The Countess of Wessex addresses ‘hidden’ women’s health issues as she accepts charity Royal Patron role
The Countess of Wessex discusses menopause, periods and pregnancy care in conversation celebrating her appointment as Patron of Wellbeing of Women
“Hidden” women’s health issues such as period problems and the menopause must be brought “out into the open” and talking about them normalised, Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex has said.
In a video conversation celebrating her new patronage of women’s health charity, Wellbeing of Women, Her Royal Highness said "it’s about time we really had a grown-up conversation” about women’s health and “don't allow it to be in the in the shadows anymore”.
During the conversation, The Countess spoke to Professor Dame Lesley Regan DBE, Head of Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Imperial College Healthcare, past President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, author of the College’s Better For Women report and Chair of Wellbeing of Women.
She then spoke to two Wellbeing of Women researchers, Dr Varsha Jain and Dr Shuby Puthussery whose projects, investigating heavy menstrual bleeding and access to antenatal care among ethnically diverse and socially deprived communities respectively, are funded by the charity.
Her Royal Highness also spoke to Sarah Jane Cale, who founded a menopause support group after struggling with symptoms and stigma herself.
Speaking about the taboos surrounding women’s health, The Countess of Wessex said:
“We all talk about having babies, but nobody talks about their periods. Nobody talks about the menopause. Why not? […] It's something that's incredibly normal, but it's something that is very hidden. And I think it's time to say enough, we need to bring this out on onto the table and say let's talk about this.”
“I’m delighted to take on this role. I have a vested interest in it. Not a woman on the planet can say they haven’t had to access support. We’ve all been there, and it’s about time we really had a grown-up conversation about it.”
As Patron of Wellbeing of Women, The Countess will help to amplify the charity’s life-saving research into all areas of women’s reproductive health across a woman’s life course, from menstrual health to menopause.
Dr Varsha Jain is a doctor of obstetrics and gynaecology in North East London and recipient of a Wellbeing of Women Research Training Fellowship for her research into abnormal uterine bleeding at the University of Edinburgh.
Her research is focussed on abnormal uterine bleeding, something more than one million women ask for medical help with each year in the UK and that can have a huge negative effect on women’s everyday lives.
Dr Shuby Puthussery is Director of Maternal and Child Health Research Centre at the University of Bedfordshire. She is currently leading a project funded by Wellbeing of Women that aims to improve access to antenatal care for women from ethnically diverse and socially deprived communities in Luton.
Speaking about her project, which looks to ensure that women from Black and Minority ethnic backgrounds and women who are socioeconomically disadvantaged are accessing the antenatal care they need, Dr Puthussery said:
“Failure to start antenatal care early on in pregnancy is one of the reasons that has been indicated for excess maternal deaths and ill health among mothers from black and minority backgrounds, so our project is focused on mothers in an ethnically diverse, socially disadvantaged area.”
She added: “We're going to be working with mothers, fathers, midwives and doctors. And we will jointly produce a tailored community-based programme to help women to access antenatal care.”
Speaking about Positive Menopause, the menopause community group she founded, Sarah Jane Cale said: “There are approximately 13 million women in the UK that are in the workplace that are over 40.
“It's the fastest growing demographic, and we have a lot to still give the workplace through our own experience... [but] one in four women have actually thought about leaving their jobs [due to symptoms].”
The event comes eight weeks after the government announced a call for evidence as part of its Women’s Health Strategy, which seeks to address a healthcare system which is ‘male by default’.
Janet Lindsay, director at Wellbeing of Women, said: “Wellbeing of Women is delighted to welcome The Countess of Wessex as its Royal Patron.
“The Countess will be an inspiring voice behind our mission, led by women’s voices, to improve health and wellbeing through much needed research, education and advocacy.”
Professor Dame Lesley Regan DBE said: “We are so thrilled that The Countess of Wessex has joined the charity.
“Together we can raise awareness of women's health issues, help break down some of the taboos surrounding them and make the world a better place for everyone.
“When we get it right for women, everybody benefits.”
Wellbeing of Women
A women’s health charity saving and changing the lives of women, girls and babies.
Led by women's voices, Wellbeing of Women improves health and wellbeing across a woman's life course through research, education and advocacy.
Our vision is for women not to be limited by their gynaecological and reproductive health.
Since 1964, it has invested more than £65 million in the highest-quality research across all areas of women’s reproductive health: fertility, pregnancy and birth complications, gynaecological cancers and menstrual and wellbeing issues.
Many of the treatments we take for granted today started with research that Wellbeing of Women funded including early research that linked HPV to cervical cancer (resulting in the first preventative school-wide vaccination programme), the importance of taking folic acid in pregnancy and early work into a new method for identifying women at risk of osteoporosis which has gone on to be used routinely in HRT clinics.
Through education and advocacy, it also strives to raise awareness, provide information, tackle taboos, influence policy and drive change in society to redress the balance in and improve access to basic health care. It hosts regular health and wellbeing webinars to inform women to better advocate for themselves and their families and normalise discussion of women’s health.
Its vision is a world in which women's lives are not limited by their gynaecological and reproductive health.
For more information on Wellbeing of Women, please visit: www.wellbeingofwomen.org.uk
The Countess of Wessex is an active promoter of gender equality in all aspects of society and is passionate about ensuring women and girls’ voices are heard in all areas of their lives.