Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Life Span Changes

April 11, 2024

Learning Objective: Analyze the life span changes that occur in the female reproductive system.
As females age, several changes occur to the reproductive system. The following sections discuss some of those changes.

Changes in Children
Learning Objective: Describe the changes in the female reproductive systems of children.
      Significant changes occur in the female reproductive system during puberty, typically between the ages of 10 and 14. These physical changes are driven by the levels of hormones that are produced by the pituitary gland; luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. Those hormones stimulate the production of the sex hormones. The increased level of estrogen stimulates the maturation of the breasts, ovaries, uterus, and vagina. In the United States, breast development usually occurs between the ages of 8 and 13. Two to three years later, menarche occurs. In addition, during puberty, body shape changes. There is an increase in body fat that accumulates in the hips and thighs.
      Menstrual disorders are common problems during puberty. These include irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhea, and amenorrhea. It is not uncommon for periods to be irregular at the start of menstruation. Primary dysmenorrhea (not caused by another medical condition such as endometriosis) is usually treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or oral contraceptives. Primary amenorrhea is when a girl, who is 16 years old, has never had a period. This can occur when there is an anatomic abnormality, which can be corrected with surgical intervention. If there are no anatomical abnormalities, amenorrhea treatments could include hormone treatments, oral contraceptives, changes in diet, and an evaluation for hormone-secreting tumors.

Changes in Adults
Learning Objective: Describe the changes in the female reproductive systems of older adults.
      The changes in the female reproductive system as women age are also related to changing hormone levels. As women head into their 40s and 50s, signs of perimenopause occur and eventually, menopause takes place. Perimenopause and menopause are discussed in more depth later in this chapter. The changes in hormone levels can also cause physical changes in the reproductive tract. Vaginal walls become thinner, dryer, and less elastic. Sex can become painful because of these changes. There is a great risk for vaginal yeast infections.
      Later in life, senior women are seen most often for neoplasms of the breast, uterus, cervix, and ovaries. In the United States, breast cancer alone will be diagnosed in one in eight women during their lifetime.