There has been a lot of media attention over recent months about gynaecological health, especially around the issue of women having to make repeated visits to their GP before their concerns are taken seriously. This could be down to several issues, such as the massive strain that the NHS is currently under due to under funding and cuts and the fact that many GP surgeries are over stretched and GP’s don’t have the time to devote to each patient, after all a 10 minute appointment (if you are lucky) is hardly long enough to go over a woman’s full gynaecological history.
Sadly however, many GP’s don’t seem to take women’s health issues seriously. I have heard from women who have been told that excessive bleeding is normal and that every woman has it from time to time. Others have been told that heavy bleeding when going through the menopause is normal and others have been told to stop complaining about severe PMS because every woman goes through it and they don’t all complain!!
We as women would like to think that we know our bodies best and most of us do but sadly many women are still ignorant of their gynaecological health. There are so many things that can go wrong “down there” and all women need to know their own “normal” when it comes to their gynaecological health.
According to research by The Eve Appeal around 40% of young women didn’t know where the vagina was on an anatomical diagram!! How are we ever going to raise awareness of gynaecological cancers if women don’t even know their own anatomy?
We women need to be empowering each other and talking openly about gynaecological issues that can affect us all. From gynae cancers to STD’s and other sexual health issues, through pregnancy and menopause issues. We owe it to ourselves and our daughters and grand-daughters to put an end to all the taboos.
We need to stop being embarrassed about using the correct terminology - there is nothing shameful about saying the word VAGINA or VULVA. If we can’t even say the word how are we going to make sure we get the proper health care we need?
Using silly euphemisms doesn’t help the matter either. It does nothing to remove the stigma or taboo around talking about gynaecological issues; indeed I believe it can infact make matters worse. Many older women find it difficult to use this type of language – it is deemed to be offensive and derogatory.
We also have to consider the needs of the BAME and LGBT community when it comes to gynaecological health issues and the language we use. Many in these communities feel isolated and excluded, especially those in the BAME communities who have to fight stigma and cultural prejudice and often find it very hard to speak out about issues like this.
So if you don’t already do so, then please start talking about these issues with the women you care about. You probably already talk about having your breast mammograms and maybe even your smear test but we really need to be more open about all aspects of our gynaecological health.
Do you know that there is no such thing as a “normal” period? We are all different so our periods are all different. Your “normal” is different to your daughter’s, or your best friends so learn to know and understand "your" normal and then you are more likely to understand when something is wrong and needs investigating.
Our vagina’s are wonderful but sometimes things can go wrong. Thankfully many of those things are easily treated if you listen to your body and seek help at the first sign that something is not as it should be.
So be empowered to use the correct terminology when talking about your gynaecological health. Know your vagina from your vulva and say it loud and proud “VIVA LA VAGINA”.