At different stages of your life, you may have questions about women’s health events such as periods, discharge, and abnormal bleeding.
New research from Bupa Health Clinics shows a rise in women choosing ‘Dr Google’ over their GP for their ‘abnormal’ health concerns.
Here Dr Samantha Wild – Clinical Lead for Women’s Health and Bupa GP – explains why we’ve seen an increase in women turning to Dr Google and answers our most Googled questions.
- 1 in 5 women say they wouldn’t visit their doctor if they had pelvic pain or an unusual discharge or bleeding
- 1 in 3 women say they wouldn’t see a doctor if they had bleeding outside of their usual menstrual cycle
- 850% increase on Google for ‘is it normal to have your period twice in one month?’ over the last 12 months
- 376% more women are asking Google ‘is it normal to have discharge every day?’
- 41% of women wouldn’t go to a GP if they had an unusual discharge
Why has there been an increase in Google searches for women’s health worries?
Dr Samantha Wild says, “It’s normal to feel anxious about speaking to your doctor about any unusual symptoms, and you may feel more comfortable turning to Google for your concerns.
You may be googling your symptoms because you worry about wasting your doctor’s time. However, no problem is too ‘embarrassing’ or ‘unusual’ to share. GP surgeries are open and we’re always here to listen to your concerns.
Your health worry isn’t a waste of time – symptoms like abnormal bleeding and unusual discharge can be a sign of a serious health problem, so it’s best to always get checked.
While the internet is a good starting point, it shouldn’t be your final answer to diagnosing your symptoms.
For example, if you usually have a regular cycle, a change in your cycle (such as suddenly having two periods in a month) could indicate an infection or other conditions such as polyps, and cervical and endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb) will need to be considered and excluded.
There’s no doubt it can sometimes be uncomfortable to talk to your doctor about private worries going on with your body. However, we’re here to help.”
Over the past year, an increasing number of women turned to ‘Dr Google’ for their health worries:
A growing number of women in the UK have turned to Google for support with their menstrual cycle, with 47% more women asking, ‘is it normal to miss a period?’.
81% more women are asking whether it’s normal to feel sick on your period and 65% asked whether it’s normal for your period to be late.
As Dr Wild explains, “for some women, their menstrual cycle is regular which means the same duration at the same time every month.
Others may experience irregular periods. Some women’s periods are lighter while others have heavy periods, and it can vary even for the same woman. Some women’s periods are painful, while others are pain-free”.
“Tracking your menstrual cycle is a great way to get to know your body better and learn what’s normal for you. It will help you to quickly spot any unusual discharge, abnormal bleeding, or any unusual symptoms, and to flag these changes with your doctor.
Being able to recognise patterns in your emotions can be beneficial for those who experience either PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) symptoms, too.
If you notice certain symptoms before your period is due, understanding why you’re feeling this way can really help.”
Any abnormal bleeding should be checked out by your doctor, particularly if the bleeding occurs during or after sex.
Over the past 12 months, Google search data has revealed a significant increase in searches relating to abnormal bleeding.
We’ve seen an 400% increase in women searching online for whether it’s normal to get your period again after a week, and an 850% increase for ‘is it normal to have your period twice in one month?’.
“If you usually have a regular cycle, a change in your cycle (such as suddenly having two periods in a month) could indicate an infection or a serious health condition.
Pain during sex should never be ignored either, as it could be a sign of endometriosis or an infection.
You should always discuss any concerns about abnormal bleeding or pain with your doctor. No issue or worry is too embarrassing. It’s always best to get checked by your GP”.
Another area we’ve seen increases in is vaginal discharge.
376% more women are asking ‘is it normal to have discharge every day’, and there has been a 50% increase in women wanting to know what ‘normal discharge’ is.
Dr Wild says, “whilst vaginal discharge isn’t usually anything to worry about, an unexplained change, along with any other symptoms like itchiness, pelvic pain, and bleeding during sex, can be sign of an infection. It’s important to get any unexplained abnormal changes checked by your doctor”.
Make women’s health your priority
Attend your smear test
Having regular cervical screening will identify any abnormalities – these may not be cancerous, and mild abnormalities don’t always need to be treated.
Even if you’re showing no unusual symptoms, you must attend your checks as these can detect abnormalities before you start showing any symptoms.
Early detection is key to effectively treating cancers; attending all appointments – even if you’re feeling well – is vital.
Depending on the result, you may need to have treatment to remove or destroy the abnormal cells.
In any case, your GP should contact you with next steps, and will be able to answer any concerns you have.
Reach out if you spot anything unusual
With most women’s health concerns, the key is spotting and treating problems early. You should regularly check your body to spot any changes.
Becoming more aware of how your body looks and feels will help you to feel confident about noticing any changes. If you do spot anything unusual, it’s important to speak to your GP and get this checked as soon as you can.
Confide in your friends
Everyone’s experience of getting your health checked is different – one way to ease your nerves is to open-up about how you’re feeling with your loved ones.
Your friends may share their own experiences, and this can help to calm your nerves.