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U S Department of Health and Human Services www.hhs.govOffice of Public Health and Science - The Federal Source for Women's Health Information Sponsored by the H H S Office on Women's Health
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advance directive(s)

written instructions letting others know the type of care you want if you are seriously ill or dying. These include a living will and health care power of attorney.




a foreign substance to the body's immune system that may cause an allergic reaction.


disorders that involve an immune response in the body. Allergies are reactions to allergens such as plant pollen, other grasses and weeds, certain foods, rubber latex, insect bites, or certain drugs.

alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)

AFP is protein made by the fetus' liver, in the fetal gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the yolk sac. During pregnancy, AFP crosses into the mother's blood. The level of AFP in the mother's blood can be measured to screen for disorders such as neural tube defects and Down syndrome. The mother's AFP levels tend to be high with neural tube defects such as anencephaly and Spina bifida, and low with Down syndrome.

alpha-fetoprotein screening (AFP)

this blood test measures the levels of a substance called alpha-fetoprotein in the mother's blood. Abnormal levels can indicate a brain or spinal cord defect, the presence of twins, a miscalculated due date, or an increased risk of Down syndrome.

alveoli cells

tiny glands in the breast that produce milk.

Alzheimer’s disease

a brain disease that cripples the brain's nerve cells over time and destroys memory and learning. It usually starts in late middle age or old age and gets worse over time. Symptoms include loss of memory, confusion, problems in thinking, and changes in language, behavior, and personality.


if necessary, this test is performed between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy and can indicate chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, or genetic disorders such as Tay Sachs disease, sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and others. It also can detect the baby's sex and risk of spina bifida (a condition in which the brain or spine do not develop properly).

amniotic fluid

clear, slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds the unborn baby (fetus) during pregnancy. It is contained in the amniotic sac.

amniotic sac

during pregnancy, the amniotic sac is formed within the uterus and encloses the fetus. This sac bursts normally during the birthing process, releasing the amniotic fluid. A popular term for the amniotic sac with the amniotic fluid is the bag of waters.


removal of part or all of a body part, except for organs in the body. It usually takes place during surgery in a hospital operating room. It is done because of injury to the body part or problems from diabetes, hardening of the arteries, or any other illness that impairs blood circulation. It is also done to prevent the spread of bone cancer. Many amputees are able to be fitted with an artificial limb.


when the amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin (the substance in the blood that carries oxygen to organs) becomes reduced, causing fatigue that can be severe.


a thin or weak spot in an artery that balloons out and can burst.


a recurring pain or discomfort in the chest that happens when some part of the heart does not receive enough blood. It is a common symptom of coronary heart disease, which occurs when vessels that carry blood to the heart become narrowed and blocked due to atherosclerosis. Angina feels like a pressing or squeezing pain, usually in the chest under the breast bone, but sometimes in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaws, or back. Angina is usually is brought on by exertion, and relieved within a few minutes by resting or by taking prescribed angina medicine.

anorexia nervosa

an eating disorder caused by a person having a distorted body image and not consuming the appropriate calorie intake resulting in severe weight loss.


absence of ovulation.


drugs used to fight many infections caused by bacteria. Some antibiotics are effective against only certain types of bacteria; others can effectively fight a wide range of bacteria. Antibiotics do not work against viral infections.


proteins made by certain white blood cells in response to a foreign substance (antigen). Antibodies neutralize or destroy antigens.


a name for a category of medications used to treat depression.


drugs that are used to prevent or relieve the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies by preventing the action of a substance called histamine, which is produced by the body. Histamine can cause itching, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and sometimes can make breathing difficult. Some of these drugs are also used to prevent motion sickness, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Since they may cause drowsiness as a side effect, some of them may be used to help people go to sleep.


anticancer drugs that can stop or slow down biochemical reactions in cells.

antiretroviral drugs

drugs that inhibit the ability of HIV or other types of retroviruses to multiply in the body.


the body opening from which stool passes from the lower end of the intestine and out of the body.

anxiety disorder

serious medical illness that fills people's lives with anxiety and fear. Some anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia (or social anxiety disorder), specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.


temporary interruption or cessation of breathing.


the dark-colored skin on the breast that surrounds the nipple.


blood vessels that carry oxygen and blood to the heart, brain and other parts of the body.


disease when fatty deposits clog the walls of the arteries.


swelling, redness, warmth, and pain of the joints, the places where two bones meet, such as the elbow or knee. There are more than 100 types of arthritis. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

assisted reproductive technology

technology that involves procedures that handle a woman's eggs and a man's sperm to help infertile couples conceive a child.


a chronic disease of the lungs. Symptoms include cough, wheezing, a tight feeling in the chest, and trouble breathing.


a disease in which fatty material is deposited on the wall of the arteries. This fatty material causes the arteries to become narrow and it eventually restricts blood flow.

atopic dermatitis

dry and itchy skin, caused by certain diseases, irritating substances, allergies, or a person’s genetic makeup.


an immune response by the body against one of its own tissues, cells, or molecules.

autoimmune disease

disease caused by an immune response against foreign substances in the tissues of one's own body.


microorganisms that can cause infections.

bacterial vaginosis (BV)

the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age, which happens when the normal bacteria (germs) in the vagina get out of balance, such as from douching or from sexual contact. Symptoms include vaginal discharge that can be white, gray, or thin and have an odor; burning or pain when urinating; or itching around the outside of the vagina. There also may be no symptoms.




a type of medication that reduces nerve impulses to the heart and blood vessels. This makes the heart beat slower and with less force. Blood pressure drops and the heart works less hard.


a brown liquid made by the liver. It contains some substances that break up fat for digestion, while other substances are waste products.


when the hemoglobin in a person's blood breaks down, causing a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. It is a temporary condition in newborn infants.

binge eating disorder

an eating disorder caused by a person being unable to control the need to overeat.


removal of a small piece of tissue for testing or examination under a microscope.

birth center

a special place for women to give birth. They have all the required equipment for birthing, but are specially designed for a woman, her partner, and family. Birth centers may be free standing (separate from a hospital) or located within a hospital.


the organ in the human body that stores urine. It is found in the lower part of the abdomen.


fluid in the body made up of plasma, red and white blood cells, and platelets. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to and waste materials away from all body tissues. In the breast, blood nourishes the breast tissue and provides nutrients needed for milk production.

blood glucose level

also called blood sugar level, it is the amount of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Too much glucose in the blood for a long time can cause diabetes and damage many parts of the body, such as the heart, blood vessels, eyes, and kidneys.

blood sugar level

see blood glucose level.

blood transfusion

the transfer of blood or blood products from one person (donor) into another person's bloodstream (recipient). Most times, it is done to replace blood cells or blood products lost through severe bleeding. Blood can be given from two sources, your own blood (autologous blood) or from someone else (donor blood).

body image

how a person feels about how she or he looks.

body mass index

a measure of body fat based on a person's height and weight.


also known as the intestine, which is a long tube-like organ in the human body that completes digestion or the breaking down of food. The small bowel is the small intestine and the large bowel is the large intestine.

breast shell

a round plastic shell that fits around the breast. It is used to correct inverted or flat nipples. Also referred to as breast shield or milk cup.


inflammation of the bronchi, airways in the lungs.

bulimia nervosa

an eating disorder caused by a person consuming an extreme amount of food all at once followed by self-induced vomiting or other purging.


a unit of energy-producing potential in food.


a term for diseases in which abnormal cells in the body divide without control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymphatic system, which is a network of tissues that clears infections and keeps body fluids in balance.


a fungus, called Candida albicans, that causes yeast infections like thrush in the mouth and throat, and in intestines and other parts of the body.


compounds such as sugars and starches that occur in food and are broken down to release energy in the body.

cardiovascular diseases

disease of the heart and blood vessels.


a sudden loss of motor tone and strength.


cloudy or thick areas in the lens of the eye.

celiac disease

a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine.

Celiac disease

people with this condition cannot eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, or barley, and some nonfood items, such as medicines and envelope glue. If gluten is consumed, the body’s immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. This damage can keep the body from getting the nutrients it needs.

central agonists

a type of medicine used to treat high blood pressure. Central agonists work by relaxing the blood vessels so that blood can flow more easily through the body.

cerebrovascular disease

disease of the blood vessels in the brain.

cervical cancer

happens when normal cells in the cervix change into cancer cells. This change normally takes several years to happen, but it can also happen in a very short amount of time. Before the cells turn into cancer, abnormal cells develop on the cervix that can be found by a Pap test. Women generally don't have symptoms of cervical cancer. But when cervical cancer is not found early and spreads deeper into your cervix or to other tissues or organs, you might have pain during sex; bleeding from your vagina after sex, between periods, or after menopause; heavy vaginal discharge that may have a bad odor; heavier bleeding during your period; or a menstrual period that lasts longer than normal. Human papillomavirus (HPV), a group of viruses, can cause abnormal changes on the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. HPV is very common, and you can get it through sexual contact with another person who has HPV.


the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb). The cervix forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body.

cesarean section or C-section

procedure where the baby is delivered through an abdominal incision. Also called cesarean delivery or cesarean birth.


treatment with anticancer drugs.

chicken pox

a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which results in a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever.


a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). Most people have no symptoms, but chlamydia can cause serious damage a women's reproductive organs. When a woman does have symptoms, they may include thin vaginal discharge and other symptoms similar to gonorrhea like burning when urinating. Long-term irritation may cause lower abdominal pain, inflammation of the pelvic organs, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).


a fatty substance present in all parts of the body. It is a component of cell membranes and is used to make vitamin D and some hormones. Some cholesterol in the body is produced by the liver and some is derived from food, particularly animal products. A high level of cholesterol in the blood can help cause atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. In the blood, cholesterol is bound to chemicals called lipoproteins. Cholesterol attached to low-density lipoprotein (LDL) harms health and is often called "bad cholesterol." Cholesterol attached to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is good for health and is often called "good cholesterol."

chorionic villus sampling (CVS)

If necessary this test is performed between 10 and 12 weeks of pregnancy and can indicate the same chromosomal abnormalities and genetic disorders as amniocentesis can. It also can detect the baby's sex and risk of spina bifida.


long lasting condition.

chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

a complex disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts six months or longer, and does not improve with rest or is worsened by physical or mental activity. Other symptoms can include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration, and insomnia. The cause is unknown.


the result of chronic liver disease, where the liver is scarred and no longer functions properly. This causes many complications, including build up of fluid in the abdomen, bleeding disorders, increased pressure in the blood vessels and brain function disorders.

cleft lip or palate

birth defects that affect the upper lip and the hard and soft palates of the mouth. Features range from a small notch in the lip to a complete fissure or groove, extending into the roof of the month and nose. These features may occur separately or together.


to force someone to do something that they do not want to do.

colon cancer

cancer in the inner lining of the colon. The colon is the part of the digestive tract that removes water from feces before the feces leaves the body through the anus. Most colon cancers start as noncancerous growths called polyps.


a diagnostic procedure in which a flexible tube with a light source in inserted into the colon (large intestine or large bowel) through the anus to view all sections of the colon for abnormalities.


thick, yellowish fluid secreted from breast during pregnancy, and the first few days after childbirth before the onset of mature breast milk. Also called "first milk," it provides nutrients and protection against infectious diseases.


procedure that uses a special microscope (called a colposcope) to look into the vagina and to look very closely at the cervix.


a barrier method of birth control. There are both male and female condoms. The male condom is a sheath placed over an erect penis before sex that prevents pregnancy by blocking the passage of sperm. A female condom also is a sheath, but is inserted into the vagina to block the passage of sperm.

congenital heart disease

abnormalities of the heart's structure and function caused by abnormal or disordered heart development before birth.

connective tissue

a type of body tissue that supports other tissues and binds them together. Connective tissue provides support in the breast.


infrequent or hard stools or difficulty passing stools.


transmitted by direct or indirect contact.


also known as a seizure. An uncontrollable contraction of muscles that can result in sudden movement or loss of control.

coronary artery disease

also called coronary heart disease. It is the most common type of heart disease that results from atherosclerosis — the gradual buildup of plaques in the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that bring blood to the heart. This disease develops slowly and silently, over decades. It can go virtually unnoticed until it produces a heart attack.


usually has a master's degree in Counseling and has completed a supervised internship.

Crohn’s disease

an ongoing condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, also called the GI tract. It can affect any part of the GI tract—from the mouth to the anus. It often affects the lower part of the small intestine, causing pain and diarrhea.

cystic fibrosis (CF)

one of the most common serious genetic (inherited) diseases. One out of every 400 couples is at risk for having children with CF. CF causes the body to make abnormal secretions leading to mucous build-up. CF mucous build-up can impair organs such as the pancreas, the intestine and the lungs.


impairs the vitality and strength of a person.


medications that treat cough and stuffy nose by shrinking swollen membranes in the nose and making it easier to breath.


excessive loss of body water that the body needs to carry on normal functions at an optimal level. Signs include increasing thirst, dry mouth, weakness or lightheadedness (particularly if worse on standing), and a darkening of the urine or a decrease in urination.


a group of symptoms caused by a brain disorder. Symptoms may include memory loss, confusion, personality changes, and difficulty with normal activities like eating or dressing. Dementia can be caused by many different diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and stroke.

dental dam

a square, thin piece of latex that can be placed over the anus or the vagina before oral sex.


term used to describe an emotional state involving sadness, lack of energy and low self-esteem.


see atopic dermatitis.


a disease in which blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are above normal. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by a problem with the body's defense system, called the immune system. This form of diabetes usually starts in childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It starts most often in adulthood.


see diabetes


a treatment used when kidneys fail. It filters the blood to rid the body of harmful wastes, salt, and extra water.


birth control device made of a thin flexible disk, usually made of rubber, that is designed to cover the cervix to prevent the entry of sperm during sexual intercourse.


passing frequent and loose stools that can be watery. Acute diarrhea goes away in a few weeks. Diarrhea becomes chronic when it lasts longer than 4 weeks.

dietary fiber

coarse fibrous substances found in grains, fruits, and vegetables. Dietary fiber is generally not digested but helps move food through the digestive tract. Eating dietary fiber helps prevent many long-term illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain gastrointestinal diseases.

digestive tract

tube through which food passes and is digested, and wastes are eliminated. The digestive tract runs from the mouth to the anus and includes the esophagus, stomach, and intestines.


a physical or mental impairment that interferes with or prevents "normal" achievement in a particular function.


a type of medication sometimes called "water pills" because they work in the kidney and flush excess water and sodium from the body.

DNA test

a lab test in which a patient's DNA is tested. DNA is a molecule that has a person's genetic information and is found in every cell in a person's body.

Down syndrome

Down syndrome is the most frequent genetic cause for mild to moderate mental retardation and related medical problems. It is caused by a chromosomal abnormality. For an unknown reason, a change in cell growth results in 47 instead of the usual 46 chromosomes. This extra chromosome changes the orderly development of the body and brain.


small milk ducts in the breast leading to the mammary or lactiferous ducts.

eating disorder

eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, involve serious problems with eating. This could include an extreme decrease of food or severe overeating, as well as feelings of distress and concern about body shape or weight.

ectopic pregnancy

a pregnancy that is not in the uterus. It happens when a fertilized egg settles and grows in a place other than the inner lining of the uterus. Most happen in the fallopian tube, but can happen in the ovary, cervix, or abdominal cavity.


a group of conditions in which the skin becomes inflamed, forms blisters, and becomes crusty, thick, and scaly. Eczema causes burning and itching and may occur over a long period of time. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema.

electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

an external, noninvasive test that records the electrical activity of the heart.

electrolyte imbalance

when the amounts of sodium and potassium in the body become too much or too little.


a period during pregnancy where the baby has rapid growth, and the main external features begin to take form.


a condition caused by damage to the air sacs in the lungs. This damage keeps the body from getting enough oxygen. Symptoms include trouble breathing, cough, and trouble exercising for more than brief periods. Emphysema is usually caused by smoking.

endometrial cancer

cancer that develops from the endometrium, or the inner lining of the uterus (womb).


a condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other areas of the body, usually inside the abdominal cavity, but acts as if it were inside the uterus. Blood shed monthly from the misplaced tissue has no place to go, and tissues surrounding the area of endometriosis may become inflamed or swollen. This can produce scar tissue. Symptoms include painful menstrual cramps that can be felt in the abdomen or lower back, or pain during or after sexual activity, irregular bleeding, and infertility.


a diagnostic procedure in which a thin, flexible tube is introduced through the mouth or rectum to view parts of the digestive tract.


condition in which breasts become overly full of milk. Engorged breasts may feel swollen, hard, and painful. Engorgement can lead to blocked milk ducts.


during labor a woman may be offered an epidural, where a needle is inserted into the epidural space at the end of the spine, to numb the lower body and reduce pain. This allows a woman to have more energy and strength for the end stage of labor, when it is time to push the baby out of the birth canal.


a physical disorder that involves recurrent seizures. It is caused by sudden changes in how the brain works.


This is a procedure where an incision is made in the perineum (area between the vagina and the anus) to make the vaginal opening larger in order to prevent the area from tearing during delivery.

erectile dysfunction

inability to achieve and keep a penile erection.


tube that connects the throat with the stomach.


a group of female hormones that are responsible for the development of breasts and other secondary sex characteristics in women. Estrogen is produced by the ovaries and other body tissues. Estrogen, along with progesterone, is important in preparing a woman's body for pregnancy.


when someone exposes him/herself in public

fallopian tubes

part of the female reproductive system, these tubes carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus (or womb).

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

a federal regulation that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12 month period for the serious health condition of the employee, parent, spouse or child, or for pregnancy or care of a newborn child, or for adoption or foster care of a child.

Fanconi anemia (FA)

a rare, inherited blood disorder that leads to bone marrow failure. FA causes your bone marrow to stop making enough new blood cells for your body to work normally. The risk for some cancers is much greater for people with FA.


a feeling of lack of energy, weariness or tiredness.

fatty tissue

connective tissue that contains stored fat. Also referred to as adipose tissue. Fatty tissue in the breast protects the breast from injury.


waste eliminated from the bowels.

fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

a term used to describe the full range of harmful effects that can occur when a fetus is exposed to alcohol.


body temperature is raised above normal and is usually a sign of infection or illness.

fibromyalgia (FM)

a disorder that causes aches and pain all over the body, and involves "tender points" on specific places on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs that hurt when pressure is put on them.

flat nipple

a nipple that cannot be compressed outward, does not protrude or become erect when stimulated or cold.


each month, an egg develops inside the ovary in a fluid filled pocket called a follicle. This follicle releases the egg into the fallopian tube.

follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. In women, it helps control the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries.

forced prostitution

to make someone have sex for money, against their will.


a condition where the body is not able to process galactose (a sugar), which makes up half of the sugar (called lactose) found in milk. When galactose levels become high, body organs and the central nervous system can be damaged. In newborns, the condition is found when first breastfeeding and can cause jaundice and other problems.


a sac that stores a fluid called bile, which is produced by the liver. After eating, bile is secreted into the small intestine, where it helps digest fats.


a term that refers to the stomach and the intestines or bowels.

generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

a condition marked by excessive worry and feelings of fear, dread, and uneasiness that lasts six months or longer. Other symptoms include being restless, being tired or irritable, muscle tension, not being able to concentrate or sleep well, shortness of breath, fast heartbeat, sweating, and dizziness.

GER (gastroesophageal reflux)

also called acid reflux, a condition where the contents of the stomach regurgitates (or backs up) into the esophagus (food pipe), causing discomfort.

gestational diabetes

diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.


a mild form of gum disease. It causes red, swollen gums. It can also make the gums bleed easily. Gingivitis can be caused by plaque buildup. And the longer plaque and tartar stay on teeth, the more harm they do. Most gingivitis can be treated with daily brushing and flossing and regular cleanings at the dentist's office.


a cell, group of cells, or organ that makes chemicals and releases them for use by other parts of the body or to be excreted. The pituitary gland, for example, makes growth hormone, which stimulates cells to grow and divide. Sweat glands excrete water, salts, and waste to help cool down the body.

glandular tissue

body tissue that produces and releases one or more substances for use in the body. Some glands produce fluids that affect tissues or organs. Others produce hormones or participate in blood production. In the breast, glandular tissue is involved in the production of milk.


a group of diseases that can damage your eye’s optic nerve. It usually results from a build up of fluid. Glaucoma can lead to blindness if not treated.


enlargement of the thyroid gland that is not associated with inflammation or cancer.


a sexually transmitted disease that often has no symptoms. However, some women have pain or burning when urinating; yellowish and sometimes bloody vaginal discharge; bleeding between menstrual periods; heavy bleeding with periods; or pain when having sex. Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

heart disease

a number of abnormal conditions affecting the heart and the blood vessels in the heart. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which is the gradual buildup of plaques in the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that bring blood to the heart. This disease develops slowly and silently, over decades. It can go virtually unnoticed until it produces a heart attack.


a condition in which too much iron builds up in the body over time. Without treatment, this extra iron can damage the organs, mainly the liver, heart, and pancreas, and cause organ failure. Hemochromatosis is one of the most common genetic diseases in the United States. But iron overload also can happen due to other diseases or from years of taking too much iron or from repeated blood transfusions or dialysis for kidney disease. The most common treatment to remove extra iron is to remove some blood.


veins around the anus or lower rectum that are swollen and inflamed.

hepatitis B

a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV), can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. You get hepatitis B by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person; for instance, you can become infected by having sex or sharing needles with an infected person. A baby can get hepatitis B from an infected mother during childbirth.

hepatitis C

a liver disease, caused by a virus, that makes the liver swells and stops it from working correctly.

herpes simplex virus (HSV)

a virus that causes blisters and sores mainly around the mouth and genitals. There are two types. Type 1 is the most common and causes sores around the mouth, or cold sores. It is transmitted by infected saliva. Type 2 causes sores mainly on the genitals and is transmitted sexually.

high blood pressure

see hypertension.

hip fracture

a fracture (break) in the hip bone.


human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that infects and destroys the body's immune cells and causes a disease called AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS occurs in the most advanced stage of HIV infection, when a person's T-cell count goes below 200 and he or she becomes ill with one of the health problems common in people with AIDS. HIV/AIDS infection is lifelong—there is no cure, but there are many medicines to fight both HIV infection and the infections and cancers that come with it.


red and sometimes itchy bumps on the skin, usually caused by an allergic reaction to a drug or a food.


substance produced by one tissue and conveyed by the bloodstream to another to effect a function of the body, such as growth or metabolism.

hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

see menopausal hormone therapy.

human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)

a hormone that is made when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus. hCG is only found in the body during pregnancy. The amount of hCG rapidly builds up in a woman’s body with each passing day she is pregnant. Pregnancy tests work by detecting hCG in either the urine or blood.

human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 or type 2 (HTLV 1-2)

viruses that infect T cells, a type of white blood cell, and can cause leukemia and lymphoma. HTLV 1-2 is spread by sharing syringes or needles, through blood transfusions or sexual contact, and from mother to child during birth or breastfeeding.


also called high blood pressure, it is having blood pressure greater than 140 over 90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). Long-term high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and organs, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, and brain.


see underactive thyroid.


surgery to remove the uterus.

immune system

a complex system in the body that recognizes and responds to potentially harmful substances, like infections, in order to protect the body.


also called vaccination, a shot that contains germs that have been killed or weakened. When given to a healthy person, it triggers the immune system to respond and build immunity to a disease.


sexual intercourse between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry; also: the statutory crime of such a relationship.


the inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder, called urinary incontinence, or the escape of stool from the rectum, called fecal incontinence.


also called dyspepsia. Indigestion is a common problem that causes a vague feeling of abdominal discomfort after meals. Symptoms also can include an uncomfortable fullness, belching, bloating, and nausea. It may be triggered by eating particular foods, after drinking wine or carbonated drinks, or by eating too fast or overeating.


a condition in which a couple has problems conceiving, or getting pregnant, after 1 year of regular sexual intercourse without using any birth control methods. If a woman keeps having miscarriages, it’s also called in­fertility. Infertility can be caused by a problem with the man or the woman, or both.


used to describe an area on the body that is swollen, red, hot, and in pain.

inflammatory bowel disease

long-lasting problems that cause irritation and ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common disorders are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.


also called the flu, it is a respiratory infection caused by multiple viruses. The viruses pass through the air and enter the body through the nose or mouth. The flu can be serious or even deadly for elderly people, newborn babies and people with certain chronic illnesses. Symptoms may include body or muscle aches, chills, cough, fever, headache and sore throat.

inhaled medicines

administered by having the user breath in the substance.


chemicals used to control or kill insects.


not being able to sleep.


one of many hormones that helps the body turn the food we eat into energy and helps store energy to be used later. People with diabetes mellitus, a condition in which the body does not make enough insulin, might need to inject themselves with insulin to help their bodies' cells work properly.


a group of proteins with a carbohydrate component, which is produced by different cell types in response to an exposure of a virus, bacterium, or parasite, that prevents replication (of the virus, bacterium, or parasite) in newly infected cells.

interstitial cystitis

a long-lasting condition also known as painful bladder syndrome or frequency-urgency-dysuria syndrome. The wall of the bladder becomes inflamed or irritated, which affects the amount of urine the bladder can hold and causes scarring, stiffening, and bleeding in the bladder.


also known as the bowels, or the long, tube-like organ in the human body that completes digestion or the breaking down of food. They consist of the small intestine and the large intestine.


To make someone fearful in order to make them do what another person wants them to do.

intrauterine device

a small device that is placed inside a woman's uterus by a health care provider, which prevents pregnancy by changing the environment of the uterus (or womb).

intravenous analgesic

an analgesic is a drug that relieves pain. During labor, a woman can be given pain-relieving drugs intravenously (through a tube inserted into her vein).

inverted nipple

a nipple that retracts, rather than protrudes when the areola is compressed.


an important mineral involved in creating and using energy, including moving oxygen throughout the body.


decrease in the blood supply to a an organ, tissue, or other part caused by the narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels.

ischemic stroke

a blockage of blood vessels supplying blood to the brain, causing a decrease in blood supply.


a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. While not a disease, jaundice can signal a liver or gallbladder problem. Newborns can develop jaundice, which is only temporary and goes away.

kidney disease

see renal disease.

kidney stones

hard mass developed from crystals that separate from the urine and build up on the inner surfaces of the kidney.


breastfeeding, or the secretion of breast milk.

lactational amenorrhea method (LAM)

a form of birth control based on a period of natural infertility that occurs for a few months after pregnancy in breastfeeding mothers whose menstrual cycle has not yet returned.

lactiferous sinuses

enlarged portion of the mammary or milk duct where breast milk pools during breastfeeding. The sinuses are behind the areola and connect to the nipple.


a sugar found in milk and milk products like cheese, cream, and butter.

lactose intolerance

a digestive disorder in which the body cannot digest or absorb lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products.


a philosophy of giving birth developed by Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze. The goal of Lamaze classes is to increase women's confidence in their ability to give birth. Lamaze classes teach women simple coping strategies for labor, including focused breathing. But Lamaze also teaches that breathing techniques are just one of the many things that help women in labor. Movement, positioning, labor support, massage, relaxation, hydrotherapy and the use of heat and cold are some others.


medicines that will make you have a bowel movement.


a metal that can make infants and young children sick.


an infected or diseased area of skin.

let-down reflex, or milk-ejection reflex

a conditioned reflex ejecting milk from the alveoli through the ducts to the sinuses of the breast and the nipple.


sexual drive.


a harmful bacteria found in some refrigerated and ready-to-eat foods that can cause early delivery or miscarriage.

local analgesic

an analgesic is a drug that relieves pain. Pain-relieving drugs can be given to a woman during labor and delivery locally through a needle inserted into a muscle (intra-muscular) or under the skin (subcutaneous).

low birth weight

having a weight at birth that is less than 2500 grams, or 5 pounds, 8 ounces.


see systemic lupus erythematosus.

luteal phase defect

problems with the uterine lining that can affect a woman's ability to get pregnant and have a successful pregnancy.

luteinizing hormone

a hormone that triggers ovulation and stimulates the corpus luteum (empty follicle) to make progesterone.

Lyme disease

a bacterial illness caused by a bacterium called a "spirochete" that is transmitted to humans from the bite of a deer tick. It can cause abnormalities in the skin, joints, heart and nervous system.


the almost colorless fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infection and disease. Lymph tissue in the breast helps remove waste.



mammary ducts

ducts in the breast that carry milk to the lactiferous sinuses and the nipple.


an x-ray of the breast.


a condition that occurs mostly in breastfeeding women, causing a hard spot on the breast that can be sore or uncomfortable. It is caused by infection from bacteria that enters the breast through a break or crack in the skin on the nipple or by a plugged milk duct.


a highly contagious disease marked by fever, cough, and raised red spots on the skin. It is caused by a virus that usually affects children and is spread by coughing or contact with fluid from the nose or mouth of someone who has been infected.


infection which causes inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

menopausal hormone therapy (MHT)

replaces the hormones that a woman's ovaries stop making at the time of menopause, easing symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness. It involves using man-made estrogen alone or estrogen with a progestin, often in the form of a pill or skin patch. MHT used to be called hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. [A recent, large study found that use of MHT poses some serious risks, such as increasing some women's risk for breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung). Women who choose to use MHT should use the lowest dose that helps for the shortest time needed. Talk with your doctor to find out if MHT is right for you and discuss other ways to relieve menopause symptoms.]


the transition in a woman's life when production of the hormone estrogen in her body falls permanently to very low levels, the ovaries stop producing eggs, and menstrual periods stop for good.

menstrual cycle

a recurring cycle in which the lining of the uterus thickens in preparation for pregnancy and then is shed if pregnancy does not occur.


the blood flow from the uterus that happens about every 4 weeks in a woman.


Metabolism refers to all of the processes in the body that make and use energy, such as digesting food and nutrients and removing waste through urine and feces.


a medical condition that usually involves a very painful headache, usually felt on one side of the head. Besides intense pain, migraine also can cause nausea and vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. Some people also may see spots or flashing lights or have a temporary loss of vision.

milk ducts

see mammary ducts.

milk sinuses

see lactiferous sinuses.

milk-ejection reflex

see let-down reflex.


an element (such as calcium, iron, sodium, or potassium) that is obtained from food and is needed by the body.


an unplanned loss of a pregnancy. Also called a spontaneous abortion.

monounsaturated fat

a type of unsaturated fat.

montgomery glands

also called Montgomery's glands or areolar glands. These small glands enlarge during pregnancy and breastfeeding and look somewhat like pimples on the areola. They secrete oils that lubricate the nipple.

multiple sclerosis

also called MS, a disorder of the brain and spinal cord that causes decreased nerve function associated with the formation of scars on the covering of nerve cells. Symptoms range from numbness to paralysis and blindness. A person with MS slowly loses control over his or her body.


a sudden illness caused by the virus paramyxovirus. It is spread by direct contact as well as by airborne droplets and saliva. Since 1967 the mumps vaccine (MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella) has helped cases decline in the United States. Symptoms include inflamed salivary glands (causing a child to have full cheeks like a chipmunk), inflamed tissues of the central nervous system (brain and spine), and an inflamed pancreas. Mumps in a child who has gone through adolescence tends to affect the ovary and the testes, which can lead to infertility.

necrotizing enterocolitis

necrotizing enterocolitis occurs when the lining of the intestinal wall dies and the tissue falls off.It mainly affects premature infants or sick newborns. The cause for this disorder is unknown. But it is thought that a decrease in blood flow to the bowel keeps the bowel from making mucus that protects the gastrointestinal tract. Bacteria in the intestine may also be a cause.


cells in the human body that are the building blocks of the nervous system (the system that records and transmits information chemically and electrically within a person). Nerve cells, or neurons, are made up of a nerve cell body and various extensions from the cell body that receive and transmit impulses from and to other nerves and muscles. Nerve tissue in the breast makes breasts sensitive to touch, allowing the baby's sucking to stimulate the let-down or milk-ejection reflex and milk production.

neural tube defect

A major birth defect caused by abnormal development of the neural tube, or the structure in an embryo which develops into the brain and spinal cord. Neural tube defects are among the most common birth defects that cause infant death and serious disability. The most common neural tube defects are anencephaly, spina bifida, and encephalocele. In anencephaly the skull and most or all of the brain does not develop. Encephalocele is a hernia of part of the brain and of the membranes covering it. Spina bifida is an opening in the column encasing the spinal cord.


the protruding part of the breast that extends and becomes firmer upon stimulation. In breastfeeding, milk travels from the milk sinuses through the nipple to the baby.

nipple shield

an artificial latex or silicone nipple used over the mother's nipple during nursing.


A nurse who has undergone special training and has received certification on birthing (labor and delivery). Nurse-midwifes can perform most of the same tasks as physicians and have emergency physician backup when they deliver a baby.


any food substance that provides energy or helps build tissue.


see obesity.


having too much body fat. People with a body mass index of 30 or higher are obese.

obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

an anxiety disorder in which a person suffers from obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions, such as cleaning, checking, counting, or hoarding. The person becomes trapped in a pattern of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that are senseless and distressing but very hard to stop. OCD can be mild or severe, but if severe and left untreated, can stop a person from being able to function at work, at school, or even in the home.

occupational therapy

therapy aimed to restore a person's basic skills, such as bathing and dressing.

oral medicines

administered by mouth.

osteoarthritis (OA)

a joint disease that mostly affects cartilage, the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. The top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together, which causes pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint.


a bone disease that is characterized by progressive loss of bone density and thinning of bone tissue, causing bones to break easily.

ovarian cancer

cancer of the ovary or ovaries, which are organs in the female reproductive system that make eggs and hormones. Most ovarian cancers develop from the cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary, called epithelial cells.

ovarian reserve

health of the ovaries and eggs. It is an important factor in female fertility and decreases with age.


part of a woman's reproductive system, the ovaries produce her eggs. Each month, through the process called ovulation, the ovaries release eggs into the fallopian tubes, where they travel to the uterus, or womb. If an egg is fertilized by a man's sperm, a woman becomes pregnant and the egg grows and develops inside the uterus. If the egg is not fertilize, the egg and the lining of the uterus is shed during a woman's monthly menstrual period.


the release of a single egg from a follicle that developed in the ovary. It usually occurs regularly, around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle.

ovulation method

a method used by couples trying to get pregnant, in which they have intercourse just before or after ovulation.


a hormone that increases during pregnancy and acts on the breast to help produce the milk-ejection reflex. Oxytocin also causes uterine contractions.


a feeling triggered in the nervous system. Pain may be sharp or dull. It may come and go, or it may be constant. Once it is treated, pain usually goes away. However, sometimes pain goes on for weeks, months or even years. This is called chronic pain.


a glandular organ located in the abdomen. It makes pancreatic juices, which contain enzymes that aid in digestion, and it produces several hormones, including insulin. The pancreas is surrounded by the stomach, intestines, and other organs.

panic disorder

an anxiety disorder in which a person suffers from sudden attacks of fear and panic. The attacks may occur without a known reason, but many times they are triggered by events or thoughts that produce fear in the person, such as taking an elevator or driving. Symptoms of the attacks include rapid heartbeat, chest sensations, shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling, and feeling anxious.

Pap test

a test that finds changes in the cells of the cervix. The test can find cancer or cells that can turn into cancer. To perform a Pap test, a health care provider uses a small brush to gently scrape cells from the cervix for examination under a microscope.


an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.

Parkinson's disease

disease affecting the part of the brain associated with movement. Characterized by shaking and difficulty with movement coordination.

pelvic exam

during this exam, the doctor or nurse practitioner looks for redness, swelling, discharge, or sores on the outside and inside of the vagina. A Pap test tests for cell changes on the cervix. The doctor or nurse practitioner will also put two fingers inside the vagina and press on the abdomen with the other hand to check for cysts or growths on the ovaries and uterus. STD tests may also be done.

pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

an infection of the female reproductive organs that are above the cervix, such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries. It is the most common and serious problem caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). PID can cause ectopic pregnancies, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and other serious problems. Symptoms include fever, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, extreme pain, and vaginal bleeding.

peptic ulcers

a sore on the lining of the stomach or duodenum (beginning of the small intestine). Peptic ulcers are common — one in 10 Americans develops an ulcer at some time in his or her life. One cause of peptic ulcer is bacterial infection, but some ulcers are caused by long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), like aspirin and ibuprofen. In a few cases, cancerous tumors in the stomach or pancreas can cause ulcers. Peptic ulcers are not caused by stress or eating spicy food.


the phase in a woman’s reproductive lifecycle leading up to menopause. Menopause is reached when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. Before that point, during perimenopause, a woman's body slowly makes less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This causes some women to have symptoms such as hot flashes and changes in their periods. Many women go through it in their 40s and 50s.

Perinatal depression

depression that occurs during pregnancy or within a year after delivery.

Peripartum depression

depression after pregnancy.

peripheral neuropathy

classification of disorders that involve damaged or destroyed nerves. These disorders do not include the nerves of the brain or spinal cord.

peripheral vascular disease (also called peripheral arterial disease (PAD))

a common disorder in which the arteries supplying oxygen rich blood from the heart to a limb (typically one or both legs) are blocked. As a result, the organs do not get enough blood flow for normal function. The most common cause of PAD is atherosclerosis.


any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, or repelling any pest. It also includes herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests.

phenylketonuria (PKU)

an inherited disorder in which the body cannot process a portion of the protein called phenylalanine (Phe), which is in almost all foods. If the Phe level gets too high, the brain can become damaged. All babies born in the United States are now tested for PKU soon after birth, making it easier to diagnose the disease and to treat it early.


an anxiety disorder in which a person suffers from an unusual amount of fear of a certain activity or situation.


treatment with light. Prescription phototherapy exposes the baby's skin to special fluorescent lights. In mild cases of jaundice, exposing the baby's skin to sunlight (taking care to avoid sunburn) is sometimes recommended.

physical therapy

therapy aimed to restore movement, balance and coordination.

pituitary gland

a small gland in the head that makes hormones that control other glands and many body functions including growth.


during pregnancy, a temporary organ joining the mother and fetus. The placenta transfers oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus, and permits the release of carbon dioxide and waste products from the fetus. The placenta is expelled during the birth process with the fetal membranes.


a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that accumulate in the walls of the arteries.

plugged (milk) duct

when the small milk ducts in the breast become blocked, or plugged. This is often caused by mastitis.


a severe inflammation of the lungs in which the alveoli, or tiny air sacs in the lungs, are filled with fluid. This may cause a decrease in the amount of oxygen that the blood can absorb from air breathed into the lung. Pneumonia is usually caused by infection but may also be caused by radiation treatment, allergy, or irritation of lung tissue by inhaled substances. It may involve part or all of the lungs.

polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

a health problem that can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, ability to have children, hormones, heart, blood vessels, and appearance. With PCOS, women typically have high levels of androgens or male hormones, missed or irregular periods, and many small cysts in their ovaries.

polyunsaturated fat

a type of unsaturated fat.


pictures, videos, and written material that openly shows sexual situations and causes sexual excitement.

post-traumatic stress disorder

a psychological condition that can happen when a person sees or experiences something traumatic, such as rape, murder, torture, or wartime combat. A person can have many symptoms including flashbacks (re-living the event), nightmares, fatigue, anxiety, and forgetfulness. A person can also withdraw from family and friends.

postpartum depression (PPD)

a serious condition that requires treatment from a health care provider. With this condition, feelings of the baby blues (feeling sad, anxious, afraid, or confused after having a baby) do not go away or get worse.


a mineral that plays important roles in muscle contraction, the beating of the heart, and the sending of nerve impulses.

preconception health

a woman's health before she becomes pregnant. It involves knowing how health conditions and risk factors could affect a woman or her unborn baby if she becomes pregnant.


also known as toxemia, it is a syndrome occurring in a pregnant woman after her 20th week of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and problems with the kidneys and other organs. Symptoms include sudden increase in blood pressure, too much protein in the urine, swelling in a woman's face and hands, and headache.

premature birth

see preterm birth.


before the expected time.

premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

a group of symptoms linked to the menstrual cycle that occur in the week or two weeks before menstruation. The symptoms usually go away after menstruation begins and can include acne, breast swelling and tenderness, feeling tired, having trouble sleeping, upset stomach, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, headache or backache, appetite changes or food cravings, joint or muscle pain, trouble concentrating or remembering, tension, irritability, mood swings or crying spells, and anxiety or depression.

preterm birth

also called premature birth, it is a birth that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy.

preterm labor

labor that occurs before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

primary lactase deficiency

when a person is born with the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Lactose can't be digested because there is not enough of an enzyme, called lactase, in the body. Consuming milk and dairy products causes diarrhea, bloating, gas, and discomfort. This deficiency can also develop over time, as the amount of lactase in the body decreases with age.

primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)

a reproductive health problems that occurs when a woman's ovaries stop working normally before she is 40. POI is not the same as early menopause. Some women with POI still get a period now and then. But ovulation problems can make getting pregnant hard for women with POI.


a female hormone produced by the ovaries. Progesterone, along with estrogen, prepares the uterus (womb) for a possible pregnancy each month and supports the fertilized egg if conception occurs. Progesterone also helps prepare the breasts for milk production and breastfeeding.


a hormone that works by causing changes in the uterus. When taken with the hormone estrogen, progestin works to prevent thickening of the lining of the uterus. This is helpful for women who are in menopause and are taking estrogen for their symptoms. Progestins also are prescribed to regulate the menstrual cycle, treat unusual stopping of the menstrual periods, help a pregnancy occur or maintain a pregnancy, or treat unusual or heavy bleeding of the uterus. They also can be used to prevent pregnancy, help treat cancer of the breast, kidney, or uterus, and help treat loss of appetite and severe weight or muscle loss.


a hormone that increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It stimulates the human breast to produce milk. Prolactin also helps inhibit ovulation.

prostate gland

a gland in a man's reproductive system. It makes and stores seminal fluid. This fluid is released to form part of semen.


any of a group of large molecules that contain primarily carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Proteins are essential to the structure and function of all living cells. Examples of proteins in the body include enzymes, antibodies, and some hormones.


a chronic (long-lasting) skin disease of scaling and inflammation that mostly affects adults. It occurs when skin cells quickly rise from their origin below the surface of the skin and pile up on the surface before they have a chance to mature. Usually this movement takes about a month, but in psoriasis it may occur in only a few days. Psoriasis results in patches of thick, red (inflamed) skin covered with silvery scales. These patches usually itch or feel sore, and most often occur on the elbows, knees, other parts of the legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of the feet, but they can occur on skin anywhere on the body.


a doctor (M.D.) who treats mental illness. Psychiatrists must receive additional training and serve a supervised residency in their specialty. They can prescribe medications.


a clinical psychologist is a professional who treats mental illness, emotional disturbance, and behavior problems. They use talk therapy as treatment, and cannot prescribe medication. A clinical psychologist will have a master's degree (M.A.) or doctorate (Ph.D.) in psychology, and possibly more training in a specific type of therapy.


counseling or "talk" therapy with a qualified practitioner in which a person can explore difficult, and often painful, emotions and experiences, such as feelings of anxiety, depression, or trauma. It is a process that aims to help the patient become better at making positive choices in his or her life, and to become more self-sufficient. Psychotherapy can be given for an individual or in a group setting.


time when the body is changing from the body of a child to the body of an adult. This process begins earlier in girls than in boys, usually between ages 8 and 13, and lasts 2 to 4 years.

pudenal block

this procedure anesthetizes, or numbs, the area around the vulva to reduce pain during labor and delivery.


forcing oneself to vomit.


a medication used to treat malaria (a disease caused by a parasite that lives part of its life in humans and part in mosquitoes).


treatment using radiation to destroy cancer cells.

radioactive drugs

drugs used to look at the internal organs of the body or to treat certain diseases like cancer.


a period of time without symptoms of a chronic condition.

renal disease

also called kidney disease, it is any disease or disorder that affects the function of the kidneys.


does not respond.

respite care

care and supervision usually provided by volunteer organizations that provides a person's caregiver some time of rest or relief.

Rh factor

a protein found on most people's red blood cells. If you do not have the protein, you are Rh negative. Most pregnant women who are Rh negative need treatment to protect the fetus from getting a blood disease that can lead to anemia.

rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. If one hand has RA, the other one usually does too. It’s an autoimmune disease. This means the arthritis is caused by your immune system attacking your body's own tissues. RA can affect body parts besides joints, such as your eyes, mouth and lungs.


a reflex that newborn babies have, along with the reflexes for sucking and swallowing. Rooting means turning the head to search for the nipple and milk.


also called German measles. Rubella virus causes rash, mild fever, and arthritis. If a woman gets rubella while she is pregnant, she could have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects.

saturated fat

fat such as butter, solid shortening, lard, and fatback. It is recommended that people avoid eating saturated fat, which increases the risk of certain long-term illnesses, such as coronary artery disease.


a brain disease that can cause loss of personality, agitation, catatonia (being in a statue-like state), confusion, psychosis (a disorder in which a person is not in touch with reality), unusual behavior, and withdrawal. The illness usually begins in early adulthood. No one knows the exact cause of schizophrenia, but a problem with a gene called COMT has been found to raise the risk of developing it.


a drug that calms a person and allows her or him to sleep.


uncontrollable contractions of muscles that can result in sudden movement or loss of control, also known as convulsions.


how you feel about yourself — how you feel about who you are, the way you act, and how you look. When a person does not think too highly of themselves, she is said to have low self-esteem.


the fluid (which contains sperm) a male releases from his penis when he becomes sexually aroused or has an orgasm.

septicemia or sepsis (blood poisoning)

a life-threatening condition usually caused by bacteria. It happens when the body’s immune system overreacts and interferes with normal blood processes. This can cause clots which may block blood from reaching your vital organs. This can lead to organ failure.

sexual harassment

sexual advances (like touching, grabbing) or sexual comments (that can be offensive and/or joking) that are not wanted or appropriate. This can happen in the workplace and a person can feel like they have no control over it. They may decide not to deal with it because they fear they will lose their job or not get a raise or promotion.

sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

see sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

diseases that are spread by sexual activity. Also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).


a disease that occurs when the same virus that causes chicken pox becomes active again. After a person has chicken pox, the virus stays in the body. It may not cause problems for many years. As a person gets older, the virus may come back as shingles. It can cause mild to severe pain, usually on one side of the body or face. Unlike chicken pox, you can’t catch shingles from someone who has it. A vaccine can prevent shingles or lessen its effects. The vaccine is for people 60 and older.

sickle cell anemia

a blood disorder passed down from parents to children. It involves problems in the red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are round and smooth and move through blood vessels easily. Sickle cells are hard and have a curved edge. These cells cannot squeeze through small blood vessels. They block the organs from getting blood. Your body destroys sickle red cells quickly, but it can't make new red blood cells fast enough — a condition called anemia.

sleep apnea

a disorder involving brief interruptions of breathing during sleep.

social worker

a licensed clinical social worker (L.C.S.W.) is trained in psychotherapy and helps people with many different mental health and daily living problems to improve overall functioning. Usually has a master's degree in social work (M.S.W.).


a mineral that is used in regulating the amount of water in the body. Sodium also plays important roles, along with potassium, in muscle contraction, the beating of the heart, and the sending of nerve impulses. Sodium is an ingredient of table salt.

speech therapy

therapy aimed to help a person with a speech or language disorder or problem to restore basic speech skills.


chemical jellies, foams, creams, or suppositories, inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse that kill sperm.

spina bifida

spina bifida is the most common of all birth defects. Its name means "clef spine," or a failure of a fetal spine to close the right way when it is developing before birth. It occurs very early in pregnancy, roughly three to four weeks after conception, before most women know that they are pregnant. Any woman can have an affected pregnancy. Most women who bear a child with Spina bifida have no family history of it.


instrument used by health care professionals to detect sounds produced in the body. Commonly used to listen to your heartbeat to detect any heart-related problems and to listen to your lungs for sounds that they could have fluid inside them.


when a fetus dies during birth, or when the fetus dies during the late stages of pregnancy when it would have been otherwise expected to survive.


stoppage of blood flow to an area of the brain, causing permanent damage to nerve cells in that region. A stroke can occur either because an artery is clogged by a blood clot (called ischemic stroke) or an artery tears and bleeds into the brain. A stroke can cause symptoms such as loss of consciousness, problems with movement, and loss of speech.

sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

the diagnosis given for the sudden death of an infant under one year of age that remains unexplained after a complete investigation. Because most cases of SIDS occur when a baby is sleeping in a crib, SIDS is also commonly known as crib death. Most SIDS deaths occur when a baby is between 1 and 4 months of age.

symptothermal method

a method of pregnancy planning or birth control that combines certain aspects of the calendar, the basal body temperature, and the cervical mucus methods. It takes into account all these factors as well as other symptoms a woman might have, such as slight cramping and breast tenderness.


made in a lab and not from a natural source.


a sexually transmitted disease which may or may not have symptoms. Symptoms in the first stages can include painless sores on the genitals, anus, or mouth and enlarged lymph nodes in the area around the sore. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. If left untreated, syphilis can permanently damage the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. This damage includes paralysis (not being able to move or feel a part of the body), numbness, blindness, dementia, and even death.

systemic lupus erythematosus

an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain.


buildup of plaque, a filmy substance, on the teeth.

Tay-Sachs disease

a fatal genetic disorder in which harmful quantities of a fatty substance called ganglioside GM2 build up in the nerve cells in the brain and damage the cells. In children, this begins in the fetus early in pregnancy. By the time a child with Tay-Sachs is three or four years old, the nervous system is so badly affected that death usually results by age five.

testicle (testis)

the male sex gland. There are a pair of testes behind the penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The testes make and store sperm, and make the male hormone testosterone.


a group of blood diseases, that are inherited, which affect a person's hemoglobin and cause anemia. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen and nutrients to cells in the body.


a yeast infection, caused by the fungus Candida albicans, of the mouth and throat. It's hallmark is white patches in the mouth. It can also occur in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina, and causes some types of diaper rash in infants.


The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that makes and stores hormones that help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate at which food is converted into energy.


inflammation of the tonsils, which are lymph nodes in the back of the mouth at the top of the throat. Tonsils help to filter out bacteria and other microorganisms to prevent infection in the body. When they become overwhelmed by bacterial or viral infection they can become swollen and inflamed.


see preeclampsia.


an infection caused by the parasite named Toxoplasma gondii that can invade tissues and damage the brain, especially in a fetus and in a newborn baby. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, swollen lymph glands, and muscle aches and pains. Can be contracted by touching the hands to the mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat's litter box, or anything that came into contact with cat feces; or by eating raw or partly cooked meat, or touching the hands to the mouth after touching raw or undercooked meat.

trans fat

a type of unsaturated fat. Foods made with partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils contain trans fat. Food manufacturers use trans fat to prolong the shelf life of processed food. Some trans fats occur naturally in meat and dairy products from animals such as cattle, goats, and sheep. Eating trans fats increases the risk of certain long-term illnesses, such as coronary artery disease.

transient ischemic attack (TIA)

a "mini-stroke" where there is a short-term reduction in blood flow to the brain usually resulting in temporary stoke symptoms. Does not cause damage to the brain, but puts a person at higher risk of having a full stroke.)

traumatic brain injury (TBI)

a brain injury that results from a sudden blow to the head. Symptoms may be mild, moderate or serious, depending on the extent of damage.


a very common STD in both women and men that is caused by a parasite that is passed from one person to another during sexual contact. It also can be passed through contact with damp, moist objects such as towels or wet clothing. Symptoms include yellow, green, or gray vaginal discharge (often foamy) with a strong odor; discomfort during sex and when urinating; irritation and itching of the genital area; or lower abdominal pain (rare).


a type of fat in the blood stream and fat tissue. High triglyceride levels (above 200) can contribute to the hardening and narrowing of arteries.


a typical pregnancy is 9 months long. Pregnancy is divided into three time periods, or trimesters, that are each about three months in duration — the first, second, and third trimesters.

triple screen

blood test that indicates if there's an increased risk of a birth defect, or a condition like Down Syndrome, in the fetus. This test can also show twins.

trisomy 18

a condition in which a baby is conceived with three copies instead of the normal two copies of chromosome #18. Children with this condition have multiple malformations and mental retardation due to the extra chromosome #18. Some of the problems include: low birth weight, small head, small jaw, malformations of the heart and kidneys, clenched fists with abnormal finger positioning, and malformed feet. The mental retardation is severe. Ninety five percent of children with this condition die before their first birthday.


a disease caused by bacteria that usually affects your lungs. Tuberculosis (TB) bacteria is spread through the air from one person to another. If someone with TB of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes, people nearby who breathe in the bacteria can get TB. If your body can't stop the bacteria from growing, you will develop TB disease.


a painless, harmless test that uses sound waves to produce images of the organs and structures of the body on a screen. Also called sonography.

umbilical cord

connected to the placenta and provides the transfer of nutrients and waste between the woman and the fetus.

underactive thyroid

also called hypothyroidism, it is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms can include weight gain, constipation, dry skin, and sensitivity to the cold.

unsaturated fat

includes both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Found mainly in nuts, seeds, many fish, and oils from plants, unsaturated fat helps your body to work well and may also lower your blood cholesterol level when used in place of saturated fat and trans fat.


the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. You have two ureters, one for each kidney.


the tube that releases urine from the body.


a test that looks at urine to find out its content. Can be used to detect some types of diseases.

urinary tract infection

an infection anywhere in the urinary tract, or organs that collect and store urine and release it from your body (the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra). An infection occurs when microorganisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the urethra (opening to the urinary tract) and begin to multiply.

uterine contractions

during the birthing process, a woman's uterus tightens, or contracts. Contractions can be strong and regular (meaning that they can happen every 5 minutes, every 3 minutes, and so on) during labor until the baby is delivered. Women can have contractions before labor starts; these are not regular and do not progress, or increase in intensity or duration.

uterine fibroids

common, benign (noncancerous) tumors that grow in the muscle of the uterus, or womb. Fibroids often cause no symptoms and need no treatment, and they usually shrink after menopause. But sometimes fibroids cause heavy bleeding or pain, and require treatment.


a woman's womb, or the hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman's lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum.


see immunization.


the muscular canal that extends from the cervix to the outside of the body. Its walls are lined with mucus membranes and tiny glands that make vaginal secretions.


Inflammation of the vagina, often caused by infection. Symptoms can include vaginal itching, burning, pain, and discharge.


small microscopic organisms that often cause disease.


any of various chemicals needed for metabolism. Vitamins are found in minute quantities in food, and some are produced by the body.


looking at sexual acts or naked people, often without their knowledge.


the external female genital organ. It has five parts, including the urinary opening and the opening to the vagina.


when a baby gradually switches from breast milk to other sources of nourishment. When to wean your baby depends on a variety of personal issues, as well as the health of the mother and the baby.


breathing with difficulty, with a whistling noise. Wheezing is a symptom of asthma.

yeast infections

a common infection in women caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida. It is normal to have some yeast in your vagina, but sometimes it can overgrow because of hormonal changes in your body, such as during pregnancy, or from taking certain medications, such as antibiotics. Symptoms include itching, burning, and irritation of the vagina; pain when urinating or with intercourse; and cottage cheese-looking vaginal discharge.

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