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Uterine fibroids are ignored, until they cause major problems – simply because our reproductive systems are considered a dirty secret.
Arya had gone in for an ultrasonography last month and, to her surprise (mostly shock), it was discovered that she had uterine fibroids. She hadn’t heard of anyone in her family suffering from the same – her mother had given birth to three children. Arya didn’t know how she would break this news to her husband and mother-in-law. The couple had been married for five years and were desperate for a child.
Arya was sick of the judgemental and prying eyes of her in-laws and neighbours. In fact, one of her mother-in-law’s friends had gone to the extent of saying, “It’s high time that you think about your mother-in-law’s happiness. You can work all your life. You must have a baby soon!”
Janet also suffered from uterine fibroids. She had gone through a myomectomy to remove her fibroids but she never could conceive afterwards, which led to her divorce with her husband. Janet had since been living at her brother’s place, not that her sister-in-law was entirely pleased with the arrangement. She always reminded Janet that had she not gone forward with the myomectomy, she probably would still have been able to conceive a child with Joshua and remained happily married.
Hena had suffered from a miscarriage in 2015 because of uterine fibroids. She had a myomectomy that same year and conceived her son a year later. She couldn’t have gone through the pain of losing a child and simultaneously recover from a major operation without the support of her husband.
Hena wished that more women would get check ups regularly and prioritise their reproductive health issues instead of suffering in silence.
A significant number of women in South Asian and African countries, at some point in their lives, discover that they have developed uterine fibroids. Prioritising reproductive health of young girls and women, however, is rarely of concern. Women in rural areas of countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh still use cloth during their periods, as sanitary pads tend to be expensive. Further, many find it shameful to publicly purchase sanitary pads from pharmacies, which are usually run by male salesmen.
As our girls begin school and move to college or university, they also go through extensive academic pressure and experience stress which in turn leads them to consume processed food outside and follow an unhealthy lifestyle promoted by their peers. Studies have demonstrated how such an unhealthy lifestyle can not only lead to obesity or weight gain but also adversely affect reproductive health for both male and female individuals.
It is a known fact that very few families take their daughters to visit gynaecologists when they first start menstruating. Usually mothers are the discreet source of information, with their limited knowledge and experience. Women tend to make their first appearance at a gynaecologist’s office after they get married, particularly when they are trying to conceive or
because they are failing to do so. Thus, they may have been quietly suffering throughout their adolescence – perhaps one had heavy flow during periods and consistently suffered from iron deficiency or suffered from regular urine infection and stomach pain. But all of these issues were perhaps hidden because they did not have role models in the family who could have encouraged them to share their problems.
Perhaps young girls observed older women being secretive themselves. Therefore, they taught their daughters to do the same and assumed that any and every problem would disappear once their daughters got married. Instead, their daughters developed a major illness which made them unhappy in their marital homes or even worse, required going under the knife.
In today’s world, we want our daughters to be equal to boys and succeed at what they choose to do. For that to happen, we need to prioritise their health concerns which also includes their reproductive health. Talking about reproductive health has been made out to be an embarrassing issue by our society. Our existence begins with our reproductive health so we must take care of this gift and provide mental support to one who is suffering from such illness, instead of shaming or abandoning them because they may or may not be able to conceive.
Female members of the family -mothers or elder sisters – must get involved to ensure that girls receive regular check ups at gynaecologists in their early years not only so that they can bear healthy children in the future (if they want to) but for their physical and mental health – to achieve their dreams successfully.
Early intervention can save plenty of women from having a hysterectomy which could be the last resort for some women. So, going forward, let us not brush reproductive health under the rug. Let us take back control of our own lives and practice healthy living.
Image credits: Julieanne Birch/Getty Images, via Canva Pro
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