New feature: Honeymoon cystitis?

Cystitis is bad enough, says Hannah Fearn. But why are doctors so dismissive?

“Yes, it’s just part of being a woman. Don’t worry: it’ll probably get better once you’ve had a baby.”

If I had needed a reminder that in 2010 we still live in a confirmed patriarchy, here it was. My female GP, for all her years of experience, telling me that constant pain, an almost abandoned sex life, a strained relationship, and the embarrassment of sporadic incontinence, was just part of being a woman. Something to be accepted, something to get used to, something to manage.

This was an answer from what is still, today, the man’s world of professional medicine. There may be as many women practicing medicine as men, but its solutions, its research, its focus, are still resolutely male-oriented.

For a decade, since the beginning of my first serious relationship at 18, I have suffered from chronic recurrent cystitis. Statistics show that more than half of all women will have at least one bout of the bladder infection in their life, usually after meeting a new partner or a particularly enjoyable weekend away. It is not by chance that doctors, dismissively, nickname the disease “honeymoon cystitis”.

For many women, a short course of antibiotics and a few pints of lemon barley water will do the trick. But for a large minority the mole-hill becomes a mountain: of the 25% who will have a recurrence, half will have a third attack. If you are unlucky enough to suffer a fourth, the statistics become far less favourable – 80% will find themselves facing regular bouts of the infection for a lifetime.

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