New technologies in sexual and reproductive healthcare give women greater access to choose holistic and affordable options to manage an array of medical issues, including fertility, according to women’s healthcare professionals at a UN event.
On March 17, during the 60th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations collaborated with Fertility Education and Medical Management Foundation (FEMM) to share women’s health technologies that allow a woman to gauge her health through natural occurrences such as her menstrual cycle, hair growth, and skin conditions as a means to diagnose and manage anything from diabetes to fertility, according to the panelists.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, moderated the panel, and said the technology can provide helpful ways for countries to meet 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by UN member-states in September 2015, specifically Goal 3.7 which calls for universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, including education.
“Our key priority in any plan is to help people, especially women and girls, stay as healthy as possible throughout their life,” he said, but criticized agendas that employ the phrase “reproductive health and rights” to include abortion and other harmful practices that treat the normal, healthy functioning of a woman’s body as maladies to be remedied.
Auza said, “FEMM is a comprehensive women’s health program that empowers women to monitor their reproductive and sexual health in allowing them healthier options in a way that is profoundly respectful of their personhood and fosters their grown and self-esteem, sexual maturity and self giving love.”
Anna Halpine is the CEO of FEMM, an organization that invests in research and provides programming for women’s health. Halpine said FEMM is a comprehensive reproductive health program that educates women and families about their body’s wellness that serves as a solution for worldwide unmet need in family planning and women’s healthcare.
“Many of the programs in existence cannot meet those needs because they don’t meet the realities families are facing, whether it is because cultural, ethical or religious commitments or because of health needs that are not met by strategies already in place,” she said. “FEMM can meet this need by respecting their dignity and right to make an informed choice while meeting international human rights norms and commitments.”
The international activities of FEMM include funding research, health education programs for school children, training women and healthcare professionals on the holistic methods, as well as an iPhone app that allows women around the world to monitor their personal health. Through this research and education, women can understand their hormonal patterns and track their symptoms, she said.
“Understanding hormonal patterns is necessary for understanding so many of the reasons women go to the doctor,” Halpine said. “We are helping women to monitor their personal health, so they can see how their hormones work together, identify their symptoms early on and their doctors can provide them with better diagnosis and care.”
Dr. Robert Graebe, OB-GYN who uses the same technology as FEMM in his practice, explained how a woman could track “bio-markers” triggered by hormones such as her menstrual cycle, vaginal mucus, skin appearance, and moods to detect medical issues that the birth control pill often masks. When birth control is given, he said, doctors can restore the bleeding pattern or get rid of the symptoms but they do “not bring the woman back to health because we did not find the root of the problem.”
Tracking bio-markers is also often used for family planning as women can distinguish which days she is fertile to avoid or achieve pregnancy by observing and tracking cervical mucus, Graebe said.
“A woman who knows how to recognize her fertility will be able to identify a number of dysfunctions that might occur during her life,” Graebe said.
He noted that young adolescent girls from a variety from ethnic backgrounds and educational groups have been able to recognize their cervical mucus patterns.
“This process allows women to be partners in their healthcare with a simple education process, a piece of paper and a crayon,” he said. “Do you realize the power you put into a woman’s hands when you give her that knowledge at an early age?”