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Young women avoid discussing sexual health with GPs because of fear of saying ‘vagina'

Young women are avoiding going to a GP for gynaecological issues because of ‘embarrassment’ and ‘fear of intimate examination’, a new study has revealed.

Instead of seeking help from a doctor, more than half (57%) would turn to Google, with another one in five preferring to confide in their mums.

In a survey of 1000 women, those aged 18-24 were four times less likely to go to a doctor with a sexual health issue than their 55-64 year old counterparts.

Two thirds of young women were embarrassed to say the word ‘vagina’ (66%) or ‘orgasm’ (64%), with over half being embarrassed about ‘labia’ (60%) and ‘discharge’ (56%).

Nearly half avoided going to the doctor because of being scared of being intimately examined (48%) or being embarrassed to talk about sexual health issues (44%). Some 26% didn’t seek professional help because of not knowing what words to use.

The embarrassment factor dropped considerably among older participants, with just one in 10 (11%) aged over 65 saying they would be shy saying ‘vagina’ to a healthcare professional.

Katherine Taylor, acting chief executive at Ovarian Cancer Action who led the study, said: ‘The reluctance to see a doctor for gynaecological issues is really worrying and, while many of us have turned to the internet for help, googling symptoms is not a substitute for proper medical attention.

‘Illnesses such as ovarian cancer - which kills a woman every two hours in the UK – is much easier to treat if it’s diagnosed early, so it’s incredibly important that women feel empowered to talk about their health and feel comfortable visiting healthcare professionals.’

‘It’s so important that women are empowered to discuss these issues. Saying vagina won’t kill you, but avoiding saying it could.’

Readers' comments (11)

  • John Glasspool

    I'd happily say "Vagina" to Jeremy Hunt....or something like it.

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  • All GPs Are Mr Vaginas

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  • When I first came to uk to take my plab I was told to ask patients if there was a problem with vagina "to ask down below".when I was doing my csa I was told to ask vagina directly.i wonder what RCGP would refer vagina as?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Yes , John
    Agent *unt

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  • Would it help if we stuck a few vulval posters up in reception? Perhaps next to the Friends and Family Forms (FAFF)? Or a public information film! Is Mollie Sugden still alive?

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  • They could instead say I have problem in - V for Victor, A for Alfa, G for Golf, I for Indigo, N for November and A for Alfa.

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  • It's less embarrassing to say the word f*** than the word vagina !!!

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  • So what's new?...boys are embarrassed to say the words as well.....it's relatively easy to lead into the subject by introducing the appropriate is word at the start of a consultation. the post from 6.27pm reveals why there is a reluctance to speak openly when it is known that descriptions of genitals are still used offensively

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  • Abdul QADRI

    This is unnecessary exaggeration. Nowadays young women are smart and donattend women's clinic or Doctors practices regarding their sexual problems. Yes they prefer to see Practice Nurses than Gps. Raising awareness of Any cancer including ovarian by displaying posters and so on is way forward.

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  • I have the fear of saying Jeremy.

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