I've wanted to write this blog post for years. I think female health is so important and we are all a little clueless about it. Disclaimer, I am not a doctor, I didn't consult a doctor, but I am working from what I know and online research from reputable sources.
The point of this post is not to share medical knowledge, but it is to make men and women more aware of female health. The more we talk about it, the less taboo it is and the more people will understand how important female healthcare is.
I've compiled five things that you need to know about female health, or at least should be aware of. It's so important to speak about it because women's health is not researched enough and we end up suffering for it. It's shameful that 50% of the population has a lower research standard and are often ignored. Medicine could go so much further than what it has.
1) A pelvic exam and a Pap Test are different
They happen at the same time, but are totally different.
A pelvic exam: Should happen annually. Your doctor will check your cervix, uterus, vulva, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and make sure that everything is looking normal. This is also when they check for abnormalities like an infection.
A Pap Test: Should happen every three years after three consecutive negative pap tests. This is a test for your cervix. They are testing for cancerous cells on your cervix. A negative pap test means there is nothing wrong with your cervix. If you have been sexually active (intercourse or oral) prior to 21, you should get your first test at 21. If you haven't been sexually active you should wait three years after your first sexual encounter to get the pap test.
So, your first three pelvic exams after 21 (21-23) should include a pap test. Once your pap test comes back negative, your next pap should be at the age of 26, then 29, 31, etc. I honestly think this isn't enough and I get tested every year. I also have a strong line of breast cancer in my family, and often cervical cancer is related to the same gene.
YOU SHOULD GET A PELVIC EXAM EVERY YEAR. This part of your body is always changing, it's critical to get yourself examined every year. Cervical cancer is a silent killer because women do not get checked enough. I knew there was something wrong with my body in 2011 and in 2016, I asked to see a gynaecologist, in 2018, I had surgery to fix it. I am fine and although I was uncomfortable, I rather not be uncomfortable for life.
This is my most personal section, but it's so important to talk about because we don't and then women get scared to get checked and it's BONKERS. We shouldn't be afraid to talk about our bodies. It's not improper, it could save a life.
Also, if your doctor doesn't think there is something wrong, but you feel there is, ask for a referral to a gynaecologist, they are trained for it and your family doctor isn't as trained. Helpful, but can't exactly see all the differences a gynaecologist can. I waited a year and a half to see one because I was not pregnant or urgent patient. You are allowed a referral and if your doctor says no, fight it. You are allowed to safe medical services in Canada and that means access to all the doctors.
2) Your body is changing and so should your birth control
No one told me that I could change my birth control and I had no idea I could. I just thought "Well I am on it, I take it daily, it must be fine". Except I was not fine. What happened was my birth control was causing these monthly mood swings and causing a lot of unnecessary emotions I didn't know how to handle. It affected my family life and my school life. It always landed on a week I had mid-terms, tests, and exams, so I would get the worst grades. It was only in fourth year that I realized this and that's when me and my doctor went on a journey of finding the right birth control for me.
I am now totally different and I love how unclouded I am in my life. I love my product because it works for me. There are many many options for women and no, there isn't just one kind of pill, there are hundreds, which can affect your hormones differently. It's all about figuring out which one works for you. It took us a year to find one that worked for me and I honestly love it. Also, women don't need a period unless they are trying to get pregnant and you can be on birth control which stops your period. We do not need to be in pain all every month, it is newer, but talk about it with your doctor. I have a very modern doctor (ahem, not 100 years old) and she has been great.
3) NO ONE CAN TOUCH YOU WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION
This one is for the ENTIRE POPULATION because we seem to just not get it. Consent seems to be so convoluted especially when it's with your boyfriend/girlfriend. "He loves me, so it's fine" ... look Cindy, it's not fine. No one should touch you if you do not wish to be touched. Consent changes all the time and I think we forget that. Yes can mean yes at the beginning, but you are allowed to say no and change your mind and that means no. IT'S A HARD NO.
You can say no whenever you want. Consent cannot be given if: - The person says no (at any time)
- The person is drunk or high, or is in a mental state that they cannot give consent
- The person is threatened (fear, force, or fraud)
- There is a purposeful hole in the condom or the birth control has been tampered with
- The person is unconscious (maybe they did give consent, but now are unconscious, they no longer can consent)
- The person isn't old enough to consent (it's 18 btw)
Basically, think of it like signing a contract. You cannot sign a contract if you are drunk, high, not mentally capable of signing; not of legal age; someone is forcing you, or has threatened you; and you can't sign if you are unconscious.
Super simple and yet, we just don't get it and we also don't teach the youth this is sex ed, which is critical to making sure it doesn't happen. If we lack in education of consent, then we fail the next generation. Sex education is as important as math and science.
4) You have period options
Not only are pads and tampons bad for the environment, there are other products on the market and they rock.
You do not need to feel like you are wearing a diaper because that's the only thing you've known. You also aren't subject to wearing a tampon that hurts. You also don't need a period if you don't want one, there are products that stop it completely and are safe. You don't need to use a cup if you don't like the cup. You don't have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Your period doesn't need to be associated with pain, you aren't being punished like the bible makes us think we are because Eve ate the apple. Your period is your body shedding your uterine lining because a sperm hasn't found the egg you released around day 14 of your menstrual cycle. That's it, it's genetics and science, it's not a bible punishment, or a punishment for being a woman.
5) No one is allowed to make you feel bad about your body
This is my mental health thought. I have been beaten down mentally for my developing body by my peers. You get boobs over the summer? Every one knows and sometimes people touch your back to see if you are wearing a bra. You get hips before anyone else? You must be getting fat. You have acne? Hello button face. You need braces? Braceface. You wear a revealing top or skirt? Slut. You aren't tall, thin, with long hair, clear skin, and perfect teeth? Bonne chance!
You name it, I lived it. Just like so many other women who have had to go through so much worse. I don't know why we are taught to bring each other down instead of up, but it takes years to realize you aren't ugly after middle/high school. I still have moments when I think before a first date "will he like me for me or will he be turned off because I am not a size 2?"
Women are shamed for not looking a certain way and it kills all the self love/worth we have. I love myself, but it took me a long time to get here and I make sure to set personal boundaries with people when they make a comment. I also have been known to just kick people out of my life if they mistreat me.
I am a strong and intelligent woman who has been subject to peer humiliation and I was not going to take it. You don't either. No one and I mean no one can make you feel like crap. My favourite sentence when someone passes a comment, "I do not enjoy your comment, I am setting a personal boundary, you are not allowed to make me feel bad". It 100% sounds stupid to say and it's terrifying the first time, but I promise you, it feels so much better than being a punching bag.
You go Glen Coco for learning a little more than before!
Thanks for reading,