If you’re a man, it sounds silly that something as universal as healthcare can be subjective. But when it comes to pain, women are treated differently than we are.
One study, for example, found that women in the emergency department who report having acute pain are less likely to be given opioid painkillers (the most effective type) than men. After they are prescribed, women also have to wait longer to receive them.
To get a better understanding of the scope of this problem, Redditor u/Ancient-Abs published a post, asking: “Why are many gynecological procedures done without pain medicine?” and sharing their own experience having an IUD inserted.
The story inspired many other women to share the nightmares they have gone through as well, shedding light on this difficult topic we don’t talk about enough.
Image credits: presidenciamx (not the actual photo)
u/Ancient-Abs told Bored Panda they discovered this “when I myself underwent an IUD insertion and then had significant pain during and afterwards. My doctor acted like I was an exception and that most women felt nothing, but as I asked my friends, I discovered that multiple women have pain and that numbing the area is possible but doctors don’t do it.”
The Redditor thinks this disparity between men and women is “a result of systemic misogyny that was institutionalized in the Middle Ages in medicine to avoid giving women pain control during birth because they felt that women had the curse of Eve on them and they were fulfilling God’s plan by letting them suffer.”
“In modern medicine, this practice has been passed down but relabeled as women don’t feel as much pain as men or that they are overreacting because the cervix doesn’t have nerves,” u/Ancient-Abs added. “It does and you can numb them. People just choose not to.”
Image credits: Ancient-Abs
In fact, this whole branch of medicine has grown out of a rotten trunk. Consider the “father of modern gynecology,” James Marion Sims. He developed pioneering tools and surgical techniques related to women’s reproductive health. In 1876, he was even named president of the American Medical Association, and in 1880, he became president of the American Gynecological Society, an organization he helped found. The 19th-century physician has been lionized with a half-dozen statues around the US.
But Sims conducted his research on enslaved Black women without anesthesia, and medical ethicists as well as historians claim that his use of medical test subjects falls into a long, ethically bereft history that includes the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and Henrietta Lacks. According to critics, Sims cared more about the experiments than providing therapeutic treatment, and that he caused unimaginable suffering by operating under the racist notion that Black people did not feel pain.
After going through all the replies under their post, u/Ancient-Abs took away that “if we want to change this, we have to write the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology in order to have them require doctors and doctors in training to numb these areas before procedures.” If you want to stay on this topic, keep an eye out for a letter template the Redditor will draft that people can sign and send to this group.
I started bleeding when pregnant with my first and went to see my OBGYN at the hospital. She looked and said there were polyps on my cervix. She then told me to just hold the nurse’s hand and pick a spot on the ceiling, and she’ll cut them out real quick.
I honestly never thought to ask for any kind of pain meds for any procedure like this before. WTF is wrong with me and other women? We’ve been so brainwashed to believe that ‘it’s just a pinch’ and now drive home and go make dinner.
I’m a medical professional and had to read a thread on Reddit to realize I need to advocate for myself, and I don’t need to be in pain during gyno procedures.
I had a cervical biopsy as well and I passed out in the elevator afterwards from the pain. It’s really insane and having theses procedures done without any kind of pain management as the norm should not be a thing. I would totally help with any campaign you might want to start!
I had a procedure done a few months ago where they had to tear through my cervix to fill my uterus with fluid — something to do with fertility issues. The pain was unbearable, and I felt violated. I cried so hard and was furious they would let me go through that without any anesthesia or pain reliever.
How is this so normal?
I had a cervical biopsy when I was 18, and the doctor was like, ‘You’ll feel just a pinch.’ Then I felt, well, a chunk of my cervix cut out and screamed. He was like, ‘Shhh.’ So I cried quietly, and he looked up at me and said, ‘Why are you crying? There are no nerve endings on the cervix. I know you aren’t actually feeling pain.’
That was literal decades ago. I had hoped things had changed for women since then. Good to hear that old [jerk] doctor is still the norm. Cool. Real cool.
When I had my first baby, I was very tiny, and the kiddo was a big, bouncing boy. I got snapped at by the first nurse for making a sound. This was long before maternity pain relief was really a thing. We got gas and pethidine/demerol. Fast forward, my then-husband had his vasectomy done eight weeks after my fourth baby. During 15 hours of labor, I had gas. For the excruciating pain after, I got OTC pain killers. For the raw, cracked bleeding nipples, I was told, ‘You know how it goes, they’ll toughen up in a couple of weeks (of breastfeeding).’ He was given Valium to take the night before, another one for that morning, and then pain relief for the duration of the five-minute procedure. He was given another script for afterward and told to go easy for a few days.
Are women seen as tough or subhuman?
I argued with a doctor who told me that there would be no pain management for my colposcopy — after I showed up for it. His reasoning was that ‘it was only a five- to 10-minute procedure,’ and I could have some ibuprofen(!) afterwards. When I told him that vasectomies were a five- to 10-minute procedure, too, but that I bet if he were having one, he’d want some anesthetic for his balls, he straight-up walked out on me.
I work in a medical office and women pass out all the time after IUD placements. I remember how hot heavy crampy and panicky the insertion was thankfully mine was fast and I didn’t pass out but I felt so weird the whole day and felt shaky. Getting it out was TRAUMATIC. The strings were not outside the cervix so a radiologist did an ultrasound while doctor dug around in my uterus trying to grab the strings and she couldn’t get them and i said stop and my ob didn’t right away so i pushed everyone off me and had a panic attack. Then i had to come back and get a scope to get it out and they gave me a Valium and it was like a walk in the park. Everyone. Should. Get. A. VALIUM.
I got a LEEP procedure, and that was more painful than drug-free childbirth. I can feel my cervix descend before my period and I can feel the penis on my cervix during sex. Still, the doctor told me I shouldn’t feel anything. I had no sexual desire for months after the LEEP, and I talked to a lot of women who had the same procedure and some said they’re like that after years, or they feel pain or bleed during sex.
Why are they so set on ‘the cervix has no pain receptors?’
I got put under to have wisdom teeth removed, but nothing when I got my IUD put in. I literally screamed when they inserted it.
I’ve broken bones and have been in less pain.
I had a LEEP procedure fully awake. I remember I started shaking, and the doctor got on to me. It was a horrible experience. It frustrates me. We can get pain medicine for removals of moles, but [screw] your cervix.
That was just one of the many things they should have not have done.
After having my third kid via C-section, they refused to give me any pain meds except two regular strength Tylenol every few hours. My baby was in the NICU for a few nights, too. So when I wanted to see or hold him, I had to grind my teeth and get there through sheer willpower. However, my husband got put on morphine for kidney stones at this same hospital.
For the record, I wasn’t breastfeeding. It was in my chart. So it’s not like they were trying to get around accidentally dosing the baby. I’m also not saying my husband’s pain wasn’t great but that there is a glaringly obvious bias. I filed a complaint, but nothing happened.
I recently had an endometrial (uterine) biopsy. The doctor told me it would hurt, but it would be over in ten seconds. I started counting out loud, ‘One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three…’ then I started screaming. After, I was crying and hyperventilating. The doctor told me my reaction was normal.
It was so painful that I can’t really tell you how it was painful. My brain just won’t go there. Years ago, I had, had cold cauterization done on my cervix — twice. Again, no pain meds. That was bad. The endometrial biopsy was worse.
Because healthcare for women is in dire need of innovation compared to other areas of medicine. It has been normalized for women to endure pain, trauma and discomfort during normal gynecological procedures for way too long. It isn’t necessary and needs to change.
A close friend of mine was actually the nurse that inserted my iud. I bled everywhere and almost fainted/puked. She gave me a juice box and helped my bf walk me to my car, and he had to pull over several times because I kept thinking I had to puke and I cried in pain the entire way home.
If numbing was an option I’d definitely have f**king taken it.
I had a polyp removed from my cervix. They told me I’d have some cramping and that I’d be ok. I walked out of there straight to the bathroom and almost fainted. My mom looked for me for 15 minutes until she started knocking on the door. I was able to get up and walk out. Everyone was super concerned, but no pain medicine or post-care. Nothing.
I could have busted my head on the sink locked in the bathroom.
When I was 18, my gynecologist’s office apparently forgot to tell me to take extra strength ibuprofen before my cervical biopsy — that’s the recommendation they use. I got the same ‘just a pinch’ spiel, and they decided it was worth it to just go ahead and do it anyway. (Surely, they had some ibuprofen they could’ve given me.) The sample the doc took got stuck, and he was yanking on it while it was still attached. The nurse who was with him had to grab and hold my leg because she saw I was about to kick him in the head.
I had done eight years of Tae Kwon Do at that point. I would have made an ass of myself. If doctors really think it doesn’t hurt, perhaps they should just shut up and deal with however we choose to express our clearly fake pain.
The problem is that no one has ever cared about women’s pain, so women never complained. Since women never complained—because it wouldn’t do any good anyway—men think women have it easy. The medical field has always ignored women and continues to ignore women. There is a total lack of respect around the world for what women and girls go through. Kind of off topic, but I mostly get angry when I think about how it must have been for women throughout history. Can you imagine your village is being attacked and you’re in the middle of giving birth or you’re pregnant? How about a nice long carriage ride discovering the west with your husband. You have your period, you feel like s**t, but you don’t want to be a negative person on this trip. I’ve read so many history books about the things women dealt with, and honestly, we haven’t progressed that much when it comes to female care. It’s not right…
I had a cervical biopsy done. I am a candidate for endometrial ablation, and my insurance company required the biopsy. I didn’t know it was going to happen until 30 seconds after my ultrasound. My OBGYN requested that I take my mask off (COVID) to ‘help with breathing’ because it was going to hurt so much. I put my hands behind my head since I didn’t know what to do with them. I have what I consider to be a very high pain tolerance. During the procedure — I didn’t even realize I was doing it — I used my own nails to cut into the top of my other hand. The nurse actually had to bandage my hand before I left.
I now have four U-shaped scars on the top of my hand. That was six months ago, and I haven’t scheduled my ablation because that situation [messed] me up in the head.
Just the other week, I had a vulvar biopsy on the very delicate, sensitive tissue on the inner part of my vulva. My gynecologist assured me that I wouldn’t feel a thing after she injected some local anesthetic. Well, that clown f**ked up the anesthetic, because I felt EVERYTHING. It was horrible. I literally had tears pouring out of my squeezed-shut eyes as I threw my hand over my mouth and stifled a scream. She said, ‘Oh, you felt that? You weren’t supposed to feel that!’ Then, she kept going — gouging into my delicate bits with her medieval tool — and I kept crying and shaking. She then commented to the nurse, ‘Oh, she must be nervous.’ It took me a few hours to stop shaking due to the intense pain put my body in such a panic mode.
I had a few panic attacks for the next three days, kept obsessively thinking about the procedure, and would just randomly start crying. Don’t Google what a vulvar biopsy is if you’re squeamish.
I had both an HSG and a saline ultrasound. I have high pain tolerance, and I was sweating profusely and extremely nauseous. I have never needed a few minutes before getting up, but I did that time — and that was with 800 mg taken beforehand that I learned I should take from the internet, not my doctor, who never said a word about needing pain medication.
I am absolutely blown away that a doctor can do that procedure hundreds of times a year — see hundreds of women crying, sweating, writhing in pain, and passing out from pain — yet no form of anesthesia is ever offered.
It’s f**king cruelty. They literally push a tube through your cervix. Why would they ever think this would be ok to do without pain control?
The worst pain I ever experienced was an IUD insertion, I’ll never forget it.
It was so bad I almost told them to stop. I ended getting it removed, the constant hormones just didn’t agree with my body.
I had no idea to expect pain for my colonoscopy. I thought that because they weren’t numbing anything, it must not be bad. I started crying and screaming, and I couldn’t keep my legs open. They ended up only doing a partial biopsy because I went hypotensive (blood pressure dropped). It angers me to this day.
I have also had three IUDs, and my blood pressure tanks from the pain every time. I have to be monitored.
My hysteroscopy hurt so badly that they had to call extra people to hold me down on the table. I was screaming for help and ended up kicking my doctor in the face and breaking his nose — on accident of course, but honestly, he deserved it. He was literally torturing me and all he cared about was completing the procedure at any cost. I bled and was sore for nearly a month.
Something was very, very wrong with what he did, but I could never tell you what. I cannot believe they do that procedure without sedation.
The last time I had an endometrial biopsy attempted on me – my third one, my first two were done successfully but painfully — I could not handle it and asked to doctor to stop. I had to ask her again to stop because she ignored my first try. She became visibly agitated and started slamming things around the room, ripping her gloves off and mumbling that this was a waste of her time.
This was nearly 10 years ago, and I have not been to a gynecologist since. Not only did she hurt me, but she also shamed me for being intolerant to the pain.
I had a cystoscopy with no pain meds, and it was so [frigging] traumatizing. There I am, sitting and acting like everything’s okay and like it wasn’t the worst pain in the world. After, I go home and have to pee. I went into the shower to relax my body, and I couldn’t [frigging] pee. The pain was insane. I sobbed for hours. They ended up prescribing something extra to help, but in the end, that single event of trying to pee left me so traumatized. It hurt to pee for a week. The initial shock, sitting there awake while they do it, and the, ‘You may feel slight discomfort after’ — after shoving a metal rod thicker than a pencil in my urethra — and I was trying to figure out why my bladder is so sensitive.
I hate doctors so much.
Five years ago, I had my first IUD inserted. I lucked out with a physician who insisted on the local anesthetic for insertion and made me lay on the exam table for 30 minutes afterward for monitoring. They’ve moved on to another state so I had to find a new physician for my replacement IUD. When I scheduled the replacement, I specifically asked for the anesthetic, and they stated they would make sure it was prepped for me. When I got there for the appointment, they told me that the anesthetic was not prepared and it would ‘take longer to prep and numb you than to just insert the new device.’ Already strained, I buckled and allowed them to do removal and replacement without the anesthetic. It was agonizing. I complained with the office manager and asked to have my physician changed, but I was bullied out of that, too.
I had first asked after tubal ligation instead of an IUD and — though my physician was a woman, and I’m 37 with a 17-year-old child and no interest in more children — I got so bullied by her that I settled for another IUD. I’m autistic, so it’s incredibly hard for me to initiate care in the first place, and it’s harder to stand up for myself. It sucks.
When I went for the ultrasound follow-up two weeks after the replacement, the tech laughed and said, ‘They placed the IUD too low.’ When I asked what that meant, she said I’d have to talk to the doctor. Sobbing and horrified that I might have to go through this s**t a second time, I demanded a doctor look at the images there-and-then. A much younger doctor examined my images and gave me the OK after advising that while the placement was lower than was common, my particular IUD doesn’t come with as long of an insertion rod. She explained that so long as the device was not in the cervix, and I was not bleeding or cramping or the device was expelled, I was protected. I hope to f**k she’s right, but as soon as I get past the trauma of the whole affair, I’m finding a new GYN and getting a second opinion.
Women are discriminated against to a revolting degree; disabled women are abused outright. It’s easy for people who are not me to say things like, ‘You should have said no,’ but I’m inherently conflict-averse and anxious to the point of nausea at pushing back against authority figures, especially doctors. It’s really hard to self-advocate when you’re on the spectrum, and most people are confused about what that means.
I hadn’t had any other form of birth control and got an IUD placed. I had asked my doctor before the appointment if it was okay to drive myself home, and if there were any pain meds I could get. She told me all I would need was over-the-counter stuff. I nearly passed out during the insert from the pain. Once my head stopped spinning, I very carefully got myself to my car and started to drive home. It was incredibly painful. Our roads are s**t here, and every single bump I hit had me screaming in pain while trying to keep focus. I made it home and basically couldn’t leave my bed for two days.
Moral of the story, no, it’s NOT okay to be told you can drive yourself home after your first IUD placement.
It’s also completely ridiculous that we are given no numbing or pain meds for a procedure that puts a foreign object in the most sensitive part of our bodies. Our bodies literally fight back against it being there.
I had two colposcopies with no pain meds. The first one was at planned parenthood and I had no idea what to expect. This young nurse stood next to me and started talking to me about random things and also about her boyfriend and asked me a few questions. I had no idea why she was sharing that info until I felt the first snip and then I understood. So I opened up and talked about my partner and we had a good conversation with an occasional sharp pain where I’d suck in my breath, and then continue the conversation.
Colposcopies suck, by the way. I had my second one at the hospital and told the nurse there about my previous experience at planned parenthood, but this nurse wasn’t as talkative or willing to distract me because the doctor wanted her focus on him.
I’ve had two babies. Both babies it was impossible for me to dilate. I’m talking days to weeks of contractions and early labor.
When I got an IUD I threw up and passed out on the table. Dilating your cervix to insert an IUD is not just “pinch” for a lot of women.
The worst is that since I’ve been an adult I’ve only had female gynos and they’ve ALL dismissed my pain. A colposcopy almost caused me to pass out. I thought I temporarily died during my iud insertion. I AM EXTRA SENSITIVE DOWN THERE. Why don’t they take it seriously? They act as though I’m dramatic or an anomaly. But obviously I (and all of us here) am not.
BRING ON THE PAINKILLERS I SAY!
When I had a cervical biopsy they put me in “twilight sleep”. Or basically conscious sedation. I wasn’t totally unconscious but I wasn’t awake either. Had to have someone with me to make sure I got home. This was done through my local (US-Georgia) health department as I’m uninsured. Cost was negligible. They said they always offered the conscious sedation but many opted not to per the cost. I don’t understand why that is not always an option for gyno procedures. I’m assuming it’s a time/personel issue. And I guess as women we aren’t worth the cost of time or personel.
And no one talks about this too! I had no idea that when I was getting a cervix biopsy they were gonna just holepunch my insides without pain relief or anything. And when I asked the doctors about IUDs they downplayed it like crazy, I only heard about how bad and traumatizing it is from this sub, which is what stopped me from getting one. This really needs to be talked about more.
I had a C Section and was given only over the counter medication (there was some morphine in my spinal.) my husband got all kinds of pain relievers for his laparoscopic appendix removal. He also wasn’t expected to carry, care for and feed a baby boy immediately after release from the hospital.
I agree. I had a cervical biopsy and had to sit for an hour before I could leave the office. I’ve never felt anything like that.
Another thing they don’t numb women for – at least they didn’t for me – surgical abortion. That was some of the worst pain I’ve experienced and all they gave me was an ativan for anxiety. I felt like it was partly to punish me/women for getting abortions… but then I heard about other women that went under for theirs! I imagine it probably depends on how far along you are but yeah
I didn’t realize the IUD procedure was going to hurt bad until a nurse came in w the doctor just to hold my hand. Thank you, Planned Parenthood. It wasn’t much but it was something.
I had a colposcopy yesterday that was definitely painful, and still sore today. No way in hell I’m willing to do that with out pain meds again. It was awful.
I had an HSG done — they basically insert a tube into the vagina/cervix/uterus, inject dye, and see if your fallopian tubes are blocked and the shape of the uterus. It was the f**king worst. I was literally in agony and opted for exploratory surgery after they injected the dye for the third or fourth time. After uterine surgery, I had a balloon catheter in my uterus for two weeks. My body started having literal contractions to try to force it out. The doctor said I didn’t need to be out of work.
It was f**king hell. They told me to use ibuprofen and Tylenol at the max dose. It’s insane how horrible pain care for women is.
I agree! I had an IUD and a sample of my uterine lining taken both without anything other than aspirin. The nurse looked at me and said something to the effect that I obviously hadn’t had kids. As though that was the bar they were using for pain.