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3 common reproductive health concerns for women

May 30, 2024

Reproductive health is complex, and it can be hard to pinpoint the cause of symptoms such as pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding and fertility issues. However, through regular screenings with your healthcare provider, you have a better chance of identifying problems early and receiving timely care. Here, we'll explore three common reproductive health concerns for women: sexually transmitted infections (STIs), endometriosis and uterine fibroids.

1. STIs: Causes, symptoms and treatment

STIs are infections passed through sexual contact. Many STIs do not cause noticeable symptoms right away, but if left untreated, they can lead to complications. Even when they cause no symptoms, some STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain and damage to the reproductive system, which may ultimately put women at higher risk for difficulties in conceiving and having healthy pregnancies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend sexually active women under 25 get screened annually for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Older women with new partners or multiple partners should also get regular STI testing. Labcorp OnDemand offers confidential at-home screening with the Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Trichomoniasis Test that can provide insights into your sexual wellness. Knowing your STI status allows you to have informed discussions with your healthcare provider regarding the best treatment options for you.

2. Endometriosis: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Endometriosis is a condition experienced by about 1 in 10 women and occurs when uterine-like tissue grows in regions outside the uterus, such as on the ovaries or fallopian tubes. This tissue thickens and breaks down each month, causing severe cramping, heavy periods and chronic pelvic pain. The misplaced tissue can also lead to scarring and fertility issues.

Additionally, since the tissue acts like uterine lining responding to hormones, endometriosis symptoms tend to worsen around your period. There is no cure yet, but medications and surgery can help manage pain and improve fertility. Although endometriosis may be suspected based on symptoms, laparoscopic surgery is often needed to identify tissue growths and confirm diagnosis. Early diagnosis is key to preserving fertility.

3. Uterine fibroids: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in or on the muscular walls of the uterus. Up to 80% of women develop fibroids by age 50. Fibroids can vary greatly in size and number. Many small fibroids cause no symptoms, but larger fibroids may press on the bladder and rectum, leading to frequent urination, constipation, pelvic pain and heavy menstrual bleeding.

Fibroids often contribute to infertility and pregnancy complications. Depending on the size and location, they can block the fallopian tubes, interfere with implantation, cause miscarriage or lead to preterm delivery. Treatments for symptomatic fibroids include medications and surgical removal. Your provider may monitor small fibroids during pregnancy. Additional testing of hormone levels and ovarian reserve may also provide further insights into reproductive health.

Early diagnosis is key for reproductive health concerns

While some reproductive health issues can become serious if left untreated, early detection and diagnosis can help you and your health provider make sure you receive optimal care. Getting the right tests and screenings is key to identifying problems early and improving outcomes.  Talk to your healthcare provider about any questions or concerns you may have about your reproductive health to decide on the best course of action and benefit from personalized care.

Want to learn more about your fertility and reproductive health?

Explore our women’s health content to get tips and tricks from reproductive health and fertility experts. You can also explore our OnDemand Lab Tests to get specific answers about your reproductive health status—from ovarian reserve to progesterone hormone levels and more.