Women’s Health – forgotten in all the furor over feminism?

In the current political climate you cannot miss the focus on women in politics and the debate raging around feminism and women’s rights. From the way Trump’s campaign was impacted by the way he spoke about women, the potential threats to women’s rights across the world at the moment, the Istanbul Convention, and the incredibly well attended Women’s Marches across the world, it seems clear that women are trying to get their voice heard.

This came to light in a roundabout way for me through research into women’s health conditions. Investigating certain conditions that affect only women, such as endometriosis, fibroids and polycystic ovary syndrome, I realised that all too often there is an ongoing battle for women to be heard in the healthcare system.

We see stories every day in the press about patients struggling to access treatment and to get access to the right professionals, and I know this is not just about women’s right to healthcare – but certain stories I have read bring to light exactly how much resistance some women face in their fight for even a diagnosis of what is wrong with them, let alone a treatment option.

What I thought were shocking examples – doctors telling a women doubled up in agony that it was ‘all in her head’, the stereotypical retort about ‘women’s bits’ and ‘women’s issues’ when talking about pelvic pain and periods, ‘it’s normal’, ‘it’s part of being a woman’ – turn out to be all too common. I read through over 1,000 comments from women about their experiences, and so many of their stories reflect a larger cultural issue in the NHS, perhaps more strongly highlighted as a woman, about their lack of informed choice, and that they felt they lacked control of their own diagnosis and treatment. Their comments reflected the way their concerns were dismissed, and they were dismissed, ignored and belittled all too often.

According to current statistics 1 in 10 women have endometriosis, 1 in 5 have polycystic ovary syndrome and 1 in 3 have fibroids. While many women will not have symptoms, or feel the impact of these conditions, is it not time for more awareness around women’s health, and about what is normal or not? That is without even looking at prolapse, fertility, maternity, menopause, premenstrual syndrome or any other conditions.

This goes beyond conditions that are regularly talked about, and may address our British nature. Perhaps we are not used to – or comfortable with – talking about this. From contraception (how many women know there are fifteen types of contraception, and how many would be happier on a different type if they talked to friends or their GP about this?) right through to normal menstrual pain, to even how they feel about their mental health, it is clear a frank discourse about this would benefit many women.

More than ever before, there are calls to empower women; at school, in their social lives, at work, economically, politically and on a local and global scale. I could not be more behind this.

But we also need to empower women in their health – to seek help if they are concerned, ask for a second opinion, and to talk about their experiences so that more people can be empowered to make their own informed decisions and take control.

Melissa Barnett, Account Director

Email Melissa: Melissa@mailpbconsulting.com