Women can suffer from many, diverse discomforts during their reproductive lives. Symptoms vary with age and for each person. We've put together a guide for the most common problems and symptoms.
+ Healthy as you may be, you may from time to time experience discomforts related to your reproductive system. However, the healthier you keep your body and lifestyle, the better you may overcome these discomforts which can cause problems for most women.
PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME (PMS)
There's hardly a woman on the planet who doesn't know the misery of period pains. Premenstrual syndrome is a number of symptoms related to the menstrual cycle, occuring 5 to 11 days before you begin to menstruate and disappearing shortly after. Surveys show that 75 percent of young women regularly uses painkillers to cope with the pain and at least 50 percent says it seriously disrupts their lives.
The most common symptoms are caused by the hormones released and include: anxiety, sweating, increased heart rate, dizziness, headaches, cramps, insomnia and fatigue. Symptoms can also bring on a number of emotional or mental states such as depression, apathy, fear, aggression and confusion, or organic symptoms such as over-sensitive breasts, bloating or weight gain and acne breakouts.
Pregnancy causes a number of changes in women's bodies, these are frequently accompanied by ailments and discomforts such as:
- • Nausea, heartburn, changes in appetite.
- • Anaemia.
- • Backaches and neck aches.
- • Headaches and migraines.
- • Constipation, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.
- • Cramped legs.
- • Changes in sleep pattern, stress and anxiety.
Many women, from the age of puberty suffer changes due to hormonal activity as well as hereditary and diet factors. Although the majority of breast discomforts tend to be benign, some deserve special consideration. If you suffer from any symptom you should consult your gynecologist.
∎ Breast pain. It's also known as “mastalgia.” Breast pain may occur in one or both breasts or in the underarm (axilla) region of the body. The severity of breast pain varies from woman to woman.
∎ Lumps. Breast lumps are abnormal hard formations that are sometimes detected with breast examinations. They may be benign formations, but if you detect a lump you should consult your doctor immediately.
∎ Mastitis. It's a relatively common problem for breast-feeding mothers; sometimes, mastitis may be caused by the breast becoming over-full, or blocked because of milk over-supply, ineffective breastfeeding, missed feeds, restrictive clothing or bruising. Although mastitis can be caused by a number of factors, you should consult your doctor for the correct treatment.
It's recommended that you keep a “symptom diary” for at least three months, to know which symptoms relate to your menstrual cycle. This log book may help your doctor not only to more precisely diagnose PMS, but also help your physician to choose the most appropriate treatment.
∎ Nipple discharge. Frequent in women over the age of 30, this is generally caused by hormonal changes. Nipple discharge is any type of fluid or secretion emanating from the nipple or the areola. Any woman with a suspicious or worrisome nipple discharge should consult her physician.
∎ Breast cysts. Simple cysts are typically round or oval and have smooth edges. Breast cysts, tiny accumulations of fluid, which contain a viscous liquid that makes cysts feel hard. The size varies. If you detect a formation you should consult your physician immediately.
Women who are menstruating should perform a breast examination 7 to 10 days after menstruation, when the breasts are less sensitive. For women who are no longer menstruating or are breastfeeding, it's best to perform this exam the same day of every month.
1. Stand in front of a mirror. Place your hands on your hips and press firmly inward, tightening your chest muscles, while looking at your breasts for any change in their usual appearance. Perform leaning slightly forward and again while standing upright. Next, pressing both hands behind your head, look for changes in the shape and size of your breasts.
2. Lying down. To examine your left breast, lie flat on your back with a pillow or folded towel under your left shoulder. Raise your left arm over your head. Use the flat portions of the second, third and fourth fingertips of your right hand to examine your left breast. Press gently to feel tissues under the skin and then more firmly for deep tissues. Repeat for the right breast. If you detect any change, it's important that you visit your health care provider immediately.
Candidiasis is a common infection caused by a type of yeast-like fungus called candida. Yeast infections are common for women who are taking birth control pills containing estrogen and for pregnant women. Hormonal changes can also bring on yeast infections. Sometimes antibiotics or medicines can contribute to the growth of candida. Symptoms usually include:
- • Abnormal white, thick and lumpy discharge.
- • Itching and/or burning in the vaginal labia and in the vagina.
- • Vulvar redness and swelling.
- • Discomfort during or after sexual intercourse.
- • Pain or burning when passing urine.
Menopause is a period of transition, the time at “mid-life” when a woman ceases to menstruate. It happens when the ovaries begin to stop releasing eggs –usually a gradual process, although sometimes it happens all at once. The ovaries’ production of female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) slows down during this stage. Menopause is a natural physical occurrence for women, usually between the ages of 40 and 55. Some women experience few symptoms or none, while others suffer from a series of symptoms, varying from slight to severe:
- • Hot flashes.
- • Loss of energy.
- • Changes in sexual desire.
- • Irregular menstrual periods or periods that stop.
- • Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sexual relations.
- • Changes in the skin's appearance and the mucous membranes.
PAY ATTENTION TO ABNORMAL BLEEDING
If you notice any vaginal bleeding outside of the normal menstrual cycle, or abnormally heavy bleeding during menstruation, you should consult your gynecologist inmediately. The same applies even more urgently to any loss of blood at any stage of the nine months of pregnancy.