Women and girls face unique health challenges in their lifespans. Even though life expectancy is higher for women than men in many countries, there numerous health and social factors that impact the quality of life for women and girls. Lack of access to health care, lack of healthcare coverage, lack of access to education, and stigma and discrimination increase the health risk for women.

The most important things you can do to stay healthy are:

  • Get recommended screening tests.
  • Be tobacco free.
  • Be physically active.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Take preventive medicines if you need them.

Download or print this women's health checklist and take it with you next time you go to see the doctor.

More information: AHRQ Prevention and Chronic Care

Reproductive & Sexual Health

Menstrual Cycle
Menstruation, or a period, is a woman's monthly bleeding. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus sheds its lining. The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus, or womb. It passes out of the body through the vagina. Periods usually start around age 12 and continue until menopause, at about age 51. Most periods last from three to five days. The events of menstruation cycle can be described as follows:

  • The menses phase: During this phase, the lining of the uterus is shed through the vagina if pregnancy has not occurred. It typically lasts from day one to day five.
  • The follicular phase: During this phase, estrogen levels rise to restore the lining of the uterus. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) causes ovaries to grow. This phases typically starts from day six to 14.
  • Ovulation: During this phase, the Luteinizing hormone (LH) surges, causing the ovary to release its egg. It typically occurs around day 14 in a 28-day menstrual cycle.
  • The luteal phase: During this phase the egg travels through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. Progesterone hormone increases to prepare the uterus for possibility of pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, then the estrogen and progesterone levels drop and the uterus sheds again. If pregnancy occurs, then the egg is fertilized and attached to the uterine wall.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
1-10 days before your period, you might feel bloated or have diarrhea, nausea, backache, tender breasts, or cramping. You might notice mood changes such as irritability, depression and decreased coping skills. These common symptoms are called premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Some women have all these symptoms every cycle; some never have any. Most have some symptoms with some cycles.

What you can do to relieve PMS symptoms:

  • Cut down on salt and refined sugar
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Get regular exercise
  • See your health provider if symptoms are severe

Regular Exams
See a health care provider every year for a gynecological exam, or as needed if you have vaginal changes such as pain, burning or itching; develop sores; have abnormal discharge, such as a bad odor or yellow or greenish in color; have more discharge than usual

You should also get a yearly pelvic exam, performed by a gynecologist, family doctor, or a nurse practitioner.

Pregnancy Prevention, Tests, and Pregnancy and Abortion Services

The nurse practitioner can advise you on pregnancy prevention options, including birth control pills, diaphragms, IUDs (Intra-uterine device), etc. For a comprehensive explanation of birth control methods, go to Planned Parenthood’s website.

Pregnancy tests can be done at the Wellness Center. The Nurse Practitioner can provide referrals to pregnancy services, as well as pregnancy option and abortion services. Again, Planned Parenthood is an excellent resource for all your pregnancy options.

Breastfeeding and Pregnancy Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Although there still much to learn about COVID-19 and pregnancy & breastfeeding, here is what the CDC reports:

  • Pregnant people are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 as compared to non-pregnant people. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 are more likely to give birth early.
  • Newborns with COVID-19 had mild symptoms and recovered quickly.
  • Current evidence suggests that breast milk is not likely to spread the virus to babies.
  • COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or thinking about getting pregnancy.

Certain Conditions