It would be great if every woman had a warm, open relationship with her mum and could talk about whatever she wanted, but in reality not everyone is close to their parents or feels comfortable having personal chats with them. There are times when this kind of communication with your mum could really affect yours or your children’s health though, so if you haven’t already done so, perhaps it’s time to consider asking your mum some pointed questions about her family’s medical history.
A common situation which always brings home to me the importance of this information is pregnancy. It is very important in planning a pregnancy to identify whether any family history of inheritable genetic diseases exists, like thalassemia or cystic fibrosis. Knowing that there is an increased risk of your baby inheriting such a disease might allow prevention, early detection, preparation or intervention.
Another important factor to identify is an increased familial risk of breast or ovarian cancer. There are many online risk calculators available to help you determine whether yourself and other family members are at increased risk, but you will need to know which family members have had these cancers and at what age, ie. maternal grandmother age 45, maternal aunt aged 52, etc. And more broadly, identifying and treating yours or your children’s cardiovascular risk factors will be made much easier by knowing whether your immediate family have had high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart attacks or strokes.
The article included below comes from Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, and includes some important points to discuss with your mum or daughter which may impact specifically on your family’s women’s health. So why not fire up the kettle and invite mum over for that little chat today?
As a woman, knowing some key things about your mother’s life journey can give you an idea of what to expect and what to keep an eye on. Some important questions to ask her are:
Women can experience periods very differently. Your best ‘crystal ball’ is your mother. Ask if her periods are/were regular, if her bleeding was heavy or light when she was your age (it can change over time) and if she had much pain just before or during her periods.
Your final menstrual period (menopause) is likely to happen at a similar age to your mother’s. If her periods stopped spontaneously (not due to surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy) before age 45, ask a doctor about protecting yourself against long-term health risks such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
Your chance of developing common gynaecological conditions like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is higher if a close female relative has it. Many older women may still not know they have particular conditions, so ask if your mother has/had a lot of pain with her periods, if she had any problems getting pregnant, or if she has trouble managing her weight or body hair.
Depression can run in families, but this doesn’t mean that if your mother has experienced depression you automatically will. If she has, ask when and for how long. You may experience something similar, particularly if her mood was affected by her menstrual cycle, but your own life events and lifestyle (drug and alcohol use, physical activity, social support) are also important factors.
If your mother had high or low blood pressure later in life, it could well be lifestyle related, but if she was quite young it’s something you should ask your doctor to keep an eye on.
Download a free eBook full of tips from real Australian women to future generations at www.jeanhailes.org.au.
Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health – www.jeanhailes.org.au – 1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642)