Although my male colleagues in gastroenterology are knowledgeable, skilful and sympathetic, it is a fact of life that many women prefer to deal with a female consultant when it comes to private and personal matters.

Second only to gynaecology in its intimacy, gastroenterology involves areas of the body, and bodily functions that many women would prefer not to talk about at all, let alone with a doctor they have just met.

By offering a friendly female face to turn to, I aim to put such patients at their ease and help them to deal with their problems in a sympathetic and understanding way.

The importance of GI care for all women

In the UK, it is estimated that just 17% of consultant gastroenterologists are female. Sadly, in my experience, many women who I see in clinic have often delayed their presentation due to the anxiety and embarrassment of discussing these sensitive issues and being intimately examined by a male consultant.

Colon cancer is the third biggest cause of cancer related deaths in women, however, several studies have found that fewer women attend for colon cancer screening than men and many women believe they are at lower risk. The psychological factors described above will undoubtedly play some part in this gender discrepancy.

By offering a female-delivered approach, I hope to make it easier for women to seek medical advice about their bowel symptoms without embarrassment, so that women can get the healthcare that they need delivered in a way that they are comfortable with.

Making you feel more comfortable

Like any gastroenterology consultant, my job is to diagnose your problem accurately and arrange a course of treatment, as appropriate, so that your symptoms reduce and your quality of life improves.

Gastrointestinal problems can be very stressful, often involving constant pain or discomfort that has a serious impact on your everyday living. The altered bowel habits that often accompany these problems can be very embarrassing, causing even more stress and anxiety. It is estimated that as many as three quarters of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) will suffer at least one bout of depression as a result of their condition.

Dealing with the emotional effects of bowel problems is as important as treating the symptoms, and being able to open up to your consultant is a vital part of that process. For many of my female patients, their consultation is the first time they have been able to talk about how their condition has made them feel, and having another women to listen to them can make a big difference. It is often a huge emotional relief to know that you have taken the first step in dealing with your condition.

GI issues in pregnancy

The female perspective is never more important than during pregnancy, when a wide range of gastroenterological issues can take on even greater significance, placing both mother and baby at increased risk.

From morning sickness, bloating and constipation, to the need for careful management of conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease during pregnancy, gastroenterology during pregnancy requires a unique combination of medical skill and sympathetic understanding.

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Religious and cultural requirements

For many women, having a female consultant is not just a preference; it is an essential.

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