The term reproductive health means the condition of a person’s reproductive system at all ages of life. To know what reproductive health is, one should be aware of what a reproductive system is. It is a system that consists of tissues, glands, and organs that are involved in the production of offspring. This is one of a system that makes a female different from men.
A female’s reproductive system consists of the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus, the cervix, and the vagina. A male’s reproductive system includes the prostate, the testes, and the penis. So reproductive health means the overall health of all those things included in both men’s and women’s reproductive systems.
Men’s and women’s reproductive health is one that needs major attention and needs utmost care. Of course, the major role that reproductive health plays are in producing offspring but being reproductively healthy also is crucial for your overall wellness. When discussing reproductive health, there are a few things that we can’t miss out on and they are menstruation, fertility, and contraception. These are components that belong to the continuum of reproductive health.
Menstruation is a process in a woman’s body where blood and mucosal tissue are discharged from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina. It is a process that is characterized by your hormones. Menstruation is simply the breakdown of the inner thick lining which happens when your egg is not fertilized. Menstruation plays a huge role in a woman’s reproductive and sexual health as it is the main thing that determines if a female egg is fertilized or not. This is a process that is unique to women.
Fertility is a term that applies to both men and women. Simply put, fertility means a person’s ability to produce offspring through reproduction. Even though the concept seems to be simple, it is not something that naturally everyone happens to have.
Both men and women suffer from fertility issues. About 11% of couples experience fertility issues after a year of having intercourse. Your fertility is determined by various factors and if there are any issues, in most cases they can be treated through simple methods and means.
Now let’s talk about contraception. Contraception is a way to prevent pregnancy. This mainly involves the usage of medicines, devices, or surgery to prevent reproduction. There are two types of contraceptives; reversible and irreversible ones. Contraception plays a major part in family planning and is a thing that prevents unwanted pregnancies, hence reducing the need for abortion.
Menstruation And PMS
Above, we discussed a little about menstruation. Here, we will be talking about the process in detail. As already mentioned, menstruation or having periods is a process where women will discharge blood and other substances through their vagina from their uterus’s inner lining wall. So here is how menstruation happens. A female reproductive system has two ovaries and each ovary has eggs in it. During the menstrual cycle, your hormone will make the eggs mature and ready to be fertilized by a sperm cell. The hormones will also make the lining of your uterus thick to provide the egg a comfortable space to be fertilized and start a pregnancy.
These lining consists of tissues and blood that are rich in nutrients. Once the egg is matured, your hormone will tell the ovary to release a mature egg and this is called ovulation. The egg will then travel through your fallopian tube to the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized by a sperm cell, the thick lining of the uterus is not needed anymore. Then the thick wall will start to break and is discharged through your vagina as blood and tissues.
From the process of menstruation, it is pretty evident that a woman’s hormone is one of the main factors that play an active role in regulating menstruation. Since menstruation is characterized by hormones, it can affect a person’s overall health and they may start to feel many troubles and difficulties before having their period this is known as premenstrual syndrome, commonly called PMS. The premenstrual syndrome includes a combination of symptoms and signs including mood swings, depression, food cravings, tender breasts, fatigue, depression, irritability, and so on.
According to reports, three in four women suffer from some kind of premenstrual syndrome. For some, it can be minor troubles and issues but there are people who suffer from severe PMS that can trouble their daily life. The exact cause of PMS is unknown but a few factors that may contribute to it are changes in hormones and chemical changes in the brain.
Fertility And Infertility
Fertility as we already said is a person’s capacity to conceive a child naturally. Fertility might sound simple but it is a complex thing that many people cannot have naturally. A male or female’s inability to reproduce after one year of trying is called infertility. Usually, people associate fertility as a female health issue but it is common for both men and women. People usually discover fertility issues only after one year of trying to get pregnant and becoming unsuccessful. Infertility can be caused by various causes and this is different for the male and female reproductive systems. The symptom of infertility is also different in men and women.
Infertility is a common system in females. About 10% of women in the country deal with some kind of fertility issue. This can vary from issues that can easily be handled to issues that need proper treatment. As women age, the chances of being infertile are high in women.
Some of the common symptoms of female infertility are given below:
- One of the main symptoms is the inability to get pregnant
- A menstrual cycle that is too long means more than 35 days
- A menstrual cycle that is too short means less than 20 days
- No period is also a symptom of infertility.
In females, numerous things can disrupt their reproductive health and cause fertility issues. Some of them are:
- Ovulation disorders like PCOS, hypothalamic dysfunction, primary ovarian insufficiency, and too much prolactin can cause infertility in women.
- Any damage or block in the fallopian tube that keeps the sperm from getting to the egg or restricts the transmission of the fertilized egg to the uterus can also cause infertility issues in women.
- Endometriosis is another common cause of infertility in women. It is a condition where tissues that typically grow in your uterus grow in other places which might make it difficult for the egg and sperm to unite.
- Uterine and cervical causes like benign polyps, uterus problem that was present at birth, and cervical stenosis can also interfere with egg implanting in your uterus.
Who is at risk?
There are certain category of women who are at higher risk of being infertile and the risk factors that makes these women infertile is given below:
- Age: Age is one primary factor that plays a major role in the fertility of a woman. People who are in their mid-30s and above are at a higher chance of being infertile than people in their 20s
- Smoking: Smoking regularly can damage your cervix and fallopian tubes. It also increases the risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.
- Weight: Another common factor that causes fertility issues is being overweight. Being overweight or underweight can disrupt your ovulation. So if you are someone who is overweight or underweight, your chances of getting pregnant are less compared to women who are in their ideal weight.
- Sexual history: Sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea can damage your fallopian tubes and having unprotected sex with numerous partners increases the chance of STDs which can cause infertility issues.
Similar to female infertility, male infertility is also a condition that is common in men. According to recent reports, 1 in 7 couples cannot conceive a child naturally and in half of these couples, male infertility does play a partial role.
Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of male infertility:
- The main symptom that men who are infertile face are the inability to conceive a child.
- Problems with sexual function such as difficulty with ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, reduced sexual desire, and so on can also be symptoms of infertility in men.
- Pain, swelling, or lump in your testicle area is also a symptom of infertility.
- Gynecomastia which is abnormal breast growth is also a sign of male infertility.
- A lower sperm count which is less than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen is another symptom of infertility in men.
Male fertility is a more complex process compared to female infertility. A few common causes of male infertility are listed below:
- Azoospermia is a common cause of male infertility and it is a condition that is related to your inability to produce sperm cells.
- The production of low or poor-quality sperm can also make a man infertile.
- Malformed sperm that cannot live long enough to fertilize an egg is also a cause of male infertility.
- Genetic disorders like Klinefelter’s syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, microdeletion, and more can also be considered a cause of infertility in males.
- Hormonal disorders that affect your pituitary glands or hypothalamus can also cause infertility issues in men.
Who is at risk?
Some males are more likely to face infertility issues than others and some of them are:
- Males who are over the age of 40 are at risk of facing infertility issues than males who are in their 20s or 30s.
- Being overweight or underweight can also affect your infertility.
- If you are a male who has been exposed to environmental toxins like cyproterone, flutamide, spironolactone, bicalutamide, cimetidine, or ketoconazole, then you are at a higher risk of facing infertility issues.
- People who use marijuana and alcohol regularly and smoke regularly might become infertile.
Birth Control Options
Contraception or birth control is a thing that plays a huge role in preventing pregnancy. For couples, contraception plays a major role in planning and helps them to have sex without worrying about becoming pregnant. There are numerous options for birth control which include the use of tablets, surgery, or devices.
Birth control methods
There is various birth control that helps in preventing pregnancy. If you are someone who is in a relationship with a person, it is better to discuss with your partner the various birth control methods before using them. Here are a few common birth control methods that will assist you in preventing pregnancy:
Barrier methods are one of the most commonly used contraceptive methods. This includes the usage of male condoms, female condoms, contraceptive sponges, spermicide, and so on that would prevent the sperm from uniting with the fertilized egg.
Another commonly used birth control method is the hormonal method which works by using a hormone to prevent ovulation or change the condition in your uterus or cervix. Some of the common hormonal methods include oral contraceptive pills, contraceptive patches, vaginal rings, injectable birth control, and so on.
Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs)
If you are someone who is planning to prevent pregnancy for a few years, long-acting reversible contraceptives, commonly known as LARCs are the best option. LARCs involve using Intra Uterine Devices (IUD). IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUD lasts from three to ten years.
Sterilization is considered a permanent birth control method that is irreversible. There are mainly two types of sterilization: tubal ligation which sterilizes a woman’s ability to get pregnant and vasectomy which prevents a man from getting someone pregnant.
- Emergency Contraception
There are also emergency contraceptives that women can use to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex with a person. There are two types of emergency contraception and they are copper IUDs and emergency contraceptive pills. A copper IUD is a small T-shaped device that will be inserted inside the uterus by a provider within 120 hours of having unprotected sex. Emergency contraceptive pills are hormonal pills that aid in preventing pregnancy.
- Fertility awareness
Another birth control method is fertility awareness. Fertility is a natural way to prevent pregnancy which involves tracking the women’s fertility cycle and avoiding sex during this cycle or having sex with barrier methods at this time.
- Pregnancy And Childbirth
Becoming pregnant and going through the nine months of pregnancy is one of the most intense life experiences for women. A pregnancy can end in a live birth, miscarriage, stillbirth, or induced abortion. Once a woman gets pregnant, she undergoes many changes both physically and emotionally. The effective way to know whether you are pregnant or not is obviously the pregnancy test. But there are many other things that might indicate that you are pregnant.
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy
Some of the most common early signs of pregnancy are the following:
- If you are someone who is in their childbearing years and you missed your period, then it might mean that you are pregnant. However, if you are someone who has irregular periods, then it necessarily does not mean that you are pregnant.
- Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes in your body and this makes your breast tender and swell. Once you find out that you are pregnant, such discomfort will decrease after a few weeks.
- Morning sickness and nausea with or without vomiting is other common symptom of pregnancy.
- Fatigue is a common factor that women experience in their early pregnancy. So if you are someone who is sexually active and has been experiencing fatigue more than ever, then it might mean that you are pregnant.
Childbirth is the completion of the 9-month pregnancy where the baby will exit from the mother’s internal environment. Childbirth is a complex process that has many complications to it. There are many ways in which a woman can deliver her baby and these methods will be recommended to you by the medical expert depending upon your overall condition.
Common child delivery methods
There are four types of delivery methods and they are:
- Vaginal delivery: In a vaginal birth, your baby is born through your vagina. Vagina birth is one of the most common delivery methods that carry a lower risk compared to other methods. Vagina delivery involves three stages and is labor, birth, and delivering the placenta.
- Assisted vaginal delivery: The next common child delivery method is assisted vaginal delivery. This is similar to vaginal delivery but in this type of delivery, your obstetrician uses forceps or a vacuum to push your baby out of the vagina.
- C-section: C-section is a type of delivery where the obstetrician delivers your baby through surgical incisions. In most cases, C-sections will be planned in advance if there is a medical reason but an unplanned C-section might also happen if any labor problem arises.
- VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean): Being able to deliver your baby through vaginal birth after having a cesarean is called VBAC aka vaginal birth after cesarean. The chances of VBAC are determined by your medical expert only.