International Women’s Day Part 5: Four things men should know about women’s health

Truth is, women's bodies are very different compared to men's. And it is not confined to hormones and the reproductive system.

Myupchar March 02, 2020 14:44:36 IST
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International Women’s Day Part 5: Four things men should know about women’s health

Did you know women experience an entirely different set of symptoms than men when it comes to certain health conditions? Or did that amaze you a bit? Don't worry, most men (and many women too) don't know all that much about women’s health. Despite making up half of the world’s population, women face major bias when it comes to healthcare. Most women don’t even get timely access to healthcare services since their health concerns are not as well known. 

International Womens Day Part 5 Four things men should know about womens health

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

A 2003 study suggested that it’s not just the society; the healthcare community is biased towards men too. Most studies that led to advancements in science had men as their volunteers. 

Truth is, women's bodies are very different compared to men's. And it is not confined to hormones and the reproductive system, even though hormonal differences make women more prone than men to certain conditions.

This year, for International Women’s Day, we are doing a series on various topics that touch upon women’s health. In this part, we talk about things that most men need to know about women’s health. 

1. Menstruation

Unfortunately, many men still cringe at the thought of a discussion related to the menstrual cycle, let alone menstrual health. And those who don't cringe, still don’t know much about it apart from PMS (premenstrual syndrome).

Yes, women menstruate and it is more than just PMS and mood swings. Period pain and cramps are a real thing and so is fluctuation in period bleeding. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS that about 5-10% of women suffer from right before their periods. Experts say that women who have PMDD get symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety during this time. 

Those who suffer from conditions like polycystic ovarian disease (PCOS), endometriosis, and uterine fibroids have much more severe cramps during periods and experience more fluctuations in their monthly cycle. Studies suggest that dysmenorrhea (painful periods) can be debilitating for women who suffer from this condition. And no, the pain isn't just in their head - so asking them to stop thinking about it won't make it go away.

2. Pregnancy

Pregnancy is often depicted as one of the most beautiful phases in a woman’s life. And while that may be true for some, what most men don’t understand is a woman’s body goes through several changes during the gestation period and motherhood does not look like what most movies or celebrities portray it as.

Morning sickness is not mild nausea and vomiting when they wake up, it can show up at any time. Constipation and heartburn are a constant and so are back pain. And there are risks of complications. Pregnant women have to keep a constant watch on their blood pressure, thyroid levels and blood sugar levels since it may affect the fetus and cause birth defects. Not to mention all the supplements they need to remember to take.

Despite all this, miscarriages and stillbirths are often blamed on women. And even when they give birth to a healthy baby, they could get postpartum depression. New moms often experience extreme sadness, anxiety and depression, so much so that it starts to interfere with their daily life. The reason: sudden drop in hormones and an inability to take enough rest or sleep after childbirth.   

And while we are at it, women can’t just fit back into their skinny jeans right after giving birth. It takes time to lose the weight healthily and even after that, their body does not go back to the pre-pregnancy body. 

Needless to say, don’t have unrealistic expectations - a woman needs a lot of support throughout the pregnancy and after giving birth. The best thing you can do is ensure that they get the rest and help they need to recover. 

3. Conditions women are prone to

Women are more prone than men to many conditions because of the major changes they go through in their reproductive cycle. These range from heart disease, osteoporosis and strokes. Pregnancy and birth control pills are two of the major risk factors for stroke. 

Of all the cases of autoimmune diseases in the world, about 78% are in women. Experts say that this may be because of the presence of two X chromosomes in women and the pro-inflammatory effects of estrogen (one of the female sex hormones).

Autoimmune diseases are those in which a person’s immune system starts to attack and damage healthy cells in the body. Some of the common autoimmune diseases include psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Women are also more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and migraine. 

4. Some diseases affect women differently 

There are a lot of conditions that show different symptoms in women. For example, a woman may experience fatigue, back pain and shortness of breath if she is having a heart attack. This is different from the evident chest pressure in men. Similarly, unlike men, women may not show severe symptoms of some sexually transmitted diseases.  

This is the reason why a lot of diseases go undiagnosed in women and as a result, lead to complications.

A man’s and woman’s body also processes medicines differently and women are more likely to face adverse reactions to drugs than men. So you can’t always change the dose as per the body type. The science is more complex than that.

This is the fifth article in a series on International Women's Day 2020.

For more articles like this, visit our section on Women’s Health.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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