A Woman's Journey

Adolescence

Growth and Development

Preparing Your Daughter for Changes
A young girl's first period should not happen out of nowhere; it should never be a complete surprise.
Anatomy of the Breasts
Each breast has 15 to 20 sections (lobes), which are arranged like the petals of a daisy. Each lobe has many smaller lobules, which end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can produce milk.
Anatomy of Female Pelvic Area
The female pelvic area contains a number of organs and structures: the endometrium, uterus, ovaries, cervix, vagina, and vulva.
Normal Growth
A child's growth not only involves the length and weight of his or her body, but also internal growth and development.
Puberty: Adolescent Female
Girls experience puberty as a sequence of events, and their pubertal changes usually begin before boys of the same age. The first pubertal change in girls usually is breast development.
Normal Breast Development and Changes
Breast development occurs in distinct stages, first before birth, and again at puberty and during the childbearing years. Changes also occur to the breasts during menstruation and when a woman reaches menopause.
Understanding the Teen Brain
Parents need to realize the rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until he or she is 25 years old or so.
Cognitive Development
During adolescence, the developing teenager acquires the ability to think systematically about all logical relationships within a problem.
Relationship Development
Adolescent attention often shifts to a more intense focus on social interactions and friendships expanding from same sex friends to same sex groups of friends to heterosexual groups of friends.
Healthy Eating During Adolescence
Encourage your teen to eat three balanced meals a day, with fruits or vegetables as snacks.
Weight Management and Adolescents
For overweight children 7 and older, the initial goal is to keep them from gaining more weight. Changes in eating habits and exercise are gradually introduced to trim pounds.
Menstrual Cycle: An Overview
A woman is generally most fertile (able to become pregnant) a few days before, during, and after ovulation.

Gynecological Conditions

Breast Conditions
Some breast changes or conditions are related to a young woman's menstrual cycle, but others may occur at any time. Most breast conditions are benign.
Amenorrhea in Teens
Amenorrhea is a menstrual condition in which a woman's menstrual periods are absent for more than three monthly cycles. Pregnancy is one possible cause of amenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea in Adolescents
Dysmenorrhea is a menstrual condition marked by severe and frequent menstrual cramps and pain. Dysmenorrhea can be either lifelong or caused by another medical condition.
Vulvitis in Teens
Vulvitis is an inflammation of the vulva, the soft folds of skin outside the vagina. It is a symptom of a host of diseases, infections, injuries, and allergies.
Vaginitis in Adolescents
Vaginitis is a common problem for women of all ages. Bacteria, yeast, viruses, and chemicals in creams or sprays can cause it.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Adolescents
STDs are among the most common infectious diseases in this country—the United States has the highest rates of STDs in the industrialized world.
Safer Sex Guidelines for Adolescents
The only safe sex is no sex, most health care providers say. But certain precautions and safe behaviors can minimize a person's risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Most females experience some unpleasant or uncomfortable symptoms during their menstrual cycle. The type and intensity of symptoms vary.

Adolescent Health Problems

Acne in Children
Acne is a disorder of the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. With acne, the sebaceous glands are clogged, which leads to pimples and cysts.
Major Depression in Children
Common symptoms of major depression include persistent feelings of sadness, sleep disturbances, and difficulty concentrating.
Bulimia Nervosa in Adolescents
Bulimia nervosa is defined as uncontrolled episodes of overeating (bingeing) usually followed by self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, enemas, or medications in an attempt to control weight.
Obesity in Adolescents
Children who are inactive—spending time watching TV or sitting at a computer—are at higher risk for obesity, especially when their diet contains lots of high-calorie foods and beverages.
A Weighty Issue: Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is more prevalent in the Northeast, followed by the Midwest, South and West. It is also more prevalent in cities than in rural areas.
Stages of Substance Abuse
People who become addicted to drugs or alcohol typically go through predictable stages of abuse. Understanding these stages can help you recognize a problem and seek help before substance use becomes an addiction.
Substance Abuse/Chemical Dependence in Adolescents
Substances frequently abused by adolescents include alcohol, marijuana, and amphetamines. Some teens are at higher risk of developing substance-related disorders.
Teens and Prescription Drugs
Many young people take prescription drugs because they believe they are safer than street drugs, but they can be just as dangerous if taken improperly.
Alcohol Use Among Teens Is Epidemic
The leading substance-abuse threat to children may be as close as your refrigerator. About 10 million adolescents drink alcohol. In fact, minors drink 19 percent of the alcohol consumed in the United States.
Adjustment Disorders
Adjustment disorders are quite common in children and teens. They are characterized by an excessive reaction to stress.
Anorexia Nervosa in Children
Anorexia nervosa (AN) is eating disorder that is a form of self-starvation. A child or teen with AN has abnormally low body weight, a distorted body image, and an intense fear of gaining weight.

Adolescent Sports Injuries

Female Teen Athletes: At Risk for Injury?
Teen girls who are athletes face unique obstacles when it comes to their bodies and how well they perform.
Knees Are Casualties of Women's Sports
Active women are at least twice as likely to suffer serious knee injuries as men, but it's not just athletes who are at risk.
Bicycle, In-Line Skating, Skateboarding Safety--Identifying High-Risk Situations
Most skateboard crashes occur because of irregular riding surfaces or because of inexperience. Sprains and fractures of the wrist are the most common results of a fall.
Water Safety and Teens
Encourage your adolescent to take swimming, diving, and water safety or rescue classes to give him/her the skills needed to swim and dive safely.
Bicycle, In-Line Skating, Skateboarding Safety--Prevention
Skateboards should never be used on surface streets. Your child should wear protective gear such as helmets, padding, and closed-toe and slip-resistant shoes.
Bicycle, In-Line Skating, Skateboarding Safety--Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates
Most child and teen bicycle crashes occur between May and August and between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m.

Childbearing Years

Menstrual Health and Conditions

Anatomy of the Breasts
Each breast has 15 to 20 sections (lobes), which are arranged like the petals of a daisy. Each lobe has many smaller lobules, which end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can produce milk.
Anatomy of Female Pelvic Area
The female pelvic area contains a number of organs and structures: the endometrium, uterus, ovaries, cervix, vagina, and vulva.
Recognizing Gynecologic Problems
Vaginal bleeding and discharge are a normal part of your menstrual cycle. If you notice anything different or unusual, talk with your health care provider.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
PMDD is a much more severe form of premenstrual syndrome. Women with a personal or family history of mood disorders or postpartum depression may be at higher risk for this disorder.
Amenorrhea
Amenorrhea is a menstrual condition in which a woman's menstrual periods are absent for more than three monthly cycles. Pregnancy is one possible cause of amenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea
Dysmenorrhea is a menstrual condition marked by severe and frequent menstrual cramps and pain. Dysmenorrhea can be either lifelong or caused by another medical condition.
Menorrhagia
Menorrhagia is the most common type of abnormal uterine bleeding. In some cases, bleeding may be so severe that it interrupts daily activities.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Most females experience some unpleasant or uncomfortable symptoms during their menstrual cycle. The type and intensity of symptoms vary.
Menstrual Cycle: An Overview
A woman is generally most fertile (able to become pregnant) a few days before, during, and after ovulation.

Pelvic Conditions and Care

Pap Test
A Pap test is a way for your doctor to examine cells collected from the cervix for infection, inflammation, or cancer.
Endometriosis
Women with endometriosis develop tissue that looks and acts like endometrial tissue outside the uterus, usually on other reproductive organs inside the pelvis or in the abdominal cavity.
Pelvic Pain
Pelvic pain is a common complaint among women. Its nature and intensity may fluctuate, and its cause is often obscure.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
This syndrome results from several related factors, including insulin resistance. This can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes and affect fertility.
Uterine Fibroids
Some estimates say that 20 to 50 percent of women of reproductive age have fibroids, although not all are diagnosed. In most cases, fibroids are benign.
Vulvitis
Vulvitis is an inflammation of the vulva, the soft folds of skin outside the vagina. It is a symptom of a host of diseases, infections, injuries, and allergies.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Untreated, PID can cause infertility and can also lead to chronic infection or even peritonitis.
Cervicitis
Cervicitis is an irritation of the cervix. Acute cervicitis can be caused an infection such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes. Chronic cervicitis is common in women following childbirth.
Vaginitis
Vaginitis is a common problem for women of all ages. Bacteria, yeast, viruses, and chemicals in creams or sprays can cause it.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections are a serious, but common, health problem that affects millions of people each year. Women are especially prone to urinary tract infections.
Hysterectomy
Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. Different portions of the uterus, as well as other organs, may be removed at the same time.

Sexual Health & Infertility

Contraception/Birth Control
You have a lot of options when it comes to birth control. Some methods don't require a doctor's visit, but others, like oral contraceptives, are available only by prescription.
Vasectomy
Vasectomy is a permanent male birth control measure and a means of contraception used in many parts of the world.
Safer Sex Guidelines
The only safe sex is no sex, most health care providers say. But certain precautions and safe behaviors can minimize a person's risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
Vertebroplasty
Vertebroplasty is a procedure in which a special medical-grade cement mixture is injected into a fractured vertebra

Pregnancy

Preparing for Pregnancy

Nutrition Before Pregnancy
You need about 300 extra calories a day to maintain a healthy pregnancy. These calories should come from a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Folic Acid for a Healthy Baby
Getting enough folic acid can reduce the risk for neural tube defects (NTDs) and may also reduce the risk for other serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
Watch Your Weight
If your weight is not in the healthy range for your height and build, the best way to lose weight is to set a reasonable goal and lose it slowly and gradually.
Planning a Pregnancy
Planning ahead and taking care of yourself before becoming pregnant is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.
Components of Food
When trying to make heart-healthy changes to your lifestyle and diet, it is helpful to know some basics about nutrition.

Now That You're Pregnant

Signs of Pregnancy/The Pregnancy Test
The signs of pregnancy vary from woman to woman, but the most obvious sign usually is a missed period.
Calculating a Due Date
First, determine the first day of your last menstrual period. Next, count back three calendar months and add one year and seven days to that date.
Prenatal Medical Care
It may seem like you are having a lot of appointments, but regular visits to your doctor are an important part of a healthy pregnancy. You and your growing baby will be carefully monitored, with tests done to assess any potential risks and develop a treatment plan, if needed.
Pregnancy Over Age 30
Many women today are waiting until later in life to have children. In the United States, birth rates for women in their 30s are at the highest levels in three decades.
Older Moms, Healthy Babies
The fact is that most women in their 30s and 40s have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. To ensure a healthy pregnancy, you should do what any woman should do: Prepare for your baby with healthy lifestyle choices. Talk with your doctor about your risk factors and learn what you can do to prevent potential problems.
Sound Advice for a Healthful Pregnancy
Bringing a new life into this world is a big responsibility. Even seemingly simple things—like soaking in a hot tub or being around people who are painting—could affect your baby.
Birth Statistics
Statistics relating to birth rates
We're Pregnant–Tips for the Expectant Dad
More than ever, men are actively involved throughout the pregnancy experience. The term expectant father really fits, as men support, worry, and plan right along with their pregnant partners. Some of the more common experiences for expectant dads are included here.
Tips for Traveling Moms-to-be
Today’s society is increasingly mobile, and the demands of career and family often require travel during a woman’s pregnancy. Here are some tips and guidance for safe travels while you’re pregnant.

Your Growing Baby

Anatomy: Fetus in Utero
A thin-walled sac surrounds the fetus during pregnancy. The sac is filled with amniotic fluid, which protects the fetus from injury.
First Trimester
A healthy first trimester is crucial to the normal development of your baby. You may not be showing much on the outside, but inside, all the major body organs and systems of the fetus are forming.
Second Trimester
During this trimester, the weight of your growing baby will multiply more than seven times—and you will start showing more.
Third Trimester
The third trimester marks the home stretch for your pregnancy. You may feel more uncomfortable now as you continue to gain weight. You also may have false labor contractions (called Braxton-Hicks contractions).
Overview of Multiple Pregnancy
Multiple pregnancy is a pregnancy with two or more fetuses. In the United States, the multiple birth rate is rising.
Common Tests During Pregnancy
Certain tests and screenings may be scheduled during your pregnancy. Your health care provider will advise you on which tests you'll need.

Your Changing Body

Morning Sickness
It’s hard to think positive when you’re feeling sick and nauseous. But those common pregnancy symptoms can benefit your baby. Find out how, and what it takes to ease your symptoms.
Headaches in Early Pregnancy
Managing headaches is especially tricky in the first trimester when you should avoid medications.
Hormones During Pregnancy
Many hormone levels are affected in the body during pregnancy, with several hormones playing major roles.
Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Average weight gain for women is between 25 and 35 pounds, although slight deviations from this may also be considered normal.
Nutrition During Pregnancy
Not only is eating nutritious food good for you and your baby, it also can ease some of the discomforts of pregnancy. A balanced diet can help minimize symptoms such as nausea and constipation.
Exercise During Pregnancy
If you exercised before pregnancy, you can safely continue exercising. If you were inactive or you have medical complications, talk with your doctor before beginning to exercise.
Work and Pregnancy
Most women are able to work safely, in some cases, until the day of delivery, depending on the type of work performed and their condition.
Sex During Pregnancy
In most cases, sex during pregnancy is safe. In fact, with your doctor's approval, sexual relations can continue until delivery.
Sleeping During Pregnancy
The best sleeping position for you is on your side, especially the left side, because it allows for maximum blood flow to the fetus and improves your kidney function.
Managing Hemorrhoids and Varicose Veins in Pregnancy
Hemorrhoids and varicose veins might seem to be two different, unrelated problems, but they are actually quite similar. And, they are a discomfort experienced by many women, especially in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Common Discomforts During Pregnancy
Nausea and vomiting are common in the first trimester, as is fatigue. Other common discomforts are hemorrhoids and heartburn.
First Trimester Fatigue
For many women, the extreme tiredness of the first trimester is quite a surprise. And it’s an especially hard transition for those who are normally go-getters with lots of energy.
Pregnancy and Skin Changes
For many women, pregnancy brings glowing skin, rosy cheeks, and shiny hair. But others can experience skin changes that aren’t so attractive, including acne, dark spots, and stretch marks.
Pregnancy and Posture
Much back pain in pregnancy is related to the strain on your back from the weight of your growing baby. Using proper posture can help prevent and even relieve some of the pain.
Pregnancy and Heartburn
Chances are good that you’re one of more than three-fourths of pregnant women who experience the churning and burning of heartburn or acid indigestion. It typically hits somewhere in the second or third trimester, and it can be miserable.

Pregnancy Tests and Procedures

Amniocentesis Procedure
Amniocentesis is a procedure used to obtain a small sample of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus during pregnancy. The fluid is analyzed to help diagnose certain birth defects.
Cesarean Delivery
Cesarean delivery is the surgical delivery of a baby by an incision through the mother's abdomen and uterus. This procedure is performed when it is determined to be a safer method than a vaginal delivery for the mother, baby, or both.
Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)
This prenatal test involves taking a sample of tissue from the placenta to test for chromosomal abnormalities and certain other genetic problems.
Episiotomy
During childbirth, the vagina may not stretch enough. If this occurs, your health care provider may perform an episiotomy to help enlarge the opening and deliver the baby.
External and Internal Heart Rate Monitoring of the Fetus
The fetal heart rate may change as the fetus responds to conditions in the uterus. An abnormal fetal heart rate or pattern may indicate that the fetus is not getting enough oxygen or that there are other problems.
Fetal Ultrasound
Fetal ultrasound is a test used during pregnancy that creates an image of the fetus in the mother's uterus, or womb.
Biophysical Profile
A biophysical profile is a test that’s sometimes given during your third trimester of pregnancy. It is typically done if the health of your baby is in question because of the results of another test, because of certain pregnancy symptoms, or if your pregnancy is high risk.

Menopause & Living Well

Perimenopause
Perimenopause is the period of time before menstruation stops. This time is marked by changes in the menstrual cycle, along with other physical and emotional symptoms.
Estrogen's Effects on the Female Body
In addition to regulating the menstrual cycle, estrogen affects the reproductive tract, the urinary tract, the heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, and the brain.
Optimize Your Health and Happiness
Staying healthy mentally and physically isn't simply a matter of good genes. It's a proactive project that lasts your entire life.
The Power of Resilience
When tragedy strikes with the death of a loved one, a serious illness or a job loss, some people fall apart, while others adapt to such life-changing events more easily. Being resilient is what makes the difference.
Introduction to Menopause
When a woman permanently stops having menstrual periods, she has reached the stage of life called menopause. This stage signals the end of a woman's ability to have children.
Menopausal Hormone Therapy
If you use or are considering using hormone therapy, discuss the possible benefits and risks with your health care provider.
Staying Healthy After Menopause
Good nutrition and regular exercise can help you stay healthy and youthful at this stage of life.
Debunking 10 Aging Myths
Many older Americans lead healthy, interesting, and productive lives well into their later years. But that’s not what we usually hear about.
Tai Chi: Exercise for Mind and Body
Tai chi is called a mind-body type of exercise because it combines meditation, focused breathing, and physical movement. Because it’s also a low-impact exercise, it may be particularly well suited for older adults, but it’s a beneficial exercise for people of all ages.