Most of our health classes growing up left much to be desired. With so many questions around sexual and reproductive health left unanswered in grade school, we’ve had to take it upon ourselves to expand our knowledge and educate ourselves.
So let this be a helpful resource in getting back to basics and brushing up on common reproductive health terms from A to Z.
A is for Abortion. The termination of a pregnancy, also known as an abortion, is a highly personal decision. Unfortunately, abortions are often regulated by governments when really they are an incredibly common procedure that is ultimately up to the pregnant person.
B is for Birth Control. If your sexual partner has a penis, chances are you’ve probably had birth control on your mind at one point or another. The most common forms of birth control are hormonal like the pill or patch, IUDs, and barrier methods like condoms.
C is for Cunnilingus. The official term for eating out or going down on someone. This *ahem* steamy form of oral sex is done by stimulating someone with a vagina with the tongue and mouth.
D is for Discharge. Vaginal discharge is a normal part of having a vagina. Your discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle, with pregnancy, and when your reproductive tract is off balance or has an infection. It can even tell you when you’re ovulating!
E is for Endometriosis. This painful condition is caused by the endometrial lining of the uterus growing elsewhere in the abdomen than the uterus. If you experience intensely painful cramps, bleeding, and other not-so-fun period symptoms, it may be helpful to be screened for endometriosis.
F is for Follicular Phase. This part of your menstrual cycle begins when you start your period and ends when you start ovulating. It’s marked by rising estrogen levels preparing your body for an egg to be released.
G is for Gender: Different from biological sex, gender is the social and legal identity of a person. Gender is fluid, and people can transition from one gender to another, or develop their own gender that is outside the binary, aka non-binary.
H is for Hormone Replacement Therapy. HRT is the use of artificial hormones. It is commonly used to help ease symptoms of menopause, as well to support transgender people to develop desired characteristics like changes to their breasts and nipples, voice changes, or changes in body hair.
I is for IUD. Also known as an intrauterine device, this small T shaped birth control option that lives just inside the opening of your uterus above the cervix. There are several options that either emit a small amount of hormones or are hormone free and made of copper.
J is for Journaling. Tracking your menstrual cycle with a cycle journal can help you gain valuable insights into your health, and help you structure your days around where you’re at in your cycle.
K is for Kegels. This exercise is important for maintaining and healing the health of your pelvic floor. Kegels help to support your internal organs, can help you prepare for birth, and improve your sex life!
L is for Luteal Phase. Your luteal phase is one part of your menstrual cycle. It starts right after ovulation, and ends right before you start your period. This is when you might start experiencing symptoms of PMS.
M is for Mammary Glands. Surprisingly, everyone has mammary glands from birth no matter their gender. When people have a surge of estrogen during puberty or from hormone therapy, mammary glands help develop along with breasts. These glands allow for milk production, otherwise known as lactation.
N is for Natural Family Planning. This is a type of fertility awareness based conception. You can help to plan for or prevent pregnancy by tracking your cycle, and knowing when you’re ovulating.
O is for Ovaries. Ovaries, except for in the case of abnormalities, come in pairs and serve as the primary reproductive organs in the female body. Not only do they produce egg cells, ova, they’re also essential for the secretion of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone.
P is for Pap Smear. Pap smears are a necessary part of staying on top of your reproductive health if you have a uterus. Your provider takes a small swab of cervical cells to test for any abnormalities, and test for HPV, which can potentially lead to cervical cancer.
Q is for Queef. Queefs are the sometimes awkward fart-like sounds that escape from the vagina when air that’s trapped inside gets suddenly released. These usually happen at inopportune times in the midst of getting it on, or while you’re getting your squats on at the gym.
R is for Rimming. Also known as a rim job. Aka, oral sex around the anus. The desire to give or recieve a rim job is a totally normal one. Talk to your partner if it’s something you want to try!
S is for STIs. Sexually transmitted infections are, of course, infections that can be spread through sexual activity. Some of the most common STIs are HPV, herpes, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Here’s your friendly reminder to get tested regularly!
T is for Thyroid. Your thyroid is a small gland in the front of your neck. This mighty gland is essential for regulating processes like metabolism, sexual function, and development.
U is for Urinary Tract Infection. Ouch! UTIs are a commonly occurring bacterial infection in the urinary tract. UTIs are commonly caused when bacteria from the anus are rubbed towards the labia during sex, while working out, or from wearing tight inorganic underwear.
V is for Vulva: The outside part of the genitals for people with vaginas. Some of the parts making up the vulva are the inner and outer labia, the urethra, the clitoris, and the vaginal opening. Fun fact, the word vulva comes from the Latin word for covering or wrapping.
W is for Wet Dreams. People with vaginas absolutely get wet dreams as well. They are perfectly normal and healthy. Your erotic dreams are not necessarily a reflection of your actual sexual preferences, unless you want them to be.
X is for Xx Chromosomes. Remember back to biology class? Xx chromosomes are the DNA markers for someone to be born with ovaries, a vagina, and a uterus.
Y is for Yeast Infection. Burning, itching, and irritation around the vagina and vulva are the tell-tale signs of this uncomfortable fungal infection. Luckily, they can often be remedied with natural treatments.
Z is for Zygotes. These are the first steps in pregnancy. A zygote forms right after conception when an egg is fertilized by sperm.
There you go! You’re all brushed up on your reproductive health terms A-Z. If you’re ready to learn more, take a dive into the Intimina blog.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.