Our health is something that should always be on our minds. This practice is needed even more during the coronavirus pandemic since being aware of the smallest symptoms can prevent spreading the virus to others. But for many women, a discussion surrounding our reproductive health is not one we have often, if ever. More often than not, those conversations are shut down or not even brought up because it still feels taboo to do so.
In her latest podcast episode
, Michelle Obama has a frank conversation with Dr. Sharon Malone, an OB-GYN who has been practicing for over 30 years, about the conversations they had with their mothers and daughters about bodily changes, and why women stop talking about those changes once they are older.
Much like our relationships to who we are spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, the relationship we have with our bodies is something that is constantly changing. There is rarely a time when our bodies are stagnant. Between growing pains, puberty, growing into adulthood, and then menopause, there is always something developing and changing. Being able to recognize these changes is vital to everyone's physical health.
For most women, that first conversation about the changes their bodies go through sets the stage for how they will approach and view them later on. For many women born before the millennial generation, those "body talks" were awkward. There was still a forbidden element to the conversation because their grandmothers taught their mothers that talking about their bodies was sinful and shameful. It was not something that you brought up in polite society, and it was the kind of conversation you should only be having with your doctor. This obviously doesn't apply to every woman, as Obama points out that her own experience with "The Talk" from her mother was actually very open. There was no shame about asking questions or for speaking about things that are usually ignored in other settings.
Allowing for these open and frank conversations about our bodies is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and becoming aware of any changes that may be concerning. Having open conversations with our children about their bodies now can prevent so many issues down the road. Being frank and using scientific terms for "The Talk" will show that you aren't going to make them feel awkward or uncomfortable when they have a genuine question or concern. And, considering that you will be much more experienced in many different aspects than your child, you will prevent them from going to their equally uninformed friends and receiving wrong, if not dangerous, information.
There shouldn't be any shame or awkwardness attached to talking about our bodies, since it's important for our overall health to be in tune with ourselves. Recognizing when things are off or when new growths develop is a vital skill/habit for everyone, not just women. This self-awareness doesn't replace medical advice, but it does help you advocate for yourself when you know that your body is not behaving normally. Doctors are experts, but you know your body best, and being aware of when changes take place that are out of the norm can prevent health issues. If you can pinpoint when and where the changes are taking place, you can provide your doctor with plenty of information to make a diagnosis.
However, these health conversations should happen in our everyday lives, not just in the doctor's office. For women especially,there is this idea that we are supposed to show the world that we are fine. We are on top of everything, there are no issues going on in our lives, and everything is just perfect. Aside from the damage this causes to the societal idea of women, it is also extremely harmful to our health because we are not allowed to bring up any bodily concerns we have. We should be normalizing having conversations with our friends and family about things going on with our bodies because the person we talk to might have advice or an answer. This shouldn't replace seeking out a medical professional if you are truly worried, but it can ease the worry about whether or not something is normal.
Obama and Dr. Malone are refreshingly open about their personal journeys with menopause and how seeking out each other and other friends lessened the concerns they had. If you think back to the time when you first started your period or menopause, imagine how much easier and smoother the start of those functions could have been if you were more open about what you are experiencing.
Have these conversations to your comfort level, but don't be afraid to talk more frequently and frankly about what you and others are going through.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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