The health and wellness landscape has exploded over the past five years, with more and more of us incorporating fitness, healthy eating, mindfulness and self-care into our lives. But, a recent study by specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp has found that many of us are being let down when it comes to our reproductive health. They surveyed 2,000 Brits and asked them about their approach to issues like reproduction, fertility and sexual health, as well as their relationship with medical professionals.
We don’t feel comfortable talking to doctors
For one, the study found that 1 in 5 Brits find it difficult to speak to doctors about their reproductive health and 1 in 10 don’t feel heard or believed when they do talk to them. Furthermore, almost 1 in 5 women (18%) and almost 1 in 25 men (14%) say they’re too busy – either at work or because of their family/kids – to go see a doctor about their reproductive health.
And yet, over a third of Brits (35%) admit to being worried or stressed about issues relating to their reproductive health, with almost 1 in 5 women (19%) stating they’re “quite worried” and 1 in 6 men (16%) admitting they don’t know enough about the specific issues relating to reproductive health to be worried or stressed in the first place. So, why are Brits so reluctant to consult a medical professional?
One reason could be due to general dissatisfaction with doctors. The study found that 1 in 5 Brits (20%) had stopped seeking official medical treatment for their reproductive health issues because their issue wasn’t resolved to their satisfaction by their doctor. In fact, over half of Brits (53%) said they’ve had to go back to the doctor numerous times because their issue wasn’t resolved in the first visit. In particular, 1 in 10 men have had to go back in excess of five times before they’ve received a proper diagnosis.
We may no longer trust traditional doctors
According to consultant gynaecologist Dr Anne Henderson, “most patients still trust their doctors, but that trust is much less implicit than it was 20 or 40 years ago. Thanks to the internet, patients are now more informed than ever. It’s not uncommon to see patients go to their GPs with a copy of the 2015 NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines or the 2017 Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists Guidelines.”
This might be why almost 22% of women – and a staggering 35% of 25-34-year-olds of both genders – say they’ve given up on their doctors because their reproductive health issue wasn’t resolved to their satisfaction. It might also explain why more and more of us are turning to alternative treatments. Dr Henderson says older women are putting more and more of their money towards complementary therapies such as osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists or medical herbalists.
We’re Googling our symptoms
A whopping 48% of Brits say they wouldn’t go to see their GP if they had symptoms relating to their reproductive or sexual health, with 22% of us preferring the advice of “Dr Google”. 34% of us would consult the NHS website for information while almost 1 in 10 of us (8%) would not look for answers at all (this number rises to 9% for men and drops to 7% for women).
Other avenues Brits would rather take than going to the GP include dialling 111 (12%), asking their family or a partner (10%, rising to 13% for women), or asking their friends (6%). Of course, all of these options have the potential to lead to misdiagnosis (we often think of the ‘worst case scenario’ when we self-diagnose) as well as delay in treatment.
As the trust between us and our doctors disintegrates, we could potentially see a rise in reproductive cancers and untreated STIs in the future, as well as patients unnecessarily putting up with lingering illnesses. These worrying healthcare trends on both sides of the doctor’s desk paint a disconcerting picture of the future of healthcare – and need to be addressed head-on for the sake of our health (and happiness) in all areas of medicine. As Dr Henderson sums up, “education and awareness are key.” Discover more insights through the Women’s Health Hub at Bolt Burdon Kemp.