5 things we learned from talking to women with a history of trauma

Trauma comes in many forms, and is associated with worse menopausal symptoms, and a higher incidence of sexual problems. Learn more….

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5 things we learned from talking to women with a history of trauma

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A little while ago, we were involved in recording a video for the Survivors Trust, who were providing training to NHS trusts in London around trauma-informed care.

As healthcare professionals, neither of us had ever received clear training on being trauma-informed, until we embarked on our respective courses in sexology.

Our lived experience matters a great deal to our health – how we feel physically and mentally, our chances of illness or operations, and how likely we are to seek help for problems we have. We even have research that shows women who have experienced adverse childhood events (ACEs) are more likely to have a hysterectomy!

Though medicine is often taught as if the mind and body are disconnected (we even have separate psychiatric hospitals, notes and wards), in reality, we cannot disconnect the two parts of us.

Science shows us clearly that our bodies impact our minds, and our minds impact our bodies. It is a bidirectional interaction, and one that matters enormously at menopause and where sexuality is concerned.

We asked 227 women who had experienced all types of trauma how they found this affected their experiences of accessing healthcare. There is much to learn from their answers – and they show why clinicians must ensure patients feel in control over what happens to their bodies during an examination.

It is very simple to do this: explain what you would like to do, and ensure you explicitly say it is ok to stop at any time. Ask: “Is there anything I can do to make this easier for you?”. Make it clear they have full control of what happens.

Be aware it can be hard to vocalise when triggered – so watch that a quiet patient is ok. Check-in with them, frequently.

1. Almost all felt their trauma has affected their health

96% felt their history of trauma had impacted their physical health.

All the women we spoke to felt their trauma had impacted their mental health

2. Women with a history of trauma may feel anxious using healthcare services

Just under 1/2 of women said they felt anxious when they needed to see their doctor.

3. Being examined by a doctor can feel triggering

Almost 1/2 of the women we spoke to had felt anxious or experienced panic during an examination by a doctor.

4. They may avoid intimate examinations

30% had avoided a smear test or breast examination because they were worried about feeling triggered.

5. They may not be able to tell their healthcare professional they are panicking

Out of the 30% who had felt panicky during an examination, only 5.5% were able to express that they needed to stop.

At Spiced Pear Health, we are trauma-informed. We understand how your lived experience can affect your body, mind and relationships. We know trauma comes in many forms, and is associated with worse menopausal symptoms, and a higher incidence of sexual problems. We work with you to find medical, and non-medical approaches that work. Reach out to us if you need post-trauma support.

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A note on our language

Throughout this website, we use the term women when describing people who experience hormonal symptoms. However, we acknowledge not only those who identify as women require access to menopause and hormone health information. For example, some trans men, non-binary people, intersex people or people with variations in sex characteristics may also experience menopausal symptoms and PMS/PME or PMDD, and we warmly welcome everyone who needs this support in our clinic.

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