If you have a heart condition, for example, some types of contraception may suit you better than others. If you have not started your periods by the time you’re 16 or if you’re worried about the regularity of your periods, please speak to your GP. Research for the Scottish government’s Women’s Health Plan found services were lacking. Women’s Health Concern is greatly indebted to the late Miss Elizabeth Stalley whose bequest made possible the complete re-design and revision of this charity website in December 2007. Since then several benefactors, some preferring to be anonymous, have made donations.
For example, we know that women who have high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia during pregnancy are at greater risk of heart attack and stroke in the future. A life course approach also focuses on understanding wider determinants of health, the opportunities for preventative action to support women to improve their health and prevent or reduce the risk of ill health later in life. We have seen both negative consequences and positive outcomes from this pandemic.
In the middle years many women will require support and services for contraception, sexual health, planning for pregnancy and specific help to manage periods and menstrual disorders. Women felt that, at times, healthcare professionals acted as a barrier that prevented them from accessing the relevant services or treatment. 28% of those identifying with a gender different to their sex at birth said they have enough information on mental health conditions, compared with 34% of cisgender respondents . The same top 5 topics were selected by respondents who described their ethnicity as white, Asian or black, while mixed or multiple ethnic respondents selected the health impacts of violence against women and girls instead of the menopause. This report contains content that some readers may find upsetting, including anonymised, personal testimonies of not being listened to by healthcare professionals, and experiences of baby loss. We want to understand more about the impacts of COVID-19 on women’s health, and on women’s health services, including both challenges and positive reforms or opportunities for action.
They felt that this impact on their mental health was not fully considered, and they didn’t feel supported to manage this. Across ethnicities, black respondents felt the most comfortable talking to healthcare professionals about their mental health (61%), and the mixed or multiple ethnic group felt the least comfortable (56% – a gap of 5 percentage points). Older respondents tended to feel more comfortable than younger respondents in talking to healthcare professionals about their mental health; the largest gap was 31 percentage points between those aged 16 to 17 and 18 to 19 (41%), and those aged 80 or above (72%). Across ethnicities, Asian respondents felt the most comfortable talking to healthcare professionals about menstrual wellbeing (81%), while respondents from the mixed or multiple ethnic group felt the least comfortable (76% – a gap of 5 percentage points).
Menopause specialists around the world are now found to be empowering women by providing improved information which allows women to understand their personal risks and benefits when considering whether HRT is right for them. For many women there is no increased risk of breast cancer, such as if they are under 50, if they only need oestrogen, or if they are taking a more modern form of progesterone known as micronised progesterone. The average age of menopause is 51 and women can experience symptoms for a number of years after that. At Bupa, we’ve signed up to the Menopause Workplace Pledge – a campaign from Wellbeing of Women. To ensure that our people feel supported when dealing with their symptoms at work, we’re making it easier for them to talk openly, positively and respectfully about menopause. 85% of respondents reported that they, or the woman they had in mind, are currently in work, while 13% said they are not.
However, there is some evidence that many women struggle to access reliable information about many aspects of women’s health. We know that awareness of symptoms including what is considered ‘normal’ can be low, and that women may not always be aware of the treatment and support available for common health needs such as menstrual health or fertility. There is also some evidence that the level of awareness of different conditions varies among medical professionals and wider society. In terms of women’s health conditions, nearly 1 in 4 respondents with a health condition or disability described this as the menopause (23%), and around 1 in 10 (12%) said they have endometriosis.
Asian and black respondents were the least likely to agree they have enough information on how to prevent ill health and maintain their health (42%), while white respondents were the most likely (52% – a gap of 10 percentage points). Asian respondents were the least likely to agree they have enough information on how to prepare for or prevent pregnancy (47%), while white respondents were the most likely (60% – a gap of 13 percentage points). The next 2 most common sources of information were Google search results (71%), and other online search engines and blogs (69%). Less common, though still in the top 5, were speaking to a GP or healthcare professional (59%) and seeking guidance from the NHS, including via 111 and the NHS website (54%).