May 1, 2022 | Local News, Youth
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Maria Pfeifer is a first year Gatton Academy student and a student of Owensboro Catholic High School. COURTESY OF GATTON ACADEMY

Gatton Academy student starts reproductive health survey

BY ALEXANDRIA ANDERSON, COLLEGE HEIGHTS HERALD

A new reproductive health study was emailed to Western Kentucky University students requesting students at least 18-years-old and female assigned at birth to complete a short survey concerning knowledge on reproductive health.

The study was developed by Maria Pfeifer, a first year Gatton Academy student and junior at Owensboro Catholic High School, who intends to become an OB-GYN with a holistic practice to encompass all of women’s health.

Pfeifer was interested in this topic because of the lack of education on women’s reproductive health. She views the survey as an opportunity to see where these gaps in knowledge may lie and how we can best work to educate on health issues stemming from women’s reproductive health.

“I created it because I felt like women have a lack of knowledge of what’s going on in their bodies, for a variety of reasons,” Pfeifer said. The survey will help us gain a better understanding of where those gaps of knowledge are, and also to just help the women who are taking the survey, if they hadn’t previously thought too much about their reproductive health. Those questions trigger some thoughts in their brains, and it makes them curious.”

The survey is set up to have participants answer a variety of questions, with the two main categories focused on their reproductive health in general and knowledge-based questions to gauge where the participants are currently with their reproductive health. 

There are also demographic questions, which could allow the researchers to find correlations with reproductive health and items like zip code, race and religion, according to Pfeifer.

The main goal of this study is to truly learn about how we can best address education issues on reproductive health and allow women to start understanding their reproductive health earlier. 

Pfeifer explained how there are many factors at play that limit the knowledge given to women about their reproductive health, including the administration of oral contraceptives to handle what could be deeper problems.

“From doing this study, I’m hoping to identify those gaps in knowledge so that educators and health professionals can address them and equip the population with information supportive of women’s health that is accurate. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around, especially when we have so many different forms of media and so many factors coming to play on how we are educated on our reproductive health,” Pfeifer said. “Even our parent’s attitude towards it can prevent one from finding out the truth about their reproductive health.”

Pfeifer hopes that the attention this study brings to reproductive health helps women to try and identify issues earlier.

“If women start thinking about their reproductive health earlier they may be able to identify issues so that when they do want to have children or even if they don’t, they can go to the doctor and find the root cause of those problems so that they can live a healthier life,” Pfeifer said.

Understanding reproductive health is essential for those planning to have children in the future, but it is also vital as a regulator of hormones and keeping up a wholly healthy body.

“Right now the attitude towards it is that they don’t really think about it until they want to have kids, then when they do want to have kids, they find out that they have problems that they would have solved a lot easier if known earlier,” Pfeifer said. “Obviously not everyone wants to have children, but our reproductive system serves a huge purpose in hormone regulation in our body, so being able to take care of what we’ve been given will help us to lead healthier lives.”

Oftentimes, it is this idea that reproductive health only concerns the ability to have children that downgrades how much education and resources are put into the field.

“The current attitude towards reproductive health is that it’s not important to think about until you want to have kids, which is diminishing to who women are, it tells them their only purpose is to start a family,” Pfeifer said. “When really, we are so important to the whole of society, so if we can keep women healthy we can improve society.”

For the WKU community, Pfeifer hopes that the information the study gains will help students begin to question and learn about their own reproductive health. This will help the study to see how informed students are and will push them to learn more about the scale of issues within education on women’s reproductive health.

“From what I’ve gathered from OB-GYN visits and other people’s OB-GYN visits is that when they go to the doctor, one of the first things suggested is oral contraceptives, no matter what the issue is. Especially if you’re a young woman, like 13, and one of the first things that is suggested to you is to take an oral contraceptive, you may feel–especially from a doctor’s position–that you should go ahead and take it. When in reality, you may not feel comfortable with that and may not understand what birth control does,” Pfeifer said. “Birth control is just one instance in the plethora of women’s health issues, but I think that getting women to think about it will help them be more educated in their doctor’s visits so that they can make informed decisions about their health.”

Pfeifer believes that more education and information on women’s reproductive health needs to be put in the public’s hands, rather than accepting whatever your doctor says with lack of understanding. So many other medical fields are patient-centric, allowing patient input alongside the doctor’s—yet reproductive health remains a mystery for most. This study hopes to make this learning and questioning process much more accessible.

“The average doctor visit is 7 minutes, and that’s not long enough to understand where a woman’s health is. So if they [patients] can have that info on their end going in, they may feel more comfortable asking those questions in the doctor’s office and feel more confident in knowing that they do have that knowledge,” Pfeifer said. “This is making the process the most efficient so that you can get all the questions answered that you need to.”

Alexandria Anderson is a news and features reporter with the College Heights Herald, the student-run news organization of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky.

This story has been reprinted with permission. The original post can be found here

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