Hysteroscopy Action says thousands of women are in extreme pain during and following the invasive procedures to treat problems in the womb, with many suffering for days.
It says some are left with symptoms of post-traumatic stress and subsequently feel unable to have intimate relationships with partners. Others avoid important examinations such as smear tests.
The group has written to Women’s Minister, Maria Caulfield, to raise its concerns.
In its letter, it claims women are not always given the choice of intravenous sedation or general anaesthetic to reduce pain because of an NHS drive to cut costs.
Some are given local anaesthetic which is often painful and doesn’t work. Others are given no drugs at all and expected to cope with distraction techniques – known as “vocal locals.”
Hysteroscopy Action has urged Ms Caulfield to open more theatre space for women to have procedures under general anaesthetic as well as offering women the choice of intravenous sedation.
It asks her to “urgently commission more day-surgery theatre space and set up safely monitored IV sedation with analgesia for women’s investigations”.
According to the Royal Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RSOG), there is a one in three chance outpatients will suffer extreme pain.
Yet Hysteroscopy Action, which has been in touch with thousands of patients who have undergone such examinations, says women are not made aware of this.
Last week RCOG President Dr Edward Morris, said it was “working to improve clinical practice around outpatient hysteroscopy”.
He added: “No patient should experience excruciating pain and no doctor should be going ahead with outpatient hysteroscopy without informed consent.”
He added, “women should be properly informed of pain management options and be able to choose whether to have their procedure in an operating theatre under a general anaesthetic.”
“Hysteroscopy Action has collated more than 3,000 accounts of “brutal pain, fainting and trauma during outpatient hysteroscopy.”
Spokeswoman Katharine Tylko said: “We are counselling hundreds of patients with PTSD, who for various medical reasons find the procedure extremely painful, some even find it torturous.”
“This does not happen for other invasive procedures such as colonoscopy. We urge the Women’s Minister to act and are demanding an end to this gender pain-gap.”
Hysteroscopy involves a rigid knitting needle-like rod with a tiny camera and surgical tools passed through the cervix into the womb.
The letter, which has over 20 signatories, including Helen Hughes, Chief Executive of the Patient Safety Learning charity, Baroness Shaista Gohir, civil rights campaigner, 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 traumatised 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 horrific. Instead of offering anaesthetic two nurses had their hands placed on my shoulders trying to keep my mind off what was going on. They asked me to breathe, repeat my name or date of birth.
The pain was so intense my body went into shock. I was squirming in my chair and holding on but I couldn’t speak or scream. I closed down. When it was over they told me to get changed. There was blood everywhere. I felt sick and faint. I got wheeled into another room and had to lie down for a couple of hours.”
Mrs Price, who is a member of Hysteroscopy Action added: “I spent three days on the sofa at home, I skipped a smear test and then realised something was wrong. I went to the doctors and was subsequently diagnosed and treated with PTSD. Women should be given the choice. They are expected to put up with it and there are many women who have had similar experiences that never want to talk about it.”
Labour MP for West Ham said: “What Sharon experienced is an appalling betrayal of our NHS. Sadly Sharon is far from alone in being treated this way. I will keep raising this issue in Parliament until the government takes responsibility and steps in to secure change.”
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