‘Pregnant? Don’t drink.’
‘Implants? Yes, they’re safe apart from the ones made by a certain European company – if you’ve had them they’ll have to be removed.’
‘A drink a day keeps disease away.’
‘HRT – the best thing for menopausal women?’
‘C-Section? A 10% chance of getting an infection.’
‘Pregnant? You can drink. In moderation.’
These are just a selection of headlines that I’ve noticed recently that relate to women’s health.
It seems barely a day goes by without a new report being published advising women what they can and can’t do when it comes to their bodies and their health.
Whether it’s medication regarding family planning, substances that can affect your unborn child, warnings that too much tv may make your toddler obese, or concerns over artificial hormones when you are past childbearing age – it’s enough to make you take to your bed!
What’s giving me a headache is the extent to which the information is contradictory.
One minute, it’s good news – a scientific report from one source says you can drink a stipulated number of units of alcohol when pregnant. But then another counters it, saying that pregnant women should not drink. At all.
One day it’s ok to drink wine – but only red not white. And chocolate can aid one thing but will damage another. And can we really reduce the risk of breast cancer by walking for at least 2.5 hours a week?
With mankind’s (womakind’s too!) increased scientific knowledge, consumer access to health information is growing fast. And women’s health in particular is continually being put under the spotlight, causing confusion about what we can and cannot do.
It goes without saying that discussion and debate together with robust research and enquiry are vital to help increase our understanding of health issues and try and stay in good shape through different life stages.
But headlines can be startling and sensational. And if the headline is the only piece of the article you read, that’s all you’re going to take away from it. And so you’ll stay Miss Informed.
With online media and social networking taking over from traditional media, headlines and bite-size pieces of information are often all that people read.
With this in mind, headline writers should stop being so sensational and instead become more responsible. This is especially important when it comes to health.
Scare headlines such as ‘cat ladies more likely to commit suicide’ or ‘children born by C-Section are twice as likely to be obese’ or ‘sunscreen ingredient linked to endometriosis’ and the like should provide proof rather than just sensationalism.
In a recent survey conducted by China Youth Daily’s Social Investigation Center and quoted in The English People’s Daily in China, 60% of respondents have been misled by sensational headlines.
It said: ‘When reading news, over 20% of respondents only read headlines and over 66% scan full stories after reading the headlines. Only over 11% read full stories thoroughly.’
The saturation of sensational headlines in our media outlets, especially online, means people are being seduced with eye-catching headlines. The actual content in the story often does not match up.
Even taking into consideration the fact that new research is being undertaken all the time, meaning that advice given to pregnant women five years ago may now be out of date, it’s those old headlines that they’ll remember.
Dr Jennifer Blake, Head of Women’s Health and Chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at both Women’s College Hospital and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, said in Women’s Health Matters that instead of being overwhelmed by sensational headlines that women ‘use common sense, work with your doctor, know what works for you and above all adopt a healthy lifestyle.’
So, maybe it is ok for me to indulge in that extra glass of wine after all.
According to research it won’t hurt, but I guess that depends on whether it’s red or white and which piece of research I choose to follow.