Bayer Philippines Inc. recently launched “Bayer For Her: Conversations of Care,” an initiative designed to shatter the silence surrounding sensitive women’s health issues and buoy up dialogue and proactive measures.
The event featured the presence of experts such as Dr. Margaret Cristi-Limson, an OB-GYN and specializes in reproductive medicine, and Dr. Jarische Lao-Ang, a dermatologist. It was also graced by notable figures including Valerie Tan, who served as the event host, Melissa Gohing-Nacino, an athlete and survivor of PCOS, Verniece Enciso, a lifestyle influencer who has battled endometriosis, and Say Tioco, a content creator advocating for contraception.
“This project actually has great potential, I believe. It is their opportunity to realize that irregular menses are not normal. Pelvic pain may not be usual. It may actually be a symptom of endometriosis or whatever other gynecologic pathology,” Dr. Limson told BusinessMirror.
This lack of clarity at times leads to serious issues being disregarded as “normal” or “simply part of being a woman.”
Reproductive health barriers for Filipino women persist, influenced by pervasive gender biases that hinder their capacity to openly discuss and make well-informed decisions regarding their bodies.
According to the United Nations Population Fund in the Philippines (UNFPA), the presence of gender biases exist across political, educational, economic, and bodily autonomy aspects, as per recent reports. Alarmingly, a substantial 92 percent of both genders in the country exhibit inherent biases against women, particularly concerning their bodily autonomy encompassing reproductive rights.
In a positive development, the utilization of family planning and contraceptive measures among women saw a rise, reaching 8 million in 2020 compared to 7.6 million in the previous year.
Nonetheless, a concerning statistic reveals that approximately 44 percent of women still lack the capability to make vital decisions about their own well-being.
“With the launch of ‘Bayer For Her: Conversations of Care,’ we continue to raise awareness on women’s health. We know from listening to healthcare providers and patients that it’s not easy to talk about contraception, period pain and related topics in our cultural context,” said Angel-Michael Evangelista, Managing Director and Country Division Head of Pharmaceuticals Bayer Philippines.
Challenges in Women’s Reproductive Health
Dr. Lao-Ang emphasized the physical manifestations of PCOS in women’s bodies such as menstrual irregularity, and infertility, and through androgen excess in the form of seborrhea, acne, hirsutism, and alopecia, and the importance of open communication with doctors.
Gohing-Nacino shared that her PCOS diagnosis affected her emotionally, especially when she and her husband were trying to get pregnant.
“Our OB-GYN really helped us throughout the process until we found the right treatment and medication to control the symptoms and help with my fertility,” she said.
Dr. Cristi-Limson Margaret mentioned that before, endometriosis took years to diagnose. Nowadays, it can be clinically diagnosed, adding that they should “trust their doctors.”
For Enciso, the pain she experienced affected her daily routine and social activities. “I couldn’t stand the pain so I finally talked to my doctor and got the diagnosis. He recommended available treatment options that suit me, and I’m glad I sought his professional advice from the get-go, or else I will still be enduring the pain until now,” she said.
Tioco also stressed the importance of having a community where women can openly speak about their health concerns and use of contraceptive methods, “women tend to be hesitant when it comes to talking about using contraception because of their fear of being misjudged due to the persisting myths and stigma”.
Encourage Open Conversation
Meanwhile, Tan expressed her enthusiasm for brand-university collaborations, emphasizing their potential to advise and empower younger generations to prioritize their intimate health.
She revealed that they actively engage with universities, conducting discussions on sex education and related topics.
“So I think it’s amazing to see young women younger than me, they’re so open to talk about anything,” Tan said.
In their efforts to promote open conversations about reproductive health, Gohing-Nacino underscored the significance of marriage counseling.
She further suggested that the government should incorporate family planning education to ensure a broader outreach in the community.
According to Evangelista, “Bayer For Her enables these Conversations of Care with free pop-up clinics over the next two months at selected branches of our partners from Mercury Drug, Southstar Drug, Rose Pharmacy and Watsons.”
This is to help more women make informed choices about their own bodies and encourage more women to seek out expert advice on reproductive health.