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Tips For Adulthood: Five Things I've Learned About Women's Health in the U.K.

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. Today’s post is inspired by my visit yesterday to a woman’s health clinic here in London. (I...

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Today’s post is inspired by my visit yesterday to a woman’s health clinic here in London. (I was going to title it “Madame Ovary” – clearly I’m spending way too much time scanning clever literary lines for my own good.)

As with other forms of health care, women’s health is also done a bit differently over here. And so, as part of my ongoing obsession with socialized medicine, today I thought I’d share a few things I’ve picked up along the way regarding women’s health:

1. All questions are referred to an advice sister. Yup. That’s what they call her. Not “our consultant” or “the on-call/duty doctor.”¬† An advice sister. It sounds so comforting. And given my penchant for therapy, I was half inclined to ask her if I could hang out all day and talk about some non women’s health-related things. I mean, hey, it’s free, right?

2. You don’t necessarily see an OB/Gyn. This is probably also true in some women’s health clinics in the United States, but here you only see an OB if you’re having a baby and a gynecologist if you’ve got a serious (gynecological) problem. For pretty much anything else – routine exams, birth control, infections, you name it – you can see anyone ranging from your general practitioner (GP) to a sexual health expert, a family planning expert, to an AIDS professional. It’s very rare to actually see a (specialist) doctor.

3. Speculum come in different sizes. Who knew? Turns out there are medium, medium long, large long, petite…heck, even virgin speculum er…speculae. I’m sure this is also true in other countries, but I just learned this little factoid. (The Virgin Speculum – I hear a Stephen King novel coming on!)

4. IUD’s were first used on camels. Apparently, this was to keep them from getting pregnant on their long treks across the desert back in the Middle Ages. I’m telling you, if you hang around with the advice sister long enough, you get a real education, folks.

5. Women’s health is increasingly DIY. I posted a few weeks back on the strong personal¬†responsibility ethic that pervades socialized medicine. This is particularly true of women’s health, where clinics are encouraging (particularly younger) women to conduct routine tests on themselves. You go into the bathroom with a little kit, read some instructions posted on the wall and voil√† – everyone’s a doctor. It’s all very empowering.


Was anyone else thrilled to hear that Pete Seeger – of folk music fame – just celebrated his 90th birthday? Makes you want to break out in song. C’mon everybody: If I Had a Hammer

Image: He Lived his Life like a Camel in the Wind by eNil via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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  1. Lisel Loy June 11, 2009 at 1:02 am #

    If you love Pete Seeger and haven’t already seen it, check out the concert that was held at the Lincoln Memorial the Sunday before President Obama’s inauguration. Seeger is wonderful; he performs with such energy, it is hard to believe he’s 90. Bruce Springsteen not bad either.

  2. Amy Cohas June 12, 2009 at 7:54 am #

    What a thrill to hear that Pete Seeger is still alive and well! I was just wondering the other day about how old he is now. My parents were (and are) fans, and I grew up listening to a lot of his music. Have really been enjoying your blog, by the way.

    • delialloyd June 12, 2009 at 8:36 am #

      thanks, amy! great to hear from you!

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