Taboos around conditions such as menopause, menstruation, and endometriosis can limit access to knowledge and care, says a report from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation.
The report, “Surveying the Silence: Exploring the Taboos in Women’s Health,” surveyed more than 2,200 self-identified women in Alberta to understand their biggest health issues, concerns and experiences. .
“Taboos are social conventions that restrict discussion of certain topics,” Charlene Rutherford, president and CEO of the foundation, said at a press conference Wednesday. Limiting access to knowledge and care, taboos can harm an individual’s health, mental health, and well-being.
“Taboos perpetuate discrimination, perpetuate negative stereotypes, can isolate and contribute to inequality.”
Survey respondents each reported an average of five pelvic health problems, including menstrual cramps, pelvic floor dysfunction, uterine fibroids, and regular yeast infections.
About two-thirds find it difficult to talk to their primary health care provider about their concerns, and only one-quarter say they are “very knowledgeable” about their gynecological and reproductive health. I felt
The study reported that delays in treatment were common, with 85% of women with more complex diagnoses such as endometriosis waiting for treatment.
‘A disturbing lack of knowledge’
Christina Jarvis, 40, said she was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (a condition in which women have elevated levels of male hormones) when she was 29.
“The first symptoms were… actually hair loss around age 14 or 15,” she said. “My mom suggested it was probably due to stress.”
Jarvis said she started having irregular menstrual periods, and her doctor suggested it could be stress.
She underwent hormone testing in her late 20s, which led to the diagnosis, but was told that she didn’t need to worry about treatment until she wanted to conceive.
“I took the doctor at face value,” Jarvis said.
It wasn’t until she was 33 or 34 that I learned of possible other side effects, including high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and an increased chance of cancer.
“There is a disturbing lack of knowledge and care from many[general practitioners]and doctors,” she said.
“Physicians are definitely experts, but they also need to be a little resistant when they think they have something to consider. They also need to listen to us.”
One perimenopausal patient said in a survey, “It adds worry and stress because you don’t know what’s going to happen and if the strange new symptoms indicate something serious.”
Another woman experiencing period cramps said people often think she’s dramatic when she needs to stay in bed.
Dr. Jane Schultz, director of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alberta School of Medicine, said the survey responses resonated with her.
“This is certainly a taboo topic,” said Schultz, who is also a urologist at Royce Hall Women’s Hospital in Edmonton. increase.”
The taboo view of women’s health issues contributes to disparities in care and the lack of research on the topic, the report says.
“This report provides important insights,” said Sandra Davidge, Ph.D., executive director of the Institute for Women and Children’s Health.
“Research specifically focused on women’s health has been neglected for too long. Currently, less than 10% of federal funding from Canada’s Health Research Fund is devoted to women’s health.”
But Davidge says there is important research for women with funding from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation.
As an example, menopause affects 50% of the population, she said, but noted gaps in both care and research in this area.
Some researchers are working to overcome the stigma associated with menopause by supporting women with severe symptoms.