Women's Health Week

Kristin Gunner

5/14/2024

three women in workout outfits sitting on the floor in a gym
three women in workout outfits sitting on the floor in a gym

Women’s Health Week is celebrated every May, starting on Mother’s Day. It’s a week dedicated to the importance of women's health and advocating for more awareness and action. The primary goals are to shed light on women's health issues and to empower women and girls to proactively address their health concerns.

From pregnancy to the postpartum period and every stage beyond this, women's health is so important. Women have unique needs and challenges. That's why Women's Health Week is so crucial. It’s our chance to really dig into why women's health matters, what we can do about it, and why it's essential for everyone to get involved.

We need more awareness.

Too often, women have a hard time getting the care they need and deserve, and there are several reasons for this. By raising awareness and understanding, we aim to dismantle these barriers and create a healthcare landscape that is inclusive, compassionate, and responsive to women's needs.

So what are some of the challenges women face?

Delayed Diagnosis: Women may encounter delays in receiving diagnoses for various health conditions, which leads to more suffering and worsening symptoms. Their symptoms too often are overlooked or not taken seriously. Many excuses have been given, but none are justified.

Pain Management: Research shows that women are less likely than men to be given painkillers, meaning their pain isn’t managed properly. Women’s pain is so often dismissed or under-treated. Providers doubt women’s pain or believe they’re overreacting. But they’re not.

Mental Health Stigma: The stigma surrounding mental health disproportionately affects women, causing many to avoid seeking the support and care they need. On top of that, women are often incorrectly diagnosed with a mental illness when they go in with physical symptoms. Their own providers gaslight them, which delays proper treatment.

Weight Stigma: Society's fixation on weight leads to impacts on women’s self-esteem and access to appropriate healthcare services. Those who finally seek care are often faced with discrimination. Many providers make negative/false assumptions about people considered overweight, which negatively affects how they care for their patients. This leads to a lack of treatment, misdiagnoses, and ignoring symptoms.

Racial Bias: Let’s be honest. Women of color have it worse than white women. They are dismissed more often. They are less likely to receive proper treatment. They have worse health outcomes. They are believed to have a higher pain tolerance than white women (FYI: pain tolerance has nothing to do with race). They have higher maternal mortality rates. They are underserved and underrepresented. We all need to do better for women of color.

Research Disparities: Historically, medical research has mostly focused on male subjects, leaving gaps in our understanding of women's health needs and responses to treatment. For so long, even studies that included women didn’t include enough women to have significant results. This lack of information/evidence negatively affects how providers treat women. Thankfully, many people are working hard to address and correct this problem.

Autoimmune Diseases: On average, it takes women around five years to finally get a correct diagnosis. That’s five years (or more sometimes) of needless suffering. Providers often don’t believe them, dismiss their symptoms, misdiagnose them, or even tell them it’s all in their heads. We need better awareness and research efforts.

Reproductive Health: Conditions related to women’s reproductive systems often don’t get diagnosed quickly enough. Reasons include:

  • lack of research

  • Some male providers don’t believe their patients or understand their symptoms

  • Women are told it’s all in their heads

  • Symptoms are dismissed

Other issues surrounding reproductive health, including access to contraception, family planning services, and maternal care, remain pivotal areas requiring attention and advocacy.

Women deserve better

Every woman deserves access to comprehensive, compassionate, and equitable healthcare. As allies and advocates, we have to amplify women's voices, challenge barriers, and demand accountability within healthcare systems.

By encouraging dialogue, promoting education, and advocating for policy reforms, we can effect change and create a future where women's health is prioritized and respected.

Women's health is a fundamental right that merits attention, support, and advocacy.

To every woman out there:

You matter, and your health matters.

Take control. Speak up. Believe and know that you deserve better.

To those who are struggling emotionally:

I am always available to talk or to help you get help, whether you’re my client or not. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. As a doula, I want to do everything I can to help.

OR

Call or text the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262).

You can check womenshealth.gov every day this week to learn more about a specific topic for the day and to find more resources.

** None of this is intended to imply that ALL healthcare providers are "bad." I am fully aware that there are so many who truly listen to their patients and want to help them. My current doctor is one of them, and I can't tell you how relieved I was when I met her. We need to do more to recognize and encourage the providers who care, listen, and are willing to fight for their patients. **

Learn more:

More Data Needed

Health Equity

Read stories from real people

Racial Bias in Healthcare: What You Need to Know

Racism, Sexism, and the Crisis of Black Women's Health

Doctors said weight and stress caused her symptoms. They came from a blocked heart artery.

Women and pain: Disparities in experience and treatment

Women of color struggle to get the mental health care they need

Even Women Doctors Find Their Symptoms Aren’t Taken Seriously

Gaslighting in women’s health: No, it’s not just in your head

What I’d Like Everyone to Know About Racism in Pregnancy Care

Women may experience more pain than men, but receive less treatment for it

a graphic of three animated women with their hands up above the text, "Women's health matters."
a graphic of three animated women with their hands up above the text, "Women's health matters."
Info:

kristin@newdaydoula.com
980-781-9231

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logo of a sun with the words new day doula support