Women’s Health Week ran in September, encouraging open conversations about female reproductive issues and female sexual liberation. Although once a taboo subject, women of all identities now connect over this subject by understanding it’s a part of life.
Sexologist and Relationship Mediator with Australian Institute of Sexology, Daz Tendler, said pre-menstrual symptoms and polycystic ovarian syndrome can alter mood, affecting sexual desires.
Tendler said other gynaecological issues can cause pain during intercourse, leading to avoidance. They said the best way to resolve issues is to have open communication with partners and health professionals, accepting that you are not alone in experiencing these issues.
Stress over body image can also play a role in avoiding sexual intimacy.
Tendler said cis and trans women should try their best to ignore society’s expectations and to dress however they want.
They said after being forced to repress sexuality under patriarchal values, women can be more expressive with their own sexuality when they feel comfortable enough to do so. They said having control of your own pleasure is sexually empowering when enacted in safe circumstances.
According to Australian Government Department of Health, one in nine Australian women have endometriosis.
Research from Better Health Channel Victoria said 75 per cent of women who have periods experience mild PMS symptoms, with up to 30 per cent experiencing them severely.
A 2023 study from Journal of Psychosomatic Research showed over 80 per cent of women surveyed with endometriosis experienced sexual distress linked to body image changes.
Jean Hailes for Women’s Health chief executive Dr Sarah White said women can experience a range of reproductive health issues. This can include discomfort with periods and sexual intimacy causing shame.
Women’s Health Week is about encouraging comfortable conversations about these health issues by making it a normal topic.
Dr White said talking about sexual enjoyment and women’s health is important as facing fertility and health issues alone can be distressing.
Women’s Health Week is a time to gain knowledge about managing health issues and prioritise putting yourself first.
She said women of both cisgender and transgender identities don’t always view self-love as a priority when it should be, it allows confidence in decision making regarding health issues.
Dr White said as women age, health issues such as menopause can also damage self-esteem.
She said some women struggle with the changes in their bodies, describing themselves as “dried up” feeling useless as a woman from health issues. This is why she encourages healthy conversations surrounding health and sexuality as a woman.
Actively seeking help can ease physical and emotional discomfort arising from these issues.
Both Daz Tendler and Dr Sarah White want to recognise that people who no longer identify as females can still experience women’s health issues and the identity of a woman isn’t defined by one concept.
They said accepting yourself and honest communication creates personal growth and reminds women of all identities to love themselves first.