This weekend’s Hysterical Women roundup
New research published by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust this week found that – despite all the public health campaigns encouraging women to attend their smear tests – two thirds of women with a physical disability have found themselves unable to attend because of stigma and inaccessible services. Cervical screening is at a 21-year low, and yet Jo’s Trust found “a worrying level of misunderstanding and stigma around disability”, with one in five women saying healthcare professionals had assumed they were not sexually active because of their disability.
According to the research: “Women reported being discouraged from screening, being told it was not possible to access and shockingly some even said they have been encouraged to sign waivers saying they did not want screening. 40% feel GPs or nurses don’t understand their needs or take them seriously. Half (45%) of those questioned said they feel like their needs have been forgotten.”
Also this week, gynaecologists issued yet more warnings against vaginal steaming after it was reported that a 62-year-old woman suffered second degree burns to her vagina after using the treatment. Her experience was reported just days after the news that London’s first ‘vagina spa’ is set to open this autumn, offering vaginal lightening, tightening, plumping and – you guessed it – steaming treatments.
In other news…
ENDO HELL: I passed out from crippling pain every month for 10 years because of endometriosis – but doctors told me to stop time wasting
Another week, another Hysterical Women endo story – each infuriatingly similar to the last. The Sun tells the story of 30-year-old Hayley Ray, who has suffered from agonising periods since she was 13.
Every month, the 30-year-old nutritional coach from London experienced such agonising pains that they would make her pass out – but her local GP insisted that it was merely a “bad period”.
She added: “My mum would obviously have to come and get me from school and take me to the doctors but they would just dismiss me.
“They would just say, ‘oh, it’s just really bad period pain’ which is outrageous. Doctors wouldn’t take me seriously.
“I had a nurse saying, ‘you’re wasting our time, you’re just being over dramatic.’
“The local GP surgery once said, ‘no one likes to be a time waster and you’re wasting our time by coming back to tell us how much pain you’re in’.”
I’m campaigning for menopause posters in GP’s surgeries – we older women are fed up of being ignored
Journalist Elizabeth Carr-Ellis writes for The Telegraph about her campaign for menopause information posters to be displayed in GP surgeries, after being left in the dark about her own symptoms.
Sitting in the waiting room, ahead of a GP appointment, I could feel myself getting angry. Everywhere I looked were posters about the signs of a heart attack, or how to act FAST when a stroke happens; others about breastfeeding and ante-natal clinics and vaccinations. Not one was for the reason I was there: the menopause.
Over the past four years, I’ve been to the doctors with palpitations, hair loss, anxiety, mood swings, aching joints – each a classic menopause symptom. Each time I’d be sent away with a prescription that worked short-term, or a blood test that showed nothing wrong. Once I was even given an ECG stress test, which I passed with flying colours.
My periods were becoming irregular and I had hot flushes, so I knew I was peri-menopausal. But I had no idea everything else I’d been suffering was connected.
As far as women’s health is concerned, it seems that menopause is an afterthought – something we “just have to get through”.
Also on the menopause, Suzanne Moore writes for The Guardian this week, responding to the news of a new fertility treatment which promises to delay menopause by up to 20 years:
Women can now “nail a career and feel that burden taken off their shoulders … they can go back to their tissue, which they froze at 30”, says Prof Simon Fishel, ProFam’s founder. Or we could support women in the workplace, make childcare affordable and involve fathers? How about fixing all this cultural and social stuff, instead of fixing women’s bodies with expensive and invasive operations?
And while we are at it – and I am always at it – how about making the menopause something that we talk about and assist women with? Too many of my friends are having a hard time finding sympathetic doctors and are being prescribed antidepressants for menopausal symptoms. They are not depressed, but nor are they easy bunnies, let’s put it that way.