Women's Health Articles, Research & Resources

Alana Luna
Last updated:
Erin L. George, MFT
Erin L. George, MFT
Medical editor

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An Overview of Women’s Health

Women’s health is a category of medicine that focuses exclusively on the well-being of women and girls. This includes physical health, mental health, and emotional health. (1) Some topics deal with the intricacies of day-to-day living, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Other discussions center on topics specific to women, such as reproductive health and menopause.
Even universal topics like mental health can and should be seen through a special lens when women are involved. The rate of mental illness is higher in women compared to men: 25.8% among females versus 15.8% among men. (2) Women may experience different symptoms than men, and gender bias studies show that women in pain are often taken less seriously than men reporting similar levels of discomfort. (3)

Women’s health services focus on diagnosing and treating a wide variety of disorders and conditions, with a major focus on preventative care and screenings. (4) Some organizations and practitioners are taking a more holistic approach to female-centric health care, assembling a team of specialists who work together to address everything from gynecological health to mental health to weight management.

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Women’s Medical Disorders

Some of the most pressing medical concerns affecting women include: (5)

While many of these disorders and diseases occur in both men and women, the risk factors and symptoms may not look the same. Heart disease is a good example. While both men and women exhibit traditional risk factors such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes, women have a separate set of risk factors: (6)

  • Premenopause testosterone levels that are or were relatively high
  • The presence of autoimmune disease
  • Stress and depression
  • Increased hypertension once in menopause

Women experiencing medical conditions should seek help from their primary care physician or another qualified medical professional. It’s crucial to learn the risk factors specific to women and for women to advocate for themselves when they suspect something isn’t right.

Women’s Reproductive Health

Women’s reproductive systems go through several cycles, including puberty, menstruation, child-bearing years, menopause, and post-menopause. Closely monitoring reproductive health can help prevent illness and injury and detect problems early to maximize treatment options.
Common reproductive health issues for women include the following. (7)


Endometriosis is when uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, such as on the bladder or bowels. These growths can cause pain, menstrual problems, and infertility.

Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in and around the uterus. Some women with fibroids have no symptoms, while others have pain during intercourse, frequent urination, and heavy periods, among other symptoms.

Gynecologic Cancer

Gynecologic cancer includes any cancer that originates in the female reproductive organs, including cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and vaginal cancer. More than 110,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with gynecologic cancer each year. Another 32,000 die annually from the same category of diseases. (8)

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

There are more than 20 sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) women can contract as a result of sexual contact. Some, like chlamydia, can be treated using prescription medication. Others, like HIV, can be more serious. All require medical attention to prevent complications.

Sexual Violence

Nearly half a million Americans experience rape or sexually assault each year. (9) Approximately 90% of adult rape survivors are women.

Women and Menopause

Menopause is when a woman stops experiencing menstrual periods and becomes unable to get pregnant. (10) This major life change is accompanied by significant hormonal changes, as the body generates less estrogen and progesterone.
Symptoms of menopause include: (11)

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal infections
  • Decreased or increased libido
  • Irregular or disappearing periods
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Memory issues
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Mood changes
  • Depression and anxiety

While hormone changes are a natural part of menopause, exceedingly low estrogen levels can be problematic. When menopause symptoms begin to interfere with daily life, it’s important to reach out to a primary care physician (PCP). A PCP will listen to their patient’s concerns and recommend treatments, such as hormone therapy, when appropriate.
Menopause can take a toll on mental health and emotional health as well. (12) Research shows that the incidence of depression doubles for women approaching menopause (a period often referred to as perimenopause). Women who experienced depression and anxiety in the past are at higher risk of recurrence. It can be helpful to approach friends and family to find support. Every woman goes through menopause, and sharing experiences can make the process seem less daunting and isolating.

Women’s Autoimmune Diseases

Women account for a staggering 80% of people diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. (13) Patients with autoimmune diseases have immune systems that have lost the ability to distinguish between good cells and foreign cells. As a result, the body starts attacking itself. Scientists believe that autoimmune disorders arise as a result of a combination of factors, such as genetics, viral infections, environmental conditions, and diet.
Here are some of the most common autoimmune diseases in women and their associated symptoms: (14)

  • Type 1 diabetes. This condition occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, leading to high blood sugar and symptoms like unusual thirst, blurred vision, and extreme fatigue. (17)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). With RA, the immune system attacks healthy tissue and cells, leading to joint inflammation, pain and stiffness, mobility issues, and sometimes even organ damage. (15)
  • Psoriasis. This chronic skin condition is highly visible due to red, raised patches that typically pop up on the knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp. Psoriasis can also evolve into psoriatic arthritis, which combines skin symptoms with joint discomfort and other arthritis-related symptoms. (16)
  • Lupus. Lupus is one of the most difficult autoimmune disorders to treat, as it affects the skin, joints, organs, and blood vessels. Symptoms are wide ranging and include a telltale rash, hair loss, swollen joints and chest pain. (18)

There is no cure for autoimmune disease. However, most can be treated using a combination of medication and other holistic approaches that take into account the specific condition, lifestyle, genetics, and environment.