Our sexual health is just as important as our emotional, physical, and mental health. For National Sexual Health Month, we want to review some basics of our reproductive system and general issues that can be found.
While “plumbing” sounds like a misunderstood analogy, it’s actually rather appropriate. Our system is a series of openings with tubes and passages. The interior parts have delicate and important purposes, while the outer layers help protect the inner layers. And just like the plumbing in your house, it’s much easier to maintain it well than repair it.
The Inner Workings
The interior part of our systems has five main sections:
- The ovaries: small, oval-shaped organs on both sides of the uterus. They create and emit eggs and hormones. Hormonal birth control usually stops the emission of eggs from these.
- The fallopian tubes: narrow tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus. Egg fertilization usually occurs in the fallopian tubes. If the fertilized egg implants in the tube, it’s called an ectopic pregnancy and needs treatment asap.
- The uterus: a pear-shaped organ where the fertilized egg implants in the wall. This is what expands when you’re pregnant, and hosts the growing baby.
- The cervix: The lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Its cells are what are collected during a pap smear and can be used to detect cancer and infections.
- The vagina: the tube connecting the cervix to the outside of the body, where sperm enters on its journey to reach an egg. This is also where a baby exits the body, known as the birth canal.
The Outer Workings
The exterior of our reproductive system also has several different parts. The mons pubis is the skin and bump over the pubic bone with hair, keeping the bone underneath safe. The labia majora and labia minora are skin flaps, the majora on the outside and the minora on the inside, protecting the vagina’s opening. We each have a clitoris, a small sensitive spot at the top of the labia minora, covered by a very small fold of skin. Its sensitivity can be stimulated to more enjoy sex. And lastly, Bartholin’s glands, two small glands on either side of our vagina’s opening secrete the liquid to lubricate intercourse.
The Issues to be Aware of
A woman’s period should be somewhat regular, although the length in between cycles and during your period can vary. If it lasts for more than a week regularly with very heavy flow, or you go more than 45 days regularly between cycles, it might be a good idea to talk to a doctor. If your period disappears for a few months without pregnancy, that’s also a sign to talk to a doctor.
If you’re ever bleeding at a random time, having pain beyond the normal cramping of your cycle, or bleeding is soaking through more than one sanitary pad in an hour, you should check in with a doctor. Pain in your pelvis or when having sex, a bad smell, or inflammation can all be signs of a bigger problem as well. In fact, every year, one out of every four sexually active teens will contract a sexually transmitted infection, and by age 25, half of anyone who’s sexually active will have one or more infections. Often there are no symptoms. Annual checks can be a huge part in catching any issues before they start to infringe on your life.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and you should also watch for symptoms such as bloating, pelvic pain, feeling the urgent need to urinate, or menstrual changes. These can also be combined with an upset stomach, back pain, constipation, and swelling in your abdomen. While many of these symptoms are signs of other causes, ovarian cancer is fifth in cancer deaths among women, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
This is a lot of information, but knowing about your reproductive system and signs that it’s not functioning well can ensure you get help when you need it and enjoy your sexual experiences like you deserve! If you’ve got anything you’ve been meaning to call about or questions about your reproductive system, schedule a visit today by clicking below. We look forward to hearing from you!
Dr. Julie Drolet
P.S. Your hormones play a key role in your reproductive system, and you can find out more about them in our free webinar, found here.