The female reproductive system is a beautiful and complex system that helps a woman reproduce, or have children. It includes the following organs:
- A set of ovaries, one on either side of the uterus. Ovaries produce estrogen and other hormones and release eggs in a monthly cycle. This process is called ovulation.
- Fallopian tubes: Slender tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus. They transport the released egg to the uterus.
- Uterus or the womb: Where a pregnancy takes place when the female egg is fertilized by male sperm.
- Vagina: The muscular canal connecting the uterus to the vulva. Serves as an outlet for menstrual flow and as birth canal for baby’s delivery.
- Cervix: A narrow passage between the vagina and the uterus. During childbirth the cervix expands to allow the baby to pass.
- Hymen: A thin piece of tissue that covers the vagina. The hymen may tear naturally during physical activity or during the first sexual intercourse.
- Vulva: Covers the entrance to the vagina.
Reproductive health concerns in females include menstrual problems, infertility, ovarian cysts, abnormal vaginal discharge, sexual dysfunction, urinary incontinence and cancers of the reproductive system. Women must take any health abnormalities seriously and seek medical help without delay.
Pregnancy and Birth control
The beginning of the menstrual period marks sexual maturity in a female, indicating that her body is ready for child birth. A woman can get pregnant by having sexual intercourse with a male without using birth control. If you do not wish to get pregnant, you must use a safe birth control method, or a contraceptive.
While the male condom offers reliable protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), several female birth control methods provide long term contraception. These include birth control pills, intrauterine device (IUD), spermicides, emergency contraceptives and sterilization. Natural family planning methods include the withdrawal method, rhythm method, standard days method (SDM).
Using birth control is essential if you do not wish to have children in the near future. Unwanted and unplanned pregnancy may end up in an abortion or if continued, may result in both mental and physical health issues in the mother. In young girls, pregnancy caused by unprotected sex leads to health complications, social stigma and tremendous stress.
Birth control pills and Breast cancer
Some studies in the past have linked prolonged use of birth control pills to increased risk of breast cancer, while others have had conflicting results. A recent study published in the journal Cancer Research claimed that taking pills with high levels of the hormone estrogen almost tripled a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer.
The study also found that the cancer risk reduced to normal in women who stopped taking the pill. Before taking any type of birth control pill, it is best to consult your doctor to understand the associated risks.
Caring for your reproductive system
The reproductive organs are delicate and require care. Some important tips to maintain your reproductive health:
- Maintain hygiene by keeping the vulva clean by using mild shop. Wear cotton undergarments and avoid cleaning the vulva harshly as it washes away protective bacteria.
- Get medical help for any pain, itching or burning in the vulva.
- Keep track of your monthly menstrual cycle.
- Eat a healthy diet of fresh foods as processed foods have been known to harm reproductive health.
- Practice safe sex and avoid multiple sexual partners.
- Keep a check on conditions that affect reproductive function. These include irregular periods, thyroid, diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Limit intake of alcohol and quit smoking as both have been linked to infertility.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Avoid exposure to radiation, chemicals, pesticides and excessive heat.