12 Serious Women’s Health Issues That Are Often Overlooked
It seems that a lot of the time, women’s health issues are not taken as seriously as men’s are. It has been reported that as many as one in three women in Australia has had their health concerns dismissed, leading to many women struggling with undiagnosed conditions.
Around 36% of women say they’ve had health concerns dismissed by a GP, according to the latest figures from the Australia Talks National Survey 2021, finding that women were twice as likely to feel dismissed by their doctor as men.
Experts say that this phenomenon is clear evidence of an ever-widening gender gap in medicine proving that women’s health is not as well researched as men’s health.
Here are twelve serious women’s health issues that are often overlooked and not taken as seriously as they should be.
Endometriosis affects one in nine Australian women and is one of the leading causes of chronic pelvic pain, heavy and painful periods, and even infertility in women of reproductive age. Despite its prevalence and severity of symptoms, it takes on average seven years for most sufferers to receive a diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment. All too often, women complaining of pain are dismissed, told that it’s normal period pain and to deal with it, or worse – that it’s all in their heads.
2. Oral contraception
Oral contraception, often known simply as “the pill”, has been known to affect women in many different ways, most commonly in mental health areas. Oral contraceptives with high progestin content could cause depression and anxiety in healthy women, but this is not reflected in the limited amount of research done in this area. This is in contrast to anabolic steroids which have been well researched in brain structures and changes.
Although depression and mood swings are commonly reported side effects of birth control pills, researchers have been unable to prove or disprove a link. The research is often conflicting. Perhaps more research into one of the most common issues women face is necessary?
There are several reasons why a woman might opt to undergo a hysterectomy. It can be because of uterine fibroids, heavy and persistent vaginal bleeding, cancer, or conditions like endometriosis. Or maybe she just wants one. Many doctors will insist on holding off ‘just in case’ the woman might change her mind later and suddenly want children, like that hadn’t occurred to her before. Asking for major life-changing surgery is not done lightly by the uterus owner, and these requests should be taken seriously.
4. Pain management
Why people think that women deal with pain differently from men is beyond belief. Sure, people naturally have different pain thresholds, but the way employers, doctors and society in general deal with women in pain is another story. Women’s pain is often abruptly dismissed as psychological, a physical manifestation of stress, anxiety, or depression. If it is related to our periods, it is called “normal”, no matter how intense it might be. Women in pain are much more likely than men to receive prescriptions for sedatives, rather than pain medication, for their ailments.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become thin, weak and fragile. Even a minor bump or accident can cause a broken bone. Generally, osteoporosis is underdiagnosed as the symptoms are usually hidden until bones are broken. Post-menopausal women are three times more likely to be affected by the physical, emotional, and mental trauma of osteoporosis than their male peers.
6. Pelvic floor physical therapy
Many women don’t realise that their pelvic floor issues can be easily addressed. No, not by cutesy “LBL” ads that helpfully seek to normalise wetting your pants on the daily. Incontinence is never normal — it’s always a medical issue worthy of treatment. There’s no reason to give up and try and do pelvic floor exercises on your own in an attempt to fix it yourself. See your doctor and seek treatment from a physical therapist.
This is a big one. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal condition that affects one in ten women of childbearing age. Women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance and metabolism problems that may affect their overall health and appearance. It is a common and treatable cause of infertility that is diagnosed through a blood test and ultrasound. As treatment often includes weight loss and exercise, women’s concerns can be dismissed until a healthier weight is achieved.
8. Tubal Ligation
It can be quite an ordeal to get your tubes tied sometimes, especially if you are of child-bearing age. Many doctors dismiss requests for tubal ligation in young women claiming that they’ll change their minds about having children one day, even if they are assured to the contrary. Funnily enough, it is a fairly straightforward process for men to undergo a vasectomy, with less attention paid to how many children they might have or want in the future.
9. Post-Natal Depression
Around 1 in 7-10 mothers develop PND within the first twelve months of giving birth, with symptoms that can range from a mild feeling of sadness to a paralysing depression. Thankfully, PND is being taken much more seriously these days with many steps taken to help new mums transition to their new lives with an infant. Maternal health post-delivery should be considered just as important as the baby’s.
10. Autism and ADHD
Many girls and women go undiagnosed with ASD and ADHD because they don’t fit autism stereotypes that are based on how males present with those conditions. While more than four boys are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum for every girl, the model used to determine the condition is skewed towards male symptoms. More research is needed to understand the range of female symptoms of ASD and ADHD.
11. Painful sex
Like pelvic floor issues, painful sex is never a normal thing that we should just have to deal with on our own. Women often complain of raising concerns about pain during sex only to be asked “well, have you tried more lube and foreplay?” Conditions such as vaginismus, lichen sclerosis, lichen planus, vulvodynia and many other causes of painful sex should be taken more seriously and never dismissed.
12. Nearly every safety invention ever made
Are you aware that almost every safety feature ever made was tested on average-sized men? Airbags, seatbelts, dosages for drugs, safety bars on roller coasters, you name it — they were all tested using an average-sized male body. PPE equipment, bullet or stab-proof vests, medications that don’t account for female hormones, the afore-mentioned ASD/ADHD diagnoses, the list goes on. We really do live in a world where the default human is male. Breasts, hormones, a different distribution of weight, height, pregnancy, none of that seems to matter.
Ladies, be your own advocates. If you have a concern about any of these issues — or any other issue for that matter — and feel like you are being dismissed without your concerns being appropriately addressed, find another healthcare provider. Keep going until you get the answers and the care you deserve.
Image source: Pixabay