If you had a scab on your elbow that bled or hurt at weird times, what would you do? Feel embarrassed? Hide it away? Pretend it wasn’t happening?
NO! More than likely you’d go to your GP and say, hey doc, my arm won’t stop bleeding. Can you help me work out what’s wrong?
And that’s exactly what you should do. Whether the bleeding is coming from your elbow, your foot or your vagina. You go to the Doctor and ask for help, because wherever it happens on your body, weird or constant bleeding is a sign that something might be wrong.
But, horrifyingly enough, that doesn’t happen. Overwhelming research shows that we are too embarrassed to talk about our vaginas.
Get Lippy – The Eve Appeal
Earlier this week I went to the launch of GET LIPPY, a new campaign from women’s charity The Eve Appeal inviting everyone to help tackle the taboos around women’s health. A plethora of inspirational women spoke on their own experiences of women’s cancers and reproductive health; as a carrier of the BRCA2 gene, Michelle Heaton discussed how she talks to her daughter about her preventative surgery and the hilarious Karen Hobbs spoke about her diagnosis with cervical cancer at the age of 24. It was then the turn of the Eve Appeal’s Doctors and Nurses to give us the low-down on what really happens at their surgeries.
Their anecdotal experience is that women are scared and embarrassed to discuss what’s happening in their knickers. There’s a lot of ‘down belows’ and ‘private parts’ being discussed – if at all – and this is something we need to change: not just for our own health but for our daughters’, too.
“Because of my embarrassment”, she said, “I no longer have a vagina. Don’t let that happen to you”.
The Eve Appeal’s research has found that a third of women don’t see their gynaecological-related issues as important enough to warrant a trip to the GP, and nearly a fifth would wait 4 weeks before visiting a health professional to discuss irregular vaginal bleeding. Over a third of women between the ages of 46 to 55 are more likely to ignore gynae symptoms in the hope they will go away, and two thirds of British women do not know what an endometrium is, despite endometrial cancer (also known as womb cancer) being the fourth most common women’s cancer in the UK.
So how can we change things?
For a start, we can be more aware of our bodies, and open to discussing them with our close friends and children. No more ‘down theres’ – let’s talk about or vaginas, our vulvas, our cervixes. We’ve all got them, let’s normalise them! There are some great apps for tracking our menstrual cycles and gynaecological health, assisting us to keep a track on what’s normal and what’s not. I like Clue (they have a great mailer tackling gynae issues, too), and check out the brilliant Moody. I also love Claire Baker, a Menstrual Life Coach, who has totally de-mystified my cycle for me, and the way she discusses our different monthly stages will so help you plug-in ti what’s going on in your body.
At the end of the event a gynae cancer survivor spoke to us about her experiences. She ignored her bleeding and pain far longer than she should have, she said, and she ended up having to have her entire vagina removed. “Because of my embarrassment”, she said, “I no longer have a vagina. Don’t let that happen to you”.
The retailers supporting this year’s Get Lippy campaign are Tesco, Harvey Nichols, Space NK and Oliver Bonas. Text LIPPY to 70660* to donate £3 to The Eve Appeal, and please TALK ABOUT YOUR VAGINA.