When it comes to health, there are several things that make us unique as women. Unlike men, we have physiology that changes significantly due to our hormonal makeup and our ability to bear children.
Here’s why women’s wellness is unique and needs a little extra care when it comes to keeping healthy.
OUR MAJOR LIFE STAGES
As women, we go through 2-3 major life stages that change us significantly. Like men, puberty is the most significant, where we move into our menstruating years. The influx of hormones during this time kick starts our menstrual cycle, grows our breasts and matures us sexually. The age at which we begin to menstruate can determine our risk for several conditions.
For example, women who begin menstruation earlier than average are at higher risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and breast cancer throughout their lifespan.
Next, for some of us, pregnancy will be a major transition. During pregnancy, the surges of hormones change us significantly and there is a huge nutritional burden on the mother. This stage of life can pose some significant mental and physical health risks for the mother, which can persist for years beyond pregnancy.
Lastly, we have menopause, the transition from being a fertile menstruating woman to post-menopausal, which happens between the ages of 45 and 55 for most women.. This is perhaps the most important, because once we transition through menopause and lose the protective effects of oestrogen, we’re at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, dementia, osteoporosis, cancer and depression.
Menopause is actually a natural transition, however, due to our diet and lifestyle, for many women, this is a time where they really don’t feel their best.
It is very important to recognise that we are up for this increased risk of illness, more than that of men. To combat this, we need to look after ourselves years before this menopausal period comes up so that we can adapt and cope with these hormonal changes and get our bodies ready to transition.
OUR MENSTRUAL CYCLES
The other thing that makes us unique is that in our fertile years, we have the impact of a changing hormonal system that happens with our menstrual cycle. Unlike men, our hormones change from day to day as we go through this process. This can be experienced as PMS or emotional disturbances that can throw us off balance. When our hormones are out of balance, we can experience emotional extremes that interfere with our day to day functioning. These hormones can also affect our energy, sleep and immune function.
What about the pill you ask? The oral contraceptive pill or OCP is a form of hormone replacement therapy. You’re still getting hormones, although the normal fluctuations of the cycle aren’t occurring as its job is to flatline your hormones. It’s worth noting that the OCP has been associated with increased risk for anxiety and depression, disruptions to the gut microbiome and cervical cancer, all things that we need to be aware of as women.
OUR MENTAL LOAD
As women, we often have much more going on than men. Often we are a mother, wife, sister, employee and any of the other hats we choose to wear. The to-do lists never seem to end and we can end up carrying a significant mental load of all of the tasks that need to be completed.
Sometimes one of the best things we can do as women is to create some space in our life to tune back into what we really need. Women are intuitive by nature, but often we are out of touch with our needs due to the ‘busyness’ of life. Space for you might mean getting into nature, sitting with a cup of tea or taking a bath. It’s time to process the mental load and defrag from the oodles of information that come in every day.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
As a woman, you need to be aware that your health is paramount. Getting advice to see what the right diet is for you, moving your body and nurturing your mind and soul is so important for each and every one of us.
Pay attention to your family history and take steps to improve your health so you don’t follow that pathway. See your doctor, a naturopath or nutritionist, acupuncturist or whoever you think can help to guide you in the right direction.