The BBC star accused NHS doctors of 'gaslighting' her after she suffered from extreme menstrual problems.
Earlier this year, Naga Munchetty disclosed that she was suffering from distressing, lengthy menstrual cycles lasting up to ten days, at times leading to her losing consciousness. The pain was so serious that on one occasion, her husband had to call an ambulance after she screamed for 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the healthcare treatment she received from NHS (The National Health Service) was not as good as expected.
What is Munchetty's condition?
Munchetty's ordeal began when she was diagnosed with adenomyosis, a condition where the lining of the womb grows into the muscle in its walls. According to Medical News Today, adenomyosis typically emerges as a diagnosis in women aged over 40, but it also affects younger individuals. Frequently, it remains undetected until routine screenings, implying that numerous women may have it without awareness. It is more prevalent in women who have undergone multiple childbirths, especially those with a history of caesarean sections.
Munchetty disclosed that she had been instructed by NHS doctors to 'suck it up' when she sought help for severe menstrual problems, highlighting the pressing issue of inadequate care and understanding of women's health in the medical field.
Muncetty revealed her frustration, stating that the diagnostic process had been 'so frustrating'. Throughout her testimony, she revealed the severe pain and heavy menstrual bleeding she had endured and the dismissive attitude she encountered from healthcare professionals. The message from her doctors was so 'gaslighting': 'Those are your [treatment] options – and if they don't work for you, then suck it up.'
As per The Guardian, what is particularly troubling is that Munchetty had been dealing with these symptoms since her teenage years, and she, like many other women, was repeatedly told that her suffering was normal. The common refrain was, 'You're fine, everyone else is putting up with this, why can't you?' This attitude of brushing aside women's pain and discomfort is a deeply ingrained issue that the medical profession needs to address.
Private doctors are the solution
Munchetty acknowledged that she was privileged to have access to private healthcare, which allowed her to finally receive the attention and care she deserved. She described the freedom she felt to engage with a GP who specialised in women’s reproductive health without the guilt of taking up too much of the doctor's time, which is often a concern when seeking care within the NHS due to long waiting lists.
Vicky Pattison, a well-known TV personality, also shared her own struggles with the healthcare system during the committee session. As per The Independent, she was diagnosed with pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) after enduring years of debilitating symptoms. However, doctors in Newcastle and London put her symptoms down to PMS (premenstrual syndrome).
Her message to the medical community was clear: 'GPs, anyone within the NHS, any medical professionals at all, they just need to start to take women seriously when they say something's wrong.'
Munchetty added in that 'there’s not enough training, there’s not enough focus in the medical profession on women'. She said, 'When I spoke about adenomyosis on my Radio 5 Live programme, GPs got in touch to say they had never head of the condition, never been taught about it and didn’t know how to diagnose it.'
Both Munchetty and Pattison emphasized the need for better knowledge, understanding, and training when it comes to women's health. They argued that women should not have to go to great lengths to be heard and believed when they are in pain. Munchetty aptly stated:
'No woman says she's in pain unless she is in real pain. No woman says she is anxious unless she is really anxious. No woman wants to appear weak or appear incapable until she really is, until she can't cope anymore. And it shouldn't be that way.'
The Women and Equalities Committee, chaired by Caroline Nokes, promised to issue guidance to the NHS and schools to address the 'woeful misunderstood, ignorance, stigma, and shame' surrounding women's health, as per The Independent.