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Women Are Sharing Medical Procedures They’ve Had Without Anesthetics Or Pain Meds, And Why Is This So Normal

"The doctor said, 'Why are you crying? There are no nerve endings on the cervix. I know you aren’t actually feeling pain.'"

This past week, Redditor u/Ancient-Abs asked the question, "Why are many gynecological procedures done without pain medicine?" before discussing the discrimination women face in medical treatment and sharing their own experience having an IUD inserted.

An operating room also called surgery center, is the unit of a hospital where surgical procedures are performed
Boy_anupong / Getty Images

In response, many women agreed and shared their own experiences with painful gynecological procedures, shedding light on the often-stark variation between men and women when receiving (at least local) anesthetics or pain medication for medical procedures:

1. "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." —u/CanadaOD

2. "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 asshole doctor is still the norm. Cool. Real cool." —u/notthefakehigh5r

3. "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?'" —u/MarinaA19

an OBGYN holding a speculum
The Good Brigade / Getty Images

4. "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." —u/asylum013

5. "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?" —u/MamaBear4485

6. "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." —u/[deleted]

medical examination table, ultrasound machine and patient gown
Catherine Mcqueen / Getty Images

7. "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." —u/galumphingbanter

8. "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." —u/MissAnthrope94

9. "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."

u/la_bel_iconnu

A nurse doing a holding the tools for a smear test
Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

10. "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?" —u/Skorpionfrau

11. "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 fucking cruelty. They literally push a tube through your cervix. Why would they ever think this would be ok to do without pain control?" —u/birdieponderinglife

12. "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 fuck your cervix."

"That was just one of the many things they should have not have done." —u/Khalano

An examination room
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

13. "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." —u/Psychological_Sail80

14. "So, I used to get ingrown toenails. I went to a doctor who numbed them, removed the edges, and then shoved a Q-tip of silver nitrate into my nail bed to kill the toenail to prevent it from growing back in there. I was numbed for it. But after having my son and a second-degree tear, I wasn't healing properly. My gyno told me there was a section where that wouldn't seal even after many stitches. He said, 'Don't worry, I'll take care of it.' Before I know it, I'm laying back, and he's prepping. He calmly asks if I'd ever heard of silver nitrate and explains that it'll seal the spot. It was the same as with my toenail — a Q-tip covered in the stuff. I was in so much pain, and I'd just pushed a giant baby out of there for 31+ hours! I was crying, and wanted to cuss him out and kick him in the head! The nurse then pipes up, 'Oh, I think we've got a numbing spray around here somewhere we could have used.'"

"You knew what that'd do and feel like, and you're just now mentioning anything for the pain?! The stuff literally kills fingernails! I think it's used in photography! And y'all are just slathering it on an open wound on my most tender area to cauterize it with ZERO pain meds and minimal warning!?! Burn the whole system down!" —u/roxannearcia

15. "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 fucked 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." —u/Moal

Gurney in hospital hallway
David Sacks / Getty Images

16. "I had a cystoscopy with no pain meds, and it was so fucking 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 fucking 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." —u/sammmythegr8

17. "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." —u/trekbette

18. "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 shit 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." —u/Valkyry

Doctor in hospital holding IUD
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

19. "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." —u/KnightBustonowhere

20. "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 fucking 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 fucking hell. They told me to use ibuprofen and Tylenol at the max dose. It's insane how horrible pain care for women is." —u/PansyAttack

21. "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." —u/1thruZero

Doctor's examination and procedures room
Fotofrog / Getty Images

22. "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 fucked me up in the head." —u/Victim_Kin_Seek_Suit

23. "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 shit 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 fuck 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." —u/PansyAttack

YSK: The images in this post are not intended to represent the tools used for mentioned medical procedures. If you're unfamiliar with the procedures mentioned and would like to learn more, see the following (in alphabetical order):

• Cervical BiopsyFrom Johns Hopkins Medicine, "A cervical biopsy is a procedure to remove tissue from the cervix to test for abnormal or precancerous conditions or cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus. It forms a canal that opens into the vagina."

• Cervical PolypsFrom Harvard Health, "The cervix is a tube-like channel that connects the uterus to the vagina. Cervical polyps are growths that usually appear on the cervix where it opens into the vagina. Polyps are usually cherry-red to reddish-purple or grayish-white. They vary in size and often look like bulbs on thin stems. Cervical polyps are usually not cancerous (benign) and can occur alone or in groups."

• ColonoscopyFrom Johns Hopkins Medicine, "A colonoscopy is a procedure that lets your health care provider check the inside of your entire colon (large intestine). The procedure is done using a long, flexible tube called a colonoscope. The tube has a light and a tiny camera on one end. It is put in your rectum and moved into your colon."

• ColposcopyFrom Johns Hopkins Medicine, "A Colposcopy [is a procedure that lets your health care provider] view the opening to the uterus, called the cervix, and the vagina. It uses an instrument with a magnifying lens and a light called a colposcope. It magnifies the image many times. The healthcare provider sees the tissues on the cervix and vaginal walls more clearly."

• CystoscopyFrom Johns Hopkins Medicine, "Cystoscopy [for women] is a procedure that lets the healthcare provider view the urinary tract, particularly the bladder, the urethra, and the openings to the ureters. Cystoscopy can help find problems with the urinary tract. This may include early signs of cancer, infection, narrowing, blockage, or bleeding. To do this procedure, a long, flexible, lighted tube, called a cystoscope, is put into the urethra and moved up into the bladder." 

• Endometrial BiopsyFrom Johns Hopkins Medicine, "Your healthcare provider can do an endometrial biopsy to take a small tissue sample from the lining of the uterus (endometrium) for study. Your healthcare provider will insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina to spread the walls of the vagina apart to view the cervix. Your provider will insert a thin tube, called a catheter, through the cervical opening into the uterus. The catheter has a smaller tube inside it. The healthcare provider will withdraw the inner tube creating suction at the end of the catheter, then gently rotate and move the tip of the catheter in and out to collect small pieces of endometrial tissue."

• Hysterosalpingography (HSG)From UCSF Health, "Hysterosalpingography is a special x-ray using dye to look at the womb (uterus) and fallopian tubes. You will lie on a table beneath an x-ray machine. You will place your feet in stirrups. A tool called a speculum is placed into the vagina. After the cervix is cleaned, the health care provider places a thin tube (catheter) through the cervix. Dye, called contrast, flows through this tube, filling the womb and fallopian tubes."

• HysteroscopyFrom Johns Hopkins Medicine, "Hysteroscopy is the exam of the inside of the cervix and uterus using a thin, lighted, flexible tube called a hysteroscope. Your provider will insert the hysteroscope into the vagina, through the cervix, and into the uterus. Your provider will inject a liquid or gas through the hysteroscope to expand the uterus for a better view. Your provider will examine the wall of the uterus for problems." 

• IUD (Intrauterine Device) — From Planned Parenthood, "An IUD is a tiny device that's put into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. To put the IUD in, the nurse or doctor will put a speculum into your vagina and then use a special inserter to put the IUD in through the opening of your cervix and into your uterus."

• LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure)From Johns Hopkins Medicine, "Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) uses a wire loop heated by electric current to remove cells and tissue in a woman’s lower genital tract. It is used as part of the diagnosis and treatment for abnormal or cancerous conditions. With LEEP, an electric current passes through the fine wire loop to cut away a thin layer of abnormal tissue. This tissue will be sent to the lab for testing. LEEP can also remove abnormal cells to allow healthy tissue to grow."

• Saline Infusion Sonohysterography (SIS or SHG)From Inside Radiology, "SIS uses a saline (salt solution) inserted into the uterus that allows the lining of the uterus to be clearly seen on an ultrasound scan. A speculum is inserted into the vagina. A soft catheter is inserted through the speculum and into the uterus through the cervix. The speculum is then removed while the catheter still remains, and a transvaginal ultrasound transducer is inserted into the vagina. A small amount of saline is inserted through the catheter into the uterine cavity. The transducer is then gently moved around while images of the inside of the uterus are taken."

• Vulvar BiopsyFrom Emory University School of Medicine, "A vulvar/vaginal biopsy takes one or more samples of tissue from the vulva or vagina. The vulva is the outer parts of the female genitals, including the labia, which are often called the lips, and the clitoris. The vagina is the opening that leads to the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus."

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.