As women’s reproductive rights remain an ever-pressing issue in today’s society, you may wonder: What is reproductive health care? If you find yourself asking this question, you’re not alone. Reproductive health care is a delicate and multifaceted subject that encompasses women’s physical and mental well-being.
In this article, we’ll consider just what reproductive health care for women consists of. We’ll also consider why reproductive health care access is vital and one way you can gain such access.
What Does Reproductive Health Care in Women Consist Of?
Reproductive health care is an essential part of every woman’s general health and welfare. It doesn’t just include your physical well-being — it also encompasses your fundamental rights to respectful, healthy relationships and accurate information regarding your health.
Another important aspect is access to reproductive health services that are safe, inclusive, and appropriate, including:
- Family planning services and contraception care
- Pregnancy tests and prenatal care
- Postnatal and delivery services
- Abortion care
- STDs and gynecologic cancer treatment
Reproductive health access benefits not just women but also couples, families, and the economic and social development of communities.
Access To Family Planning Services and Contraception Care
All women should have access to family planning services and contraception care. In fact, the Affordable Care Act requires most health plans to provide these services at no cost to you.
Access to these services includes:
- Education and counseling
- Hormonal birth control methods: Vaginal rings and birth control pills
- Barrier birth control methods: Sponges and diaphragms
- Implanted birth control methods: Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and contraceptive implants
- Emergency contraception: ella® and Plan B®
- Sterilization procedures
Pregnancy Tests and Prenatal Care
Reproductive health care also includes the right to access preventive health services with no out-of-pocket costs. These services include pregnancy tests and prenatal care.
However, it wasn’t always that way.
Pregnancy tests were only accessible through a general practitioner in the early 1960s. Most of these practitioners were men, and results had to be returned directly to them, opening women up to judgment and a lack of autonomy over their bodies.
Commercial labs began offering pregnancy tests for a fee in 1965. Women were able to get the results themselves, giving them more privacy and autonomy over their own bodies.
The first home pregnancy test kit was introduced in 1971 and became widely available in the following years, finally giving women more autonomy over their privacy and bodies. Any sexually active woman now has the right to purchase and use pregnancy tests on her own.
If a woman finds out that she’s pregnant and wants to keep the child, she also has the right to prenatal care services. These services allow a pregnant woman to get regular checkups from a health care professional or midwife throughout her pregnancy.
Maternity care has many benefits for women, including:
- Keeping the mother and baby healthy
- Monitoring the baby’s development to detect any problems early
- Educating the mother and answering her questions
Postnatal and Delivery Services
Women’s reproductive health care also includes postnatal and delivery services. Women have the right to receive medical care during the delivery of their baby and afterward.
Postnatal care is the care given to both the mother and the newborn baby immediately after birth and up to the first six weeks after birth.
Postnatal care allows women to stay at the health care facility for at least 24 hours after birth or be visited within the first 24 hours after birth for home births. There should be at least three more postnatal visits within the first six weeks, which can be completed during postnatal visits to an office or during home visits by health professionals.
There are several major elements of postnatal care, including:
- Health education and counseling on how to recognize danger signs and seek appropriate care for both the newborn and the mother
- Health education and counseling on routine care practices like proper thermal care and breastfeeding
- Dispensing and giving counsel on preventive aids like iron supplementation
- Assessing, managing, and completing referrals for any identified risks or complications
Abortion care encompasses the management of both spontaneous and induced abortion and intrauterine fetal demise. It also includes post-abortion care, including the management of incomplete abortions.
For example, the FDA has approved medication abortion since 2000 as an effective and safe abortion option in many situations. The most common medication abortion is the process of taking two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol, within 24 to 48 hours of each other to end a pregnancy. During this process, health care professionals should administer the medications, give you detailed instructions about taking them properly and antibiotics to prevent infection, and schedule appointments for follow-up care.
Following the controversial overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, access to abortion depends on the state you live in now more than ever before. However, access to quality abortion care remains a fundamental aspect of women’s reproductive health care.
To comply with human rights, quality abortion care should be:
- Accessible: Affordable, timely, geographically reachable, and in an appropriate setting
- Acceptable: Display cultural competency by incorporating the values, customs, cultural norms, and preferences of the surrounding community
- Equitable: Available to all women regardless of ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, education, location, or physical disabilities
- Safe: Delivered safely in a way that minimizes harm and risks to the woman
STDs and Reproductive Cancer Treatment
As mentioned above, women have the right to access preventive health services with no out-of-pocket costs, including screening for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and reproductive cancers. But treatment for STDs and reproductive cancer is also another fundamental aspect of reproductive health care.
This involves notification and treatment for several conditions, including:
- Cervical cancers
- Breast cancer
Why Reproductive Health Care Access Is Vital
Women’s reproductive rights still struggle to gain acknowledgment as basic human rights in society at large, causing a lack of adequate reproductive health care access throughout the world. However, this access is vital for several pressing reasons.
1. Women’s Reproductive Rights Are Fundamental But Often Neglected
Women’s fundamental rights when it comes to reproductive health are very important to not just women but their families and communities as well.
Yet, millions of women suffer from a lack of protection of their reproductive rights. Women often lose autonomy over their own bodies, allowing other parties to decide when they should or should not have sex or children.
They also commonly suffer from:
- A lack of accessible family planning and contraception services
- Sexual inequality
- A lack of accurate knowledge regarding reproductive health
This neglect is especially evident among marginalized or low-income women, who often suffer from unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions, STDs, and neonatal deaths.
2. Unintended Pregnancies Are Common and Deeply Impact Lives
When women’s rights are neglected and they aren’t given autonomy over their reproductive health, unintended pregnancies become common and impact many lives.
In March 2022, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that “nearly half of all pregnancies, totaling 121 million each year throughout the world, are unintended.” They further went on to state that this phenomenon is a human rights crisis that has profound consequences, not just for girls and women but for societies and global health.
These unintended pregnancies can even result in disastrous consequences like:
- Unsafe abortions
- Maternal deaths
- Neonatal deaths
- Child murder/infanticide
- Mental health problems
These issues are all a direct result of the increased risk of poverty, lack of health care, and malnutrition women face when faced with unintended pregnancies without proper access to reproductive health services.
The issues caused by unintended pregnancies don’t only affect women. They affect their communities and the nation as a whole.
Unintended pregnancies also cause broken families, increased societal medical costs, higher poverty rates, increased violence, and more.
3. Pregnancies and STDs Can Have Severe Consequences for Women
Pregnancies take a severe toll on women’s physical and mental health, especially when they don’t have access to reproductive health care services. For example, women may experience:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Blood clots
They are also at risk of experiencing pregnancy-specific complications like preeclampsia, ectopic pregnancy, and gestational diabetes. Research has further shown that women who experience these complications during pregnancy are at an increased risk of long-term medical problems.
Pregnancies may also become a barrier for women to fulfill educational and familial goals or have healthy family relationships.
STDs can interfere with female fertility, which can harm women’s overall physical, mental, and emotional health. It also affects their partners and the health of their communities, so the importance of access to treatment cannot be overstated.
Receive Affordable Access To Important Reproductive Health Screening Tools
Reproductive health care is vitally important for women. This fundamental right gives them access to quality reproductive health care services, promotes the basic human right to autonomy, and prevents unwanted pregnancies that cause disastrous consequences.
Regularly screening your reproductive health is an excellent way to exercise your rights. You can access affordable reproductive health screening tools through myLAB Box. We provide high-quality, lab-certified home tests to address every reproductive health need from ovulation testing to overall health testing. Visit our website to begin screening your reproductive health today.
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