Life issues

Women's Health Week: Q&A

10 Sep 2020
This week is Women's Health Week. We spoke with our doctors about women's health checks, and things all young women should know when it comes to their health. We would like to acknowledge that Women's Health Week is inclusive of people who menstruate and trans women. Now introducing our wonderful GPs, Dr Mey and Dr Yok.
WomensHealthWeek DrMey

What can someone expect in a women's health check?

I like to start by getting to know my client. I prefer a holistic approach. By that, I mean, it is important to acknowledge the bio-psycho-social impact on a person's general wellbeing and quality of life. When a client visits me, I would like to start by listening to their narrative about what is important and meaningful to them. I want to know what their concerns and goals are, and workout how we can best work together. That means the conversation can include anything from menstrual periods and acne to gender and sexuality.

I would also do baseline measurements such a height, weight and blood pressure. Adding onto that, depending on what the presenting concerns are, I can do a skin check, pelvic examination, organise a blood test, STI screen and other necessary investigation.

What is something you would like all young women to know when it comes to their health?

Hormones are real and the impact of hormones on a woman's mental and physical health is very real. Be inquisitive about your body. Learn to listen to your body. Ask questions! I love when patients come to me with questions.

When researching about your health, I acknowledge that there is lots of information out there. I would encourage young people to seek out reliable and evidence based medical information. Websites such as Jean Hailes, Royal Women's Hospital, Family Planning Victoria, Pelvic Pain Foundation and Melbourne Sexual Health Centre are good starting points. Again, be inquisitive and ask questions.

What would you say to a young women who is nervous about seeing a GP for women's health concerns?

It is ok to be nervous! Give yourself plenty of time, always book in a long appointment so that you don't have to rush and it allows your GP to get to know you better. Getting to know each other takes time. I encourage my clients to write down questions before they see the GP. It is ok to seek a women's specific health professional if you are not comfortable speaking to your usual GP. Give each other a chance. Not everyone gets it right the first time.

How is gender diversity considered in women's health?

We must recognise that there are diverse needs with healthcare depending on a person's assigned gender and identified gender.

Using an individual's correct pronouns and preferred name, ensuring they are at the centre of the conversation, and it is guided by them is important.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

It's important that GPs empower young women with knowledge of their bodies and be confident about their sexuality and sexual preferences. Helping young women to be proactive when it comes to making choices about her health is very powerful.

WomensHealthWeek DrYok

What can someone expect in a women's health check?

Like everything else in medicine, a women's health check should be holistic care. A women's health check is not just about enquiring about their physical health or when something is wrong. It encompasses lifestyle and mental health. Even if a person feels well, it can be about how they can maintain their wellbeing or a chat about how they can improve it.

What is something you would like all young women to know when it comes to their health?

You know your body the best and if something feels different, have a chat to your doctor. Sometimes what feels different to you may still be normal. That way, you can be reassured by a medical professional (e.g. your regular GP who knows you) that what you're experiencing is not something to be worried about. However, if something needs further attention, you know you are in good hands!

What would you say to a young woman who is nervous about seeing a GP for women's health concerns?

It is ok to be nervous. Different people may have different reasons as to why they are nervous. If I can provide any insight, just remember that a GP is trained to listen and work through all these health concerns with you, no matter what they are, we are here to help. Even if we are unable to make the concerns go away completely, we may be able to come up with a plan to manage them.

How is gender diversity considered in women's health?

Never make assumptions - I once mistook a patient's son as his wife so not only did I get the gender wrong, I also got the generation wrong! While it is important to know a person's assigned gender at birth (from a medical point, there are certain preventative health measures and activities which are specific to a person's genetic make-up), it is also important to know what they identify as.