Women must insist on pain relief during medical procedures | Letters

A specialist nurse writes on an NHS service that puts women in control of pain relief, Sara Davies on the torturous pain she endured to have an intrauterine device fitted, and Lee Bennett on why it pays to speak up persistently

Trish Kelly’s experience of failing to be offered pain relief for gynaecological investigations (Letters, 7 June) is typical, but needn’t be. Pain relief is available, and using anaesthetic spray on the cervix makes a huge difference; research proves that. It needs to be the default for all women. The other major help is what we call “vocal local” – a well-trained assistant who is there for the woman. In the NHS contraception clinic where I work as a specialist nurse we call them an “advocate”, and they decide if the doctor or nurse should stop the procedure. It is an important shift in balance and gives back control to the woman. She is the most important person, not the doctor.

Our clinic pioneered offering Entonox for coil procedures, and we get women referred to us “who can’t cope with the pain”. This is wrong – all women need to say they won’t have a procedure without pain relief. It’s not much to ask for in 2022.
Name and address supplied

I recently had an intrauterine device fitted to prevent constant bleeding due to the menopause. The cervix is clamped open in order to insert the device. I had no sedation or pain relief. It was so painful that I fainted, and then my blood pressure dropped dangerously low. I had to stay in the GP surgery for an hour afterwards on oxygen.

And I have a high tolerance for pain – I laboured for 30 hours and gave birth without any pain relief, but the pain endured by having my cervix clamped open was like nothing else. The GP actually said just before – “and here comes the bit that’s like torture”.
Sara Davies
Exeter, Devon

I recently underwent two biopsies on my left breast. I was given a local anaesthetic, but could feel everything and I was in a huge amount of pain. I asked for a top-up of the anaesthetic, but was denied it and told: “It will be over soon, love.”

Two weeks later, I was asked to return to the hospital for two more biopsies, as the results of the last two were inconclusive. I mentioned the pain that I had endured at my last appointment to the consultant and was given a larger dose of local anaesthetic and told to let them know if I even felt the procedure. This time it was painless. It definitely pays to speak up about pain and to persist if you are brushed off.
Lee Bennett

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