What is Reproductive Health?
Reproduction health definition put forward by Public Health England is “a state of physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system”.
The ambit of reproductive and sexual health also includes the freedom and capacity to reproduce when and how one decides, apart from maintaining a “satisfying and safe sex life”.
Components of Reproductive Health
Reproductive health meaning covers the following components –
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined family planning as “the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of involuntary infertility”.
Pregnancy and fertility are among the prevalent factors of family planning. Successful pregnancy between 25 to 34 years of age has become a major concern in the present days.
Usage of contraception is not only a key factor in preventing unwanted pregnancy but also protects against sexually transmitted infection. STIs are the major risk factors for the reproductive health of both men and women. While HIV is much harder to treat, Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia can be easily prevented and treated.
Women should have access to medical care in the course of pregnancy as well as in the prenatal and postnatal stages.
Apart from these major components, various aspects such as menstrual cycle, healthy relationships along with choice and safety are critical pillars of reproductive health.
Did You Know?
Close to 12 million girls between 15-19 years and approximately 777,000 girls below 15 years give birth every year in developing regions of the world. Among these, at least 10 million are unintended pregnancies. The complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the main cause for death of adolescent girls across the world.
Life Cycle Approach in Reproductive Health
In determining what is reproductive health, it is important to take note of the life cycle approach.
The different stages in the reproductive health life cycle are –
Infancy and Childhood (0 - 9 years)
The different aspects of reproductive health during infancy and childhood are – sex selection (resulting in foeticide), female genital mutilation, discriminatory nutrition and healthcare.
Adolescence (10 – 19 years)
The concerns about reproductive health in the adolescence period are – physiological changes, early marriage and childbearing, abortion, contracting an infectious disease (AIDS/sexually transmitted infections), anaemia, sexual orientation, abuse or violence and gender discrimination.
Reproductive Period (15 – 45+ years)
The problems are – forced marriage, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, infertility, malnutrition, pregnancy complications, child-raising, violence and abuse, among others.
Post-Reproductive Period (45+ years onwards)
In the post-reproductive period, there are other physical ailments that may come up apart from reproductive health. Those include cancer, cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis/osteoporosis, sexual dysfunction, diabetes, infertility and menopause, etc.
Importance of Reproductive Health
Reproductive system is perhaps the most fragile, in human bodies. Unhealthy lifestyle in earlier years can wreak havoc on general health, apart from sexual and reproductive health. The major problem that arises is with respect to fertility.
Preconception care and reproductive health are intrinsically linked. Fertility and associated health concerns are better addressed by practising safe sex, which prevents unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Test Your Knowledge
i. How do oral contraceptive pills help in birth control?
(a) Preventing ovulation
(b) Killing ova
(c) Killing sperms
(d) Creating a barrier between sperms and ova
ii. Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT) mixes sperm and egg in the ___________
(a) Culture medium
(b) Fallopian tube
Solutions: i. (a) Preventing ovulation, ii. (b) Fallopian tube
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1. What is reproductive health?
The mental, physical, as well as social well-being of an individual with respect to reproductive system matters, processes and functions constitute reproductive health.
2. What are sexually transmitted diseases?
Diseases such as gonorrhoea, HIV which are contracted only with sexual intercourse are called sexually transmitted diseases.
3. What are the main components of reproductive health?
The main components of reproductive health are – family planning, sexual health and maternal health.