Women's health plan

The Women’s Health Plan underpins actions to improve women’s health inequalities by raising awareness around women’s health, improving access to health care and reducing inequalities in health outcomes for girls and women, both for sex-specific conditions and in women’s general health.

Annex D - Glossary of terms and acronyms

Equality terminology

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) - A United Nations treaty, adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly and is often described as an international bill of rights for women.

Cultural competence - being respectful of, and responsive to, peoples beliefs, behaviours and needs in order to deliver effective healthcare. It means being inclusive, non-stereotypical and non-judgemental.

Disaggregated data - is data that has been broken down by detailed sub-categories, for example by sex, race, disability.

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) - An international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) - The Commission has responsibility for the promotion and enforcement of equality and non-discrimination laws in England, Scotland and Wales.

Empowerment - Empowerment of women and girls concerns women and girls gaining power and control over their own lives. It involves awareness-raising, building self-confidence, expansion of choices, increased access to and control over resources. The core of empowerment lies in the ability of a person to control their own lives and choices.

Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) - An activity or process that helps you to look at the impact of a policy on different groups of people. This is a legal requirement in Scotland.

Gender-based violence (GBV) - Gender-based violence is a major public health, equality and human rights issue. It covers a spectrum of violence and abuse, committed primarily but not exclusively against women by men. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • domestic abuse;
  • rape and sexual assault;
  • childhood sexual abuse;
  • stalking and harassment;
  • commercial sexual exploitation; and
  • harmful practices - such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage and so-called 'honour-based' violence.

Gender competence - refers to the skills, knowledge and analytical capability to develop policy that is well gendered, i.e. that takes into account the socially constructed differences between men's and women's lives and experiences in an intersectional way.

Gender Budgeting/Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) - a way of analysing a budget and budget decisions to understand the impact and potential impacts on women. Government planning, programming and budgeting that contributes to the advancement of gender equality and the fulfilment of women's rights. It entails identifying and reflecting needed interventions to address gender gaps in policies, plans and budgets. GRB also aims to analyse the gender differentiated impact of revenue-raising policies and the allocation of domestic resources.

Gender-responsive programming and policy - intentionally employing gender considerations to affect the design, implementation and results of programmes and policies. Gender-responsive programmes and policies reflect girls' and women's realities and needs, in components such as site selection, project staff, content, monitoring, etc. Gender-responsiveness means paying attention to the unique needs of women and girls, valuing their perspectives, respecting their experiences, understanding developmental differences between girls and boys, women and men and ultimately empowering girls and women.

Intersectionality - how different aspects of a person's identity overlap to form their unique experience.

LGBTI - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex

Occupational/subject Segregation - Women/girls, men/boys being channelled into different types of employment or subject choices, for example over representation of women in subjects such as biology and under-representation in physics and maths. Vertical occupational segregation is the clustering of men at the top of occupational hierarchies for example female teachers and predominantly male head teachers/teachers in leadership positions.

Protected Characteristic - There are nine characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010. They are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) - The Equality Act 2010 imposes a duty on public authorities to: eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation; advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

Sex disaggregated data - data that is separated/broken down by sex, presenting information separately for men and women, boys and girls. When data is not disaggregated by sex, it is more difficult to identify real and potential inequalities. Sex-disaggregated data is necessary for effective gender analysis.

Structural discrimination/systemic discrimination - a form of discrimination resulting from policies, despite apparently being neutral, that have disproportionately negative effects on certain societal groups.

Trans/Transgender - It is currently common to use the terms transgender people or trans people as an 'umbrella' to cover the many diverse ways in which people can find their personal experience of their gender differs from the assumptions and expectations of the society they live in.

Clinical/Medical terminology

Abortion - An abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy. It's also sometimes known as a termination of pregnancy. The pregnancy is ended either by taking medicines or having a surgical procedure.

Antenatal (prenatal) - before birth.

Antenatal care - Antenatal care is the care women receive from health professionals during pregnancy.

Arrhythmia - an abnormal heart rhythm. This is usually due to faulty conduction of electricity through the heart. There are many different types of arrhythmia which can be managed differently, including medication, a pacemaker or an ICD (an internal defibrillator).

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) - This is a common abnormal heart rhythm that happens when electrical impulses fire off from different places in the atria (the top chambers of the heart) in a disorganised way. This causes the atria to twitch, and results in an irregular heartbeat or pulse. Atrial fibrillation is a major cause of stroke.

Cardiac Arrest - This occurs suddenly and without warning. The most common cause of a cardiac arrest is a heart attack, but there are other causes. In cardiac arrest there is an electrical malfunction in the heart, resulting in an irregular heartbeat that disrupts the effective pumping action of the heart. As a result, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain and other organs. Death can occur within minutes if cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation are not carried out.

Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) - is the medical term that covers all diseases involving the heart and circulation. These include coronary heart disease (CHD), heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI), atrial fibrillation, heart failure and stroke.

Congenital heart disease - Congenital heart disease is a defect in the structure of the heart that is present from birth. It is the most common birth defect affecting around 1% of all live births.

Coronary angiography imaging – This is a technique that can be used to help diagnose heart conditions, help plan future treatments and carry out certain procedures; it is considered to be the best method of diagnosing coronary heart disease. Coronary angiography gives video images (angiograms) that can show whether the blood vessels surrounding your heart are narrowed or blocked.

Disease - an abnormal condition in the body causing harm.

Chronic - something that continues/persists for at least six months.

Clinical guidelines - statements based on properly researched evidence which help healthcare professionals and patients to make decisions about medical care and treatments.

Conception - when an egg is fertilised by sperm and then starts to grow in the womb.

Contraception - Contraception aims to prevent pregnancy. A woman can get pregnant if a man's sperm reaches one of her eggs (ova). Contraception tries to stop this happening by keeping the egg and sperm apart, or by stopping egg production, or by stopping the combined sperm and egg (fertilised egg) attaching to the lining of the womb.

Contraceptive implant (Nexplanon) - It is a matchstick sized implant which is inserted under the skin of the upper arm and provides hormonal contraception for 3 years.

Coronary Heart Disease/Ischaemic heart disease - This refers to the disease process, atherosclerosis, which causes narrowing of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle. This results in impaired blood flow to the heart muscle causing symptoms including chest pain (angina) and shortness of breath. This disease process can ultimately result in a heart attack.

Diagnosis - The way a medical professional recognises a condition or disease.

Dysmenorrhoea– painful periods.

Endometriosis - a condition where cells similar to the lining of the womb (the endometrium) are found elsewhere, usually in the pelvic cavity and near the womb.

Endometrium - the lining of the womb (uterus).

Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) - FSRH is a UK-wide professional organisation with a devolved committee in Scotland. It looks at professional standards, education and training and aims to promote high quality sexual and reproductive healthcare.

Fertility - the ability to conceive a baby and, for a woman, to become pregnant.

Guideline - recommendations for good medical practice. They help patients and their medical teams make decisions about care and are developed by specialist teams who look at the best evidence available about care or treatment for a particular condition.

Gynaecologist - a doctor who treats medical conditions and diseases that affect women and their reproductive organs.

Heart failure- is a condition whereby the heart muscle is unable to pump blood around the heart effectively. This usually occurs because the heart muscle has become stiffened or weak. It is a long-term condition which worsens over time and requires medical management. Symptoms include shortness of breath, leg swelling and lethargy. Symptoms can develop quickly and suddenly (acute heart failure) or over a longer period of time (chronic heart failure).

Heavy menstrual bleeding - Heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) is defined as excessive menstrual blood loss which interferes with a woman's physical, social, emotional and/or material quality of life. It can occur alone or in combination with other symptoms.

Hormones - naturally occurring substances made in the body which control the activity of normal cells. They include: follicle stimulating hormone, gonadotrophins, human chorionic gonadotrophin, luteinising hormone, oestrogen, progesterone, prostaglandin.

Incontinence - not having full control over the bladder and/or bowel. Problems with incontinence can range from slight to severe.

Inherited cardiac conditions - Inherited Cardiovascular Conditions (ICC) are a group of genetic disorders that mostly affect the heart. They include conditions such as cardiomyopathy, inherited electrical conditions called channelopathies and problems with the main blood vessel carrying blood from the heart, the aorta.

Informed decision/choice - providing enough quality information about a suggested treatment to help a patient decide whether to go ahead. This information must be balanced, up to date, evidence-based and given in a way that the patient can understand.

Intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) - a small device fitted into the womb to prevent conception. Made of plastic and copper, it has one or two soft threads at the end which emerge through the cervix into the top of the vagina. Also known as 'the coil'.

Intrauterine system (IUS) - a small T-shaped contraceptive device that is fitted into the womb. Made of plastic, it slowly releases the hormone progestogen.

Ischaemic heart disease/ Coronary Heart Disease - This refers to the disease process, atherosclerosis, which causes narrowing of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle. This results in impaired blood flow to the heart muscle causing symptoms including chest pain (angina) and shortness of breath. This disease process can ultimately result in a heart attack.

Laparoscopy - keyhole surgery involving up to four small cuts in the abdomen. A telescopic microscope (called a laparoscope) is inserted into the body to help diagnosis or treatment.

Medical Abortion – a way of ending a pregnancy by using medicines.

Menopause - is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes they can stop suddenly. This usually happens around 51 years of age.

Menstrual cycle - the monthly process in which an egg develops and the lining of the womb is prepared for possible pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilised, it is reabsorbed back into the body and the lining of the womb (the endometrium) is shed. This is known as a period or menstruation. The cycle is controlled by hormones and on average a cycle lasts 28 days.

Obstetrician - a doctor who specialises in the care of pregnant women.

Oestrogen - female sex hormone produced by the ovaries as part of the menstrual cycle. It encourages an egg to mature and prepares the womb for a pregnancy. Levels vary during the menstrual cycle.

Osteoporosis - a condition where bones lose strength, making someone more likely to break a bone than the average adult.

Ovulation - the process by which the ovaries produce and release an egg each month. Ovulation usually takes place around 10-16 days before a period.

Pelvic floor muscles - layers of muscle which support the bladder and other organs in the pelvis.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - an infection in the womb, fallopian tubes and/or pelvis caused by infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

Period - a bleed from the vagina between every 3 to 5 weeks which forms part of the menstrual cycle.

Physiotherapy - special exercises and physical activities to improve body function and strength.

Polycystic ovaries - ovaries which have at least twice as many developing follicles as normal ovaries in the early part of the menstrual cycle.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - a condition which can affect a woman's menstrual cycle, fertility, hormones and aspects of her appearance. It can also affect long-term health.

Postnatal/Postpartum - relating to the period of time immediately after a baby has been born.

Pregnancy - the term used to describe the period in which a fetus develops inside a woman's womb or uterus. Pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks, or just over 9 months.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) - Symptoms of PMDD are similar to PMS (see below) but are much more intense and can have a much greater negative impact on your daily activities and quality of life.

Symptoms can include:

  • physical symptoms such as cramps, headaches and joint and muscle pain;
  • behavioural symptoms such as binge eating and problems sleeping; and
  • mental and emotional symptoms, such as feeling very anxious, angry, depressed or, in some cases, even suicidal.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) - is the name for the symptoms women can experience in the weeks before their period. Most women have PMS at some point. The most common symptoms of PMS include:

  • mood swings
  • feeling upset, anxious or irritable
  • tiredness or trouble sleeping
  • bloating or tummy pain
  • breast tenderness
  • headaches
  • spotty skin
  • greasy hair
  • changes in appetite and sex drive

Pre-pregnancy/pre-conception - before pregnancy or conception.

Reproductive organs - the parts of the male and female body needed to create and sustain a pregnancy.

Reproductive years - in women, the time from the start of menstrual periods (menarche) to the menopause.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) - the professional body which oversees the medical education, training and examination of obstetricians and gynaecologists in the UK and many places overseas. It sets internationally recognised standards and produces clinical guidelines for treatment and care.

Screening - a test or set of tests to check for a condition in a person who shows no symptoms, but who may be at risk (perhaps because of their age or sexual behaviour, for example).

Sexually transmitted infection (STI) - an infection that is passed on through close physical contact during sex.

Stress incontinence - leaking urine during everyday activities like coughing, laughing or exercising. This usually happens because the muscles that support the bladder are too weak.

Surgical abortion – a procedure to end a pregnancy.

Symptom - a specific medical sign of a condition, illness or disease.

Syndrome - a collection of different signs and symptoms that are all part of the same underlying medical condition.


Email: womenshealthplan@gov.scot

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