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close this bookWhere Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (Hesperian Foundation, 1997, 600 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentWomen’s health is in your hands
View the documentThanks
View the documentAbout this Book
View the documentHow to Use this Book
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 1: Women’s Health Is a Community Issue
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 2: Solving Health Problems
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 3: The Medical System
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 4: Understanding Our Bodies
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 5: Health Concerns of Girls
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 6: Pregnancy and Childbirth
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 7: Breastfeeding
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 8: Growing Older
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 9: Women with Disabilities
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 10: Staying Healthy
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 11: Eating for Good Health
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 12: Sexual Health
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 13: Family Planning
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 14: Infertility (When You Are Not Able to Have a Baby)
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 15: Abortion and Complications from Abortion
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 16: Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Other Infections of the Genitals
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 17: AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 18: Violence Against Women
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 19: Rape and Sexual Assault
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 20: Sex Workers
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 21: Pain in the Lower Abdomen
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 22: Abnormal Bleeding from the Vagina
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 23: Problems of the Urine System
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 24: Cancer and Growths
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 25: Tuberculosis
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 26: Work
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 27: Mental Health
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 28: Alcohol and Other Drugs
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 29: Refugees and Displaced Women
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 30: Female Circumcision
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 31: Use of Medicines in Women’s Health
View the documentTable of Medicines: Green Pages
Open this folder and view contentsHealth Care Skills
View the documentVocabulary: List of difficult words
View the documentWhere to get more information
View the documentBack cover

Vocabulary: List of difficult words

Here is a list of words that may be difficult to understand. Knowing what these words mean can help you use the book better.

Some of the words included here are explained in the chapters, but many are not. The first time they are used in a chapter, the words are written in slanted letters. Some of the explanations here in this vocabulary also contain words written in slanted letters. This is because an explanation for these words can be found somewhere else in this list.

This vocabulary is listed in the order of the alphabet:



abdomen The part of the body that contains the stomach, liver, guts and reproductive organs. The belly.

abnormal bleeding Bleeding that is different from what is usual, natural, or average. Not normal.

abortion When a woman does something to end a pregnancy.

abscess A raised, red, painful lump on the skin that is filled with pus (for example, a boil).

abuse When someone hurts another person's body (physical abuse), humiliates or insults a person (emotional abuse) or makes a person do sexual things against her will (sexual abuse).

access (to health services) When health services are available, and a woman has the freedom, the money, and the time to use them.

acute When something happens suddenly, lasts for a short time, and is usually serious or strong - for example, acute pain or acute infection. Compare with chronic.

addiction When the body feels a strong need for alcohol or a drug.

afterbirth See placenta.

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) A sexually transmitted disease caused by the HIV virus. A person has AIDS (rather than just being infected with HIV) when the immune system gets so weak it can no longer fight off common infections and illnesses.

allergy, allergic reaction, allergic shock A problem - such as itching, sneezing, hives or rash, and sometimes difficult breathing or shock - that affects certain people when specific things are breathed in, eaten, injected, or touched. Allergic shock is a severe form of allergic reaction.

anal sex Having sex in the anus.

anemia A disease in which the blood gets weak and thin because it lacks red blood cells. This happens when blood is lost or destroyed faster than the body can replace it.

anesthesia General anesthesia is when you are given medicine to make you sleep during an operation so you will not feel pain. Local anesthesia is when you are given an injection in one place so that you will not feel pain in that area.

antacid Medicine used to control too much stomach acid and to calm stomach upset See heartburn.

antibiotic Medicine used to fight infection caused by bacteria.

antibodies Substances the body makes to fight infection.

anus The opening of the intestine where waste (stool) leaves the body.

anxiety Feeling nervous or worried.

appendicitis An infection of the appendix.

appendix A finger-like sac attached to the large intestine.

areola The dark, bumpy area around the nipple.

artery A thin, tube-like vessel that carries blood from the heart through the body. Arteries have a pulse. Veins, which return blood to the heart, have no pulse.

arthritis Pain and swelling in the joints.

asthma A disease of the lungs, which causes attacks of difficult breathing. There is often a hissing or wheezing sound when a person breathes out.


bacteria Germs that cause many different infectious diseases. Bacteria are too small to see without a microscope.

bacterial vaginosis An infection of the vagina caused by bacteria.

bag of waters The sac (or amniotic sac) inside the womb that holds the baby. When the sac breaks and releases fluid, this usually means that labor has begun.

balls Part of the man's outer genitals. Also called the testicles.

barrier methods Family planning methods that prevent pregnancy by keeping the sperm from reaching the egg.

Bartholin's glands Small glands on either side of the vaginal opening that make a liquid to keep the vagina wet.

benefit The good that something may bring.

bile A liquid found in the gallbladder that helps digest fatty foods.

bilharzia An infection caused by a kind of worm that gets into the bloodstream.

biopsy When a piece of tissue or fluid is taken from somewhere on or in the body and examined to see if it is healthy or diseased.

birth canal See vagina.

birth control See family planning.

birth control pills A hormonal family planning method.

birth defects Physical or mental problems a child is born with, like a deft lip or cleft palate, or an extra finger or toe.

birth spacing Using family planning methods to space your children.

blackouts When you are using too much alcohol or other drugs and wake up not knowing what happened.

bladder The bag inside the abdomen that stores urine. As the bladder fills, it stretches and gets bigger.

blood clots Soft, dark red, shiny lumps in the blood that look like liver.

blood pressure The force or pressure of the blood upon the walls of the blood vessels (arteries and veins). Blood pressure varies with the age and health of the person.

blood transfusion When someone's blood is given to another person, in a vein and using a special needle, to replace blood the person may have lost.

blurred eyesight When the eyes cannot see things clearly.

bowels The intestines.

brand name The name for a medicine that is given by the company that makes it. Compare with generic.

breast exam Checking the breasts for lumps that might be a sign of cancer.

breast infection (mastitis) An infection inside the breast that can be very painful for the mother, and make it difficult for the baby to suck the nipple.

breech When a baby is born feet or buttocks first, instead of head first This can be dangerous for the baby.

bronchitis An infection of the large tubes in the lungs.

buttocks The round, fleshy part of the body a person sits on.


caffeine A drug found in coffee, tea, and cola drinks that causes the heart to beat faster and makes a person feel more awake, calcium A mineral found in some foods that helps make bones and teeth strong.

cancer A serious disease that causes cells to change and grow in an abnormal way, causing growths. Cancer can affect many different parts of the body.

cannula A small tube used to suction out the contents of the womb.

cassava (manioc root) A starchy root grown in the tropics.

cataracts An eye problem in which the lens or covering of the eye becomes cloudy, making it more and more difficult to see. The dark, round, center part of the eye (pupil) looks gray or white when a light is shined on it.

cell The smallest unit of living matter in the body.

cervix The opening of the womb at the back of the vagina.

cesarean section (c-section) When it is dangerous for a baby to be born through the vagina, the woman can have an operation in which her abdomen is cut open and the baby is taken out.

chart A file where information about a person's illnesses and treatments is kept.

chemicals Substances found in all living and nonliving things. Many chemicals used in women's work cause harm to the body.

child spacing Having children at least 2 or 3 years apart so that a woman's body has a chance to get strong again between pregnancies.

chlamydia A sexually transmitted disease.

chlorine solution A chemical liquid that can be used to kill germs. Also known as bleach.

cholera A serious infectious disease with severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

chronic Something that lasts for a long time, or that occurs often. Compare with acute.

circulation Blood flowing through the arteries and veins in the body.

circumcision (in a man) When the loose fold of skin at the end of a man's penis is cut off.

circumcision (in a woman) When part or all of a girl or woman's outer genitals are cut off.

cleft lip An opening or gap on a baby's upper lip, often connecting to the nostril.

cleft palate A split or abnormal opening in the roof of the baby's mouth.

climax When the body reaches its peak of sexual pleasure.

clitoris The part of the vulva most sensitive to touch.

clots See blood clots.

cold sores See herpes.

colostrum The yellow-colored milk that comes from the breasts for the first 2 or 3 days after birth.

community health workers Health workers who work in the community and may or may not have formal training.

complications Problems or things that go wrong.

compost A mixture of plant and animal waste that is allowed to rot for use as a fertilizer. Hay, dead leaves, vegetable waste, animal droppings, and manure all make good compost.

compress A folded cloth or pad that is put on a part of the body. The compress may be soaked in hot or cold liquid.

conception When the egg and sperm join to begin making a baby.

condom (rubber) A narrow bag of thin rubber that the man wears on his penis during sex. The bag traps the man's sperm so that it cannot get into the woman's womb and make her pregnant Condoms also help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

condom for women See female condom.

constipation When a person has a difficult time passing stool.

contagious An illness that can be spread easily from one person to another.

contaminated When medical supplies or food contain harmful germs.

contraception (birth control) Any method of preventing pregnancy. See family planning.

contraceptive gel A slippery gel or cream that is put into the vagina before sex to prevent pregnancy.

contractions (pains, labor pains) When the womb squeezes and becomes hard. Contractions open the cervix and help push the baby out of the womb.

convulsion An uncontrolled fit A sudden jerking of part or all of the body.

cord (umbilical cord) The cord that connects the baby at its navel (belly button) to the placenta.

counseling When a trained person helps you think about your situation or decisions you need to make. For example, some people are trained especially to help people cope with HIV/AIDS.

cramps A painful tightening or contraction of a muscle. Many woman have cramps that begin just before monthly bleeding or just after it starts.

cretinism When a baby is born mentally slow because its mother did not have enough iodine in her diet during pregnancy.

curette A small tool used to scrape out the lining of the womb during a dilation and curettage (D and C).


D and C See dilation and curettage.

date rape When a woman is forced to have sex by a man she is dating or courting.

dehydration When the body loses more liquid than it takes in.

dementia When a person has severe difficulty remembering things and thinking clearly.

dengue fever A serious illness caused by a virus that is spread by mosquitos.

dependence When the mind feels an overpowering need for a drug.

depression When a person feels extremely sad or feels nothing at all.

diabetes When a person has too much sugar in her blood.

diaphragm A family planning method in which a soft rubber cup, usually filled with contraceptive gel or cream, is worn over the cervix during sex.

diarrhea Passing 3 or more loose, watery stools in a day.

digestion When food is broken down by the stomach and intestines to be used by the body or to pass out of the body as waste.

dilation and curettage (D and C) To gradually open the cervix and then scrape out the womb. Often used for an abortion or to find the cause of abnormal bleeding from the vagina.

disability Physical or mental limitations that affect daily living.

discharge (from the vagina) The wetness or fluid that comes out of the vagina.

discrimination When people are ignored or treated badly because of who they are (for example, because they are women or old or poor).

disinfection Cleaning tools and equipment in a certain way to get rid of nearly all the germs. Also called high-level disinfection.

divorce To legally end a marriage.

dizziness Feeling lightheaded or unsteady.

dose The amount of a medicine you should take at one time.

douche Washing out the vagina. This can cause harm because it washes out the natural wetness in the vagina.

drugs Substances, like alcohol and cocaine, that can be used in harmful ways to alter the mind, to feel good, or to cope with life.

dysentery Diarrhea with mucus or blood in it, usually caused by an infection.


ectopic pregnancy See pregnancy in the tube.

ejaculate When a man reaches his peak of sexual pleasure and his semen comes out.

embryo An unborn baby is called an embryo between the second and eighth weeks after conception.

emphysema A serious lung disease.

enema A solution of water put up the onus to make a person pass stool or to increase the amount of fluid in the body.

epilepsy A disease in which a person has, convulsions and loss of consciousness.

erection When a man becomes sexually excited and his penis gets hard.

esophagus The tube connecting the mouth and the stomach that food goes down.

estrogen A female hormone.

examination (exam) When a health worker, nurse, or doctor looks at, listens to, or feels parts of the body to find out what is wrong.

exhaustion Extreme tiredness.


fainting See loss of consciousness.

fallen womb. See prolapse.

fallopian tubes The tubes that lead from the ovaries to the womb. When the ovary releases an egg, it travels down these tubes to the womb.

family planning When a woman uses methods to prevent pregnancy, so that she can have the number of children she wants, when she wants them.

farsighted Being able to see things that are far away but not things close by. Often happens after age 40.

fats Foods, like oils and butter, that give the body energy.

female condom A thin piece of rubber that fits into the vagina and covers the outer folds of the vulva. The condom prevents a man's sperm from reaching the woman's womb.

fertile time The time in a woman's cycle when she can get pregnant. For most women, this time starts about 10 days after the start of the last monthly bleeding and lasts for about 6 days.

fertility awareness (Natural Family Planning) A family planning method that teaches a woman how to know her fertile time.

fertilization See concept/on.

fertilizer A material used to make the land richer so that more crops can be produced.

fetoscope A tool for listening to and counting the heartbeat of the baby inside the mother's womb.

fetus The baby growing inside the womb.

fever When the body temperature is higher than normal.

fiber Parts of certain plants that when eaten help the body pass stool.

fibroids Growths in the womb that can cause abnormal bleeding from the vagina, pain, and repeated miscarriage.

fistula A hole in the skin between the vagina and the urine tube or rectum that causes urine or stool to leak from the vagina.

fit See seizure.

flashback When a person suddenly remembers something from the past as if it is happening now.

flexibility When the muscles and joints can move easily, without stiffness or pain.

folic acid or folate A B-vitamin that helps make healthy red blood cells. It is especially important that a pregnant woman get enough folic acid in her diet in order to prevent birth defects in the baby.

fumes Vapors that can contain harmful chemicals.


gallbladder A small, muscular sac attached to the liver. The gallbladder collects a liquid that helps digest fatty foods.

gallstones Hard material that forms in the gallbladder and can cause severe pain.

gang rape When a woman or girl is raped by more than one man.

gangrene When skin and tissue dies because of a lack of blood to that area.

gauze Soft, loosely woven kind of cloth used for bandages.

gender discrimination See discrimination.

gender role The way a community defines what it means to be a woman or man.

generic The name of the main ingredient in a medicine.

genital herpes A sexually transmitted disease that produces sores on the genitals or on the mouth.

genital warts Growths on the genitals, which are caused by a virus spread during sex.

genitals The sexual parts both inside and outside a woman's body.

German measles A disease spread by a virus that can harm a baby growing in the womb.

germs Very small organisms that can grow in the body and cause some infectious diseases.

gland A small sac that produces fluid.

glaucoma A disease of the eye in which too much pressure builds up inside the eyeball and damages vision. Glaucoma can happen slowly (chronic glaucoma) or suddenly (acute glaucoma).

glaze The liquid coating on a clay pot that hardens when fired and keeps water from seeping through the clay.

goiter A swelling on the lower front of the neck (enlargement of the thyroid gland) caused by lack of iodine in the diet.

gonorrhea A sexually transmitted disease.

groin the very top of the leg where it joins the body in the front, next to the genitals.

gut thread A special thread for sewing or stitching tears from childbirth. The gut thread is slowly absorbed (disappears) so that the stitches do not need to be taken out.


hallucinations Seeing strange things or hearing voices that others do not see or hear.

health centers Places that provide a middle level of health care, usually in larger towns. Health centers may have trained nurses and doctors.

health post A place that provides health care like immunizations, prenatal care, family planning, and health exams.

heartburn A burning feeling in the throat that is common in later pregnancy.

helper foods Foods that provide nutrition - like protein, vitamins, minerals, fats, and sugar - that are needed in addition to the main food.

hemorrhage Heavy bleeding.

hemorrhoids Small, painful bumps or lumps at the edge of the onus or inside it They are a type of swollen veins that may burn, hurt, or itch.

hepatitis A serious disease of the liver caused by a virus. Some forms of hepatitis can be sexually transmitted.

herbicides Chemicals used to kill unwanted plants.

herpes A disease caused by a virus that causes sores on the mouth or genitals. Herpes can be sexually transmitted.

herpes zoster (shingles) A painful rash caused by the herpes virus, with blisters on the face, back, and chest.

high blood pressure When the force or pressure of the blood upon the walls of the arteries and veins is harder than normal.

HIV/AIDS HIV, or human immune-deficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS. We sometimes use the word 'HIV/AIDS' since infection with HIV eventually leads to AIDS.

HIV virus See HIV/AIDS.

hives Hard, thick, raised spots on the skin that itch severely. They may come and go all at once or move from one place to another. A sign of allergic reaction.

home remedies Traditional ways of healing.

hookworm A parasitic worm that infects the intestines.

hormonal methods Family planning methods that prevent the woman's ovary from releasing an egg and keep the lining of the womb from supporting a pregnancy.

hormones Chemicals the body makes that tell it how and when to grow. Estrogen and progesterone are the most important hormones for women.

hospital A medical center with doctors, nurses, and special equipment for finding or treating serious illnesses.

hydrogen peroxide A chemical that kills germs, often used for cleaning wounds.

hymen A thin piece of skin that partially closes off the vaginal opening. In some communities, a woman is no longer considered a virgin if her hymen is torn, even though it can be torn by activities other than sex.

hysterectomy An operation in which the womb is removed. In a 'total hysterectomy', the tubes and ovaries are also removed.


immune system The parts of the body that recognize harmful germs and try to fight off infection.

immunization See vaccination.

implantation When the fertilized egg attaches to the womb wall at the beginning of pregnancy.

implants A family planning method in which small tubes containing hormones are put under the skin.

impotence When a man is unable to have sex, usually because his penis will not get or stay hard.

incest Sexual relations between family members or relatives.

incision A cut made into the body.

incomplete abortion When part of a pregnancy remains in the womb after an abortion.

indigestion See heartburn.

infant formula Artificial milk for babies used instead of breast milk. Infant formula does not have the same health benefits as breast milk.

infection A sickness caused by bacteria, viruses, or other organisms. Infections may affect part of the body or all of it.

infectious disease Diseases caused by germs or parasites that can be spread from one person to another.

infertility When a woman has had sex regularly during her fertile time for one year but has been unable to get pregnant. A woman with repeated miscarriages is also considered infertile.

infibulation A form of female circumcision in which the outside genitals are cut away and the opening to the vagina is sewn almost closed.

inheritance The possessions, property, or money a person receives after someone dies.

injections When medicine or other liquid is put into the body using a syringe and needle.

inner folds The part of a woman's genitals that lie just inside the hairy outer folds of the vulva. The inner folds are soft flaps of skin without hair that are sensitive to touch.

intestines The guts or tube-like part of the food canal that carries food and finally waste from the stomach to the anus.

intimacy Sharing your private thoughts and feelings with someone.

intramuscular injection (IM) Injection deep into the muscle.

intra-uterine device (IUD, IUCD) A small object that is put into the womb to prevent pregnancy.

intravenous (IV) When medicines or fluids are put into a vein.

iodine A mineral found in the ground and some foods that prevents goiter and mental slowness at birth.

iron A mineral found in some foods that helps make the blood healthy.


jaundice Yellow color of the skin and eyes. Jaundice can be a sign of hepatitis or of newborn jaundice.

joints Places in the body where bones come together.


Kaposi's sarcoma Brown or purple patches on the skin or in the mouth caused by a cancer of the blood vessels or lymph nodes. Occurs most often in persons with AIDS.

kidneys Two large organs in the lower back that make urine by cleaning waste from the blood.


labia Large and small folds of skin that are part of the vulva.

labor The work a woman's body does in childbirth, when her womb squeezes or contracts, causes her cervix to open, and pushes her baby down through the vagina and out of her body.

latex A material like thin rubber. Condoms and gloves are often made of latex.

latrine A hole or pit in the ground for passing urine or stool. A toilet.

laxatives Medicine used for constipation to make stools softer and more frequent.

lice Tiny insects that attach on the skin or hair of people and other animals.

ligaments Strong fibers in a person's body that help hold muscles and bones in place.

literacy The ability to read and understand written information.

liver A large organ under the lower right ribs that helps clean the blood and get rid of poisons.

loss of consciousness When a sick or injured person seems to be asleep and cannot be awakened. Unconscious.

lubricants A slippery cream or gel used to make dry surfaces wet. Lubricants are often used on condoms during sex.

lymph nodes Small lumps under the skin in different parts of the body that trap germs. Lymph nodes become swollen and painful when they get infected.


main food The main food, usually low-cost, that is eaten with almost every meal. This main food usually provides most of the body's daily food needs. For good nutrition, the body also needs he/per foods.

malaria An infection that causes chills and high fever, which is spread by mosquitos. The mosquito sucks up the malaria parasites in the blood of an infected person and injects them into the next person it bites.

malnutrition When the body does not have enough of the foods it needs to stay healthy.

massage A way of touching the body to relieve pain, tension, or other signs. Massaging the belly can help the womb contract and stop heavy bleeding after birth, miscarriage or abortion.

mastitis See breast infection.

masturbation Touching one's own body to bring personal sexual pleasure.

maternal mortality When a woman dies due to problems from pregnancy and birth.

medical abortion Using certain medicines to end a pregnancy.

membranes A thin layer of skin or tissue that either covers organs inside the body or lines other parts. An example is the sac that surrounds and protects the baby when it is in the mother's womb.

menopause When a woman's monthly bleeding stops forever.

menstrual cycle See monthly cycle.

menstruation See monthly bleeding.

microscope An instrument that makes very tiny objects look larger.

midwife Someone with special training or experience to help a woman give birth.

migraines Severe headaches with blurred eyesight.

minerals Substances in foods - like iron, calcium, and iodine - that help the body fight disease and recover after injury or illness.

miscarriage When a woman loses a developing baby before it is old enough to survive outside the womb.

monthly bleeding (menstruation, monthly period) When a bloody fluid leaves a woman's womb and passes through the vagina and out of her body. It happens about every 28 days and lasts for a few days.

monthly cycle The period of time between the beginning of one monthly bleeding and the beginning of the next. About 2 weeks after a woman starts her monthly bleeding one of her ovaries releases an egg, and about 2 weeks after that she starts another monthly bleeding.

monthly period See monthly bleeding.

morning sickness See nausea.

mucus method When a woman checks the mucus in her vagina every day to find out when she is most fertile.

mucus A thick, slippery wetness that the body makes to protect the inside of the vagina, nose, throat, stomach, and intestines.

mumps A contagious disease caused by a virus and common in children. Mumps can be prevented by vaccination.


natural methods (of family planning) Methods of preventing pregnancy that do not require any devices or chemicals.

nausea When a person feels sick to her stomach, as though she wants to vomit. This often happens to women during the first 3 or 4 months of pregnancy. Also called 'morning sickness'.

nipple The center of the dark-colored part on the outside of the breast where milk comes out.

nonoxinol-9 A chemical that kills sperm and so helps prevent pregnancy. It also provides some protection against gonorrhea and chlamydia.

nutrition Good nutrition is eating enough food and the right kind of food so the body can grow, be healthy, and fight off disease.


operation When a doctor makes a cut in the skin in order to repair damage inside, or to change the way the body functions.

oral sex When a person uses his or her mouth on a partner's genitals to give the partner sexual pleasure.

organ A part of the body that is more or less complete in itself and does a specific job. For example, the lungs are organs for breathing.

orgasm See climax.

osteoporosis Weak, brittle bones that break easily. Osteoporosis is more common in older women, because they produce less estrogen after menopause.

outer folds The fatty lips of the vulva that protect the outside genitals and close up when the legs are together.

ovaries Small sacs about the size of an almond or grape, one on each side of the womb. Ovaries produce eggs that join with a man's sperm to make a baby.

overdose Taking too much of a drug or medicine at one time. This can cause serious injury or death.

ovulation When an egg is released from one of the ovaries during the middle of a woman's monthly cycle.

oxygen A chemical in the air that is necessary for life.


Pap test A test in which some skin cells are scraped from the cervix during a pelvic exam and then examined under a microscope to see if there are any early warning signs of cancer

paralysis Loss of the ability to move part or all of the body.

parasites Tiny worms and animals that can live in a person (or animal) and cause disease.

peer counselor Someone who is trained to talk with another person who is in a similar situation. For example, one young woman may counsel another young woman, or someone who used to drink too much may counsel another person who is trying to quit.

pelvic area Everything between a woman's hips. This is where a woman's reproductive parts are.

pelvic exam An examination of a woman's genitals both inside and outside her body. A pelvic exam sometimes includes a speculum exam.

pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) An infection of the reproductive parts in a woman's lower abdomen. Also called pelvic infection.

penis The male sex organ, also used to pass urine. The penis gets hard during sex and releases a fluid called semen that contains sperm.

pension fund A fund - often set up by a union, employer, or the government - that pays people when they get older and stop working.

period See monthly bleeding.

permanent methods (of family planning) See sterilization.

pesticides Poisonous chemicals used to kill insects that destroy food crops.

PID See pelvic inflammatory disease.

piles (hemorrhoids) Swollen veins around the anus, which can itch, burn, or bleed.

pimp A man who finds clients for a sex worker and who often keeps all or part of her money.

pimple A spot or small infected swelling that grows, often on the face, due to extra oil on the skin. Common in adolescent girls and boys. Also called acne.

placenta (afterbirth) A spongy organ in a woman's womb that gives the baby everything it needs to grow during pregnancy. The baby is connected to the placenta by the cord. After the baby is born, the placenta also comes out of the womb.

plant medicines Flowers, leaves, roots and other parts of plants that can be used to treat diseases.

pneumonia An infection of the small breathing tubes deep in the lungs.

polyps Growths found usually in the womb. Polyps are almost never caused by cancer.

pregnancy in the tube A pregnancy that grows in one of the fallopian tubes, instead of in the womb.

prenatal The time between when a woman gets pregnant and when she gives birth.

prenatal care Checkups during pregnancy, when a midwife or specially trained health worker examines a pregnant woman to make sure the pregnancy is going well.

premature When a baby is born too early.

prevent Stopping something before it starts.

pressure sores (bed sores) Sores that form over bony parts of the body when a person lies or sits on that part of the body for too long without moving.

privacy When a person gives information to a health worker, nurse, or doctor and knows it will not be overheard by, or repeated to, others.

progesterone A female hormone.

progestin A hormone made in a laboratory that is similar to the progesterone made naturally in a woman's body. It is found in some hormonal family planning methods.

progestin only pill A method of family planning that contains one hormone - progestin - but no estrogen.

prolapsed uterus When the muscles that hold up the womb become weak, causing it to fall or drop down into the vagina.

prostitute See sex worker.

proteins Body-building foods necessary for proper growth and strength.

puberty The time when a girl changes into a woman and her monthly bleeding begins, or when a boy changes into a man.

pubic bone The front part of the pelvic bones, just beneath the hair on a woman's genitals.

pulse The heartbeat, which tells how fast and how hard the heart is working. The pulse can be felt at certain points on the body, like the inside of the wrist or the neck.

purification Killing harmful germs in water before drinking it.

pus White or yellow fluid that is filled with germs, often found inside an infected tear or wound.


radiation Rays of energy given off by certain elements. Radiation is harmful because it kills cells in the body. But it can also be used to treat cancer by killing cancer cells.

radiation treatment When a machine sends rays of energy into a person's body to kill cancer cells. The rays cannot be seen or felt.

rape When a man puts his penis, finger, or any object into a woman's vagina, anus, or mouth without her consent.

rectal exam Checking the rectum for growths or other problems. A rectal exam can also give information about the wall or lining of the vagina.

rectum The lower part of the intestine that is connected to the onus.

rehydration drink A drink to treat dehydration. The drink can be made with boiled water, salt, sugar, or powdered cereal.

reproductive health Health services like family planning services or prenatal care, that help prevent or treat health concerns connected to a woman's reproductive pans.

reproductive parts The parts of a man's and a woman's body that allow them to make a baby.

resistance The ability of something to defend itself against something that would normally harm or kill it. Many bacteria become resistant to the effects of certain antibiotics.

rhythm method A family planning method in which a woman counts the days of her monthly cycle to find out when she is most fertile. She then avoids having sex during her fertile time.


safer sex Avoiding direct contact with a sexual partner's genitals, blood, semen, or vaginal wetness.

saliva A person's spit.

sanitation Public cleanliness to prevent disease, such as providing clean drinking water and keeping public places free of waste.

scabies A contagious skin disease caused by a parasite.

scar A cut or wound that leaves the skin or tissue rough and raised after it has healed.

scrotum The bag between a man's legs that holds his testicles or balls.

seizures See convulsion.

self-esteem How a woman feels about herself, and about her role in her family and community.

semen The liquid containing a man's sperm, which is released from his penis during ejaculation.

sepsis A serious infection that has spread into the blood.

sex worker Anyone who exchanges sex for money or other favors, goods or services.

sexual abuse See abuse.

sexual assault Unwanted sexual contact.

sexual harassment Unwanted sexual attention from anyone who has power over a woman.

sexual health When a woman has control over her sexual life.

sexual intercourse Sex with the penis in the vagina.

sexual roles The way a community defines what it means to be a woman or a man.

sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) Infections passed from one person to another during sex.

shock A dangerous condition with severe weakness or loss of consciousness, cold sweats, and fast, weak pulse. It can be caused by dehydration, heavy bleeding, injury, burns, or a severe illness.

side effects When medicines or hormonal methods cause changes in the body other than those needed to fight disease or prevent pregnancy.

speculum A small metal or plastic tool that holds the vagina open.

sperm Tiny cells in a man's semen that can swim up a woman's vagina and fertilize an egg. This is how a pregnancy starts.

spermicide A slippery, lubricating cream or gel that helps prevent pregnancy by killing sperm, and may help prevent some STDs.

squeezing exercise An exercise to help strengthen weak muscles that cause a woman to pass urine often or to leak urine.

status The importance a person has in her or his family and community.

STDs See sexually transmitted diseases.

sterile When something is completely free from germs.

sterilization A permanent way of making a woman or man unable to have children.

steroids A class of medicines used to treat many different health problems. Steroids can have serious side effects if used for a long time.

stethoscope An instrument used to listen to sounds inside the body, like the heartbeat.

stomach The sac-like organ in the belly where food is digested.

stool The waste that passes from the onus during a bowel movement.

stress Any activities or events that put pressure on a woman, causing tension in her body and mind.

stroke A sudden loss of consciousness, feeling, or ability to move caused by bleeding or a clot inside the brain.

subcutaneous injection An injection into the fatty tissue under the skin, not into the muscle.

sugar Sweet foods, like honey or sugar cane, that give energy.

support groups When people with a common problem meet together to help one another.

surgery When a doctor cuts into the body to find out what is wrong or to treat an illness. An operation.

syphilis A sexually transmitted disease.

syringe An instrument used to inject medicine.


tampons Cotton, cloth, or sponges that are put inside the vagina to catch monthly bleeding before it leaves the body.

temperature The degree of heat of a person's body.

testicles The part of the male genitals that is inside the scrotum and makes the sperm.

testosterone The main hormone in a man's body.

tetanus A serious disease caused by a germ that lives in the stools of people or animals. Tetanus enters the body through a wound.

thrush A fungal infection that causes white patches and soreness on the skin inside the mouth, on the tongue, and the tube that connects the mouth with the stomach.

thyroid gland A gland in the front of the throat that makes hormones that affect growth and development. The thyroid needs iodine to work properly.

thermometer An instrument used to measure how hot a person's body temperature is.

tissue The material making up the muscles, fatty areas, and organs of the body.

toxemia A dangerous condition during pregnancy, which can lead to seizures.

toxic A harmful substance that can cause disease or death when it enters the body is said to be toxic.

toxicity When a person takes too much medicine and it builds up to a dangerous level in the body.

traditional healers Healers who use methods based on beliefs that have been passed down from generation to generation.

trauma When something horrible happens to a person or to someone the person is close to.

trichomonas A disease of the genitals that is usually sexually transmitted, but not always.

tubal ligation An operation in which the fallopian tubes are cut or tied so the egg cannot travel to the womb to be fertilized.

tubal pregnancy See pregnancy in the tube.

tuberculosis A serious infection caused by a germ that usually affects the lungs.

tubes See fallopian tubes.

tumor Abnormal growth.


ulcer A chronic open sore of the skin, the stomach, or the intestines.

ultrasound A machine that uses sound to take a picture of the inside of the body without cutting it open. It is often used during pregnancy to see the baby inside the womb.

unconscious See loss of consciousness.

unsafe sex Direct contact with a sexual partner's genitals, blood, semen or vaginal wetness - if there is any chance you or your partner has a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

urethra A short tube that carries urine from the bladder to the hole a person urinates from.

urine Liquid waste that collects in the bladder and leaves the body through a hole just above the vagina.

uristix Special paper strips that change color when dipped in urine that has sugar in it. Uristix can be used to find out if a person has diabetes.

uterus See womb.


vaccinations or vaccines Medicines that are injected to give protection against specific diseases like tetanus.

vagina (birth canal) A tube made of muscle that goes from the opening of the woman's genitals to the cervix.

varicose veins Abnormally swollen veins - often blue, lumpy, and winding - on the legs of older people, pregnant women, and women who have had a lot of children. Pregnant women also sometimes have varicose veins in the genitals.

vasectomy A permanent method of preventing pregnancy, in which the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis are cut.

veins Thin, tube-like vessels that carry blood back to the heart. Also see artery.

virgin A person who has not had sex.

virus Germs smaller than bacteria, which cause some infectious diseases.

vitamins Foods that the body needs to work properly, to fight disease, and to get better after a sickness or injury.

vomiting Throwing up the contents of the stomach through the mouth.

vulva All the parts of a woman's genitals that can be seen on the outside of her body between her legs.


withdrawal The period of time in which the body gets used to being without a drug or alcohol to which it is physically addicted.

womb (uterus) A sac of strong muscle inside a woman's belly. Monthly bleeding comes from the womb, and the baby grows inside the womb during pregnancy.


x-rays Pictures of parts of the inside of the body, like the bones or the lungs, which are created by rays sent through the body. The body does not need to be cut open.


yeast infection A vaginal infection with white, lumpy discharge, itching, and burning. These infections are common during pregnancy and when taking antibiotics.