As an Arab woman, I have suffered from the stigma associated with menstruation in general in addition to a severe chronic endometriosis which incapacitated me several days, sometimes weeks every month. In fact, the assumption that menstruation should be painful and women are expected to go through it without complaining, suppressed me from seeking treatment for a long tome.
When the pain became debilitating, I was faced with additional stigma from male gynecologists who either did not appreciate the situation I was in, or did not know enough about the disease and its implications on my life. They prescribed medication that only made my condition worse without taking into consideration its impact on my life, subsequently my quality of life deteriorated dramatically.
It was only 20 years into my silent suffering that I was able to find a female gynecologist in the United States who prescribed the right treatment to my condition.
She listened and proposed to me a variety of options that none of my previous doctors discussed with me.
Between the stigma of menstruation, the obsession with female pre-marriage virginity and family interference in women’s health choices, most of the options I she proposed to me were off the table for Lebanese doctors, guardians of sexist traditions that confine women to chronic pain!
We need more female doctors who understand the woman body intuitively, who experience the pain associated with menstruation, and who are not afraid of breaking taboos and prescribing the treatment that saves lives and improves their quality as opposed to treatments confined by cultural assumptions, traditional approaches to menstruation and the pain associated with it.
Here is an article in the Times by Activist and Actor Meghan Markle and her work around the world the alleviate the stigma around menstruation.