Overweight or obesity is one of the most detrimental factors in women’s health, according to chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies.
In her annual report, Dame Sally said that obesity affects all aspects of a woman’s life, with effects on birth, family planning, pregnancy, and menopause. The report found that 56% of women aged 35 to 44 and 62% of women aged 45 to 54 are overweight or obese. Dame Sally also emphasised that the notion of pregnant women ‘eating for two’ needs to be combatted, as overeating can be harmful to both the mother and the baby.
‘In women, obesity can affect the outcomes of any pregnancies they have and the health of any future children they may have,’ said Dame Sally. ‘This is a difficult message to convey, as it risks burdening women with guilt and responsibility, but I believe that it can also empower women to take positive steps like eating more healthily and taking more exercise. It is never too late to take action for a healthier lifestyle – for you and your family.’
The report also looked at taboos surrounding incontinence. Dame Sally commented that urinary and faecal incontinence affects more than 5 million women in the UK and costs the NHS more than £200 million a year in treatment and support. The report also showed that 33% of women report urinary incontinence and 10% report faecal incontinence, six weeks after giving birth.
‘We need to challenge taboos around the menopause and incontinence to make sure embarrassment is never a barrier to better health,’ added Dame Sally. ‘Problems "below the waist" are not generally seen as attractive topics for public discussion, and women are often reluctant to seek help for common disabling conditions. This needs to end – women should never suffer in silence. Breaking the taboo around these subjects will help more women come forward and get the care they need.’