A Feminist’s Approach to Health

It’s an exciting time to be a woman, to witness the shift in the role of women in our society and the opportunities that will open up to us and to future generations of women as a result of this shift. Perhaps it’s not the first thing you think of when you think of equality and feminism, but changes in the status quo of women’s health care is an essential part of this movement.

As a midwife, I am always advocating for women and supporting them in advocating for themselves; it’s one of the main reasons women choose midwives and why I wanted to be one. The importance of being an active participant in your health and well-being extends beyond pregnancy and childbirth, however. It’s just as important (albeit different) to take an interest in what happens to your health and your health care across the board. A truly feminist approach to healthcare would consider each person as an individual, whether they were male, female, gay, straight, cis, trans, young, or old. It would take in the whole person; a truly holistic way to treat people and not their ailments. It would also focus on advocating for women’s health in a way that would promote prevention.

In 2018, this “year of the woman” take an interest in your health so that you can live a long, healthy life not just for you, but for the women and girls around you. There are several ways that you can start the conversation with your doctor or other care provider, and here are a few things to get you started:

Know Yourself
An accurate history accounts for approximately 80% of all diagnoses. It is vital to not only know and be able to relay your personal medical history, but also that of your family, especially your parents, siblings and grandparents. Talk to your family and document what you learn so that the information will be available
when you need it. It might help to make
a timeline and write down everything you
can remember as it related to other events
in your life. Surgeries, hospitalizations,
abnormal blood work, time off work,
anything that felt significant at the time is
probably significant to your health history.
Keep this someplace safe so that you can
add to it as needed. Include medications,
allergies, blood type (if you know it) and
anything else that comes up.
Educate Yourself
It cannot be overstated that education
is our best weapon. Arm yourself
with an education on what you, as an
individual, need for your health. Know
what screenings are appropriate for you,
what types and amounts of exercise is
recommended and why, and maybe even
talk to your doctor about getting a set of
routine blood work done to get a baseline
to compare future results to. If you have
been diagnosed with a condition or
illness, learn everything you can about it.
What are the standard treatments? What
are the alternative treatments? What diet
is recommended? What changes can you
actually make in your life to improve your
chances of recovery?

Do the Work
Looking after yourself isn’t easy. It’s one thing to know what you need to do to have a positive impact on your health, but it’s another thing entirely to actually do it. Many people won’t, waiting for motivation that will never come. Whatever it is, whether it’s changes to your diet, new exercise routines, quitting smoking etc., just do the thing and the motivation comes later. Doing the work is how you value your body and your life.

Take the time for yourself to work on this self-care because other people won’t do it for you. Women are caretakers first, looking after our children, parents, partners, patients etc., often neglecting to look after ourselves. If those around us don’t value us, it is because we teach them how to treat us. This extends to our relationships with our care providers.

Tell them that you want to take an active interest in your health, ask them questions about your health care. They will respect that you want to be involved and your relationship will change for the better as a result. If it doesn’t, then find someone else who sees you as the individual you are. It is difficult to take responsibility for your own health, and many people are happy to just leave it all in the hands of the experts and certainly, they play an important role in maintaining your health but so do you. Your health will be better, you’ll live longer and be happier, if you become involved in your own health.