It is a well-known fact that women’s reproductive health and their general well-being go hand in hand. In most cases, due to a lack of awareness, women do not understand the signs of reproductive health problems. Even if they do start to notice issues or signs, they shy away from asking for help due to the societal taboo of addressing women’s sexual health. Most young girls do not have access to the right doctors, the right education in school, or the financial ability to ensure good sexual health. Women’s sexual health education should be normalized further so that women can practice healthy habits and spot signs of problems early on if any. Due to the importance of the topic, Dr. Manish Banker and the team have curated a list of some basic and easy habits that improve women’s reproductive health.
Food and women’s reproductive health:
Consuming the right food can improve women’s sexual health and even reduce the chance of getting reproductive health problems such as PCOS or anemia, which can lead to menstrual problems. It is recommended that women consume the following types of foods to stay healthy and avoid reproductive health problems:
- Whole foods are great for women’s reproductive health. Whole foods do not contain preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and hormones. These foods remain unprocessed and natural as much as possible. Some examples of whole foods are vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. When you eat a diet rich in whole foods, your blood sugar becomes stabilized due to the absence of hormones and preservatives.
- Consume more proteins– Consuming protein-rich foods can stimulate the production of insulin. Healthy sources of protein such as nuts, legumes, and eggs can not only provide your body with the right nutrients but also reduce fatigue during menstruation. Studies show that consumption of protein-rich foods is beneficial for ovulatory fertility. The stabilization of hormones like estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and other hormones go hand-in-hand with insulin.
- Iron-rich food– A very important nutrient for women’s sexual health is iron. There are more than 10 million cases of anemia in India. Improper intake of iron-rich foods is detrimental to women’s reproductive health. Proper levels of iron in the body can make up for the blood lost during menstruation. Having anemia can lead to very light bleeding during periods and extreme fatigue.
- Avoid foods that have trans fat, overly processed foods, junk foods, packeted foods, etc. Excess sugar or carbohydrate intake can cause an imbalance of insulin which leads to an imbalance of reproductive hormones. A diet that is trans-fat heavy instead of carbohydrate-heavy correlated with a 73% increase in ovulatory dysfunction/disorders. It is advised to consult a nutritionist if you are starting a diet.
Taking professional advice can also help you avoid other complex issues like eating disorders and myths related to nutrition. Forcing or pressurizing oneself to follow an extremely stringent diet can become counter-effective by causing cravings.
Bodyweight and women’s reproductive health:
The relationship between weight and women’s reproductive health has been studied very closely. In a study conducted in the USA, Women with a BMI above 30 have had a harder time achieving pregnancy. It was also found that women who are obese have more miscarriages than women who fall under the normal BMI. Being underweight also causes reproductive health problems. Some women who have a very low-fat percentage experience infertility and other ovarian disorders. If they do achieve pregnancy, it’s possible that an improper diet can affect fetal and maternal well-being. Hence, maintaining a healthy body weight should be of high priority for good reproductive health.
Exercise and women’s reproductive health:
Exercising is a habit that is a must for a healthy reproductive system. Reproductive health is also determined by the energy level in the body and hence changes in the same can lead to reproductive health problems. Various physical activities are both enjoyable and beneficial for you. For example, Zumba, boxing, swimming, etc, can help you maintain a healthy weight. However, it’s also important that you don’t overexert yourself. Both too little activity and too much can disrupt your hormonal balance. Menstrual irregularity, PCOS, anovulation, etc are some of the reproductive health problems that can arise due to inadequate physical activity.
Yoga is also a feasible option for people who prefer exercising at a slower pace. There are several poses for the pelvic region, lower abdomen, and back to strengthen the muscles. Strengthening of these muscles can not only improve women’s reproductive health but even lead to cramp-free menstrual cycles. It is highly recommended that you do not perform high-intensity exercises or yoga without guidance or a trainer as you can injure yourself.
Sleep and women’s reproductive health:
Adequate sleep plays a huge role in women’s sexual health. Lack of sleep or rest is one of the main causes of reproductive health problems like infertility in women. The functions of the reproductive system are regulated by sex hormones. These sex hormones are secreted during a circadian rhythm of sleep. Proper sleep cycles can drive the secretion, synthesis, and metabolism of the hormones required for reproduction. Sleep deprivation causes a commensurate effect in women and hence increases their chances of being infertile. Inadequate sleep can also lead to weight gain or weight loss which can cause reproductive health problems like ovulation issues. If you feel that you enjoy the silence of the night, waking up earlier than everybody else is a much healthier alternative. If you are experiencing insomnia, you can seek professional help for it.
Stress and women’s sexual health:
The ever-changing lifestyle of women can also lead to reproductive health problems. These days, most women are required to provide for the family both monetarily and emotionally. Some women can find it difficult to achieve a healthy work-life balance. According to studies, women who clocked in more than 32 hours a week as opposed to 16-32 hours a week experienced difficulties in achieving pregnancy. Stress can disrupt hormone balance and affect a woman’s reproductive health. Keeping yourself positive and happy all the time is not possible, however, you can practice habits that reduce anxiety, such as going on walks, meditation, meeting your loved ones, etc. Women’s reproductive health is largely dependent on the people surrounding them as well. Their families and partners need to support them. If you feel you are showing signs of anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses, it is best to consult a psychologist.
What habits should be avoided?
- Cigarette smoking – Smoking can cause several health issues apart from reproductive health problems. Women who smoke have issues of diminished ovarian reserve and ovarian dysfunction. Smoking can hamper the hormone levels, cause problems in the uterus, and uterine tube. Disruptions in the endocrine function can lead to menstrual irregularity, lower levels of progesterone, and even infertility.
- Consumption of Alcohol – There is no standard amount of alcohol that is safe to consume. The consumption of alcohol, irrespective of the amount is said to harm women’s reproductive health. For example, one drink a week can increase the time for conceiving in women. 5 drinks a day can have much more serious consequences. Alcohol consumption can cause hormonal fluctuations, ovarian dysfunction, anovulation, abnormal blastocyst development.
- Caffeine – Caffeine has become a widely-consumed drink today. If over 8 cups of coffee are consumed, women who are pregnant can have spontaneous abortions, miscarriages, stillbirths, and fetal death. According to a study, women who consumed four to seven cups a day had an 80% increase in the chance of stillbirth. Thankfully, there are several alternative options for caffeine. As the famous saying goes – ”Replace a bad addiction with a good one”. You can consume sugar-free, all-natural smoothies, or consume green tea as well. Green tea can promote weight loss, and smoothies are packed with nutrients that provide energy. However, it is recommended to consult a nutritionist on how many cups of green tea you can have a day.
- Unsanitary clothes/environment – Women are more prone to getting Urinary Tract Infections and other reproductive tract infections due to the shorter length of the urethra. This causes the bacteria to travel faster into our bodies. Keeping one’s private parts clean and sanitary can reduce the chances of several reproductive health problems. It is important to keep toilets sanitary to avoid reproductive health problems. While using public restrooms, you can use sanitary sprays on toilet seats. Wearing properly washed innerwear can reduce the chances of germs and bacteria. The material of the innerwear must also be breathable and should fit comfortably. It is recommended not to use very hot water or soaps while cleaning. If you wish to use intimate liquid washes, consult a gynecologist as such washes can change the ph level of intimate parts.
- Long gaps between doctor visits – It is advised to get a general checkup done at least once a year. Although the internet is useful in providing information for women’s sexual health, only a professional can diagnose/ detect issues accurately. Prioritize your reproductive health and visit a professional when you start noticing signs of reproductive health problems. If you are sexually active, then do consult the doctor before using lubricants and contraceptives. Lubricants and contraceptives like condoms can cause allergies and infections due to chemicals. Medications like birth-control pills are to be taken only under a doctor’s advice.
In a nutshell, women’s reproductive health is determined by following a healthy diet, performing the right amount of exercise, maintaining body weight, scheduling regular doctor visits, and wearing clean and comfortable clothes. It is important to avoid psychological stressors, caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and unsanitary toilets which can cause reproductive health problems. Mental wellness is also an important part of women’s reproductive health and this requires the support of family and friends. Hence if you are facing issues, do reach out to a loved one. Remember that reproductive well-being and general well-being go hand-in-hand. If you found this blog useful, you can read more on our website.
For more information on infertility causes and treatments by Dr Banker Ahmedabad:
Visit our website at https://bankerivf.com/
Read our blog at https://bankerivf.com/blog/
Subscribe to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/drmanishbanker/
Follow us on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/drmanishbankerivf/
Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BankerIVF/