Riya (name changed), a 23-year-old freelancer based in Delhi, had been dealing with major depressive episodes for a few years now. She recounts that everything seemed like a herculean task - from waking up to basic household chores. At work, she found it impossible to concentrate. At home, she’d lie awake in her bed till early morning, unable to sleep. The mental health issues that Riya experienced are common among patients with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) - a lifelong hormonal disorder in women. Women’s health disorders often impact every part of her body - from her reproductive system to her hair, skin and mind.
Despite this, getting good care in even one speciality is extremely challenging. Last year, she got diagnosed with PCOS but didn’t seek treatment because the first thing the gynaecologist told her in a condescending, aunty voice was, “You’re very overweight. No one will marry you like this so you need to lose weight!”
Traumatized by her first encounter with a gynaecologist, she feared being body-shamed if she went for a follow-up session. She also knew she needed a therapist to help her overcome her depression but didn’t know that it was related to her PCOS, and even where to start. Going through the trial-and-error of finding judgement-free doctors was too much of a task for her, so she decided to give up before even trying.
This is just one story in a thousand. Indian women are constantly neglecting their health care due to a fear of stigma, non-confidentiality from doctors and the lack of access to affordable and convenient care. That’s where Veera Health comes in.
Veera Health - A modern virtual clinic for women, by women
Made by women who have had similar experiences as Riya, Veera Health is the brainchild of sisters Shobhita and Shashwata Narain. The McKinsey/Wharton/Yale/UnitedHealth alums were fed up by the confusing and isolating process of finding compassionate, high-quality doctors across different specialities, as women’s health needs are typically interrelated. A condition like PCOS can impact not only a woman’s reproductive system, but also her skin and hair, mental health, and weight, among other things.
Launched in 2020, the Veera Health app provides consultations for various issues ranging from PCOS, period pain, contraception, anxiety, depression, and even concerns like nutrition and acne and hair loss.
Shobhita tells Bingedaily the rationale behind it, "It's a modern virtual clinic made for women by women. Our mission is to empower women to take charge of their physical and mental health without shame.
Veera connects you to doctors personalized for your needs in your city and offers an initial consultation, diagnosis, follow-up treatment, and also promises to deliver your medications to your doorstep. Can getting health care get any more convenient?
Veera’s website also features easy-to-digest articles that are verified by a panel of doctors in India and US. “ Often, women search online on Google or Web MD to look up a medical issue but a lot of it is catered towards an American audience. So we wanted to contextualize that information to make it relevant for Indian women,” Shobhita explains.
There are also personal stories penned by women in the Veera community in which they openly speak about their health journeys. Much like these women, Veera wants every woman to feel safe to speak about her experiences as women tend to suffer in silence and not prioritize their health.
Veera Health gives women access to judgement-free, friendly doctors who will guide the patient every step of the way
Living in a conservative society like India where sanitary napkins are wrapped in newspaper and where women are looked down upon for engaging in premarital sex, it can be difficult to seek help for sexual health issues.
Shobhita narrates one of many stories of women that deserved better healthcare instead of the judgment they got. She says, "A friend was suffering from a urinary tract infection for six months and, since she was sexually active with her boyfriend at that point, she was hesitant to go to her gynaecologist who would probably tell her parents about it."
She continues, "So, instead of visiting the family gynaecologist, she found a quack doctor through her friends who prescribed the wrong medications to her. After 6 months of suffering, she finally ended up in the hospital."
The stigma regarding women's health affects women’s ability to get medicines in local pharmacies. One patient, Shobhita says, struggled to buy birth control in her town. “When she consulted with a gynaecologist on Veera Health, we were able to ship the medicines directly to her home - a big relief to her in the lockdown”.
Listening to countless such stories, Shobhita says, inspired her to take action and bring high-quality health care to Indian women.
A basic guide to using the Veera Health app
Veera offers a user-friendly app with different specialities - reproductive care, mental well-being, nutrition and diet, skin and hair care, and general health. It keeps track of your past prescriptions, doctor notes and scans, and makes the appointment scheduling and payment process much easier. Shobhita reassures women that doctors on Veera have gone through a rigorous selection process, and will not give any unsolicited advice or eye-rolls when you use the app for any problem.
If you’re experiencing coronavirus-related anxiety or looking to manage general stress, you can choose to either consult a doctor on Veera for a one-off session which costs around Rs 800 to Rs 1500 or opt for a mental health subscription where you can consult a combination of a therapist, psychiatrist or a counsellor. Follow-ups, at-home diagnostics and medicine deliveries are also taken care of by the app.
In women’s reproductive and sexual health, Veera’s doctors are acquainted with everything under the sun ranging from yeast infections, ovarian cysts, PCOS, menstrual issues, sexually transmitted infections/diseases and much more.
Similar to its mental and reproductive health resources, Veera also offers help on women’s hair and skin concerns. Everyday problems like, hair fall, dandruff, acne, and scar treatment are addressed without any judgement. Additionally, if you’re looking to manage your weight or learn how to eat healthier if you have a chronic disorder like PCOS and diabetes, you can use the app to find certified nutritionists and get started on your journey of self-improvement.
If you wish to get attentive and stigma-free health care, download the Veera app on the App Store or Google Playstore. Follow their Instagram @veerahealth to read reliable health content and get updates on live doctor sessions.