Definition

Women’s health refers to 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.

Information

Women’s health includes a wide range of specialties and focus areas, such as:

  • Birth control, sexually transmitted infections, and gynecology
  • Breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other female cancers
  • Mammography
  • Menopause and hormone replacement therapy
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Sexual health
  • Women and heart disease
  • Benign conditions affecting the function of the female reproductive organs

PREVENTATIVE CARE AND SCREENINGS

Preventative care for women includes the following services:

  • Regular gynecological checkups, including a pelvic exam and breast exam
  • Pap smear
  • Bone density testing
  • Breast cancer screening
  • Discussions about colon cancer screening
  • Age-appropriate immunizations
  • Healthy lifestyle risk assessment
  • Hormonal testing for menopause

See also: Breast self exam

BREAST CARE SERVICES

Breast care services include the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, which may involve:

  • Breast biopsy
  • Breast MRI scan
  • Breast ultrasound
  • Genetic testing and counseling for women with a family or personal history of breast cancer
  • Hormonal therapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy
  • Mammography
  • Mastectomy and breast reconstruction

The breast care services team may also diagnose and treat noncancerous conditions of the breast, including:

  • Benign breast lumps
  • Lymphedema, a condition in which excess fluid collects in tissue and causes swelling

SEXUAL HEALTH SERVICES

Your sexual health is an important part of your overall well-being. Women’s sexual health services may include:

  • Birth control (contraceptives)
  • Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of sexually transmitted illnesses
  • Therapies to help with problems with sexual function

GYNECOLOGY AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES

Gynecology and reproductive health services may include the diagnosis and treatment of various conditions and diseases, including:

  • Abnormal Pap smears
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Endometriosis
  • Heavy menstrual cycles
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Pelvic pain
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Uterine and vaginal prolapse
  • Vaginal yeast infection
  • Various conditions affecting the vulva and vagina

PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH SERVICES

Regular prenatal care is an important part of every pregnancy. Pregnancy and childbirth services includes:

  • Planning and preparing for pregnancy, including information about proper diet and prenatal vitamins
  • Prenatal care, delivery, and postpartum care
  • High-risk pregnancy care (maternal-fetal medicine)
  • Breastfeeding and nursing

INFERTILITY SERVICES

Infertility specialists are an important part of the women’s health services team. Infertility services may include:

  • Testing to determine the cause of infertility (a cause may not always be found)
  • Blood and imaging tests to monitor ovulation
  • Fertility treatments, including:
    • Medications to stimulate ovulation
    • Intrauterine insemination
    • In vitro fertilization (IVF)
    • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – injection of a single sperm directly into an egg
    • Embryo cryopreservation – freezing embryos for use at a later date
    • Egg donation
    • Sperm banking
  • Counseling for couples who are dealing with infertility or loss of a baby

BLADDER CARE SERVICES

The women’s health services team can also help diagnose and treat bladder-related conditions. Bladder-related conditions that may affect women can include:

  • Bladder emptying disorders
  • Urinary incontinence and overactive bladder
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Prolapse of the bladder

If you have a bladder condition, your women’s health specialist may recommend that you do Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor.

OTHER WOMEN’S HEALTH SERVICES

  • Cosmetic surgery and skin care, including skin cancer
  • Diet and nutrition services
  • Psychological care and counseling for women dealing with abuse or sexual assault
  • Sleep disorders services
  • Smoking cessation

TREATMENTS AND PROCEDURES

Members of the women’s health services team perform a variety of different treatments and procedures. Among the most common are:

  • Cesarean section (c-section)
  • Endometrial ablation
  • Endometrial biopsy
  • D&C
  • Hysterectomy
  • Hysteroscopy
  • Mastectomy and breast reconstruction
  • Pelvic laparoscopy
  • Procedures to treat precancerous changes of the cervix (LEEP, Cone biopsy)
  • Procedures to treat urinary incontinence
  • Tubal ligation and reversal of tubal sterilization
  • Uterine artery embolization

WHO TAKES CARE OF YOU

The women’s health services team includes doctors and health care providers from a variety of different specialties. The team may include:

  • Obstetrician/gynecologist (ob/gyn): A doctor who has received extra training in the treatment of pregnancy, reproductive organ problems, and other women’s health issues
  • General surgeons specializing in breast care
  • Perinatologist: An ob/gyn who has received further training and specializes in the care of high-risk pregnancies
  • Radiologist: Doctors who received extra training and interpretation of different imaging as well as performing different procedures using imaging technology to treat disorders such as uterine fibroids
  • Physician assistant (PA)
  • Primary care doctor
  • Nurse practitioner (NP)
  • Nurse midwives

This list may not be all-inclusive.

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