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A new study suggests that 1 in 5 women are prescribed inaccurate medication for fertility issues - why is reproductive health *still* not being taken seriously?

There's nothing new about inequality within the healthcare system, especially when it comes to fertility-related concerns. But a new study conducted by Fertility Family has just released worrying new findings, which highlight the extent of the disparities between men and women who seek reproductive healthcare.

The study, which asked 133 respondents about their experience of missed diagnosis’s, found that 21% (over one in five) women who had visited a medical professional for a reproductive health condition were reportedly prescribed medication which was later found to be inaccurate. This fell to 7% for the male respondents.

Overall the study found that 82% of women, who sought treatment from a medical professional for a fertility-related concern, left their appointment with the issue going unresolved. (It's important to note here that the study was conducted on a self-reporting basis and the respondents' experiences have not been independently supported by government statistics.)

Some women, who sought medical advice for a fertility-related condition, reported that they were prescribed ineffective measures:

Nearly one in four women (24%) reported that they have been told to “relax and try to ignore the issue” when seeking medical help related to reproductive issues. Further to this, two fifths of women (41%) are being told to “take better care of their mental health — it could be anxiety, depression, or another mental health concern".

With the report adding, “In comparison just 15% of men have reportedly been given such advice".

The study also found that, “Young adults under the age of 20 were most likely to feel accused of faking pain or a medical condition”, with one third reporting that they were “labelled as ‘hysterical’ by a medical professional, with the condition being ‘all in the mind’”.

These findings are troubling for a myriad of reasons, especially given the study's findings that missed diagnosis's have “a profound effect on both patients mental health and the person's ability to work”, with one of six women having to take leave from work (paid or unpaid) because of misdiagnosis or wrong advice regarding their reproductive health concerns.

According to Fertility First, Rachel Michaelson (42) first noticed she had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms at just eight years old, but she wasn’t diagnosed until her late 30s.

Rachel said, "I matched a lot of the signs and symptoms with PCOS, but when I told the GP they said I couldn't possibly have it as I have had children and find it easy to get pregnant. I practically had to beg to go for tests".

The study also noted that the “ineffective measures prescribed” to people reporting reproductive healthcare concerns included “Cut[ting] out certain foods from our diet”, which 41% of men and women were told, and being advised to “Lose weight”, which 26% of men and 31% of women were told.

Although the study's data doesn't seem to identify the respondents' weights, it would be interesting to learn whether 'anti-fat bias' – a term popularised by writer Aubrey Gordon – plays a role in diagnosing fertility concerns.

Especially given the recent findings from Leeds’ School of Psychology, which showed that people considered to be ‘obese’ experienced worse levels of care in healthcare settings than non-obese people.

All the respondents in the study were cisgender, which means we sadly don't have any more information about the specific barriers that transgender and intersex people face when accessing fertility-related care.

It's also important to note that a sample size of 133 respondents is relatively small, and it's not clear what measures were implemented in order to extrapolate findings to the wider population.

This was originally published on Glamour UK.

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