June 17, 2024

To encourage discussion and action around women’s health, Bayer Philippines, Inc. launched Bayer For Her: Conversations of care on Aug. 30 to break the ice around these often taboo topics.

According to the United Nations Fund Population Philippines (UNFPA), gender biases exist in political, educational, economic, and bodily autonomy dimensions.

In the Philippines, 92 percent of men and women hold fundamental biases against women in terms of bodily autonomy, which includes their reproductive rights. Although the number of women using family planning or contraceptive methods increased to eight million in 2020 from 7.6 million in 2019, there are still an estimated 44 percent of women who are unable to make decisions about their own health.

While women have a higher risk of developing certain conditions such as menstruation-related diseases, vaginal infections, and chronic diseases like endometriosis, these health concerns are still considered taboo. This uncertainty sometimes leads to severe issues being dismissed as “normal” or “simply part of being a woman”.

The launch gathered medical experts and women’s health advocates who have experienced health issues and encouraged Filipino women to seek professional healthcare advice on their reproductive health concerns.

To help more women make informed choices about their own bodies, Bayer For Her is opening an initial series of free pop-up consultation clinics over the next two months at selected partner drug stores in Metro Manila to encourage more women to seek out expert advice on reproductive health.

These pop-up cli-nics aim to help create safe spaces for women to speak up and normalize conversations about their reproductive health concerns, address common misconceptions and the barriers why they do not consult with their doctors, and get the support they need.

“With the launch of Bayer For Her: Conversations of Care, we continue to raise awareness on women’s health. We know from listening to health care 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.

In the Philippines, one out of six women of reproductive age experience polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which places them at risk of reduced quality of life due to psychological and behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.

Dermatologist Dr. Jarische Lao-Ang said that PCOS can manifest physically in women’s bodies through menstrual irregularity and infertility and through androgen excess in the form of seborrhea, acne, hirsutism, and alopecia, and emphasized the importance of women telling their doctors what they truly feel to get the proper treatment options.

Endometriosis, on the other hand, is a painful gynecological disease in which the lining of the uterus grows outside of it. Besides direct health impacts, endometriosis affects a woman’s social life, career, and livelihood, and it affects nearly 10 percent of reproductive-age women globally.

Dr. Margaret Cristi-Limson, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive medicine, emphasized that endometriosis sometimes takes several years to be diagnosed through laparoscopy. However, medical breakthroughs now allow clinical diagnosis which encourages doctors to talk to their patients and start treatment even without surgeries.

Bayer’s legacy in women’s health can be seen through initiatives that include working with different organizations to promote rights-based family planning and counseling and appropriate reproductive health education.

Bayer is also helping raise awareness on contraception and family planning, alongside self-care and financial literacy in the countryside through its Bayer Kubo program, helping farmer’s wives and women in rural communities avoid risks attached to unplanned pregnancies. Since the launch last year with our partner, Assist Asia, Bayer has reached over 5,000 individuals at pilot sites in Manaoag, Pangasinan and Dolores, Quezon. – Nadira Abubakar