It’s still taboo to talk about stuff to do with female parts. Gynaecologists tell us five things we need to pay attention to, before things go wrong.
Twenty-six-year-old Reina Saxena* tried hard to lead a healthy life. She switched to having an organic breakfast and enrolled for a yoga class. Yet, within a year, her health deteriorated and she suffered from severe fatigue, an erratic menstrual cycle and anaemia. When she finally consulted a gynaecologist, it turned out that the cause of her ill-health was the multiple emergency contraceptive pills she had, as her boyfriend refused to use protection.
Elsewhere, 30-year-old Anagha Oak’s* mother-in-law asked her to keep her pregnancy a secret till the first trimester, as per tradition. “She reasoned that we have to protect the baby from ultrasound radiation, and then put me on a bland, vegetarian diet. A few weeks later, I passed out during a train journey and was rushed to the hospital. I followed my gynaecologist’s advice and the delivery was smooth,” says Oak.
Saxena and Oak are not isolated cases — experts, in fact, say that women quite frequently, and recklessly, either self-medicate or follow tradition over good sense when it comes to their health. From lost tampons to irresponsible sexual behaviour and complacency about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), experts single out five medical concerns women need to be aware of.
Time your period
Hectic jobs and long commutes notwithstanding, it’s important to find time to consult a gynaecologist at the first sign of an irregular period. “A woman completely ignores her health while balancing her career and household responsibilities. She delays her appointment, opts for a home remedy or finds a quick fix on Google. But an irregularity in your menstrual cycle can signify anything from a hormonal imbalance to a pelvic infection or even ovarian or cervical cancer,” says Dr Bandita Sinha, consultant gynaecologist and fertility specialist.
Dr Geeta Vaidya, consulting gynaecologist and infertility specialist says heavy bleeding is usually caused due to fibroids or PCOS and can lead to severe anaemia. “In the long run, this can lead to low haemoglobin, low bone density, premature ageing, osteoporosis as well as subclinical hypothyroidism,” she stresses. Almost every other woman suffers from PCOS. Dr Ranjana Dhanu, consultant gynaecologist, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, says, “Visible symptoms of PCOS include infrequent periods, thicker hair growth, weight gain and acne. Many girls tend to first hit the gym and consult a dietician instead of visiting a gynaec.”
Use the pill wisely
There are many myths surrounding contraceptive pills — some say they lead to weight gain while others say they render you infertile. But experts disagree. “There are many options in the market. The prescription, however, differs from person to person. In India, most medicines are available over the counter and this leads to misuse,” says Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai, consultant gynaecologist at Lilavati and Jaslok Hospital.
Dr Vaidya says it upsets her to see young girls pop emergency contraceptive pills. “They need to be taken only in the case of a genuine emergency, like when a condom breaks.”
Ask your doctor, not Google
One needs to know when it’s time to stop searching for symptoms online and instead, fix an appointment with a doctor. “Websites can present views that oppose each other and this will only leave you confused,” says Dr Pai.
Dr Vaidya says, “It is surprising how urban men and women are still influenced by self-proclaimed gurus. They advise women to stop eating non-vegetarian food, stop exercising and refrain from visiting a gynaecologist till the third trimester. Such women come to me in their seventh month with severe iron and calcium deficiencies. The fear of an ectopic or tubal pregnancy or intrauterine growth restriction cannot be ruled out in such cases.”
Address the tinkle trouble
Although urinary incontinence affects women of all ages, it is more common among women who have had children. “Stress incontinence typically occurs when physical movements like laughing, sneezing and coughing put pressure on the muscles that control your ability to hold urine, thereby causing an uncontrollable leakage of urine. Women are unaware that this disorder can be treated and thus, wear pads,” says Dr Dhanu.
Those of us who don’t sweat much after a workout often delay hitting the shower. Dr Dhanu insists that women should always take off their sweaty clothes immediately and shower because yeast multiplies fast in a damp environment, which can lead to infection. “Personal hygiene is extremely important, especially among corporate women who spend a lot of time outdoors. Women must protect themselves from staph infections,” she says. Dr Pai suggests changing sanitary napkins every three to four hours and tampons, every four to eight hours depending on the blood flow. She also recommends washing the private area thoroughly with a mild cleanser. “Patients have called me at six in the morning, saying that they can’t find their tampon. I advise them to avoid wearing a tampon overnight and to switch to a sanitary pad instead.”
GYNAEC RULES TO FOLLOW
– Get a complete check-up done once in two years
– Get an ultrasound done if a period lasts for too long
– Drop in at your doctor’s for a routine check-up, even after menopause
– Withhold important information such as previous miscarriages, abortions or epilepsy
– Put up or bear with painful sex
– Skip the condom even if you’re on the pill
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