Victoria Has Just Launched An Australian-First Inquiry Into Women’s Pain And It’s About Freaking Time

Victoria has launched an inquiry into women’s pain after a survey revealed that two in five respondents suffered from chronic pain. The inquiry is an Australian first which hopes to inform and improve treatment practices and rectify systematic issues surrounding the treatment of women and girls who experience chronic pain. I think I speak for all women when I say it’s about time.

The inquiry was announced on Monday by Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan and Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas. It will be led by a panel of experts in women’s health who will hear from women across the state. It will be overseen by the Victorian Women’s Health Advisory Council.

“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. It’s time we stopped treating women’s health like some kind of niche issue. We deserve to have our pain believed and relieved,” Allan — who suffers from endometriosis — said.

Victorian premier Jacinta Allan. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

She also noted that although chronic pain affects a higher number of girls and women than men, women are less likely to receive treatment.

“Many women in our community know that there is a gendered pain gap. They know that their pain is real and they also know that for too long, that pain hasn’t both been believed and received the treatment it needs and deserves through our health system.

“That is why the government is placing a significant amount of attention and resources on this issue because when we support women’s health, we support the health of all Victorians.”

The survey — which polled 1772 Victorian women — revealed that one in three women feel that their health conditions affect their ability to work and keep a job, while around 50% of respondents said period-related conditions such as cramping, heavy periods and PMS affected their health and well-being. Plus, 50% reported that pregnancy and birth complications continue to impact their health.

Approximately 30% said conditions such as endometriosis, menopause and chronic pain led to poor mental health, while 20% of respondents felt that they missed out on social connections due to their health.

“The survey results have highlighted that sadly, a systemic gender pain gap still exists,” said Victoria’s Minister for Health, 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.”

The inquiry comes after the Labor government committed to a $153 women’s health package in 2022. Along with the inquiry, Labor committed to creating 20 women’s health clinics within the public system and creating a Women’s Health Research Institute.

Nisha Khot, the clinical director of obstetrics and gynaecology at Penninsula Health told The Guardian that she believed healthcare professionals have been letting women down.

“It’s not that women are afraid or shy of speaking – it’s that we have not been listening,” she said.

“If we start from the position of listening with an inquiry, then that would be a good start to get to the bottom of where women’s pain comes from and how we best manage it.”

As someone who has struggled with chronic period pain and contraceptive issues, this hits home.

Like so many other women, I’ve been told my pain was just normal and that I had to learn to accept it.

And after years of trying to be heard and taken seriously by medical professionals, or going through painful procedures with severely limited pain relief, nothing makes me feel such a strong, burning rage than how women’s pain — and my own pain — has been consistently minimised.

But with this inquiry — and the further promises made by the Labor government in 2022 — I can’t help but feel a tiny bit hopeful that the tide might be changing.