According to researchers, typical “gynecological conditions” such as severe menstrual pain, urinary incontinence and pelvic floor problems cost society billions every year. In the absence of specific, reliable numbers, they made their own assessment. “These are serious cases that require serious solutions,” gynecologist Judith Hoerne told NU.nl.
Hoerne sees women in her consulting room every day with problems they’ve been dealing with for years.
These are conditions that are often viewed as a normal part of being a woman, such as prolapse, severe menstrual pain, urinary incontinence, and benign thickening of the uterine muscle wall. “Every woman has one or two of these conditions,” says the gynecologist.
“Although these conditions are not life-threatening, the complaints can have far-reaching consequences on the quality of life,” emphasizes Astrid Volbregt, gynecologist at Spaarne-Gastois. For example, these types of conditions affect women’s opportunities in society, because they cannot perform their school tasks or work activities properly due to gynecological complaints.
“This hinders women’s career opportunities and increases gender disparities,” Hoerne says. In addition to being Professor of Benign Gynecology at the Medical University of Amsterdam, she is also President of the Scientific Society of the Dutch Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (NVOG).
Huirne, together with Vollebregt, is the initiator of a major NVOG study on the social acceptability of female-specific conditions. In doing so, they have identified for the first time where knowledge is lacking, what the impact of these types of conditions is and what they cost society. They did this in collaboration with general practitioners, sexologists, health care economists, medical specialists and the women’s organization WOMEN Inc.
“We were impressed by the costs.”
Hoerne already knew that gynecological diseases have a huge impact on a woman’s life. “But we were impressed by the fact that it had such a big impact on health care costs — but especially on social costs.”
For example, many women work in education or health care. “If they can’t do their job, it contributes to existing capacity problems.”
The research shows, among other things, that there is still a taboo regarding female-specific conditions. As a result, women and health care providers know little about these diseases. Hoerne believes this is a bad thing, because it means we are now focusing primarily on treating the symptoms, when we should instead be treating the underlying condition.
“We are calling for a national health care plan for women,” Hoerne said. This should, among other things, provide reliable figures on costs, clarify how often these types of situations occur and increase knowledge.
Hoerne also hopes that funds will be allocated structurally to research into typical gynecological disorders and their best treatment. In this way, women can receive appropriate care sooner, improving their social status.
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