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Lords debates women's health

9 July 2021

House of Lords chamber

The House of Lords debated the steps taken to improve women's health outcomes on Thursday 8 May.

Debate

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Conservative), former member of the Equalilty Act 2010 and Disability Committee, put forward the debate.

Improving women's health

Menstruation

Members discussed the experiences of millions of women at different stages of their lives and highlighted the stigma around periods, the expense of sanitary products and the effects of period poverty, including school attendance.

Endometriosis

Women with endometriosis have usually been to their GP 10 times before they get a proper investigation, diagnosis and treatment – members said this is just one example of where women’s pain is not taken seriously.

Social media

The impact of social media on teenagers’ body image, eating disorders and self-harming was raised.

Birth control

Avoiding pregnancy is still largely seen as a girl’s responsibility, members argued for boys to be better educated in birth control.

Pregnancy

Members said antenatal care is inconsistent and highlighted issues in pregnancy including miscarriage, pain control for birth, post-birth challenges of getting a woman’s body back to a reasonable condition, breastfeeding, disrupted sleep and postnatal depression.

Menopause

Members drew attention to debilitating menopause symptoms such as flushes, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness, discomfort during sex and problems with memory and concentration – all frequently mis-diagnosed.

Workplace

Members said even though these symtoms tend to be temporary, the lack of understanding of the impacts often lead discrimination and women having to either leave work or lose their jobs. 

COVID-19

Concern was raised about the risk of COVID-19 accelerating women’s health inequalities, for example due to delays in regular screening that are likely to increase the number of women with pelvic and breast cancers. They also raised the added burdens on family carers due to the pandemic, who tend to be predominantly daughters and mothers and that there is data to suggest more women are suffering with long Covid.  

This was a general debate. During debates, members put their experience to good use to discuss current issues and draw the government's attention to concerns.

Members speaking 

Members speaking included: 

Lord Bethell (Conservative), Minister for Innovation at Department of Health and Social Care, responded on behalf of the government. 

Get involved

Watch and read the debate

Catch up on Parliament TV or read the transcript in Lords Hansard.

Explore background information

Find out more about the issues the debate covers in the Lords Libary briefing.