Menopause may be entering the public consciousness (although, surprisingly, it’s not a compulsory part of the curriculum in 41 per cent of UK university medical schools), but many other areas of women’s health suffer. of an information gap for both doctors and patients. According to the Women’s Health Strategy findings, only 8 percent of respondents felt they had access to enough information about gynecological conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids. And moving away from conditions and toward basic anatomical details, a 2017 survey found that nearly half of women don’t know what the cervix is. “They don’t know about their bodies and we’re not teaching them about their bodies,” Griffin says.
Too often, women are told their symptoms are “normal” when what doctors really should be saying is “common.” “Instead of saying, this is what happens, how can we make it better? We have said, this is just what happens, this is normal”. As a consequence, women leave their GP appointments feeling left out and not given the chance to talk about how their symptoms are affecting their lives. “The impact has been completely lost from the conversation.”
Part of the problem is that many doctors still don’t know the woman’s body. Women have been excluded from medical trials for a number of reasons, including the mistaken belief that their menstrual cycles could skew the results, perceived risks to childbearing potential, and fertility concerns among women aged 20 to 30 years, and the higher cost of incorporating another population. and/or subpopulations in medical studies. So, to date, researchers have extrapolated that what works for men will work for women, which, to state the obvious, doesn’t always work. Take the sleeping pill zolpidem in the US, for example, which, because it’s released more slowly in women’s bodies than men, still has an effect on women the morning after you take your dose . The FDA had to adjust the dosage for women after a series of high-profile car accidents raised awareness of the problem.
So how do we close the many gender gaps in healthcare? The UK government’s Women’s Health Strategy sets out a number of ambitions and positive actions, including a commitment to conduct reproductive health experience surveys every two years, as well as an investment of £2 million ($2.48 million ) in a randomized control trial on endometriosis to examine the effectiveness of surgery compared with non-surgical interventions in managing chronic pelvic pain in women. But many of the recommendations, while well-intentioned, are vague, difficult to implement, and difficult to measure.
Meanwhile, a new wave of companies is filling the gaps, invariably fueled by founders’ frustration at the alarming lack of options and information available. Take The Lowdown, the world’s first contraceptive review, advice and prescribing platform, which aims to provide an insightful, community-led experience of over 100 contraceptive methods, not just standard GP-prescribed pills. Or Juno Bio, the vaginal microbiome test, which claims it’s “on a mission to close the gender health gap” by providing personalized results on vaginal microbes that empower women to take control of their fertility and overall health . Or Maven Clinics, a virtual care platform that offers comprehensive care for those planning, starting and raising a family, with a dedicated “care advocate” for all members.
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