• By: Tatum Bergen

Femade: Ottawa’s first Allied Health Centre

Pain comes in many forms, and it can be challenging to explain chronic pain to those who have never experienced it. Nevertheless, one in five Canadians live with chronic pain–often disproportionately affecting women. The Canadian Pain Task Force deems chronic pain in Canada a public health emergency.

Yet, for Canadian women struggling to find effective treatments for their chronic pain, many are finally finding support outside government health care services.

In Ottawa, Femade is a pain management centre for women, those who have transitioned, and those assigned females at birth, offering allied healthcare to manage chronic and debilitating pain.

Anusha Gandhi founded Femade out of the need to support individuals across Canada struggling with complex, chronic pain. She is no stranger to chronic pain. After suffering from endometriosis and autoimmune disease, she advocates for women who battle chronic, invisible illnesses.

“My journey with endometriosis and several autoimmune diseases began when I was 14,” Gandhi recalls. “Throughout my journey, I have met hundreds–if not, thousands–of individuals worldwide who suffer through their pain, day to day, appointment to appointment. When my pain was deemed complex chronic pain, that was when I knew the medical system had run its course with me and I would eventually need to seek other means of healthcare.”

“It was when I found my osteopath that I realized there were other professionals who were just as knowledgeable about the body–using scientific methods–who could help me manage my pain and help me cope with flares,” she continues.

“What we lacked, however, was a centre that was multidisciplinary and knowledgeable in women’s health.”

With a Masters of Neuroscience and over ten years of business experience in genomics/microbiomics and women’s health, Gandhi opened Femade, Ottawa’s first Allied health centre, on February 1st, 2022. The centre treats people who suffer from acute and chronic pain, gynecological issues, and invisible illnesses.

Femade offers manual therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, physiotherapy, and pelvic floor physiotherapy; as well as naturopathic medicine, psychotherapy, and virtual social support groups. The centre exists to support complex chronic pain and to fill the gap left by the medical system and government-sponsored pain clinics.

Nearly 8 million Canadians live with chronic pain–a $40 billion financial burden on the country. In 2021, Femade conducted an online survey targeting cisgender women and those assigned females at birth to better understand the range of invisible illnesses in Canada and the gap in allopathic treatment plans. It revealed a necessity for pain treatments prioritizing reproductive and endocrine systems together.

Femade meets this need by paying special attention to women and minorities who are disproportionately affected by chronic pain.

“Femade is my way of adjusting to a medical system that has compiled facts from male-driven studies and historically excluded women and other minorities from clinical trials. This is not a medical system many of us can survive in,” Gandhi explains.

“I live in pain every single day,” she says. “Different kinds of pain, different locations, but it’s chronic. My story is not unique and that is the very point. So many of us are enduring the day-to-day, in between medical visits and symptoms from medications.”

At Femade, individuals experience a clinic that understands women’s health. They are free to unfold their medical histories and challenges. The centre is an open space, where clients can find support and freedom to speak about their health issues, often for the first time, without feeling misunderstood.

“People always tell me I have a way with getting them to talk about poops and periods,” Gandhi explains. “This was something I wanted to do on a greater scale; talk about things so that they aren’t taboo anymore.”

“Seeing someone’s face or hearing the inflection in their voice when they realize they are not alone, made the journey to create Femade all the more worth it,” she continues.

“Our team has created an inviting atmosphere where patients are at ease the moment they walk through the door, they are able to get the most out of their appointments because the anxiety is reduced, and they go home knowing we are there for them every step of the way.”

“Now we are getting people coming in who don’t have chronic pain, simply because of the culture we have created.”

Gandhi hopes to spread awareness of Femade's services so that these populations facing chronic pain no longer have to wait within the system to begin their journey to healing. With dreams of expanding to multiple locations in the future, Gandhi hopes to provide allied care to those who need it most.

From hormones to digestion, fertility to menopause, chronic pain to immune disorders, Femade is committed to walking alongside each woman in their health journey.  

To find out more, or to book a consultation, visit femade.ca.