Anxiety, worry, medication—Kashmiri women in midlife health crisis

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[FPK Photo by Vikar Syed.]

Having experienced some close cases and getting into conversation with various gynaecologists and physiatrists, and women in general, what one finds is disturbing.

Let’s address an elephant in the room_ The reproductive health of women in Kashmir ranging from menstruation to the post-menstruation stage is not normal!

Comatose condition, surgical blades, and slit bellies have already impacted women overall and have increased problems than vice versa.

Such traumatic experiences pin out an enforced ignorance plaguing around reproductive health system of women.

The same culture of ignorance has been normalized in a process like menstruation, a least talked about topic in Kashmiri households since ages now. Not only beginning, even the ending stage of this natural cycle is shrouded in some shameful silence. And no women health-centric campaigns are creating any change about it.

This brings us to the topic of menopause—a midlife health crisis—the stage when women no longer menstruate. Typically, if you do not menstruate for 12 months straight, the doctors may easily diagnose you with this process. However, there may be some further ups and downs as far as duration is concerned.

The perimenopausal stage is predominantly defined as the tenure before menopause or we can say it marks that time of a woman’s cycle when her body starts to transit towards the final stage which is the menopausal stage.

Whether it is perimenopausal or menopausal stage, any natural process is bound to happen. But the problem occurs when we as a family, or society lack awareness about this stage, as in what symptoms it carries within it and why we need to be sensitive to it.

Predominantly, our male folk either just know the word called menopause or don’t know about it. While additionally the consequences of the stage are rarely known to them. Having a rigid structure within our families where we since adolescents develop this tendency of not talking about menstruation or in the latter stage about menopause to our male folks (father, brother, or husband in the major cases) is something that causes detrimental impacts on a women’s health.

The perimenopausal stage along with itself brings a lot of changes to a woman’s body, thus ultimately to her health (both mental and physical). Since hormonal changes are predominant at this point, transitioning a woman’s body to this phase of “no longer being capable of reproducing” is a big thing in itself. I repeat: The stage transits women to no longer have the capacity to reproduce. While initially having the capacity for the same, how do we even think of it as a normal stage?

Having experienced some close cases of perimenopause and getting into conversation with various gynecologists and physiatrists, and women in general, what one finds is disturbing.

The stage is accompanied by symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, sleep disturbance, stress, depression and anxiety. All of these symptoms are normal to it. But due to us being inconsiderate about it, we create issues for our women and families in general.

Many women may find the stage manageable and hence take it as an easy thing. But the body may respond differently which is found in most of the cases. And if we find the above or any more symptoms increasing, the first option is to accept it as a normal thing happening, and then heading to counselors for maybe a few sessions until the symptoms subside with time. Or for that matter speaking to people who you think can be a help at this stage.

Rather than making the woman worry more about it and being inconsiderate towards her queries at this stage like why do you have sleep disturbance and such mood swings, we should be kind enough towards her and get them checked up by doctors.

A lot of women find it difficult to cope at this stage, which is normal and should be tackled well. Some of them may be put on medications by psychiatrists for a certain period but that possibly should be the last option to be approached. If we initially cater well to them, by being sensitive about it, we may not need to put them on more medications.

Also, what is wrong with it, if brothers, husbands, and fathers know that their wives, sisters, and daughters will go through this stage once? What’s wrong if wives speak about it to their partners, rather than taking all pain inside them?

It’s far better to say, “I’m going through this stage and finding it difficult to cope up,” rather than saying “I’ve a headache”.

Such measures may prove healthy, at least at our family level. We will have a healthy mother, sister, and wife as part of our home, rather than an anxious woman, which becomes a cause of worry and leads to an unstable household structure.

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