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Reproductive Health: Get Facts on Specialists and Services

Menstruation and Menopause

The menstrual cycle is the process by which a woman’s body gets ready for the
chance of a pregnancy each month. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days from
the start of one to the start of the next, but it can range from 21 days to 35

Most menstrual periods last from three to five days. In the United States,
most girls start menstruating at age 12, but girls can start menstruating
between the ages of 8 and 16.

Menopause is the absence
of menstrual periods for 12 months. The menopausal transition begins with
varying menstrual cycle lengths and ends with the final menstruation.

Pregnancy and preconception care

Pregnancy is the term used to describe when a woman has a growing fetus
inside of her. In most cases, the fetus grows in the uterus.

Human pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, or just more than 9 months, from the
start of the last menstrual period to childbirth.

What are prenatal and preconception care and why are they important?

Prenatal care is the care woman gets during a pregnancy. Getting early and
regular prenatal care is important for the health of both mother and the
developing baby.

In addition, health care providers are now recommending
a woman see a health care provider for preconception care, even before she
considers becoming pregnant or in between pregnancies.

Both preconception care and prenatal care help to promote the best health
outcomes for mother and baby.

Fertility and Infertility

Infertility is the term health care providers use for women who are unable to
get pregnant, and for men who are unable to impregnate a woman, after at least
one year of trying.

In women, the term is used to describe those who are of
normal childbearing age, not those who can’t get pregnant because they are near
or past menopause. Women who are able to get pregnant but who cannot carry a
pregnancy to term (birth) may also be considered infertile.

Infertility is a complex problem – it does not have a single cause because
getting pregnant is a multi-step chain of events. The cause of infertility can
rest in the women or the man, or can be from unknown factors or a combination of


Contraception, also known as birth control, is designed to prevent pregnancy.
Some types of birth control include (but are not limited to):

  • Barrier methods, such as condoms, the
    diaphragm, and
    the cervical cap, are designed to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg for

  • Intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small device that is inserted into the
    uterus by a health care provider. The IUD prevents a fertilized egg from
    implanting in the uterus. An IUD can stay in the uterus for up to 10 years until
    it is removed by a health care provider.

  • Hormonal birth control, such as
    birth control pills, injections, skin
    patches, and vaginal rings, release hormones into a woman’s body that interfere
    with fertility by preventing
    ovulation, fertilization, or

  • Sterilization is a method that permanently prevents a woman from getting
    pregnant or a man from being able to get a woman pregnant. Sterilization
    involves surgical procedures that must be done by a health care provider and
    usually cannot be reversed.

The choice of birth control depends on factors such as a person’s overall
health, age, frequency of sexual activity, number of sexual partners, desire to
have children in the future, and family history of certain diseases. A woman
should talk to her health care provider about her choice of birth control


Reproductive Health
See pictures of sexual conditions and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
See Images

Sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS/HIV

It is important to remember that even though birth control methods can
prevent pregnancy, they do not all protect against
sexually transmitted diseases
or HIV.

SOURCE: National Institute of Child and Health and Human Development;
"Reproductive Health."

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