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Women’s Reproductive Health

Picture of three women smiling.

A woman’s reproductive system is a delicate and complex system in the body. It is important to take steps to protect it from infections and injury, and prevent problems—including some long-term health problems. Taking care of yourself and making healthy choices can help protect you and your loved ones. Protecting your reproductive system also means having control of your health, if and when, you become pregnant.

Preconception health refers to the health of women and men during their reproductive years, which are the years they can have a child. It focuses on taking steps now to protect the health of a baby they might have sometime in the future and about getting and staying healthy throughout life.

No one expects an unplanned pregnancy. But it happens often. In fact, about half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned. Good preconception health is important for every woman―not just those planning pregnancy. It means taking control and choosing healthy habits. It means living well, being healthy, and feeling good about your life.

Women's health and women’s reproductive health are high priorities for CDC's Division of Reproductive Health. Our goal is to improve women’s health from menarche through menopause. CDC/DRH activities focus primarily on research about the following:

Contraception (birth control)

There are several safe and highly effective methods of birth control available to prevent unintended pregnancy. These include intrauterine contraception, hormonal and barrier methods, and permanent birth control (sterilization). Using effective birth control methods can greatly reduce the chances of having an unintended pregnancy. CDC's Division of Reproductive Health has a long history of conducting important epidemiologic studies on the safety and effectiveness of contraceptive methods. The results from these studies have had lasting effects on contraceptive practice.

Image of woman walking in a field.Depression

We monitor prevalence and treatment of depression among women of reproductive age and postpartum depression. Depression is common. Often, trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, or the birth of a baby can increase the risk for depression. Also, many women don’t know that depression sometimes happens with other events, such as losing a baby or having trouble getting pregnant. Women may also feel depressed for many other reasons—some may not even know why. There are ways to help you feel better, such as counseling or other treatments. Talking to your health care provider is a good first step if you think you may suffer from depression.

Hysterectomy

Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman's uterus. The uterus is the place where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant. Sometimes the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes are also removed. Hysterectomies are very common—1 of 3 women in the United States has had one by age 60.

Infertility

Infertility means not being able to get pregnant after 1 year of trying; or 6 months, if a woman is 35 years of age or older. Women who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant may also be considered infertile. About 10% of women (6.1 million) in the United States aged 15–44 years have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. CDC is committed to preventing infertility and its burden on women and families. We are working with other federal agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide accurate data and evidence about infertility, including its causes and consequences.

Menopause

Menopause is a normal change in a woman’s life when her period stops. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months in a row. This often happens between 45–55 years of age. Menopause happens because the woman's ovary stops producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Preventing and Managing Chronic Disease to Improve the Health of Women and Infants

For women of reproductive age (ages 15–44 years), some of the most common chronic diseases are depression, hypertension (high blood pressure), and diabetes. Chronic diseases can be ongoing such as diabetes or they can be recurring, such as depression. CDC works to improve outcomes by monitoring chronic disease and chronic disease risk factors among women of reproductive age, and by developing, evaluating, and promoting effective interventions and policies that reduce chronic disease and chronic disease risk factors.

Read more about some other common reproductive health concerns for women.

 

Resources

Find a Health Center
Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) health centers care for you, even if you have no health insurance. You pay what you can afford, based on your income.

Womenshealth.gov:  A—Z Health Topics

Women's Health Research: Progress, Pitfalls, and Promise (Institute of Medicine)
This progress report on the state of women's health research describes the diseases and conditions where the greatest gains have been made and where advances have been minimal or lacking. It also recommends additional steps that researchers, medical journals, and others could take to achieve further gains.

 
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