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Dr Nitu Bajekal x WUKA

We are so pleased to announce that we will be working with Dr Nitu Bajekal, a Gynaecologist with over 35 years’ experience in Women’s Health. We sat down and had a conversation with her, and how your lifestyle plays an integral role with your health and we touched upon PCOS as it is PCOS Awareness Month!


Dr Nitu

Can you tell us a bit about your practice and research?

 

I am a Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in the UK with over 35 years of clinical experience in women’s health. Although I have been involved in research in fetal medicine, ectopic pregnancy etc during my training years, I am first and foremost a clinician and love the interactions with my patients. Seeing them get better brings me great joy. I have a busy clinical practice and my special interests include PCOS, Endometriosis, Period problems, menopause, precancer, complex vulval problems and more recently, lifestyle medicine. I am a trained keyhole surgeon with experience in minimal access procedures (including laparoscopic and hysteroscopic procedures and was one of the first few gynaecologists to be trained in robotic surgery. 

A Fellow of the Royal College, UK (RCOG) since 2007, I am also a former Training Programme Director for Obstetrics and Gynaecology in London and an RCOG examiner. I sit on the RCOG Advisory Appointments Committee appointing consultants. Details of my career achievements and expertise can be found in my curriculum vitae here.

You can read all about my clinical expertise on my website where I have fact sheets on all common gynae conditions and procedures. https://nitubajekal.com/resources/fact-sheets/

 

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Clinical Experience

I am a senior NHS Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at The Royal Free London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust since 20 years and a women’s health expert with over 35 years of clinical experience. 

In 2018, I was amongst the first few doctors and the first Gynaecologist to become an International board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician in the UK.

My medical and specialist training took place in leading medical institutions in India and in the UK. In 1990, I received the prestigious President of India Gold medal for my academic achievements in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 

Moving to the UK in 1991, I furthered my training as a minimal access or keyhole surgeon at The Royal Free Hospital in London and in Sheffield. I was one of the first gynaecological surgeons in the UK to perform robotic surgery.

A Fellow of the Royal College, UK (RCOG) since 2007, I am also a former Training Programme Director for Obstetrics and Gynaecology in London and an RCOG examiner. I sit on the RCOG Advisory Appointments Committee appointing consultants. Details of my career achievements and expertise can be found in my curriculum vitae here.

Over the last 35 years of clinical practice, I have developed special medical and surgical expertise in several areas, including the management of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, heavy periods, painful periods, menopause, fibroids, cervical precancer, complex vulval problems, and minimal access surgery. 

I am the founder of Women for Women's Health, a voluntary service set up to educate, energise and empower women to make lifestyle choices to help improve their own and their families’ health. Patient satisfaction is extremely important to me and I consider myself a highly committed doctor, always putting my patients’ interests first. 

I have had a very satisfying and busy career both on the NHS and private built over 20 years in London. Testimonials from patients make years of hard work all very worthwhile.


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Why did you decide / choose to become a Gynaecologist? 

Thirty five years later, I still find Obs and Gynae just as thrilling when I first decided to specialise in this area. I loved the idea that I could look after womxn from birth to death at every age and stage of their lives. I loved hospital medicine as well and being in the operating theatre, so I could not imagine another specialty that would give me the drama of acute medicine on the labour ward during delivering babies, the ability to connect with women when they need help, the psychological aspects, the medical aspects but also the overall fulfilling nature of the specialty where one often sees the fruits of one’s hard work very quickly. I would do it all over again despite the insanely long hours, sleepless nights and training for over 15 years to become a specialist. 

 

Could you elaborate on Lifestyle medicine and the connection with female health?

 

I felt so passionate about the state of women’s health and the health of the general public, that I felt I was not fulfilling my primary role as a doctor if I didn’t share what I had learned and observed over the years. I took pride in my role as examiner, training programmed director, robotic surgeon but felt something was missing. Personal events made me interested in looking for more information so I could go that little bit further for my patients. I trained to become one of the first US board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Physicians in the UK and have written the women’s health module for the first UK University based plant based nutrition course. 

Lifestyles do matter 

The answer to good health lies more often in our lifestyles rather than in our genes. In western societies, we tend to underestimate the effects of what we eat on our minds and body. Everything we do — from sleep and exercise to the abuse of dangerous substances and stress, as well as the relationship we have with our community and environment — has far greater an impact than many of us would like to believe.

For too long, the medical world has had a patronising attitude towards patients. This needs to change. The patient is often a bystander in their own treatment and decisions taken about them, instead of being an active participant.

Lifestyle medicine uses medically-proven plant-based nutrition and evidence-based lifestyle interventions to prevent and manage chronic lifestyle diseases. It has six pillars, the most important of all being adopting a predominantly whole food plant-based way of eating. The other pillars of Lifestyle Medicine are regular physical movement, restorative sleep, managing stress, avoidance of dangerous substances and building healthy relationships.

In lifestyle medicine, the patient is in the driving seat and not the doctor, whose role it is to act as a guide and this is what is so exciting about it.

Lifestyle medicine is just as relevant in women’s health, given that there is no aspect of women’s health at every age and stage of life that does not benefit from positive lifestyle changes. Sadly, this has received scant attention thus far. 



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It is PCOS Awareness month. What advice would you give to those who are diagnosed with PCOS?

    1. Empower yourself to understand about your condition so you can make the right choices for yourself.
    2. PCOS is the most common endocrine condition that affects the function of your ovaries but your ovaries are not at fault. PCOS causes reproductive, psychological and metabolic effects through mechanisms such as insulin resistance and androgen excess.
    3. Symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, acne, increased body/facial hair, difficulty in conceiving but also symptoms such as anxiety, depression, disordered eating, weight gain, hair loss and sleep disturbances that are often not addressed adequately.
    4. Making small lifestyle and behavioural changes, especially eating a plant predominant diet, adding more whole plant foods along with regular physical movement can have a profound effect on your condition, both in the short term but also in the longer term.
    5. You may benefit from conventional medical treatment alongside lifestyle modifications so don’t reject either. Insist on finding the right medical health professional rather than following non scientific advice that can harm you in the long term.

You can find more here: https://nitubajekal.com/pcos-nutrition/

 

Are painful periods usually a health concern? 

 

Yes, they are. Up to nine days of total productivity are lost every year from painful and heavy periods (Dutch study https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/menstrual-symptoms-linked-to-nearly-9-days-of-lost-productivity-through-presenteeism-every-year/). This is not acceptable and should be highlighted as a significant public health concern and involve more open discussions. You can read more here: https://nitubajekal.com/painful-periods/ 

 

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Do tell us a bit more about your Women for Women's Health.

 

In 2014, I was inspired to set up a not for profit women’s health service (Women for Women’s Health), after a growing realisation that by empowering a woman through information and open discussion, not only her health improved but also that of her entire family. I recognised, that even in this modern age, it is us women who determine largely what is eaten at the dinner table or in front of the television. I was passionate about educating women and started to provide reliable medical and lifestyle information for the general public, doctors, workplaces and schools. 

I feel this knowledge regarding lifestyle should be available to people of all ages and from all walks of life and started to run workshops with the aim to educate and empower women to make better health choices. I am also an ambassador for the community kitchen Made in Hackney and run cooking classes for them. I am committed to improving women’s health through public education and education of health professionals, by providing reliable medical and lifestyle information for the general public, doctors, workplaces and schools. 

Instagram @drnitubajekal

 

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