WomensHealth_LEAD STORY1
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We all know that women are the backbone of healthy families and communities. They’re the ones who often hold the keys to their family’s well-being. But sadly, when it comes to their own health, women have been overlooked for far too long. Studies show that when women are healthier, everyone benefits.

Yet, for the past two decades, we’ve missed the mark in understanding the intricacies of women’s health. There’s been a common assumption that, aside from gender-specific conditions, men’s and women’s bodies respond to symptoms and treatments in the same way. But that assumption is far from accurate.

It’s time to bridge these knowledge gaps and commit to eliminating these disparities. Only then can we achieve similar health outcomes for both men and women.

Dispelling myths

When it comes to women’s health, misinformation can often cloud the path to proper care and well-being. Doctors play a crucial role in dispelling myths and educating their patients to promote better health outcomes. Dr Zofia Gordon Sönmez, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Medcare Women & Children Hospital says one prevalent myth she often encounters is the belief that gynaecological visits are only necessary during pregnancy. To address this, Dr Sönmez emphasises the importance of regular check-ups for reproductive health, as these visits are crucial for screenings and early detection of various conditions, not just for pregnant women.

Dr Zofia Gordon Sönmez, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Medcare Women & Children Hospital

Another mistaken belief that Dr Sönmez tackles is the idea that heart health is a concern only after menopause. “Heart disease can affect women at any age, and there is a need for lifelong heart health practices,” she says. “There is also the belief that new moms should rest for a month after giving birth. While rest is important, early mobility helps prevent complications such as thrombosis and recovery after delivery. Also, a postpartum check-up is crucial for maternal health.”

Dr. Monica Chauhan, Consultant Gynecologist, Minimal Invasive and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgeon, Member of AGI, Burjeel Medical City is for promoting open communication to address common misconceptions in women’s health. One prevalent myth she often encounters is that pain and heavy bleeding during menstruation are normal and should be tolerated. Dr Chauhan works to dispel the misconception that women’s health issues are solely related to reproductive health. “Women should openly discuss their menstrual health concerns,” she says. “These can be tackled in practice by encouraging open communication and actively listening to patients’ questions and concerns. Creating awareness, supporting campaigns and disease education are important pillars.”

There are also specific fallacies related to birth control, menstrual health, and exercise during pregnancy. One common myth Dr Lubna Fatimah, Specialist Gynaecologist, Aster Clinic, Al Qusais (Damascus Street) encounters is the belief that birth control pills lead to infertility. “Birth control pills regulate menstrual cycles, preventing pregnancy temporarily,” says Dr Fatimah. “Most women can conceive shortly after stopping. They need to be educated on temporary effects and family planning alternatives when ready to conceive.”

What Dr Fatimah also tackles is the idea that painful periods are normal. She encourages open discussions on menstrual health and recognises the importance of seeking medical advice for severe pain, ensuring timely diagnosis and treatment. “Recognise red flags such as severe pain, and ensure timely visits to the doctor,” she warns. “Healthcare providers conduct thorough evaluations, including pelvic exams and imaging, to diagnose and treat conditions.”

What to watch out for

Awareness and early intervention play pivotal roles in preventing major complications. By staying informed and seeking timely medical advice, women can reduce the risk of major complications and enjoy healthier futures.

Dr Sönmez lays emphasis on the importance of cancer screenings, particularly for breast and cervical cancers, which are leading causes of female mortality. Medcare Women & Children Hospital offers comprehensive screenings and consultations to detect and address any issues promptly. “Maternal health is another area of focus, with programmes like the Blossom Maternity Programme providing thorough care throughout pregnancy, post-partum, and delivery,” she says.

Dr. Monica Chauhan, Consultant Gynecologist, Minimal Invasive and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgeon, Member of AGI, Burjeel Medical City

Non-communicable diseases like PCOS are prevalent, but early intervention and lifestyle changes can mitigate risks. Individualised care at Medcare Women & Children Hospital addresses concerns such as infertility and obesity. Dr Zofia also highlights the importance of addressing pregnancy-related issues, especially for high-risk pregnancies, through specialised care from a multidisciplinary team. “Pre-existing conditions can worsen during pregnancy, affecting both mother and child,” she says.

Dr Chauhan stresses the importance of recognising common presentations that could indicate underlying issues, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding, abdominal or pelvic pain, and irregular menstrual cycles. These symptoms should prompt patients to seek medical attention to prevent potential complications.

Dr Fatimah highlights the significance of regular gynaecological check-ups for early detection of reproductive health issues. Breast health is also crucial, with regular self-exams and mammograms recommended for early detection of breast cancer. Family planning and contraception are essential for controlling reproductive choices, and practicing safe sex and getting regular STI screenings can prevent complications.

“Educating women about menstrual health, fertility awareness, and pelvic floor health is crucial,” Dr Fatimah advises. “We also need to ensure adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D for bone health, along with seeking support for mental health concerns.”

WomensHealth_LEAD STORY2
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Key preventive measures

Dr Agatha Moniz, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at Medcare Women & Children Hospital, says scheduling routine visits to a gynaecologist for pelvic exams, pap smears, and breast exams can help detect gynaecological issues early. She also advocates for contraceptive counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Dr Lubna Fatimah, Specialist Gynaecologist, Aster Clinic, Al Qusais (Damascus Street)

“Consider HPV vaccination as another preventive measure to lower the risk of cervical cancer,” says Dr Moniz. “Monitoring menstrual health and seeking medical advice for irregular periods or severe symptoms is crucial. Additionally, maintain a healthy lifestyle through balanced nutrition, regular exercise, stress management, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.”

Dr Chauhan echoes the importance of regular gynaecological examinations, including pelvic exams, breast exams, and cervical cancer screenings. “These screenings are essential for early detection and prevention of gynaecological issues,” says Dr Chauhan. “We need a healthy lifestyle to promote overall health and well-being.”

The role of nutrition in women’s health can’t be ignored, says Dr Fatimah, recommending a nutrient-rich diet to support overall health, including reproductive and hormonal balance. “Proper hydration and regular exercise are also key components of a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr Fatimah. “Develop effective stress management techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, or hobbies, to reduce the impact of chronic stress on reproductive health.”

Dr Fatimah also advises limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding tobacco use to protect reproductive health. “Regular health check-ups and screenings are essential for early detection of potential issues,” she adds.

A holistic approach

Dr Moniz favours engaging in meaningful discussions with patients to understand their outward issues and underlying symptoms. This approach allows for a comprehensive assessment of patients’ health needs, leading to referrals to additional specialists and experts as needed. “The multidisciplinary team at Medcare, which includes nurses, dieticians, and mental health specialists, collaborates seamlessly to provide holistic care,” says Dr Moniz. “Having all essential services under one roof ensures that women receive comprehensive health care and comfort in one place.”

Dr Agatha Moniz, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at Medcare Women & Children Hospital

Dr Chauhan recognises the interconnectedness of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. In her practice, she lays great importance to discussing not just physical health but also mental and emotional well-being. “Discussing with women about preventive health strategies, integration of lifestyle changes and self-care practices in their daily lives are equally important for optimal health and wellness,” says Dr Chauhan.

Dr Fatimah prioritises trust and open communication to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for her patients. This approach encourages patients to share both physical symptoms and emotional aspects of their reproductive health. She collaborates with mental health professionals when needed to provide comprehensive care addressing both physical and mental well-being. “We educate our patients about the importance of self-care practices that extend beyond medical interventions,” she says. “From adequate sleep and proper nutrition to regular exercise and relaxation techniques, we empower women to take an active role in nurturing their holistic health.”

Additionally, Dr Fatimah educates her patients about the importance of self-care practices, such as adequate sleep, proper nutrition, regular exercise, and relaxation techniques, to nurture their holistic health.