It can be hard to talk about health concerns like heavy periods, infertility or menopause. But many women experience issues like these at some point in their life.
For example, a UK survey found that almost 1 in 3 women experience serious reproductive health issues, but less than half of them seek help.
Studies also show that 12% of menopausal women have taken time off work for their symptoms - but 59% of them lied to their boss about the reason.
So what issues should you be aware of and when should you talk to someone about them?
What counts as ‘heavy’ varies from woman to woman, but in general, losing 80ml (16 tablespoons) or more of blood in each period is considered heavy, as well as having periods that last for more than 7 days. Heavy periods don’t necessarily mean something is wrong, but they can impact your life. It may be worth speaking to a doctor if you're changing sanitary products every 2 hours or more.
If your periods often come early or late, this may be a sign of a medical condition, pregnancy or menopause. It may also be linked to hormonal contraception, such as the pill, or weight changes. Track your periods to see what’s normal for you, and speak to a doctor if your cycle varies by more than 20 days, or if it suddenly starts to vary.
It’s normal to experience some cramping on your period. This is caused by the wall of your womb tightening. In most cases, you can treat period pain yourself with painkillers and self-care methods like gentle exercise and a warm bath. But if your pain is severe, you might want to see a doctor to rule out an underlying health condition like endometriosis or to see if they have other options to ease your pain.
Some reproductive health issues don’t have any obvious symptoms, such as certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but can eventually cause serious issues like infertility.
Recommendations will vary from country to country, but it’s generally a good idea to get your cervix screened regularly and to get tested for (STIs) between sexual partners.
Quote of the day
You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health.
Hillary Clinton, politician