Women urged to focus on their health during Woman’s Month

Women urged to focus on their health during Woman’s Month

August sees South Africans observing Woman’s Month, and as part of this focus the Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) is urging women to spend a bit of time thinking about their own health.

“Many women neglect their own well-being while looking after the family and juggling husbands, children, work and the household” says Jackie Maimin, CEO of the ICPA. “Women have unique health needs throughout their lives, and the good news is that local community pharmacies are able to offer advice and assistance at every level.”

The ICPA provides a list of the kinds of services that an independent community pharmacy can offer to women:


Family planning for young women

Community pharmacies offer family planning services ranging from counselling on, and dispensing of, oral contraceptives, contraceptive injections and supply of the morning after pill.

“Your pharmacist will also be able to give you advice on the birth control options that are available, and guidance on your chosen form of birth control, as well as any side effects to be aware of with the morning after pill,” says Maimin.


Support for expectant and new mothers

Pregnant women can chat to their pharmacist about any concerns they may have with common pregnancy complaints such as bladder infections, haemorrhoids, morning sickness and more. Pharmacies stock pre-natal vitamins and nutritional supplements for pregnant women and products that can make pregnancy and breastfeeding more comfortable.”

Maimin advises that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of pregnancy complications, miscarriage, low birth weight and birth defects. There is also an increased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome, also called “cot death”) in babies born to smokers. Pharmacists are able to give support and advice to pregnant women that wish to quit smoking.

“New moms can take their babies to their local independent pharmacy for advice on colic, nappy rashes, breast-feeding and milk formulas. Many community pharmacies also provide Well Baby clinic services where babies can be weighed, assessed and vaccinated.”


Other vaccinations

In addition to the normal baby vaccinations, many pharmacy clinics can administer vaccines required by older children and adults – such as the HPV vaccine given to teenage girls and the flu vaccine.


General health checks & weight management

“Women can, and should, visit their local community pharmacy to check their cholesterol and blood sugar levels, BMI and heart rate. Lifestyle diseases are on the increase – with 1 in 3 women suffering from high blood pressure and 1 in 3 at risk of developing diabetes, so knowing your numbers is very important,” warns Maimin. “Statistics show that as much as 70% of South African women are overweight.

“Carrying too much weight increases your chances of developing a lifestyle disease. Your pharmacist can guide you on how to improve your Body Mass Index (BMI) and improve your overall health.”


Smoking cessation

Pharmacists are well positioned to assist women to quit smoking,” says Maimin. Community pharmacists can help you in your goal to quit smoking by listening and providing information and advice about:

  • different smoking cessation medications (both prescription and non-prescription choices);
  • managing nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms;
  • dealing with relapses;
  • coping with stress;
  • general strategies to help you quit;
  • finding other support networks and resources to help you quit;
  • referring you to other health care providers who can help you ensure you successfully quit smoking.

“Your pharmacist can help you assess your level of nicotine dependence and give you recommendations on how best to approach quitting. They can give you detailed information on the various products available to help you quit smoking, many of which are available without a prescription.”


Mental health

Statistics state that as many as one in six South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression or substance-use problems, with women more inclined to suffer from anxiety & depression than men. With such a high prevalence, the community pharmacist plays a vital role in the identification, support and management of mental health disorders.”

The ICPA urges women who are struggling with a stress-related condition or are suffering from a mental health disorder to visit their community pharmacy. “A confidential, friendly chat with your pharmacist may be all that is required to get you back onto the road to recovery. Don’t suffer in silence – rather reach out and ask your pharmacist for help and get the treatment needed to restore your health and sense of well-being.”

“Local independent pharmacies are champions for woman’s health. Your community pharmacist is a trusted source of advice and a first point of call when you or someone in your family is not feeling well,” says Maimin.

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