|Myths about the sexual and reproductive health of women|
Myths related to women’s sexual and reproductive health
Most of the myths surrounding women’s sexual and reproductive health are based on superstition, lack of scientific knowledge, stigma and gender discrimination. Doctors debunk some of these common myths to help normalize women’s right to reproductive health.
The topic of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) carries a lot of stigma and taboos in India, and these taboos around SRH have a negative influence on emotional well-being, mindsets, lifestyle and more importantly, the physical health of girls and women. The difficulty in addressing taboos and sociocultural beliefs is exacerbated by a lack of information and understanding about puberty, menstruation, and reproductive health in general.
When women are unable to conceive, ill-informed narratives, such as that of witches inhabiting their bodies and past sinful deeds, take center stage. The disproportionate blame placed on them is one of the biggest myths to date, although infertility can be attributed to underlying ailments in both men and women, a deliberate strategy is required to combat these ills in our society.
Most of the myths surrounding women’s sexual and reproductive health are based on superstition, lack of scientific knowledge, stigma and gender discrimination. It is important to debunk prevailing myths because otherwise the problem can be treated for a while, but it will keep coming back with increasing severity.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr. Kshitiz Murdia, CEO and co-founder of Indira IVF, debunked some myths associated with fertility and sexual and reproductive health:
Myth: Having unprotected sex during menstruation is safe and will not lead to pregnancy
Fact: Although the chance may decrease, it is still possible to get pregnant if you have unprotected sex during your periods. Sex just before and during ovulation (when an egg is released) is the most likely time for a woman to get pregnant. Ovulation occurs around 14 days before your period starts, in the middle of your menstrual cycle. Although women cannot conceive during their period, sperm can survive up to five days in the female reproductive system. This indicates that a small percentage of women have a chance of getting pregnant during their period due to unprotected sex. If one has a shorter menstrual cycle, she is more likely to get pregnant from having sex during menstruation.
Myth: Women with PCOS can’t get pregnant and losing weight can “cure” PCOS
Fact: Due to irregular ovulation and hormonal abnormalities, women with PCOS may have difficulty conceiving, but with the right medications and the assistance of a fertility specialist, it is possible. Women with PCOS can benefit from a variety of reproductive treatments, medications, and even assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as IVF. While fitness and a healthy lifestyle are always recommended, there is currently no treatment for PCOS. Obesity can exacerbate hormonal imbalances in the body, so it’s important to eat right and exercise regularly. These lifestyle adjustments will increase the body’s use of insulin, allowing better control of hormone levels. Although losing weight can help with ovulation, it is not a cure for PCOS.
Myth: Infertility is only a women’s problem
Fact: Infertility can be related to underlying disorders in both sexes, based on medical evidence. It is related to underlying disorders in women 40% of the time, in men 40% of the time, and problems with both partners 20% of the time in couples who cannot conceive. Infertility is a growing problem in today’s population, and calling it a one-sex problem is inaccurate and offensive.
Adding to the list, Dr. Riddhi Desai, Associate Consultant, Gynecology and Obstetrics, PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Center in Khar, shared:
Myth: Women shed impure blood during periods
Fact: Menstruation is a healthy and natural process by which the reproductive system prepares a woman’s body for pregnancy. When you think about it, periods are vital as humanity needs the ovarian and menstrual cycles for its propagation and survival. Menstrual blood is not dirty and contains no toxins or impurities. It actually consists of tissue from the lining of the uterus along with the same blood that circulates in the body.
Myth: Birth control pills can cause cancer
Fact: More than 200 million women worldwide use oral contraceptive pills. They are safe with no scientific link to cancer causation. Quite the contrary, they help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer in women, such as ovarian and uterine cancer. It has been shown that the longer a woman uses the pill, the lower her risk of these cancers.
Myth: Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) cause menstrual problems
Fact: LARCs include intrauterine devices (IUCDs), hormonal injections, and implants. IUDs work locally on the lining of the uterus and can cause different menstrual changes. Hormone-releasing devices, as well as injectables and implants, make periods lighter or even stop altogether. It’s perfectly normal and even beneficial not to bleed every month, and women who experience heavy periods really appreciate this change. For women who prefer to have regular periods, there are copper devices, although they can make periods heavier. Talk to your doctor to make an informed decision based on your preferences.
To help normalize women’s right to reproductive health, OB/GYN consultant Dr. Nozer Sheriar helped bust some myths including:
Myth: HPV is rare and unlikely to infect me, so I don’t need to get vaccinated
Fact: Genital HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It is believed that most women and men will be infected with at least one type of HPV in their lifetime. It is now accepted that certain high-risk strains of HPV are the cause of cervical cancer. We now have vaccines that provide nearly 80% protection against the most common high-risk HPV types. These HPV vaccines are safe, do not cause any serious health problems, and are best given early to girls and even boys during adolescence.
Myth: Abortions are dangerous and lead to infertility
Fact: Although illegal abortions performed in an unsafe environment by unqualified persons are dangerous, abortions performed in a safe environment by trained and qualified medical professionals are one of the safest medical procedures, with a lower risk of complications than 0.05%. In fact, more than 90% of abortions are performed in the first trimester, and the highly effective medical method of taking abortion pills now accounts for more than 80% of all abortions. There is absolutely no link between abortion and infertility and a woman can become pregnant immediately after an abortion, so effective contraception should be started as soon as possible.
Myth: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in midlife causes Cancer
Fact: MHT has been shown to be the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, which can have a significant impact on your daily life. In addition to this, it has a protective effect on the heart, bones, and mental health after menopause. The misconception that MHT leads to cancer is based on old and flawed studies that have since been refuted. While it is true that receiving more hormones than your body requires could increase the risk of certain types of breast and uterine cancer, balanced MHT itself does not increase the risk of cancer and can be safely taken under the supervision of your gynecologist.
Source: Hindustan Times, Direct News 99