just recently in the past few years come to light. It involves preconceptions of gender stereotypes. Although medical professionals may not be acting this way intentionally, gender bias stems from outdated beliefs in differences in male and female physiology.
“Biases are not moral failings; they are habits of mind”
Denise Davis, MD
Although Covid19 has only been a recent epidemic, we are already starting to see gender disparities in treatment and protective measures. A preprint 2020 analysis found that in confirmed covid cases men were much more likely to receive tests like chest x-rays and blood work. Also, as there has been a mass shortage in America and globally of personal protective equipment or PPE, women working in the health care system are at the brunt of this disadvantage. Along with the mass shortage, the majority of PPE come in a default size, or men’s size which is usually too big for most women, leaving them unprotected against the virus.
“Because we have studied women less, we know less about them. The result is that women may not have always received the most optimal care.”Janine Clayton, MD
Physicians are more likely to attribute chronic pain in women to physiological causes rather than physical problems, whereas men are more likely to be seen as having physical causes to their chronic pain. Women are often prescribed with less pain medications and referrals for mental health counseling as well as antidepressants as opposed to men. Many doctors whether consciously or unconsciously associate a woman’s internal pain to menstruation cycles assuming that they are overreacting on how much pain they are actually in. This can attribute women to develop actual mental health problems that are completely avoidable if they received proper care in the first place.
When it comes to heart disease, men and women tend to show different symptoms of the same illnesses. As many doctors use a diagnostic chart that has been swayed towards mens symptoms, heart disease problems in women get overlooked and can result in further untreated pain for women and even death. In a 2018 study at the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that in Florida emergency rooms when heart attacks were treated by a male physician women had a 13.3% mortality rate whereas men had a 12.6%. However, when a woman physician was treating heart attack cases they found that the mortality rate was only 12% for women and 11.8% for men.
In recent years more and more research studies have had equal contributions from men and women, so researchers are learning the true differences in mens and womens physiology.
“Awareness of the problem is growing, as is an appreciation of the fact that women can have different diagnostic and treatment needs. I am hopeful that gender bias in health care will decrease over time.”Janine Clayton, MD