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Women's health

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:

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
  • Immunizations
  • Screening for STIs

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 infections
  • 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:

PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH SERVICES

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

  • Planning and preparing for pregnancy, including information about proper diet, prenatal vitamins, and review of preexisting medical conditions and medications used
  • 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:

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.

References

Freund K. Approach to women's health. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 245.

Schrager SB, Paladine HL, Cadwallader K. Gynecology. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 25.

Updated: 3/11/2014

Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, WA; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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