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Doctors- They’re a pain in the cervix!

Once again, in the never-ending debate of women’s rights and healthcare, the notorious subject of cervixes has reared its ugly head. Now, more so than ever, women are being gaslit by their doctors and healthcare professionals by being told that their cervixes feel little pain and that they shouldn’t need painkillers for any cervical procedure- even if it involves tearing a piece of flesh out of it. Women are being made to feel inadequate by their healthcare professionals for not being able to take the pain of cervical biopsies, colposcopies, IUD insertion or removal, because their doctor is basing their misplaced data on a faulty study.

cervical biopsies, women dealing with healthcare

When women have cervical biopsies or any procedure to do with the reproductive system, they are told to take paracetamol, ibuprofen or sometimes nothing at all. Many doctors and healthcare websites spread misnomers, telling women that the cervix feels nothing. The test that they base this off was performed by stroking the cervix with a “glass, metal or cotton-tipped probe” where only 5% of women reported being able to feel it. When recreated with a larger object than a probe, 84% of women reported being able to feel it. 

In 1998, a Chinese study proved that the cervix has quite a few nerve endings, which for some, can make cervical biopsies unbearably painful. Yet, doctors often pass off any complaints as overreacting. After all, we’re just women. It’s not as if we know what pain feels like. Especially the pain of having to live in a world where our feelings and experiences are diminished just for the fact that we were born with two x chromosomes. 

The real truth is, that the cervix houses three nerves: the pelvic, hypogastric and vagus. By nicking or removing even a part of any of them can seriously impact the amount of pleasure a woman can experience.

The official Mayo Clinic website states that women should prepare before the colposcopy exam by taking “an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others)” and that “A cervical biopsy will cause mild discomfort but is usually not painful; you may feel some pressure or cramping”. The NHS website states that in relation to having an IUD inserted, “some people might find it painful, but you can have a local anaesthetic to help”. However, many women quite explicitly say otherwise. 

“I quickly learnt that you would not be offered any pain relief at any examination appointments” The New Feminist spoke with Jennie, who has been diagnosed with Endometriosis for 5 years, but had been suffering with it for 10. “I asked for some level of anaesthetic when they removed my dislodged IUD, and was told “that is not something that is offered”.” For her, this is just the tip of the iceberg on multiple doctors downplaying or misdiagnosing her symptoms. Both in public and private healthcare. 

“The opening of the cervix can only be described as ripping/tearing.”

“They would ask,  ‘Oh, is this painful?’ I would be sobbing in pain- and not even offered a tissue or any comfort”. She went on to say, as she described multiple occasions where her pain and experiences were passed off by medical professionals. When asked if she thought doctors were quick to dismiss a woman’s pain, she replied: “Absolutely. On multiple occasions my pain and discomfort has been passed off as ‘period pain’ and after persistent pushing to my GP or Gynaecologist for support, the best they can do is give codeine or morphine.” Both of these are highly addictive opioids, which merely disguise the problem, rather than addressing it. 

“Every day I feel dismissed by medical professionals.”

Everywhere you look, you can find thousands of testaments- just like hers. Horror stories of true events that could make you question going to the doctor ever again. For women, we have to constantly weigh up the pros and cons of whether or not we should go to the doctor. Or if they are going to try and tell us that they know more about our own bodies than we do.

Doctors are not willing to update their views of the cervix and how women perceive their pain. Instead, doctors are left looking towards unreliable studies, rather than the patients who are consequently scarred and in incredible pain from their procedures. And they don’t care. In reality, what doctor would listen to their patient, rather than an outdated study? There must be a greater pressure on informed consent from medical professionals. As well as acknowledging that the one-cervix-fits-all mentality that they cling to, is flawed. Because being told that you won’t feel anything and then screaming out of sheer pain and agony is not what women signed on for.