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This New Study Found Gen Z Women Are Less Comfortable Talking About Their Sensitive Health Topics Than Boomers

Home This New Study Found Gen Z Women Are Less Comfortable Talking About Their Sensitive Health Topics Than Boomers
This New Study Found Gen Z Women Are Less Comfortable Talking About Their Sensitive Health Topics Than Boomers

When it comes to going to the doctor, whether it be for routine wellness checks or problematic issues, women, especially young women, know that navigating sensitive topics with their doctors can be scary and stressful. Indeed, younger women may be less comfortable than older generations about sensitive topics like sexual health. In a 2024 survey from Bayer of 2,027 American women, those ages 18-29 have experienced more challenges in seeking reproductive health services, such as contraception, family planning, and fertility treatments, than women who are 50+ (19%) and are less comfortable discussing intimate topics with their healthcare provider than older generations of women (49%). “Because these conversations have been stigmatized for so long, the ones who often have the most experience with talking about it are those who are older and have lived long enough to learn how to speak with courage,” says Dr. Charis Chambers, a board certified OBGYN and specialty certified pediatric and adolescent gynecologist who provides reproductive health education on Instagram and YouTube as @theperioddoctor.

“Thinking back to my early-to-mid 20s, it was hard to know what was ‘normal’ in a medical setting, and what you should bring up to your doctor,” says Staci Parks, a 37-year-old writer, editor, and professor based in Dallas, Texas. “At that age, you’re trying to figure out so much about life in general, and sometimes, you’re trying to unlearn bad habits from your childhood, too. Just getting in the doctor’s office was a grand feat in itself.”

Chambers notes though that like most things in life, advocating for your reproductive health gets less uncomfortable the more you do it. “When we choose to not talk about our reproductive health concerns with our medical providers, we can inadvertently delay our own relief, normalize our discomfort, forgo opportunities for education and reassurance, and endure unnecessary stress.” Here, we discuss some ways to feel more confident talking with your doctor about intimate topics.

Be Your Own Advocate

“No one cares more about your own health than yourself,” says Jen, a current Bayer employee in Bayer’s Radiology division. It may be challenging at times, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it to speak up and be your own champion. There’s no need to be ashamed in vocalizing your wants and/or needs. Remember, your doctor is there to help you.

Be Prepared and Take Notes

Before your appointment, write down any questions and concerns you have so that you can ask your doctor. You can do it on your phone if you want or go old school with a pen and paper. But having written down questions will help you stay focused and organized in case the conversation gets off topic or your questions aren’t directly answered. Being prepared in this sense also makes you look more professional, and lets your doctor know that you’re serious about the topic at hand. Parks notes that in the past, she’s suffered from debilitating back pain, and that her primary doctor, whom she trusts, referred her to a specialist.

“I was hesitant to see the specialist, because I let so many ‘what ifs’ pile up in my head,” she says. “‘What if they don’t listen? What if they don’t take my pain seriously? What if we don’t vibe?’” So, she channeled her anxiety into writing out her medical history with detailed questions she had for the specialist. “This made the visit so much better than I ever could have imagined. I was able to give the doctor accurate, detailed information, so I wasn’t forgetting anything important in the moment.”

Dr. Chambers echoes this sentiment. “By writing down your questions and concerns beforehand, it helps to remind you of your priorities especially when nerves or anxiety make it difficult to remember them in the moment.” She also says that taking notes during a visit gives you something to reference when you get home, in case you forget any advice or recommendations that your provider shared.

In Jen’s case, notetaking by way of recording helped her during one of her screenings when she received unexpected news of two suspicious areas in her breasts that the doctor wanted to biopsy. She asked her doctor if she could record what he was telling her, in order to help her take notes and make sure she got everything she needed. “Even with as much research that I have done over the years on breast cancer and breast health, when it was personally affecting me, it was overwhelming. The details weren’t as clear to me because the emotional aspect took over.”

Know the Power of “No”

At the end of the day, your body is your body, so it is okay to tell your provider no when it comes to treatment options. If what they’re telling you makes you feel uncomfortable or not safe, or you’re not ready for the treatment path they’re suggesting, you can say no and walk out of an appointment. Don’t worry about hurting the doctor’s feelings or being rude. It is your body and your life, so do what feels right to you.

Set the Pace

Remember that this is your appointment and your body being discussed. Yes, doctors are busy and can make us feel like cattle sometimes, but it’s okay to ask your provider to slow down, especially if they’re talking too fast or making you feel uncomfortable. This is also where taking notes comes in handy, as you can simply say “Would you mind slowing down a bit? I’m trying to take notes and you’re going a bit too fast for me to keep up.” However, even if you’re not taking notes, it’s still okay to set the pace with a “Can you slow down just a bit? I’m trying to take all of this in and you’re going a bit too fast for me.”

Dress to Feel Your Best

We’re not saying you must wear a business suit and heels to your doctor appointment, but dressing in a way that makes you feel confident and powerful can help. It could be as simple as wearing a nice pair of jeans and blouse instead of activewear, (although if that’s what makes you feel your best, then go for it!) but dressing in a way that makes you feel good about yourself can help you feel confident enough to speak up and make educated decisions in the doctor’s office.

Get a Second Opinion

Know that it is okay to leave a doctor’s appointment feeling like you need a second opinion, even if it is your primary care physician you see first. It’s possible that another doctor will make you feel more comfortable, and perhaps you’ll find out that there are other treatment options the first doctor didn’t discuss. Parks agrees. “If you aren’t completely sure about a treatment or procedure your doctor is suggesting, seek out a second opinion. It’s your body, your health, and your future well-being!”

For 160 years, Bayer has been dedicated to improving the lives of women with time-tested solutions and precision health technologies that encourage self-care and prioritize the changing needs of today’s woman. Read more about the research mentioned in this story and Bayer’s women’s health initiatives.


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