How pharmacists can support women’s health

Pharmacists can have a significant impact on women’s health by providing education, counseling, and medication management services

Women of all ages face unique health concerns that may affect their overall health and well-being. As highly accessible healthcare professionals, pharmacists are well-positioned to support women’s health in their communities throughout the year. 

Pharmacists can have a significant impact on women’s health by providing education, counseling, and medication management services. By working collaboratively with other healthcare providers, pharmacists can help women lead healthier lives.

What is women’s health?

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While women’s health includes reproductive care, there are many other aspects that women’s health encompasses. Women’s health pertains to all women, including those choosing not to have children. The National Institute of Health defines women’s health as “the branch of medicine that focuses on the treatment and diagnosis of diseases and conditions that affect a woman’s physical and emotional well-being.” 

Examples of women’s health topics include:

  • Birth control
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Infertility
  • Sexual and menstrual health
  • Pregnancy and gynecological care
  • Osteoporosis
  • Menopause
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer

Additionally, women are more likely than men to develop certain health conditions, such as autoimmune diseases and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Women also more commonly experience mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Traditional role of pharmacists in women’s health

Pharmacists can have a significant impact on women’s health. While the role of pharmacists has expanded and modernized over the past few decades, many of the ways that pharmacists support women’s health involve their more traditional roles of dispensing and counseling.

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  • Medication management: Through dispensing and clinical monitoring, pharmacists play a vital role in ensuring women receive appropriate medications and dosages. They can also advise women on the proper use of medications as well as how to manage side effects.
  • Preventive care: Pharmacists also educate women on the importance of preventive care. They can provide information on routine immunizations, vitamins and dietary supplements, and smoking cessation.
  • Contraception: Pharmacists can answer patients’ questions about various methods of contraception, including birth control pills, patches, injections, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). Pharmacists can also provide information about emergency contraception, such as the morning-after pill.
  • Hormone therapy: Some women may require hormone therapy to manage conditions such as menopause or infertility. Pharmacists can educate women on the proper use of these medications and warn about potential side effects and drug interactions.
  • Medication safety during pregnancy: Additionally, pharmacists can provide advice and counsel women on safe medications to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding. They can also advise women on prenatal vitamins and other supplements that may be necessary during pregnancy.

RELATED: How pharmacy technicians can go above and beyond for their customers

Pharmacists’ evolving role in contraception

Pharmacists have been in the news for their evolving roles in increasing access to healthcare within the community. Specifically, the scope of practice for pharmacists is expanding in much of the country to increase patient access to contraception.

As of 2023, according to the National Alliance of State and Pharmacy Associations, pharmacists can prescribe hormonal birth control in 24 states and Washington D.C. through state protocols, standing orders, or collaborative practice agreements. 

Regardless of your state’s contraception-prescribing policy, pharmacists should keep abreast of evolving legislation, resources, and available therapies. Pharmacists can discuss the pros and cons of contraceptive options with their patients and collectively decide which option is right for them. Pharmacists and staff should also recognize when patients require further intervention and refer to other care providers accordingly.

Pharmacists and pregnancy

Though the United States is a developed country and leader in healthcare worldwide, infant mortality rates are comparable with less-developed countries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites that the United States reports 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. One of the leading causes of infant mortality is maternal pregnancy complications.

Pharmacists can help pregnant patients receive adequate maternal care during their pregnancy by supplying prenatal vitamins, counseling on medication safety during pregnancy, and preventing the use of teratogens. Pharmacy teams can also provide immunization screening to ensure women receive necessary vaccines. For example, pharmacists can impact maternal and newborn health by making a strong recommendation for pregnant women to receive the Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of pregnancy. 

Women’s health includes transgender women

The pharmacy profession holds itself to the highest standards of conduct and should treat all patients with the utmost respect and care, including patients who identify as transgender and gender-diverse. As such, pharmacy owners and managers should prioritize training for their staff on providing inclusive LGBTQ+ healthcare, gender-affirming care, and related aspects of women’s health. If you’re not sure where to start, the Human Rights Campaign and American Pharmacists Association have released guidelines on transgender inclusion for pharmacies that may be helpful.

Women’s health encompasses care for all women, including transgender and cisgender women. Pharmacists play a crucial role in dispensing hormone therapy for transgender women. As drug therapy experts, pharmacists should educate themselves on hormone therapies used for transitioning and be prepared to answer patients’ questions about taking them. 

What else can pharmacists do?

If you are passionate about supplying women with adequate healthcare, there are steps you can take to make a difference: 

  • Advocate: Write to your state representatives to support increased access to women’s healthcare and resources. 
  • Educate: Seek out continuing education courses to educate yourself on women’s health topics.
  • Empathize: Understand that women’s health topics can be sensitive. Patients will look to you for guidance; it is essential to treat them with respect and sensitivity.

Pharmacists and pharmacy staff play a key role in women’s health and advocacy. Women’s health encompasses many conditions across the female life-span, from contraception to maternal care to menopause. Regardless of the care your patients may need, pharmacists and their staff can help support women’s unique medical needs.


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