Posts

Two women contemplating the state of women's health around the world

Women’s Health Around the World & Why It Matters

We are no longer living when women aren’t allowed to vote. If our marriages are no longer serving us, we can get a divorce. If we want fulfilling careers, we can go out into the world, work hard, and create them. Starting a family? It’s our choice, not an obligation. We can now celebrate our strengths and achievements as women instead of hiding them away, preferring to be meek and docile and “feminine” to make men feel more comfortable and capable. No longer confined by the old-fashioned, we can be more than simply daughters, wives, and mothers. We can be providers, too.

Some women do, of course, provide for their families, but for others, this reality is still nothing but a concept. While the 21st-century woman has a lot more freedom than women of the past, the societal norms that once held us captive did not vanish completely. They only took on a different shape, one that continues to suffocate and oppress us.

Our culture makes it difficult to fully escape a gender binary. For the most part, we are either male or female, and people expect us to perform our assigned gender role. Many of us still face prejudice based on gender, trampling the equality that good men and women around the world have fought so hard for.

They say women can do anything men can do, but in truth, we tend to always pull the short straw. This is most evident when it comes to the state of women’s health around the world.

Maternal health

Women face many challenges today—unequal pay, racism, sexual harassment, and poor healthcare, to name a few. Healthcare, especially, is one aspect of our lives that is particularly lacking—because when it comes to women, our health does not seem to be much of a priority throughout the world.

Many women suffer from a myriad of health conditions that go unnoticed. This isn’t just because having quality health care can be a challenge but because of a lack of time—even women with full-time jobs often find themselves taking care of their family in ways that surpass the efforts of their husbands. There are also health issues that exclusively effect women, such as pregnancy, menopause, breast cancer, and cervical cancer.

Here are some examples of health concerns that women commonly have:

  • Cancer: breast and cervical cancer are the two most common cancers that effect women. Early detection is crucial to keeping yourself healthy and alive.
  • Sexual and reproductive health problems: this accounts for one-third of issues women aged 15 to 34 face.
  • Maternal health: women today are experiencing a great improvement in their care during pregnancy and childbirth compared to previous generations, but around the world, many women still die of routine complications.
  • Violence against women: women, whether in a heterosexual or same-sex marriage, are likelier to be subject to various forms of violence at the hands of their partner.
  • Sexually transmitted disease: unsafe sex has led to a considerable number of women contracting sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and HPV infection.
  • Mental health: women have a higher tendency to suffer from mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, than men.

Aging is also a factor related to women’s health. Older women often have less access to quality health care, pensions, and social services—a truth we know so well.

Violence against women

Many women face physical, sexual, and mental abuse—from broken bones to mental issues, violence against women is recognized as a global epidemic. This violence and abuse is just one reason that many women struggle to leave their husbands. If you’re currently in the midst of a particularly nasty divorce, prepare yourself and find support.

Among the health impacts of domestic violence include depression, sexually transmitted infections, alcohol addiction, low birth weight of babies, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, as well as injury and death. This violence is so alarmingly common that we urgently need to find the underlying causes and ways to prevent more women from becoming victims.

Women and suicide

In countries around the world, there is a higher chance of women suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts than men. Interestingly enough, while men may suffer from depression less overall, on average, more men commit suicide. But the numbers are still worrisome. The female suicide rate varies from country to country. Lesotho, a South African country, has the highest female suicide rates at 32.6 percent, with a population of 100,000.

Suicide is a complex, sensitive issue with a multitude of causes. It’s scary to think that one day someone you love may fall into a depression so deep and vast that they seriously entertain thoughts of suicide. Fortunately, mental health awareness is growing. More people are learning to understand that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. The more we as a society normalize these conversations, the more we can have honest conversations about what possible factors contribute to it.

Whether it is women’s suicide, violence, or mental health issues, communication is a key element that can make a significant change. Open communication and increased awareness is the first step to bringing these issues into the spotlight and addressing them.

Infographic explaining the state of women's health around the world

Women constitute more than half of the world’s population. The state of women’s health around the world is an indicator of how developed a country is. For example, approximately 529,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes each year, and 99 percent of those maternal deaths happen in developing nations. What we see when we look at the data is that improved women’s health means an improved community: higher levels of education, less people living in poverty, better access to healthcare.

The world may be working against us, but women are strong. Look for ways to find some peace and quiet in your life. Practice self-care. We are pillars of both society and our families. While no one can dispute our contributions and achievements, we are often victims of our society’s lack of support and misogyny. We may be far from our dream of equality, but we cannot lose hope. Women’s health couldn’t be more important—it has a ripple effect on everything around us.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Woman lounging in her life after divorce

Life After Divorce: The 7 Surprising Myths About STDs

As a medical writer, one of my most gratifying roles is that of educator. I may be writing pieces that teach doctors about a new drug or how to take care of a poisoned patient (since I’m also a toxicologist), or teaching veterinary medicine students about antidotes for poisoned animals. I also write to educate patients about how to keep themselves and their families healthy. So why is a medical writer blogging on SAS for Women’s website? I’ve discovered there is a critical need to educate women, especially older women navigating their new, life after divorce about how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually infections (STIs).

Women who were in a long marriage may now be in their 40s or older. These women are not in the age group that is targeted for STI education and may not be thinking about the risks they run once pregnancy is not an issue for them.

As you move through your divorce recovery and take steps to rebuild your life, please read and ponder these seven myths about STIs. These are meant to be short and easy to take in so you’ll begin your personal education and protection. For more details, read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s site on STDs or talk to your healthcare provider. And, if you think you may have an STI, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider.

Myth 1: STIs are only transmitted through bodily fluid

Some STIs are transmitted via skin-to-skin contact (such as herpes or human papillomavirus [HPV]) and body fluid-contact is not necessary for transmission. So, although some STIs require bodily fluid contact, some do not. A condom only covers so much skin (see Myth #5). 

Myth 2: My partner tested “negative” for STIs so he is not infected

If someone is exposed to an STI and is tested too soon, STI testing may not pick up the infection as there can be a delay in symptoms (or no symptoms at all) and/or a delay in a positive testing result. Also, STI testing cannot test for every STI. For example, in men, there is not a test for HPV.

Myth 3: Oral sex is completely safe

There are some STIs that are transmittable via oral sex (either as the giver or receiver) such as HPV, herpes, and gonorrhea. Certain strains of HPV are linked not only to cervical cancer but also to esophageal cancer (making unprotected oral sex a bigger health risk than some women may realize). Safer sex practices for oral sex include using a latex condom or dental dam.

Myth 4: If I don’t see blisters, there is no chance my partner has herpes

Partners with herpes infections can transmit the infection even before blisters appear. Many people with genital herpes do not know they even have it. Note that testing for herpes may not be included on an STI testing panel.

Myth 5: Condoms are 100% effective

Nothing, except abstinence, is 100% effective in preventing STIs. So even with condoms, there is a risk. Using latex condoms for all sexual activity and knowing your partner’s sexual history and STI testing status, can decrease the risk considerably.

Myth 6: STI testing is done at my annual check-up

It may be, but verify. Not all check-ups, even at the OB-GYN, will include STI testing. Ask your healthcare provider what tests are done, and based on your sexual history, if you need additional tests. Alternatively, you may also consider the at home STD test option which can be ordered online. Once the kit arrives, you’ll follow the simple sample collection instructions and then send it back to a lab for analysis.

Myth 7: If I am in an exclusive/monogamous relationship, there is no risk for an STI

See Myth 2. It can sometimes take months for an infection to show up on an STI screen and many STIs have no symptoms. Keep in mind that it’s not only who your partner is with now, it’s who he has been with in previous months.

No doubt you are navigating a lot in your new life as an independent woman. Reading this information may be overwhelming and even frightening. But knowledge is power when it comes to keeping yourself healthy. Women (and men) need to be aware of the risk of STIs no matter what their age. Some strategies like keeping condoms handy (and using them!) and the sharing of recent STI testing results between partners can help decrease the risk for an STI. If you are thinking about dating, or are already out there, make a plan for how you will broach the topic of STIs with your new partner and how you can make sure you are both in the know regarding STI status. You and your partner can get tested together or you both can share the testing results via email (so you can see what exactly he was tested for).

Dr. Allison Muller, Pharm.D, D.ABAT, is a board-certified toxicologist and registered pharmacist with over 20 years’ experience in the field of clinical toxicology. After a nearly 20-year career leading the Poison Control Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Muller is presently an independent consultant specializing in medical writing, medical education, and providing expert witness testimony on cases involving medications, alcohol, chemicals, and environmental toxins.

If the idea of connecting regularly to a smart community of women, women who are also recreating their best life after divorce appeals to you, you may wish to explore Paloma’s Group.  Or schedule your free consultation with SAS to hear firsthand feedback and suggestions tailored to your story and what you need help with right now.

Either way, or any which way (but down), don’t stop now. Keep reading ….

This blog post is not meant to provide medical advice. If you have possible symptoms of an STI or feel you are at risk, see your healthcare provider.