Menstrual cycle, stigma: Women doctors face other challenges in Covid fight
Working for six hours straight donning personal protective equipment (PPE) inside a Covid-19 ward is tough, especially for women doctors during their monthly menstrual cycle. The social discrimination that they face makes it worse, said most doctors HT spoke to ahead of the World Doctor’s Day (July 1).
Dr Reshma Shinde, a resident doctor in pathology department at King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, Parel, said even as they are being honoured as Covid warriors, she is experiencing stigma that is attached to the highly contagious infection. In an open letter, Shinde wrote, “Though my house was blessed with praises for my work, marriage proposals had stopped knocking my house doors. It took me no time to realise, that, it was due to the stigma associated with the word ‘COVID’. I started feeling very low as I could only see my dreams of marriage getting shattered (sic).”
Shinde told HT, “That’s the mentality of the society. We are being stigmatised for saving lives of patients.”
Another 28-year-old resident doctor who is on duty at SevenHills hospital also had a similar experience. “The groom’s family approached my father through a matrimonial website in February. We started chatting and everything was going fine until April, when I was put on Covid-19 duty,” she said. “He started to pressure me to stop going to the hospital, which I couldn’t as it is my responsibility. In May, they cancelled the marriage proposal.”
“During periods, we lose additional water and blood, which makes us weak and dehydrated. In safety suits for six hours, we can’t even afford to go to the bathroom to change sanitary napkins. Then come the cramps that burn us out,” said Dr Shinde.
Dr Sudeshna Salvi from the Grant Medical College, which is also known as JJ Hospital, said how once she had forgotten her date of menstrual cycle and started bleeding in her PPE suit. “I had no option as I was on my duty and I couldn’t open my PPE which could have been too risky. I spent six hours standing as I couldn’t sit,” she said.
Dr Gautam Bhansali, in-charge of private Covid-19 hospitals in Mumbai, said women doctors have been working braving all odds. “If any woman doctor wants to postpone the duty dates around their menstrual cycle, we do it immediately. It takes a toll on the woman to work for hours wearing PPE during that time of the month. But hats off to them, for they always work with full devotion and enthusiasm,” he said.