Reproductive health is an important aspect of human life as it can affect a person physically, mentally, emotionally and also one’s social health and India ranks quite high in cases of unprotected sex where as many as 72% of sexually active young people across the country have had sex with new partners without any protection. As per the reports, at least 40% of youth in India say that they have had problems accessing contraceptives that they needed.
Taking care of women’s reproductive health involves a combination of lifestyle changes, regular check-ups with a healthcare provider and other proactive measures. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Deepika Aggarwal, Director – Obstetrics and Gynaecology at CK Birla Hospital in Gurugram, suggested some ways to take care of women’s reproductive health –
- Practice safe sex: Use condoms or other forms of birth control to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
- Get regular screenings: Regular gynecological exams, including Pap tests, mammograms, and HPV tests, can help detect any abnormalities early on and improve the chances of successful treatment.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and managing stress can help maintain overall health and reduce the risk of reproductive health problems.
- Address any pain or discomfort: Any pain, discomfort, or unusual discharge should be addressed promptly with a healthcare provider.
- Avoid smoking and excessive drinking: Both smoking and excessive drinking can negatively impact reproductive health and increase the risk of certain cancers.
- Know your family history: Knowing your family’s history of reproductive health problems can help you and your healthcare provider make informed decisions about screening and prevention.
- Stay up to date on vaccinations: Getting vaccinated against certain diseases, such as HPV, can help prevent reproductive health problems.
- Consider alternative menstrual products: Menstrual cups or cloth pads are environmentally friendly and can be more comfortable than traditional disposable products.
- Seek support: Seeking out support from friends, family, or a healthcare provider can help manage any reproductive health issues or concerns.
Pratibha Pandey, Senior Health Specialist at ChildFund India, said, “There are various myths surrounding the reproductive health of women, especially in rural areas of the country. These myths are based on superstition, lack of scientific knowledge, stigma and gender-based discrimination. In my experience, I have observed that women are seen as solely responsible for infertility amongst couples, women who are unable to get pregnant are ostracized by their family for being infertile. However, the fact is men are as likely to be infertile as women are.”
She added, “Other myths are around menstruation, the general belief is that women shed impure blood during periods and therefore, during menstruation they aren’t allowed to take a bath. Adolescent peer educators need to be trained on reproduction and sexuality to spread awareness. This will ensure that the age-old myths are broken, and a scientific temperament is inculcated. Some other ways to take care of reproductive health is to maintain hygiene around your intimate areas, opt for cotton underwear as it helps in air circulation and go for regular screenings/tests. Reproductive and sexuality health for adolescent girls is important as it help them to reflect on social norms, cultural values and traditional beliefs, in order to better understand and manage their relationships with peers, parents, teachers, other adults and their communities.”
Asha Jyoti, Policy and Advocacy Catalyst at Swasti, highlighted, “Indicators for maternal and child health are litmus tests for evaluating health systems and human development. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target for maternal mortality is 70 per 100,000 live births but states like Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur report a figure of over 280. India contributes up to 15% of all maternal deaths in the world, second only to Nigeria at 19%. We are in the throes of climate change, with an El-Nino-induced drought warning issued for the upcoming Kharif season in India. A degree celsius increase before delivery increases the likelihood of stillbirth by six per cent.”
She revealed, “Heat waves increase the number of pregnant women presenting with dehydration, malnutrition, anemia, preterm birth and complications like high foetal heart rate (termed foetal strain). Apart from heat itself, air pollution can cause low birth weight and preterm birth. Increased mental health issues and risk of increased violence and insecurity go hand in hand in such a scenario. It is imperative to ensure sustainable cooling solutions, basic but critical nutrients like zinc and iron, non-polluting cooking fuels and flexible modes of counselling and screening for the entire range of health and wellbeing issues faced by a new or expecting mother.”