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Crucial role of community pharmacies for women’s health

The provision of women’s health services through community pharmacies is increasing in importance as more and more women turn to their pharmacists and pharmacy staff for help and advice.

The accessibility of community pharmacies is an important factor as wait times for available GPs can be substantial. This was underscored in a 2020 survey by the Jean Hailes for Women’s Health organisation which found 31.7 per cent of women aged 25–44 did not have enough time to attend health check appointments. Being able to walk into a pharmacy, often after hours or at weekends, can mean help is available where a woman needs it — and when she needs it.

The range of services available through community pharmacies for women is increasing and a good example is the very successful uncomplicated Urinary Tract Infection Pharmacy Pilot in Queensland which has seen more than 9,000 women treated and 1,000 hospital presentations avoided. This pilot has been so successful, and so welcomed by women, that it has been permanently extended.

Services for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are in high demand in many pharmacies, with some holding regular clinics to provide advice and support. Pregnant women may find they need supplements, and pharmacy staff can advise on the most appropriate for them. One area pregnant and breastfeeding women often seek advice about is which medicines are safe for them to take, and your pharmacist, as the medicines expert, is able to explain what is suitable and what the options are.

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Some women may also experience difficulties becoming pregnant, and community pharmacists are often in a position to provide informed and targeted reproductive health counselling and advice, including appropriate lifestyle choices, as well directing patients to appropriate referral services.

Another important area of support for women is access to a pharmacist who can help women who are experiencing menstrual disorders, including menstrual pain, irregular periods and heavy or unusual bleeding. The pharmacist or staff can provide confidential and discreet advice on treatment options to help women who are experiencing difficulties.

Community pharmacies are also a welcome source of advice for women during menopause, with each woman’s experience of this phase of their life being unique. The management and treatment may be dependent on each individual’s stage of life and their overall health. Healthy living, natural and complementary therapies, menopause hormone therapy and some prescription medications can help relieve menopausal symptoms. Pharmacy staff can advise on supplements and medications to help women during this transitional phase of their lives.

Sexual health is critical and community pharmacies are increasingly being accessed by women seeking advice on the best form of contraception for their needs and also treatment options where disorders or disease may be an issue. Importantly, pharmacy staff know every woman’s needs and situation is unique and they are trained to help find the best solutions for each situation.

At times, a woman will seek out emergency contraception from their pharmacy to avoid an unplanned pregnancy following unprotected sexual intercourse. These customers value the advice, expertise, information and guidance that a community pharmacist can provide — in a safe and welcoming environment — to assist them in making decisions about their options.


Vaginal thrush is a common fungal infection whose symptoms include itching, irritation or a burning sensation in the genital area, and pain may be present during sexual intercourse. The condition can be triggered by antibiotics, pre-menstrual changes, hot weather or even wearing clothes made from synthetic materials. It can also be brought on by using vaginal deodorants, bath salts and some soaps. Identifying the source of the condition is important in determining the right treatment, so a confidential discussion with a pharmacist can ensure the right course of action is chosen quickly for maximum effectiveness.

Bone density testing is another important service, and while not specific to women, osteoporosis is more likely to affect women than men. In women, bone loss starts at an earlier age and can also be affected during pregnancy. Pharmacies may engage external providers to conduct testing in the pharmacy and, depending on the results, can provide advice about the best course of action moving forward.

Finally, and critically, women should know that a pharmacist will always refer them to their GP for further consultations or treatment when necessary. Community pharmacists and GPs work closely together in the interests of patients, and your pharmacist will not hesitate to refer or consult with your GP when necessary.

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