Motherly Collective

As the founder and CEO of Mira, an at-home hormone tracking system, I am deeply passionate about empowering women to take control of their reproductive health. However, I have come face-to-face with the alarming presence of medical gaslighting in our healthcare system through my own journey and the stories of countless women I have encountered. This silent struggle is familiar for individuals who find their symptoms dismissed or labeled as psychological when seeking medical care.

Medical gaslighting occurs when patients are made to feel that their concerns and symptoms are invalid or unworthy of attention. It is an experience that can leave individuals feeling helpless, unheard, and unsure of their bodies. This phenomenon is particularly prevalent among women, diagnosed on average 2 to 4 years later than men

We cannot underestimate the impact of medical gaslighting on women’s health. According to data from our recent Mira report on the state of medical gaslighting in the US, 72% of millennial women felt ignored or dismissed by their healthcare providers. Shockingly, one out of five women reported being gaslighted by their OB-GYN, the healthcare professional entrusted with their reproductive health. In our 2023 email survey of women trying to conceive, 70% of respondents believed they had experienced medical gaslighting from a fertility specialist. Additionally, respondents reported feeling confused, frustrated, and unsure of what to do next (76.8%)

My encounter with medical gaslighting served as a personal wake-up call. As I embarked on my fertility journey, I realized my needs were not being considered. Instead, I was treated according to a standard protocol, leaving me feeling frustrated and disregarded by my medical staff.

Sadly, my story is not an isolated incident. One of our Mira users, Kristy, shared her experience of medical gaslighting when seeking fertility care. She was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and her husband faced fertility issues. However, when she approached her medical team, she felt dismissed. Due to her high BMI, Kristy experienced a lack of consideration for her circumstances. She faced an immediate push towards invasive procedures such as IVF. The clinic didn’t even consider less invasive approaches, such as ovulation induction. Fortunately, Kristy turned to Mira’s telehealth partner, where highly trained healthcare professionals diagnosed and treated her infertility. In the end, Kristy successfully conceived, underscoring personalized care and self-advocacy’s crucial role in achieving positive health outcomes.

Another affected individual familiar with this environment is board-certified women’s health nurse practitioner Dr. Shawana S. Moore. As a woman of color, Dr. Moore felt her health concerns were largely ignored during her pregnancy, and her health deteriorated due to pre-eclampsia. Dr. Moore entered labor early and quickly suffered troubling symptoms—including rapidly declining blood pressure. Sadly, she had to wait 10 minutes for any help to arrive from her medical staff. She only felt heard and helped when one of her working students recognized her and notified the staff of her position. This experience taught Dr. Moore the vital role patients play in their healthcare journey. She became more aware that patients—especially women of color—are key players in their health team. 

Driven by her passion for health equity, she acknowledges the structural sexism and racism contributing to medical gaslighting—particularly affecting women of color. Unfortunately, Black women are 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. They also typically have the most prolonged timeframe to be diagnosed. I agree with Dr. Moore’s stance in raising awareness and research on Black maternal health, as every woman deserves equal, top-notch healthcare. 

Navigating medical gaslighting in fertility

In the face of such adversity, women need to become advocates and reclaim their power regarding their health. Here are some words of encouragement and advice for women navigating the complex landscape of healthcare.

Educate yourself

Take the time to educate yourself about your reproductive health and the conditions you may be facing. Research reputable sources, consult support groups, and seek out information that will empower you to make informed decisions.

Trust your instincts

Your body knows best. Trust your instincts if something doesn’t feel right or you have concerns. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns and ask questions. Remember, you actively participate in your healthcare journey; your voice matters.

Seek second opinions

If you feel dismissed or unheard by your current healthcare provider, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion. It is your right to explore different perspectives and find a healthcare professional who truly listens to and respects your concerns.

Build a support network

Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or individuals going through similar experiences. Sharing your journey with others who understand can provide emotional support and empower you to advocate for yourself.

Utilize technology

I delayed starting a family until my mid 30s because, like many modern women, I wanted to establish my career and personal goals first. Mira was instrumental in giving me the easy-to-understand clarity needed to become pregnant. It provides laboratory-grade accuracy in measuring multiple hormones—including LH, E3G, PdG, and FSH. By tracking these hormones, women can comprehensively understand their reproductive health, advocate for themselves in fertility specialists or OB-GYN offices, and have the necessary data to support their concerns and decision-making.

The prevalence of medical gaslighting in our healthcare system is concerning—particularly for women seeking fertility care, navigating pregnancy or experiencing unexplained infertility. The emotional toll and lack of personalized care experienced by women highlight the urgent need for change. Together, we can challenge the status quo, bridge the gender health gap and create a healthcare system that prioritizes and respects the voices and experiences of women. 

Remember—your health matters, your concerns are valid and your journey deserves to be heard and supported. Let’s stand together and demand the care and respect we deserve.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.