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Women’s Health Week: Debunking Myths

By Harshita Parmar

In honor of our Women's Health week, we present to you this article on myths in healthcare about women's health!


It goes without saying that in the United States, the healthcare system is highly misogynistic. In fact, this misogynistic culture highly influences the way women are treated for chronic diseases. According to studies, up to 75% of women face chronic pain. For example, women have different symptoms when they get heart attacks; they can get nauseous and experience pain in their necks. These ‘mild’ symptoms can cause someone to be discharged from the hospital when they are evidently experiencing a heart attack. Sadly, this culture is not limited to inpatient care. The lack of women’s health awareness makes it apparent to encounter many misconceptions revolving around women’s health, leading to all sorts of misconceptions.


For instance, at some point in your life, you may have been told from a young age that working out on your period can aggravate menstrual cramps. However, the opposite is true: exercising can in fact reduce cramps and also lighten your mood! Like so, there are dozens of myths out there revolving around women’s health that we seem to believe are true simply because they seem logical, or because it has been told to us our entire lives. Nevertheless, it is crucial to be able to set apart fiction from facts, especially in terms of health, because believing certain myths can pose a risk to our health in some way or another.


Regarding menstruation, another commonly believed myth is you cannot get pregnant on your period. As a matter of fact, it is still possible to get pregnant on your period; the chances are very low, but not zero. This is because sperm cells can survive for up to five days in a woman’s body and can reach the egg, causing fertilization, while a woman possibly is ovulating. Similarly, in terms of pregnancy, it is false that it is difficult to get pregnant after the age of 35. Studies have ensued to authenticate this claim; the University of North Carolina School of Medicine conducted a study which resulted in women aged 38 and 39 getting pregnant naturally. Undoubtedly, fertility rate does decline as a woman gets older, but getting pregnant after the age of 35 should not be arduous.


On top of this false pregnancy belief, mothers also avoid breastfeeding because they believe that causes breast sagginess. The UK Healthcare Cosmetic Surgery Associates disproved this belief, associating breast sagginess with factors like age, number of pregnancies, and smoking history of participants in this study.


In the same context, another misconception people commonly believe is that bras cause breast cancer because people think that flow in the lymph system can be restricted by doing so. Fortunately, this myth remains a myth and not fact. In fact, studies done by the American Cancer Society show evidence that does not correlate wearing bras and potentially getting breast cancer. Breast cancer can be prevented by taking other measures like maintaining a healthy diet, limiting consumption of sugar and alcohol as well as getting adequate amounts of vitamins and being more physically active. Getting mammograms done annually after the age of 45 can help detect breast cancer at an earlier stage and treat it more effectively.


Lastly, not only do women believe that heart disease affects them when they are older, but also that it doesn’t affect them as much as it affects men. On the contrary, however, people can develop heart disease as early as in their 40s, and women are more likely to die from heart disease. One in three women will die from heart disease, which makes it more common for women to die of this condition than men. Conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity can increase the risk of heart disease. However, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of heart disease, by changing lifestyle habits. For example, not smoking and monitoring blood sugar to keep diabetes in check are some of the steps you can take to reduce risk of heart disease. Taking such measures and consulting a cardiologist can successfully keep your heart healthy and keep conditions like heart disease at bay!


Women’s health is a topic that is conceivably neglected. These distorted myths demonstrate as evidence of the attitude we display towards women’s health. Likewise, many of these myths revolve around serious medical conditions which undeniably can have dire consequences on a person’s health. It is imperative that we educate ourselves and spread awareness to others around us about women’s health not only to discern such myths, but also to prioritize women’s health extensively.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, be sure to be on the lookout for our second article of Women's Health Week, which will be about endometriosis. If you are interested in being a writer, please email anushasoni241@gmail.com for more information.


Thanks for reading,

- Harshita and the Writing Committee :)

Sources:

“The Top 10 Women's Health Myths.” University of Utah Health, https://healthcare.utah.edu/womenshealth/patient-education/


Firman, Tehrene. “30 Worst Women's Health Myths That Won't Die — Best Life.” Best Life, https://bestlifeonline.com/womens-health-myths/


“Women's Health Myths.” Winchester Hospital, https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=14705


Cobb, Cynthia. “Does Shaving Make Hair Thicker or Faster? Myths and Facts.” Healthline, 4 December 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/does-shaving-make-hair-thicker


Schlinger, Amy. “40 Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer After 40 — Best Life.” Best Life, https://bestlifeonline.com/prevent-breast-cancer/


“Disproven or Controversial Breast Cancer Risk Factors.” American Cancer Society, 16 December 2021, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/risk-and-prevention/disproven-or-controversial-breast-cancer-risk-factors.html


Williams, Mary Elizabeth. “The pain gap: Women (still) aren't taken seriously by doctors — and it's killing us.” Salon.com, 12 February 2022, https://www.salon.com/2022/02/12/the-pain-gap-women-still-arent-taken-seriously-by-doctors--and-its-us/


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