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Abortion, sexual health and menstruation still top 'taboo' subjects surrounding women’s health

Abortion, menstruation and mental health are among the health issues women aren't talking about. (Getty Images)
Abortion, menstruation and mental health are among the health issues women aren't talking about. (Getty Images)

Embarrassment is holding women back from talking about female health issues, with one in five admitting to being too shy to talk to family members about topics such as abortion or sexual health.

While Davina McCall and other celebrities have made strides in opening the conversation about menopause, research, of 5,022 women, found almost one in three (29%) believe there are still stigmas in discussing the subject.

Mental health is another issue still considered taboo, with almost a quarter 24% admitting to not opening up about their wellbeing, mainly because 42% consider it a "private matter".

It seems there's something of a gender gap when it comes to discussing certain women's health issues, with 34% of 18-34 year olds not feeling comfortable and just 13% of the over 55s feeling the same.

Interestingly, however, over half (55%), of the 5,022 women polled, would like to see the government doing more to address women's health issues on a societal level – and two-thirds (65%) believe that overcoming these stigmas needs to start with education in schools.

Meanwhile, 46% are calling for the end of social media censorship, to help spread the word about women's health issues – as 36% have seen posts related to women's health hidden due to "sensitive content".

Read more: Bladder shame is stopping Brits seeking help for incontinence (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

One in five women would be too embarrassed to talk about common health issues. (Getty Images)
One in five women would be too embarrassed to talk about common health issues. (Getty Images)

The top subject women are shying away from discussing is abortion, followed by sexual health and then menstruation.

This is backed-up by further stats, released earlier this year, which revealed that despite periods being something that almost half of the population will experience, almost half of parents say discussing the subject with their children makes them feel uncomfortable.

That's something echoed amongst teachers, with a third admitting to finding menstruation conversations with their students difficult.

And it isn't just when discussing periods with children that we experience embarrassment, period stigma is very much present in the workplace too with a third of men believing it’s "unprofessional" for women to talk about menstruation in the workplace.

But not feeling able to speak up about various health issues, including periods, has a wider impact on the female population.

"Taboos around women's health perpetuate inequality," explains Amy Price, spokesperson for research agency OnePoll.com, who commissioned the research.

"It's time to challenge these norms and ensure that women's wellbeing is a priority in every conversation.

"We can no longer afford to overlook women's health issues due to societal taboos."

The study also found 16% of those polled have taken steps to reduce their stress levels as a result of a women’s health issue.

Read more: Vaginal discharge and a low libido among conditions women are embarrassed to discuss (Yahoo Life UK, 6-min read)

Experts want to break down the taboos in discussing certain female health issues. (Getty Images)
Experts want to break down the taboos in discussing certain female health issues. (Getty Images)

Just over three quarters (76%) also believe they would not have been able to make life changes without the support of people around them.

Commenting on the findings Gareth Lucy, spokesperson for hygiene and health company Essity, said: "What’s particularly shocking about the taboos and stigma surrounding women’s health is that in some cases we’re not talking about health matters that only a minority of women experience, we’re talking about matters that all women experience.

"For example, menstruation and menopause are a fact of life so it seems incomprehensible that these are taboo subjects.

"Whatever barriers are preventing women from being able to talk openly and candidly about their health need to be broken down.

"The research tells us there’s a problem, now it’s up to government, industry and healthcare professionals to work together and provide the solutions."

Read more: Over half of women say period pain has impacted their ability to work (Yahoo Life UK, 3-min read)

Watch: Key lifestyle changes to help ease menopause symptoms

The hope is that by encouraging people to be more open about common female health issues, it will fuel a culture of change.

"Avoiding taboo topics doesn't make them disappear; it only perpetuates the stigma," explains Price.

"Women and men need to have courageous conversations and create spaces for healing and change.

"Breaking taboos is not about shock value; it's about opening the door to understanding and acceptance."

Top 5 areas of women's health still considered taboo in general society

1. Abortion

2. Sexual health

3. Menstruation

4. Menopause

5. Mental health