In the episode, “What Your Mother Never Told You About Health” of The Michelle Obama Podcast, the former First Lady sits down with obstetrician—gynecologist, and women’s health advocate Dr. Sharon Malone to talk about acknowledging, discussing, and celebrating women’s sexual health.
Read this if...
- You’re a woman in the menopausal stage
- You’re a parent of a female teen
- You want to know more about what a woman’s body goes through
Dr. Sharon Malone is an obstetrics-gynecology specialist, and a woman’s health advocate. She has over three decades of experience in the medical field.
the distilld lessons (extended)
Women’s bodies build mankind. A mother’s womb nurtures, protects, and nourishes human life before it enters the world. Women’s bodies go through a lot in one lifetime. From menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, women’s bodies have unique needs that deserve to be acknowledged, addressed, and celebrated.
In this episode of the Michelle Obama Podcast, Michelle sits down with obstetrics—gynecology specialist and women’s health advocate Dr. Sharon Malone to talk about acknowledging, discussing, and celebrating women’s sexual health.
Here are the distilld insights inspired by the “What Your Mother Never Told You About Health” episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast:
1. Open communication about sexual health prevents serious health problems.
Michelle doesn’t tiptoe around the topic of a woman’s body, and neither does Dr. Malone, when talking to their daughters. They both make a point of addressing their children’s questions, even the uncomfortable ones. Nothing is off limits. For them, it encourages their daughters to grow up proactive about their health.
Not all parents are like Michelle and Dr. Malone. A 2002 study found that parents tend to think it’s not their duty to provide sex education to their children. In the same vein, they admit that their children primarily get their sex education from TV shows. Things are improving, however, with more parents believing it’s important to talk to their children about sex.
Despite this awareness, many parents still avoid ‘the talk’. They think their children are too young, and they themselves don’t know how to broach the topic. Embarrassment plays a big role in this. Aside from avoiding the topic completely, some parents resort to ‘child-appropriate’ words instead of using clinical terms. This teaches children that discussing their bodies, even with the context of health, is embarrassing.
When we normalize discussing sexual health, it tells young people—especially teenagers—that they shouldn’t be embarrassed. When they sense our discomfort or hesitation, it tells them that raising valid concerns about their sexual health is off-limits. Instead, they turn to other young people who may or may not have had proper guidance themselves. This leads to misinformation, which does more harm than good.
For young women, shame is also a factor. It can even get in the way of women taking care of themselves. If women are uncomfortable of touching their breasts because of shame, they might not do necessary checks for lumps. Women suffer from preventable health problems involving their bodies because they’ve been taught to be ashamed of examining themselves.
2. The unique demands of women’s bodies need to be acknowledged.
Michelle says that the power of a woman comes from her ability to value her health. This is possible when she understands her own body, and how it brings changes to her physical appearance and mood. Women deserve to be informed about puberty, pregnancy, and menopause because these stages can make managing one’s health demanding.
Menopause, for example, can be especially demanding according to Dr. Malone. Apart from physical symptoms, society’s treatment of women also causes this natural process to be overlooked and oversimplified. Women go through several changes when undergoing menopause. As for symptoms, some women simply stop menstruating while other women experience the whole gamut: hot flashes, night sweats, painful urination and intercourse, among other things.
This is only one of many issues specific to women’s health. If we don’t have frank conversations about women’s help, we can’t address issues and help improve women’s lives. To start, women can speak with their doctors about their health related the above stages, even without experiencing symptoms to help them get direct guidance.
3. Women’s bodies deserve to be celebrated.
A woman’s body goes through a lot in her lifetime. Add to this the social pressures on women’s bodies. Women are constantly told of beauty standards they can’t hope to compete with. People even at times feel entitled to give women unsolicited advice or opinion about their bodies. They are also pressured to conform to certain roles like that of mother or wife.
It’s important to celebrate women and celebrate their bodies as the foundation of humankind. When we celebrate women, we can have deeper and more inclusive conversations about women’s health. This can only lead to improvements in how we can help women keep themselves healthy, and how we improve how society treats women.
For a shorter conversation, the distilld lessons summary are here.