Women and AFAB individuals can take control of their health by incorporating several simple steps. This includes scheduling regular visits with their doctor to get screenings, and making and keeping appointments.
A woman should always talk to their physician about their reproductive goals before starting hormone therapy. Fertility preservation options may be available.
Women and AFAB individuals need to exercise regularly to make bones and muscles stronger, which helps reduce the risk of falls and bone loss. It also helps balance hormones. Exercise should include weight training, walking and aerobic activity.
In addition to exercising, eating a balanced diet is important for both sexes. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains will help to keep hormones balanced. It is also important to include protein, healthy fats and calcium.
People AMAB can also improve their health by exercising with a buddy, regardless of gender. This will help increase motivation and help them push themselves further in their workouts. In fact, a study published in June 2016 found that people AFAB who exercised with a friend had better results than those who didn’t.
2. Eat Right
Women and AFAB individuals should eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. This can help with hormonal imbalances, such as those that can cause hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Sex assigned at birth, also known as biological sex, is determined by a person’s physical anatomy (including genitalia and reproductive organs) and chromosomes. AFAB sexual minority individuals can identify as female, male, nonbinary, transgender or gender-fluid.
Despite health data that show AFAB sexual minority individuals are at increased risk of heart disease, cancer and mental illness, many avoid seeking routine healthcare services due to concerns about discrimination by medical professionals (Agenor et al., 2017; Everett et al., 2019). In a qualitative study, AFAB sexual minority participants reported that their healthcare professional’s asking a question about preferred pronouns would help them build trust and feel more comfortable discussing their sexual orientation and gender identity with them.
3. Get Plenty of Sleep
A lack of high-quality sleep can lead to a variety of health problems. It is important for women and AFAB individuals to get plenty of restful sleep.
Several studies show that, overall and at most life course stages, women sleep longer than men (Hislop and Arber 2003a; Maume, Sebastian, and Bardo 2009). However, these studies do not account for differences in work-family responsibilities and gendered expectations for time use and leisure, nor do they explore women’s strategies to preserve their time for sleep such as seeking earlier bedtimes or napping.
Certified nurse practitioner Kinsey Kolega says that people who identify as AFAB can have a difficult time finding medical information that aligns with their gender identity. “This can make them feel alienated from and disconnected from the healthcare system, which can discourage them from getting needed care,” she says.
4. Stay Stress-Free
Women tend to experience more physical and emotional stress, which can have a negative impact on their health. Women and AFAB individuals who are stressed are more likely to miss doctor’s appointments, suffer from menstrual pain or develop other ailments.
Women and AFAB individuals can better protect their health by learning to recognize the signs of negative stress in their bodies and life areas. Physical stress signs include headaches, trouble sleeping, fatigue, pain in the back or neck, skin problems and drug and alcohol misuse. Emotional stress signs include feelings of sadness, anxiety and anger. Occupational stress includes poor concentration, job insecurity and work overload. Social stress includes family issues, loneliness and lack of social connections.
A mental health intervention called ESTEEM was recently developed and tested in a sample of SGM-AFAB individuals. Future research should replicate this intervention with SGM-AFAB samples.
5. Get Regular Checkups
Health screenings are important to catch problems in their early stages when they can be treated with less invasive procedures. In addition, routine checkups can help prevent conditions that can become more serious if they are not addressed in a timely manner, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
It is also important for women to get regular gynaecological exams. These appointments can provide valuable information about a woman’s overall health, and they should include tests for STIs (such as chlamydia), blood work, and mammograms.
A recent study showed that AFAB sexual minority individuals want healthcare professionals to affirm their gender and sexual orientation, especially during clinical visits. This will allow them to feel comfortable sharing more personal details and may increase their trust in their providers.