There are various conditions that affect women’s gynecologic health, we have compiled brochures on the most common condition inquiries we receive. The brochures were obtained from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition in which the type of tissue that forms the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) is found outside the uterus.
Usual Ages affected: Diagnosis often in women in their 30s and 40s
– Chronic (long-term) pelvic pain, especially just before and during the menstrual period
– Pain also may occur during sex
– If endometriosis is present on the bowel, pain during bowel movements can occur
– If it affects the bladder, pain may be felt during urination
– Heavy menstrual bleeding
Many women with endometriosis have no symptoms. More Information…
Pelvic Pain: Pain in the pelvic area that lasts for 6 months or longer. Chronic pain can come and go, or it can be constant. Sometimes chronic pelvic pain follows a regular cycle. For example, it may occur during menstruation. It also can occur only at certain times, such as before or after eating, while urinating, or during sex.
Methods to relieve chronic pelvic pain:
– Lifestyle changes—Good posture and regular exercise may help reduce pelvic pain
– Pain-relieving drugs—Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are helpful in relieving pelvic pain, especially dysmenorrhea.
– Physical therapy—Acupuncture, acupressure, and nerve stimulation therapies may be useful in treating pain caused by dysmenorrhea. Physical therapy that eases trigger points may give relief of muscular pain. Some types of physical therapy teach mental techniques for coping with pain. Such types include relaxation exercises and biofeedback.
– Nutrition therapy—Vitamin B1 and magnesium may be used to relieve dysmenorrhea.
– Surgery—Pelvic pain that does not respond to other treatments can be relieved by surgery. Cutting or destroying nerves blocks pain signals from reaching tissues and organs.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection: HPV causes infection by entering cells. Once inside a cell, HPV takes control of the cell’s internal machinery and uses it to make copies of itself. These copies then infect other nearby cells.
Symptoms: Like many other STIs, genital HPV infection often has no signs or symptoms. The infected person usually is not aware that he or she has been infected and can unknowingly pass the infection to others.
Diseases associated with HPV:
– Genital warts—About a dozen types of HPV cause genital warts. These types are called “low-risk types.” Most cases of genital warts are caused by just two low-risk types of HPV: 1) type 6 and 2) type 11. Genital warts are growths that can appear on the outside or inside of the vagina or on the penis and can spread to nearby skin. Genital warts also can grow around the anus, on the vulva, or on the cervix. Genital warts are not cancer and do not turn into cancer. Warts can be removed with medication or surgery.
– Cancer—At least 13 types of HPV are linked to cancer of the cervix, anus, vagina, penis, mouth, and throat. Types of HPV that cause cancer are known as “high-risk types.” Most cases of HPV-related cancer are caused by just two high-risk types of HPV: 1) type 16 and 2) type 18.
Premenstrual Syndrome: Many women feel physical or mood changes during the days before menstruation. When these symptoms happen month after month, and they affect a woman’s normal life, they are known as PMS.
Emotional Symptoms: Depression, Irritability, Crying Spells, Anxiety, Confusion, Insomnia, Increased Nap Taking, Changes in Sexual Desire, Social Withdraw.
Physical Symptoms: Breast Tenderness, Changes in Appetite, Bloating and Weight Gain, Headache, Swelling in Hands or Feet, Aches, Fatigue, Skin Problems, Abdominal Pain, Gastrointestinal Symptoms.
Sexually Transmitted Infections: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are spread by sexual contact. Sexually transmitted infections can cause severe damage to your body—even death. Except for colds and flu, STIs are the most common contagious (easily spread) infections in the United States, with millions of new cases each year. Although some STIs can be treated and cured, others cannot.
Risk Factors for STIs:
– More than one sexual partner
– A partner who has or has had more than one sexual partner
– Sex with someone who has an STI
– History of STIs
– Use of intravenous drugs (injected into a vein) or partner use of intravenous drugs
Vaginitis: An inflammation of the vagina. As many as one third of women will have symptoms of vaginitis sometime during their lives. Vaginitis affects women of all ages but is most common during the reproductive years.
– Use of antibiotics
– Changes in hormone levels due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, or menopause
– Sexual Intercourse
Treatment: Treatment will depend on the cause of the vaginitis. Treatment may be either with a pill or a cream or gel that is applied to the vagina.
Uterine Fibroids: Uterine fibroids are benign (not cancer) growths that develop from the muscle tissue of the uterus. They also are called leiomyomas or myomas. The size, shape, and location of fibroids can vary greatly. They may be present inside the uterus, on its outer surface or within its wall, or attached to it by a stem-like structure. A woman may have only one fibroid or many of varying sizes. A fibroid may remain very small for a long time and suddenly grow rapidly, or grow slowly over a number of years.
Usual Ages Affected: Typically diagnosed in women in their 30s and 40s. May affect women of all ages.
– Changes in menstruation
– Pain in abdomen or during sex
– Vaginal bleeding at times other than menstruation
– Difficulty urinating or frequent urination
Urinary Incontinence: Urinary incontinence simply means leaking urine. Incontinence can range from leaking just a few drops of urine to complete emptying of the bladder.
– Having a strong urge to urinate
– Frequency Urinating (also called voiding) more often than what is usual for you
– Waking from sleep to urinate
– Painful urination
– Leaking urine while sleeping
– Urinary tract infection (UTI)—UTIs sometimes cause leakage and are treated with antibiotics
– Diuretic medications, caffeine, or alcohol—Incontinence may be a side effect of substances that cause your body to make more urine
– Pelvic floor disorders—These disorders are caused by weakening of the muscles and tissues of the pelvic floor and include urinary incontinence, accidental bowel leakage, and pelvic organ prolapse
– Constipation—Long-term constipation often is present in women with urinary incontinence, especially in older women
– Neuromuscular problems—When nerve (neurologic) signals from the brain to the bladder and urethra are disrupted, the muscles that control those organs can malfunction, allowing urine to leak
– Anatomical problems—The outlet of the bladder into the urethra can become blocked by bladder stones or other growths
Pelvic Support Problems: The pelvic organs include the vagina, cervix, uterus, bladder, urethra, small intestines, and rectum. The pelvic organs are held in place by muscles of the pelvic floor. Layers of connective tissue called fascia also provide support. These supporting muscles and fascia may become torn or stretched, or they may weaken because of aging. Problems with pelvic support often are associated with pelvic organ prolapse. In this condition, the fascia and muscles can no longer support the pelvic organs. As a result, the organs that they support can drop downward.
– Feeling of pelvic heaviness or fullness
– Bulge in the vagina
– Organs bulging out of the vagina
– Pulling or aching feeling or a feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen or pelvis
– Lower back pain
– Leakage of urine (urinary incontinence) or problems having a bowel movement
– Needing to push organs back up into the vagina to empty the bladder or have a bowel movement
– Sexual difficulties
– Problems with inserting tampons or applicators
– Pelvic pressure that gets worse with standing, lifting, or coughing or as the day goes on
– Prior pelvic surgery
– Intense physical activity
– Factors that increase pressure in the abdomen, such as being overweight or obese, constipation and straining to have a bowel movement, and chronic coughing
– Genetic factors
Birth Control Pills: The birth control pill is a pill that you have to take every day at the same time each day. It contains hormones that prevent pregnancy. There are many types of birth control pills. A health care professional can help you choose the right one for you. If you miss a pill, you need to know what to do. Read the directions that came with your pack of pills. You also may want to contact your health care professional.
Intrauterine Device: The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped, plastic device that is inserted and left inside the uterus. The IUD must be inserted and removed by a health care professional. Three types are available in the United States. Two contain hormones and last for 3 years and 5 years. The third type is the copper IUD. It lasts for as long as 10 years.
Vaginal Ring: The ring is a flexible plastic ring that you insert into the upper vagina. It releases hormones into your body. It is worn inside the vagina for 21 days and then removed for 7 days. During those 7 days, you will have your menstrual period. Then you insert a new ring.
Skin Patch: The patch is a small (1.75 square inch) adhesive patch that is worn on the skin. It contains hormones that are slowly released into your body through the skin. A new patch is worn for a week at a time for 3 weeks in a row. During the fourth week, a patch is not worn, and you will have your menstrual period.
Contraceptive Implant: The implant is a small plastic rod about the size of a matchstick that a health care professional inserts under the skin of the upper arm. It releases hormones. The implant protects against pregnancy for 3 years.
Barrier Methods of Contraception:
Condoms: Condoms come in male and female versions. The male condom (“rubber”) covers the penis and catches the sperm after a man ejaculates. The female condom is a thin plastic pouch that lines the vagina. It prevents sperm from reaching the uterus. Condoms work better to prevent pregnancy when used with a spermicide. Spermicides should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
Spermicide: These are chemicals that are put into the vagina to make sperm inactive. There are many types of spermicides: foam, gel, cream, film (thin sheets), or suppositories (solid inserts that melt after they are inserted into the vagina). Frequent use of spermicides may increase the risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from an infected partner. Spermicides should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
Diaphragm: The diaphragm is a small dome-shaped device made of latex or silicone that fits inside the vagina and covers the cervix. You need a prescription for it. A health care professional needs to do a pelvic exam to find the right size of diaphragm for you. It always is used with a spermicide. Birth control methods that need spermicides to work should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
Cervical Cap: The cervical cap is a small, thin latex or plastic dome shaped like a thimble. It fits tightly over the cervix. You need a prescription for it. A health care professional needs to do a pelvic exam to find the right size for you. The cervical cap must be used with a spermicide. Birth control methods that need spermicides to work should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
Sponge: The sponge can be bought without a prescription at drugstores and other stores. It is a doughnut-shaped device made of soft foam that is coated with spermicide. It is pushed up in the vagina to cover the cervix. Birth control methods that have spermicides should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
Emergency Birth Control: If you have sex without using any birth control, if the birth control method did not work (for instance, the condom broke during sex), or if you are raped, you can use emergency birth control to prevent pregnancy. Emergency birth control is available in pill form or as a copper IUD. The pills must be taken or the IUD inserted within 5 days of having unprotected sex.
Types of emergency Birth Control:
1) the progestin-only pill
2) regular birth control pills taken in certain amounts