Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman

Women. Despite regularly being lumped together with minority groups, we actually outnumber men. Although there are more boys born than girls, women are somehow more robust and live longer.

It's not easy being a woman, however, especially when health stories seem to suggest that if we would only behave like 1950s housewives, doing our own housework, barely touching alcohol and having babies in our twenties, we could be happier and healthier.

At least we need never be ignorant about our health as there are lots of resources dedicated to the fairer sex. Starting with patient information, NHS Choices has a whole section on gynaecology - everything from periods to STDs - and on pregnancy. The BBC's women's health site covers a range of issues from sexual health to mental health. Medline Plus ranges wide in its selection on women's health, including alcohol problems, travellers and heart health.

The National Library for Health has a separate Women's Health Specialist Library and even Bandolier has a page that collects together issues gynaecological and obstetric.

There is an Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Women's Health (ACPWH), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives, all dedicated to looking after women. (Spare a thought, please, for Midwives, who are no longer supported by their own library.)

There are resources for women's cancers. Breast cancer has its own charity, website and pink ribbon, but other websites also cover the condition. Ovarian cancer is less glam - no Kylie - and doesn't seem to have a dedicated charity. Uterine cancer also lacks a dedicated website.

There are websites for menopause (but not menarche), for pregnancy, lack of pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy and postnatal depression.
There isn't (other than breast cancer) a separate women's health section on our current awareness page. Want one? Then contact me and say so!! Journal Watch (from the NEJM) gathers together items from various journals covering women's health, while a medical librarian in the States has a blog on this topic.

It's rather disconcerting, looking at all these sites, to find that in health terms being a woman is all about sexual organs and pregnancy. You'd be forgive for thinking women didn't have kidneys, livers, legs, eyes and all the other bits that make up a human being. That's why many of the books in the library with "women's health" in the title end up in the Obs and Gynae sections, because they really do only cover what used to be coyly referred to as "women's bits" or "women's troubles." If you are dealing with a woman, and happen not to be one yourself, please remember that women are people, too.

In the interests of avoiding gender bias the next post will cover men's health!

1 comment:

Rachel said...

You're right of course that reproductive issues aren't the *only* issues women have to deal with. However, whenever someone is talking about women's, men's, Native American, or whatever group health, I think they tend to be focusing on the issues that *uniquely* affect those populations. That's not to say the other health concerns aren't important, just that the focus is not on all things.