Women’s Reproductive Health
A woman’s reproductive systemexternal icon 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.
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:
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 epidemiologic studies on the safety and effectiveness of contraceptive methods. Results from these studies have informed contraceptive practices.
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 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.
Female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” These procedures could mean piercing, cutting, removing, or sewing closed all or part of a girl’s or woman’s external genitals.
Infertility means not being able to get pregnant after 1 year of trying. If a woman is 35 or older, infertility is based on 6 months of trying to become pregnant. 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 work with other federal agencies and nonprofit organizations providing data and evidence about infertility, including its causes and consequences.
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.