From dismissive doctors to inadequate research, women do not always receive the proper medical care they need and deserve due to various outdated women’s health myths that still pervade modern life.
Legitimate health concerns are often dismissed because they are wrongly attributed to stress, mental illness, or hormonal imbalances.
Additionally, a great deal of incorrect information exists about women’s health.
There is a lack of research into health issues that primarily affect women because medical studies by the National Institutes of Health were not mandated to include female subjects until 1993.
That’s why continued education and better awareness is essential to empower and protect women, especially as new research discredits various commonly-held beliefs. A few of the more common myths include:
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Myth #1: Cranberry juice can prevent or cure urinary tract infections
It is true that cranberry juice contains ingredients that can prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.
However, it does not have sufficient amounts of these substances to make any difference.
A review of 24 large studies investigated cranberry products for urinary tract infections (UTIs) and concluded that neither juice nor supplements significantly reduce a person’s risk of experiencing an infection.
Most UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urethra and spread to the bladder. Sometimes the body can rid itself of the bacteria on its own, but most are treated with antibiotics. If it isn’t treated promptly, serious complications can arise because it can spread to the ureters and kidneys.
While the science doesn’t seem to be there, there’s likely no harm in using cranberry products to prevent a UTI. Just know that there isn’t necessarily a benefit, either.
Myth #2: Only men get heart disease
Heart disease is actually a killer that strikes more women than men, and it is deadlier than all forms of cancer combined.
While one in 31 women dies from breast cancer annually, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women.
For the longest time, women would look for signs like shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and pain in the back, neck, or jaw while for men, it was a classic elephant-on-the-chest feeling.
However, in one recent study of individuals being evaluated for a possible heart attack, European researchers asked patients to describe their symptoms and then analysed the responses. Surprisingly, they found little statistical difference in the answers. Chest pain was fairly standard among all patients and the other symptoms were relatively common. So, if you’re not feeling right or if you think you’re having a heart attack, call your doctor, stat.
Preventive care measures include tracking your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a heart-healthy diet, and remaining active.
Myth #3: Severe anger, depression, or anxiety before your period is normal.
Anxiety is a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), affecting 30–80% of people with a period. During the luteal phase, which begins after ovulation and typically lasts until a woman’s period starts, women can experience a combination of emotional and physical PMS symptoms.
Researchers still don’t fully understand why anxiety occurs before a period. Still, it may occur due to changing hormone levels because the luteal phase corresponds with peak estradiol and progesterone levels.
The severity of PMS symptoms can vary. Some people can experience no symptoms while others can develop severe symptoms, which may be a sign of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
PMDD is a health problem that is like PMS but is more serious. It can cause severe emotional distress a week or two before your period, and symptoms can be debilitating and affect various aspects of your personal life. Symptoms usually go away two to three days after your period starts.
A person can try several strategies to help reduce anxiety and other signs of PMS. These include regular exercise, sleep, a healthy diet, and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and salt. However, if you have concerns, you should talk to your doctor, who can recommend treatment to manage your condition.
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Myth #4: Miscarriages are caused by lifting a heavy object.
Most miscarriages occur due to genetic abnormalities in the embryo and not by lifting heavy objects. In late pregnancy, the current recommendation states that women should reduce the maximum load that she could lift in her pre-pregnancy state by 20-25%.
Late in pregnancy, a woman’s ability to safely lift a load decreases, mainly because her centre of gravity and balance change. And the pregnancy hormone relaxin causes connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons to soften, so a pregnant woman can injure herself if she lifts a heavy load. But no studies show that lifting more than 11 kg affects birth weight or prematurity.
If a woman has a history of previous preterm births, multiple miscarriages, known abnormalities of her uterus or cervix, or has underlying heart or lung problems, she should limit her activity.
Other causes of miscarriage include chronic health conditions like diabetes, physical disorders affecting the reproductive system, and lifestyle habits like alcohol use during pregnancy.
When considering pregnancy, talk to your healthcare provider to review your medical history and discuss what you can do to help ensure a healthy pregnancy. But remember, even if you do everything ‘right’, you may not be able to prevent a miscarriage.
READ MORE | Fitpregnancy Tips Every New Mom Should Know
Myth #5: It’s normal to have some leakage after childbirth when you laugh, run or sneeze.
It is common for pre- and post-natal women to experience some urinary incontinence. However, it is not normal.
According to a 2019 study, approximately one-third of people experience urinary incontinence between the second trimester of pregnancy and the first three months after childbirth.
The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) suggests that hormonal changes during pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause may cause this condition.
Pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and other organs, and during pregnancy and after birth, the strength of the pelvic floor muscles decreases. Exercising these muscles can strengthen them and help reduce or eliminate your urinary incontinence symptoms.
Some good pelvic floor exercises to incorporate into your routine include:
- Heel slides
- Toe taps
- Diaphragmatic breathing.
Contact your physician if the incontinence continues for more than six weeks after birth.
By Brittinie Wick
About the author: Brittinie Wick is a health and fitness coach who empowers all women to gain confidence, lose weight, and celebrate the feeling of strong and sexy through fitness and nutrition. Grab Brittinie’s “Healthy at Every Age” guide! This ebook is aimed at people just like you, who want to live their best, most active life, starting today and continuing deep into the future! Find it at www.brittiniewick.com/freeguide. Follow Brittinie on @Brittiniewick_fitness on IG.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.