Women’s Health Issues Men Should Care About
Maybe we shouldn’t have been separated into different rooms—one for the boys and one for the girls—for health class when we were younger. I feel that that set the tone for how men feel about women’s health issues throughout their lives, and they feel like this: those are women’s health issues. Just women’s. Not men’s problem and not their business. That’s really too bad since most of those boys in that isolated health class grow up to be men who love and have close relationships with women. Shouldn’t they be familiar with the health issues that women face? Shouldn’t they know a little more about the bodies they have sex with and carry their babies? How about we stop calling them women’s issues and call them everyone’s issues. Because, gentlemen, if your partner is unwell, it will affect you, too. Here are health problems that affect women, that men should start caring about, too.
When I first asked my partner to be aware of any lumps in my breasts when he touches them/plays with them, he jumped back. Breast cancer—or any cancer, for that matter—is not something he wants to think about when we’re in the middle of foreplay. And while I understand that sensibility, it’s time for men to get over their fear around this topic and become our allies in prevention.
Help us with early detection
Considering that around 40,000 women die of breast cancer each year, no man should take it for granted that his partner is safe from this horrible disease. And, considering that men do get up close and personal with our breasts, they can be our allies in early detection. Men, learn how to identify potentially problematic lumps in your partner’s breasts. Experts state that black women especially need to be diligent about looking for the signs. And, gentlemen, instead of being freaked out at the concept of feeling for lumps, think of it this way: when you don’t find anything, you get to celebrate that day that your partner is healthy.
The first few times I got a UTI, I hid from the guy I was dating at the time. I pretended to have a cold until it cleared up. I didn’t want to tell him that my vagina was broken…! Okay, I was a bit dramatic. But I felt like, in many ways, it was my fault that this occurred. Now I tell my partner immediately if this happens. This is our problem.
Men, you can be part of the problem
Any time foreign bacteria are introduced to our vaginas, we face the risk of a UTI. So, gentlemen, clean your privates before having sex with a partner. Be diligent about grabbing a new condom if switching between anal and vaginal. And if your partner does get a UTI, pick up her prescription for her because she’s already going through enough just by suffering something you were a part of causing.
It can be very difficult to tell a partner that her downstairs area doesn’t exactly smell like roses. I know a lot of men who, unfortunately, are either suffering that fact and not saying anything to their partners or who have stopped seeing a woman because of it. That is so sad, for many reasons, one of them being that she probably has bacterial vaginosis and somebody needs to tell her.
Communicate about smells
Men should familiarize themselves with what a “normal” vagina smells like, and if their partner’s is emitting an unpleasant odor, tell her. If she has bacterial vaginosis, she needs to see a doctor to get a prescription to clear that up. It doesn’t have to be a whole thing. If you’re delicate about it, you can tell her without ruining the dynamic.
I know men don’t want to talk about periods. All they want to know is, “Did yours come this month or not?” But any man who truly loves a woman should be a bit more invested in the regularity of her periods.
Some causes are serious
While some causes of irregular periods aren’t anything to worry about—like using a new birth control or having a different exercise routine—other causes can be very serious. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one cause of irregular periods, and it can cause infertility. If your partner speaks up about drastically irregular periods, suggest she see a doctor.
Since there is currently no approved HPV test for men, and women are the ones who face greater risks when contracting it, men tend to think that the human papillomavirus is just a woman’s problem.
Men, you’re the carriers
It’s the very fact that there is no test for men that makes men the greatest risk around this disease. Men, you have to be careful with new partners. Know their status. Know whether or not their last pap smear came back clean. If you’re in a serious relationship and your partner’s pap comes back irregular, know that she is probably terrified. Just read as much as you can on the disease and stop staying in the dark about it: it’s your problem, too.
This can be a particularly difficult issue for men to talk about. But, I know several men who have hinted that they believe their partners suffer from eating disorders. They don’t say anything about it. They just hope that her friends say something.
We need our loved ones
Men: if your partner has an eating disorder, knowing that she can talk to her romantic partner about it could be the first step to recovery. Keeping such a massive problem from such a close relation can really heighten the issue. If you know your partner has a history of disordered eating, there are signs she hasn’t fully recovered.
“I don’t care what she takes or how she does it so long as we don’t get pregnant” seems to be the predominant mentality amongst men towards their partners and birth control. But birth control does crazy things to our bodies. And not all birth control is created equal.
Her choices affect you
Men, you should be talking to your partner about her birth control choices. If she’s taking the pill, help remind her to take it at the same time every day. If you two hope to get pregnant some day, you should know there are some forms of birth control that make it so you can’t do that for a while. Some forms of birth control increase the risk of certain types of cancer. Aren’t these things you should know about the thing your partner is putting in her body?
Your partner’s health is your business
There is a lot women put up with to be healthy and remain sexually active with their partners. Between period management and regular well woman’s exams, we put in quite a bit of work that men don’t even know about. Men, your partners deserve your help and active interest in their health. I can promise you if your partner ever suffered a serious condition, you wouldn’t be protected from the emotional pain that comes with. So be a part of the prevention.