Everything you need to know to keep yourself safe

Common Reproductive Health Conditions

These reproductive health conditions are different from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Below are some common reproductive health conditions, as well as a few rare conditions.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A UTI is when your urinary tract, which is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra, is infected by bacteria that travel up the urethra. UTIs are more common in females due to the urethra being shorter than males’ and closer to the anus. Some symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Pain or a burning feeling while urinating
  • Bloody urine
  • Urinating frequently

A UTI can be caused by sexual activities, especially with a new partner. To protect against a UTI, make sure to urinate after engaging in sexual activities.

If you think you may have a UTI, contact your healthcare provider or visit the Find a Doctor page to find a provider near you. To learn more about UTIs, visit this page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV is inflammation of the vagina due to there being too much of certain bacteria, which throws off the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina. It is a common condition and can happen to people of any age, but those of reproductive age and those who are sexually active typically experience it. Causes for BV are uncertain. Many people don’t experience symptoms, but if you do, they may be:

  • Thin, milky white or gray vaginal discharge
  • A strong fish-like odor, especially after sex
  • Burning when urinating
  • Itching around the outside of the vagina
  • Pain, itching, or burning in the vagina

If you experience any of these symptoms or believe you may have BV, contact your healthcare provider or visit the Find a Doctor page to find a provider near you. To learn more about BV, visit these pages from the CDC and the Office on Women’s Health.

Yeast Infection

A yeast infection, also known as a vaginal yeast infection, is caused by the fungus, Candida, growing too much inside the vagina. It normally lives in different areas of the body, including the vagina, without any complications; however, if the vaginal environment changes that allows for it to grow, then it can cause an infection. It’s a common condition that affects people of any age. Symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • Thick, white vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese
  • Pain or itching in the vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain when urinating

If you experience any of these symptoms or believe you may have a yeast infection, contact your healthcare provider or visit the Find a Doctor page to find a provider near you. To learn more about yeast infections, visit these pages from the CDC and the Office on Women’s Health.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is when tissue that lines the inside of the uterus growing outside of the uterus where it shouldn’t be. Causes for endometriosis are uncertain. Common areas where tissue can grow include:

  • Outer surface of the uterus
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Ovaries

Some symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • Pain
    • Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
    • Pain during or after sex
    • Painful bowel movements or urination, especially while menstruating
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Infertility

If you experience any of these symptoms or believe you may have endometriosis, contact your healthcare provider or visit the Find a Doctor page to find a provider near you. To learn more about endometriosis, visit these pages from Mayo Clinic and the Office on Women’s Health.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that occurs in women of reproductive age where their reproductive hormones aren’t regulated. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. Some symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Elevated levels of male hormones (e.g., androgen)
    • This may lead to excess hair in areas where men typically have more hair (e.g., face, chest) and male-pattern baldness
  • Acne
  • Weight gain

If you experience any of these symptoms or believe you may have PCOS, contact your healthcare provider or visit the Find a Doctor page to find a provider near you. To learn more about PCOS, visit these pages from Mayo Clinic and the Office on Women’s Health.

Other Reproductive Health Conditions

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

TSS is an extremely rare condition, but it can be life-threatening. It is caused by two types of bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus (staph, most common) and Streptococcus pyogenes (strep). TSS can occur in anyone. Some symptoms of TSS include:

  • High fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • A rash that looks like sunburn on the body, particularly on the palms of hands and soles of feet
  • Muscle aches
  • Redness around the eyes or mouth

For people of menstruating age, TSS can be associated with the use of menstrual cups and superabsorbent tampons. However, modern menstrual cups and tampons are extremely safe, and TSS is very unlikely to occur. When using these products, here are some tips to keep in mind to prevent TSS:

  • Store products in cool, dry environments. Bacteria grow in places where there’s heat and moisture, so avoid storing your products in those environments.
  • Wash your hands before and after inserting or removing a tampon or menstrual cup.
  • Use the lowest absorbency for tampons.
  • Change tampons and menstrual cups often.
  • Switch between using tampons or menstrual cups and pads.
  • On days that your flow is light, use pads.

If you’ve had TSS before, you can get it again if you’re not careful. However, you can use tampons again once you’ve recovered.

If you experience any of these symptoms or believe you may have TSS, contact your healthcare provider or visit the Find a Doctor page to find a provider near you. To learn more about TSS, visit these pages from Mayo Clinic and KidsHealth.

Reproductive Cancer

Cancer refers to diseases that involve cells that grow abnormally and uncontrollably and can spread to different areas of the body (metastasis). Most cancers occur in older adulthood and are rare in younger adults. There are many types of cancers related to the reproductive system:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Penile cancer

Some cancers are linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV): Cervical (most common), vulvar, vaginal, and penile. Getting vaccinated for HPV can help protect against these cancers. Below are recommendations from the CDC regarding the HPV vaccine.

  • 2 shots given over 6 months apart to people under age 15.
    • The earliest you can get the HPV vaccine is 9 years old.
    • If you start getting vaccinated after your 15th birthday, you will need 3 shots given over 6 months apart.
  • If you haven’t been vaccinated already after age 26, you can still get vaccinated through age 45 and be covered by health insurance.

To learn more about reproductive cancers, visit these pages from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Male Reproductive Cancers and Female Reproductive Cancers.

Content reviewed by Shandhini Raidoo, MD, MPH, FACOG

Last Updated: September 25, 2020 by Phyllis Raquinio

Sources

  • UTI Photo: Urinary Tract Infection. (2019, August 27). Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/uti.html
  • Endometriosis Photo: Endometriosis. (2019, October 16). Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656
  • PCOS Photo: Hashimoto’s and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). (2020, March 5). Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://www.boostthyroid.com/blog/2018/4/12/hashimotos-and-polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos