The patriarchy dismisses women’s pain; the matriarchy glorifies it


Two new books have just been published about women and pain.

Abby Norman wrote Ask Me About My Uterus; A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain, about her efforts to find physicians that would take her pain from endometriosis seriously.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Ignoring women’s pain has been raised to high art by the matriarchy in the form of the natural childbirth movement.[/pullquote]

…Norman describes what it was like to have her pain dismissed, to be told it was all in her head, only to be taken seriously when she was accompanied by a boyfriend who confirmed that her sexual performance was, indeed, compromised. Putting her own trials into a broader historical, sociocultural, and political context, Norman shows that women’s bodies have long been the battleground of a never-ending war for power, control, medical knowledge, and truth…

Maya Dusenbery has written Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick.

Dusenbery explores the deep, systemic problems that underlie women’s experiences of feeling dismissed by the medical system. Women have been discharged from the emergency room mid-heart attack with a prescription for anti-anxiety meds, while others with autoimmune diseases have been labeled “chronic complainers” for years before being properly diagnosed. Women with endometriosis have been told they are just overreacting to “normal” menstrual cramps, while still others have “contested” illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia that, dogged by psychosomatic suspicions, have yet to be fully accepted as “real” diseases by the whole of the profession.

Both books blame the patriarchy for dismissing women’s pain.

As a review of Norman’s book in The New Republic, The Reality of Women’s Pain explains:

And yet, women are everyday confronted with forces eager to deny the reality of their pain—whatever its form, and however insistently it clamors… Accepting the reality of women’s pain would compel a new—to many, nettlesome—gender dynamic, correcting for the many years when women have been treated as a footnote or afterthought in medicine. It would require the acknowledgment of guilt from some quarters, not by the patient as so often has been the case.

Whose fault is this?

Women’s suffering has often been unnecessary—disturbingly so. Rather, it has been imposed through the negligence, complacency, and apathy of a male-dominated field. After all, discounting women’s pain is no mere accident or bad habit—it has served as a strategy for protecting men and the world that serves them.

That’s true as far as it goes, but what neither author appears to address (I haven’t yet read the books) is that ignoring women’s pain has been raised to high art by the matriarchy in the form of the natural childbirth movement. Childbirth pain isn’t merely discounted; it is celebrated.

Grantly Dick-Read, the father of the natural childbirth movement, was an avatar of patriarchal medicine. As Laura Briggs argues in The Race of Hysteria: “Overcivilization” and the “Savage” Woman in Late Nineteenth-Century Obstetrics and Gynecology, the heart of Dick-Read’s philosophy — comparison between “overcivilized” white women and “primitive” women who gave birth easily — was not merely a racist fantasy, but reflected the anxiety that men felt about women’s increasing emancipation.

This anxiety over women’s increasing education, independence and political involvement was expressed in medicine generally, and in obstetrics and gynecology particularly, by the degeneration of women’s natural capabilities in fertility and childbirth compared to her “savage” peers. Simply put, the result of women insisting on increased education, enlarged roles outside the home and greater political participation was that their ovaries shriveled, they suddenly began to experience painful childbirth.

Surely then the nearly exclusively female natural childbirth industry of midwives, doulas and childbirth educators would take the pain of childbirth seriously and treat it aggressively. Instead they have done the exact opposite; they have insisted that it should be glorified instead of treated. Dick-Read lied when he said that “primitive” women do not have pain in labor. The natural childbirth industry goes one better and lies that childbirth pain is beneficial, should be celebrated and on no account should ever be abolished.

The motive for the patriarchy in discounting women’s pain was their contemptuous sexism and their selfish fear that women’s emancipation threatened them. The motive for the matriarchy in discounting women’s pain and even glorifying it is their selfish fear of economic competition from doctors who can effectively treat childbirth pain with epidurals. The victims in both cases are women whose pain and anguish are thoroughly ignored.

The traditional medical patriarchy was grossly remiss in dismissing women’s pain and they should be called to account. But as the advent, refinement and widespread use of the epidural demonstrates, they do attempt to treat women’s pain. The natural childbirth matriarchy is worse; they don’t merely disbelieve women, they evince the utmost contempt for women by celebrating their agony in childbirth. It is long past time that the matriarchy be called to account.

51 Responses to “The patriarchy dismisses women’s pain; the matriarchy glorifies it”

  1. BeatriceC
    March 9, 2018 at 4:41 pm #

    Sometimes I get to wondering about this topic in regards to the first MrsC. MrC took the girls on a planned trip to his mother’s house shortly after New Year’s day. His first wife wasn’t feeling all that well so she decided to stay home. A couple days later she called and told him she was feeling a lot worse and was taking herself to the ER. She never came home. She was admitted to the hospital with end stage ovarian cancer and died two and a half weeks later. Talking with MrC and his daughters, it’s clear that she wasn’t feeling wonderful for at least two years prior, but had blown of abdominal pain as just “cramps”. I wonder, if society didn’t devalue women’s pain, if she might have sought treatment sooner and possibly survived. Perhaps not, as she was a two time survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma by that point (high school and college), but maybe earlier treatment could have bought a few more years.

    • Tigger_the_Wing
      March 9, 2018 at 9:32 pm #

      What a tragedy. Ovarian cancer isn’t called ‘the silent killer’ for nothing. I lost an aunt and a great-aunt to it, and I came closer than I would like. Fortunately, I have EDS – and when my uterus collapsed again*, I started getting symptoms. The tumours (on both ovaries) were caught at the pre-cancerous stage.

      *Edit: I’d had surgery when I was thirty, to move the uterus into the correct position, after it collapsed after I had my third. It collapsed again after I had the twins.

      • Empress of the Iguana People
        March 10, 2018 at 8:05 pm #

        My sister’s symptoms were ignored because a lot of them are similar to pregnancy. The metastasized ovarian cancer on her baby’s umbilical cord was harder to miss. It’s amazing they’re both still alive.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      March 9, 2018 at 9:33 pm #

      Post-chemo tumors are particularly nasty and she may have had a germline mutation to go with it, but…two weeks is extremely fast to go from basically okay to dead. I expect that if she’d gotten treatment sooner she might have at least had more time to say good-bye–and not spent the last two years of her life in pain.

      • BeatriceC
        March 9, 2018 at 10:28 pm #

        I’m fairly certain she was far from basically okay for a while, but just ignored her symptoms as they got worse and worse. I didn’t know her, of course, but from everything I’ve heard about her she was a powerhouse that just got shit done no matter what obstacle got thrown in her way. And of course, the point of the comment, women are socialized from a very young age to take care of others and ignore ourselves, so I’m also sure there was a lot of that going on as well.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          March 9, 2018 at 10:52 pm #

          Sorry, I didn’t write well. I agree: she couldn’t have been feeling well two weeks before. Cancer doesn’t move that fast. Ovarian cancer is infamous for not causing symptoms until late in the disease*, but most people live for months or years even with advanced disease. If she went from no diagnosis to dead in two weeks, it was because she did not get care soon enough. I expect your explanation of why she didn’t is entirely correct.

          *Or maybe women blow off their symptoms until late in the course? Bloating: eh, that time of the month. Gastrointestinal problems: just gas. Pain: nothing I can’t work through. And so on. To be followed by the blame game of “why didn’t you come in sooner?”

  2. Eater of Worlds
    March 9, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

    I know of a woman who is a gynecologist and also certified in pain management. She doesn’t prescribe painkillers to anyone, she sends them to a pain psychologist when what she does doesn’t help. I can’t help but think that this is a dismissal of what those women in pain are going through. Sometimes the only option left is offering painkillers. If it were a different kind of pain I think it would be respected more, like a broken leg. That is considered valid pain, they can see it’s broken. Even if they see tissue where it doesn’t belong (endometriosis) it’s still not considered to be as valid as other pain.

  3. livingdeadmom
    March 9, 2018 at 1:22 pm #

    Grrrr. Yes. I spent six months last year with intense stomach pain and digestive issues. Three trips to my male doctor ended in frustration after he repeatedly dismissed it as indigestion (nope, I know what that feels like), menstrual cramps (no where near my time of the month), and constipation (no, the opposite, actually). All of these suggestions were made on separate visits, no tests were ordered. I explained that I had experienced sporadic episodes of stomach issues since childhood and he smirked at my description of the gut-wrenching pain that finally landed me in the hospital a few weeks later.
    Let me add that I am NOT a crier and I have a high tolerance for pain. I marched 20+ miles with a 50 pound ruck sack on a cracked hip in army boot camp and didn’t complain. I was in labor for 36 hours with my first child and didn’t ask for an epidural until hour 30.
    At the hospital, I could practically feel my young, male doctor roll his eyes at me as I teared up in pain and requested some relief. No tests, beyond blood and urine were ordered. I stayed overnight on an IV diet for “acute pancreatitis”, the doc’s diagnosis. He repeatedly asked me how much I drink alcohol and I could tell he didn’t believe my honest answer “maybe once a month at celebrations and holidays”. So I was sent home after one night, still in pain, and treated like a pill-seeking alcoholic by the hospital staff.
    The next week, I was back with the same issue. This time, the fantastic female doctor on duty immediately ordered a round of comprehensive tests and a thorough blood test, which showed markers for an autoimmune disease. She called in a gastrointerologist (who was male and amazing) who performed a colonoscopy and endoscopy. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, prescribed the proper medication, and released within a week.
    At my follow up with my regular male doc, I explained the hospital visits and findings, was met with skepticism, and had to wait three months until he finally had his staff send a referral for a GI doc.

    • mabelcruet
      March 9, 2018 at 1:45 pm #

      It doesn’t really improve much as you get older. My aunt, aged 80, developed sudden onset symmetrical hip and shoulder pains. She’s fitter than I am, walks at least a mile a day with her dogs and has never been in hospital. Now it’s been a long, long time since I did clinical medicine, but I thought polymyalgia rheumatica would fit with her symptoms. She visited her GP, was told ‘it’s arthritis, live with it’. She wasn’t able to get up off the couch because of the pain, she had to phone her neighbour to help her stand. She went back to the GP again, I had given her a list of information and questions to ask, the GP doubled down, refused to do any blood tests, didn’t even examine her, refused to refer her to anyone else. So we paid for her to go privately to see a rheumatologist-polymyalgia rheumatica. She was started on steroids with an almost instantaneous improvement. I went with her, and as we described the multiple visits to the GP with an absolutely textbook presentation of PMR with absolutely nothing being done by the GP, the rheumatologists face was very much ‘WTF??’

      it’s not a trivial diagnosis either, visual problems are associated with it and her recovery could have been severely impaired if she didn’t have bolshy mouthy neices standing up for her. There may be other elderly female patients of that GP who are similarly ignored and belittled, but who don’t have an advocate. It’s a worrying thought.

      • livingdeadmom
        March 9, 2018 at 1:51 pm #

        That’s awful, and yeah, it infuriates me to think about all of the elderly women and young girls who are overlooked and suffer needlessly because women are believed to be weak and prone to complaining.

  4. Petticoat Philosopher
    March 9, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

    It doesn’t need to be a contest. As someone who went 3 years without a relatively simple diagnosis (that ended up being easy to treat) because doctors wouldn’t take my pain seriously and instead basically laughed at me and told me that sex was supposed to be excruciatingly painful when you first tried it, silly girl, and then subjected me to torturous internal exams that I pretended as best as I could out of shame weren’t so bad so they wouldn’t think I was a bigger ninny than they clearly already did, I’m not prepared to say that “the matriarchy” is worse. And my story is tame? It was after all “only” 3 years and was happily resolved and I never had anything life-threatening. Just life-disrupting and humiliating and lots of other fun stuff.

    Of course, it was a medical professional that finally did take me seriously—a female NP at the new practice I started going to when I was 21 who noticed the tears of pain I was trying to hide and my white knuckled gripping of the exam table, looked concerned and said “This is not comfortable for most women. But it’s not supposed to be that bad.” I’ll always be grateful. This is not me bashing the medical profession across the board. But I think it’s okay to talk about the harm institutionalized sexism within it still causes to women without immediately pivoting to “Well, if you think THAT’S bad, get a load of these midwives!”

    I can walk and chew gum at the same time.

  5. Tigger_the_Wing
    March 9, 2018 at 11:25 am #

    I’m well aware of the medical profession’s dismissal of health problems because the person sitting in front of the doctor is female. Delays in diagnosis, or misdiagnoses? I could write a book – instead, I’ll make a list of some of my conditions, and how many years it took from onset to accurate diagnosis.

    Ankylosing spondylitis – twelve years.
    Asthma – forty-five years
    Autism – forty-nine years
    Cœliac disease – thirty-six years
    Ehlers-Danlos type III – fifty-five years
    Endometriosis – twenty-three years
    Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation – thirty-two years
    Supra-ventricular tachycardia – forty-two years
    Unstable angina – ten years

    And the saddest part is that I’m not the only one who has had to wait decades for answers (and then treatment, if necessary) whilst being told that it is all in my head.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      March 9, 2018 at 12:04 pm #

      Autism kinda is in your head, it being a brain variation 😉

      • Tigger_the_Wing
        March 9, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

        Thank you for the laugh! 😀

  6. mabelcruet
    March 8, 2018 at 5:34 pm #

    I’ve never experienced labour, so I’m probably not qualified to talk about it, but there does seem to be a trend to categorise labour as ‘power surges’, ‘intensities’ ‘pressure rises’ and other euphemisms. Is that a way of re-branding labour to not frighten women, or devaluing labour pains by not categorising them as painful? But then again, using euphemisms is probably offensive given that women are perfectly capable of making up their own mind and choosing their own language-to me it seems midwives are infantilising women by telling them ‘you’re not in pain, you’re having power surges’.

    In medieval times labour was sometimes called ‘the groaning time’. I think that’s quite apt!

    • Who?
      March 8, 2018 at 6:15 pm #

      I think it fits in with the worldview that extremes are what life is all about. Everything’s wonderful, or it’s terrible. Black or white. Good or evil. We don’t do shades.

      So-childbirth is not painful, therefore it is good. Breast is beyond best. Bottle feeding is an unmitigated disaster for the baby and mother. CS is always bad, and terribly hard to recover from, but people take it thinking it is the ‘easy option’: they’ll learn. Vaginal birth is great with no risks, recovery is a breeze.

      Of course from here things get a little darker-did you have pain in labour? You must have been doing it wrong/your provider let you down. Struggled breastfeeding? Didn’t try hard enough-hopefully your baby might be okay on the formula? Had a good recovery from your cs? What about next time, have you thought about next time? Two weeks on and you can only sit on a rubber ring and are still urinating razor blades-hmm, that’s really rare, you shouldn’t worry though. No need to bother the doctor with any of that, they won’t know what’s ‘normal’.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      March 8, 2018 at 7:50 pm #

      Not to mention “power surges” are bad things for electronics. :/

    • March 8, 2018 at 9:46 pm #

      As someone who considers labor most unpleasant, I can sort of see the “surge” thing, up to a point. It’s like standing in the surf, jumping up to meet the waves and feeling exhilarated when they pass by you. But the waves get bigger and bigger and bigger, and eventually you’re smashed to the bottom of the ocean, drowning in saltwater and feeling sand in your mouth. And another wave comes, and another, and you can’t do anything about it. You’re helpless.

      Then someone pulls you out of the ocean, wraps a towel around you, and gives you a drink so you can look around and enjoy the beach. That’s when the anesthesiologist gives you the epidural.

      • rox123
        March 9, 2018 at 2:13 am #

        Does it wear off by the time of the expulsion? That’s what my OB said, and he said was good that this happens because you need to feel the pushing. I didn’t find out because I had a c section by choice.

        • March 9, 2018 at 7:13 am #

          No idea. I have always gotten an epidural as soon as I could.

        • March 9, 2018 at 7:57 am #

          The analgesic effect of an epidural can be managed.

        • MaineJen
          March 9, 2018 at 8:53 am #

          Nope. This is a myth. You don’t “need” to feel the contractions to push.

        • Heidi
          March 9, 2018 at 9:52 am #

          Mine was still working when I gave birth. I could feel the contractions. The contractions just weren’t painful when the epidural kicked in. I knew exactly when to push. I could feel a pop when the head was born and then another one with the rest of the body but it didn’t hurt. I’m glad it was still working as I needed quite a few stitches. Once or twice I felt a very slight needle prick when I was being sewn up.

        • livingdeadmom
          March 9, 2018 at 2:08 pm #

          I’ve had a vaginal birth and two C secs. On an epidural the final contractions feel like intense, indescribable pressure, slightly painful, but the pressure is the worst. It’s what compells you to push, and it doesn’t go away with any amount of epidural, at least that’s what the anesthesiologist told me. Incidentally, the first bowel movement after a C sec is kind of like intense labor on an epidural.

    • Kelly
      March 8, 2018 at 10:20 pm #

      All I have to say is that if someone were to use those euphemisms while I was in labor, I would have probably said some choice words. I have never had back labor and have always been able to talk through my contractions but they still hurt like no other and I was so glad when it was all over.

      • mabelcruet
        March 9, 2018 at 12:47 pm #

        There’s a programme in the UK called One Born Every Minute, and they are currently showing an advert for it. It’s only a snippet, but there is a mum in labour and the midwife asks ‘so what number is this?’. Mum says ‘Six’. Midwife then comments ‘so have you figured out yet what’s causing it?’ I know its meant to be a joke, I know it’s meant to be humorous, and I know its only a very short segment of what is probably a longer conversation, but to me that seems like a very disrespectful thing to say, and they think this is a good way to advertise the programme? Let’s watch women and their partners be sneered at?

        • PeggySue
          March 9, 2018 at 1:02 pm #

          I’ve watched a lot of old episodes of this show and I don’t really know how to account well for the cultural differences, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with the care model. It does seem to privilege vaginal birth–you never see someone going for a C-section unless it was booked early for a known medical problem or it’s a crash C-section, you see forceps births in emergencies rather than early detection and move to C-section, and you see midwives actively trying to talk women out of epidurals. To me, there seems to be a “we know best” attitude that can disempower the mother, along with a sort of giggly fascination with vaginal birth on the part of the midwives. Probably the episode that made me most uncomfortable was one in which a woman was (I think) first sent home although in severe pain, because she was not dilated much, and then came back via ambulance in out of control pain begging for relief, was talked out of epidural, eventually delivered. The midwives knew before birth that the baby’s presentation was posterior (which, if I read correctly, can lead to a more painful labor). The mother was not given that information. The midwives “wanted to support her original desire for a vaginal birth without epidural.” Which seemed silly. When things change (and a posterior position seems like an important thing), shouldn’t the patient have the chance to revisit her choices?

          • mabelcruet
            March 9, 2018 at 1:26 pm #

            One episode in an earlier series was a mum who had been labouring, no progression, fetal distress on the CTG trace so the plan was made for emergency section. The midwife had a trainee midwife in with her. The whole team arrived-obstetricians senior and junior, neonatologists, neonatal practitioner, anesthetists-mum is being wheeled away down the corridor and the midwife was getting interviewed. She said this is what they were trained to do, that she was the only person in the room with the skills and training to resuscitate the baby and the parents were depending on her. Er, no. They are trained to a certain extent, and it was quite funny seeing her absolute certainty that none of those other people were really needed. But they didn’t interview anyone else in relation to the section, so afterwards, the midwife was talking about it again and it gave the very distinct and misleading impression that she had done it and no one else was involved. There was no mention of who all those other people were. The programme is definitely being used as propaganda against medical intervention in births.

          • PeggySue
            March 9, 2018 at 1:44 pm #

            I agree, I also saw an episode with a first-time mother who was terrified of section, and the “hero” was the midwife who took over her care shortly before she was to go to theatre and was able to assist her with a vaginal birth. There was question of whether baby could be delivered vaginally, and of course they wouldn’t have shown if there was a dystocia, but it really enforced the “C-sections are scary and can be avoided if you have a good midwife” message. No one was shown talking through the mother’s fears and offering reassurance, let alone information about why it would be SAFER to proceed to C-section.

          • maidmarian555
            March 9, 2018 at 2:47 pm #

            It’s such a missed opportunity to give parents an idea of what a CS is actually like. When I had mine, the person you interact most with is the anaethetist. They’re the one who talks you through everything and keeps an eye on you to make sure you’re feeling ok. On One Born, it’s just a mass of anonymous people, they never introduce any of the staff other than the midwives and it’s quite frustrating. I think much of the trauma surrounding EMCS in particular stems from parents having no idea what’s happening, and it is overwhelming going from having one person in your room to being in an operating theatre full of people. They could really help with that confusion on that program and yet choose not to.

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            March 10, 2018 at 8:16 pm #

            My original desire was to give that a try, because Mom hadn’t needed pain relief and I’m a bit of a medicine avoider. My sister, in the room at the time, said everyone looked relieved when I finally asked for the epidural. Good thing I had docs and regular L&D nurses.

            I don’t feel like I gave in, I feel like it was a reasonable response to a part of life I hadn’t experienced before. Try a couple different ways and go with the one that works best for you. One type of cast on is not inherintly better than another, although some are a trifle better in situation x and a trifle less so in situation y and I’m not even sure how you’d go about attempting a long-tail cast on with toe-up socks

    • March 9, 2018 at 7:55 am #

      It’s a means of devaluing pain. In a number of cultures, not just NCB nuts, I’ve heard women, usually with a degree of scorn or even contempt, declare that “no man has the capacity to bear physical pain like a woman can.”

      Sometimes I wonder what men would think if they knew they were being sneered at by women who feel they are innately stronger in this regard than men.

      • LaMont
        March 9, 2018 at 11:05 pm #

        The whole “women are stronger [physically or emotionally] than men” trope drives me up a wall, incidentally. It’s an excuse to put women through hell and let men off the hook. Men can and do endure brutal things. Women shouldn’t always have to.

        Vorkosigan Saga not-super-spoilery nerdtime: I love that Cordelia instantly shreds this very trope when Aral tries to use it on her, after she proposes her mission and he refuses her –

        Aral: “I really would be terminally crazy! To sit here, not knowing.”
        Cordelia: “You ask that of me…every day!”
        Aral: “You are stronger than I, strong beyond reason.”
        Cordelia: “Flattering. Not convincing.”

        • Who?
          March 10, 2018 at 2:08 am #

          I mind how patchy the trope is-which I think is partly what Cordelia is alluding to.

          If women are so strong, why shouldn’t they be out getting among whatever is going on, rather than sitting around on some bloke’s say-so?

          • LaMont
            March 10, 2018 at 5:51 pm #

            Oh it’s definitely also a way to glorify women and woman’s work as a means of keeping women firmly in their very-circumscribed space. Tell me about how your stay-at-home wife is so much smarter and tougher than you ONE MORE TIME, my fine six-figure-making MBA friend. ONE MORE TIME.

          • Who?
            March 10, 2018 at 6:52 pm #

            Unfortunately the women internalise this too. I have a couple of friends who didn’t finish uni, have not worked outside the home since having children (who are now grown up) and whose husbands have moved on.

            The women are genuinely shocked, what with all their financial, managerial and other experience (!) they can’t get a job that isn’t cleaning houses or doing very basic care work. They really think that they should be able to go into the workplace in (say) a senior PA role because they have been hearing for years about how smart, capable and wonderful they are.

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            March 10, 2018 at 8:08 pm #

            Smart is useful, but employers also want work experience.

          • Mishimoo
            March 13, 2018 at 2:07 am #

            Exactly why I decided to start studying and begin a career! My friend’s mum, who went through a fairly acrimonious divorce, suggested that I start thinking about what I’ll do when the kids are all at school. Plus, why should I stay at home when my earning potential (once I finish this degree) is nearly twice my husband’s wage?

    • MaineJen
      March 9, 2018 at 8:52 am #

      It %^&* hurts. “surges” my ass.

  7. March 8, 2018 at 1:51 pm #

    The labeling of women’s pain as anything other than pain brought back a memory from nearly 10 years ago now.

    I have well-controlled asthma that generally only flares when I exercise vigorously or when I have a cold.

    I had an asthma attack come out of nowhere during a district-wide staff meeting. I used my rescue inhaler and it didn’t seem to be working much at all so I headed to the nearest urgent care center. By the time I got there, the 20 minute window by which my inhaler should have done something had past and I was wheezing, hacking and feeling awful. The most annoying thing for me was that I could only say 2-3 words at a time before hacking or sucking in more air frantically.

    The triage nurse got me in a room quickly and ran through the basic med review including the fact that I have a history of depression and anxiety that is treated with an SSRI and psychotherapy. I told the nurse that I was having a poorly controlled asthma attack and needed treatment.

    A few minutes later a physician’s assistant came in. Before she examined me in any way – including listening to my lungs – she told me that panic attacks are really common and could be easily treated.

    I agreed – and explained that I’m really a generalized anxiety disorder type gal. I haven’t had a panic attack before – and I’m pretty damn sure that I was having an asthma attack since I’ve never had hacking coughs or wheezing with anxiety before. * for veracity, insert dry hacks every 7 syllables or so

    She wanted to try giving me either Valium or Xanax. I wanted some kind of asthma treatment.

    We cycle through the argument a few times. Finally, I agree that I will take an anti-anxiety medication if she will take all responsibility for treating my asthma when the medication makes me sleepy, uncooperative and my blood oxygen plummets from respiratory failure from an untreated asthma attack at an urgent care.

    I got an albuterol nebulizer treatment. Pretty quickly, I was shaking like a leaf, talking at a million miles a minutes, and could take a deep breath; I was happy as a clam and not hacking a lung up.

    That was the one time I was really worried that I was going to end up hospitalized because a medical professional decided I fit the profile of a panic attack better than an asthma attack.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      March 8, 2018 at 2:39 pm #

      ugh. Someone left her blinders on.

    • Who?
      March 8, 2018 at 5:41 pm #

      What an experience-it was lucky you were able to advocate for yourself despite being so unwell.

      It reminds me of Serena Williams’ experience, as she related it-having to demand medical treatment even though it should have been clear to all concerned that she was an at-risk patient.

    • PeggySue
      March 9, 2018 at 1:08 pm #

      That’s horrible. I am so sorry.

    • Eater of Worlds
      March 9, 2018 at 3:07 pm #

      I always worry about that happening with an asthma attack. I don’t always have wheezing from asthma, I actually rarely do. It doesn’t help that a symptom of asthma can be anxiety and anxiety can cause asthma, especially if you already have asthma. I always worry some numbskull will jump to conclusions, see that I am not wheezing and will downgrade the severity of what is happening to me as “not really an asthma attack” which has happened before, in an ER no less. I was in an accident and had asthma (stress can cause asthma, and being in a car accident is stressful). I started struggling to breathe and they said “stop it, you’re just hyperventilating” until I was in trouble and needed them to do stuff emergently instead of listening to me and just giving me a damn nebulizer since my inhaler was in my bag which was in the car on the side of the road.

  8. fiftyfifty1
    March 8, 2018 at 12:19 pm #

    NCB philosophy uses the same “it’s all in your head” dismissal but they dress it up:
    -It wouldn’t be painful if you hadn’t seen so many Hollywood depictions of birth.
    -It wouldn’t be painful if you just accepted that contraction are Intense, not Painful.
    -It wouldn’t be painful if you weren’t so sexually uptight. Here let me rub your “button.”
    -It wouldn’t be painful if you weren’t so uptight in general. Get naked and vocalize!
    -It wouldn’t be painful if you hadn’t let yourself be tricked into giving birth in the hospital.
    -It wouldn’t be painful if you hadn’t been tricked into accepting Pitocin.
    -It wouldn’t be painful if you were moving around and “dancing” during rushes.
    -It wouldn’t be painful if you had eaten right.
    -It wouldn’t be painful afterwards if you just laid in bed with your legs together and hired me as your postpartum doula (no you don’t need a repair!)

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      March 9, 2018 at 8:44 am #

      Yeah, I’m not buying into Dr Amy’s post. I mean, the NCB doesn’t dismiss women’s pain? For pete’s sake, this is the group that denies labor pains by insisting on calling them “rushes.” And, as you say, if women claim it does hurt, then it is all their fault.

      • fiftyfifty1
        March 9, 2018 at 9:35 am #

        Well, I think it’s half and half. Half of them dismiss it altogether, half of them admit it but glorify it–it may be pain, but it’s “pain with a purpose” so good warrior mamas embrace it.

      • Eater of Worlds
        March 9, 2018 at 3:25 pm #

        I’ve always gotten the feeling that they don’t deny it but rather lie about it to get more people to do it their way. They try to mislead people in the grand traiditon of “better to ask forgiveness than permission.” Because once you get to a certain point you can’t get pain control, you have to keep going just like once you breake the rule you can’t do anything other than say you’re sorry. Once the birth is over and you have the “oh my gosh I have a baby now!” excitement they tell you “it would have been so mch more horrible in a hospital/with needles jammed into your back/any sitution that leads to their loss of control over you ” and continue to reinforce their option as the only one.

        I kind of like having needles jabbed into me prior to surgery, because that means pain control during surgery. I sure don’t hear people saying “it’s so awful to have an IV/epidural prior to surgery, by all means cut me open without anesthesia, it’s better that way.”

      • Chi
        March 11, 2018 at 6:18 pm #

        Except she’s not saying NCB dismisses women’s pain, she’s saying that they’re one of the biggest culprits in glorifying it. They’re the ones who spin tales of birth being ’empowering’ and that going through a natural birth experience makes you a ‘birth goddess’.

        And if a woman changes her mind halfway through, well then it’s their JOB to ENSURE that she sticks to her guns and gets that empowering natural birth, trauma be damned.

        • kilda
          March 11, 2018 at 10:46 pm #

          I think the confusion comes in because glorifying women’s pain IS another way of dismissing it. “that wasn’t pain! It was just a surge of your warrior mama power!”

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