It is the time to raise a family, not only because elders expect it, but because it is good for the woman’s body and mind in more ways than one
We can consider it a mark of prosperity – the easy access to food, the affordability and also earning power of the youth even in their early 20s. But this, combined with low or nil physical activity, has tended to increase the incidence of obesity, which is a precursor to several diseases such as diabetes and cardiac problems.
Obesity is also one of the primary reasons for causing polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) amongst women in the age group of 20-30. “In PCOS, the ovaries do not secrete hormones as they should and medications only act to address the symptom. Once you stop taking the medicines, the problem will revert,” points out Dr Vinutha Arunachalam, Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Apollo Women’s Hospital, Chennai.
She, instead, recommends an hour of brisk walking, which is enough most of the times to treat PCOS. Eat a well-balanced diet and cut down on sugars, which is also associated with weight-gain while also increasing the chances of PCOS.
The ovaries produce the hormones estrogen, progesterone and androgens. Due to the dysfunction, androgen production may go up, leading to the manifestation of PCOS symptoms such as excessive body hair, loss of scalp hair and difficulty in conceiving due to irregular or absent ovulation. As a result, PCOS causes infertility. Insulin resistance may also cause PCOS.
A change in lifestyle – right diet and enough exercise – therefore has proven to be beneficial to women in improving ovarian health and the chances of conception. “I have had women who have come back to me after walking regularly and briskly for eight months to say they are pregnant,” Dr Vinutha says. And exercising becomes a habit that they continue even after delivery, thus remaining fit, she adds.
But here, the doctor points out that delayed pregnancy is also caused by several other social factors due to changing priorities of young people. Sexual promiscuity is on the rise.
“Earlier, people would get married and then consummate it. There was a sense of discovery about it, because of which they would have intercourse more frequently and so the chances of pregnancy were higher. But today, people first live together before getting married, but by the time they do, the excitement is lost and fatigue sets in,” she explains.
With both working, they are also stressed and tired by the time they come back home. This is another factor that contributes to difficulty in conceiving.
“People also Google for information and get stressed by what they read without understanding it fully. For instance, if they have PCOS and see that it can lead to cancer, they think they are getting cancer. But that’s not the case, if treated properly, the risk is low. But there is much anxiety, which also comes in the way of conceiving,” she adds.
People also want to settle down first before they start a family. And so, many couples put it off for later, after fulfilling material goals. “One never really ‘settles’ down. It is ideal to have a child by the time you are 35, better still, between 25 and 30,” Dr Vinutha recommends.
In fact, research shows the ideal age to get pregnant is between 20 and 25, as by the time a woman is 25, she has only a 20% chance of conceiving after three months of trying. By 35, it declines further to 12%.
Older parents have their own health issues to think of and cannot be the ideal companion their children require to grow up healthy. As a result, neither the parents nor the children can enjoy each other’s company. The risk of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities also increase with age.
Pregnancy is a natural antidote to fibroids, breast cancer – in women who breastfeed – and promotes good mental health. It can alleviate symptoms of dysmenorrhea – better known as menstrual cramps - and even reduce the chances of being affected by multiple sclerosis.
In reality, as much as 80% of the time, the cause for difficulty in conceiving is stress rather than typical infertility issues, she summarises.
It is also important to get regular pelvic examination and pap smear test done as cervical cancer is hard to detect. It gets diagnosed late because the typical symptom is severe white discharge that turns foul in the advanced stages. “Most people realise that something is amiss only when the smell turns foul and so it can be too late for treatment,” Dr Vinutha explains. Detecting pre-cancerous changes in the cervix can help in treating it.
Dr Vinutha recommends that for enjoying good health, be physically active, reduce the time you spend on television and electronic gadgets, and eat well. Having children early, in the 20s, is also good for the body and the mind. Periodic screening for breast cancer and cervical cancer will help young women lead a long and healthy life.