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What you didn't know about women's health

We asked female Embr employees from different age groups and walks of life what they wish they knew about women’s health when they were younger. The frankness of their collected responses reveal a combination of frustration and wry humor that illuminate the shortcomings of health research when it comes to understanding the female body and speak to the silence previous generations of women have endured that is increasingly less acceptable as women today attempt to regain agency over their health and open up the conversation around their well-being to the mainstream.

Alex

I wish I knew about hot flashes! I knew that women went through menopause, but I had no idea that hot flashes and brain fog were part of that experience until I joined Embr. I remember asking my mom, “Why didn’t you tell me?!” She just looked at me and said, “I thought you knew.” Glad that I know now, but wish that it was more normal to talk about like menstruation (which also still isn’t talked about that much).

Margaret

  • I wish I’d known that hormonal birth control can potentially have extreme impacts on your mental health! If you’re feeling emotionally or mentally off after starting a new birth control, you should check in with your doctor. Switching to something else could make a world of difference.
  • Don’t forget to moisturize your neck.

Sonja 

  • Sorry, this is a downer, gals...but basically everything I’ve learned has illustrated how little importance is placed on women’s health.
  • How horrible our medical system is with maternity care, with regard to how women are treated, lack of informed consent, poor maternal outcomes. 
  • How much hormones are associated with mental health and how changing hormones during menopause adversely affects mood/mental health, how common it is, yet very little interest from research/medical community.

Kristen

  • How much hormones affect EVERYTHING you do — mood, cognition, metabolism, hair texture, who you are attracted to. 
  • How many things can affect your hormonal balance, such as birth control, and menopause. 
  • And, how many scientific studies ignore women’s specific physiologies because hormones “complicate the results.” Like hello, they complicate OUR LIVES, FIGURE IT OUT.

Pam 

  • I wish I knew a woman’s physical (brain-body) journey for a lifetime, a kind of head’s up “this is what’s likely to happen with your body.”
  • Where was the gender-specific, woman-centric data when I was younger? In medical textbooks I used in med school pregnancy was classified as a pathological condition. This was thankfully corrected in later editions. It’s still a problem. STOP extrapolating health care data from man-specific data. News Flash: women are not small men. 
  • A woman’s mental health life journey (through menstruation, pregnancy, peri and menopause) — no one cared enough to look.
  • More encouragement to practice self-care, self-compassion instead of assuming a young woman will always defer to caregiving others.

 

Liz

  • I wish I had understood how much hormones could affect energy and athletic performance! As a competitive athlete, I was forced to “push through” days where I felt like I should be in bed. It often took days to recover from not listening to my body.
  • I never understood, until recently, that women were not included in clinical trials for basic drugs. It was only after I had a severe reaction to a basic antibiotic that I discovered that a reaction was very common in women, but was not accounted for because the drug had never been tested on the female population!

Kim

I wish I had known that hormones play major roles in everything from food sensitivities to sleep and every day-to-day bodily functions. I also wish I had known that the subject of women’s health would be such an aggressive point of contention when it should be just as undebatable as men’s health

Nora

  • I wish I had known that doctors wouldn't take me or my pain seriously a lot of the time, and that I would need to push back and stand up for myself. 
  • I wish I had also known how many studies focused only on men and just straight up ignore women.
  • How common miscarriages actually are. We don't talk about them! 

Heather

I wish I had known how hard it would be to feel heard and taken seriously about my physical and mental health symptoms. Gender bias was never something I considered as a risk factor to the care I received in my younger years, but learning about it has taught me to be a much better self-advocate. 

Images from ICONS8