Let's talk about women's health – breaking stigma and shifting narratives

Posted by Christina Zipperlen on

In a time of unprecedented progress and open conversations, it can feel discouraging and disheartening to witness the persistence of stigma surrounding women's health. Hushed tones, awkward silences, and the societal discomfort surrounding topics such as reproductive health, menstruation, and menopause create an environment that has a greater impact on the mental, emotional and physical well-being of women. Misunderstandings, to be ridiculed or giggled at for what is the most natural thing to life, the fact that life occurs in cycles – whether that is a monthly one or a stage of life – that affects everyone, both men and women in equal measure. Addressing and dismantling the stigma surrounding women's health is a collective responsibility. It requires dialogue and engagement amongst women, amongst couples, with men and children.

Why is women’s health until today such a stigmatised topic?

Historical Taboos

Throughout history, women's health has been shrouded in secrecy, perpetuated by cultural norms and taboos. Menstruation, for example, has been surrounded by myths and misconceptions such as associating menstruation with impurity, negativity, or weakness perpetuate a culture of silence.

Beliefs that discussing reproductive issues is inappropriate or offensive contribute to a culture where women may feel ashamed or hesitant to seek information or medical assistance.

Lack of comprehensive education

Insufficient and inadequate sex education contributes significantly to the stigma surrounding women's health. When schools and communities fail to provide comprehensive information about reproductive health, contraception, and menstruation, it creates an atmosphere of ignorance and misinformation. Place this in a context of patriarchal thinking patterns – information gets colored in a specific tone.

Social Expectations and Gender Stereotypes

Societal expectations and gender stereotypes play a crucial role in perpetuating the stigma around women's health. The pressure on women to conform to unrealistic ideals of beauty and behavior creates an environment where discussing health issues is often viewed as a deviation from societal norms. This pressure can lead to women feeling hesitant to seek help or openly discuss their health concerns, fearing judgment or ostracization.

Shifting cultural narratives

To dismantle the stigma surrounding women's health, there needs to be a shift in cultural narratives. Initiatives that normalize open conversations about reproductive health, menstruation, and other women's health issues are crucial. Creating safe spaces for dialogue, promoting accurate education, and challenging harmful stereotypes can contribute to changing societal perceptions and breaking the silence surrounding women's health. The important part is that all genders have a place and a space as a part of this collective conversation.

What are key topics in women’s health?

Reproductive Health

Reproductive health is a fundamental aspect of women's well-being, focusing on the health of the reproductive system. This includes regular gynecological check-ups, screenings for conditions such as cervical and breast cancer, and addressing issues like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis and more.

Cultivating awareness about menstrual health, understanding the menstrual cycle, the different needs throughout the individual phases, the multiple ‘personalities’ that are gathered and present in one women and managing reproductive health conditions contribute to a woman's overall reproductive well-being and foster a culture of dialogue and understanding.

Questions to sit with:

Am I aware of the different phases of my menstrual cycle and how do these feel in my body?

Do I know/do I have the ability to sense what I need and can I allow myself to receive what I need?

Do I look after my menstrual health, e.g. do I track my cycle, track changes in discharge, skin condition, sleeping patterns, energy states etc.?

What am I craving during the different phases?

Do I/can I create enough spaciousness in my life to live according to the different phases?



As a woman until around 35 one can simply assume that all should be well and easy when it comes to conceiving a baby. Any pregnancy after 35 will charmingly be referred to as ‘geriatric pregnancy’, a term that quite obviously sets an expectation and builds pressure for any woman above 35. 

Conversations around fertility need to be held openly. The good and the bad. The reality of it, the struggles and the things that help and work. Understanding the factors that influence fertility, such as age, lifestyle choices, nutrition, mental and underlying medical conditions, and energy work ,is crucial. For women and men planning to become a family of more than 2, awareness of fertility levels, deeper intentions, patterns and behaviour, seeking professional advice, and exploring fertility treatments, stepping into trimester 'zero' are essential steps. Fertility conversations empowers couples to make informed decisions about their bodies, their lifestyle, their future and their ways of living.

Questions to sit with:

Do I want to be a mother? When do I want to be one? When is it too late for me (and how my life is evolving/where I am at in my life)?

What is my why?

Do I trust my body? What is my relationship to my body?

How can I prepare myself better? What does 'fertile' mean?

What pathways can I wander on to improve my fertility/menstrual health?

Do I seek the conversation with other women my age (+-5 years and more)

Would I be open to alternative ways of being a mother (e.g. adoption)? 


Birth control

I remember going to see a gynacologist for the first time at 15 years old. One of the first things I received was a prescription to birth control, regardless whether I was sexually active or not. Simply because my cycle wasn't quite regular and my hormones not quite balanced (yet). No questioning or further support in what else could be done apart from just going straight onto the pill. 

The effects of birth control pills on the human body are profound, both in positive and more so in negative ways. However, with taking contraceptives we choose a path that has immense impact on our hormonal system and the way we function and meet the world to the degree that it potentially falsifies our experience and perception of reality. In whichever ways, we need to foster critical dialogue, sharing of sources and exploration of alternatives to birth control.

Questions to sit with:

Do I need to undertake any birth control measurements at this point in my life?

Why am I taking hormonal birth control?

Did I look (enough) into alternative birth control that does not involve hormones?

How long have I been taking hormonal birth control?

How has my cycle been before I started taking contraceptives?

How does my body respond to hormonal birth control? How does my body feel without the use of hormonal birth control?

Is it ok to get off of it?


Different stages of a woman's life

Not all stages in a life of a woman are the same. And every stage comes with diifferent health considerations. 

  • Adolescence: Navigating puberty, understanding menstrual health, and learning about reproductive health.
  • Reproductive Years: Focusing on family planning, fertility awareness, and maintaining overall reproductive health.
  • Pregnancy and Motherhood: Addressing prenatal care, maternal health, and postpartum well-being.
  • Perimenopause and Menopause: Managing hormonal changes, understanding menopausal symptoms, and embracing the transition with adequate support. Especially this phase of a woman is often undermined, ignored, not given any attention to. The young, strong and healthy is what is being glorified, but not what happens after.
  • Senior Years: Addressing health concerns associated with aging, including bone health, cardiovascular health, and mental well-being.

Recognizing and addressing the specific health needs of each life stage enables a woman to navigate her journey with resilience, knowledge, and proper support.

Questions to sit with:

In which phase of my life am I right now? How does it feel and what is it like?

Am I embracing this particular phase of my life? If not, what can I do to support myself better or feel supported?

Am I in dialogue/exchange with other women in similar stages of my life? 

What am I learning through listening?

What are the needs of this stage versus the previous one? What has changed (for me, for my loved ones around me)?

Who do I turn to in case of questions?



So, what now?

Women's health is a multifaceted topic that can hardly be covered in just one blogpost. What all aspects have in common is the need for dialogue, transparency, clarification, change of perspectives and narratives to a more empowered and female point of view. We encourage by asking questions knowing that the 'food for thought' we are offering is never conclusive or complete.

We need to encourage and hold one another more as women, as we all move through the same phases, circumstances, symptoms, yet, all with our individual chemistry, bodies and journeys. There is no need for shaming, blaming or playing small. There is no need to get discouraged by one-sided opinions, simplification of what is, patriarchal conditioning – your body is your body. Keep asking the questions. Maintain curiosity. Wonder why. Open conversations with friends to see if 'other's' experience the same or what they might have encountered.

This is an ongoing conversation. One where only together through ever-evolving contributions we can move towards reducing stigma and judgement. 

The medicine might be to keep asking questions and stay open to what occurs and to keep sharing what is found and experienced while honoring every body's individual journey and condition. 

Our biggest achievement is to meet mutual understanding, collaboration and acceptance that all phases of a woman are whole, perfect and worthy of stories to be told and shared with the world. We might have a few more things to share with you at a later stage this year, too. From women to women.

With love,

Ananda Soul

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