Women’s Health & Pregnancy in Chronic Kidney Disease
Health issues of women do not get as much attention or focus as that of men. Women themselves often ignore symptoms of disease and do not heed warning signs issued by the body. The disparity in access to health care by men and women is proved by statistics which show that the incidence of certain diseases is similar in both men and women, but the percentage of men actually availing treatment is far higher than that of women. Very often, this is the result of the deeply ingrained societal belief that men are superior and bread-winners of the family, and therefore deserve better health care, and even nutrition. With such a situation prevailing, even serious and life threatening conditions go undetected in women.
In the case of kidney disease also, the plight of women is no different. Women are also more likely than men to donate a kidney, while more men than women receive dialysis or undergo kidney transplantation. Even certain government health schemes for the benefit of patients, like free or subsidized treatment or medicines, are utilized more by men than by women. This indicates that expenditure is also not always a criterion for women being denied adequate health care.
The problems are greater for women with CKD in the child-bearing age. Avoiding pregnancy, or if pregnant, keeping blood pressure in check to prevent further kidney damage, preventing UTI, issues related to menstrual periods, sexuality, menopause are some of the issues unique to women that need to be discussed with doctors. The effect of kidney disease on women is different from that on men owing to the physiological differences between them. Therefore, the treatment offered to women should also be modified to suit their unique needs, taking into consideration their reproductive health as well.
KWF organized a webinar with Dr. Garima Aggarwal (Consultant Nephrologist and Renal Transplant Physician practicing at Columbia Asia Hospital, Whitefield, Bangalore), who is passionate about issues concerning women with CKD. The session focused on Pregnancy and Women’s Health in CKD. It was moderated by Maryann, who was joined by Sandhya Vasanthakumar, a post-transplant member of the KWF family.
Dr. Garima acknowledged that women are often hesitant to talk about issues related to fertility, and need to be educated about pregnancy related complications. She pointed out to the risks, namely, pre-eclampsia, preterm delivery and restricted growth of the fetus, besides low birth weight, involved in pregnancy of women being treated for CKD. Yet, in spite of knowing that kidney function can be affected, eventually leading to kidney failure in many cases, women sometimes are forced to bow down to social pressures to conceive. This can result in complications to the mother, as well as the fetus. However, Dr. Garima assures us that there is hope for women with CKD who still want to conceive; they can do so with regular follow-up at a good hospital with a nephrologist. Women can also safely go through pregnancy following a transplant, but the necessary dose adjustments will have to be made in their medications under the guidance of a nephrologist.
The presentation was followed by Dr. Garima’s responses to questions posed by patients. She touches upon the so-called taboo topic of the sexual needs of women, urging women to discuss the issue with their doctors and seek advice. Problems of hormonal imbalance, anemia which results in weakness, lack of energy, and even depression, that affect a woman’s sexual drive are effects of CKD , which, Dr. Garima assures, can be treated with appropriate medication and counselling. The session concludes with a special message from Dr.Garima to all the strong and wonderful women with CKD, encouraging them to stay positive always.
For women with CKD or post-transplant, who wish to know about pregnancy and all the issues related to women’s health, the video is a must watch to get all the information you seek. Creating awareness is the best way to help women feel comfortable about bringing up issues and being open about their special needs with their families and doctors. Please watch the video with your family and caregivers to learn all you wanted to know about how you can take control of matters related to your kidneys health.