What are the most common health symptoms women experience in public?

Nine in 10 women have felt ‘embarrassed’ after experiencing a female health symptom in public.

A study of more than 4,000 women found 89 per cent have felt uncomfortable and self-conscious by the likes of hot flushes, heightened emotions, excessive sweating, severe period pain or leaks while around others.

These ‘Public Displays of Womanhood’ – all natural bodily functions - have led to 12 per cent of those who experience them cancelling social plans.

While one in 20 now avoid going out altogether.

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Two thirds also faced comments from others as it happened, leaving them feeling self-conscious, anxious and even ashamed.

It also emerged that despite raised awareness campaigns in recent years, 57 per cent of the those polled still feel women’s health remains a taboo topic.

And 32 per cent feel generally uncomfortable when talking about the subject or symptoms they may be experiencing.

The study was commissioned as part of the Bupa Wellbeing Index, and Dr Samantha Wild, its clinical lead for women’s health, said: “In many cases, Public Displays of Womanhood (PDWs) are normal bodily functions which can occur from time to time and are nothing to be embarrassed about.

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“There is still a perceived stigma around women’s health, which is why women feel so ashamed when these things happen.

“But speaking about experiences, whether with friends, family or a partner, can help to break the taboo and normalise PDWs.

“However, when PDWs begin to impact day-to-day life, such as going to work, exercising or socialising, and lead to mental health concerns as many women in the study have said, then it’s important to speak to a doctor who will be able to look into whether these symptoms are normal or need further investigation and guide you through a treatment plan.”

The study found of those who have experienced a women’s health symptom in public, the most common were excessive sweating (76 per cent), heightened emotions (69 per cent) and hot flushes (68 per cent).

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While 58 per cent experienced period blood leaking where it’s visible to others.

Others have suffered urinary incontinence (58 per cent) and leaking breasts (34 per cent), both of which are common during and after pregnancy.

These left 34 per cent forced to abandon what they were doing and go home early, while one in 10 had to rush off and buy new clothes.

As a result, a third are anxious about it happening again, with around one in 20 (six per cent) choosing to work from home more often to avoid being around others just in case.

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But the study also found women feel uncomfortable talking to their male manager (42 per cent), child (24 per cent) and even their partner (12 per cent) about women’s health.

And two thirds think it is still seen as an embarrassment if you experience a women’s health symptom in public, leaving 53 per cent worried about suffering one in the future.

Carlos Jaureguizar, CEO for Bupa Global & UK, said: “These latest insights from the Bupa Wellbeing Index show how women’s health needs to be more part of the conversation.

“A lack of understanding leads to stigma, which makes people even more reluctant to talk about the day-to-day health concerns and experiences women face.

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“Bupa’s vision is for a world where no woman is held back in society or the workplace due to health inequality and we are committed to giving employers, educators and healthcare practitioners the tools to achieve this.

“We’re starting with a pledge to our own people to create an environment where women feel comfortable speaking about their experiences, as well as offering our Period Plan to all our colleagues in the UK.”

Top 10 most common 'public displays of womanhood'

1.            Sweating (76 per cent)

2.            Heightened emotions (69 per cent)

3.            Hot flushes (68 per cent)

4.            Severe pain – period or pelvic/abdominal) (67 per cent)

5.            Diarrhoea (62 per cent)

6.            Dizziness or fainting (62 per cent)

7.            Breakout of spots/ acne (58 per cent)

8.            Period blood leaking/ visible on clothes (58 per cent)

9.            Leaked urine (58 per cent)

10.         Vomiting (54 per cent)

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