Know your womb to maintain uterine health

Have you ever wondered how a woman’s womb is able to grow and nurture a baby inside it? The womb, or uterus, as it is medically termed, looks like an inverted pear at normal times, and is an amazing organ in the female reproductive system that supports the beautiful process of childbirth and brings a new-born into this world.

But awareness about the uterus beyond its role in menstruation and pregnancy is often limited. Consulting your doctor about any abnormalities or symptoms like pelvic pain, cramps or menstrual bleeding, getting an early diagnosis and seeking timely treatment will help maintain uterine health.

Dr Madhushree Vijayakumar, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Motherhood Hospital, explains.

Gynaecological problems that arise from the uterus:

Often, women silently suffer painful periods, heavy and irregular menstrual bleeding and severe pelvic pain without seeking help. These problems may become so bad that they interfere with a normal way of life. Diagnostic tests such as an ultrasound scan, Pap smear and certain blood tests can help pinpoint the problem.

Some symptoms to watch out for:

    Pain and heavy feeling in the pelvic regionBleeding/pain before/after sexual intercourseAbnormal and foul-smelling discharge from vaginaSevere abdominal painHot flashesReduced interest in sexual activityDryness in the vaginaMood swings and irritabilityBone and joint problemsPost-menopausal bleedingBurning sensation in the vaginaFrequent urination

These symptoms could be a warning sign for:

Multiple and large fibroids: Fibroids are common among women in their reproductive age. They are benign growths on the wall of the uterus and may be single or in clusters. Often, fibroids do not pose any problems. This condition can be treated by undergoing myomectomy or laparoscopic hysterectomy.

Ovarian cysts: They are quite common and often do not pose any problems. But when ovarian cysts produce symptoms that affect normal life, it is advisable to remove them. Painful and irregular periods, and heavy menstrual bleeding are some of the warning signs of ovarian cysts.

Endometriosis: This is a painful condition that occurs when the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium) begins to grow outside the womb. Painful periods, pain and discomfort in the lower pelvic region and irregular menstruation are some common symptoms of this condition. It is also associated with infertility.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): When women ignore symptoms of urine tract infections or sexually transmitted diseases, such as pain and discomfort in the pelvic region, and these infections are not treated for a prolonged time, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. The organs in the lower pelvic region including the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes get infected by bacteria that travel from the vagina or the cervix into the womb. If left untreated, it can lead to infertility. An ultrasound scan can diagnose the condition and it can be treated with appropriate medications.

Endometrial cancer: Endometrial cancer arises from the cells that make up the inner lining of the uterus, called the endometrium. It can be treated through laparoscopic hysterectomy.

Cervical cancer: Cancer of the cervix is most often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection.

Most of these ailments can be treated with early detection and effective therapy. Here are some of the treatment options available:

Medical management: Many gynaecological problems such as small fibroids and cysts, abnormal bleeding etc can be treated with appropriate medications and supplements. If a woman has a hormone imbalance, it can be treated through hormone replacement therapy.

Hysteroscopy: This is a procedure that allows the doctor to inspect the inside of the uterine cavity to detect any abnormality or growth. It is done by inserting a thin, tube-like instrument with a light at one end (hysteroscope) into the uterine cavity through the cervix.

Hysterectomy: This is surgical removal of the uterus. Total hysterectomy involves total removal from the body of the uterus and the cervix, while in some cases this may include removal of the fallopian tubes and the ovaries, depending on the extent of growth and infection.

Laparoscopic hysterectomy: It is a surgical procedure involving the removal of the uterus with the help of laparoscope, a thin lighted tube with a camera at the end. A small incision is made in the navel through which the laparoscope is inserted. The surgeon performs the procedure by seeing the images from this camera on a screen. Tiny incisions are made in the lower abdomen and the uterus is removed.

Myomectomy: It is a surgery to remove fibroids without taking out the healthy tissue of the uterus. Myomectomy is mostly recommended for women who want to get pregnant, as in contrast to hysterectomy, the uterus remains preserved and the woman retains her reproductive potential.

Laparoscopic cystectomy: This is a minimally invasive surgery where the ovarian cyst is removed by inserting the laparoscope into the abdomen through a small incision below the navel.

Laparoscopic excision: This procedure is used for removal of the growth/scars (endometriomas) through a minimally invasive procedure performed with the help of a laparoscope. This gives relief from the discomfort and pain caused by endometriosis.

The uterus is a fascinating organ that plays an important role in aiding pregnancy and childbirth. But it is also prone to afflictions that can put immense strain on women’s health. It’s important to maintain good uterus health.