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Glossary - Women's Health

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Abdominal hysterectomy - the uterus is removed through the abdomen via a surgical incision.

Abortion - medical termination of a pregnancy.

Adhesion - a band of scar tissue that joins normally separated internal body structures, most often after surgery, inflammation, or injury in the area.

Adrenal glands - two glands, one on top of each kidney, which produce a variety of hormones that affect nearly every body system.

Advance directives - legal documents -- such as living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care decisions -- that detail a person's wishes regarding medical treatment prior to an illness or accident that makes him/her unable to do so.

Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) - a protein produced by a developing fetus that is present in amniotic fluid and, in smaller amounts, in a pregnant woman's blood. Abnormal levels of AFP found in a blood test between the 15th and 18th weeks of pregnancy can indicate abnormalities in the fetus.

Alzheimer's disease - A progressive, incurable condition that destroys brain cells, gradually causing loss of intellectual abilities -- such as memory -- and extreme changes in personality and behavior.

Amenorrhea - absence or cessation of menstrual periods.

Amenorrhea, primary - from the beginning and lifelong; menstruation never begins at puberty.

Amenorrhea, secondary - due to some physical cause and usually of later onset; a condition in which menstrual periods which were at one time normal and regular become increasing abnormal and irregular or absent.

Amniocentesis - prenatal diagnostic procedure in which a small amount of amniotic fluid is withdrawn through a needle inserted through a pregnant woman's abdominal wall into the uterus, then examined in a laboratory to detect genetic abnormalities in a fetus.

Amniotic fluid - clear liquid that surrounds and protects the fetus throughout pregnancy.

Anemia - blood disorder caused by a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells); it can result from abnormal blood loss, such as heavy menstrual bleeding.

Aovulation - failure of the ovaries to produce or release mature eggs.

Antibodies - proteins produced by the immune system to fight specific bacteria, viruses, or other antigens.

Antioxidants - compounds that protect against cell damage inflicted by molecules called oxygen-free radicals, which are a major cause of disease and aging.

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) - medical procedures, such as in vitro fertilization, that are performed to help infertile couples conceive.


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Basal body temperature - temperature of a person's body taken first thing in the morning after several hours of sleep and before any activity, including getting out of bed or talking; often charted to determine the time of ovulation.

Benign - cell growth that is not cancerous, does not invade nearby tissue, or spread to other parts of the body.

Biopsy - removal of sample of tissue via a hollow needle or scalpel.

Body mass index (BMI) - number, derived by using height and weight measurements, that gives a general indication if weight falls within a healthy range.

Bone density - measure of the mass of bone in relation to its volume to determine the risk of developing osteoporosis.

Braxton Hicks contractions - Relatively brief, painless contractions of the uterus that may begin during the second half of pregnancy.

Breast self-examination (BSE) - routine, monthly examination of the breasts.


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CA-125 test - Blood test to detect an elevated level of a protein antigen called CA-125, which may indicate ovarian cancer, among other disorders.

Calcium - mineral that gives strength to bones and teeth and has an important role in muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve function.

Cancer - abnormal cells that divide without control, which can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

Carcinogen - a substance that is known to cause cancer.

Certified nurse midwife (CNM) - a registered nurse who receives advanced education and provides primary care for women, with an emphasis on pregnancy, childbirth, and gynecologic and reproductive health. 

Cervical dysplasia - condition in which cells in the cervix have undergone precancerous changes. It is detected by a Pap smear; treatment can prevent it from progressing to cervical cancer.

Cervicitis - an irritation of the cervix by a number of different organisms. Cervicitis is generally classified as either acute or chronic.

Cervix - the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb) located between the bladder and the rectum. It forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body.

Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) - term used to classify the degree of precancerous change in cells of the cervix in a condition called cervical dysplasia.

Cesarean delivery (also called c-section) - surgical procedure to deliver a baby through an incision in the lower abdomen and uterus.

Chlamydial infection - very common sexually transmitted disease or urinary tract infection caused by a bacterialike organism in the urethra and reproductive system.

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) - diagnostic test usually performed between the 10th and 12th weeks of pregnancy in which a small sample of tissue is taken from the placenta and examined to detect genetic abnormalities in a fetus.

Chromosomes - filaments of genetic material in every cell nucleus that are made up of genes and that transmit genetic information from one generation of cells to the next.

Climacteric (also called perimenopause) - the transition period of time before menopause, marked by a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone, irregular menstrual periods, and transitory psychological changes.

Colostrum - thin, white, first milk produced by the breasts during late pregnancy and for a few days after childbirth. It provides a nursing infant with essential nutrients and infection-fighting antibodies.

Colposcopy - visual examination of the cervix and vagina using a lighted magnifying instrument (colposcope).

Cone biopsy (also called conization) - a biopsy in which a larger cone-shaped piece of tissue is removed from the cervix by using the loop electrosurgical excision procedure or the cold knife cone biopsy procedure. The cone biopsy procedure may be used as a treatment for precancerous lesions and early cancers.

Contractions, labor - rhythmic tightening of the muscular wall of the uterus to push the fetus down through the vagina during childbirth.

Cryosurgery - use of liquid nitrogen, or a probe that is very cold, to freeze and kill cancer cells.

Culdocentesis - a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the pelvic cavity through the vaginal wall to obtain a sample of fluid.

Cyst - a fluid-filled or semi-solid sac in or under the skin.

Cystitis - inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bacterial infection.

Cystocele - condition in which weakened pelvic muscles cause the base of the bladder to drop from its usual position down into the vagina.

Cystometry - diagnostic procedure that measures bladder capacity and pressure changes as the bladder fills and empties.

Cystoscopy - procedure in which a viewing tube (cystoscope) is passed through the urethra to examine the inside of the bladder and ureters or to treat a disorder.

Cystourethrocele - condition that results when the urethra and its supporting tissues weaken and drop into the vagina leading to stress incontinence.


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Dilation and curettage (also called D & C) - a minor operation in which the cervix is dilated (expanded) so that the cervical canal and uterine lining can be scraped with a curette (spoon-shaped instrument).

DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) - imaging technique that uses a very low dose of radiation to measure bone density for the diagnosis of osteoporosis.

Domestic violence - violence and abuse by family members or intimate partners such as a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, or date.

Dysmenorrhea - pain or discomfort experienced just before or during a menstrual period.

Dysmenorrhea, primary - from the beginning and usually lifelong; severe and frequent menstrual cramping caused by uterine contractions.

Dysmenorrhea, secondary - due to some physical cause and usually of later onset; painful menstrual periods caused by another medical condition present in the body (for instance, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis).

Dyspareunia - pain in the vagina or pelvis experienced during sexual intercourse.

Dysplasia - an abnormality of growth.


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Eclampsia - a serious, life-threatening condition in late pregnancy in which very high blood pressure can cause a woman to have seizures.

Ectopic pregnancy (also called tubal pregnancy) - pregnancy that develops outside the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes.

Endocervical curettage (ECC) - a procedure which uses a narrow instrument called a curette to scrape the lining of the endocervical canal. This type of biopsy is usually completed along with the colposcopic biopsy.

Endometrial ablation - a procedure to destroy the lining of the uterus (endometrium).

Endometrial biopsy - a procedure in which a sample of tissue is obtained through a tube which is inserted into the uterus.

Endometrial hyperplasia - abnormal thickening of the endometrium caused by excessive cell growth.

Endometrial implants - fragments of endometrium that relocate outside of the uterus, such as in the muscular wall of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina, or intestine, and bleed monthly just as the endometrium does in the uterus.

Endometriosis - condition in which tissue resembling that of the endometrium grows outside the uterus, on or near the ovaries or fallopian tubes, or in other areas of the pelvic cavity.

Endometrium - mucous membrane lining of the inner surface of the uterus that grows during each menstrual cycle and is shed in menstrual blood.

Endoscopy - use of a very flexible tube with a lens or camera (and a light on the end), which is connected to a computer screen, allowing the physician to see inside the hollow organs, such as the uterus. Biopsy samples can be taken through the tube.

Enterocele - condition caused by weakened muscles in the pelvis in which a portion of the intestines bulges into the top of the vagina.

Epidural anesthesia - method of pain relief used during surgery or childbirth in which an anesthetic is injected into a small area surrounding the spinal cord (the epidural space) to block pain nerve impulses from the lower half of the body.

Episiotomy - incision made in the skin between the vagina and anus to enlarge the vaginal opening and facilitate childbirth.

Estrogen - a group of hormones secreted by the ovaries which affect many aspects of the female body, including a woman's menstrual cycle and normal sexual and reproductive development.

Estrogen therapy - use of the female hormone estrogen to treat symptoms that result when the body no longer produces estrogen naturally after medical or surgical menopause.


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Fallopian tubes - two thin tubes that extend from each side of the uterus, toward the ovaries as a passageway for eggs and sperm.

Fecal occult-blood test - screening test for possible signs of cancer of the colon or rectum.

Fertile - able to become pregnant.

Fetal alcohol syndrome - set of serious birth defects that can occur when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol.

Fibroadenoma - noncancerous, firm, rubbery lump in the breast that is painless and moves around easily when touched.

Fibrocystic breasts - noncancerous condition in which small lumps and cysts develop in the breasts.

Fibroids - noncancerous growths in, on, or within the walls of the uterus.

Folic acid - a nutrient found in some green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, and some vitamin supplements. Folic acid can help reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) - hormone secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain that stimulates the growth and maturation of eggs in females and sperm in males, and sex hormone production in both males and females.

Functional incontinence - difficulty reaching a restroom in time because of physical conditions such as arthritis.


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Genes - basic, functional units of heredity, each occupying a specific place on a chromosome.

Genetic counseling - providing information, advice, and testing to prospective parents at risk of having a child with a birth defect or genetic disorder.

Genitals - external sex organs.

Genital herpes - a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Genital warts - sexually transmitted disease caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Gestational diabetes - form of diabetes that may develop during pregnancy in women who do not otherwise have diabetes.

GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer) - method of treating infertility by removing eggs from a woman's ovaries, combining them with sperm from her partner or a donor in the laboratory, and placing the eggs and sperm together in one of her fallopian tubes, where fertilization can occur.

Gonorrhea - common sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium, which can lead to infertility in women.


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Hirsutism - excessive growth of body and facial hair, including the chest, stomach, and back.

Hormones - chemical substances created by the body that control numerous body functions.

Hormone therapy (HT), menopausal - use of the female hormones estrogen and/or progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone) to treat symptoms that result when the body no longer produces the hormones after menopause.

Hormone therapy, oncological - treatment of cancer by removing, blocking, or adding hormones.

Human chorionic gonadotropin - hormone produced by the placenta during early pregnancy.

Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) - viruses that can cause warts. Some HPVs are sexually transmitted and cause wartlike growths on the genitals. HPV is a major risk factor for cervical cancer.

Hyperplasia - an abnormal increase in the number of cells in a tissue or an organ (i.e., cervix or the lining of the uterus).

Hypothalamus - small structure at the base of the brain that regulates many body functions, including appetite and body temperature.

Hysterectomy - surgical removal of the uterus.

Hysterosalpingography - X-ray examination of the uterus and fallopian tubes that uses dye and is often performed to rule out tubal obstruction.

Hysteroscope - visual examination of the canal of the cervix and the interior of the uterus using a viewing instrument (hysteroscope) inserted through the vagina.


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Incontinence, urinary - uncontrollable, involuntary leaking of urine.

Infertility - not being able to produce children.

Intrauterine insemination - treatment for infertility in which sperm are introduced into the uterus via a slim tube inserted through the vagina.

In vitro fertilization - treatment for infertility in which a woman's egg is fertilized outside her body, with her partner's sperm or sperm from a donor.


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Labia - the folds of skin at the opening of the vagina.

Laparoscopy - use of a viewing tube with a lens or camera (and a light on the end), which is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen to examine the contents of the abdomen and remove tissue samples.

Laparotomy - a surgical procedure that involves an incision across the abdomen; often used when making a diagnosis by less invasive tests is difficult.

Liposuction - type of cosmetic surgery in which localized areas of fat are removed from beneath the skin using a suction-pump device inserted through a small incision.

Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) - procedure for treating cervical dysplasia in which a fine wire loop and low-energy current are used to remove abnormal tissue from the cervix.

Lumpectomy - breast-conserving surgical procedure for breast cancer patients in which only the tumor and a small area of surrounding tissue are removed.

Luteinizing hormone (LH) - hormone secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain that stimulates the growth and maturation of eggs in females and sperm in males.

Lymphatic system - tissues and organs, including bone marrow, spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes, that produce, store, and carry white blood cells to fight infection and disease.

Lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) - small organs located in the channels of the lymphatic system which store special cells to trap bacteria or cancer cells traveling through the body in lymph. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the underarms, groin, neck, chest, and abdomen.


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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a noninvasive procedure that produces a two-dimensional view of an internal organ or structure, especially the brain and spinal cord. The MRI may show abnormal nodules in bones or lymph nodes -- a sign that cancer may be spreading.

Malignant - cancerous cells are present.

Mammogram - X-ray of the breast tissue.

Mastectomy - surgical removal of all or part of the breast.

Mastitis - infection of the milk ducts in the breast.

Melanoma - the most serious, life-threatening form of skin cancer.

Menarche - a young woman's first menstrual period.

Menopause - end of menstruation; commonly used to refer to the period ending the female reproductive phase of life.

Menorrhagia - the most common type of abnormal uterine bleeding (also called dysfunctional uterine bleeding) characterized by heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding. In some cases, bleeding may be so severe and relentless that daily activities become interrupted.

Menses - menstrual flow.

Menstruation - a cyclical process of the endometrium shedding its lining, along with discharge from the cervix and vagina, from the vaginal opening. This process results from the mature egg cell (ovum) not being fertilized by a sperm cell as it travels from one of the ovaries down a fallopian tube to the uterus, in the process called ovulation.

Metastasis - the spread of cancer from its original site to other sites in the body.

Metrorrhagia - any irregular, acyclic non-menstrual bleeding from the uterus; bleeding between menstrual periods.

Miscarriage - spontaneous termination of a pregnancy before the fetus has developed enough to survive outside the uterus.

Morning-after pills - hormonal medications to prevent pregnancy taken within 72 hours of having unprotected intercourse.

Mycoplasma - very common sexually transmitted disease or urinary tract infection caused by a bacteria-like organism in the urethra and reproductive system.

Myomectomy - surgical procedure done to remove fibroids from the uterus and leaving the uterus intact.


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Needle biopsy - biopsy procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed through a hollow needle.

Neural tube defect - type of birth defect, such as spina bifida, that results from failure of the spinal cord or brain to develop normally in a fetus.

Nurse practitioner - a registered nurse who receives advanced education and provides preventive and acute health care services to individuals of all ages. 


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Obesity - an excessive accumulation of fat in the body. A person with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 is considered obese.

Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN) - physicians who specialize in general women's medical care, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the female reproductive system, and care of pregnant women.

Oligomenorrhea - infrequent or light menstrual cycles.

Oncogenes - genes that promote normal cell division.

Oncologist - physician who specializes in treating cancer.

Oophorectomy - surgical removal of one or both ovaries.

Osteoporosis - disorder in which bones thin and become brittle and more prone to fracture; most common in women after menopause due to estrogen deficiency.

Ovaries - pair of small glands, located on either side of the uterus, in which egg cells develop and are stored and the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are produced.

Overflow incontinence - the leakage of small amounts of urine from a bladder that is always full.

Overweight - a label of ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given weight. A person with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30 is considered overweight.

Ovulation - release of a mature egg from an ovary.

Ovum - a mature egg cell released during ovulation from an ovary.

Oxytocin - hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates contractions of the uterus during labor and release of milk during breastfeeding.


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Pap test (also called Pap smear) - test that involves microscopic examination of cells collected from the cervix, used to detect changes that may be cancer or may lead to cancer, and to show noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation.

Pelvic examination - an internal examination of the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - inflammation of the pelvic organs caused by a type of bacteria.

Pelvic lymph node dissection - removal of some lymph nodes from the pelvis.

Pelvis - a basin-shaped structure that supports the spinal column and contains the sacrum, coccyx, and hip bones (ilium, pubis, and ischium).

Perimenopause (also called climacteric) - the transition period of time before menopause, marked by a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone, irregular menstrual periods, and transitory psychological changes.

Perineum - area between the anus and the sex organs.

Pessary - rubber or plastic device that is inserted through the vagina to help hold the uterus in place in women who have prolapse of the uterus.

Pituitary gland - gland at the base of the brain that secretes hormones and regulates and controls other hormone-secreting glands and many body processes, including reproduction.

Placenta - organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy; links the blood supplies of a pregnant woman to the fetus to provide nutrients and remove waste products.

Placental abruption - premature detachment of the placenta from the wall of the uterus causing severe bleeding that is life threatening to both a pregnant woman and fetus.

Placenta previa - abnormal location of the placenta in the lower part of the uterus, near or over the cervix.

Polymenorrhea - too frequent menstruation.

Polyp - growth that projects, usually on a stem, from a membrane in the body and can sometimes develop into cancer.

Postmenopausal bleeding - any bleeding that occurs after menopause.

Preeclampsia - disorder of pregnancy characterized by increased blood pressure, water retention, and protein in the urine.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) - a much more severe form of the collective symptoms known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is considered a severe and chronic medical condition that requires attention and treatment.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - a group of physical and emotional symptoms that some women experience during their menstrual cycle. Although the symptoms usually cease with onset of the menstrual period, in some women, symptoms may last through and after their menstrual periods.

Preterm labor - labor that begins before the 37th week of pregnancy.

Progesterone - a female sex hormone, produced by the ovaries during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Progestin - synthetic form of the female sex hormone progesterone.

Prolactin - hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates breast development and milk production.

Prolapse of the uterus - displacement of the uterus down into the vagina caused by a weakening of supporting tissues in the pelvis.

Pudendal block - pain relieving procedure used during childbirth in which an anesthetic is injected into tissues surrounding the pudendal nerves on either side of the vagina. It blocks pain in the tissues between the vagina and anus.

Pyelonephritis - kidney infection.


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Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) - treatment with high-energy rays (such as X-rays or gamma rays) to kill cancer cells; may be by external radiation or by internal radiation from radioactive materials placed directly in or near the tumor.

Rape - forced or manipulated nonconsensual sexual contact, including vaginal or anal intercourse, oral sex, or penetration with an object.

Rectocele - condition in which weakening of the lower vaginal wall causes the rectum to bulge into the vagina.

Rectum - lower end of the large intestine, leading to the anus.


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Safe sex - sex in a monogamous relationship where neither party is infected with a sexually transmitted disease or urinary tract infection is considered to be "safe." However, many healthcare professionals believe there really is no such thing as "safe" sex and the only way to be truly safe is to abstain because all forms of sexual contact carry some risk.

Salpingectomy - surgical removal of one or both fallopian tubes.

Salpingo-oophorectomy - surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

Schiller test - a diagnostic test in which the cervix is coated with an iodine solution to detect the presence of abnormal cells.

Serotonin - chemical messenger in the brain that affects emotions, behavior, and thought.

Sexually transmitted disease (STD) - infection spread through sexual intercourse and other intimate sexual contact.

Sigmoidoscopy - examination of the rectum and lower part of the colon (sigmoid colon) using a flexible viewing tube passed through the rectum.

Spinal anesthesia - injection of an anesthetic into the area around the spinal cord to block pain sensation during surgery.

Squamous cell cancer - a slow-growing cancer in cells in the top layer of the skin.

Squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL) - like CIN, SIL is a term used to classify the degree of precancerous change in cells of the cervix in a condition called cervical dysplasia.

Stress incontinence - involuntary leaking of urine during activities that increase pressure inside the abdomen, such as coughing, sneezing, or jogging.


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Tamoxifen - an anticancer drug used in hormone therapy to block the effects of estrogen.

Testosterone - key male sex hormone, which stimulates bone and muscle growth and the development of male sex characteristics.

Thrombosis, deep-vein - formation of blood clots in veins deep inside the legs.

Total hysterectomy - the removal of the uterus, including the cervix; the fallopian tubes and the ovaries remain.

Total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy - the entire uterus, fallopian tubes, and the ovaries are surgically removed.

Transvaginal ultrasound (also called ultrasonography) - an ultrasound test using a small instrument, called a transducer, that is placed in the vagina.

Trichomoniasis - very common vaginitis caused by a single-celled organism usually transmitted during sexual contact.

Tubal ligation - surgical sterilization procedure in which the fallopian tubes are sealed or cut to prevent sperm from reaching an egg.


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Ultrasound - diagnostic imaging procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a picture of internal body structures on a video screen.

Urge incontinence - the inability to hold urine long enough to reach a restroom.

Ureters - two tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

Urethra - narrow channel through which urine passes from the bladder out of the body.

Uterus - hollow, muscular organ in the center of the female pelvis that sheds its lining each month during menstruation and in which a fertilized egg implants and grows into a fetus.

Urethritis - infection limited to the urethra.


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Vacuum aspiration - procedure in which a suction tube attached to a vacuum pump is inserted through the vagina into the uterus to loosen and remove its contents.

Vacuum extraction - procedure used to ease delivery by applying a metal or plastic cup to the baby's scalp and using suction to pull the baby gradually out of the vagina.

Vaginal atrophy - often a symptom of menopause; the drying and thinning of the tissues of the vagina and urethra. This can lead to dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse) as well as vaginitis, cystitis, and urinary tract infections.

Vaginal hysterectomy - the uterus is removed through the vaginal opening.

Vagina (also called the "birth canal") - the passageway through which fluid passes out of the body during menstrual periods. The vagina connects the cervix (the opening of the womb, or uterus) and the vulva (the external genitalia).

Vaginitis - inflammation, redness, or swelling of the vaginal tissues; usually resulting from a bacterial infection.

Vaginitis, atrophic - a form of noninfectious vaginitis which usually results from a decrease in hormones because of menopause, surgical removal of the ovaries, radiation therapy, or even after childbirth - particularly in breastfeeding women. Lack of estrogen dries and thins the vaginal tissue, and may also cause spotting.

Vaginitis, bacterial - very common vaginal infection characterized by symptoms such as increased vaginal discharge or itching, burning, or redness in the genital area.

Vaginitis, noninfectious - a type of vaginitis that usually refers to vaginal irritation without an infection being present. Most often, the infection is caused by an allergic reaction to, or irritation from, vaginal sprays, douches, or spermicidal products. It may also be caused by sensitivity to perfumed soaps, detergents, or fabric softeners.

Vaginitis, viral - very common vaginal infection, often sexually transmitted, that is caused by one of many different types of viruses (i.e., herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus).

Varicose veins - enlarged, curving veins just beneath the skin, usually in the legs.

Vulva - external, visible part of the female genital area.

Vulvitis - an inflammation of the vulva, the soft folds of skin outside the vagina. This is not a condition but rather a symptom that results from a host of diseases, infections, injuries, allergies, and other irritants.


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X-ray - electromagnetic energy used to produce images of bones and internal organs onto film.


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Yeast infection (also called Candida) - one type of vaginitis caused by the Candida fungus characterized by itching, burning, or redness of the vaginal area.


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Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) - method of treating infertility by removing eggs from a woman's ovaries, fertilizing them in the laboratory with sperm from her partner or a donor, and inserting one or more of the fertilized eggs into one of her fallopian tubes.