Many women fall off their career trajectory owing to the poor management of women’s healthcare. Despite the similar nature of disorders in both men and women, women often get the short end of the stick due to gender bias in healthcare. Traditional and cultural taboos and other socioeconomic factors have prevented women from obtaining timely and appropriate healthcare.
MedPiper Technologies and JournoMed in association with Indian Women Network had conducted a Women’s Day Special Webinar on 11th March, 2022 where the speakers explored various issues faced by women and how addressing them can transform women’s healthcare. One of the speakers, Dr. S Usha Rani spoke about the common gynaecological issues in women. Dr. Rani is the Lead Consultant and Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Dr. Mehta’s Hospital. The event was moderated by Ms. Hema Mani, the Chairwoman of Indian Women Network.
While women’s healthcare go beyond the realms of reproductive and sexual health, most of the issues that women face falls in these categories. Some common concerns surrounding reproductive health include menstrual irregularities and associated anxieties. The parameters indicative of a normal menstrual flow are:
- Average length of a menstrual cycle is around 24 to 38 days
- Menstrual bleeding lasts 3 to 8 days
- An irregularity of 7-9 days in the cycle is normal
- The volume of menstrual blood flow is around 5-80ml
Why is Menstrual Health So Important?
Dr. Rani says that period care is extremely important as it affects all aspects of a woman’s life. Proper sanitation facilities and menstrual products for women should be available at schools and workplaces so as to prevent absence and lack of participation due to periods. Women may also feel uncomfortable due to fear of leakage and may suffer from infections and other issues. It is also necessary to get rid of the taboo and explain, especially to the younger generation, that there is nothing to feel ashamed about menstruation as it is purely a physiological process.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are a set of symptoms that occur just a few days before the start of menstrual bleeding. These symptoms include fatigue, abdominal and lower body cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, headache, nausea, and mood swings. If any of these symptoms greatly affect the day to day life, then one should immediately consult a specialist.
Common Menstrual Products
Some of the commonly used menstrual products are:
- Menstrual Pads: Pads are worn externally which collect and absorb menstrual flow. They are also used after delivery, abortion and miscarriage. Pads can either be disposable or reusable (washable) and should be changed every 4-6 hours. With pads, odour is more prominent as the externally collected blood is exposed to air and gets oxidised. Rashes are also commonly seen with pads.
- Tampons: these products are made of rayon, cotton or a rayon cotton blend and are inserted into the vagina during menstruation, hence there is less odour. One has to change tampons every 6-8 hours. However the biggest disadvantage of using tampons is the development of toxic shock syndrome.
- Menstrual Cups: It is a small, flexible funnel-shaped cup made of rubber or silicone that is inserted into the vagina to catch and collect period fluid. The cup can be removed from the vagina, washed and reused. The advantages of using menstrual cups include lesser leaks, no rashes, economical comfort (reduces cost of buying tampons and pads) and most importantly, negligible environmental wastage (one menstrual cup can be used up to 5 years). Dr. Usha Rani implores everyone to use a menstrual cup so as to protect the environment by reducing wastage due to pads and tampons.
The vagina has a self cleansing mechanism due to which it is always lubricated and produces secretions. These secretions are normally clear or white in colour and vary in volume and texture throughout the cycle. Mid cycle secretions are usually voluminous, slimy and difficult to wash off. Premenstrual secretions are thick and curdy. Vaginal discharge is considered abnormal when:
- There is presence of blood (more than a few drops) and the time of the cycle is not close to menstruation
- There is extremely foul odour with greyish, yellowish or greenish white discharge
- The discharge causes itching, discomfort or a rash.
If any of the above signs are seen, one must consult with the gynaecologist.
Other Aspects of Women’s Healthcare
The speaker also addressed other aspects of women’s reproductive health such as:
- PCOS/PCOD: Polycystic ovarian syndrome is characterised by enlarged ovaries due to abnormal cyst formation, irregular periods and increased androgen secretion.
- Perimenopause: Perimenopause refers to the transitions the body before menopause. One must visit the specialist if they experience heavy and prolonged bleeding, post coital bleeding or if the symptoms affect their daily life.
- Obesity: Obesity is a common issue due to changes in the current day economical and environmental scenarios. Obesity can give rise to a slew of issues in women like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obstructive sleep apnea and psychosocial problems.
- Cervical Cancer: This malignancy in the cervix can easily be managed by getting a pap smear and the necessary screening and taking the HPV vaccine.
- Breast Cancer: Women must perform self screening or undergo a mammogram so as to monitor and avoid cancer progression.
Women’s health is extremely important as it affects their reproductive and psychological well-being. The taboos surrounding women’s health have to be abolished to ensure equitable healthcare availability.