By Imogen Robinson
The Femedic founder, Monica Karpinski, was on the Victoria Derbyshire programme this morning, discussing cystitis and how the condition is regularly overlooked by the media, and the general public.
The guests on the show will hear from a 31-year-old woman who has written about living with interstitial cystitis, a severe form of the condition which leaves her in burning pain, and needing the toilet 60 times a day.
Cystitis, a urinary tract infection, is just one of many conditions given short shrift by the media. This is partly because conditions that affect women, including menstrual conditions such as endometriosis, and bladder issues, are still seen as taboo.
Women won’t talk about them as they feel they are embarrassing, and the scale of people experiencing such issues is kept hidden. This creates a vicious circle, leading women to believe they are the only ones that are affected, and should keep quiet.
In fact, cystitis affects between 30% and 60% of women in their lifetime. Thrush, a vaginal yeast infection, will affect up to 75% of women in their lifetime.
Bladder issues are a huge taboo subject. Half of all women will experience incontinence issues at some point in their lives, often brought about by changes to the body during pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause, but many resist help due to embarrassment, or believing that it is something they are simply expected to put up with. Only one in five women affected will seek help for their issues.
Endometriosis, where cells that mimic those lining the womb grow elsewhere in the body, including the ovaries, bowel and cervix, and shed each month as a bleed, affects 1 in 10 women. On average, a woman will wait 7.5 years for a diagnosis — often doctors are slow to recognise symptoms of the condition due to lack of training, or they simply dismiss the crippling period pains and heavy periods as “normal”. The condition can leave those with it in chronic pain, and unable to lead a normal life. Yet lack of research means there is no cure, and not even a failsafe way of managing it.
Speaking of what was discussed on the show, Monica said: “It’s easy to fob off conditions that have general symptoms, such as needing to pee often or having pelvic pain, as something ‘common’ so therefore women should just be able to put up with it.
“Raising awareness and creating community spaces where women feel safe coming forward, and that they will be supported in seeking help, is essential if we hope to lift the stigma attached to cystitis and other women’s health issues, which is why I was so pleased to be able to go on the show and speak about it.”
The more these conditions are discussed, the more willing women will be to come forward and speak about them, and the more help they will be able to receive. This is why The Femedic was founded — to offer friendly and empathetic advice, information, and education about women’s health issues, particularly in areas where a culture of shame and silence prevents women from seeking help.
You can watch the programme on BBC iPlayer, and a link to the programme should be posted on the Victoria Derbyshire site when the episode has been uploaded.