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Top Threats to Female Reproductive Health

Sometimes women encounter reproductive health risks. Below are some examples of what can threaten the female reproductive system.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) include human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), human papillomavirus (HPV, or genital warts), hepatitis B, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and genital herpes, wrote

When left untreated, STDs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, causing scarring or blocking of the fallopian tubes and cervical changes, said

Toxic shock syndrome is an uncommon but life-threatening illness caused by toxins released into the body during a bacterial infection, stated It can produce high fever, diarrhea, vomiting and shock.

According to, smoking can have a serious impact on female reproductive health by interfering with the body’s ability to create estrogen. It can also cause eggs to be more prone to genetic abnormalities; is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage; and has been linked to early onset of menopause.

In addition, smoking has been tied to increases in the likelihood of cervical cancer and pelvic infections.

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to female reproductive health problems including irregular ovulation, amenorrhea, and the abnormal development of the endometrial lining, wrote added that illegal drugs may be universally damaging to female reproductive health. There are even risks to fertility and female reproductive health associated with some legal and over-the-counter drugs. For example, some prescription medications can interfere with ovulation.

Research has shown that exposure to environmental pollutants may pose the greatest threat to reproductive health, warned National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Exposure to lead is associated with reduced fertility, while mercury exposure has been linked to birth defects and neurological disorders.

Exposure to toxins has been linked to other female reproductive health problems such as irregular periods, hormone changes, endometriosis and higher miscarriage rates in pregnant women, wrote

A growing body of evidence suggests that exposure to endocrine disruptors, chemicals that appear to disrupt human hormonal activity, may contribute to problems with fertility, pregnancy and other aspects of reproduction, said NIEHS.

Minnesota Medicine said that since physiological changes take place in the female body during pregnancy, intensive job-related physical demands have been associated with an increased risk for miscarriage.

In addition, a growing body of research has linked heavy lifting, prolonged standing, working the night shift, and working long hours during pregnancy with impaired fetal growth and preterm delivery.

Biological hazards can also threaten female reproductive health. Minnesota Medicine wrote that infectious agents such as parvovirus B19, rubella, CMV, toxoplasmosis, and varicella are known reproductive hazards.

They may result in miscarriage, low birth weight, congenital deafness, cataracts, cardiac defects and mental retardation.

Reviewed June 20, 2013 by Michele Blacksberg RN

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