Whether it be a missed period, suspicious breast lumps, or a run-of-the-mill UTI (complete with back-to-back bathroom trips), many women seem to be surprisingly out of touch with their bodies. As a result, women settle for widely-circulated misinformation–i.e., the supposedly tried-and-true urinary tract infection remedy of cranberry juice cocktail or a too-good-to-be-true pregnancy hack, a double serving of yams or soy milk–rather than identifying the root cause of their health problems. While a quick Google search can reveal the true culprits of a two-month menstrual hiatus or an unbearable burning sensation, having to rummage through a search engine’s first-page results to uncover essential information about your body is far from ideal.
So, who’s to blame for this lack of information surrounding women’s health? As a knee-jerk reaction, many assign blame to the underrepresentation of women in medical studies. Unbeknownst to men and women alike, female bodies were once banned from FDA drug trials. Though the FDA has since lifted these bans, male test subjects remain the norm today–leaving women to chip away at a glass ceiling that deprives them of medically accurate information regarding their female bodies.
Because medical researchers have shoved women’s health under the radar, a widespread stigma surrounding contraception, menstrual health, and PH-balanced vaginal ecosystems has arisen. Today, the mere mentioning of female reproductive organs can send a shiver down the spine of any misinformed bystander.
Besides stirring a sense of discomfort, pushing women’s health to the backburner has made women’s health appear dangerously one-dimensional. Unfortunately, physicians blaring breast cancer warning signs and blurting out cautionary tales on untreated cervical cancer have drowned out the stories of women diagnosed with heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and even debilitating mental health conditions. While this oversimplification of women’s health appears to be an incurable illness, prescribing self-education can unravel dangerous misconceptions.
If you’re looking to take your health into your own hands, refer to these women’s health resources for insight into menstrual cycle phases and health abnormalities. Additionally, give your body the attention it deserves by reviewing the information below and becoming reacquainted with your physical body.
Twice-daily gym visits can impact your menstrual cycle
If you dart off the gym during every window of opportunity, your menstrual cycle may absorb the shock of hours spent on a treadmill or elliptical. In some cases, gym rats may start to pick up on signs of hormonal imbalances, spotting, or even irregular bleeding. While endorphin-boosting exercise can soothe menstrual cramps, avoid menstrual mishaps by retiring your running shoes by taking much-needed rest days.
Your pelvic floor could be a stress storage unit
Upon the surface, mental and physical health may appear to be distant cousins. However, if you suffer from pelvic pain, chronic constipation, or an inconveniencing sense of urgency, stress may play a pivotal role in your day-to-day discomfort. Because surges in anxiety can cause pelvic muscles to tighten, a hypertonic pelvic floor diagnosis is common in stressed-out supermoms or high-achieving career women. That said, you’ll need to slip your hectic schedule under a microscope if this chronic pain or constipation symptoms don’t subside naturally.
Your eyes are a window into your soul (and your physical health)
While eyeshadow particles and mascara residue may be the source of occasional eye discomfort, dry eye has been traced back to inflammatory diseases like arthritis on more than one occasion. Additionally, twitching eyes, blurred vision, color changes, and popped blood vessels are indicators of underlying conditions such as anxiety disorders, diabetes, and high blood pressure. If you catch a glimpse of any abnormalities during your morning makeup routine, contact your primary care physician immediately.
Your weight is not a metric of health
Despite outdated health metrics like BMI, a number on a scale isn’t the sole determiner of optimal physical health. Remember, your health is contingent on a multitude of factors: diet, exercise routine, genetics, access to health services, socioeconomic status, etc. So while it may be tempting to stew in guilt over high-sugar snack sessions and drive-thru excursions, pivot your focus away from your weight and zero in other tell-tale signs of good health. For example, thick hair, a regular menstrual cycle, a steady stream of energy, and fresh breath also indicate optimal physical health.
Your bathroom habits can reveal underlying conditions
While you may not keep a running tally of your bathroom trips, frequent urination isn’t an abnormality you should shrug off. For those women who make it a point to choose aisle seats, inform your doctor if you have a bowel movement upwards of four times a day, notice blood in your stool, experience pain during your bowel movements, or take note of any combination of the following. In worst-case scenarios, these bathroom mishaps may be signs of hemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome.
Abnormal period flow may be a sign of something serious
Amidst the hustle and bustle of work presentations, last-minute date nights, and self-care rituals, tracking your period may fall low on your list of priorities. However, your period flow can speak volumes about your physical health. Fortunately, you can pinpoint what Aunt Flo is trying to tell you with a little due diligence. If you notice that your cycle is irregular, stress management may be the solution. In other cases, irregular bleeding may not be the result of jam-packed schedules. A heavy flow can also be caused by infection, diabetes, or pelvic inflammatory disorder.
For those who have the occasional run-in with between-cycle bleeding, the root cause could be a hormonal imbalance or even a sexually transmitted infection. As for those women who dread week-long bouts of cramping, consult your primary care physician if your cramps are abnormally painful.
Until women’s health becomes an open and honest conversation, uncorrupted by preconceived notions and unfair stigmas, taking part in some self-conducted research is essential to your physical well-being. Remember, staying in tune with your body could spare you from months of chronic pain and even save your life.