THE PLIGHT OF FEMALE DOCTORS AND MEDICAL STAFF DURING COVID-19

By-Muskaan Singh

India has become the new COVID-19 hotspot and because of that, the health line workers are on their feet 24×7. And amongst these health line workers are female doctors, sanitary workers, police officers, and so on.

But in particular female doctors are facing an intense plight, as they have to wear a full gear PPE kit while treating the COVID-19 patients even when they are menstruating.

Since the number of corona patients has increased in India, doctors are working day in and day out and are even dealing with corona patients while keeping their life and their loved ones aside. It is now compulsory for the doctors as well as the medical staff to wear the full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

A PPE comprises of gloves, headgear, facemask, goggles, rubber boots, and a plastic overall for the body. Once packed in a PPE kit, the doctors work for straight 8-9 hours at a stretch.

According to World Health Organization (WHO)[1], wearing PPE kits is essential for the doctors as they have to deal with the patients first hand and only a PPE kit can help them with not catching the virus. This PPE kit even though is their life savior but adds a lot of difficulties in their day-to-day work.

Once the PPE kit is worn, the doctors are not allowed to remove the PPE kit until their shift ends; they are not even exempted to go to washrooms. As a result of which the doctors don’t drink fluids and even wear adult diapers under their PPE kits.

These problems intensify four folds when the female doctors and medical staff are in their menstruating days. Dr. Jaslovleen Kaur, a neurologist at Paras Hospital, Panchkula recites her problems. She confirmed that the doctors wear diapers to pass urine during their working hours[2].

While reciting her plight she even shared that when the female doctors are menstruating they wear a sanitary napkin along with adult diaper, as they cannot change anything for the next 8 hours, whereas ideally it should be changed every 4-6 hours.

With the increasing cases, there is more and more responsibility, which is being added to their shoulders, and thus they have to be at their toes for anything and everything possible. Dr. Kaur explained how she would never take a day off, as people think it as an excuse from their side. She says women are already looked upon as the “weaker sex” and thus, in order to prove them wrong Dr. Kaur leaves no stone unturned.

A survey that was conducted in the UK showed how the coronavirus is taking a toll on female doctors’ physical health as well as mental health lately. 72% of doctors confronted that the COVID-19 is impacting them negatively as compared to normal times.

Dr. Richa Sareen, Consultant pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine, Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj, said the environment and heat make it very difficult to wear PPE kits while treating the Covid-19 positive patients and since they cannot change their menstrual pads for more than 6 hours the humidity leads to infections in the genital tract[3].

She further explained how these menstruating days make it even tougher as they continuously experience mood swings, irritability, itchiness, and wearing sanitary napkins for such long periods pose a great threat to their health and can cause complications in women.

Recently in a viral video Linda Rose, a staff nurse at Fortis Hospital, New Delhi shared her experience of playing her role as a health line worker during the pandemic. She expressed the pain and humidity they suffer inside a PPE kit when they are menstruating as during that time the body temperature rises and makes it even more difficult to wear a PPE Kit[4].

She even suggested some measure for her fellow colleagues and other female doctors to wear extra-large sanitary pads. She suggested that the doctors should take up shorter shifts and other doctors can take their place during the time being. This time can be used to cope with the menstrual problems. She even suggested taking a bath and drinking plenty of fluids once their shifts end.

The whole world has come to stand still during this pandemic. And even in such a resilient time, the health line workers have not left our side. The doctors are working all round the clock, the medical staff is running here and there helping the doctors, the Police officers are maintaining social distancing and implementing strict discipline where the everyday essential workers are working so that we the people of India do not face any problems during this pandemic.

Our responsibility to help these worries is to stay at home and stay safe as if we will not get infected then the doctors will be less burdened and this is all for you and my safety. The doctors are putting their lives in peril as well as the life of their loved ones so that the patients recover from the coronavirus.

Menstruating days are pretty tough for the doctors to handle still the female doctors complete their 8 hours shift and then eat and drink, as they cannot risk taking off their PPE kits again and again.

We should all thank the female doctors for working under such tough conditions. These sanitary napkins also pose a great threat to their health since they are worn for long durations of time. We thank all the health line workers and the essential workers for working in such a pandemic so that we can live effortlessly.


[1] Interim guidance, Rational use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), World Health Organization (March 19,2020), https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331498/WHO-2019-nCoV-IPCPPE_use-2020.2-eng.pdf

[2]Disha Roy Choudhary, Have to wear sanitary pad with diaper for hours: Female doctors on challenges of wearing PPE, The Indian Express (Aug 27, 2020 09:45 AM) https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/female-health-workers-ppe-challenges-periods-coronavirus-6563136/

[3]Palak Agrawal, ‘Have To Wear Sanitary Pad With Diaper’: Women Doctors Donning PPE Kits While Treating COVID Patients, The Logical Indian (Aug, 31 2020) https://thelogicalindian.com/gender/women-doctors-donning-ppe-kits-while-treating-covid-patients-23407

[4] Reporter, Deployed on COVID-19 duty, women doctors and nurses in PPE kit bear extreme discomfort during menstruation, Firstpost (July 10, 2020 01:57PM) https://www.firstpost.com/health/deployed-on-covid-19-duty-women-doctors-and-nurses-in-ppe-kit-bear-extreme-discomfort-during-menstruation-8545011.html

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