Sex can permeate our popular culture, but conversations about it are always associated with stigma and shame in Indian households. As a result, most people who are facing sexual health issues or trying to find information about sex often resort to unverified online sources or follow the unscientific advice of their friends.
To combat widespread misinformation about sex, News18.com publishes this weekly sex column, titled “Let’s Talk Sex,” every Friday. We hope to start conversations about sex through this column and approach sexual health issues with scientific insight and nuance.
The column is written by sex therapist Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain. In today’s column, Dr. Jain demystifies the crucial stages in a woman’s sexual health journey, from menarche to postmenopause, and advises on ways to stay healthy during these transitional times.
The journey of femininity is incredible yet complex. In the process of metamorphosis, in which a little girl becomes a teenager who later becomes a woman, the female body undergoes countless changes. As beautiful and important as these changes may be, there are some underlying causes that affect physical and mental health during these times of transition.
Often a girl’s lack of understanding and knowledge of these complications leads to serious health problems, and therefore in this article we intend to enlighten everyone about specific illnesses, psychological issues and the general concerns that are associated with the different stages of the development of the female body.
The major landmark of a girl’s puberty is menarche, which occurs on average between the ages of 10 and 16. Analogous to but distinct from the changes experienced by boys, a girl’s body undergoes gradual changes during puberty. Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child’s body transforms into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction to allow fertilization. It stimulates effective changes in sexual development such as transformative growth of bones, muscles, skin, hair and sexual organs, height and weight being the visible factors which change rapidly at the onset of puberty and become later slow in the adult body.
Often the girl does not understand why such changes occur, and therefore an honest and sincere conversation about women’s sexual health is imperative. Most of the time, it is the mother’s role to educate a daughter about these things, but since sex is still a very uncomfortable subject in most Indian households, many simply avoid having ‘the sexual talk’. This avoidance does not help the girl at all. Therefore, there should be more open and informative discussions about women’s reproductive and sexual health, not only in every household but also in every school.
The first thing a girl at this age should learn is menstrual hygiene, which, if not strictly followed, can lead to infections. Since the girl also goes through a lot of physical changes, it is also important to teach her to love her body. If she knows how to find beauty in her unique shape and size, there’s a good chance she’ll grow up with much better self-esteem. And finally, instead of the “birds and bees” talk, explain to her how adults have sex and why protection is essential during sex.
If she is told about these things from a young age, she will have a much healthier sex life later on and will hopefully be able to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.
At the age of childbearing, a woman should be able to openly discuss any health issue with her family and doctor. Ideally, in her early twenties, a young woman should visit the gynecologist periodically to check her sexual health.
The pressing problem of the current generation is infertility. Stress, bad eating habits (fast food cooked in oils with
high levels of trans fats) leading to obesity, too much or too little exercise, constant exposure to indoor pollutants, workplace chemicals, industrial pollutants, cigarette smoke, radiation and pollution affects a person’s reproductive system.
Since infertility is asymptomatic in nature, one can keep an eye on one’s menstrual cycle. A cycle that is too long (35 days) or too short (21 days), absent or irregular should be checked by a doctor, especially if one is between 30-40 years old. There are many causes of infertility, such as damaged fallopian tubes, hormonal disorders (overactive or underactive thyroid gland), uterine, cervical and ovulation (premature ovarian failure and PCOS).
Many also struggle with UTIs and STIs in early adulthood. So, before dating someone, especially a stranger or someone whose sexual / sexual history you don’t know, there are few questions every responsible adult woman should ask. The first question is “when was it last tested?” “. Also check with him if he is ready to use protection. Even if you are on the pill, it is best to use protection.
Pre-menopause in late adulthood
Weight gain, breasts that become sore and bumpy, loss of sex drive, altered skin texture, mood swings and irregular periods are some signs of pre-menopause and are caused by hormonal imbalances. Menstrual cycles can lengthen or shorten or not even release an egg (ovulate).
Symptoms similar to menopause, such as hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and vaginal dryness, can also occur. Most pre-menopausal women have a decrease in bone density leading to weak bones, vulnerable to fractures.
Most often, women tend to ignore these symptoms as temporary or period related. Additionally, women have an increased risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, and thyroid problems during this decade. At this stage, it becomes imperative to regularly consult a gynecologist and not to give up any symptoms.
This stage is mainly characterized by the complete cessation of a woman’s predictable menstrual cycle which progresses with aging. There is a constant decline in the number of ovarian follicles, the amount of ovarian hormones and fertility. The average age of menopause occurring is 51 and depends on difference in geography, race / ethnicity, socioeconomic status, menstrual and reproductive history, body mass index, and genetics.
Menopause is a hotly debated topic when it comes to linking it to chronic diseases like cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
Decreased libido, genital inflammation, and painful intercourse, usually leading to avoiding intercourse altogether, can be seen in about 60% of patients. Muscle and joint pain worsens during menopause because there is a decrease in bone mineral density.
In the postmenopausal stage, the most common reason that women do not place a lot of importance on their physical state is psychological state. Due to the onset of menopause, a woman tends towards depression and experiences various psychological problems. These lead to serious problems such as insomnia or sleep apnea, where a person repeatedly stops breathing during the night, causing arousals. This condition is linked to an increased risk of heart attack
Aging results in calcium deficiency and sagging muscles for which a woman must concentrate on physical activity, which can be acquired through regular exercise. In addition, a balanced diet containing vital minerals and vitamins is of the utmost importance, as the body’s needs keep changing to cope with the changes. Getting a good amount of sleep of at least 6-8 hours is important so as not to disrupt the biological rhythm. Maintaining hygiene and eating a proper diet that includes rich sources of essential vitamins, proteins and minerals is the key to coping with changes in the body.
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