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Australian State Launches Inquiry Into Women’s Pain

“It’s time we stopped treating women’s health like some kind of niche issue. We deserve to have our pain believed and relieved,” says Victoria premier Jacinta Allan.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

MELBOURNE, Jan 24 – The Australian state of Victoria will launch an inquiry into women’s pain following the release of a survey which revealed that Victorian women’s pain is regularly overlooked. 

The results of the survey, undertaken by the Victorian government, show that close to half of all women are impacted by issues related to their periods, pregnancy, birth and postnatal care, or conditions like endometriosis.

Nearly 60 per cent of participants reported having had positive health care interactions. But one in three said they’d experienced insensitive and disrespectful practitioners who left them feeling dismissed and unheard.

The inquiry will examine systemic issues and solutions, and hear directly from women across Victoria. Led by a panel of experts and overseen by the Women’s Health Advisory Council, submissions are set to open on January 30, 2024.

“This won’t be a mic drop moment for the majority of Victoria’s population, because every woman has either experienced it for herself or knows someone who has. But now we have the evidence to prove it,” said the state’s premier Jacinta Allan.

“It’s time we stopped treating women’s health like some kind of niche issue. We deserve to have our pain believed and relieved.”

The Listening to Women’s Voices report comprises the insights of more than 1,700 Victorian women who shared their personal experiences of the state’s health care system. Findings from the survey include:

  • Four in 10 Victorian women live with chronic pain.
  • Around half of participants reported that period-related conditions (heavy periods, cramping, PMS) affected their health and wellbeing.
  • Similarly, about 50 per cent said that pregnancy and birth complications continued to impact their health.
  • Around 30 per cent said they were affected by the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause.
  • 30 per cent said conditions such as endometriosis, menopause and chronic pain led to poor mental health.
  • One in three have health conditions that affect their ability to work and keep a job.
  • 20 per cent said they missed out on social connections because of their health.

The report also includes participants’ personal stories. In an all-too-common occurrence, one woman said she was prescribed antidepressants when she had acute pelvic pain that was stopping her sleeping and working – but was later diagnosed with advanced endometriosis.

“The survey results have highlighted that sadly, a systemic gender pain gap still exists,” said Victoria health minister Mary-Anne Thomas.

“It’s why we are transforming our health system, delivering new women’s health clinics, recruiting more women’s health specialists and establishing more dedicated sexual and reproductive health hubs across the state.”

Victoria has a proud track record of work to improve women’s health outcomes, from establishing its first clinic for women’s heart health, delivering 11 sexual and reproductive health hubs, and launching the state’s first ever sexual and reproductive health phone line. However, the survey results show, there is still more to do.

Work is underway to establish 20 new comprehensive women’s health clinics, which will be crucial to overcoming some of the barriers women face in accessing health care.

Offering free, wide-ranging care and support, the clinics will allow women to see specialists – gynaecologist, urologist, specialist nursing and allied health – in one spot, making it easier and faster to access world-class care for conditions like endometriosis, pelvic pain and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

An additional nine sexual and reproductive health hubs are also being established across Victoria, adding to the 11 already operating.

Offering free or low-cost services and advice on contraception, pregnancy termination and sexual health testing and treatment, three new hubs have been announced for Mildura, Mill Park and Wallan.

The Labor Government is also doubling the number of endo and associated surgeries, delivering around 10,800 extra laparoscopies over the next four years, as well as providing scholarships for 100 more women’s health care specialists.

“This important reform will undoubtedly change the lives of countless Victorian women, who for far too long, have lived with pain in silence,” said the state’s parliamentary secretary for Women’s Health, Kat Theophanous.

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