Women and Body Image (cont.)

Menopause

If you are like most of today's women, you will live a third of your life after menopause. Menopause is the point in a woman's life when her period stops for good. This means she can no longer get pregnant. Menopause does not happen all at once. It can be a slow process where a woman has symptoms before her period stops, called perimenopause.

Learning about the physical and emotional changes with menopause is a good first step in having a positive body image. Hot flashes, while giving you really low heating bills, can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Other symptoms include sleep problems, anxiety, depression, vaginal dryness (which can cause painful sex), having to urinate a lot, memory loss, weight gain, thinning hair, and changes in sex drive. Not every woman gets all these symptoms and each woman's experience is different. But when a woman starts to have any of these symptoms, it can be a surprise to her and can change how she sees herself. Simple changes in diet and exercise can help to ease the symptoms, along with hormone therapy (HT).

Oral Health

A nice smile and good teeth are often the first things we notice about a person. But not having healthy teeth can affect not only how our smile looks, it can also affect our overall health. People with gum disease are more at risk for heart disease. Pregnant women with gum disease are more likely to have their babies born early and with low birth weights. Many serious illnesses show early signs and symptoms in the mouth. Cavities can happen to us at any age, not just when we are children. Brushing each day after every meal with a soft bristle toothbrush and using dental floss daily, drinking fluorinated water, using fluoride toothpaste, plus check ups with a health care provider, can help a person to have and maintain good oral health.

A woman's body image can be affected by her oral health. Oral lesions, such as cold sores and canker sores, may happen more often due to changing hormones during a woman's period, pregnancy, and menopause. Dry mouth, common in adults, can make it hard to eat and speak, and can be hard to cope with. Bad breath can happen when teeth and dentures (false teeth) are not properly cleaned and can be embarrassing. Tooth loss can occur as a result of gum disease or tooth decay. People over 40 years old are more at risk for mouth cancer, which often is not noticed in its early stages because people do not have regular visits with their health care provider. It can be hard for some women to get used to dentures.

Polycystic Ovary Disease (PCOD) and Infertility

Infertility - not being able to get pregnant - affects millions of American men and women. In women, infertility is most often explained by problems with ovulation, the process where the ovaries release eggs to be fertilized. Polycystic Ovary Disease makes a woman's ovaries become larger than normal and have fluid-filled sacs or cysts, which can make it more difficult to become pregnant or cause infertility. In addition to infertility, PCOD can cause irregular or no periods and pelvic pain. Women with PCOD can be more at risk for diabetes and miscarriage. There are many treatments for PCOD, along with options for getting pregnant.

PCOD and infertility can affect a woman's body image. Not being able to get pregnant can be very frustrating and can change how a woman views herself. Symptoms of PCOD, such as weight gain, excess hair growth (particularly on the face), thinning hair, and acne, can be upsetting and affect a woman's confidence. Losing a pregnancy can cause feelings of loss and guilt. Coping with PCOD can be stressful and women can experience depression and mood swings. Taking care of yourself, reducing stress, and getting support from family and friends is important.

Pregnancy

Even before a woman knows for sure that she is pregnant, her body is already starting to change. It can be a wonderful experience and many women feel good and strong, especially by their second trimester. However, while every pregnancy is different, there are common discomforts most women have that can take getting some used to, such as weight gain, morning sickness, and fatigue. Getting enough rest, eating right, not over-doing it, and exercise can help to ease the symptoms. It is important to have regular pre-natal care from your health care provider.

A woman's body image can change during pregnancy. Skin changes such as acne or spider veins on the face and varicose veins on the legs can occur. Some women feel more emotional because of changing hormones. Sleep loss can add stress to already stressed lives. Women can worry about their changing roles, from being in the workplace, a wife, a single person, to becoming a mother and a caregiver. Women may have concerns about how a new baby will affect their other children. Relationships with partners can change, which can affect how women feel about themselves. It is important to talk to your partner, family, and friends about your feelings and concerns throughout your pregnancy. For more, please visit the  Pregnancy Planning Center.

Skin Disorders and Scarring

Facing the day can be hard when a person has a skin disorder. While not life threatening, they can change the way a person looks and can be upsetting. Skin disorders can occur on not just a person's face, they can appear all over the body. Common skin disorders include acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis. Some skin disorders tend to run in the family. While the reasons for some skin disorders are not clear, stress, pregnancy, and reactions to medications can affect skin health. Scars can form on a person's body from injury, surgery, and burns, and can vary in how noticeable they are.