Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, think about contraception and lead a happy life as you get into your thirties
For women above 30, it is important to be clear about their fertility plans. They may have completed bearing children, plan on having their second or consider having their first in this age group.
If they are already done making the family, then it is important to opt for a contraception method as it is not uncommon to see them consult their gynecologist for termination of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies.
“Most people feel shy to discuss this, but it is important to prevent unwanted pregnancies rather than terminate one. This can have an adverse effect on the health of the woman,” explains Dr Vijayashree Saravanan, Urogynaecologist at Apollo Hospital, Chennai.
Some people take morning-after tablets, but these can play havoc with the hormonal cycle.
“It is best to consult a doctor on which contraceptive method would suit the person best, as there are many options available today,” she adds.
Even in case of those who delay having children, it is ideal to conceive before the age of 35 as after that, the risk of children being born with genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome is high.
“The eggs are more mature after the age of 35 and therefore it is important to screen the foetus to detect abnormalities,” the doctor stresses.
According to one report, the possibility of the occurrence of this disorder goes up with the age of the mother i.e. 1 in 1,250 in case of women conceiving at the age of 25 and 1 in 400 in case of 35.
Women in this age group who have had children may also experience a change in their menstrual pattern. Called perimenopause, the periods maybe longer, more painful, irregular and infrequent.
There is also a likelihood of the development of fibroids, bleeding between two periods - called intermenstrual bleeding, spotting, and metrorrhagia -- and adenomyosis, where there is muscular growth on the wall of the uterus causing painful and heavy bleeding.
Bleeding in between could also be because of sexually transmitted diseases. Fungal infection of the vagina and vulva by yeast causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness.
It causes pain during intercourse as well as can affect the urinary tract.
Constipation seems to be another common problem women this age are facing.
One study in 2016 indicates that two thirds of the estimated 4.5 million people suffering from constipation are women.
Pregnant women seem to often suffer from irregular bowel movement, and in nearly 38% of those suffering from it, it becomes more severe in the third trimester and persists for several months after delivery.
Pregnancy and vaginal delivery are also seen to have a long lasting adverse impact on the bowel function as it weakens the pelvic floor muscles.
“I feel this is has become much more common than it was 10-15 years ago. This is because of dietary and lifestyle changes that are leading to obesity and other health issues,” points out Dr Vijayashree.
The strain can lead to problems of the bladder and result in piles, hemorrhoids and bleeding.
“Many don’t seem to be aware of the need for enough water intake,” says she. Low fibre diets, low fluid intake and a sedentary lifestyle are clear culprits.
The doctor recommends a diet that includes fruits, vegetables and fibres to help overcome this problem.
While urinary incontinence is more common after the age of 40 and sometimes has genetic causes, it can also be because of the stress against the bladder caused by constipation.
Pregnancy, childbirth and obesity are known causes that trigger incontinence in women.
One type of incontinence is stress incontinence, which results from pelvic muscles and tissues getting stretched and damaged. High-impact sports and aging are also factors contributing to this.
Due to weak muscles, any pressure on the bladder caused by a laugh, sneeze, cough, or exercise can cause the urine to leak.
Strengthening the pelvic floor with Kegel exercises is important. A preventive physiotherapy, these exercises are taught to women post-partum but should be continued to strengthen the pelvic floor.
“Even those prone to urinary continence can delay the onset of this disease,” the doctor points out.
Created by Dr Arnold Kegel in 1948 to help women with stress urinary incontinence following childbirth or during menopause that can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, it keeps the bladder and urethra in place.
Sometimes women also experience menopause before the age of 40.
Called premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency, it occurs before age 40. It is caused by low estrogen levels due to the ovaries not producing eggs.
Estrogen is the hormone that controls the reproductive cycle. This can be due to genetics, chromosomal defect, epilepsy or auto immune diseases such as thyroid and rheumatoid arthritis.
Lifestyle too contributes significantly. Smoking, poor body mass index (BMI) and diet have a big role to play in this.
Premature menopause can lead to the onset of heart disease, osteoporosis, depression, dementia and premature death. This can be rectified with hormone replacement therapy.
There is no gainsaying the benefits of leading an active life with proper, balanced diet rich in the food groups of whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits.
Planning to start the family well before in the late twenties and early thirties is beneficial to the mother’s health while reducing the health risks for the child.
In the thirties, the woman should also watch her body for changes in the menstruation pattern and address it early under the guidance of a doctor to lead a long and healthy life.