Friday, 15 November 2013

Who Would You Turn To?

BMI Healthcare recently commissioned a survey through Mumsnet to learn about women’s health worries and how they deal with gynaecological issues when they arise.  The results revealed that women are more than twice as likely to confide in their partner rather than their mum when it comes to gynaecological issues, such as problems conceiving or heavy periods.  Yet family history is a key factor in many women’s health conditions, and a whopping 7 in 10 women surveyed knew of someone in their family who had suffered from a gynaecological issue of some description.  What would you do if you had a problem of this sort?

Of course, many women don't have the kind of relationship with their mother where a conversation of this sort would be comfortable or indeed helpful, but I was very surprised that only 18% would talk to a sister about the same.  Especially, when nearly a third of women would turn first to online forums or medical websites, before speaking to anyone else.

It used to be that mental health was the big taboo, but it seems we can all be a lot more open about depression and other mental health issues these days, whilst gynaecological issues are being swept under the carpet rather.

Personally, I have been unlucky enough to have had a few issues in my time, including a cervical smear recall more than once, fibroids, and severely heavy periods in my teenage years.  But every time my mum was the first person I turned to.

I also had a couple of times a rather scary thing called cervical erosion, which is where the type of cells usually found on the inside of the cervix start growing on the outside, as if the cells on the inside of your mouth started growing out on to your lips.  Because the cells are a different type, they can start to bleed when they are in the wrong place, and let me tell you that can be rather frightening when we are so often bombarded with doom-laden ideas of gynaecological cancers.  I had a treatment which cauterizes the misplaced cells, which whilst rather painful and unpleasant, did stop the bleeding.  Again my mum was the first person I called, and was there with me for treatment.  And I certainly didn't hang about before seeking medical assistance.

As Mr Andrew Baxter, Consultant Gynaecologist for BMI Thornbury Hospital, comments:

"It’s great that women share any concerns with their partner, and do their own research.  However, in these cases, mum may actually be more useful than your other half as other women are more likely to have been through the same thing and can offer advice, while some conditions also have a genetic link."

Being adopted, the genetic link aspect is of no use to me, but knowing what my poor mum has been through (infertility, years of investigation and experimentation, uterine cancer and hysterectomy) certainly means that I know she of all people will understand any gynaecological problems I have!  Thankfully, we haven't had any conception problems so far, but I know far too many women who have.  I hope their mums have been there for them too.

If you don't want to turn to your mum or other female relatives and friends, just beware of heading straight for the web - sometimes it can be a source of worry more than reassurance.

"The internet can be very useful when you've already been given a clinical diagnosis, as you can learn more about your condition.  However, when used as a tool for self-diagnosis, it can lead to misdiagnosis.  With so much information out there, you may end up worrying about a condition you don’t have, or you could be so scared by what you read that you don’t seek any help medical help."

Mr Baxter stresses the importance of seeking clinical advice from your GP and if necessary from a specialist, who will be able to provide a thorough examination and diagnosis.

Whilst I am not a fan of medicine for medicine's sake, I would heartily agree with this line of thinking, your gynaecological health is not worth risking, and the sooner you can get the help you may or may not need, the better.  Just make sure you have some support from your partner, family or friends too.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet.  I have not paid for the product or to attend an event.  I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

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