For a lot of people, navigating the healthcare system and seeking care from a doctor, dentist, or any other medical professional can be a stressful — even traumatizing — experience. I came across a very eye-opening Reddit thread where u/Internal_Idea_1571 asked, "Women who have been shamed by a medical professional, how did you feel, and what did you do?" and many of the responses left me at a loss for words. Here are some of them.
1. "I was a virgin when I got married. I went to the gynecologist a couple of months before I got married and explained my history and why I needed to get on birth control. She called me a 'good girl' — like I was a dog — and gave me a high five."
2. "When I struggled with severe cystic acne that had been around for five to six years, I went to see a doctor, and was promptly told by this young woman with flawless skin that 'If some acne bothers you so much, maybe you need a therapist?' She then went on a five-minute lecture on how appearance doesn't matter and acne doesn't affect your beauty or how other people view you and then refused to prescribe me anything because 'this is all in your head, and I think you should talk this out with someone.' I left crying. I went in tears to another doctor who immediately made sure my hormone levels got looked at, and then put me on treatment while prescribing me antibiotics and a topical cream to use in the meantime."
3. "My OBGYN laughed at me for saying I didn't want children and asked what my husband thought of that. She then completely dismissed my concerns about endometriosis, saying she couldn't do anything for me if I had it. I found another doctor who said she'd check me for endo AND would do sterilization surgery whenever I wanted it. I've really come to realize that having a caring and compassionate doctor can make a WORLD of difference. Advocate for yourself, and do not hesitate to visit someone else if you feel shamed or dismissed by a medical professional."
4. "I told my doctors for over a year that I hadn’t been feeling well. Had gone through psychosis out of nowhere, was super skinny, then gained 70 lbs. out of nowhere. I went to multiple doctors to get it addressed. One male doctor hadn’t even looked at my chart and said, 'Well, you could stand to lose some weight, but other than that, you're healthy!' I said, 'But my thyroid levels are out of wack, and my TPO antibodies are skyrocketing.'"
5. "At my gyno when I might've been 18 or 20 years old, we talked about my sexual history and that I was concerned I might have an STD. She pulled out the big, scary metal thing, and when she put it inside me, I cringed and winced. She said, 'Oh, calm down. If you're having sex, then you can handle this.' I felt hurt by her comment, and years later, I'm still upset about it."
6. "I had a physician's assistant tell me I was faking high blood pressure when I requested blood pressure medication in the military. They said I was too young to have high blood pressure despite the readings being high. I put in a complaint and was switched to a different military provider. Later on, she was kicked out of the military for forging vitals on patients and writing her notes according to what the commanders wanted over what actually was medically happening. This actually resulted in the eventual deaths of a few female soldiers. I didn't regret switching and discovered that my blood pressure was high as a symptom of mastocytosis and interstitial nephritis."
7. "I tried a new dentist closer to home — I had a previous dentist that I visited every six months, but it's, like, a 45-minute drive, and it was awful. She pointed out that my jaw doesn't close straight — which I never noticed — and casually mentioned that we could just break my jaw to fix it. She then goes on to say that I have a ton of cavities and need braces ASAP to fix my smile. I was so confused because I've always received compliments on how well I took care of my teeth from my other dentists. I got out of there so fast and never came back. The sad part is that a few of my old coworkers went to her, too, and got braces almost immediately."
8. "I had some light blood in my urine, so I mentioned it to my doctor who rolled her eyes and told me I was probably on my period. I had just finished my period and was on birth control, so I was pretty sure I knew when my period was supposed to be happening. Finally, she had me pee in a cup and sent me on my way. I get a call that afternoon about how I had a really bad UTI and needed to get on antibiotics immediately before it turned into a kidney infection."
9. "I went in to get help for mental health. I was agitated by anxiety, depression, and vivid intrusive thoughts. I let the word 'fuck' out to the nurse I was speaking with while trying to explain how I was feeling. She told the female doctor who promptly came in and harassed me for using language like that in a clinic and proceeded to say, 'Listen here, little girl, not everything is about you' as I was literally sitting in an appointment that I had made for myself to get diagnosed for my mental health issues so that I could feel better in my life. So, yes, this appointment IS about me and my experience specifically."
10. "I wanted to get an iron infusion after iron tablets did nothing for years and only made it worse. My regular doctor wrote a letter explaining my history and recommendations. The first thing the new doctor said to me was, 'This is too drastic, have you tried iron tablets?' I explained my four-year history, and they still denied me an iron infusion. I cried in my car, and called my regular doctor practice who were horrified and found another specialist for me and paid for the visit."
11. "I went into the ER thinking I had appendicitis. After a rough pelvic exam, the young ER doc said, 'That’s what gonorrhea feels like. It’s literally gonorrhea.' When I protested, he said, 'If your cervix hurts that bad, that’s what it is 100% of the time.' Well, since I’ve had exactly one partner, who has only had me as a partner, I asked him, 'What if it’s not? What else could it possibly be?' He gave me a side eye and said I could do a vaginal ultrasound if I wanted and then I could come right back after they confirm it. He came back in and said the results would be ready soon. He was followed in by my OB who happened to be there on-call and broke the news to me that I had a ruptured fallopian tube from an ectopic pregnancy and needed emergency surgery to stop the bleeding and hopefully save the active pregnancy in my uterus. I lost the tube and the other pregnancy. That young doctor left without a word."
12. "When I was around 13, I had to go to the ophthalmologist because I needed glasses. He did the standard procedure where I had to read numbers from a wall and the numbers get progressively smaller. When I couldn't read them anymore, he started shouting at me to try harder, asking me if I'm stupid, and so on. Well, I started crying, and my mom and I immediately left. When we left, all of the medical nurses apologized for his behavior."
13. "I went in for extreme stomach pain and was sent back home twice. The doctor literally rolled his eyes at me and accused me of wanting time off from school. The next night, I was doubled over in pain and called my dad in tears to take me to the hospital. By that time, I had a ruptured appendix, and it was so bad that I had to have a blood transfusion and almost died."
14. "I tried to get my birth control prescription filled at a different pharmacy because mine was closed, and the doctor said he wouldn’t do it because it was against his religion. I’m in Canada by the way."
15. "I once had a cardiologist berate me and tell me I had no reason to be in the office, that I’m a 'young, healthy female,' and 'I have severe anxiety and that is my problem.' I was severely confused as this was one year after my last appointment, and I was due for a yearly checkup. I have had an arrhythmia since birth and started having severe palpitations. I kindly rebuffed and assured her she must have the wrong patient in mind."
16. "When I was around 12 years old, I had to see an oral hygienist because I really struggled to keep my teeth clean — I have autism, but I wasn't diagnosed at the time, so all dentists assumed I was just lazy. She once told me, and I quote: 'You'll never find someone to be with if you have teeth like that because who in their right mind would want to put their tongue in that?' This was also around the time I first experienced depression, and I was extremely insecure about my appearance in general, so what she said to me really stung. I didn't respond to her; I didn't know how or what to say, but 13 years later, I still think about it, and I haven't seen a dentist in seven years because I'm super afraid of being judged again."
17. "I was 16 going through depression without knowing that it was depression. Told my doctor my symptoms and how I was feeling. I didn't know what a migraine was at the time, so I explained that there was pounding in my head that sometimes my headaches would mess with my vision and that I'd missed a few days of school due to it. He said he didn't believe me, thinks I lied to get out of school, and said I was pulling some shit. I left in tears, feeling hopeless because it hit me that if a doctor didn't understand what I was going through, I must really be going crazy."
"My mom was fuming and called him a dumbass on our way out. Then, I saw a different doctor. We talked about my symptoms, my feelings, and my headaches. Right away, he said it was depression. He prescribed me some antidepressants but told me that he prescribed that as an option and not a solution. He went on to explain what depression is and linked that to my migraines. He also asked that I checked in with him often. He also sent me to a few specialists just to make sure he covered everything. He was my prime doctor until I was 19 and was able to pull myself from that dark hole."
18. "I don't know if shame is the right word, but when I was about 14, I was suffering awful stomach pains. I would literally sit rocking, unable to do anything it was so bad. The doctor just passed it off as period cramps. My mum took me back a few days later as it clearly wasn't, and they finally ran some blood tests. We got a call to get to the hospital. Turned out I had pancreatitis, but this doctor then took me to a different room to ask how much alcohol I'd been drinking. She didn't believe my answer. It ended up being stress-related along with several other conditions after this."
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.