in Healthcare and Research
During Science Week 2022, we encourage you to come forward and share your stories. We want to get the best picture of what women’s healthcare in Ireland looks like today and how we should work to move forward and tackle the biases which remain. During this event, we aim to address specific issues that women face when accessing healthcare and participating in research with the consideration of their race, culture, class, age, weight, gender or disability.
I started my period when I was 10 and I’m now almost 29. I’ve had severe period pain for nearly 2/3’s of my life now. My very first period was very painful - I was curled up in a ball on my bed and couldn’t stop crying. My periods stayed like that and I ended up being put on the pill when I was 11 to try and help with the pain. I had cycled through 4/5 different pills by the time I was 18. I was continuously told by my doctor that I was just unlucky that I had bad period pain but it was a normal part of being a woman. I didn’t think there was anything wrong because my doctor kept telling me it was normal. My symptoms got worse as I got older. I started to also get pain while I was ovulating, and eventually I was in severe pain 24/7. I missed school/college/work. My life was taken over by this pain. I had really heavy bleeding, ovarian cysts, pelvic pain, bladder pain, pain in my lower back and legs, migraines, nausea. I didn’t have a life anymore. I was on 27 tablets a day to help me function enough to get out of bed. When I turned 25 I saw a new doctor to get my first smear test, she was the first doctor to mention endometriosis to me and the first doctor to refer me to a gynaecologist. I saw two gynaecologists in Ireland, had two laparoscopies and was told I definitely did not have endometriosis. I was told by both gynaecologists that I was just unlucky with bad periods. My pain kept getting worse and in 2020 there was a three month period where I didn’t get out of bed. I had no quality of life and my mental health was suffering. In 2021 I saw my gynaecologist and I asked about the possibility of getting a hysterectomy (I know it’s not a cure for endo but he insisted I didn’t have it). At first he told me it was because I was too young, and then when I asked what age I would have to be to have a hysterectomy he said there were other factors to consider. He said he would have to consider what would happen if my sexual orientation changed, I divorced my wife, met a man and he wanted to have kids. At this point I realised I was getting nowhere with my healthcare in Ireland. I made the decision to go to an endometriosis specialist in London in December 2021. I had an ultrasound and was diagnosed with adenomyosis that day. I had my third laparoscopy in January 2022 in London and was also diagnosed with endometriosis. I’m ten months post surgery now and although it’s not completely cured it’s definitely better. I finally feel like I have my life back - but I’m still angry that I couldn’t get the care I deserved in Ireland. Another woman who had to go abroad for basic healthcare that should be provided by our own country.
In 2021, we asked if you had personal stories of inequality in healthcare, and here are some of your answers. Thank you to everyone who got in touch and shared their stories and experiences.