According to Hysteroscopy Action, thousands of women experience extreme pain, many for days, during and after invasive procedures to treat problems in the womb.
It is said some are left with symptoms of post-traumatic stress and subsequently feel unable to have intimate relationships with partners. Others avoid important tests like swabs.
The group have written to Women’s Secretary Maria Caulfield to express their concerns.
His letter claims women don’t always have a choice between intravenous sedation or general anesthesia to relieve pain as the NHS seeks to cut costs.
Some are given a local anesthetic, which is often painful and ineffective. Others are not drugged at all and are expected to make do with distraction techniques – known as “vocal locals”.
Hysteroscopy Action has urged Ms Caulfield to create more operating room for women to have procedures performed under general anesthesia and to offer women the choice of intravenous sedation.
It urges them to “urgently commission more space for outpatient surgeries and establish safely monitored intravenous sedation with analgesia for women’s assessments.”
According to the Royal Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RSOG), outpatients are one in three more likely to experience extreme pain.
However, Hysteroscopy Action, which has been in contact with thousands of patients who have undergone such examinations, says women are not made aware.
Last week, RCOG President Dr. Edward Morris said it was working to “improve clinical practice around outpatient hysteroscopy.”
He added, “No patient should be in excruciating pain and no physician should perform an outpatient hysteroscopy without informed consent.”
He added, “Women should be properly informed about pain management options and should be able to choose whether they want to have their procedure performed in an operating room under general anesthesia.”
Hysteroscopy Action has compiled more than 3,000 reports of “brutal pain, powerlessness and trauma during outpatient hysteroscopy.”
Spokesperson Katharine Tylko said, “We counsel hundreds of patients with PTSD who, for a variety of medical reasons, find the procedure extremely painful, some even excruciating.”
“This doesn’t happen with other invasive procedures like colonoscopy. We urge the Minister for Women to act and call for an end to this gender gap.”
In hysteroscopy, a rigid, knitting-needle-like rod with a tiny camera and surgical tools is inserted through the cervix into the uterus.
The letter, which has over 20 signatories including Helen Hughes, executive director of the Patient Safety Learning charity, Baroness Shaista Gohir, civil rights activist and women’s rights activist Charlotte Kneer MBE, calls for women to be given informed consent and choice about whether and what type of sedation they want.
Sharon Price was traumatized for over a year after undergoing a hysteroscopy in September 2019 to remove uterine fibroids that were causing heavy and painful periods.
The mother-of-two, from Thrapston, Northamptonshire, said: “It was appalling. Instead of offering me anesthetics, two nurses put their hands on my shoulders and tried to distract me from what was going on. They asked me to breathe, to repeat my name or my date of birth.
The pain was so severe that my body went into shock. I squirmed in my chair and held on, but I couldn’t speak or scream. I have closed. When it was over they told me to change. There was blood everywhere. I felt sick and weak. I was wheeled to another room and had to lie down for a few hours.”
Ms Price, who is a member of Hysteroscopy Action, added: “I spent three days at home on the sofa, skipping a swab and then realizing something was wrong. I went to the doctors and was subsequently diagnosed and treated for PTSD. Women should be given the choice. They are expected to come to terms with it and there are many women who have had similar experiences who never want to talk about it.”
The West Ham Labor MP said: “What Sharon has witnessed is an appalling betrayal of our NHS. Sadly, Sharon is far from the only one being treated this way. I will continue to raise this issue in Parliament until the government takes responsibility and steps in to bring about change.”