A Woman’s Healthy Reproductive System-Sex Education

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Collection: Public Health Nursing Files and Photographs
Call number: Series 1863
System ID: 73620.
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Woman in striped dress being immunized.

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Your reproductive system is extremely sensitive and without a healthy reproductive system, it can be very difficult to get pregnant. Many women suffer from infertility. Seeing a physician and having regular pap smears and breast exams are important steps in keeping your reproductive system healthy.

The slightest hormonal imbalance can disrupt the reproductive system which is why it is so important to take care of it. Some factors that can seriously impair your reproductive health include: endometriosis, PCOS , pelvic prolapse, pelvic inflammatory disease, and cervical cancer.

The organs of the reproductive system are:

Uterus- Also called the womb, the uterus is a hollow, pear shaped organ with a muscular wall and a lining. The uterus expands many times in size during pregnancy to hold the growing fetus.

Fallopian Tubes- These thin, soft tubes extend from the uterus to the ovaries. During ovulation, an ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tube next to it.

Ovaries– The ovaries are located in the left and right lower abdomen. Ovaries produce eggs as well as hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

Cervix– The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus that opens into the vagina. During labor, the cervix dilates (expands) to about 4 inches (10 centimeters) in diameter.

Vagina– This tube-like organ connects the uterus to the outside of the body. The birth of a baby follows it’s path.

Hymen– The hymen (also called maidenhead) is a fold of mucous membrane which surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening. It forms part of the vulva, or external genitalia.

Menstruation, or “period,” is the term given to a woman’s periodic discharge of blood, tissue, fluid and mucus from the reproductive organs of sexually mature females. The flow usually lasts from 3 – 6 days each month and is caused by a sudden reduction in the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

When girls begin to go through puberty (usually starting between the ages of 8 and 13), their bodies and minds change in many ways. The hormones bodies stimulate new physical development, such as growth and breast development. Roughly 2 years after a girl’s breasts begin to develop, she usually gets her first menstrual period.

A woman is fertile only for a few days during each menstrual cycle and once ovulation has occurred, there is only a 24 hour period in which fertilization can take place. The reproductive process begins with the ovary releasing an egg and setting it off on it’s journey down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. In the fallopian tube, it begins to produce an enzyme that helps attract the sperm from the males ejaculation.

A man releases millions of sperm when he ejaculates but only a few hundred will be able to make it all the way from the cervix up into the uterus and then into the correct fallopian tube. Once there, only one sperm will then be able to make its way through the eggs tough coating to fertilize the egg.

After fertilization, the egg continues into the uterus where it implants itself into the endometrial lining and officially becomes an embryo.

A missed menstrual period is most often the first sign of pregnancy, but typically, additional symptoms and signs are experienced in the early stages of pregnancy. These include:

-Breast swelling, tenderness, and pain
-Nausea and vomiting
-Fatigue and tiredness
-Abdominal boating
-Frequent urination
-Elevated basal body temperature
-Changes in nipple color
-Melasma (darkening of the skin)
-Mood swings and stress

Sometimes a woman who is pregnant may still experience some bleeding or spotting around the time of the expected period. This small amount of bleeding commonly that occurs at the time of the expected menstrual period may be implantation bleeding. This occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. It’s important to remember that not all women will experience all of these symptoms or have the symptoms to the same degree.

An at home pregnancy can tell whether or not there is a pregnancy as early as the first day of the missed period, which is about two weeks after conception. You should schedule a doctors appointment and get a check up and pregnancy test as soon as possible if you think you might be pregnant.

Pregnancy tests are based upon measurement of the hormone which is only present in a woman when she is pregnant, human chorionic gonadotrophin, or hCG. This hormone is made after the egg is fertilized and its levels rise rapidly in early pregnancy. It acts to support progesterone, a hormone necessary to maintain the pregnancy.

Unfortunately, things don’t always work as mother nature intended. Infertility effects many women for many different reasons. If you have any signs that things might not feel right or if you are having any issues with your menstrual periods, contact physician and have an exam.

Jane Carrasco has created a site where you can learn more about reproductive health and other women’s health issues. This article was originally posted at GoodLife4Women.

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