The health challenges which today’s modern women face are very different from those in the yester years. Thanks to the off shoot effects of modernisation & westernisation.
To start with, the age of menarche, i.e. the age at which a girl becomes a woman (gets her first periods) has come down considerably. This puts the young girl in a tough situation. Apart from comprehending what’s going on, she needs to learn to manage her menstrual hygiene and protect herself from issues like abuse etc. The parents of such kids also get worried about the effects of early puberty.
Medically it happens due to accelerated maturity in body & mind secondary to excess and wrong type of food, lack of physical activity & exposure to adult stuff as a child. This triggers the body clock prematurely to set off menstruation. Rarely early puberty may be due to tumours in the pituitary, adrenal glands or ovaries but most often it’s a life style issue.
Demands of schooling & getting into a vocation again thrust these children into monotonous long study hours which preclude any meaningful physical activity. Going to bed late & getting up late again upsets the biological clock which is responsible for setting the hormonal rhythm in the body. Technological advances have greatly benefitted mankind in innumerable ways but when a tool becomes a task master as in the case of video games, social media addiction; it invites a whole bunch of problems like what has been said already plus alienation from near & dear ones and unwanted false intimacy to strangers who could be potential perpetrators. It could also have a negative impact on body image; self-esteem etc. predisposing to eating disorders further compounding the hormonal imbalances.
Taking your teenage girl for a check to a gynaecologist can be crucial in finding out what going wrong, how to make it right & also to reassure that all is well, as the case may be. Today’s teen is tomorrow’s mum; hence the foundation of future lies in taking care of the adolescent girl in a timely manner.
Teenage check focuses on assessing the general health, like anaemia , weight issues, specifically looking for thyroid & other hormonal disturbances like PCOS which is now very common ( 3 in 10) . It also includes vaccinations to protect from cervical cancer & develop immunity against rubella (German measles) & chicken pox viruses. It’s an opportunity to lay the foundation for a healthy life style which will be a strong point of holding for the girl when she has to manage the demands of life as a grown up woman in the future. Traditionally, all of this was done in an informal way by the elders in the family and that was the way of life then. But now extra focus needs to be given as there are lots of temptations which can distract young girls from having a healthy life style.
Talking about the age of marriage, due to demands of career progress etc women tend to get married at a slightly later age than before. This again may mean they might need help from doctors to conceive if they are not able to do so naturally. Even otherwise, getting pre-marital check with your gynaecologist can save a lot in terms of time, money & worry……..
A basic premarital check is supposed to be for a couple but most often than not, it happens to involve only the bride to be. Apart from a general health assessment, it focuses on life education, sexual counselling, pregnancy planning etc. Balancing career & family is like walking on a tight rope as both career & biological clocks tick at the same time. Planning pregnancy before 30 is ideal or at least before 35 is advisable.
Needless to say a pre pregnancy visit is imperative as the most important project in any one’s life is creating the next generation if one is planning to have kids. It gives an excellent opportunity to optimise health, pick up & treat problems which could impact the mom & baby during pregnancy and also help the couple achieve a healthy pregnancy. Tough clinical decisions during pregnancy & regret & awkward situations in pregnancy can be avoided by scheduling a pre pregnancy appointment. This is a huge unmet need in India as nearly 90 % of pregnancies in India are unplanned.
Early booking that is seeing a doctor as soon as pregnancy is confirmed by a home pregnancy test is now the standard practice. Need for regular check-ups in pregnancy cannot be over emphasised as it’s crucial for a good outcome for both the mother & the baby.
We find a huge lacuna in the after pregnancy care at which time the focus shifts entirely to the baby and most often mom‘s health priorities take a back seat. In order to fulfill duties as a mother effectively, the new mother has to continue self-care & take doctors’ advice accordingly.
It’s common practice to seek medical help if you have any health problems, at the same time it’s wise to get preventive health check-ups done when you feel apparently ok with your health. This is important to catch slow developing life style diseases like diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension, even some cancers as when the symptoms appear it may be in an advanced state.
Ideally women at and above 30 yrs should have a well woman check-up which includes basic health assessment, checking for anaemia, diabetes & screening for pre cancers, breast examination & uterus check-up ( scan & pap smear ). This can reassure those who are healthy and gives opportunity for others to get treated early. A stitch in time saves nine still holds well and prevention is always better than cure even today.
Menopause is another stage of life, which can be challenging for some women & for most of them that may the first doctor visit after their last pregnancy. Period problems, mood swings, weight gain can happen around this time. Nature also puts women at the same level as men at this stage w.r.t. health risks like diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol & heart disease. Thyroid again can be another hormonal disturbance which can compound menstrual problems. Bones also start showing weakness and calcium-Vitamin D supplementation will be necessary apart from a healthy diet, regular exercise & stress reduction. Life’s challenges are also at the peak at this time which may upset the balance.
A gynaec health check-up at this stage is imperative to preserve & promote health and to get freedom from diseases. This is very relevant now that the life span of mankind is increasing especially for women and we need to realise that women will be spending one third of their life after menopause. Menopause is just menses-pause not life pause!