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Women's Health

While women and men have many of the same health issues, women may be affected differently than men. And, some conditions are unique to women. 

Familiarity with women’s health issues, regular screenings and prevention are keys to maintaining good health.

  • TRICARE covers well woman exams annually for women under age 65. 
  • Exams include breast exams, pelvic exams, and Pap smears as needed. 
  • TRICARE covers these exams with no cost share or copayment.

Health Issues

Some of the common health issues female service members, family members and retirees should be aware of include:

Breast Diseases

Most women experience breast changes at some time. Age, hormone levels and medicines may cause lumps, bumps and discharges. Anyone with a breast lump, pain, discharge or skin irritation, should see a health care provider. Minor and serious breast problems have similar symptoms. Although many women fear cancer, most breast problems are not cancer.

Common causes of breast changes include: Fibrocystic breast condition (lumpiness, thickening and swelling, often associated with a woman's period); cysts (fluid-filled lumps); injury; fibroadenomas (solid, round, rubbery lumps that move easily when pushed, occurring most in younger women); intraductal papillomas (growths similar to warts near the nipple); blocked or clogged milk ducts; milk production when a woman is not breastfeeding.

Menopause

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when her menstrual cycle ceases. It usually occurs naturally, most often after age 45. Menopause happens because the woman's ovary stops producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period for one year. Changes and symptoms can start several years earlier. They include: a change in periods; hot flashes and/or night sweats; trouble sleeping; vaginal dryness; mood swings; trouble focusing; less hair on head, more on face.

Some symptoms require treatment. Talk to a doctor about how to best manage menopause. Make sure the doctor knows the medical history and the family's medical history. This includes information related to risks for heart diseaseosteoporosis or breast cancer.

Pregnancy

Women who are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant can help give babies a healthy start with regular visits to healthcare providers. These prenatal care visits are very important for your baby and yourself. Some things you might do when you are pregnant could hurt your baby, such as smoking or drinking. Some medicines can also be a problem, even ones that a doctor prescribed. You will need to drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy diet. You may also be tired and need more rest.

Your body will change as your baby grows during the nine months of your pregnancy. Don't hesitate to call your health care provider if you think you have a problem or something is bothering or worrying you.

Reproductive Health

Reproductive health issues can impact fertility, overall health and a person's ability to enjoy a sexual relationship.

Reproductive health is influenced by many factors. These include age, lifestyle, habits, genetics, use of medicines and exposure to chemicals in the environment. Many problems of the reproductive system can be corrected.

Uterine Diseases

An early sign of uterine disease may be bleeding between periods or after sex. Causes of abnormal bleeding include hormones, thyroid problems, fibroids, polyps, cancer, infection or pregnancy.

Treatment depends on the cause. Sometimes birth control pills treat hormonal imbalances. If a thyroid problem is the cause, treating it may also stop the bleeding. If you have cancer or hyperplasia, an overgrowth of normal cells in the uterus, you may need surgery.

Other uterine problems are endometriosis and adenomyosis. In endometriosis, the kind of tissue that lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. With adenomyosis, the tissue grows in the uterus's outer walls. Pain medicine may help; other treatments include hormones and surgery.

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Live births among female service members, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2012 – 2016

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Did you know…?  •	From 2012 – 2016, there were 63,879 live births to women of childbearing potential in the active component. The overall live birth rate was 64.9 live births per 1,000 person-years (p-yrs). The live birth rate decreased steadily from 69.8 per 1,000 p-yrs in 2012 to 59.7 per 1,000 p-yrs in 2016. The decrease was primarily driven by declining rates among women in their 20s. Overall, live birth rates were highest among women who were: •	30-34 years old •	Army members •	In healthcare occupations •	Married Of the total 63,879 live birth deliveries: •	24.7% were cesarean •	75.3% were vaginal Pie chart depicting this information displays. United States map displays showing the highest numbers of deliveries during the surveillance period reported by military hospitals at: •	Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, VA (7.4%) •	Naval Medical Center San Diego, CA (6.1%) •	The Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, TX (4.1%) •	Womack Army Medical Center, NC (3.8%) •	Tripler Army Medical Center, HI (3.7%) Live birth rates were broadly similar among the race/ethnicity groups, although the overall rate was slightly higher among American Indians/ Alaska Natives. Access the full report in the November 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No.11). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR

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Pregnancies among female service members, Active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2012 – 2016

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With the increasing numbers of service women and the expansion of roles available to women within the military, understanding the epidemiology of pregnancy is important for both the health of U.S. service women and the readiness of the U.S. fighting force, two closely related issues. Between 2012 – 2016, 344,536 unique women of childbearing potential (WOCBP) served at least 1 day in the military, and of those, 132,466 spend at least 1 day as a recruit trainee. Of the 224,718 WOCBP who served at any time in 2016, 13.1% had at least one pregnancy-related event during that year. A “pregnancy-related event,” refers to a health care encounter (visit) for which the record contains a diagnosis code for either pregnancy or a positive pregnancy test. In 2016, the highest prevalence of pregnancy-related events was among service women 30-34 years of age (16.8%) and among senior enlisted women (13.7%). Pie chart displays depicting the information. The annual prevalence of pregnancy-related events decreased slightly, from 14.2% in 2012 to 13.1% in 2016. Line plot graph displays this information. FINDINGS •	Prevalence of pregnancy-related events was approximately evenly distributed among the race/ethnicity categories and military occupation groups. •	A slightly higher percentage of WOCBP in the Army (14.5%) had pregnancy-related events compared to WOCBP in the other services. •	A higher percentage of women who were married (21.4%) had a pregnancy-related event, compared with those in the single (5.7%) or “other” (8.8) categories. •	Only 0.2% of women who served during a recruit training period in any given year had a pregnancy-related event. Access the full report in the November 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 11). Go to www.Health.mil/MSMR.  Graphic on infographic shows a pregnant service member.

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