Women’s Health in the UK: 4 Topics We Need to Talk About
“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman,” Tammy Wynette got that right when she belted out the famous lyrics to hit song “Stand by Your Man.”
Being a woman can be tough, there’s a whole host of problems waiting with a big net to catch us out. Last week I went for a coffee with three friends, one is pregnant, one is struggling with panic attacks, and the other is receiving chlamydia treatment (find out more here). There was a lot to talk about!
I’m pleased we can openly discuss these matters, we’ve been good friends for a long time and feel comfortable enough to tell each other about vaginal discharge, sex with an ex and guilty celebrity crushes (I can’t disclose that we’re taking it to the grave). Even when our friend openly informed us she was receiving chlamydia treatment, we didn’t bat an eyelid.
Once upon a time sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) were a bit of a taboo subject. You couldn’t admit you might have picked up something nasty from an unplanned encounter with an old flame or shock-horror a one-night stand with a guy you’ve just met. Nowadays we’re all a bit less shockable and more open to discussion about all manner of topics.
Despite our new-found freedom of speech, we don’t always confess to how we are really feeling, to health problems we may be worried about or symptoms that may be bugging us. Sure, we can have a light-hearted chat with our oldest friends about sex and even a dodgy encounter that’s left us with an STI, but we might not be so forthcoming about that lump under our left breast or the fact that we are experiencing incontinence.
Let’s explore four health issues that women in the UK might have to face at some point in their lives. It’s a sobering thought, and we don’t want to dampen the mood but hopefully, it will illustrate why looking after yourself is so important.
Womb Cancer – This is common cancer that affects the reproductive system. If you have been through the menopause you have a higher risk of contracting womb cancer. Any abnormal vaginal bleeding (you know your own body, so this should be easy to notice) should be checked out by a health professional.
STIs – We’ve briefly touched on Chlamydia, but there is a whole host of other STI’s that you can pick up through unprotected sex. You might not have any noticeable symptoms, so it’s sometimes hard to know if you have contracted something from a partner. If you think you may be at risk, you should go for a check-up with your GP. If you can’t face that you can head to a GUM (Genitourinary medicine clinic).
Postcoital Bleeding – If you notice that you are bleeding after sex, you could be suffering from an STI or PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). Bleeding can also be caused by vaginal dryness or too much friction during intercourse, growths in the womb or inflammation to the cervix. Without trying to cause worry in certain rare cases bleeding is linked to cervical cancer.
Urinary Incontinence – Experienced a little leakage down below following a loud sneeze or laughing at a funny joke? It’s more common than you think! You can also leak a little if you don’t empty your bladder properly or even unexpectedly when you feel a strong urge to pee (and you just can’t wait). You should see your doctor for support, he or she might suggest pelvic floor exercises and changes to lifestyle.
Take Care of Yourself
We work hard, we juggle family life with social commitments, taking care of chores and looking after ourselves, and occasionally we drop the ball or two. Often it seems to be the “looking after ourselves” ball that gets forgotten as we desperately try and make sure the plants are watered, the family are fed (something healthy and cooked from scratch of course)! Fido has been for a walk, and there are clean pants available for all.
Now is the time to hold back a bit of that TLC for yourself. Resolve to eat well, get enough sleep, rest when you need it and have fun (laughter is the best medicine as you know). Don’t forget to indulge sometime but don’t go crazy (unprotected sex, drugs and too much rock and roll will take their toll). If you have any health concerns or worries seek advice, don’t worry in silence. Be a good friend to yourself as well as to others!