Online sources are failing women’s health tests due to an epidemic of misinformation

According to a recent report, medical misinformation has a real impact on patients, especially young women.

Nearly three-quarters of women between the ages of 18 and 44 want to better understand women’s health, menstrual and ovulation trackers, Flo Health has found.

Not surprisingly, women are increasingly turning to social media to learn about women’s health, the report says.

Almost two-thirds of young women said they learn more about women’s health from social media than they do at school. Likewise, nearly 20% of all women surveyed said they visited YouTube, social media, or other online forums to find information about their menstrual health.

Among other things, Flo found that 33% of women don’t know they can catch a sexually transmitted infection (STI) without penetrative sex, and that more than half of women don’t know how many days they are fertile per month.

Additionally, 62% of women said they knew nothing about polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), while 50% said they were unfamiliar with endometriosis.

There are also gaps in menstrual education: 58% of women said they felt period pain or PMS was “just something to come to terms with,” and nearly 60% of women said they didn’t know what a “normal” menstrual cycle.

Some of the gaps in knowledge can be attributed to a lack of sex education systems: only 38 states mandate sex education and 19 states teach abstinence as a form of birth control.

“Female anatomy charts and abstinence recommendations with no or no emotional or practical guidance leave girls and women lacking the skills and knowledge to manage their cycles or have a healthy sex life,” Flo concluded.

The findings shed light on misinformation and a lack of education about women’s health amid post-Roe abortion restrictions across the country.

“After the fall of Roe v. Wade we are in a perfect storm,” Flo wrote in a statement. “Women’s clinics are closing, doctors fear prosecution, and the education system is failing to properly teach reproductive health. As credible sources of information disappear, [women] search for answers online and are confronted with widespread misinformation.”

Navigating the post-Roe landscape was a crucial issue for Flo.

Last year, the company enabled “anonymous mode” for its app to help users avoid being identified with their period tracking and health data. The company said it released the new feature to help protect users’ reproductive health information, as many women fear their data could be used against them in states that criminalize abortion.

Addressing the widespread lack of awareness and education surrounding menstruation, Flo argued that this trend could lead to serious health complications such as missed diagnoses and delayed treatment for conditions like PCOS or endometriosis.

The report called TikTok a big part of the “medical Wild West.” Misinformation about topics like “free births”, birth control or periods can be found practically everywhere on the platform. Additionally, a recent report found that nearly 84% of mental health videos on TikTok are misleading.

Flo suggests that women can counter misinformation online by checking the credentials of sources, avoiding committing to “magic bullets,” and looking up references for medical claims. It’s also always healthy to question the claims of so-called “experts” on social media, the company says.

Online sources are failing women’s health tests due to an epidemic of misinformation

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