The female pelvic cavity contains the upper female reproductive tract (cervix, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes); the adnexa refers to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and surrounding connective tissues. The pelvic cavity also contains the intestines, bladder, and lower ureters. A pelvic mass may originate from any of these structures.
Breast symptoms (eg, masses, nipple discharge, pain) are common, accounting for > 15 million physician visits/year. Although > 90% of symptoms have benign causes, breast cancer is always a concern. Because breast cancer is common and may mimic benign disorders, the approach to all breast symptoms and findings is to conclusively exclude or confirm cancer.
Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, and psychologic abuse between people who live together including sex partners, parents or guardians and children, children and grandparents, and siblings. Domestic violence includes intimate partner violence (IPV), which refers to physical, sexual, or psychologic abuse by a current or former sex partner or spouse.
In endometriosis, functioning endometrial cells are implanted in the pelvis outside the uterine cavity. Symptoms depend on location of the implants. The classic triad of symptoms is dysmenorrhea, dyspareunia, and infertility, but symptoms may also include dysuria and pain during defecation. Severity of symptoms is not related to disease stage. Diagnosis is by direct visualization and sometimes biopsy, usually via laparoscopy. Treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs, drugs to suppress ovarian function and endometrial tissue growth, surgical ablation and excision of endometriotic implants, and, if disease is severe and no childbearing is planned, hysterectomy alone or hysterectomy plus bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.
Gynecologic cancers often involve the uterus, ovaries, cervix, vulva, vagina, fallopian tubes, or the peritoneum. Gestational trophoblastic disease is a group of proliferative disorders originating from trophoblastic tissue.
Menopause is physiologic or iatrogenic cessation of menses (amenorrhea) due to decreased ovarian function. Manifestations may include hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disruption, and genitourinary syndrome of menopause (symptoms and signs due to estrogen deficiency, such as vulvovaginal atrophy). Diagnosis is clinical: absence of menses for 1 year. Manifestations may be treated (eg, with lifestyle modification, complementary and alternative medicine, and/or hormone therapy).
Pelvic organ prolapse results from laxities (similar to hernias) in the ligaments, fascia, and muscles supporting the pelvic organs (pelvic floor—see figure ). The prevalence of pelvic organ prolapse is difficult to ascertain, and treatment is based on symptoms.
Prenatal genetic counseling is provided for all prospective parents, ideally before conception, to assess risk factors for congenital disorders. Precautions to help prevent birth defects (eg, avoiding teratogens, taking supplemental folic acid.) are recommended for all women who are planning to become pregnant.
Men and women initiate or agree to sexual activity for many reasons, including sharing sexual excitement and physical pleasure and experiencing affection, love, romance, or intimacy. However, women are more likely to report emotional motivations such as
Uterine fibroids are benign uterine tumors of smooth muscle origin. Fibroids frequently cause abnormal uterine bleeding, pelvic pain and pressure, urinary and intestinal symptoms, and pregnancy complications. Diagnosis is by pelvic examination, ultrasonography, or other imaging. Treatment of symptomatic patients depends on the patient’s desire for fertility and her desire to keep her uterus. Treatment may include oral contraceptives, brief presurgical gonadotropin-releasing hormone therapy to shrink fibroids, progestin therapy, and more definitive surgical procedures (eg, hysterectomy, myomectomy).
Vaginitis is infectious or noninfectious inflammation of the vaginal mucosa, sometimes with inflammation of the vulva. Symptoms include vaginal discharge, irritation, pruritus, and erythema. Diagnosis is by testing of vaginal secretions. Treatment is directed at the cause and at any severe symptoms.
For conception (fertilization), a live sperm must unite with an ovum in a fallopian tube with normally functioning epithelium. Conception occurs just after ovulation, about 14 days after a menstrual period. At ovulation, cervical mucus becomes less viscid, facilitating rapid movement of sperm to the ovum, usually near the fimbriated end of the tube. Sperm may remain alive in the vagina for about 3 days after intercourse.
Pelvic pain is common during early pregnancy and may accompany serious or minor disorders. Some conditions causing pelvic pain also cause vaginal bleeding. In some of these disorders (eg, ruptured ectopic pregnancy, ruptured hemorrhagic corpus luteum cyst), bleeding may be severe, sometimes leading to hemorrhagic shock.
Ectopic pregnancy is the implantation of a pregnancy in a site other than the endometrial lining of the uterine cavity—ie, in the fallopian tube, uterine cornua, cervix, ovary, or abdominal or pelvic cavity. Ectopic pregnancies cannot be carried to term and eventually rupture or involute. Early symptoms and signs include pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding. Hemorrhagic shock can occur with rupture. Diagnosis is by measurement of the beta subunit of human chorionic gonadotropin and ultrasonography. Treatment is with laparoscopic or open surgical resection or with methotrexate.
Drugs are used in over half of all pregnancies, and prevalence of use is increasing. The most commonly used drugs include antiemetics, antacids, antihistamines, analgesics, antimicrobials, diuretics, hypnotics, tranquilizers, and social and illicit drugs. Despite this trend, firm evidence-based guidelines for drug use during pregnancy are still lacking.
Labor consists of a series of rhythmic, involuntary or medically induced contractions of the uterus that result in effacement (thinning and shortening) and dilation of the uterine cervix. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines normal birth as follows:
Clinical manifestations during the puerperium (6-week period after delivery) generally reflect reversal of the physiologic changes that occurred during pregnancy (see table ). These changes are temporary and should not be confused with pathologic conditions.
Normally during pregnancy, erythroid hyperplasia of the marrow occurs, and red blood cell (RBC) mass increases. However, a disproportionate increase in plasma volume results in hemodilution (hydremia of pregnancy): hematocrit (Hct) decreases from between 38% and 45% in healthy women who are not pregnant to about 34% during late single pregnancy and to 30% during late multifetal pregnancy. The following hemoglobin (Hb) and Hct levels are classified as anemic: