A belated weekend roundup of news and views on the gender health gap

Everything’s a little bit behind this month – so yesterday’s weekend roundup is going out today, and last week’s monthly newsletter will go out tomorrow. Let’s just blame it, and everything else, on all the rain!

One of the big women’s health stories of the last week has been the criticism of Conservative leadership candidate Jeremy Cunt Hunt for his stance on abortion rights. According to The Independent:

Clare Murphy, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the UK’s largest abortion provider, noted women often need access to abortions after 12 weeks due to receiving the “devastating news” that something is wrong with a “much wanted pregnancy”. She said: “To take such a cavalier approach towards the needs of the women of the UK while effectively campaigning to be their next prime minister is both breathtaking and alarming.

“It should also be noted that during his time as health secretary, Hunt refused to implement measures that could have improved women’s access to earlier abortion by allowing women to use some of the medication needed at home, thereby reducing the number of appointments women were compelled to attend. This was enacted by his successor Matt Hancock.”

He also failed to push forward important public health measures that would have reduced the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects, which usually end in the termination of a greatly wanted pregnancy, Ms Murphy added. She said his support for a reduction in the time limit has never been accompanied by measures that would assist women in accessing services at the earliest gestations, or indeed help some women avoid needing to end a pregnancy altogether.

‘Gender health gap’ hurts us all: new research

Stuff magazine in New Zealand reported on The Lancet’s recent series on sexism and gender in healthcare:

Gender biases – including the gender stereotype of “men cure, women care” – mean, globally, women spend up to ten times more time caring for children, older people, and the sick.

This time spent doing unpaid work is the equivalent of $US1.5 trillion (NZ$2.25 trillion) annually.

Then, when women need care for themselves, pay gaps mean they are less likely to be able to afford it or their access to healthcare may be impeded by male “gatekeepers” who control finances and household decisions.

If women can seek healthcare, “unconscious gender biases” and “blatant sexism” may affect the care they receive.

“Because women are stereotyped as fragile and overemotional, women’s health-related complaints are very often interpreted as exaggerated and women’s physical symptoms are attributed to psychosomatic rather than physical causes,” explain the authors.

“Even in high-income countries, women frequently receive inferior care to men: they are screened for disease less often and receive less aggressive treatment and substandard follow-up.”

Mum, 29, died of cervical cancer months after docs dismissed abnormal bleeding as heavy periods or STI

The Sun reported on the tragic story of 29-year-old Josephine Suffolk, who was misdiagnosed by her GP for nine months before her death from cervical cancer.

Speaking to Kent Live back in December, she said that her GP first dismissed her bleeding as an irregular period.

They told her that it was probably a result of having given birth eight months previously.

When the bleeding didn’t stop, she returned to the surgery “four or five times” and was told the same thing at each visit.

Eventually, Josey, from Dover, demanded to see another doctor who then referred her to a specialist.

By the time Josey was given the correct diagnosis, she had stage four cervical cancer – the most severe form. She passed away less than a year later.

Breast cancer taboo ‘can cause isolation’ for black women

Breast cancer survivor Bamidele Adenipekun spoke to the BBC about the stigma, fear and isolation associated with breast cancer in BAME communities – resulting in lower screening uptake, reluctance to speak out, and aftercare problems.

Bamidele said in her community it is “an unwritten rule” that an illness like cancer is kept “within the family and you don’t share it”.

“In a place like Wales, where you are in the minority, talking about your experience of cancer is not the way you want to be perceived,” she said.

“There are cultural reasons and feelings of being misunderstood which can run quite deep.”

What It’s Like To Have Vulvodynia – The Common Condition Silently Wrecking Women’s Lives

Huffington Post published a feature over the weekend on vulvodynia, detailing the experience of 21-year-old Rosie, who was prescribed antiviral medication for her symptoms despite numerous STI tests coming back clear. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t help. Rosie was only diagnosed with vulvodynia – chronic vulval pain – after being referred to a doctor who’d recently attended a conference on the condition. Journalist Rachel Moss also quotes Vagina: A re-education author Lynn Enright:

While researching her book Vagina: A Re-Education, journalist and author Lynn Enright discovered a culture of silence and taboo surrounding vulvodynia. “It exists surrounded by whispers, doubts, misgivings,” she tells HuffPost UK. “We’re really bad at talking about vulvas – and so we are also pretty poor at talking about vulvodynia.”

The exact cause of vulvodynia is unknown, but it’s thought to result from a problem with the nerves in and around the vulva. Enright believes medical uncertainty about the condition is fuelling stigma.

“Too often, women who go to the doctor with the symptoms of vulvodynia are fobbed off and dismissed,” she says. “Doctors need to be much more educated about it – and there needs to be a lot more research into this condition.”

ADHD: Could Your Stress and Anxiety Actually Be down to This Condition?

This feature in Women’s Health explores what it’s like to be diagnosed with ADHD as an adult – after years of being misdiagnosed with stress, anxiety, and/or depression:

If you associate ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) with fast-moving boys flicking pens and unable to concentrate in classrooms, then you wouldn’t be the only one.

But, just as with autism, this is a condition that has been severely understood – especially with regards to what it looks like in females.

While Chelsea’s ADHD was initially dismissed as work-related stress, some women are being diagnosed with entirely different mental health conditions.

Despite being ‘that annoying kid in class’ and experiencing a lingering feeling of being different, Michelle couldn’t put her finger on what was going on – and nor could any of the trained medical professionals she consulted.

Every time she was given a new diagnosis, she hoped a solution was in sight. Instead, she wound up feeling even more frustrated than before.

And finally…

Georgina Lawton wrote for Independent Voices about the gender bias that surrounds conversations about fertility: Men have a biological clock too – so why is women’s fertility still such a big, often unregulated, business?

The gender bias in the public discourse surrounding pregnancy and fertility is clear, and is having notable impacts on the quality of healthcare women are receiving around planning, having or aborting a child.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like change is coming any time soon; laws are becoming more draconian in the States, and here in the UK the methods of fertility clinics are incredibly exploitative. It is therefore more important than ever to keep yourself as informed and up to date as possible on your medical options. Because when it comes to women’s health, the personal is certainly always political.