A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many women put their health care on hold.
- Women have been more likely to go without health care compared to men.
- 46% of women with fair or poor health said they had skipped preventive health services.
- Women with existing health and economic challenges experienced worsening health conditions as a result of skipping health care services during the pandemic.
“These gaps in care could translate into higher numbers of women experiencing severe health issues after the health emergency from the pandemic resolves,” the foundation warns.
Do you see yourself reflected in this data? On World Health Day, make a pledge to reinvest in your health by getting preventive care — especially if you’re living with migraine.
Schedule a Physical Exam
Has it been more than a year since your last checkup? Make that appointment today. A physical exam usually includes:
- Checking vital signs, like blood pressure, temperature and heart rate
- Examining your heart, lungs, head, neck and abdomen
- Examining your eyes, ears, nose and throat
- Testing balance and motor functions
- Discussing health changes and symptoms
- Screening for diabetes, thyroid conditions, cholesterol and other conditions
Get a Gynecological Exam
If you’re a woman over 18, you should see your gynecologist once per year for a breast exam, pelvic exam, Pap test to screen for cervical cancer, and overall health assessment.
It’s important to talk to your gynecologist about migraine, because of the link between hormones and migraine attacks. Hormonal birth control containing estrogen can affect migraine for better or for worse. Some women find that birth control can help prevent migraine attacks by keeping estrogen levels steady. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise avoiding combination hormonal contraceptives for women who have migraine with aura, because of studies showing an increased risk of ischemic stroke.
Invest In Your Mental Health
“The pandemic has had a significant effect on people’s mental health, with 51% of women and 34% of men saying that worry or stress related to the pandemic has affected their mental health,” the Kaiser report found.
If you’ve been feeling anxious, depressed, overwhelmed or stressed, or experiencing other mental health challenges, schedule a consultation with a professional. Telehealth options abound: You can meet with a therapist via video or phone almost anytime. Need to talk to someone right now? Text HOME to 741741 to reach a counselor at the Crisis Text Line, which offers free, 24/7, text-based mental health support and crisis intervention.
See a Headache or Pain Specialist
More than half of all migraine sufferers never get an official diagnosis, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Of those who do seek medical care, just 4% consult a headache or pain specialist.
“Many women suffering with regular migraines don’t seek treatment. They may feel like it’s just something they need to put up with or they don’t require treatment because they don’t have headaches every day,” Dr. Elizabeth Loder, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Headache and Pain in the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, tells Harvard Women’s Health Watch.
Don’t try to tough it out and manage migraine on your own. A headache specialist or neurologist can review your symptoms, determine the type of migraine you have, identify any underlying conditions that might be causing or contributing to it, and recommend a treatment plan. While your primary care doctor may be able to prescribe pain medications, a headache specialist typically has extensive knowledge of specific migraine treatments, including new research and clinical trials. To find a specialist near you, try the National Headache Foundation’s Healthcare Provider Finder.
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