What is the problem?
The study of women's health was largely neglected for a long time. This was due to various factors throughout different periods of history. For instance, in the USA, including women in clinical research was not mandatory until 1993. This was due to the perception that the female body was complicated due to hormonal changes.
The "concern" of the researchers, who refrained from conducting experiments to protect women's reproductive capacity, played a significant role. In the traditional system, it was the duty of women to bear healthy offspring.
It is unfortunately still common for women's pain and illnesses to not be given the proper attention they deserve. According to Amanda Williams, a researcher at University College London, this is due to harmful gender stereotypes. Both male and female medical professionals often downplay women's pain by believing the misconception that women are overly emotional or prone to exaggerating their symptoms. Many women are not receiving thorough analysis and treatment, ultimately causing the potential progression of their disease due to the underestimated severity of pain.
Illustrative photo. Source: ShutterstockEarlier, Rubryka discussed this in the article "You're making things up!" or Why women aren't often treated: how inequality manifests itself in medical field."
Almost every woman and girl has likely heard the phrase "you'll give birth – it'll disappear" when discussing diagnosis and treatment. It's almost as if pregnancy is seen as a cure-all. However, despite the widespread belief in the healing effects of pregnancy, few people discuss the severe challenges that women experience during this time.
At the same time, it's crucial to remember that the notion of using pregnancy as a cure for something perilous should be left in the past. Rubryka emphasizes the importance of making a well-thought-out and balanced choice when it comes to pregnancy, as having a child is not equivalent to taking an antibiotic or preventing an autumn cold.
What is the solution?
Fortunately, the field of medicine is continuously advancing, providing us with numerous opportunities to gain knowledge about our health (gone are the days when getting pregnant was the only means of alleviating itchy heels).
Unfortunately, studies reveal that numerous girls lack knowledge about their health. They struggle to comprehend the functions of their bodies. This ignorance is a significant issue, as it leaves individuals vulnerable to the influence of others.
Conducting research on women's health, promoting its importance, and openly addressing the topic of the female body to ensure that all girls and women are knowledgeable about self-care is the key solution.
How does it work?
Iryna Lazo, an expert, states that the expression " upon giving birth, it will disappear " should no longer be used:
"This is related to our morality and expertise. In my opinion, the statement "you give birth – it will disappear" can be considered equivalent to the expression "Oh well, that's it." When there is nothing else to add, when you are unsure of what to advise, when you feel your incompetence, you say "you will give birth, and it will pass." It also indicates a lack of concern towards the patient, her requests, and her worries."
In this article, Rubryka will debunk some common pregnancy and women's health myths you may have heard from friends or doctors.
Myth 1. After childbirth, menstruation will never be painful again
Obstetrician-gynecologist Iryna Lazo thinks this misconception stems from the fact that the cervix only opens a small amount, less than a centimeter, during menstruation but can expand significantly, up to the size of a palm during childbirth. Obstetricians often ask patients if they have had painful periods to make small predictions about what to expect during delivery.
"We frequently draw parallels between these two experiences: menstruation and childbirth. Due to their interconnectedness, the only noticeable difference is in their magnitude, you could say," Iryna says.
Menstrual pain is affected by various physical and emotional factors and the level of nutrients and vitamins in a woman's body. One reason for this is the angle between the uterus and cervix, which can make it challenging for menstrual flow to pass through and result in pain. This angle may become more aligned after giving birth.
"Each of us has likely noticed that our periods can vary in terms of pain level, with some being more intense, while others are less so, and some barely noticeable. It's something we can easily connect to through personal reflection. Different approaches may help alleviate discomfort for different women, such as increasing folic acid intake or engaging in physical activity. It's a complex topic."
The sensitivity of the cervix does not decrease following childbirth. The number of nerve fibers remains constant. However, this sensitivity can be affected by various factors, such as hormones released during breastfeeding or pregnancy and changes in estrogen levels (as estrogen can increase pain, sensitivity, and emotional response).
"So, this myth isn't entirely accurate: a person's pain can decrease, while others can increase. This is not just influenced by childbirth but by various other factors as well. During my discussions with women on this topic, many have mentioned increased sensitivity, changes in menstruation, and differences in their menstrual cycles.
Suppose we maintain a healthy diet, a stable emotional state, and a good balance between work and rest. In that case, it's not necessarily because of childbirth that our menstrual pain disappears," the doctor explains.
The specialist mentions that giving birth is a contributing factor to a woman's increased self-care.
"If there is any truth to this myth, it could be said that a woman becomes more attentive to her well-being. Pregnancy is a journey for a woman to gain a deeper understanding of her body. Because when you are pregnant, you have to learn what to do so that you don't feel sick and how to sit so that your back doesn't hurt.
We often neglect our well-being, deeming it insignificant. However, as responsible women, we prioritize caring for ourselves when faced with pregnancy. We thoroughly familiarize ourselves with our bodies and make sure to care for our children. This is a crucial opportunity for every expectant mother to understand her body, especially if she hasn't had the chance before."
Myth 2. A woman gets younger after giving birth to a child
Research shows that telomeres, which are sections at the ends of chromosomes that affect aging, maintain their length during pregnancy. However, after giving birth, these areas begin to shorten.
"Maybe it was through these studies that such a myth originated – the data was speculated upon and disseminated. Another explanation is that a woman's appearance visibly changes. During pregnancy, our bodies, skin, and hair become more hydrated. This fluid between cells fills the tissues, resulting in plumper and smoother skin. The release of growth hormone is also heightened, causing hair to grow quicker – which can truly enhance one's beauty," the expert considers the reason for the myth's origin.
She explains that this "miraculous" effect does not persist after giving birth: moisture is expelled, tissues become stretched, and they require time to regain their original shape.
"This myth can be quite dangerous because it creates false expectations that pregnancy will rejuvenate a woman. After giving birth, a woman will face great disappointment that pregnancy does not have this effect. She must focus on taking care of herself; the environment must offer her the necessary support to recover."
Myth 3. Women must give birth to prevent certain diseases, such as breast cancer
"Research shows that breastfeeding can lower the chances of developing breast cancer while giving birth can lower the chances of endometrial cancer. However, the impact of these factors is relatively small and varies greatly. Specifically, the percentage of risk reduction through breastfeeding depends on the duration and frequency of breastfeeding. Interestingly, if a woman breastfeeds for over two and a half years, this variability can change in the opposite direction," Iryna Lazo says.
Iryna also emphasizes that pregnancy does not guarantee immunity from cancer, so women must get check-ups and regularly prioritize their health.
"Having a baby does not significantly decrease your disease risk to the point where you don't have to worry about it. Pregnancy, childbirth, and having a child can all increase the level of anxiety. Women will undergo regular check-ups, including uterine cancer screening every three years, ultrasounds, and post-menopause check-ups. No protocol states that giving birth allows less frequent physical examinations," the gynecologist explains.
Pregnancy is a serious step and transformation of the whole organism.
Myth 4. Skin rashes will go away after giving birth
One of the most widespread myths that almost every girl has heard. It's shocking when you visit a doctor to address your acne instead of seeking advice on conceiving.
"The main issue at hand is determining the most suitable approach for caring for one's skin, as it is multifaceted. It is necessary to consider a person's diet, skin response to stress and rest, sleep quality, and hormone levels. Each person's situation is unique, ranging from gynecological issues to eating disorders. Cosmetologists can provide a solution in cases where the issue is solely dermatological. However, other specialists may need to be consulted if there are underlying factors," Iryna Lazo explains.
The specialist strongly emphasizes that the response "you will give birth, and things will improve" is entirely inadequate. If you encounter this situation, be sure to ask your doctor how pregnancy will effectively address the issue. Kindly clarify the specific changes that will occur in your body, which hormones will be involved, and how the dominance of progesterone in the initial stage of your cycle will impact your skin.
"The doctor needs to take responsibility for their statement. Can you clarify who will assist in caring for the baby after birth? Doctor, do you truly believe that becoming pregnant is necessary to treat my acne? Is this truly the simplest solution?"
Myth 5. After childbirth, hormones will finally be in order
"This is the funniest myth because, in reality, pregnancy is a major catalyst for fluctuating hormones. Plus, hormones can't be fully controlled by any one specific factor."
Iryna wants to clarify that pregnancy is not a magical cure for anything.
"This is a significant burden on a woman's body, not just physically but also hormonally and emotionally. Our hormones serve as the bridge between our physical and emotional selves.
You can't fix everything just by hormones starting to flow and then settling down. Just because someone is fortunate or has been preoccupied with caring for a child, causing them to shift all their focus away from their problems, doesn't automatically mean that things will fall into place effortlessly," the expert expresses.
Solution – take a step towards each other
The doctor's main concern is that our society is unprepared to accept that a doctor may not have all the answers. If a doctor were to admit "I don't know" or "I need to review," they would likely be met with criticism.
"This is why doctors should be able to identify their areas of expertise and acknowledge their errors. Patients should also be mindful that, at times, doctors may need to allocate more time for their needs or refer them to another specialist," the gynecologist sums up.
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