From the very moment a baby girl first arrives in the world, her future is already laid out for her. Unlike her brothers who can engage in various kinds of activity, the little girl is always first of all a woman. Nature has given her the responsibility of producing the next generation, and for this she has been given wonderful organs of reproduction.
Although these female organs are present from birth, it is not until early adolescence that they begin to develop and function. From then on until the end of her life, they are of deepest concern to her, for they are often subject to special types of illness against which she must be constantly on guard.
🎲 FEMALE HORMONES
The maternal or motherly instincts of a woman arise almost entirely from the female hormones within her body. These important hormones are produced in a pair of almond-shaped organs known as the ovaries. They lie deep within the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus or womb. There are two major female hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. Both are produced in the ovaries under the pituitary, the master endocrine gland of the body, and both are necessary to give the woman strength and stamina and are largely responsible for the graceful curves and peculiarly feminine shape of her body.
These female hormones change the texture of a woman’s skin, the size and shape of her bones, the current of her thoughts, and affect everything she does in life. Estrogen, the dominant female hormone, gives her enormous drive and energy and great staying power, so that most women now outlive their husbands by several years.
Progesterone has a special function of its own. All human and animal life begins with some form of ovum or egg. Many thousands of undeveloped egg cells are present in the ovary at birth. Only a few of these ever mature and become ready for fertilization, one each month of a woman’s menstrual life.
As the little maturing egg cell finds its way toward the surface of the ovary, it becomes surrounded by a nest of special cells with a function on their own. About 8 or 10 days from the beginning of the female cycle, a small blister forms on the surface of the ovary and the egg or ovum escapes, leaving the little nest of cells to form a small temporary endocrine organ known as the corpus luteum, which functions for about two weeks an then disappears. Next month the whole process is repeated, the corpus lutein perhaps forming in the other ovary. Here is where progesterone is produced, the function of which is described below.
Ovulation is the time the egg cell or ovum leaves the ovary. Some women experience a slight pain at this time, lasting perhaps a few minutes longer. When more severe, this pain has sometimes been mistaken for appendicitis, but ovulation is a perfectly normal function of the female body. It is generally accompanied by a slight rise in temperature.
🎲 PREMENSTRUAL TENSION
Just before menstruation, some women become nervous and irritable and suffer from depression, headaches, fullness in the breasts and swelling in the lower extremities. This is probably due to increased hormone activity from the adrenal glands during the latter part of the menstrual cycle, causing retention of sodium and water in the tissues.
Avoid using extra salt during these times of premenstrual tension and swelling. One or two tablets of aspirin may also be used for very severe headaches.
🎲 PAINFUL MENSTRUATION
Some mild discomfort is to be expected at the beginning of menstruation, although many women have little of any difficulty. If there is severe pain it might be due to some abnormality that should be corrected. Some young women tend to magnify their symptoms, apparently in an unconscious effort to gain sympathy. But in other cases, the pain may be due to some endocrine imbalance which may clear up entirely following pregnancy or satisfactory marital relations. Abnormal position of the uterus may also lead to menstrual pain or discomfort.
In most cases, certain infections such as Syphilis, Gonorrhea, or Tuberculosis may sometimes cause pelvic pain which may be aggravated during menstruation. Rectal conditions such as constipation may also aggravate menstrual pain and discomfort. Finally, there is the problem of emotional tension. This always increases any menstrual discomfort and makes the woman more irritable.
Encourage the girl to enter into active sports, for these always help to improve the pelvic circulation. Special exercises to strengthen the back are recommended, but they must be taken in moderation. She should also be sure to get adequate rest and sleep. As far as possible, she should be encouraged to ignore the discomforts, carrying on her regular daily activities. Aspirin may also be taken for relief.
🎲 VAGINAL DISCHARGE
Recent investigations have shown that secretions from the uterus and upper portion of the vagina flow down and are reabsorbed in the lower part of the vagina. This is the normal, constant flow within the female organs. The presence of infection in any of these tissues will usually cause a whitish discharge called leucorrhea, that may continue for weeks or months at a time. This discharge may arise from Trichomonas vaginalis, an infection due to a small parasite that normally inhabits the bowel. Other causes of leucorrhea are pelvic congestion, endocrine disturbances, lacerations, injuries, and perhaps atrophy of the vaginal tissues following the menopause.
In young ladies, the discharge may be due to an irritation of the labia or external genital organs. This may arise from various causes such as soiled undergarments, dirt, intestinal worms, or masturbation. The irritated tissues may then become further infected with staphylococcus germs which are always present on the skin.
A direct diagnosis should be made by using smears and other tests. Most germ infections such as gonorrhea usually responds to antibiotic treatments such as Penicillin (injection) or Terramycin (by mouth). Trichomonas infections may be brought under control by taking a vinegar douche (2 tablespoons of vinegar in warm water) once or twice a day after which a vaginal tablet should be inserted in the vagina.
🎲 FEMALE FUNGUS INFECTIONS
Occasionally, the female genital organs are infected with monilia or some other type of fungus. This may sometimes occur during pregnancy, probably because of the increased sugar content of the blood. Women suffering from diabetes are more likely to have fungus infections. This may result in intense itching around the genital areas, as well as a thick discharge from the vagina. Often this arises from the use of broad spectrum antibiotics, because other useful organisms normally present in the vagina and rectum have been suppressed by these medicines. This usually clears up soon after the antibiotics have been discontinued.
Any tendency towards diabetes should be corrected without delay. The patient should also take a warm vinegar douche (as explained in Vaginal Discharge above). A nystatin tablet should be inserted for at least two weeks until infection is brought under control.
🎲 ECTOPIC PREGNANCY
Ectopic or tubal pregnancy is a rare complication in which the fertilized ovum or embryo becomes blocked in its passage through the Fallopian tube. There the embryo continues to grow as it normally would within the uterus. However, the space within the tube is too small to allow much expansion, so that soon the tube may rupture, causing a serious haemorrhage and also intense pain in the pelvis. This may resemble acute appendicitis. Surgery should be done as soon as a tubal pregnancy is suspected, preferably before haemorrhage occurs. One or two transfusions may be needed to replace the blood loss.