A woman’s life stages are based on the reproductive cycle. The Harbin Clinic describes these stages as puberty, fertility and family planning, and menopause.

  • What are the most common diseases to watch out for in each stage?
  • How can a community pharmacist help women to navigate each of these life stages?

Link group’s Ryan Conybeare says that in many instances, community pharmacists have served generations of customers, getting to know them throughout their life stages. He points out that although pharmacists tend to be typecast as dispensers of medication, their value also lies in ‘dispensing’ good health advice and guidance, including preventative care. Community pharmacists are qualified, experienced, easy to talk to, and the service is free.

1. Puberty and adolescence

The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists the most prevalent diseases for adolescents as:

  • Mental health
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, meningitis, and human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • Obesity

A community pharmacist can advise or guide their customers, whether that involves a screening or check-up, offering guidance, suggesting preventative measures or a referral to a GP or specialist. According to the World Health Organisation, HPV vaccination should take place at ages 9-14 – and a community pharmacist may also be able to provide advice on the topic.

As adolescence can be a challenging time, the trusted community pharmacist can help with the development of healthy habits at a young age through education and being available to answer questions.

2. Fertility and family planning

The World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies the following most common health risks in this life stage:

  • Cancer, with breast and cervical cancer being the most common.
  • Reproductive health, responsible for a third of health diagnosed conditions between the ages of 15-44.
  • Maternal health, involving access to family planning, products and services.
  • HIV and dealing with protection against the sexual transmission of HIV.
  • Mental health, as evidence suggests that women are more prone to depression and anxiety than men.
  • Obesity, which requires guidance on living a healthy lifestyle.

Link’s pharmacists are open to talk to their customers about contraception; family planning, and a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Cancer.net advises that screening can detect early signs of cervical cancer, either through a Pap smear or Human Papillomavirus (HPV) test. They also advise women to self-examine for breast cancer, which pharmacists can inform their customers on.

“Pregnant mothers should share their exciting news with their pharmacist so that extra care can be taken when any medication is prescribed. It is also worth talking to the pharmacist about medication currently being taken. Supplements can be beneficial to pregnant mothers but discuss which products to take with your pharmacist, rather than accepting advice from friends or family”, says Conybeare.

3. Menopause

The Mayo Clinic explains menopause as the time that marks the end of menstrual cycles. Typically, menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s. It is a natural biological process but can also be caused by the removal of ovaries and chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

Your pharmacist can assist you with medication and treatment should you experience any of the following: hair thinning; unwanted hair growth; hot flushes; anxiety; depression; insomnia, and vaginal dryness, among others, or refer you to the GP.

The post-menopause life stage can increase the risk of heart and blood vessel disease, osteoporosis, urinary incontinence, reduced sexual functions, and weight gain.

Link is there to talk to and help you in the following ways:

  • Advice on ways to protect your heart and reduce cholesterol or blood pressure.
  • Providing medication or supplements to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Suggesting exercise, therapy, diapers or pads for urinary incontinence.
  • Recommending moisturisers, cream or lubricants for vaginal dryness.
  • Guidance on how to live a healthy lifestyle and prevent certain diseases.
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/symptoms-causes/syc-20353397

During menstrual and post-menstrual stages, visits to the GP and pharmacist should be maintained for check-ups, screenings and guidance on preventative measures, including appropriate medication and supplements.

“While the diseases listed for each life stage in this article are reported to be the most common, this does not mean that one is exempt from any other diseases. Having easy access to healthcare professionals provides customers with an opportunity to enjoy many health-related conversations. The Link logo is the beacon of good health – we invite the women in our communities to see Link’s pharmacists as their ‘good health’ support group”.

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While all reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this article, information may change or become dated, as new developments occur. The Link group shall not be held liable or accountable for the accuracy, completeness or correctness of any information for any purpose. No content in this article, irrespective of the date or reference source, should be viewed as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, pharmacist or any other suitably qualified clinician.