THE WOMAN AND HER HEALTH
Women’s experience of health and disease differ from those of men, due to unique biological, social, economic and behavioural conditions. Biological differences vary all the way from phenotype to the cellular. The social and behavioural differences though not hard-wired at birth, go a long way in determining what the word ‘health’ implies for a woman.
1.0 DEFINITION OF TERMS
The word woman can be used generally, to mean any female human but in this context we would take it to mean an adult female (a female with well-developed sexual organs) as contrasted with a girl).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defined health in it’s broader sense in it’s 1948 constitution as “a state of complete physical, mental and psychological and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
From the above definition, a woman is a female who can have a sexual urge, who can get pregnant, who can contact sexually transmitted diseases and who can be a mother. With all these attributes, the woman we refer to in this article can assume the different roles our society leaves to be played by women, ceteris paribus. This article deals on the experiences of a woman based on these premises in matters of health and how she can improve her health. It is aimed to achieve this by breaking health into four categories. This though not exhaustive, will go a long way to cover our definition of health and more.
The female reproductive organs can be subdivided into the internal and external genitalia (see the images above). The internal genitalia are those organs that are within the true pelvis while the external genitalia lies outside the true pelvis. From this, we can note some remarkable features:
The ureter does not serve as the sex organ as well.
The ureter does comes out as an opening and not lengthy as the penis in the adult male.
The vagina is partly covered by the labia majora and minora.
The vagina is approximately 2-2.5cm away from the anus and very close to the uretal opening.
All this make the reproductive system of a woman, prone to infection both from the ureter, the anus and from the outside. Infectious complications associated with female reproductive organs include, but are not limited to,vaginal and vulvar candidiasis, herpes simplex lesions,Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection, Chlamydia trachomatisinfection, trichomoniasis , bacterial vaginosis , tubo-ovarian abscesses, and pelvic inflammatory disease.A woman due to the length of her ureter would have to squat to urinate, exposing herself to infections should her environment be contaminated. Infections could build up in the folds of the of both labia should she not make extra effort to clean them. Misdirected urine could flow to the vagina, affecting the pH and microbial flora, thereby causing irritation. Microbes from the gastrointestinal system could be transferred through the faecal-vaginal route to the vagina should a woman not clean the anus properly after defecation. The reproductive system of a woman equally breaks down since due to its function in sexual reproduction. It is associated with various disorders, including disorders of menstruation, pain, pelvic floor support with or without continence disorders, trauma, iatrogenic outcomes,
correction of congenital anomalies, and malignancies.
To maintain her reproductive health, a woman must do the following:
I. Practice safe sex.
II. Maintain a healthy body weight. If you weigh too little,you won’t produce enough estrogen and your reproductive system will shut down. If you weigh too much, you’ll have too much estrogen in your system,which acts like birth control medication, and in your later years, is a risk factor for cancer.
III. Not subject herself to mechanical abortion.
IV. Treat a urinary tract infection as soon as possible.
V. Get a regular gynecological examination.
VI. Avoid vaginal infections, which can result in damage to your uterus if left untreated. Precautions include changing tampons regularly, cleaning yourself properly after using the toilet, taking care of genital piercingsand staying out of contaminated water.
Being a woman comes with its own responsibilities both from nature and the social status given to women in the society where they live. This includes child bearing and rearing, bread-winning g, homemaking to mention but a few. In many societies, these responsibilities are given to women even at a very tender age. These expose women to a lot of physical disorders.A relatively small number of physical disorders are unique to women, are more prevalent ore serious in women or require special prevention or intervention strategies in women. However according to the Women’s Health Magazine, it is estimated that 10 – 20 million women will develop a physical or mental disability every year. Physical disability here refers to blindness, amputation, epilepsy due to birth defects, age, diseases, accident e.t.c.
Women should be educated on the importance of their physical health and how they can maintain it through regular exercise, balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding overloading themselves with strenuous jobs e.t.c.
Maternal health is the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period. The United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA estimated that 289000 women died of pregnancy or childbirth related causes in 2013. These causes range from severe bleeding to obstructed labour, all of which have highly effective interventions. While there has been decline in worldwide mortality rates, much more has to be done. High rates still exist particularly in impoverished communities with over 85% living in Africa and Southern Asia. Maternal death prevention encompasses
I. Perinatal care: expectant mothers should receive antenatal care visits and have access to good food including fruits and vegetables.
II. Skilled birth attendance: Many state hospitals in Nigeria have given in to this. There is free childbirth and even National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) ensures up to four life births. More need to be done, women in the rural areas are still left out. Since very many of these places lack hospitals and those that do, lack both skilled personnel and facilities.
III. Emergency obstetric care to address major causes of maternal death like miscarriage, haemorrhage, abortion e.t.c.
IV. Postnatal care: States should include postnatal care both for mother and child and not only antenatal. Postnatal refers to majorly six weeks following delivery. During this time, bleeding, sepsis and hypertensive disorders can occur in women and newborns are at their most vulnerable state.
Psychological and Mental Health
Psychological and mental healths though different from each other are grouped together here because they both have similar effects. Psychological health was at one point not taken as seriously as it is today. If you came in with a complaint of a broken bone or bruised leg, a doctor would be able to help you. But if you came in complaining of a broken heart or a bruised ago, he/she may just stare at you blankly. Proper psychological health involves a normal emotional, behavioural and social maturity to a person. This means that such a person is in a healthy state of mental well being, one that they can use to function normally in society and during everyday events. Both men and women encounter many events in their life that can affect their psychological health negatively but women due to their fragile nature appear to be much more affected. These events could range from broken relationships cum marriage, disappointment from their children, heartbreaks, lack of appreciation/encouragement from people around them,death of a loved one, inability to achieve their goals e.t.c. down to personality issues. A broken woman is worse than a mad dog and given the role that women play in our society there is need for them to maintain a sound psychological health. This can be achieved by
I. Learning how to manage ones emotions.
II. Learning to forgive and let go.
III. Learning to leave a relationship once you are no longer happy with it.
IV. Learning to share ones bothers with a trusted friend and visiting a counsellor/psychologist if need be.
V. Not expecting so much from people and accepting whatever outcome from relationships e.t.c.
Our world indeed is a world of women! The health of one woman equals the health of hundreds of persons. Our women must be educated on the need and how to maintain their health. They should be given access to good health facilities and should given listening ears when they talk about their health related problems. Nations whom are still neglecting the health of their women should step up their game and channel more resources in this regard for health (of our women) indeed is wealth!