In terms of biology, the female sex organs are involved in the reproductive system, whereas the secondary characteristics are involved in nurturing children or, in some cultures, attracting a mate. Most women go through menarche and are then able to become pregnant and bear children. Women generally reach menopause in their late 40s or early 50s, at which point their ovaries cease producing estrogen and they can no longer become pregnant. There are rarely symptoms of the decline in fertility that begins in a woman’s twenties or even of the plummeting of fertility ten years before menopause.
A misconception: “Fertility starts to decline in a woman’s late 30s and most women can have children naturally in their 40s.”
Reality: Fertility begins to decline gradually in a woman’s late 20s and goes into a free-fall around age 40. By age 42, a woman has less than a ten percent chance of getting pregnant without donor eggs, and many fertility clinics discourage women over 43 from attempting to get pregnant with their own eggs.
So for any woman over 35, hoping to get pregnant, should meet with a fertility doctor for an evaluation “sooner rather than later". Certainly after six months of timed trying, it’s time to investigate.” With an average age of 38, many women “are going to have egg-quality issues,” which lead not only to problems getting pregnant, but also to increased miscarriage rates and potential genetic abnormalities.
At birth, a woman has all the eggs she will ever have. As an egg ages, it is more likely to develop a chromosomal abnormality. A fertilized egg with abnormal chromosomes is the single most common cause of miscarriage: at least half of all miscarriages are due to abnormal chromosomes. A woman in her 20s has only a 12-15% chance of having a miscarriage each time she becomes pregnant. On the other hand, a woman in her 40s faces a 50% risk of miscarriage.
To a large extent, women suffer from the same illnesses as men. However, there are some diseases that primarily affect women, such as lupus. Also, there are some sex-related illnesses that are found exclusively in women, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, or ovarian cancer.
One of the most common anomalies in women's reproductive system is polycystic ovary syndrome, which I have for sometime now.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an inherited condition that affects the ovaries. Changing hormone levels result in many tiny cysts developing in the ovaries. Eggs may not be released regularly. Many women with PCOS have no symptoms, like me. Most, however, will have irregular periods or no periods at all. Often women with PCOS find it hard to get pregnant. Acne and excessive body hair (hirsutism) may develop as a result of increased testosterone levels. Women with PCOS often gain, and find it hard to lose, weight.
When I turned 40, I suddenly gained weight. I never had weight problem before. For a while the weight gain did not bother me. I just watched what I ate and increased my activities. Instead of shedding off the weight though, it accumulated in exaggerated manner. I then consulted with my primary doctor and my OB-GYN and we started the battery of tests and procedures, to make sure that nothing serious was going on. What came out of that, simply put -- I was turning into a boy... my hormonal circuitry went berserk. Years of stress, depression, poor diet, lack of rest, lack of sleep, physical over exertion lead to that. I was producing too high of testosterone and my estrogen was basically nil and my progesterone was not even enough for any female function. The doctors called my situation, "hormonal crisis" related to that PCOS that we discovered.
With that discovery, the next step was battery of medical regimen. Nothing worked. Variety of hormonal pills, injections of many kinds were tried but couldn't trouble shoot the malfunction in my female circuitry. None of the birth control pills worked. I did not tolerate any of them, my blood pressure sky rocketed to a very dangerous level that would have caused me to have a stroke. So for a while I was getting those nasty very painful hormonal injections. In the span of three years, I was under the supervision of a dietitian, a physical trainer and my doctors... nothing was progressing...
The precise cause remains uncertain. Women with PCOS have raised levels of the hormone insulin that stimulates the ovaries to produce too much testosterone. Around five to ten per cent of women have the syndrome. It develops in teenage years with the onset of period. Being overweight increases the risk of developing symptoms so women are advised to maintain an ideal weight. In my case, it was the caused of the weight gain.
When treating PCOS, weight reduction may be all that's needed to correct the hormonal imbalance. This will restore ovulation and fertility. Hormone therapy is used to regulate periods. Newer treatments including a drug that counteracts insulin resistance. There is also research into ovarian surgery which is still being studied.
Two years ago was when finally my female circuitry woke up and realigned and balanced itself. The weight finally came down with the combination of vitamins and occasional hormone shot (I will not go through my treatment because it is a very personalized one) and diet and exercise. I am almost there... I am just glad to be a girl again... hehehe!!!
Another common anomaly in women is endometriosis. The name comes from the word "endometrium," which is the tissue that lines the uterus. During a woman's regular menstrual cycle, this tissue builds up and is shed if she does not become pregnant. Women with endometriosis develop tissue that looks and acts like endometrial tissue outside the uterus, usually on other reproductive organs inside the pelvis or in the abdominal cavity. Each month, this misplaced tissue responds to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle by building up and breaking down just as the endometrium does, resulting in internal bleeding.
Unlike menstrual fluid from the uterus which is shed by the body, blood from the misplaced tissue has nowhere to go, resulting in the tissues surrounding the endometriosis becoming inflamed or swollen. This process can produce scar tissue around the area which may develop into lesions or growths. In some cases, particularly when an ovary is involved, the blood can become embedded in the tissue where it is located, forming blood blisters that may become surrounded by a fibrous cyst.
Symptoms of endometriosis may include: pain, especially excessive menstrual cramps which may be felt in the abdomen or lower back pain during intercourse, abnormal or heavy menstrual flow, infertility, fatigue, painful urination during menstrual periods, painful bowel movements during menstrual periods, other gastrointestinal problems (i.e., diarrhea, constipation, and/or nausea). It is important to note that the amount of pain a woman experiences is not necessarily related to the severity of the disease - some women with severe endometriosis may experience no pain, while others with a milder form of the disease may have severe pain or other symptoms.
Endometriosis is considered one of the three major causes of female infertility. In mild to moderate cases, the infertility may be just temporary. In these cases, surgery to remove adhesion, cysts, and scar tissue can restore fertility. In other cases (a very small percentage), women may remain infertile.
The only way to diagnose endometriosis is through a laparoscopy, which allows the physician to determine if there are endometrial growths by using a laparoscope (tube with lens and light). Today, laser surgery is becoming a more common method for removing these growths in mild to moderate cases.
"watchful waiting" - to observe the course of the disease. Pain medication - such as ibuprofen or other over-the-counter analgesics, hormone therapy, including: Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRH agonist), which stops ovarian hormone production, creating a sort of "medical menopause" Danazol, a synthetic derivative of testosterone (a male hormone) oral contraceptives, with combined estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone) hormones, prevent ovulation and reduce menstrual flow, progesterone alone.
What can I say ... sometimes it is just hard to be a woman!!!