New research funded by Australian Rotary Health reveals that doctors face uncertainty when it comes to providing care to women with endometriosis.
Kate Young from Monash University was awarded an Ian Scott PhD Scholarship in 2014 to examine healthcare for endometriosis (a chronic inflammatory condition experienced by women) from the perspectives of affected women and clinicians.
After conducting in depth interviews with 26 women with endometriosis and semi-structured interviews with 12 clinicians including general practitioners and gynaecologist, Kate discovered some very interesting findings.
The most interesting discovery was that doctors do not feel they are adequately trained to understand and provide care for the psychosocial aspects of endometriosis.
“When faced with the pressure of having an answer for their patients with endometriosis, some clinicians draw upon historical stereotypes about women and their bodies,” Kate said.
“For example, attributing a woman’s physical disease and/or symptoms to psychological causes like stress or relationship problems. We have seen this repeatedly throughout history.”
When asking women with lived experience of endometriosis how they felt about these psychological explanations, women generally did not find this to be acceptable.
“Some women with endometriosis perceive their doctor to prioritise their fertility over other aspects of their care, including quality of life and symptom relief, without first consulting them.”
“Women identified the need for doctors to listen to them and believe them as being central to healthcare that meets women’s needs and addresses the complexities of endometriosis.”
From these findings, Kate believes we need to think about other ways to help women with this condition.
“One way may be to ensure that medical education equips doctors with the skills to understand how their practice affects women’s social and economic participation, and to improve their ability to provide care that addresses the psychological and social elements of endometriosis,” Kate said.
Including perceptions from clinicians is a world first for endometriosis research, and Kate’s study was also the first in Australia to analyse fertility survey data.
“I found that women with endometriosis were just as likely to report unintended pregnancy, abortion, having been pregnant, or having had a live birth,” Kate said.
“These findings challenge the long-held notion that women with endometriosis are likely to experience difficulty in becoming pregnant.”
It’s clear from Kate’s research that there is still so much we do not know yet about endometriosis. We hope that this can start the discussion between clinicians to see how they can better support these women.
Kate has had various journal articles published from this research which you can access here.
Media contact: Jessica Cooper – (02) 8837 1900 0r email@example.com