Got endo? Just get pregnant! 

3 minute read

Yeah, not so much. Healthcare professionals need to stop telling women this irresponsible bollocks.

While I’m writing this Rectangle of Rant today I’m also listening to a public hearing in Wagga Wagga of the NSW Legislative Council’s inquiry into birth trauma.  

It’s not my first go-round with this particular inquiry and today’s hearing is as the others have been – filled with women giving testimony about their horrendous, painful, disappointing birthing experiences.  

Apart from the trauma, the overwhelmingly common denominator to their stories is how they, as women, were not listened to. Not only not listened to, but actively dismissed, ignored, belittled and patronised. 

I’ve written before about the various biases against women in the healthcare system – here, here, and here, for example. Okay, that last one was about movies, but you get my drift. 

The latest medical crime against women has been revealed by researchers at the University of Adelaide. The headline says everything you need to know – “Patients told to get pregnant to treat endometriosis”. 

This “advice” isn’t new, by the way. A quick Google search will tell you that back in 2016, the Guardian columnist Sylvia Freedman was writing about this, on the back of a research paper from Monash University which concluded that women with endometriosis reported that “their doctor priorit[ised] their fertility over other aspects of their care, including quality of life and symptom relief, without first consulting them”. 

In 2021 the BBC reported that a 21-year-old journalist seeking treatment for her endo flare-up was told by her GP to “get pregnant”.  

The University of Adelaide researchers, in collaboration with the University of Sydney and not-for-profit EndoActive, surveyed more than 3000 medically diagnosed endometriosis patients globally. 

The research revealed that more than half of the respondents (1892 of 3347 total) were advised to fall pregnant or have a baby to manage or treat endometriosis. 

Almost 90% (1691 of 1892) of those endometriosis patients were given this recommendation by healthcare professionals, including gynaecologists and GPs, with 36% told it would cure their condition. 

What. The. Actual. Fallopian?? 

There is a lack of evidence that pregnancy helps endometriosis, so where does this advice come from? Are healthcare professionals being paternalistic, or are they shockingly uninformed? Either way, it’s not good. 

“Pregnancy or having a baby isn’t a treatment for endometriosis and this advice from health professionals can have negative impacts on those who receive it,” said co-author Professor Louise Hull, a fertility expert from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute. 

One respondent said: “It ended up ruining my relationship as I felt a huge pressure to have kids young and my partner couldn’t understand this intense conversation at a young age.” 

Another was 13 years old when given the advice. 

The researchers are now recommending more education about treating endometriosis for healthcare professionals. 

“Endometriosis affects one in seven women and those assigned female at birth. Asking patients about their fertility preferences, while also providing evidence-based advice on the treatment and management of the condition is crucial to improve patient experiences and outcomes,” said Professor Hull. 

Educating healthcare professionals about endo treatment is one thing. Educating them about appropriate communication with women is a whole other ball of wax. 

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