Women Need to Speak Up About Health Taboos

15/03/2012 22:21 GMT | Updated 15/05/2012 10:12 BST

Last week I was invited to go to a well-known TV channel for an audience with a group of executives and tough-talking news editors.

My challenge? To try and convince these businessmen and hard-working hacks that women's health should be added to their agenda. As I chatted to them about female incontinence, fertility, childbirth, ovarian cancer and other key health issues I was painfully aware I might not have the most sympathetic audience.

'These aren't the most suitable topics for the family dinner table,' piped up one of the suits. 'We have to consider the sensibilities of our audience.'

At Wellbeing of Women we're used to talking about the unmentionables in women's health so that we can raise funds and generate publicity. Some days are easier than others. But I'm always willing to wade in and have a go. Our charity is dedicated to improving the health of women and babies to make a difference to everybody's lives today and tomorrow. We fund medical research and training grants which have and will continue to develop better treatments and outcomes for tomorrow.

Topics of conversation in our office this week have included incontinence, premature birth, uterine rupture and the illustrious Julian Fellowes who is joining us a for a special coffee morning at the House of Lords (more of which next blog!)

It's also been big week because two of our funded research-projects have published their results.

Our team in Leicester have demonstrated that Botox can be used as a very effective treatment for overactive bladders - a condition that affects a huge proportion of women of differing ages. This will transform the lives of thousands of women not helped by existing treatments. This is a major coup for us as one of the only funders of this kind of medical research.

Statistics show that one in three women over the age of 30 will suffer with some kind of incontinence.

This is not a condition of the elderly; it is something that will probably affect you or the woman sitting next to you at some time in your life.

The most likely times for incontinence to hit are after having a baby (especially if it was a big, heavy one) or as you approach and go through the menopause. Research is still being done to find out exactly why.

Suffice it to say that there are plenty of unanswered questions about why women (and men) wee when they don't want to. And yet it is a condition rarely discussed and attracting very little funding. Presumably it is a topic best whispered about like so many health issues in earlier generations. However the longer we are content to avoid the topic, the longer people will suffer.

There are thousands of women in the UK today who have not left their house because they are too worried about wetting themselves.

Despite the best incontinence pads, despite having a map of all the local toilets sometimes it all becomes too much.

I think that two of the saddest stories I have ever heard are of the high-flying business woman who sneezed on the underground and wet herself. She was so embarrassed that she rearranged her coat over her knees and stayed on the train to the very end of the line where she could hurry off the train.

Then there's the attractive 45-year-old who put an end to a happy new relationship because she was worried she would 'leak' during sex and couldn't bring herself to talk to her new boyfriend about it. She was heartbroken.

At Wellbeing of Women we urge women (and men) to speak up about these health taboos, to openly discuss the treatment options because it is only when there is a noise that the money will be raised to find the answers to these profoundly debilitating conditions.

Which brings me back to my audience with the TV executives last week.

Well, I'm delighted to say that with a little persuasion, they finally agreed to give some of our stories air time - providing I could find some 'suitable' case studies. So come on ladies, don't be shy!