Theres a generational shift in how we talk about womens health – Yahoo News

When it comes to women’s health, Americans — and the advertisers that market to them — are getting blunter.

What’s happening: Women’s health is undergoing a generational cultural change. Younger women talk more openly about their periods and sexual health concerns — and more companies are marketing to them with messages that women only whispered about a few years ago.

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Why it matters: The shift in conversation, and what people feel comfortable addressing head-on, could ultimately lead to changes in the health care women receive.

  • “Consumers and women are more empowered today than they ever have been to speak about issues that historically have been stigmatized or spoken about in a shameful manner,” said Varsha Rao, CEO of Nurx, a women’s telehealth company.

Much of this shift has come with changing expectations among Gen Zers.

  • A survey of more than 2,000 women ages 18 to 38 by menstrual cup company Lunette found 83% of Gen Zers felt periods are a totally natural process and should be discussed by everyone, including men. In comparison, only 72% of millennials agreed.

  • There’s a “profound seismic shift” from previous generations, Deena Shakir, a partner at Lux Capital, told Insider.

There has also been an increase in understanding about the market power of women’s health in recent years.

  • Female-led health care brands such as Maven, Elvie and Nurx have become more common in recent years, raising hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital for technology solutions directed at women’s health concerns.

  • In 2019, the “femtech” industry generated $820.6 million in global revenue, according to PitchBook.

State of play: Accompanying this shift are messages from marketers that are far franker than years’ past.

  • Just a decade ago, the menstrual hygiene company Kotex had its ads banned from airing in the U.S. because it used the word “vagina.”

  • But last year, the period underwear brand Thinx launched an advertisement depicting women experiencing stained sheets from their periods before discovering their product.

  • Far from using the euphemisms of intimate washes, Lume Deodorant ads encourage women to apply the product to fight their “crotch and butt smells.”

  • Schitt’s Creek actress Annie Murphy tells viewers, “Welcome to my vagina,” before extolling the benefits of non-hormonal birth control gel Phexxi, while an ad for estrogen therapy drug Imvexxy exclaims: “Your vagina is queen.”

That level of openness can be valuable in setting the tone for conversations with health providers.

  • It can empower “women to be thoughtful about their pelvic health in ways that aren’t embarrassing to them,” Verywell Health chief medical officer and OB/GYN Jessica Shepherd told Axios.

  • Rao of Nurx said that “around here, we talk about gonorrhea the way some people talk about the common cold.”

  • “What we’ve found is, when you start talking about these issues, it’s very liberating and it’s when you’re able to deliver the best care possible.”

Yes, but: Some subjects are still off-limits. Pitchbook wrote last year that Facebook rejected an ad by Lily Bird, a subscription startup delivering bladder leakage products to women in menopause, that exclaimed, “Laugh more and leak less.”

  • Language restricts. A Columbia University Irving Medical Center study from 2020 found that women who identify as being non-heterosexual may not seek preventative sexual and reproductive health care at the same rates as their heterosexual peers because their providers aren’t using inclusive language.

  • Inequities persist. A 2020 study from Indiana University-Bloomington found that Black women reported having conversations about their sexual activities (e.g., condom use) and were offered sexually transmitted disease testing more often than white women.

The bottom line: We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

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