The majority of women have never spoken about gynaecological health issues and sexual anatomy with their parents, a leading charity has warned.
What’s more, 84% of women said their parents never discussed the female sexual anatomy with them.
The Eve Appeal is calling on mums in particular to help their daughters become more body aware and break the silence around gynaecological health, in the hope that more young women will be equipped to spot when something isn’t right.
The survey of 1,000 women also found that one in seven mothers do not feel it is their role or duty to educate their daughter about gynaecological health, with the youngest generation of mums being the most reticent – just over a quarter (27%) agreed it was not their role to educate their daughters.
This is setting a dangerous trend among women with a third saying they would not feel comfortable talking to their mum about gynaecological issues.
Alarmingly, this issue extends to the doctor’s surgery, as 26% would not feel comfortable talking to a doctor about their vagina and 31% would not feel comfortable being examined.
Gynaecological cancers are the second biggest cancer killer among women and rates of young women being diagnosed with cervical cancer - the most common cancer in women under 35 - have increased by 20% since 2008.
Athena Lamnisos, chief executive of The Eve Appeal, said the lack of conversations around how female anatomy works is “extremely worrying”.
“If daughters don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents, or to their doctor, then it’s not surprising that we see a huge lack of understanding in this area,” she said.
“Body knowledge is vital from the time young girls begin to experience puberty, to their first sexual experience right through to motherhood and eventually the menopause.
“Without basic knowledge about the female body or conversations around how the female anatomy works how can we expect women to know what to look out for in terms of unexpected changes or to be aware of when a common symptom might indicate a gynaecological cancer? If we want to save lives, we need to see women being diagnosed earlier, when chances of successful treatment is higher.”
The charity is concerned that women downplay or miss the signs of gynaecological cancer due to lack of understanding around their anatomy.
It’s now issuing a stark warning that more needs to be done to tackle the silence surrounding these cancers, which kill 21 women in the UK daily.
Cherry Healey, TV presenter, author of ‘Letters to my Fanny’ and Eve Appeal ambassador is backing the campaign.
“As a Mum of two, I think it’s essential that mothers help their daughters decipher what it means to be a woman nowadays,” she said.
“Many girls learn to feel ashamed of their vaginas, breasts and genitalia and as a result know very little about their anatomy. And if we don’t know our vagina from our vulva and what’s normal and not for us, then it will be much harder to spot the potential signs of gynaecological cancer.
“As a woman and a mother, I feel we need to be as open and honest with each other about, and with our daughters, about our bodies as we can: understand our bodies, talk about sexual, reproductive and gynaecological health, to gradually break down the myths and taboos that still exist around the female anatomy.”