Women are turning to Google to search for advice and information on women’s health issues according to research by Bupa Health Clinics, raising concerns about a greater need for women’s health awareness.

The research found that 1 in 5 women say they wouldn’t visit their doctor if they had pelvic pain or an unusual discharge or bleeding, and 41% of women wouldn’t go to a GP if they had an unusual discharge. Instead, researchers found, women are increasingly turning to Google to search for information about health concerns.

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The Bupa research was released ahead of Cervical Screening Awareness Week (14th-20th June), and found that more women are turning to Dr Google for their health worries, rather than speaking to their GP.

womens health issues search internet
Women are increasingly turning to the internet to search for health issues.

The research found that:

  • 1 in 5 women say they wouldn’t visit their doctor if they had pelvic pain or an unusual discharge or bleeding.
  • 1 in 3 women say they wouldn’t see a doctor if they had bleeding outside of their usual menstrual cycle.
  • 850% increase on Google for ‘is it normal to have your period twice in one month?’ over the last 12 months.
  • 376% more women are asking Google ‘is it normal to have discharge every day?’.
  • 41% of women wouldn’t go to a GP if they had an unusual discharge

Google searches for women’s health issues increase

Dr Samantha Wild – Clinical Lead for Women’s Health and Bupa GP – says: “It’s normal to feel anxious about speaking to your doctor about any unusual symptoms, and you may feel more comfortable turning to Google for your concerns.

Dr Samantha Wild Bupa
Dr Samantha Wild, Clinical Lead for Women’s Health and Bupa GP.

“You may be googling your symptoms because you worry about wasting your doctor’s time. However, no problem is too ‘embarrassing’ or ‘unusual’ to share. GP surgeries are open and we’re always here to listen to your concerns. Your health worry isn’t a waste of time – symptoms like abnormal bleeding and unusual discharge can be a sign of a serious health problem, so it’s best to always get checked.

“While the internet is a good starting point, it shouldn’t be your final answer to diagnosing your symptoms. For example, if you usually have a regular cycle, a change in your cycle (such as suddenly having two periods in a month) could indicate an infection or other conditions such as polyps, and cervical and endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb) will need to be considered and excluded.

“There’s no doubt it can sometimes be uncomfortable to talk to your doctor about private worries going on with your body. However, we’re here to help.”

What are health issues are women searching for?

Over the past year, an increasing number of women turned to ‘Dr Google’ for their health worries:

Menstrual cycle – is it normal to miss a period?

A growing number of women in the UK have turned to Google for support with their menstrual cycle the research found, with 47% more women asking, ‘is it normal to miss a period?’.

81% more women are asking whether it’s normal to feel sick during your period and 65% asked whether it’s normal for your period to be late.

Dr Wild explains: “for some women, their menstrual cycle is regular which means the same duration at the same time every month. Others may experience irregular periods. Some women’s periods are lighter while others have heavy periods, and it can vary even for the same woman. Some women’s periods are painful, while others are pain-free”.

“Tracking your menstrual cycle is a great way to get to know your body better and learn what’s normal for you. It will help you to quickly spot any unusual discharge, abnormal bleeding, or any unusual symptoms, and to flag these changes with your doctor.

Being able to recognise patterns in your emotions can be beneficial for those who experience either PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) symptoms, too. If you notice certain symptoms before your period is due, understanding why you’re feeling this way can really help.”

Abnormal bleeding – is it normal to have your period twice in one month?

Any abnormal bleeding should be checked out by your doctor, particularly if the bleeding occurs during or after sex.

Over the past 12 months, Google search data has revealed a significant increase in searches relating to abnormal bleeding. Research found a 400% increase in women searching online for whether it’s normal to get your period again after a week, and an 850% increase for ‘is it normal to have your period twice in one month?’.

“If you usually have a regular cycle, a change in your cycle (such as suddenly having two periods in a month) could indicate an infection or a serious health condition,” says Dr Wild.

“Pain during sex should never be ignored either, as it could be a sign of endometriosis or an infection. You should always discuss any concerns about abnormal bleeding or pain with your doctor. No issue or worry is too embarrassing. It’s always best to get checked by your GP”.

Vaginal discharge – is it normal to have discharge every day?

Another area the research found an increase in search activity is vaginal discharge with 376% more women are asking ‘is it normal to have discharge every day’, and there has been a 50% increase in women wanting to know what ‘normal discharge’ is.

Dr Wild says: “whilst vaginal discharge isn’t usually anything to worry about, an unexplained change, along with any other symptoms like itchiness, pelvic pain, and bleeding during sex, can be a sign of an infection. It’s important to get any unexplained abnormal changes checked by your doctor”.

Make women’s health your priority

Dr Wild says that awareness of women’s health issues and having regular check-ups can help identify potential health problems that need medical support.

womens health issues visit GP
Make sure you visit a GP with health concerns.

Attend your smear test

Having regular cervical screening will identify any abnormalities – these may not be cancerous, and mild abnormalities don’t always need to be treated says Dr Wild. Even if you’re showing no unusual symptoms, you must attend your checks as these can detect abnormalities before you start showing any symptoms. Early detection is key to effectively treating cancers; attending all appointments – even if you’re feeling well – is vital.

Depending on the result, you may need to have treatment to remove or destroy the abnormal cells. In any case, your GP should contact you with the next steps and will be able to answer any concerns you have.

Reach out if you spot anything unusual

With most women’s health concerns, the key is spotting and treating problems early says Dr Wild. You should regularly check your body to spot any changes. Becoming more aware of how your body looks and feels will help you to feel confident about noticing any changes. If you do spot anything unusual, it’s important to speak to your GP and get this checked as soon as you can.

Confide in your friends

Everyone’s experience of getting your health checked is different says Dr Wild – one way to ease your nerves is to open up about how you’re feeling with your loved ones about women’s health issues. Your friends may share their own experiences, and this can help to calm your nerves.

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