Women's Health and Misconceptions

Women's Health and Misconceptions

Misconceptions have been causing great harm to women's health, specially, reproductive health, among various societies in the developing centuries for centuries. These misconceptions had been harming the cause of women's health in the developed world even few decades ago. While these misconceptions are largely done away within the developed world, the underdeveloped and developing world is still Suffering widely due to all those misconceptions. The misconceptions has got stronger sheet anchor in the developing world due to traditional superstitions, illiteracy, poverty, lack of adequate and proper information along with traditional cultural belief. We will detail misconceptions with regards to women's health hereunder.

Along with That Let Us Note a Few Incidences of Ill Effects of Misconceptions:
"Birth of my child ......... brings bad memories. I had fits, My family took me to our religious leader (guru/ priest) who hit me .......... gave me shoes to smell ...... beat me again ......... I started bleeding and painted. When I woke up, I was at the hospital. My husband had taken me there."

Geeta, 25 years
Geeta was lucky. She was suffering f rom Eclampsia. Her husband could take her to hospital at the critical time. Geeta survived to tell the tale. In another incidence, Hena, a 22 year old girl bled to death at the hospital as her family had refused her blood, even though the doctor explained that blood tarnsfusion is not going to harm them in any way. There was no blood bank at the hospital. The family accepted it as her fate.

Now a story about child birth in a rural family; Anju, a twenty five-year-old girl, to the cowshed, by her in-laws, when she started her labour pain. This has been the custom in the rural illiterate, poverty stricken, superstitions families as childbirth and the bleeding associated with it, has being considered unclean. There was no one with her. She was scared and in pain. Her in-laws would come there at intervals to bring food and water. It was over many hours before her husband returned from the city. He took her to the local hospital. Doctors said that, he had done the right thing -many women die of infection due to unsafe delivery at an unclean setting.

Anju gave birth to a beautiful girl child ill the hospital. On the other side, Syuda 15 years died giving birth to her first child. She was in labour for more than 24 hours. No one had thought to take her to the hospital. Neither the local TBA, nor her mother-in-law, who claimed to he experienced in home delivery, had thought it was urgent and necessary. Sajeda had been married for a year.

Before Elaborating He Misconceptions Once Again We Want to Consider The Following Facts:

  1. 40 per cent of all maternal mortality are due to haemorrhage.
  2. Complications of pregnancy, childbirth and abortion are one of the major causes of death among teenage girls.
  3. In South Asia and South East Asian region, more than 50 per cent of pregnant women are malnourished and anaemic due to a lack of proper balanced and nutritious diet.
  4. Most pregnant women work over 15-16 hours a day.
  5. As a mother of girl child, many women are blamed, beaten and sometimes abandoned. Son preference forces women into multiple pregnancies increasing their risk of obstetric complications and death.
  6. In some regions obstructed labour is assumed to be a result of unfaithfulness- women experiencing it are thrown out of home and left to die.

Blood Donation and Impunity of Blood:
There is a misconception that blood donation sap's one's energy, makes him weak and affects his health. The truth is blood donation stimulates the hone marrow and does not harm the body in any way. The body automatically produces blood and replenishes what has been given. And then health facilities do not take blood from a person who is anaemic therefore the question of harm does not arise.

In South Asian and South East Asian societies, especially in rural poverty stricken and illiterate setting, misconception exists that blood is unclean and impure, especially if it is menstrual blood. However, menstruation explained scientifically should do away with this misconception:

Every month, a women has a cycle for conception. At this time, an egg is released inside her body. If the egg is not fertilized by asperm from a man, then all the preparations that were made by the body for a baby to grow breaks down and is released as menstrual blood. If sperm fertilizes the egg, the same blood nourishes the womb for the growing baby. All of us, in mother's womb, were fed and nourished by the same blood. After the delivery, women lose some blood. This is because the blood that was nourishing the baby in the womb is no longer required.

Teenage Pregnancy:
There is misconception leading to girls marriage at very early age, especially at teens. Specifically religious, traditional and cultural belief is causing this misconception obligatory. However the fact is that no section of the Quran or the Haddith sanctions early marriage or specifies an age or marriage. Instead, reference is only made to age of marriage as age of Sound judgement" and "maturity", both physical and mental. Islam is mphatically against early marriage or marriage without the mutual on sent of the partners. It is unfortunate that early marriage continues under the veil of misconception and as such more than 40 per cent of girls give birth before the age of 20. Teenage girls are twice as likely to die from childbirth than women in their twenties; those under 15 are at five times the risk. Teenager's bodies are not fully developed usually to bear children. Physical immaturity places adolescent mothers at risk of both death and disability, particularly, obstructed labour.

Malpractice :
Due to wrong traditional and cultural beliefs scientific medical help is not sought in case of obstructed labour. In many communities of the developing countries such facilities are not available nearby also. These factors lead to malpractice. Many material deaths occur as result of malpractice by untrained birth attendants and quacks in the rural communities and sometimes by indigenous practitioners (healers).

In many areas of Southeast and South Asia, girls and women are not given enough and proper food. It is thought that more food will make the baby big and out of proportion causing obstructed labour and distress. Then again there is social belief that girls and women require less nutrition. This causes them to be malnourished especially in pregnancy. Poor nutrition contributes to poor heath of the mother and the baby and can contribute to obstetric complications and poor pregnancy outcomes. Inadequate nutrition can cause a women to be anaemic, thus increasing her vulnerability to infactions and risk of death due to bleeding during pregnancy and childbirth.

Eclampsia and Spirit Possession:
10 per cent of all pregnancy and childbirth related deaths are due to eclampsia or convulsion. Eclampsia is caused by and is also known as toxemia of pregnancy.

The convulsions or fits are often misinterpreted as spirit possession. As burnt and made to undergo rituals that are not only demeaning and dehumanizing, but are also life threatening. These so-called treatment are rendered by indigenous healers and medicine practitioners and so called religious persons and "witch doctors".

Violence Against Women:
Due to misconception violence is often made acceptable by culture. Women are often made to believe that violence is deserved. Many in our society especially, rural, illiterate and slum dwelling, believe that it is acceptable to hit women. In fact there is no social, religious or other norms which make violence and wife beating acceptable or inconfirmity with human rights or reproductive health rights. In fact violence against women is a flagrant violation of human rights, women's right and reproductive health right. Violence against women is also a major health concern and has been declared a major public health issue by the World Health Organization (WHO). Let me end the topic with an incident, which shows how violence against women are fatal!

"Chaina, a thirteen year old girl, with 8 month,, pregnancy, died alone in agony, bruised and bleeding at home. She was beaten and kicked in the stomach by her husband for giving him delayed dinner."

Additional Resources:

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