It’s important for refugee and immigrant women to learn about their bodies and take care of their health. Learn about women’s health care for newcomers in the USA. Find online resources and where to get care.
Why is women’s health care different from general health care? Much of a woman’s health is connected to her reproductive health and stages of life. (Reproductive health means your periods, having babies, and going through menopause.)
Understanding reproductive health and how your body works is the first step to good women’s health care.
What is menstruation?
Menstruation is the same thing as your period. It is the monthly vaginal bleeding experienced by reproductive-age women (about age 12 to 55). Menstruation shows that a woman is not pregnant. The times of your period and between periods are called your “menstrual cycle.”
Periods last from three to seven days. Besides bleeding from the vagina, you may have:
- Abdominal pain
- Lower back pain
- Bloating and sore breasts
- Food cravings
- Mood swings and irritability
- Headache and fatigue
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a group of symptoms that start before the period. PMS can include emotional and physical symptoms.
Consult your health care provider if you have big changes in your cycle. They may be signs of other problems that should be treated. Learn more about menstruation.
How can I take care of myself when I am pregnant?
Prenatal care refers to the health care that a woman receives from a doctor while she is pregnant.
It is important that a pregnant woman regularly visits her doctor to ensure her health and the health of her baby. If you are pregnant, make sure that you speak to your doctor about when and where you can receive prenatal care.
What do I need to know about pregnancy and giving birth?
Pregnancy can be an uncertain time for many new mothers, filled with lots of questions about what to do to make sure that both mother and baby stay healthy.
MedlinePlus is a good place to start looking for general health information about pregnancy. Read the summary. Then choose links to take you to information on a variety of topics, from how to exercise safely to what happens to your body during pregnancy.
Staying healthy during pregnancy
If you are pregnant, it is particularly important to take care of your health, including being careful with what you eat and drink and how you exercise. Make sure you speak with your doctor about any questions or concerns that you might have about how to stay healthy. Learn how to take care of your health during pregnancy.
Health Information Translations is a website which provides translated information related to pregnancy and childbirth. Choose the topic that you want to learn about. Then, on the next page, choose your language.
At Childbirth Connection, you can learn more about the physical changes a woman’s body goes through while she is giving birth. You can read about what kind of problems may occur during labor and what kind of care you can expect to receive at the hospital. You can also read about how to plan ahead so that you can have the best possible experience giving birth.
Very Well contains a lot of useful information for expectant mothers about the signs and symptoms of labor. Also, you can read about what you might experience if you give birth at a hospital.
After you have given birth, breastfeeding is a great way to feed your newborn child because it has lots of health benefits for both mother and child. Experts say that if possible, babies should be breastfed for at least the first 12 months of their lives.
- Read a good overview of breastfeeding basics, including guidelines about how to breastfeed correctly and an exploration of common problems that many mothers face while attempting to breastfeed.
- La Leche League is an international organization that helps women around the world breastfeed successfully. Find a La Leche League counselor in your area.
- Keep to a healthy routine while you breastfeed your baby, because everything that goes inside you goes to your baby, too.
Services for low-income pregnant women and new mothers
In the United States, a program called Women, Infants and Children (WIC) helps low-income pregnant women, new mothers and their young children (up to to 5 years old) stay healthy. The WIC Programs offers a number of services, including assistance with breastfeeding, nutrition classes, and coupons to buy certain approved nutritional foods.
You can find WIC in your state. Call the telephone number listed for the WIC agency in your state. Tell them that you want to make an appointment to apply for WIC benefits.
Menopause is the period in a woman’s life when she stops menstruating and is no longer able to have children. Menopause frequently occurs when a woman is in her early 50s, but for some women, it can happen earlier.
Many women experience some combination of negative physical symptoms during menopause. A doctor can usually help treat these symptoms. Learn more about menopause.
Common women’s health conditions
Some medical conditions are more common in women than in men. In many cases, these are medical conditions that affect women’s reproductive organs (such as breast or cervical cancer). Our Bodies, Ourselves provides clear, scientifically accurate information about women’s bodies and common women’s health conditions.
Women’s health screenings
Health screenings are tests to check if you have a particular medical condition. Common health screenings include:
- Blood pressure
- Bone mineral density test
- Breast cancer screening
- Cervical cancer screening (also known as a PAP test)
- HIV and other STD tests
You can learn more about these and other common health screenings that doctors recommend for women from the Office of Women’s Health.
Female genital cutting
Female genital cutting (FGC) is a cultural practice in some countries. While there are many people who feel strongly about FGC as a cultural tradition, it is illegal to perform FGC in the USA. Learn more about the health effects of FGC.