Reproductive health implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safer sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. According to the WHO, “Reproductive and sexual ill-health accounts for 20% of the global burden of ill-health for women and 14% for men. The WHO estimates that each year, 3, 58, 000 women die due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.
In India, the problems related to reproductive and sexual health among women is highest amongst the rural population. Illiteracy is the leading cause of this situation. Ensuring literacy of the girl child can help delay the age at which a woman gets married and thereby reduce other disparities.
Women in India for years have been exposed to gender inequality that has been the root cause of sexual and reproductive diseases. Optimum sexual and reproductive health can be attained by health and social interventions.
The lack of proper nutrition has a profound effect on the health of a woman as she advances into motherhood. “When it comes to reproductive health, pregnancy care is very crucial. During pregnancy, the nutritional deficiency has a negative impact on the heath of both mother and the baby. In this period, women are vulnerable to problems like anaemia, post-delivery bleeding, low birth weight babies, etc. Also, in developing countries, Tetanus remains as a leading cause of maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality,” said Dr Amita Shah, obstetrics & gynaecologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon. She adds that the Reproductive and Child health programme mandated by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that promotes the concept of health of women from womb to tomb is taken seriously.
The lack of power to decide how and when to have a child has amounted to the increase in maternal mortality. “The women should have the right to have safe sex, to decide on when she wants to get pregnant or opt for a legal abortion. Women empowerment can be successful only when societal norms enable the women to access these rights and empowers them to take right decisions. There should be an advanced health system in place to deal with pregnancy related complications, which is also very important,” adds Dr Shah.
Generally, women don’t have any access to contraceptives, thereby increasing the number of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and severe sexually transmitted diseases.
Reproductive and health services include: