In the first report of its kind, Public Health England (PHE) has revealed the impact of women’s reproductive health issues on the nation’s physical, mental and social wellbeing. The report will form the basis of a cross-governmental 5-year action plan on reproductive health.
The report includes the findings of a new national survey of women’s experiences regarding reproductive health. Of 7367 women surveyed, 80% experienced unwanted reproductive health symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, severe menopausal symptoms or postnatal symptoms. 31% of all women surveyed had experienced severe reproductive health symptoms in the last 12 months, including heavy menstrual bleeding, menopause, incontinence, and infertility.
Only around half of women with symptoms sought. Less than a third of those with postnatal symptoms sought care. Women under 25 in the postnatal period were least likely to seek help in spite of being most likely to experience symptoms.
Care-seeking was not necessarily related to the perceived severity of symptoms. Embarrassment, fear of being judged and the stigma, that surrounds reproductive health issues, were all important barriers to seeking care.
For those who did seek healthcare, they said good communication and rapport that enables honest and open dialogue is essential, particularly in relation to issues that might be difficult or embarrassing to discuss.
To coincide with the launch of the report, 18 healthcare bodies have come together to write a new consensus statement which positions reproductive health as a public health issue that needs to be addressed. Signatories to the consensus statement include the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and the Royal College of general practitioners. Working with partners, PHE is now developing an integrated cross-governmental 5-year action plan on delivering care for reproductive health issues.