Created in Partnership with Tia

No Doctor Believes In My Period Pain — & Other Ways America’s Healthcare System Is Broken For Women

Nearly two years ago, 22-year-old Shelby Doderlein woke up in the middle of the night from severe pain in her left side — this debilitating, hurt-to-the-touch, hurt-to-stand-up sharpness that she had never experienced before — and rushed to urgent care. She was told that she was young, that she was fine, and that she should go home. It was dismissed as ordinary period cramps. 
But the next month, the same thing happened again and she returned to urgent care. This time, she secured a virtual appointment with a gynecologist, but was then told to take birth control to manage the pain. “I said I didn’t feel comfortable taking birth control; I didn’t want to take hormones to put a Band-Aid on the situation — and she genuinely laughed at me,” remembers the Los Angeles-based nursing student and nanny. “I told her it could be endometriosis, and she said I didn't know what I was talking about, that every doctor was going to tell me to take birth control.”
And again, a few months later, she woke up crying from the pain. And again, she went to urgent care. The doctor did an ultrasound, and declared it was “normal period pain” before prescribing extra-strength Advil. 
Doderlein tried going on birth control, which did nothing to help mitigate the pain; she tried seeing different gynos only for her concerns to be dismissed; and she tried switching healthcare providers but experienced the same runaround.  “The area hurts even when I’m not even on my period, so I know something is wrong, that this isn’t normal. It’s hard to make doctor appointments when the pain is so bad, so the only option is urgent care and it can take hours, just for them to tell me to go home,” Doderlein says. “Last time I broke down crying in the car. The doctors aren’t doing anything for me, and they’re making me feel crazy. I’m not being listened to as a woman, and because of that, I haven’t gotten any care. So I just live with my pain.” 
She’s not the only one. According to Tia, the modern medical home for women, an astounding number of women are underserved by the healthcare system. According to survey of 1,000 women commissioned by the organization, 63% of respondents have been seen by a doctor who wasn’t listening to their concerns, and 59% have put off seeing a doctor until their symptoms were urgent. What these astounding (albeit, remarkably unsurprising) stats do is shed light on just how broken the current system is. This, compounded by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark piece of legislation that made access to a safe abortion a Constitutional right — the reversal of which has dealt a huge, detrimental blow to women’s healthcare — and the need to fix or outright overhaul the system has never felt more dire. 
And the stats back it up: The same survey found that, since the end of Roe v. Wade, 69% of women strongly agree that lawmakers are not making decisions based on what women really want, and 55% of women trust the U.S. healthcare system less than they did before the end of Roe v. Wade. In other words, the end of Roe v. Wade has resulted in two things: 1) the erosion of women's trust in the healthcare system, and 2) the prioritization of reproductive health among voters.
“Women's pain is not taken seriously, and that comes hand-in-hand with Roe v. Wade, because a lot of the time, it’s life or death, and [now in post-Roe America] women have to jump through hoops or not get an abortion at all, and that’s really scary,” Doderlein says. “I’m pro-choice, because [access to a safe abortion] is a basic need, and I never imagined in my life that this would happen. I’m thankful I live in California, but I can’t imagine being put in that position.”
While abortions are a protected right among local constitutions in blue states, the Supreme Court decision will disproportionately affect women of color and working class folks in the Midwest and the South. Black women and Black birthing people, especially, will be hit the hardest, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty. (And there are more instances of Black women not being heard by their doctor — 70% of Black respondents, in fact, according to the Tia survey). 
The silver lining: the overturning has lit a fire, galvanizing all to speak up and speak out, to take action, and to vote, especially since these issues will be on the ballot (the midterm elections take place November 8). “Taking the time to do your research and being educated on who you’re voting for is important. If they overturned Roe v. Wade, what else can happen? Maybe my one vote will be what it takes to make a difference,” Doderlein says. “I’m hoping that things will change for women and that we’re actually heard.” 
The healthcare system as it is today is a big, old, convoluted mess, but using the results from the survey, we've outlined the five major problems women have with it today — and how Tia is addressing them — keeping in mind that these issues run deep (it’ll take much more than one company to fix) and that an overhaul won't happen overnight. Take a look, below.


Healthcare isn’t listening to women, which can result in mistrust, misdiagnosis, delayed care, and more.


Women’s health is commonly siloed into reproductive care, leaving a gap between specialties outside of gynecology.


Healthcare often defines the “right” path for everyone without regard to each person’s lived experience.


The lack of focus on preventative care has led to many leaning on urgent care because it’s cheaper, more accessible.


Most healthcare spaces aren’t designed to make people feel comfortable, safe, supported, and confident.

In short, the healthcare system as it exists today is most definitively not working, and traditional players must reexamine and reimagine a new way forward, with women's healthcare at the forefront. But right now, the most critical thing we can do is remember to vote — we have the power to elect officials who can make a difference. “It’s time to speak up — and if you have a following [on social media], you should take advantage of it,” Doderlein says. “I know some people don’t want to be controversial, but if I had that kind of following personally, I would be out there preaching about abortion and reproductive rights all the time.”
Editor's Note: Tia conducted a representative quantitative survey of 1,171 women across the US ages 18-65 balanced to the U.S. Census in terms of demographics. Respondents were surveyed online from September 21, 2022 to October 4, 2022 and asked about their personal experiences with, and opinions about, the traditional healthcare system.

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