The anticipated birth of a child comes with a host of prenatal doctor visits, vitamin supplements, dietary changes and wellness checks to ensure the safe delivery of a healthy baby. But reproductive health begins long before pregnancy and its importance isn’t just for moms. Dads need a healthy reproductive system for their part in the process.
But even if a baby isn’t part of your plan today, it doesn’t mean you should disregard your reproductive health. The female and male reproductive systems are a complex combination of organs and hormone- producing glands. The operations of these systems change as you age and there are different requirements for keeping them healthy at different stages of life. Sexually transmitted diseases, environmental factors, or injuries can have a detrimental effect on reproductive health. And that could be devastating if you plan to become a parent.
What to Watch For
Reproductive disorders affect millions of Americans every year. As you might imagine, the majority of those disorders affect women. They bear the greatest burden during pregnancy, so the risk to their reproductive health is higher, particularly when there’s a baby growing inside.
Female disorders include:
- Early or delayed puberty
- Endometriosis, where tissue that normally lines the womb grows outside it
- Low breastmilk production
- Infertility or reduced fertility
- Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles
- Ovaries producing more testosterone than normal
- Problems during pregnancy — gestational diabetes, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, etc.
- Uterine fibroids
Male disorders include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low sperm count
Possible Causes: STIs and More
Some sexually transmitted infections have been shown to have an effect on fertility if left untreated. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the leading causes of preventable infertility. Left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which may cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus and surrounding tissues potentially leading to infertility.
Even if you’re pregnant, you can still contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI), so it’s important to get treatment to improve the chances for a safer pregnancy and delivery for mom and baby. Problems during pregnancy like low birth weight, premature rupture of membranes, or premature labor have been linked to untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea. Untreated gonorrhea has also been linked to miscarriages. Newborns passing through the birth canal can develop eye infections when exposed to chlamydia or gonorrhea, and lung infections if exposed to chlamydia.
Even environment can play a big role in some reproductive disorders. Exposure to lead has been linked to reduced fertility in both men and women. Some chemicals used to make plastics, herbicides, flame retardants, and even liquid body wash can disrupt the production of hormones and contribute to problems with puberty, fertility, and pregnancy.
HPV: A Threat to Women and Men
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the United States, affecting 79 million Americans in their late teens and early 20s. HPV types are numerous, and HPV usually goes away without causing any health problems. When HPV lingers, the results can be genital warts and cancer.
A two-dose vaccine for girls and boys, ideally starting at age 11, has become common practice. But even teens and young adults as old as 26 are encouraged to get vaccinated. The vaccine is so effective that in just 10 years after it was recommended, certain HPV infections fell by 86% in girls between the ages of 14 to 19, and 71% in women in their early 20s.
Women who are pregnant and have HPV can develop genital warts that will increase in number and size during pregnancy and could complicate a vaginal delivery. In rare instances, the mother’s infection has been linked to noncancerous growths in the newborn’s larynx.
It’s in Your Control
Having a healthy reproductive system is vital if you ever decide to become a parent. The best time to do that is when you and your partner are ready. Planned pregnancies typically result in healthier babies and fewer medical problems for mom.
We’re Here for You
AltaMed can help with the development of a reproductive plan, offer counseling, provide pregnancy testing, birth control (until you’re ready), or referrals to a fertility specialist. We are here for you so you can get ready for the changes that come with giving birth.
AltaMed is also committed to keeping women healthy at every stage of their lives, offering information on birth control, safe sex, STI and HIV tests and treatment, pap and HPV tests. Call (888) 499-9303 for more information or to make an appointment.