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When it comes to women’s health, there is so much that remains hidden. From myths around puberty, periods, and sex to misconceptions and a lack of knowledge about how our bodies work, it takes as women as possible talking about their bodies to take away the stigma that seems to remain attached to it.
I’m lucky; I have a mum who was and still is open about talking about bodies, as well as having plenty of female friends who I can talk to anything to do with female health and well being. Not everyone has this village around them though. I am determined that as my daughter grows up, she will be aware of her body and how amazing it is on the inside and the outside.
I’ve been thinking about what I think are some of the important things for females to know when it comes to their health and wellbeing.
Demand to be heard
Sadly, even in 2020, women’s health issues can be brushed under the carpet. I have an amazing male GP who, when I first started having issues with my mental health and OCD didn’t dismiss me or make me feel unimportant. I would feel pretty confident about going to him with specific female health issues, but I know I am in the minority with this one. I have had doctors before that have brushed off any concerns as ‘one of those things’. It might have been for them, but for me, it was a big, scary thing.
It is important that if you are not happy with the response that you get or that you feel like your doctor or healthcare professional is not taking your concerns seriously or making you feel silly for having worries, is to demand a second opinion or tell them that you are not happy. They may see hundreds of bodies a day; you don’t. Your body is the only one you will have and it deserves to be taken care of and listened to.
Have all of your health checkups
Smear tests every three years. Contraception assessments. Sexual health tests. Mammograms. All of these things are important to keep an eye on your overall health and to prevent anything from developing in the future. A lot of women’s health issues come with few or no symptoms but can have some pretty devastating effects if left unnoticed and untreated.
Know the names of your body parts – and use them
I’m as guilty as this one as anyone. In our house, the boys have a ‘willie’ and the girls have ‘bits’. It always feels much easier to use the word penis though than it does to use the terms ‘vagina’ or ‘vulva’. I am making a conscious effort to use the right terminology for both boys and girls and to use them correctly. Vagina is the inside ‘canal’, the vulva is the outside bits that we see. Know them, own them.
Learn about how it works
Sex education in the UK isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either. We learn about the mechanics of how it works – how the menstrual cycle works, how we get pregnant – but it is all very scientific. For me, knowing what to expect at certain points of my cycle would have been helpful – how sometimes you can have lots of interesting things going on in your pants and it is linked to your cycles, how it is normal to feel stabbing pains and have spotting during ovulation and so on. I think we get so focused on not getting pregnant in biology lessons and general sexual and reproductive health that we forget to learn about all the normal yet amazing things our body does.
What could you add to this list about women’s health? What do you wish you had been told or what changes would you like to see?