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Gynecologic and Reproductive Considerations

  • Richard T. Jennings
  • Ellen S. Baker
Chapter
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Abstract

Despite the delay in admitting women to the US space program, being female actually offers some advantages. The weightlessness that is part of life in microgravity negates some of the male advantages of size and strength. The closed environmental systems that are found on all spacecraft—with limited amounts of oxygen (O2), water, and food and with the need to process solid, liquid, and exhaled waste products—favor smaller individuals. Since the general implications for women participating in high-performance aircraft and in spacecraft have been reviewed elsewhere, they will not be addressed here in great detail. Suffice it to say that, although men and women differ in their ability to withstand extremes of hypoxia, decompression, temperature, acceleration, isolation, stress, and impact, these differences are generally small and often depend more on acclimation and individual variation than on sex. While incidence of many of the medical conditions noted in space flight such as space motion sickness is similar between women and men, some conditions are more common in men or women. For instance, spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS) findings are more common in men, but postflight orthostasis is more common in women. These differences will be noted in other chapters in the text.

Regardless of the relative assets and liabilities of flying men or women in future space crews, these crews will include both sexes. It is therefore prudent that we examine the reproductive and gynecologic issues associated with selecting, training, and assigning female crewmembers to space missions. This chapter addresses gynecologic medical standards and female astronaut selection, reproductive and operational gynecologic considerations during training and space flight, pregnancy after space flight, and gynecologic considerations for long-duration space flights.

Keywords

Gynecologic considerations for long-duration space flights Menstruation during space flight Gynecologic standards for female astronauts Pregnancy after space flight Female astronaut selections 

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard T. Jennings
    • 1
  • Ellen S. Baker
    • 2
  1. 1.Aerospace Medicine Program, Preventive Medicine and Community HealthUT Medical Branch at GalvestonGalvestonUSA
  2. 2.Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive MedicineUniversity of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA

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