The Importance of Pro Women Doctors

The world we live in is fastly becoming defined by social media and the internet. Social media apps like Tiktok, Twitter, Instagram and even Linkedin have become crucial sites for building communities and getting jobs and life saving help.

Just as the world gets digital and almost inextricably linked to the internet, it is important to note that misogyny and the hatred of women also has gone online. The online misogyny that women face takes on multiple forms. One glaring example of online misogyny is revenge porn. This targets women through the release of nude pictures and sometimes financial extortion from the woman who is at the mercy of the person who threatens to release her sex tape.

Another area that I believe does not get as much attention is the area of online medical misogyny. This can be seen in the way mostly male doctors come online to slut shame their female patients and even talk down on pregnant women who to them are “eating too much” and not taking care of themselves.

The lack of compassion seen online in male doctors hardly stops at pregnant women. It can be seen in male doctors downgrading women who have painful periods, fibroids or period disorders like PCOS and endometriosis. It can also be seen in mostly male doctors shaming women who have yeast infections and sexual disorders like vaginismus.

When it comes to women’s health, the importance of doctors who are pro women cannot be underestimated. 

The doctors may be male or female but the key thing to note is that how a doctor views women as a group can directly impact how he or she treats the female patients they encounter.

A doctor who thinks women who have sex before marriage are stained objects will always look at the unmarried woman who wants contraception or an abortion with a sneer. 

The doctors who believe that women are always “nagging” may downplay the needs of a woman who wants to get therapy and an abortion without her husband knowing. The doctors who believe that women who just had babies have to “snap back”, “lose weight” and “be fresh for him”, are definitely the doctors who will stitch a woman up extra painfully so that their husbands can have a vagina that is supposedly not loose.

The body is such an important point for women and it is sad that women hardly receive adequate life saving care that is not tainted by the vagaries of misogyny.

Even for women who are not married, the presence of misogyny and lack of care in a doctor can see things like PCOS, fibroids and weight loss downplayed or misdiagnosed. The same concept can also play up in women’s mental health. 

A doctor who sees female victims of abuse as people who didn’t do “enough”, scream enough and whatnot to stop the perpetrator will never be attentive to the mental needs of a woman who needs not only physical care post rape but also psychiatric care.

Speaking with Ruth she says that pro women doctors “listen to us when we are in pain”.

In her words: “Pro-women doctors listen to us when we’re in pain, and can better detect when something is very wrong. They’re more willing to find the options that actually fit any particular woman’s wishes and desires and goals than doctors who think our pain is not worth caring about or solving. Women die in hospitals because no one cared enough to dig deep into what might be causing her discomfort or decreasing her quality of life. 

My own experience with this included having to get a tampon removed – somehow there wasn’t a string on it and I didn’t know before I inserted it – and the doctor and nurse who came to solve the issue were just jabbing at my vagina with an instrument. It was horrible. I actually stopped them, covered myself, and told them to find someone else to do the procedure, and then the male doctor was telling me that it was my fault they couldn’t do the procedure and bragging about how he’s done much more involved surgeries or whatever with other women.”

She went on to say: “I stopped answering him at some point because the way he was acting made me feel humiliated on top of the actual physical pain he had caused me. They eventually had to ask one of the OB/GYN doctors to come do it and he did. But I just wish they had provided me with a female doctor, like I asked. Anyway, in summary, pro-woman doctors don’t assume anything based on biases and treat women with empathy even if they don’t agree with certain choices. Thank you for coming to my TED talk, and believe women.”

For Dr. Chinelo, she says that even as a doctor she has had to correct the way other male doctors see women.

To quote her: “Female doctor here.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a female patient say I was the first person who really listened to them, or share encounters with male doctors who barely waited to hear what they had to say before sticking them with some random diagnosis and sending them on their way.

I distinctly remember shutting down a conversation I overheard some junior male colleagues having, where they called a female patient hysterical because she was in pain and was asking questions and no one would give her answers.

There’s something to be said for having someone actually listen to you and not dismiss your concerns.”

When asked to offer her opinions, Naomi, a Nigerian, says that for the longest time her experiences as a woman with painful periods were shut down.

In her words: “I’ve had severe menstrual cramps every month since I was 13 and it’s gotten worse the older I grow. It took more than 10 years before I was diagnosed with dysmenorrhoea. The previous doctors would say it was too much sugar and I drastically reduced my sugar intake to the extent that I developed low blood sugar. 

But the cramps didn’t stop. In fact, the whole time I reduced sugar intake my cramps were worse than before. And when pain meds were prescribed, it would be generic because I have ulcer and most pain meds for severe menstrual cramps affected my ulcers. So I would “chest” the pain as a Hebrew woman 🤣. Or if I was about vanishing, I would close my eyes and take the meds, then take omeprazole immediately.”

She went on to say: “No doctor had ever prescribed ulcer medication along with pain meds for me before. They’d either tell me to reduce sugar, offer generic meds, or nothing at all. 

But recently, a miracle happened. I spoke with Dr Bada on Reliance HMO, told him my symptoms and he generated a prescription. Went to pick it up at Med Plus Pharmacy and when I checked it, I was amazed to see omeprazole with the other meds.

For the first time in a very long time, I felt seen by my doctor. Like they actually listened to me 🥺.

It’s an amazing feeling fr.”

Raheemat, a writer based in Nigeria echoes the words of Naomi. For her, she believes that it is imperative for doctors to be pro women as it helps with earlier diagnosis.

To quote her: “I think it’s very important for doctors to be pro women (male and female) because it helps with earlier diagnosis. In some cases it reduces the patient’s situation from worsening. I’ll cite an example. Few years back I was having constant chest pain, I kept going to the hospital and taking antibiotics, did scans. It was until I saw a particular doctor that I knew it was anxiety and panic attacks.

She took her time to ask questions and explain things to me. She was very calm, she didn’t rush at all. I felt very comfortable around her. I have also been attended to by a male doctor that wasn’t so patient, almost invalidating my experience. I didn’t want to ever be in his consultation room ever.”

She went on to say: “When you have doctor’s who are pro women, your patients warm up to you, they are comfortable when talking about their issues knowing that the doctor won’t invalidate them or slutshame them.

I think this thing of poor treatment by doctors, some of them need to be disciplined by whatever bodies are in charge, especially those online.”

When asked about ways to solve the poor treatment of women by doctors, Neefe had this to say: “Revoke their licences. There should even be constitutional provisions for fines at least (paying for emotional damages).

Majorly, medical obligations are about CARE for the patients….it has to be wholesome, and the absence of emotional graces spoils the entire effort. The thing about Nigeria is nonchalance and everyone is angry. And no one is intentional about assessing these people before they’re hired and integrated into the system. My dear I don weak.

Okay let’s try and tackle this from the other end. Emotional intelligence and fortitude in handling unhealthy communication so cases like these aren’t as damaging as they should be. 

Awareness campaigns and exposition events.”

The last person who gave her opinion on this topic was Ami, a Nigerian mum of two based in South Africa.

This was what she had to say: “In 2021 I experienced something like this. So, I knew I had fibroids. I found out when I was pregnant for my first child and it wasn’t a huge deal then. Moving forward I think four years down the line in 2020, it started to manifest a whole lot more. So in 2021 I decided to look for a solution. 

However, even though I was told I had a problem, solutions were hardly given. So when I left Nigeria and came to South Africa, I faced a whole lot. The one that really stood out for me was this particular guy I went to in a national hospital which had different branches all over the city and across cities as well. 

So, I went to the hospital and booked a session with the guy in question and he didn’t as far as touch me. He asked me a few questions and I told him I had fibroids and he asked how old I was and if I still wanted kids. Then I’m like okay yes I do, I’m only twenty eight and he was like okay the best thing to get rid of fibroids is to take out the womb. Just like that! There was no emotion. Nothing. That day I sat there and I cried and he was giving me tissue paper. Can you imagine? After everything, I left and he wanted to charge some sort of stupid amount for what he did not do. My husband faced him and only gave him what he was due which was the consultation. I had already gone to a different hospital that sent my documentation to him so he didn’t do anything and even examine me. He just asked a couple of questions and that was it.”

She went on to say: ‘That day was a really sad day for me because I was told my womb was going to be taken out when I hadn’t even clocked thirty. So I decided to find a solution to this. I called my uncles, made findings and found out that we had a family friend that was a doctor in a different state completely. So we called him and then we found one of the people whom he had taught in Cape Town for me and guess what? This guy was amazing. He was amazing. 

Here I am now, after someone had told me that the best way is to take out my womb, I now have a child after that. Look at my daughter, she’s almost two. By September she’ll be two. Can you imagine if I had listened to that guy and drowned in sorrows and depression? What would have become of me? The other guy who I went to was Black and an amazing guy and maybe the first guy was being racist because he was white. I honestly do not know. Or maybe that’s just how he is with no empathy. This other guy was empathic, was understanding and you could tell that he knew what he was doing. You could tell that he wanted to solve your problems for you. We did a surgery and almost six weeks after I got pregnant. It wasn’t a matter of me being pregnant, it was that the fibroids were affecting me. My hormones were imbalanced, my face was breaking out and a whole lot was happening. The new guy made me feel so comfortable and so heard. He made sure he monitored my pregnancy and everything was just a smooth sail and up until I gave birth. He also told me that once I was thirty six weeks, we’ll be taking the baby out and that was it.”

There are several problems that affect women that can be managed better if the doctors handling them were more compassionate and empathetic.

Misogyny and especially medical misogyny must be counted as hate crimes because women have lost lives due to a doctor’s negligence.

Until misogyny is treated and addressed in the general society, the sad reality is that women’s bodies will never be given the appropriate care and that must change.

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