The human body is without a doubt remarkable - performing countless actions throughout each and every day that amount to our survival, largely without us even noticing.
And the female body? Well, it blows us away even more…Generally speaking, most of us have the ability, should we choose it, to grow an entire human inside of us, bring it into the world and feed it for months solely from the milk that our body creates. It’s nothing short of a miracle.
Now, it is incredibly important to note two things here;
Firstly, while this is what is perceived as the ‘norm’ for women, it certainly isn’t that simple for a huge portion of humanity who have learnt to manage and live with fertility issues.
And secondly, parenthood isn’t the path that everyone chooses to go down and for those who do decide to take it on, there is no single journey to get there. The experiences of those who become parents are incredibly varied.
My point is, there is just so much we can do physically (and mentally, of course), but I’d like to get real here in terms of women’s health. The average woman largely doesn’t understand how her own body functions and what is and what isn’t ‘normal’. There’s some unspoken social order we seem to live under where it’s deemed not okay to openly talk about our ‘female’ health issues and questions, except of course with our group of girlfriends.
Personally, I had extreme period pain for YEARS, and no doctor ever took it seriously. So, I suffered. I sucked it up. I soldiered on because that’s what I was told to do. In fact studies have shown us that doctors' perceptions of and interactions with patients are different depending on their gender, with women’s pain being perceived as an “overreaction” and “all in her head” *cue eye-roll*.
Then, I tried to get pregnant. And it was only then that a female doctor identified that I had severe endometriosis - the cause of years of pain and suffering. All she had to do was book me in for a short day surgery, and my life, and my long term relationship with pain, was forever changed. If only it were discovered years ago! If it had, maybe I could have shared my experiences earlier, being fully aware of what was happening with my body, with those around me and helped them too.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this, it’s that we need to start talking. Let’s talk more about what is and what isn’t normal! For example, it’s not “normal” to constantly leak if you laugh or jump around (though this does happen to so many women, talking about it can lead to meeting the right health care professional to help you heal). It’s not “normal” to have pain during sex. It’s not “normal” to have excruciating period pain every month for years. But it is okay to talk about it, and there are incredible professionals who can help - just like they would for any other health issue.
It’s no different when it comes to the journey into motherhood if that is the path you choose to take. It’s not always easy to conceive and often people need a little bit of help to do so. We spoke to Genea, Australia’s leading fertility specialists, who found that, on average, it takes couples 26 months to start treatment for fertility issues - a whopping 14 months more than the recommended period of time to try naturally before seeking help. It makes us think, why are we suffering in silence?
Genea, who operates six of the top ten IVF clinics in NSW/ACT, also stressed that the path to parenthood doesn’t have to be an express service straight to IVF. As well as offering IVF, people struggling to conceive can seek ovulation tracking and ovulation induction to help them get pregnant. In fact, only 50% of patients who see a Genea fertility specialist require IVF! My point is - most people wouldn’t know that, without seeking help, so let’s be more open about our experiences.
This is what I want you to take out of this:
- If you are in pain or experiencing something health-wise that doesn’t feel right - ask for help and get it checked. If you need to get a second, third or even fourth opinion, do it.
- Talk about your health experiences as a woman - your journey with menstruating, aches and pains, conceiving, pregnancy - all of it! Let’s make it what it is - a normal conversation.
- Educate yourself if you don’t feel you know enough about your own body and how it’s functioning. Google it, read up on it, look at it, talk about it, ask the professionals!
- Know that you’re not alone, and this isn’t a shameful or embarrassing thing to discuss. It’s your health.
Note: This article does not constitute personal health advice. Please reach out to a doctor or medical health professional if you have any issues.