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National Women's Health Week

May 12-18, 2024

Day 1 - May 12: Empowering Women in their Health Journey

Day 1 - May 12: Empowering Women in their Health Journey

Empowering Women in their Health Journey

The Challenge of Being Heard

Women sometimes have a tough time getting the health care services they deserve. Many women may feel that doctors and other health care providers don’t listen to or take them seriously. This can mean that women sometimes don’t get diagnosed.

Research shows women can and do experience challenges when seeking health care services:
Empowering Women in their Health Journey

  1. Delay in Diagnosis: Women are more likely to have their symptoms overlooked or not taken as seriously as men, which can delay finding out what’s really wrong.
  2. Pain is Dismissed or Undertreated: Studies show that when women are in pain, they’re less likely to be given painkillers compared to men. This means their pain may not be managed as well.
  3. Mental Health Misunderstandings: Sometimes, when women have physical health symptoms, they are incorrectly diagnosed as having mental health issues like depression or anxiety. This can delay the right treatment. This can be especially common for autoimmune diseases like lupus or chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia.
  4. Weight Stigma: Some health care providers with weight stigma might make negative assumptions about people in larger bodies. This can have a negative impact on the relationship and communication between health care provider and patient. This can lead to health care providers spending less time discussing a patient’s concerns and less likely to perform preventative health screenings.
  5. Racial Bias: Women of color often face discrimination in the health care space, including dismissive attitudes by health care providers or unequal access to quality care. This bias can result in delayed diagnoses, inadequate treatment, and poorer health outcomes for underserved and underrepresented communities.
  6. Not Enough Research Including Women: For a long time, a lot of health studies didn’t include enough or any women and didn’t look at how medical conditions and treatments affect women compared to men. Although improving in recent years, this gap in information can affect how well health care providers understand and treat women’s health issues. Several federal agencies are actively working to close this gap and engage in research that meaningfully includes and focuses on women.
  7. Autoimmune Disease Diagnosis and Treatment: Women are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases, which occur when the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. It often takes a long time and many health care appointments to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
  8. Reproductive Health Concerns: Conditions that affect women’s reproductive systems, such as endometriosis, fibroids, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), often don’t get diagnosed quickly. It can take years for women to find out what’s causing their symptoms because their pain or concerns may not be taken seriously.

Did you know that women are seven times more likely to be wrongly sent home from the emergency department in the middle of a heart attack? That’s because healthcare providers misunderstand women’s symptoms or do not apply new research knowledge showing the differences in women’s symptoms compared to men. Women may feel extremely tired, dizzy, or nauseous during a heart attack—signs that are easy to overlook. This shows the critical need for health care providers to truly listen to and validate women's concerns and educate themselves about these differences.

Taking Control of Your Health

Your Health Is Important
Your health experiences are unique, real, and valid. Because it often takes women longer to get a proper diagnosis than men after reporting symptoms to their healthcare provider, it’s important to be your own advocate.

How to Make Yourself Heard at a Health Care Visit
It’s important to speak up for yourself when dealing with health issues. Start by writing down what’s been

Finding the Health Information You Can Trust

bothering you, any questions you have, and what you want to get out of your visit. If something your health care provider says doesn’t make sense, ask for clarification. And if you’re feeling overlooked or not taken seriously, it can sometimes be helpful to see another health care provider for a second opinion.

Finding the Health Information You Can Trust
With so much health information out there, knowing what to trust can be tough. Be sure you are getting your information from reliable sources. Always be cautious of health claims that seem unclear or too good to be true. When in doubt, ask your health care provider.

Take Control of Your Health with our “Your Health, Your Way” Fact Sheet
Ready to take your health into your own hands? The Office on Women’s Health has just the tool for you. Our “Your Health, Your Way” fact sheet is designed to empower you with the knowledge and confidence you need to navigate your health care appointments and ensure your voice is heard. Don’t wait to take charge of your health journey; download the fact sheet today and start advocating for the care you deserve!