It took Christina Jarvis more than a decade to understand what was going on with her body.
Jarvis, now 40, says she began experiencing symptoms related to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in her mid-teens, but her problems have always been stress-driven. It wasn’t until her late 20s that her abnormal results and an ultrasound finally confirmed she had a hormonal disorder after she sought hormone testing.
But Jarvis still explained how her doctor told her not to worry until she wanted to have a baby, because PCOS can contribute to fertility problems. When another doctor later referred her to a specialist, she began to understand other ways PCOS could affect her, from hair loss to insulin resistance.
Jarvis spoke Wednesday as the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation (AWHF). released a new report It shows how “taboos” in women’s health contribute to the dismissal or misdiagnosis of real medical problems.
“By treating these disorders and other women’s health problems as reproductive-related, people’s overall health and well-being are ignored,” Jarvis said.
“When it comes to women’s health research, many, if not all, physicians lack knowledge and care.”
The report, “Surveing the Silence: Exploring the Taboos in Women’s Health,” surveyed 2,200 Albertans and found the majority to be women. The report notes that the health issues being investigated also apply to transgender men and nonbinary people who are assigned female at birth.
Data was collected over several weeks last summer and participants were invited to participate through an online panel.
Dr. Sandra Davidge, executive director of the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, said that while there may be a perception that “women’s health” is limited to the period around pregnancy, there are also concerns about the potential impact on quality of life. One problem states that there are many others.
Respondents reported an average of five pelvic health problems each, ranging from recurrent yeast infections to endometriosis to pelvic floor dysfunction.
Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said they found it difficult to talk to their health care provider about their pelvic or gynecological problems, and only about one-quarter said their physicians were not interested in gynecological and reproductive health. I answered that I was “very familiar” with
The report notes that the continued social unacceptability of talking openly about periods, menopause, etc., is not only a general lack of awareness, but the actual symptoms that may be cause for concern. It explains that it leads to the normalization of
“Many women are driven to loneliness and despair, with their symptoms ignored by loved ones and medical professionals because ‘it’s just part of being a woman,’ and some even suicidal. has become,” the AWHF document said.
Dr. Jane Schultz, a urologist at Royce Hall Women’s Hospital, says one in three women suffer from a pelvic floor disorder. But problems like urinary incontinence and pelvic pain are not talked about.
“The key to this is to break down these stigma and strengthen education for women to know their pathways to care,” she said, adding that more support for research and more support for health care providers. A good education is also necessary, he added.
Jarvis said doctors need to be prepared to provide adequate care, but said it’s important to combat stigma that’s ingrained in their communities.
“Believe in yourself. Believe in what you feel, what you see, what you notice,” she said.
“You have to be a very active advocate. The reality is, no one can advocate for you better than you. .”