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.
Women's health includes a wide range of specialties and focus areas, such as:
- Birth control, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and gynecology
- Breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other female cancers
- Menopause and hormone therapy
- 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 and HPV testing
- Bone density testing
- Breast cancer screening
- Discussions about colon cancer screening
- Age-appropriate immunizations
- Healthy lifestyle risk assessment
- Hormonal testing for menopause
- Screening for STIs
Breast self-exam instruction may also be included.
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
- 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:
- Abnormal Pap smears
- Presence of high-risk HPV
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Heavy menstrual cycles
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Other vaginal infections
- Ovarian cysts
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- 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 include:
- Planning and preparing for pregnancy, including information about proper diet, prenatal vitamins, and review of pre-existing medical conditions and medicines used
- Prenatal care, delivery, and postpartum care
- High-risk pregnancy care (maternal-fetal medicine)
- Breastfeeding and nursing
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
- Infertility treatments
- Counseling for couples who are dealing with infertility or loss of a baby
Types of infertility treatments that may be offered include:
- Medicines 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
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
- 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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McGarry K, Babb K, Edmonds L, Duffy C, Anvar M, Jeremiah J. Women's health topics. In: Benjamin IJ, Griggs RC, Wing EJ, Fitz JG, eds. Andreoli and Carpenter's Cecil Essentials of Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 70.
Schrager SB, Paladine HL, Cadwallader K. Gynecology. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 25.