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6 Serious Sexual Health Symptoms for Women

What's normal and what may need a doctor's attention.
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1. Pelvic Pain continued...

If a more severe attack of pelvic pain starts suddenly, the ovary may have twisted, cutting off its blood supply. Some women also feel nauseated or vomit.

In addition, abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding may signal an ectopic pregnancy, in which a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus.

In either situation, get to an emergency room if you can’t reach your doctor.

Fortunately, most pelvic discomfort isn’t related to ovarian cancer, but women should know the disease’s unremitting “constellation of symptoms,” Puritz says. “If you have two weeks of bloating, pelvic pressure, and urinary frequency -- and every day, you have it -- that’s a potential sign that you should be checked for possible symptoms of ovarian cancer.”

2. Irregular Bleeding

Though birth control pills can cause spotting that isn’t serious, you may still want to discuss your prescription with your doctor.

“But if you’re not on any kind of birth control and you have irregular bleeding that lasts for more than a month or two, I think it should always be checked, even though the odds are, we won’t find anything bad,” Puritz says.

Irregular bleeding “covers a host of things,” she says: periods that last longer than normal, bleeding mid-month, having two periods per month, bleeding after sex, and other unusual patterns.

Abnormal bleeding may stem from multiple causes that aren’t serious, among them, perimenopause or uterine fibroids or polyps.

Thyroid problems can affect the menstrual cycle, too, Puritz says.

In nursing mothers and postmenopausal women, vaginal dryness, combined with friction, can cause spotting after intercourse.

But if you bleed every time after sex, “that’s a worrisome sign that the cervix is being easily irritated and usually, it often does that if there’s some infection of the cervix," Puritz says. "It wouldn’t normally do that in a healthy cervix.” Sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, can cause cervical lesions that bleed with sex.

If you’re postmenopausal, be especially vigilant about any vaginal bleeding; it’s a potential sign of uterine cancer. “You should be seen right away,” Puritz says. “Uterine cancer, compared to ovarian cancer, is extremely treatable. It’s very curable because it’s generally found in an early stage and it has an early warning sign, which is postmenopausal bleeding.”

Besides postmenopausal bleeding, any vaginal bleeding before puberty or during pregnancy should be checked out, too, Shepherd says.

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