Women's health topics
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition in which there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. It is the most common vaginal infection affecting women of reproductive age. Health care professionals are not entirely sure what causes BV, but they know it is a result from an imbalance in bacteria that is normally found inside the vagina. Some activities, such as douching or having new or multiple sex partners, may increase a woman's risk for BV. Most women with BV do not have any symptoms. If symptoms are present, they could include an abnormal vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor, burning during urination, and/or itching around the vaginal opening.
Because little is known about the cause of BV, medical professionals are not sure how to prevent it. Being abstinent, limiting the number of sexual partners, and not douching are all ways that could potentially decrease a woman's risk for being diagnosed with BV.
For more information on BV, please review the following links:
Birth control, or contraception, is used to prevent pregnancy. There are many different types of contraception available. Click on the links below to learn more about the types of contraception available, including how to use them and how effective they are.
Female students can be seen by appointment in the University Health Service Women's Health clinic for hormonal contraception, including birth control pills, the patch, Depo-Provera (the shot), and the ring. Non-hormonal contraception, including diaphragms and condoms, are also available.
To make an appointment for contraceptive information, please call University Health Service at 859-323-2778 (APPT).
It is possible for women who take certain types of hormonal contraception to stop their periods, either temporarily or long-term. Medically, there is no reason that a woman has to have a period every month. Not having a period can help reduce pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), as well as other menstruation issues that some women may experience. If you are interested in suppressing your period, speak to your health care provider. You can also click on the below links for more information.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. Although breast cancer is more common in women over 50 years old, younger women can be affected too. Other problems younger women may experience are benign (non-cancerous) lumps, painful breast or nipple discharge. It is important for women of all ages to understand breast health and the importance of breast self examinations (BSE), as well as to become familiar with their own breasts. This can help ensure that women have healthy breasts throughout life. Performing BSE can help women learn the normal look and feel of their breasts, allowing them to report any changes to their health care provider. Click on the below links for more information about breast health, including instructions for performing a BSE.
Women may experience a variety of menstrual conditions throughout their life, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The below links contain information regarding certain menstrual conditions that women may experience.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common condition that affects many women during their menstrual cycle, usually before they begin menstruating. Approximately 85% of women in their reproductive years experience PMS. The symptoms of PMS may vary woman to woman; some women may experience PMS symptoms for a few hours, while others may have them for several days. There are a variety of symptoms that women with PMS may experience, including irritability, depression, constipation, bloating, acne, or headache. A woman who thinks she may be experiencing PMS should speak to her health care provider.
It may be possible to prevent PMS, or lessen the symptoms. Prevention strategies include exercising three to five days a week, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting plenty of sleep. For women who experience PMS, there are a variety of treatment options; some may work better for some women compared with others. Treatment options include exercising, anti-inflammatory medications, anti-pain medications, vitamins, diet changes, and oral contraceptives. Women with PMS should speak to their health care provider to determine which treatment options will be best for them.
Click on the below links to learn more about PMS.
Pap Test/Pelvic Examination
A pelvic examination and Pap test are important tests for women to have. These screenings can help ensure that women have good gynecologic health. During a pelvic examination, a health care provider examines a woman's pelvic area, including the external and internal organs. A Pap test is only one part of the pelvic examination. A Pap test screens for human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can lead to cervical cancer. In addition to the Pap test your health care provider might also test for other sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. Click on the below links to learn more about pelvic examinations, as well as Pap tests, including what to expect during the screening.
Female UK students who have never had a pelvic examination will meet with a health and wellness nurse prior to their clinic visit. This is included as part of the health fee that many UK students pay. During the meeting with the women's health nurse, students will discuss all aspects of the examination. The nurse will also discuss options for sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing (link to information about STI testing for women), as well as information about contraception (link to information about contraception). To schedule an appointment, please call 859-323-2778 (APPT). Be sure to let the person scheduling your appointment know that this is your first pelvic examination.
STI Testing for Women
It is recommended that women have a Pap test, which screens for human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can lead to cervical cancer, beginning at the age of 21 or three years after they become sexually active. Women should have a Pap test every year unless directed by their health care provider. It is also recommended that sexually active women under the age of 25 be screened at least once a year for chlamydia, which is another common STI.
University Health Service offers testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for women. For females who pay the health fee, testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea, two common STIs, is free. Women can also be tested for syphilis through a blood test. For women who are interested in HIV testing, there is a charge for this test.
More information about sexually transmitted infections >
Urinary Tract Infection
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection found anywhere in the urinary tract, which are the organs that collect and store urine and release it from the body. These organs include the urethra, kidneys, bladder, and prostate (in men). A UTI may also be called a bladder infection or cystitis. A UTI is caused by bacteria that enter the urethra, which is the opening of the urinary tract. UTIs are more common in women due to their anatomy, although men can also be diagnosed with this type of infection.
Symptoms of a UTI include:
- Pain during urination
- An urge to urinate even though the bladder is empty
- Feeling the urge to urinate all the time
- Lower abdominal or back pain
- Blood in urine
If a person thinks they may have a UTI, it is important to see a clinician. A health care provider will perform tests (usually a urine test) to screen for a UTI. If it is determined that a person has a UTI the clinician will prescribe an antibiotic to remove the bacteria from the urinary tract. It is possible for someone to be diagnosed with more than one UTI in their lifetime. In fact, some people have them frequently. Approximately one in five women diagnosed with a UTI will get another one. If you experience frequent UTIs, it is important to speak to your health care provider for more information as to what may be causing these infections.
It may be possible to prevent UTIs. The following suggestions may help with UTI prevention:
- Drink plenty of water. Six to eight glasses a day is recommended.
- Drink cranberry juice or take vitamin C. Both help increase the acid in the urethra, which may kill bacteria.
- Urinate frequently and whenever you feel the urge. Do not hold in your urine.
- Wipe front to back after using the bathroom.
- Urinate after sex. Sexual activity may force bacteria into the urethra; this is especially true of women.
- Wear cotton underwear and loose fitting clothing. Clothing that is too tight can trap bacteria.
For more information about UTIs, please click on the following links:
A yeast infection is a common condition affecting women of all ages. About 75% of women will experience at least one yeast infection in their lifetime. Of these women, about half will experience more than one. Yeast infections are not usually serious, although they can be uncomfortable. The most common symptom of a vaginal yeast infection is itching in and around the vagina. Other symptoms may include soreness; a thick, white vaginal discharge; and burning, redness, or swelling of the vagina and/or vulva. If a woman thinks she may have a yeast infection, it is important for her to talk to her health care provider regarding treatment options. These include creams, oral medications, and vaginal suppositories.
Yeast infections may be caused by a number of things, including menstruating, hormonal changes, pregnancy, certain medications (including antibiotics), and certain illnesses. It may be possible to prevent yeast infections. Women should not douche; this can disrupt the normal balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina, leading to infection. Other prevention methods include wearing cotton underwear, avoiding tight underwear, not wearing wet swimsuits, and avoiding hot tubs or very hot baths.
Please click on the links below for more information about yeast infections, including treatment options and prevention.