There are many health issues that women encounter in life, some are to do with the natural progression of the female sex organs, and others are medical problems.
The below text is designed as a comprehensive source of information to provide you with some of the answers that you're looking for. Having said that, it should be remembered that this is only a guide and, if you have any medical concerns, you should consult your medical adviser.
Menstruation - The average menstrual cycle is about 28 days, but a cycle can be as long as 33 days or as short as 26 days : It's counted from the first day of bleeding to the last day before the next period starts.
Days 1-13 : At the beginning of the cycle, levels of the female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, are low. Then the pituitary gland (which is in the head) releases FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), which stimulates the ovary to start to grow egg follicles which, in turn, release oestrogen. In response to the raised levels of oestrogen, the uterus lining (also known as the endometrium) starts to thicken to prepare for possible pregnancy.
Day 14 : For an average 28 day menstrual
cycle, oestrogen levels will peak at day 14. This stimulates the production
of yet more F.S.H. (follicle stimulating hormone) along with another hormone
called L.H. (luteinizing hormone). In response to the presence of these two
hormones at this time, the follicle bursts and releases the ripe egg. This is known as ovulation.
Days 15 - 28 : The egg begins it's journey down the fallopian tube and matures into a small mass of yellow tissue (corpus luteum) which releases large amounts of a hormone called progesterone, during these days. Three days before the next menstruation begins, the corpus luteum starts to age and the amount of progesterone that is released falls. If the egg is unfertilised it's absorbed and the endometrium is shed. Period pains are often experienced at this time, as menstruation begins.
Amenorrhoea - This is the medical term for the absence of menstruation. There are two different categories - Primary - if they have never started, or Secondary - when the normal pattern of menstrual periods stops for four months or more. This condition generally means that you are not producing eggs, which is a problem if you're trying to conceive.
Symptoms of Amenorrhoea can include:
Primary - failure to start to have monthly periods
lack of body hair
no development of breasts
no broadening in the pelvic area
Secondary - periods suddenly stop
periods gradually shorten/lessen month by month
What causes amenorrhoea? - Primary - it's possibly just late puberty (average
age is between 8 and 13 years old) and in time the body will catch up. It could,
however, be a disorder of the reproductive or hormonal system, which can have an
influence on calcium levels and related conditions later in life, and so it's
worth getting checked out if you're concerned.
Secondary - The commonest reason for secondary amenorrhoea is pregnancy. If the hormone balance is interrupted, or upset for any other reason, periods may stop. Amenorrhoea can also be a side effect of being grossly underweight. Other causes of amenorrhoea are stress, thyroid disease, taking long term medication that contains tranquillizers or anti-depressants, or excessive physical training.
What can you do to help yourself? - Generally the condition is not something
to panic over, however, there are certain situations where medical advice would
For primary amenorrhoea, if you have not started your periods by the time you are 16 years old it would be worth discussing it with a doctor so that abnormalities can be ruled out.
For secondary amenorrhoea, if you are not pregnant or going through menopause, and there have been no periods for 6 months or more, a medical appointment would be advisable so that hormone levels can be checked and examinations made.
Treatment of Amenorrhoea - Blood test may be taken to check the levels of
hormones at various times of the month.
A full medical examination may be required.
A review of any long term medication.
X-ray of the pituitary gland may be recommended
If you're not ovulating, a course of fertility drugs or pituitary hormones may be prescribed.
Premenstrual Syndrome / Premenstrual Tension - This disorder, more generally referred to as P.M.S. (P.M.T.), affects about 75% of all women emotionally, physically and/or mentally in the days prior to menstruation (period).
Symptoms of PMS (PMT) can include:
Fluid retention – heavy breasts, thickened waistline, puffy face, hand and feet, headaches and pain in the breasts and abdomen.
Changes in mood – irritability, bad temper, tearfulness.
Depression – leading to suicidal feelings and violence towards oneself and others.
What causes Pre-menstrual Syndrome (Pre-menstrual Tension)? - The reason for these problems is due to the falling levels of oestrogen and progesterone in the days prior to menstruation.
What can you do to help yourself? - Keep a diary of the symptoms of Pre
Menstrual Tension so you can try to predict the appropriate time to be aware of
your body, and when to implement certain strategies to help you through.
Eat little and often to keep the blood sugar levels stable. This will help with the PMT (PMS) moods.
Try and choose to eat wholesome foods, especially high fibre foods, as constipation is another very common side effect of Pre Menstrual Syndrome.
Cut down on your salt intake, as salt absorbs water and increases water retention.
Try to limit stressful situations during the times when P.M.T. (P.M.S) is rife, and get plenty of rest so that you are able to deal with every day life, and the odd ‘challenge', better.
Find a sympathetic ear and talk about your feelings during the times that you feel affected by premenstrual syndrome – it sounds basic, but really does help. Let your family know how much you are affected, as this will help them to make things easier when premenstrual tension attacks.
Engage in a bit of exercise like swimming or walking, or try some deep breathing and relaxation techniques. This could help to bring relief from insomnia (another indication of pre menstrual syndrome) and general tension. Also exercise releases natural endorphins, a happiness hormone, so this can help to shift moods in a positive direction.
For cramping or contraction like abdominal pains (period pains), which are the most common symptom of pre menstrual tension, try taking some aspirin, which has the benefit of reducing the production of prostaglandin. It's believed that it is the excessive production of prostaglandin that causes these pains. Better still, cut down, as much as possible, on the consumption of animal fats, cheese and hydrogenated margarine as saturates fats such as these increase the production of arachidonic acid, which in turn causes the excess levels of prostaglandin.
Supplements of vitamin B6 can help to prevent the onset of pre-menstrual syndrome. Also, zinc, oil of evening primrose, magnesium and pyridoxine supplements can help to control the raised and deficient hormone levels that occur during menstruation (period) and cause pre-menstrual tension.
Toxic shock - Menstrual TSS (Toxic shock syndrome) can occur due to prolonged tampon exposure. It is a rare condition, and most women who are exposed to the related toxins do not develop toxic shock syndrome. One reason is that a large percentage of the population have protective antibodies against the toxins that cause T.S.S. It is believed that approximately half the cases of toxic shock syndrome are associated with tampon use during menstruation. Although scientists have recognized an association between TSS and tampon use, no firm link has been established. Research suggests that the use of some high-absorbency tampons increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome in menstruating women. This type of toxin production requires a protein-rich environment (which is provided by the flow of menstrual blood), a neutral vaginal pH (which occurs during menstruation), and elevated oxygen levels (which are provided by the tampon that is inserted into the vaginal environment). Although ulcerations have been reported in women using super-absorbent tampons, the link to menstrual TSS, if any, is unclear. This type of toxin is capable of entering the bloodstream by crossing the vaginal wall. Women can avoid the risk of contracting T.S.S. by choosing a tampon with the minimum absorbency needed to manage their menstrual flow and using tampons only during active menstruation. Alternately, a woman may choose to use a different kind of menstrual product that may eliminate or reduce the risk of menstrual toxic shock syndrome, such as a menstrual cap or sanitary towels/liners.
Vaginal Discharge - Below is some information on vaginal discharge:
Nature of the discharge: There is an increase in your normal secretion.
Probable cause: You may be pregnant, or just started taking the contraceptive pill, or recently had an IUD (Intrauterine device) fitted.
Nature of the discharge: Thick and white and your vulva is itchy.
Probable cause: It could be Thrush (candida albicans).
Nature of the discharge: Greenish/yellow and has unpleasant smell.
Probable cause: This could be Trichomoniasis, or equally may be you have forgotten to remove a tampon, or diaphragm.
Nature of the discharge: Slight discharge and your partner has sores on his genitals.
Probable cause: This could be a cervical infection, possibly from a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhoea.
Nature of the discharge: Brown, like blood, and usually follows intercourse.
Probable cause: Probably cervical erosion and you should consult your doctor.
Nature of the discharge: Spotting with blood, either mid-period or following intercourse.
Probable cause: This could be a polyp on the cervix and you should see a doctor for confirmation and treatment.
Thrush - This is a common infection caused by a fungus (candida albicans) that is present in the digestive tract and is generally kept under control by other bacteria.
Symptoms of Thrush (candida albicans) can include:
Thick white discharge – curd like
Soreness and irritation of the vulva
Red rash around the anus which can extend down to the thighs
Urine may burn or irritate the area
Pain during sexual intercourse
What causes Thrush? - Normally the vagina is too acidic for thrush to thrive, and so, at some point, the conditions must have changes. It can be as simple as a course of antibiotics, or naturally low resistance after an illness, or a vaginal deodorant, which can destroy natural bacteria. It can particularly affect diabetic women, as diabetes affects the hormone levels, and also women who are on the contraceptive pill.
What can you do to help yourself? - You should see a doctor as soon as you
notice the symptoms.
Remember to take the complete course of medication given.
Refrain from sexual intercourse until you, and your partner, where applicable, have both completed the course of treatment.
Consider taking a probiotic supplement – take a look in your local health food shop.
Some women find short term relief by applying natural yogurt to the genital area; leave it for at least 2 hours.
One drop of tea tree oil in a teaspoon of virgin olive oil, and inserted into the vaginal area, is meant to work wonders.
Refrain from scratching the area as the infection can easily spread.
A bath with a few drops of bergamot oil can be a soothing alternative, as chemical soap will make the infected area all the more uncomfortable.
Thrush likes warm moist conditions and so can thrive in folds of skin or fat. To help yourself, keep the area as clean, dry and cool as possible, and, if thrush is a reoccurring issue and you have some unwanted fat in this area, loosing some weight may be the answer to your problem.
To prevent thrush you could consider wearing underwear made of natural fibres like cotton or silk. Avoid nylon tights as they don't let your skin “breath”, and if the moisture stays inside the genital area it will provide the perfect breading ground for the thrush fungus.
Treatment of Thrush - You should see a doctor as soon as you notice the
symptoms as he will be able to prescribe you the medication (such as clotrimazole / Canestan) that will give you immediate relief and get to work on
the issue in hand straight away.
The doctor will normally give you a course of medication for your partner too, to prevent re-infection: Take the complete course.
Cystitis - Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder which may be a result of an infection or bruising from energetic sex. It's a very common, annoying and inconvenient problem and most women suffer from it at some point in their lives, particularly during pregnancy.
Symptoms of cystitis can include:
The urge to need to pass urine frequently though only small amounts may pass each time.
A sever dragging-down feeling, usually in front of the abdomen (similar to period pains).
Burning or stinging feeling while passing urine.
A little blood in the urine, which may be pinkish, red or normal colour with streaks of blood.
What causes cystitis? - The most common cause of cystitis is the bacterium called e.coli which is normally found in the bowel and around the anus. Cystitis happens when the e.coli spreads up the urethra and into the bladder. The type of cystitis called "honeymoon cystitis" is caused by frequent and strenuous sexual intercourse, which can cause bruising to the urethra.
What can you do to help yourself? - As soon as you notice any of the symptoms
start to drink lots of fluids. You should drink at least the equivalent of a glass of
water every half hour.
Try adding a little bicarbonate of soda to your drinks as this will have the effect of alkalinizing your urine and easing bladder pain.
Wrap a warm pad or a hot water bottle to the front of your abdomen to ease the pain.
Paracetamol can be taken for pain relief, but remember to follow the instruction on the packet.
Cranberry juice is a urinary antiseptic, so drink plenty of it: at least 16fl oz a day.
Lemon barley water will help to neutralise the acid in your urine.
Avoid dairy, wheat and sugar for a day or two.
Increase your consumption of apricots, green peppers and broccoli.
Try a bath with a few drops of sandalwood oil, which is a better alternative to chemical soaps and bubble baths, as they generally make the issue worse.
Consider taking a probiotic supplement – take a look in your local health food shop.
Eat live yogurt regularly to help maintain a health gut.
Including ginger and garlic in your diet is thought to prevent cystitis.
Treatment of cystitis - If the self help measures above do not work you should
see a doctor.
The doctor may take a urine sample to confirm which bacterium it is that is causing the problem.
Antibiotics or penicillin may be required to rid you of this infection. Take the full prescribed course.
Cervical Cancer - Behind breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common female cancer, and is fast becoming more common,
particularly among young women. As there are no early symptoms it can only be
detected by routine cervical smear screening (paptest). Cervical cancer has a pre-invasive
stage in which the cancer does not spread, and because this stage can last
several years, with regular screening, the cancer can easily be detected and
treated. The cancerous tissue is removed and the area treated so that the cancer does not spread.
Cervical Cancer is also referred to as CIN (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia).
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer can include:
There are no symptoms at the pre-invasive stage.
At the first stage of cervical cancer ulceration of the cervix will be noticeable on an internal examination.
Bleeding mid cycle, after intercourse, or after menopause.
Offensive vaginal discharge
What causes Cervical Cancer? - The lining cells of the cervix are particularly vulnerable throughout adolescence and so, it is thought that, frequent intercourse during this time, especially with various partners, may instigate the cancer process.
What can you do to help yourself? - Avoid intercourse during your adolescent years. In this day and age it has become “normal” to start sexual activity in the ‘teen' years, but in response to this trend the amount of young ladies with cervical cancer has risen greatly. So the risks are clear!
It's vital that you have regular pap tests (smear tests) to check for unusual cells and catch any signs of cancer early. Remember that there are no early warning symptoms and so you must take it into your own hands to make that appointment. Why not go with a girl friend for moral support and book appointments after each other, then treat yourself to lunch out afterwards, to celebrate that you could have saved your own life and/or that of your girlfriend.
Treatment of Cervical Cancer - If abnormal cells are detected in the smear
test (paps test) a colposcopy is normally performed in outpatients department so that the
cervix can be examined by using a special microscope.
Where necessary a biopsy will take place so that the tissue can be examined and tested further.
If pre-cancerous cells are found they can easily be removed under local
anaesthetic with a laser, or by freezing or burning with an electric current.
Occasionally a “cone biopsy” is needed under general anaesthetic.
Any further treatment of cervical cancer would depend upon the stage of cancer that is detected.
In the case of full blown cancer, radiotherapy and /or possible surgery will be discussed and the appropriate solution found.
Cancer cures do depend, to a certain extent, on the determination of the sufferer to beat the disease. You should arm yourself with a strong and focused mind and body, and a network of emotional support to lean on and to help to pick you up when you need it.
Ovarian Cysts - A cyst is a fluid-filled sac and ovarian cysts
are almost always benign. However, there are two types of ovarian cysts that will
be mentioned below: functional cysts and dermoid cysts.
Functional cysts - During a normal monthly cycle cysts are present in the ovaries. Sometimes there can be several and, every so often, they can become quite large. These ovarian cysts generally shrink back to the normal size during the monthly cycle, however they can occasionally cause the ovary to twist, causing sever abdominal pain. A cyst may also leak, releasing a jelly-like material into the abdominal cavity.
Dermoid cysts - Again these are normally benign and commonly found in women in their thirties. They can be present in one or both ovaries and contain immature cells that are capable of growing into various types of tissue. It's therefore not uncommon for dermoid cysts to contain things such as hair, teeth or bone.
Symptoms of ovarian cysts can include:
Pain during intercourse.
Painful and/or heavy periods.
A twisted ovary will commonly result in sever abdominal pain, nausea and fever.
Urinary problems due to pressure on the bladder.
Treatment of ovarian cysts - An internal and external examination will help to
determine the presence and approximate size of an ovarian cyst.
An ultrasound examination and x-ray of the ovaries will show clearly the size of the ovaries and the cysts.
Blood tests will be required.
Some cysts will go on their own, however if removal of the cyst is necessary a laparoscopy may be performed. In this case the cyst will be punctured and the content sucked out through the laparoscope.
For larger cysts, or if there is a suspicion of malignancy, an abdominal operation may be performed. During the operation both of the ovaries will be examined for any abnormalities.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome - Polycystic ovaries are benign cysts of the ovary found in 15 to 20 percent of women.
Symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome can include:
Obesity, excessive body hair and acne.
What causes polycystic ovaries? - The exact cause is not known. It's thought that it's a hormonal imbalance, as the ovary seems to produce an excessive amount of male hormones, however, it's not known whether this is the cause of the problem or a consequence of the condition.
Treatment for polycystic ovarian syndrome - Internal examinations.
Blood tests will be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Ultrasound examinations will give a much clearer picture as to the extent of the situation.
The pill may be prescribed to stimulate normal menstruation and to combat the excess production of the male hormone.
Fertility treatment may be necessary if there is a difficulty in conceiving.
Ovarian Cancer - In rare situations an ovarian cyst (a fluid-filled sac) may be malignant. There is still a lot of investigation into the cause of malignant ovarian cysts, but as yet an exact reason is not known. It is thought to be partly genetic, but also has something to do with there being times in a woman's life when the ovaries are 'resting'. For example, when women have used the contraceptive pill, or have been pregnant, or have taken HRT for several years, and/or had a late start to their periods with an early menopause, they have had significant periods in their life when ovulation has been suppressed. All of these situations may protect women against ovarian cancer.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
Swelling of the abdomen.
A hard lump in the abdomen.
Possible pressure on the bladder which will cause frequent urination.
Occasional breathlessness if the tumour puts pressure on the diaphragm.
Treatment for ovarian cancer - Malignant cysts need more thorough surgery than
benign ovarian cysts, depending on the type of tumour found. The operation will
be to remove the whole tumour and any deposits.
In general both ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and the uterus will all be removed.
If, however, the disease has already spread beyond the reproductive organs, more extensive surgery will be required.
Chemotherapy will be discussed and probably recommended, either before or/and after surgery.
Fertility - This is the term generally used to describe the ability to have a baby. A woman's age is a significant factor in determining her fertility: she reaches her peak at about the age of 24, and eggs decline in quality with increasing age. There is a marked decline after the age of 30 and it is rare, however not impossible, for a woman to conceive after the age of 50. Even with normal fertilization, the changes in the uterine lining during the premenopausal years may not be as ideal for the egg and it will have a lower chance of survival.
Charting your fertility: The sort of things that you should chart are:
Waking body temperature - This should be taken before any activities such as getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, brushing your teeth etc. The most fertile day is the last day of lower temperatures before your waking temperature makes a significant leap. Charting will be able to help you predict this.
Cervical fluid - This should be checked at least three times a day, including morning and night, but not when you are sexually aroused as the sexual lubrication will mask the cervical fluid. Fertile cervical fluid has the appearance and feel of egg white. It's slippery, stretchy and clear and is produced by the increased levels of estrogen, just before and throughout ovulation.
Cervical position - This should be checked and charted at the same time everyday, and is another important sign to enable you to predict the timing of your maximum fertility. You should be noticing the softness of the cervix (firm, medium, soft), height of the cervix in the vagina (low, midway, high), and opening of the cervix (closed, partly open, open). The signs of maximum fertility are: soft, high and open.
Bleeding - Mark on the chart the days of bleeding so that it can clearly be seen if you are producing enough endometrial lining. In general, a woman should bleed for 3 to 5 days.
Days of intercourse - It's important to note when you have sexual intercourse so you can see at a glance if you have planned your baby making activities for the most fertile days.
Fertility Problems - Becoming pregnant is usually one of the great joys in a women's life, and therefore it is understandable that the failure to be able to do so can be a huge trauma. Infertility mean the inability to be able to conceive or bear a child. Very few people are truly infertile, however, a much higher number of women are sub-fertile (they have difficulty conceiving). In general, infertility problems lie in equal number with men and women and so, for investigation purposes, the co-operation of both partners is necessary.
Fertility problems can include:
Failure to ovulate is the most common problem.
Damaged ovaries from an infection, surgery or radiation treatment.
Problems with the uterus can be that it is possibly abnormally formed or it contains adhesions, polyps or fibroids. Or maybe it's affected by endometriosis.
Blocked or scared fallopian tubes would prevent natural conception as these tubes are the only pathway for the travelling egg and the ascending sperm.
The quality of the cervical fluid is also an important factor as if there is not enough, or it's too thick, or maybe it contains antibodies that attack the sperm, there is going to be a problem with the sperm reaching the egg to make fertilization.
Age is a serious consideration as the fertility slowly diminishes and , after 45, only half of women's cycles release eggs.
What can you do to help
yourself? - Chart your menstrual cycle for at least 3 to 6 months so that you
are able to see a pattern and the exact problem can be diagnosed quicker. Use
the fertility charting tips above to gather the vital information that will
greatly assist your medical advisor.
Be prepared for lots of questions about yours and your partner's medical history, and so, if your unsure about childhood illnesses/conditions or medical situations, check with someone who would know, prior to your medical appointment, so that you're fully armed.
You should be aware that the personal and sometimes embarrassing questions, tests and personal examinations can put a strain on your relationship, however, in many cases it can make you stronger. Remember to be honest with the doctor, yourself and each other and allow time to talk about each others feelings along the way.
Treatment of fertility problems -
This will depend on what is discovered to be the problem.
There are many types of medical interventions that can improve fertility and, although it depends upon the person, the high success rates are a good reason to have an open and positive mind.
An ultrasound is likely to be performed and possibly a laparoscopy will be recommended to check for blocked tubes and endometriosis or fibroids..
Fertility drugs to stimulate some lazy hormones may be prescribed.
If the problem is the hormones, but the fertility drugs are not working, daily injections of HMG (human menopausal gonadotrophin) may be given to encourage the ovary to release the egg.
IVF (in vitro fertilization) is another step that can help greatly in the conception process, and, in this day and age, the success rates are good, but it obviously depends upon the quality of the egg and sperm.
Egg or sperm donation may be something that will have to be considered, the decision process will be accompanied by counselling as the repercussions of suppressed feelings could cause many undesirable issues in the future. It would, understandably, be an enormous decision which must be taken with care and a clear head.
Pregnancy tests - When an egg is fertilized, it starts to grow by cell division, and two parts are quickly established: the embryo itself and the placenta. After the embryo implants in the wall of the uterus, the placental cells secrete the hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) into the woman's bloodstream and urine: this will help maintain the pregnancy by stimulating the ovary to produce oestrogen and progesterone. All first stage pregnancy tests detect the presence or absence of HCG.
Urine test - Pregnancy tests can be carried out by a doctor, health clinic, or family planning centre, however, most people opt for the 'off the shelf' home test kit. The urine pregnancy test is best done first thing in the morning on the first trip to the toilet. In general, this type of test is at its most accurate after the 40th day (i.e. after your period is 13 days late).
Blood test - There's a relatively new type of blood test which is supersensitive to traces of human choriobic gonadotrophin in the blood and can accurately confirm pregnancy as early as 2 weeks after conception. This type of test is normally used for women who have had infertility problems and/or women who have a suspected ectopic pregnancy. The doctor would normally request a blood test confirmation, when first referring you to the midwife.
Establishing the length of your pregnancy - Once pregnancy
is confirmed a due date will be establish, this is also know as the EDD (estimamted
date of delivery). Pregnancy lasts 280 days (40 weeks or 9 months and 1 week),
which is counted from the first day of your last period, or 38 weeks after
ovulation and conception. The day of birth is unlikely to be exactly to the day,
but is more likely to be within 2 weeks either before or after the E.D.D. The
length of incubation for the unborn baby can depend on the maturity of the baby
and the length of the woman's normal menstrual cycle.
For example :
a 3 week cycle - 280 day pregnancy less 1 week = 39 weeks
a 4 week cycle - 280 day pregnancy = 40 weeks
a 5 week cycle - 280 day pregnancy plus 1 week = 41 weeks
your baby grows
The first month
1/2 inch, less than 1 ounce
The fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. Two parts are quickly established: part will become the embryo itself and the other part will be the placenta. Arms, legs, brain and spinal cord begin to form, and the development of the heart and lungs begins. The heart will begin to beat near the end of this month.
The Second Month
1 inch, less than 1 ounce
The eyelids will be forming, but remain closed, and the inner ear will begin to develop. Bones begin to take shape, and joints such as ankles, wrists, fingers, and toes will form. The genitals and all of the major organs and body systems will have started to develop by the end of the month.
The Third Month
3 1/2 inches, just over 1 ounce
Twenty buds for future teeth are now formed. Although all of the internal body parts are formed, they are still in the development process. At this time the arms are longer than the legs and the hands are more developed than the feet. The fingers and toes will be continuing to grow, and their tiny soft nails will be beginning to form. The baby's skin continues to develop in density as it's almost transparent at the moment .Bones and muscles grow stronger day by day and at this stage the backbone is soft and is able to flex. The intestines are now beginning to form.
The Fourth Month
6–7 inches, 5 ounces
Eyebrows, eyelashes, and fingernails are now formed, and the almost fully developed arms and legs can flex. The external sex organs are now formed and the neck is also formed at this time. The skin is wrinkled and the body is covered with a waxy coating (vernix) and fine hair (lanugo).
The outer ear is now beginning to develop, and the baby is now able to hear and swallow, as well as being able to produce urine through the babies new and functioning kidneys.
The Fifth Month
10 inches, 1/2–1 pound
The baby develops the ability to suck and may be seen on a scan to be sucking it's thumb. By now you may be able to feel the baby as he/she becomes a lot more active. You may therefore notice times when your baby is asleep or awake, as it cat naps throughout the day and night. The nails on the fingers and toes grow to the tips, and the sexual organs continue their growth and development. At this stage a girl will already have all of her eggs in her ovaries and boys testicles will start to descend from the abdomen into the scrotum. The gall bladder begins producing bile, which is needed to digest nutrients.
The Sixth Month
12 inches, 1–1 1/2 pounds
The brain is rapidly developing and the lungs are now fully formed, though not yet functioning. The eyes are now beginning to open, and real hair is starting to grow. After 6 months a premature baby may survive outside of the womb.
The Seventh Month
14 inches, 2–2 1/2 pounds
The eyes can now open and close with ease and the baby is able to sense changes in light and dark. The lanugo, which is the fine layer of hair that covered the baby in earlier stages of pregnancy, begins to disappear. You should be able to feel the baby much easier now as the baby is able to kick and stretch. The grasping motions has now been learnt and your baby can hear and respond to sounds.
The Eighth Month
18 inches, 5 pounds
Most of the major development of the body is now complete and the baby is now able to gain weight more rapidly. Although the skull will remain soft to allow for the flexibility at the time of delivery, the rest of the bones will now start to harden. Taste buds are now in development and the various areas of the brain are forming and making steady progress in development . You may now be able to feel when your baby has the hiccups.
The Ninth Month
20 inches, 6–9 pounds
The lungs now mature and are ready to function on their own. You'll notice that a sleeping pattern has probably developed and whilst sleeping the baby continues to grow, putting on about 1/2 a pound per week. Amazingly the baby now knows that it's time to turn into a head-down position, and, due to it's lack of space to move around, it will generally stay there ready for birth.
Eating during pregnancy - To eat well during pregnancy you only need about 300 extra
calories a day, and those calories should come from nutritious foods so they can
help your baby's growth and development. It's considered average to gain 25 to
35 pounds during your pregnancy, and the general way that this weight gain is
made up is set out below:
7.5 pounds: average baby's weight
7 pounds: extra stored protein, fat, and other nutrients
4 pounds: extra blood
4 pounds: other extra body fluids
2 pounds: breast enlargement
2 pounds: enlargement of your uterus
2 pounds: amniotic fluid surrounding your baby
1.5 pounds: the placenta
Weight gain during pregnancy can vary greatly, and factors such as how many babies you are having, or if you were over weight or under weight before pregnancy, all have an effect on rate in which you gain weight. When you're pregnant, what you eat and drink is the main source of nourishment for your baby, and the link between what you consume and the health of your baby is much more important than once thought.
The extra food you eat should, for example, contain additional calcium, which helps in the development of your baby's bones and teeth, as well as keeping your bone and teeth strong too. Also expectant mothers need a healthy diet of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and plenty of water. Remember that the mother needs to remain in good and strong health to be able to give the best start to life for the baby. And so eating a variety of good and nutrient foods is a good step toward staying healthy.
The best food for the nutrients you need:
Protein, for cell growth and blood production, is found in lean meat, fish, poultry, egg whites, beans, peanut, butter, and tofu.
Carbohydrates, for daily energy production, is found in breads, cereals, rice, potatoes, pasta, fruits, and vegetables.
Calcium, for strong bones and teeth, muscle contraction, and nerve function, is found in milk, cheese, yogurt, sardines or salmon with bones, and spinach.
Iron, for red blood cell production (needed to prevent anaemia), is found in lean red meat, spinach, iron-fortified whole-grain breads and cereals.
Vitamin A, for healthy skin, good eyesight, and growing bones, is found in carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C, for healthy gums, teeth, and bones, and which assists with iron absorption, is found in citrus fruit, broccoli, tomatoes, and fortified fruit juices.
Vitamin B6, for red blood cell formation, and which helps the effective use of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, is found in pork, ham, whole-grain cereals, and bananas.
Vitamin B12, for the formation of red blood cells, and maintaining a healthy nervous system, is found in meat, fish, poultry, milk.
(Note: vegetarians who don't eat dairy products need supplemental B12)
Vitamin D, for healthy bones and teeth, and which aids absorption of calcium, is found in fortified milk, dairy products, cereals, and breads.
Folic acid, for blood and protein production, and which promotes effective enzyme function, is found in green leafy vegetables, dark yellow fruits and vegetables, beans, peas, and nuts (be careful with the type of nuts that you eat, as eating peanuts during pregnancy can set off an allergic reaction for the baby or mother to be). Folic acid is especially important for the development of your baby in the first 28 days, as it can help to prevent neural tube defects, including spina bifida, from occurring during the earliest stages.
Fat, for body energy stores, can be found in meat, whole-milk dairy products, nuts (be careful with the type of nuts that you eat, as eating peanuts during pregnancy can set off an allergic reaction for the baby or mother to be) margarine, vegetable oils.
(Note: limit fat intake to 30% or less of your total daily calorie intake)
When you're pregnant, there are some foods that it's important to avoid and which can be life-threatening to an unborn baby, or may cause birth defects or miscarriage. Foods you'll want to steer clear of include:
Soft, unpasteurised cheeses such as feta, goat, Brie, Camembert, and blue cheese
Raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs, including mousse, fresh mayonnaise, aioli and tiramisu (made from mascarpone cheese)
Raw or undercooked meats, fish, or shellfish
Fish that are high in mercury, including shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish.
Alcohol should also be avoided as studies, over many years, have proved that even a small amount of alcohol, whilst pregnant, can have a detrimental effect on an unborn baby.
Giving birth - Around the 38th week (sometimes before), you'll need to be listening carefully to your body, and be on the lookout for signs that it's getting ready for giving birth. You may start to feel signs and symptoms for several days, or it may only start the day or night before. Probably you'll have a tugging feeling low down in your tummy and pain in your hips and pelvic area. You may feel a little queasy, but if so try to eat some carbohydrate-based snacks to keep you going. These are all symptoms of hormonal changes, and marks the beginning of a chain reaction leading to the start of labour. It's the baby itself who puts the birth process in motion by secreting a hormone called hypophysary, causing the mother's progesterone levels to plummet. This, in turn, leads to the release of the woman's hormone oxytocine, which triggers contractions.
Mucus, which has plugged the neck of the cervix during your pregnancy, may become loose and you could discover this on one of your many trips to the toilet. This is also called a ‘show', which can happen any time from several days to a few hours before labour. Remember there's no set timetable for these things, every woman's body is different. Under the effects of the birth-inducing hormones, the muscles of the uterus contract at regular intervals (contractions); this can feel very similar to period pains. Contractions will begin by being far apart and become progressively closer together as labour advances and the cervix dilates and thins out in preparation for the baby's passage through the birth canal. At first you may not feel any pain at all, just an uncomfortable feeling in your abdomen or lower back and a hardening of your bump when you touch it. But bit by bit, the pain will kick in and become more noticeable. You'll be able to feel the muscles in your womb tightening, then relaxing in a similar way to period pain as it comes in waves. It's a good idea, where possible, to take a relaxing bath to ease the pain and then get ready to leave for the hospital.
Take note of how much time passes between your contractions. They can start off an hour apart 48 to 24 hours before the birth, but once they are 15 or 20 minutes apart, you should think about calling the hospital. You should be aware that things usually move faster for a second birth.
Contractions bring up the cervix to allow it to dilate, and bit by bit with each contraction it will open, until it's about 10cm wide, so that the baby's head can pass through during the birth. Your baby has developed in a sac of amniotic liquid, and once that has broken (i.e. when your waters break) it's a sure sign that labour is underway. Once the waters break, the baby is no longer protected from infection and the umbilical cord can slide down, which can cause complications during the birth, so you should call the midwife or hospital for advice when your waters break. In either case, your midwife will usually tell you to go to hospital when your contractions are five minutes apart.
When you arrive at the hospital, you'll be examined by the midwife to see how dilated your cervix has become and to check the position of the baby. Your blood pressure and temperature will be monitored and your heart rate and that of your baby will also be measured. An electronic monitor will be attached to your belly, to monitor the baby's heartbeat so that medical staff can detect any suffering or distress, enabling them to take action in an emergency, i.e. by performing a caesarean.
If you have planned an epidural, an anaesthetist will
come and see you shortly after your arrival at hospital. When you reach around
(sometimes a little more), he will numb your spinal area and inject an
anaesthetic. A very fine catheter will be left in place so that more drugs
can be injected if need be and you won't feel anything below the waist from then
As you move closer to the birth, your contractions will get closer together, coming every few of minutes. They may start 24 hours or more beforehand, but the cervix usually takes around eight hours to dilate sufficiently for a first baby, generally speaking, between five and 15 hours. If you go to the hospital before you're more than 3 or 4cm dilated (this marks the beginning of the active stage of labour), you'll probably be sent home again. If you've already been in labour for a long time, you may be injected with hormones to speed things up a little.
There is sometimes a lull between the end of the first stage and the beginning of active labour, which gives both you and your baby a chance to rest. By the time the contractions are two minutes apart, the baby will have moved down into the pelvis and you will be able to feel the pressure between your legs. The baby's head should engage, unless he is in a breech position (feet first) and it will start moving down the birth canal with your contractions, but don't worry if it slips back up after each one. At first, the baby will be facing backwards, slightly bent forwards and on its side. Once the baby is well into the vagina, the baby's head will change position once again so it's facing downwards. It is at this point you may feel the urge to push from the pressure on your perineum; this is a natural reflex which quickens delivery. Once the midwife can see the head (‘crowning') you will probably feel a hot, stinging sensation. One more push should be enough and the midwife may ask you to pant through the final stage so that the baby is born more gently, this also reduces the risk of tearing.
Ten to 20 minutes after giving birth, lighter contractions will begin again, to push the placenta out. Your midwife will feel your tummy to make sure that it is contracting strongly enough for the placenta to come away from the wall of your womb and be delivered through the vagina, she may help it along a little by pushing. It usually takes a few minutes, but can take up to an hour and most women are pleasantly surprised by how easy it feels compared to the birth itself. After it has come out, it will be carefully checked to make sure there is nothing left behind which can cause infection.
If you have had to have stitches the area will be painful for a week or so afterwards and they'll take around a month to heal, but again, it depends on each woman. You may find it uncomfortable to sit down during this time, so experiment with cushions and pads to find a comfortable sitting position. There are several things you can do to aid the healing process and ease the discomfort:
Use cooling gel or ice packs
Take warm baths
Help the air get to your stitches by taking off your knickers and relaxing on your bed when you can.
Do your pelvic floor exercises regularly (not only will they tighten your pelvic muscles and help them to recover after the birth, but they will also boost circulation and aid the healing process).
Only have sex when you are completely healed and feel ready. Relax as much as possible and use a good lubricant.
Sometimes birthing instrument assistance is necessary during delivery, for example, when you may be too tired to push, when the baby is very large and therefore harder to deliver, or when your baby is in distress or in a breech position.
Forceps are large metal tongs, which look a bit like a pair of big spoons, and they are shaped to fit the baby's head to help pull it out.
The ventouse is a cup, attached to a vacuum pump, which fits on the back of the baby's head to help bring it out.
It goes without saying that neither of these delivery instruments damage the baby.
The first thing that your baby will do is cry. It's his first sign of life and merely a reaction to the air hitting your babies lungs for the first time. In turn this opens the pulmonary sacs, getting rid of any remaining amniotic fluid. This chain reaction will bring the blood into his lungs, kick-starting heart and lung circulation so that it's respiratory system starts working.
Your newborn will instinctively look for his mother's breast (the burrowing instinct) and if you put your nipple in his mouth, you should see that your baby will suck instinctively. Putting your baby to the breast immediately after birth is not only a good start to the bonding process, but helps stimulate your milk production. What he will be drinking at this stage is colostrums, which is rich in the nutrients and antibodies the baby needs after birth.
As soon as he is born, the midwife will clean any fluid from his nose, mouth and eyes. Once the cord is cut, it will be carefully bandaged, and later on you'll be told how to care for the umbilical stump, which should dry up and fall off within a couple of weeks. Basic medical checks will be carried out to check your baby's heartbeat and reflexes. The baby will be wiped to remove the last of the vernix coating, which protected him in your tummy.
Breast feeding - Your breast milk contains the perfect balance of nutrients for your baby, and the antibodies in breast milk will boost your baby's immune system. It's also easier for your baby to digest breast milk than baby formula milk, and so there's less chance of indigestion or intolerance problems. In addition to this, breast feeding also naturally helps you to loose weight quicker. The benefits of breast-feeding your baby are clear, but breast-feeding isn't always easy. You'll need practice and patience, and you may need to ask for help (early support is often the key to breast-feeding success), remember that it is possible, even if it is to varying degrees. The first few times you breast-feed your baby, possibly in hospital, don't be scared to ask for help, after all it's a new skill that you need to learn and then perfect. The problems are often to do with yours and/or your baby's position, it's a question of technique and de-stressing, and you'll find a way that's good and comfortable for you and your little one. It's also worth remembering that milk can take a few days to start flowing properly, so keep trying as this will speed things up: you can't expect it to work well if you don't keep sending the right messages to the brain and breast: keep trying.
Some helpful tips - Don't bend over or lean forward to bring your breast to your baby. Instead, cradle your baby close to your breast. Sit in a chair that offers good arm and back support. Support yourself with pillows if needed. Or lie on your side with your baby on his/her side, facing you. When you're settled, tickle your baby's lower lip with your nipple. Make sure your baby's mouth is open wide so that it can take in part of the areola (the darker area around the nipple). The nipple should be far back in the baby's mouth, and the baby's tongue should be cupped under your breast. Listen for a rhythmic sucking and swallowing pattern. If you need to remove the baby from your breast, first insert your finger into the corner of your baby's mouth to release the suction. Let your baby nurse from the first breast thoroughly, until the breast feels soft (usually around 15 to 20 minutes). Then try burping your baby on your lap or over your shoulder. After that, offer the other breast. If your baby is still hungry, it'll latch on. If not, make a note of which breast your used and start the next breast-feeding session with the other breast (the full one). If your baby pauses during breast-feeding to gaze at you or to look around the room, don't pressure your baby to take more milk. Instead take advantage of this special moment and the opportunity to bond with your baby. When your baby is latched on successfully, you'll feel a gentle pulling sensation on your breast, not a pinching or biting sensation on your nipple.
How often do I feed my baby? For the first few weeks, most newborns breast-feed every two to three hours around-the-clock. It's intense, but frequent breast-feeding sessions help stimulate your breasts to produce the amount of milk required. Watch for early signs of hunger, such as stirring and stretching, sucking motions and lip movements. Crying is a more obvious sign of hunger which comes shortly after the first signs. Get comfortable and ready for a feed. In contrast, if you have a tired baby or a baby who doesn't ask to be fed, you may need to wake then every three hours for feeding. If you just let them sleep they can get into a negative pattern where they don't have the energy to wake and cry because they're not getting enough food. Babies can easily loose weight and essential body fats if this happens, and so the advice is not to let newborns sleep more than 3 hours without feeding.
Take care of your nipples - After each feed either let the milk dry naturally on your nipple or gently pat your nipple dry. Help to keep your nipples dry between feeds by changing bra pads often. It's advisable to keep soap, shampoo and other cleansers away from your nipples, so just wash them with clean water. Sometimes nipples can become dry or cracked, if this happens try an ointment containing lanolin or rub olive oil or expressed milk on your nipples.
Healthy choices for a breast feeding mother - Your health
is just as important when you're breast-feeding as it was when you were
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Drink lots of fluids.
Rest as much as possible.
Only take medication with your doctor's agreement.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Menopause - Strictly speaking menopause is your last menstrual period, but you only become aware of this when you've not had a period for 1 year. The average age for menopause is 51, although it's not unusual to experience it during your early 40s or mid 50s.
menopause - There are three stages of menopause:
Premenopause - the beginning of "the change" (usually in the early 40s) when periods become heavy and/or irregular
Perimenopause - this the name given to the stage that is either side of your last period (usually a few years) when symptoms include:
Periods become more irregular
Pain during intercourse
Fatigue and lack of energy
Aches and pains as a result of softening bones
Tearfulness and inability to cope
Loss of libido
Itchy vulva and skin
Postmenopause - after your periods stops.
What causes the menopausal symptoms? - Nearly all of the symptoms of the menopause can be explained by the decreasing levels of oestrogen in your blood. The decline in monthly periods is just a symptom of a decline in the production of female hormones, in particular oestrogen, by your body. The process that started at puberty, with the first period and a change in your physical shape, now comes to an end as ovarian activity slows down and stops, and you fail to ovulate.
Treatment for the menopause - Menopause is not an illness or condition, but a natural progression for some of the sexual organs. However, some women seem to suffer more than others, and so, depending upon the severity of your symptoms, a doctor may recommend that you consider H.R.T. (hormone replacement therapy).
Hormone Replacement Therapy - HRT is the most effective way to relieve menopausal symptoms. It works essentially by replacing the hormones that the body losses:
oestrogen and progesterone.
Hormone replacement therapy is available as tablets, patches, implants, creams or pessaries. HRT tablets, patches, and implants are usually prescribed in a combined oestrogen-progestogen (this is synthetic progesterone) form, and all women who take this will have a monthly bleed when the progestogen phase of the course stops. Those women who have had a total hysterectomy will be prescribed oestrogen only H.R.T.
Tablets are taken every day; skin patches need to be changed every three to four days, while implants are inserted by your doctor and need renewing every six months. Vaginal creams and pessaries only have a local effect and will not alleviate problem such as hot flushes and brittle bones.
Natural remedies - complementary therapies, such as yoga, herbalism, aromatherapy, homeopathy and massage, all offer treatments for menopausal symptoms.
Dry vagina, thinning hair and prolapse (collapse or drop of the vagina, due to muscle failure of neighbouring organs) - Sepia
Hot flushes - Lachesia
Insomnia and joint pain - Pulsatilla
Itchy vulva and skin - Sulphur
Night sweats - Belladonna
Depression - clary sage and rose
Dry skin - avocado and wheatgerm
Fatigue - basil
Headaches - lavender and peppermint
Heavy periods - oils from cypress, geranium and rose
Insomnia - neroli and lavender
Muscle and joint pain - juniper, lavender and rosemary
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Breast Care- Knowing your breasts is the first stage of breast care, and so regular self examinations are a vital part of looking after yourself.
When should you do breast self-examination (BSE)? - It's recommended that you do your self examination at the same time each month, ideally in the week after your period, so that you have a good and true comparison. Having said this, it's also important that you notice the changes in your breasts throughout the menstrual cycle, and so you may prefer to examine them every two weeks. B.S.E. should not become obsessive or regimented, but it should be regarded as a simple and quick procedure that will slot into your normal routine.
How to do BSE (Breast Self Examination) - There are two elements to breast
self-examination: looking and feeling. You'll need a warm place where you will
have a comfortable level of privacy and where you'll not be interrupted.
Looking at the breast for breast self-examination:
1. Undress to the waist and stand or sit in front of the mirror, with you arms at your side. Look at each breast carefully for any changes in their appearance, size or the colour of the nipples; a difference in level between the nipples; patches of eczema on the nipples; or any dimpling of the skin.
2. Raise both of your arms above your head. Turn to one side so that you can see your breasts profile, and repeat your observation on the other breast. Don't forget to look at the upper part of your breast that leads into the armpit.
3. Turn to face the mirror and place your hands firmly on your hips and press in hard. You should feel your chest muscles tense. Observe one breast and then repeat and observe the other.
4. Now lean forward from the waist. Look again for dimpling or puckering of the skin, a change in outline of the breast or if the nipple appears to be drawn in.
Feeling the breast for breast self-examination:
1. Lie back in a relaxed position and put your right arm behind your head. This shifts the breast tissue towards the centre of your chest, giving you better access to it and making it easier to feel. If your breasts are very large, a pillow under your left shoulder may help.
2. Touching firmly, use your left hand to examine your right breast. Use one of the patterns below:
Concentric circles / Circle pattern - Start with a big circle around the outside
of the breast, making smaller circles with your fingers as you go around the
breast. Work inwards until you reach the nipple.
Wedges / Radial pattern - Mentally divide the breast into a clock. Work out from the nipple towards 12 o'clock, then 1 o'clock, then 2, 3, 4 etc. until the whole breast has been checked.
Lines / Up and down pattern - Imagine the breast as a series of vertical bands; go up and down each one. Move your fingers in small circles as you work around the breast.
3. Check your armpit and along the top of your collarbone for lumps (if the lymph nodes are swollen, you will feel them as lumps).
4. Put your left arm behind your head and, using your right hand, examine your left breast in the same way (using the same pattern). Remember to check the armpit and collarbone.
After you have made several checks of your breasts over
as many months you will be able to recognise if any changes happen. If, on
a self examination, you notice a lump or any other differences in the their
appearance you should make an appointment with your doctor for an examination.
Remember, that there is a logical reason for most breast lumps, and even those
that are diagnosed as cysts are generally found to be benign. Having said that,
if you do nothing about it you are likely to worry yourself more and more. The
advice is therefore to get it checked out, with a second opinion, where necessary,
so that you are in control and aware of the facts of the situation, and not
making up an uninformed story in your head.
Breast Cysts - Cysts in the breast are fluid filled sacs similar to blisters buried in breast tissue.
Symptoms of breast cysts - When you feel a cyst that's near to the surface you can usually detect its smooth outline and you may even be able to bounce it between two fingers as you push the fluid from side to side. However, if the cyst is buried deep in the breast tissue it will feel like a hard lump. In general, this affects women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, and quite often cysts appear almost overnight.
Treatment of breast cysts - Although a diagnosis of a cyst is possible by a physical examination, most breast specialists would confirm this with an ultrasound, and possibly a fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC). Fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) is both a treatment and diagnosis for breast cysts. A fine needle is passed into the breast and the cyst is drained and subsequently disappears. This procedure is generally performed in a breast clinic with the guidance of ultrasound, without the need for a local anaesthetic. The content of the cyst can vary greatly in colour, however, if there are traces of blood in the fluid it will be sent for analysis. Having said this, medical records show that the chance of a breast cyst being cancerous is minute.
Breast Cancer - Cancer of the breast need not be fatal. Only one breast lump in ten ever turns out to be cancerous and, of those that do, a considerable number are of the non-invasive type - that is, they do not spread beyond their place of origin and therefore cannot kill. A breast cancer diagnosis is obviously a life changing moment, however, the more informed that women is, the better their chance of beating the disease with a positive, strong and balance mind and attitude.
Below are examples of symptoms of breast cancer that should be medically investigated if noticed:
It should, however, not be forgotten that, just because you have noticed that
you are suffering from one of the above symptoms, you don't automatically have
breast cancer, and you should try not to panic. It is, however, very important that cancer is ruled out through medical examinations, test and further investigation by a professional.
Protection from breast cancer - There are several factor that can alter the risk factors in developing breast cancer: family history, hormones, menstruation, and pregnancy, are the main ones.
Family history - The relative risk for a woman who's mother had breast cancer is 2, meaning that she is twice as likely to get the disease as a woman with no family history. Having said this, 1 woman in 1,000 develop cancer in an average year and so for a woman with family history of breast cancer, the absolute risk is 2 per 1,000 women per year.
Hormones - The pattern of a woman's hormones and their fluctuation during menstruation, pregnancy and lactation (breast feeding) all play an important part in determining her risk of developing breast cancer.
Menstruation - The risk of breast cancer appears to be increased both by early onset of menstruation (menarche) and late menopause (cessation). Research points towards the idea that the total number of menstrual periods in a woman's lifetime determines her risk of breastcancer. Interestingly, the number of menstrual cycles before the first child is born also plays a significant part in determining a breast cancer risk level. This is because it's thought that the breasts are more sensitive to the action and influence of hormones before they have produced milk.
Pregnancy - It's regarded that pregnancy lowers the risk of breast cancer because the body has a break of 9 months when it's not being exposed to cyclical oestrogens. The risk factors also relate to when in life you had your first child. Research shows that women who bore their first child before the age of 20 are half as likely to get breast cancer then those who had their first child after the age of 30. Childless women are also at increased risk, however, surprisingly, women who have their first child after the age of 35 are at higher risk than those women who have not had a full term pregnancy.
Treatment of breast cancer - This can obviously vary greatly depending upon the stage and severity of the cancer. The types of treatment can include:
Open biopsy (surgery to remove the lump). The lump will be analysed carefully to check for cancerous cells and to confirm the identification of the type of cancer.
Secondary (follow up) scans and x-rays, to ensure that all of the effected tissue has been removed.
A bone scan may be performed, if the cancer is an invasive kind, to check the extent to which it has made it's attack.
Blood tests to check for abnormalities and to help in the diagnosis and/ or risk of the spread.
Ultrasound to examine and assess the state of the liver.
Surgery to remove the cancerous tissue
Breast reconstruction - To prepare the site of the mastectomy for an artificial implant, a hollow sac is implanted and, over a period of several months, saline fluid is injected into the valve, allowing the skin to gradually and naturally stretch. When the inflated breast area is ready, a fixed-volume artificial implant can be surgically inserted.
- An "own tissue implant" is another option, where skin and muscle are taken from either the latissimus dorsi muscle (which is on your back), the rectus abdominis muscle (which is in your lower belly), or the gluteus maximus muscle (which is in your lower buttocks), and inserted into the site of the mastectomy to create a new breast. When the back and abdominal muscles are used it's possible to leave the blood vessels attached and tunnel the implant under the skin to it's new site. With the buttocks, the blood vessels are cut and reattached to blood vessels that are behind the chest.
Exercises will be recommended to help with the speedy recovery to the flexibility of the shoulder muscles, that may be restricted immediately following surgery.
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