From puberty through menopause, a woman’s reproductive organs are constantly changing through the normal processes of sexual activity, pregnancy and aging, and sometimes disease and injury.
General Women’s Health
As a woman, you have distinct health concerns that require personalized medical attention. At Elevate MD, our physicians get to know you for the unique individual you are. We pride ourselves on being compassionate listeners and spending time to understand your specific medical history and health care needs.
Choosing a method of birth control can be difficult. Know the options and how to pick the type of contraception that’s right for you.
If you’re considering using birth control (contraception), you have a variety of options. To help pick the right method of birth control for you and your partner, consider the following questions.
What birth control options are available?
Among your birth control options are:
- Barrier methods. Examples include male and female condoms, as well as the diaphragm, cervical cap and contraceptive sponge.
- Hormonal methods. Examples include birth control pills, as well as the vaginal ring (NuvaRing), contraceptive implant (Nexplanon), contraceptive injection (Depo-Provera) and birth control patch.
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs). Examples include the copper IUD (ParaGard) and the hormonal IUD (Mirena, Skyla, Kyleena, others).
- Sterilization. Examples include tubal ligation or the Essure system for women, and vasectomy for men.
- Natural family planning. Examples include the rhythm, basal body temperature and cervical mucus methods.
It’s also important to be aware of emergency contraception — such as the morning-after pill (Plan B One-Step, Aftera, ella, others) — which can be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.
A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women.
A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix — the lower, narrow end of your uterus that’s at the top of your vagina.
Detecting cervical cancer early with a Pap smear gives you a greater chance at a cure. A Pap smear can also detect changes in your cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future. Detecting these abnormal cells early with a Pap smear is your first step in halting the possible development of cervical cancer.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years. Also called leiomyomas (lie-o-my-O-muhs) or myomas, uterine fibroids aren’t associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer.
Fibroids range in size from seedlings, undetectable by the human eye, to bulky masses that can distort and enlarge the uterus. You can have a single fibroid or multiple ones. In extreme cases, multiple fibroids can expand the uterus so much that it reaches the rib cage.
Many women have uterine fibroids sometime during their lives. But most women don’t know they have uterine fibroids because they often cause no symptoms. Your doctor may discover fibroids incidentally during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound.
Chronic pelvic pain is pain in the area below your bellybutton and between your hips that lasts six months or longer.
Chronic pelvic pain can have multiple causes. It can be a symptom of another disease, or it can be a condition in its own right.
If your chronic pelvic pain appears to be caused by another medical problem, treating that problem may be enough to eliminate your pain.
However, in many cases it’s not possible to identify a single cause for chronic pelvic pain. In that case, the goal of treatment is to reduce your pain and other symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs.
With endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would — it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions — abnormal bands of fibrous tissue that can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick to each other.
Endometriosis can cause pain — sometimes severe — especially during your period. Fertility problems also may develop. Fortunately, effective treatments are available.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding is any vaginal bleeding unrelated to normal menstruation. This type of bleeding may include spotting of small amounts of blood between periods — often seen on toilet tissue after wiping — or extremely heavy periods in which you soak a pad or tampon every one to two hours for two or more hours.
Normal vaginal bleeding, or menstruation, occurs every 21 to 35 days when the uterus sheds its lining, marking the start of a new reproductive cycle. A menstrual period may last for just a few days or up to a week. Your flow may be heavy or light and still considered normal. Menstrual cycles tend to be longer for teens and for women nearing menopause, and menstrual flow may also be heavier at those ages.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets in an ovary or on its surface. Women have two ovaries — each about the size and shape of an almond — on each side of the uterus. Eggs (ova), which develop and mature in the ovaries, are released in monthly cycles during the childbearing years.
Many women have ovarian cysts at some time. Most ovarian cysts present little or no discomfort and are harmless. The majority disappears without treatment within a few months.
However, ovarian cysts — especially those that have ruptured — can cause serious symptoms. To protect your health, get regular pelvic exams and know the symptoms that can signal a potentially serious problem.
Hormone replacement therapy — medications containing female hormones to replace the ones the body no longer makes after menopause — is sometimes used to treat common menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and vaginal discomfort.
Hormone therapy has also been proved to prevent bone loss and reduce fracture in postmenopausal women.
Along with the benefits, there are risks associated with using hormone therapy. These risks depend on a few factors, including the type of hormone therapy, the dose and how long the medication is taken. For best results, hormone therapy should be tailored to each person and re-evaluated every so often to be sure its benefits still outweigh the risks.
Infertility is defined as trying to get pregnant (with frequent intercourse) for at least a year with no success. Female infertility, male infertility or a combination of the two affects millions of couples in the United States. An estimated 10 to 18 percent of couples have trouble getting pregnant or having a successful delivery.
Infertility results from female factors about one-third of the time and male factors about one-third of the time. The cause is either unknown or a combination of male and female factors in the remaining cases.
Female infertility causes can be difficult to diagnose. There are many available treatments, which will depend on the cause of infertility. Many infertile couples will go on to conceive a child without treatment. After trying to get pregnant for two years, about 95 percent of couples successfully conceive.
There are many types of prolapse, which differ according to which organ is affected. When the walls of the vagina become lax, the organs that they should be supporting bulge into the vagina, creating the sensation of a lump hanging down. The uterus is supported at the top of the vagina, and when the ligaments in this wall loosen, the uterus bulges downward. This condition is called uterine prolapse. Other types of prolapse include prolapse of the bladder into the front wall of the vagina (cystocele), that of the rectum into the back wall (rectocele), and that of the small intestine into the top of the vagina (enterocele). A combination of the last two is known as a recto-enterocele.
Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that’s so sudden and strong you don’t get to a toilet in time.
Though it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence isn’t an inevitable consequence of aging. If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. For most people, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease discomfort or stop urinary incontinence.
A pelvic ultrasound is a noninvasive diagnostic exam that produces images that are used to assess organs and structures within the female pelvis. A pelvic ultrasound allows quick visualization of the female pelvic organs and structures including the uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles. It’s diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s, but the average age is 51 in the United States.
Menopause is a natural biological process. But the physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt your sleep, lower your energy or affect emotional health. There are many effective treatments available, from lifestyle adjustments to hormone therapy.