When I was growing up, women took birth control pills – no questions asked. We didn’t know the components or their impact on our overall health. We just knew that if we took a pill every day, we would not get pregnant. While I was raised by a women’s libber and there was a copy of Our Bodies Ourselves on the bookshelf, my generation, baby boomers, relied heavily on healthcare professionals for health care information–most of whom were men.
Fast forward 20 plus years, I receive a phone call from my daughter having a meltdown, which included uncharacteristic crying. During the conversation, she mentioned that she had started taking a new contraception pill. Googling while listening to her, I found accounts from other young women on an emotional rollercoaster, experiencing hot flashes and other hormonal side effects. This pill that was supposed to help my daughter was hurting her, physically and emotionally.
All I could do from a hotel room thousands of miles away was listen and google. I shared what I had found online and recommended that she return to the gynecologist that had prescribed the pill and explain her side effects. I am of a generation that puts trust in physicians to provide diagnosis, treatment, and guidance.
My daughter is a new generation of young women. She stopped taking the pills and started googling. She texted friends and posted messages on online forums asking what others were doing to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The outcome?
Many of her friends were using Apps and devices to monitor their body temperature. As you may know, this helps predict ovulation by tracking the changes in body temperature during menstruation. The basis of this technology was originally designed to help women who were trying to get pregnant, then later repurposed to help young women avoid taking pills that messed with their hormones.
I was listening to the Here for Her Health podcast with Host Wendy Lund interviewing Alice Zheng the other day and learned that women were not included in clinical trials in the pharma industry because of the potential for impacting childbearing. I have been working in the medical device industry for over 15 years, yet I never knew this. Of course, I googled it because I wanted to verify the facts. What is most shocking is that this exclusion continued for many years which means that many medications were developed based on research performed only on men.
It is simple biology. Women are different from men. So, the question begs to be asked. How could the industry continue to bring to market medicine for treating both men and women which had been tested only on men? In fact, it was only in 1993 that women were included in clinical research and trials. Welcome to the gender gap in healthcare.
Women make most of the healthcare decisions in the household, yet we might not be equipped with the correct information to take care of ourselves. The good news is that change is in the air as women’s health evolves beyond fertility and reproduction.
We can all take a cue from the younger generation who are active consumers of healthcare. Ask questions. Ask friends, co-workers, and healthcare providers. There is knowledge in the crowd, and you can take your health into your own hands as my daughter did. Learn about the latest innovations by turning to trusted online resources and then going with that information to your healthcare provider. Be empowered to be an active participant in your healthcare journey.
Written by Pamela Schwartz, VP Marketing AiVF