Saubhagya is a community service initiative, organised by the Rotaract Clubs of Colombo West and the Faculty of Medicine Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, to make knowledge of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) accessible. The inaugural phase of Project Saubhagya mainly focused on the female reproductive system. A timely webinar titled ‘Female Reproductive Health, Menstruation Cycle and Associated Diseases’, was conducted by Dr. Oshadhi Nallaperuma (MBBS (Pdn), MD in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (Col), Head (Act) Lecturer, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Medicine, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka.
The 2-hour session of the first phase of Project Saubhagya was attended by 160+ participants and saw a well-rounded discussion that highlighted the ever-growing need for the discourse on the topic of SRHR to be de-stigmatised. All activities around the phase, including social media posts, emphasised female health and well-being, aspects regarding common diseases that disadvantage women such as PCOS, HPV, misconceptions, taboos, and myths surrounding the female reproductive system. Some health conditions discussed during the session are as follows:
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
PCOS affects nearly 10-15% of the female population in the world, with the Asian female population being very predisposed to this condition.
This is a hormonal imbalance in the body where there is a high amount of male sex hormones. Symptoms of PCOS are excess thick-dark body hair (hirsutism), acne, loss or thinning of the scalp hair in a ‘male-like’ pattern, and truncal obesity (excessive fat around the abdomen), and infrequent and irregular periods. Women with PCOS appear to be at increased risk of developing the following health conditions: subfertility, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, and cardiovascular disorders (if you have PCOS for a long period, it might increase the chances of strokes or heart attacks later in life), endometrial cancer and psychotic disorders. The effects of PCOS and its prevalence can be controlled with a proper diet plan and exercises.
Endometriosis happens when tissue, similar to the lining of the endometrium, grows outside the uterus.
The tissue usually grows in the pelvic area, including the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, tissues that support the uterus, and the outside of the uterus. This causes common symptoms including severe cramps, heavy periods, pelvic pain, and lower back pain. Complications of endometriosis include infertility, ovarian cancer, ovarian cyst, inflammation, and intestinal and bladder complications. There is currently no cure for endometriosis, but drugs can help manage pain. Some people may need surgery.
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
HPV is a DNA virus that can lead to certain cancers in both males and females. There are different types of viruses. Some of them spread through direct sexual contact with someone who has the virus. The virus can also spread through other intimate, skin-to-skin contact. Some people develop warts around their genitals, anus, mouth, or throat from HPV infections. Some HPV can also cause cancers in the cervix, vagina, anus, or penis. For women, there are Cervical Cancer screening tests that can find changes in the cervix that might lead to cancer. As part of the screening, women may have PAP tests, which are freely available at any Well Women Clinic. The HPV vaccine is available and recommended for any female above the age of 14, before they reach a stage of sexual activity, in order to reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
Written by: Hasna Minsarah (Rotaract Club of Faculty of Medicine Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka)