Do you remember the expression “You’ve come a long way, baby”? Since those words were first uttered in the 1960s as a slogan for Virginia Slims and also to highlight the progress women were fighting for, advances have been made in women’s health and women’s rights, but there’s still a long way to go. That journey involves tackling the taboos related to women and women’s health.
Society in general and some specific countries and cultures, in particular, have some taboos about certain naturally occurring events or health issues affecting women. Changing minds about these issues and helping taboos to disappear involves women educating themselves about the issues, embracing them, and assisting others to understand they are a normal part of life as a woman.
Pain is a universal phenomenon. Yet women are sometimes told their pain is all in their head. The pain women often report is associated with severe menstrual symptoms, abdominal or pelvic pain during sex, or with conditions such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, endometriosis, or chronic fatigue syndrome.
According to Abby Norman, author of Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain, “doctors need to acknowledge that women are capable of knowing themselves” when it comes to pain. Women’s pain is frequently discounted, resulting in untreated health challenges, unnecessary suffering, and feelings of discouragement and despair.
Menopause is still a “hush-hush” topic in many parts of the world, even in developed ones. At the same time, jokes are made about hot flashes, mood swings, and other changes associated with hormonal fluctuations. Rather than be viewed as a natural part of life’s journey, it is viewed as an abnormality or a “disease” to be treated rather than a natural transition to be valued.
One example can be seen in a recent survey concerning menopause in the workplace:
- 63% of women said their life at work had been negatively impacted by their menopausal symptoms
- 29% had a significant decline in self-confidence
One of the best ways to overcome this taboo, according to Dr. Nicky Keay, BA, MD, MB, BHir, MRCP, Durham University, Chief Medical Officer at Forth, lies with women themselves. “Understanding and being prepared for this phase in your life will mean you are in a good position to meet the challenges of this life stage and to maintain your quality of life.”
[Editor's Note: Naturally Savvy will soon be launching their Morphus for Menopause Website. In the meantime, you can watch our interviews on our YouTube Channel or if you prefer you can listen to our podcast. You can also follow on Instagram @WeAreMorphus.]
Read about urinary incontinence, eliminating this health taboo
Sneezing, coughing, exercising, laughing, having sex—all of these activities can be associated with bladder leakage or urinary incontinence. In fact, the most common types of bladder weakness are leaks triggered by laughing, coughing, or exercising (known as stress incontinence) and a sudden urge to urinate (urge incontinence).
It’s a myth that bladder weakness only affects older women. Dr. Nighat Arif, who specializes in women’s health, notes that “Whether you’re young or old, fit or not, you can experience leaks.” In a survey of more than 2,800 women, 66 percent said they had experienced bladder leakage. Nearly half of women said it occurred while exercising and while laughing was another significant cause.
Urinary incontinence is not solely a female phenomenon. Studies show it occurs among men ranging from 5 to about 34 percent, depending on age.
[Editor's Note: For those needed some protection from leaks, Natracare has organic incontinence pads.]
If your compact falls out of your purse in a store, you probably don’t think twice about it. But if a tampon slips out, you may feel embarrassed or worse. Why?
Despite the fact that women have been going through menstruation since time eternal, some people are still acting as though it is an embarrassing, dirty, bad, disgusting, or shameful occurrence. Some either pretend menstruation doesn’t exist or only speak about it in hushed tones.
In a survey of women, period leaks were listed as the second most embarrassing thing that could happen to women while she was exercising (beat only by urinary leakage).
Sadly in some parts of the world, women don’t have access to sanitary pads or tampons, and women who are menstruating are forced to stop going to school, avoid social interactions, and are banned from religious services. Perhaps even worse is that a lack of education and access to menstrual hygiene items is associated with significant health problems. According to BBC Magazine, “Approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene.” This menstruation taboo is having significant health impacts among many Indian females.
Read about 7 shocking ways menstruation impacts people and mother earth
Urinary tract infections
News flash: urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur in 50 to 60 percent of adult women during their lifetime, and among women aged older than 65, the rate is about twice that seen in the general female population. UTIs seem to be synonymous with being female, yet men get urinary tract infections too, although you don’t hear much about them.
Women, the general public, and the healthcare community need to step up and acknowledge how common these infections are and how they can interfere with the daily activities of both women and men.
[Editor's Note: Utiva Health has a line of supplements with the clinically proven dose of PACs shown to relieve and prevent future UTIs. If you suspect you have a UTI, you can use one of their test strips to check in the comfort of your home. The test strips use the same test your doctor would use.]
Women’s health taboos are alive and, unfortunately, still circulating well. Women themselves can help squash these taboos by becoming educated about each of these issues and helping others better understand them. In addition, women need to support each other as they live through these health challenges.