Elephant in the Womb

This week is now ‘Girl to Woman Wellbeing Week”. It starts with the “International Day of the Girl” and finishes with “World Menopause Day”. Events such as these are really important as young girls need to hear from women that being female does not stop us living our dreams. Nurse Consultant, Katharine Gale, blogs about the importance of raising awareness of women’s health in the workplace.

Women’s health has gone through such a journey and we sometimes take it for granted the advances in healthcare that women, just a hundred years ago would never have dreamt of…..And yet in the home, in schools and the workplace there’s an elephant in the womb (room) that we are still not talking about …

If we break a leg or develop a chest infection, primary care or secondary care is usually the first port of call. But the taboo nature of certain conditions means that as women we are less willing to seek help. Many of the issues dealt with by so many women are deemed socially difficult including cancer, infertility, miscarriage or socially distasteful such as urinary incontinence, menstruation, termination of pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Every day, more than 800 million women in the world between the ages of 15 and 49 are menstruating.  The first period known as menarche is often shrouded in mystery which is ridiculous as it is a natural progression to womanhood. If there were less embarrassment and stigma about a girl starting her periods, women regularly menstruating and the menopause, it would enable women of all ages to talk more openly about women’s health, share their knowledge and smash the stigma.

However, women’s health issues are still taboo:

  • 1 in 4 of us wets ourselves,
  • 1 in 7 of us will have difficulty conceiving,
  • 1 in 4 women will have a miscarriage,
  • 1 in 20 of us will see our GP about heavy menstrual bleeding,
  • 1 in 3 women don’t attend cervical screening.

All of us women, every single one of us will go through the menopause with some of us finding it easier than others. Approximately 13 million women in the U.K are either leading up to the menopause or post-menopausal. Women aren’t sure what normal looks like, are ashamed of their body shape, they worry they are different to other women and some don’t even know the name or location of their female anatomy. We really must ensure women and young girls know that vulva and vagina aren’t dirty words and encourage the correct anatomical names without embarrassment. I want us to start talking about womens’ health. Menstruation, Miscarriage and the Menopause, especially when these cause issues within the home, at school or in the workplace.

The Women’s Health Movement (WHM) emerged during the 1960s and the 1970s with a primary goal to improve health care for all women. I believe we are now seeing a repeat of the Women’s Health Movement in the U.K. Where we teach women about their bodies, what’s normal and what’s not. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Women’s Health aims to empower women to seek medical advice when necessary.  Also, to ensure that they can make an informed choice about the best treatment for them and that they are treated with dignity and respect. Today with widespread internet access coupled with the in-depth discussion of women’s health by the media. There is a need to empower women to demand better information to make a choice about the best care they ultimately deserve.

As we approach the end of a week of women’s health awareness, I ask you to consider your role in smashing the stigma. What if you were to start talking about women’s health issues, would that encourage someone else to talk about their issues too?

Are you one of many women who wants to change the world in which we live? Do you want to live in a world where we can openly talk about being a woman and what that really means in today’s society? Ultimately, I want to see an end to the stigma around women’s health issues.