Women’s Health: Did you know that new moms experience a 4th trimester? Pregnant moms spend a lot of time learning what to expect from pregnancy and how to care for their newborns. But, while pregnancy anecdotes and birth stories take top billing at baby showers and get-togethers, girlfriends and family members tend to leave the challenging aspects of the “fourth trimester,” the first six weeks postpartum, left unsaid. Changes that happen to a woman’s body during and after childbirth are not usually widely discussed with soon-to-be moms. There are so many exciting things to look forward to with a new baby. But pregnancy and childbirth can also have some less-than-desirable effects on a woman’s body, especially her pelvic floor. About 15 percent of new mothers need treatment for childbirth ailments such as urinary and fecal incontinence, complications from obstetrical tears, pelvic pain and other pelvic floor issues. Navigating the fourth trimester Know that help is out there. Whether it’s breastfeeding trouble or sleep deprivation, experts are ready to throw a lifeline when needed. Seek that help. Just having a lactation consultant watch a baby latch on can ease any fears of mom feeding baby incorrectly. It’s easier to make the decision to get help when you have that list of where to turn to for help ready before a baby arrives. Focus on what works for you and your baby. From your pediatrician to the nurse at your OB-GYN’s office, everybody doles out different advice. Whose do you take? Try them all to find what works and keep your and your baby’s health in mind. Consider if lanolin is right for you. Lanolin, a popular gift at baby showers, is a natural substance used to prevent nipples from cracking, blistering or drying out from breastfeeding. Pasque says Vaseline is tolerated easier. She has many new moms who come into the office with rashes because they are allergic to lanolin. Stock up on healing supplies. Warm-water sitz baths, ice packs, doughnut pillows, peri bottles (i.e., squirt bottles to rinse with water instead of wiping after toileting for the first few weeks) and 100 percent cotton pads help heal the vaginal trauma caused by delivery. Consider physical therapy or massage. If incontinence issues arise, see a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles that hold up the bladder and uterus. Therapists will ensure the exercises are done properly, and they have gadgets that monitor progress. Moms who delivered by cesarean section also may benefit from a therapist massaging the incision scar. The tightness of the collagen fibers in the skin can make bending over painful, among other issues. Manipulating the tissue can promote blood flow and accelerate healing. Avoid constipation. Chronic straining, especially if mom had a perineal tear, can put tension on the stitches and is hard on the pelvic floor muscles. Consider using a laxative like Miralax (rather than a stool softener) daily until the constipation subsides. It’s safe for breastfeeding moms as well. Try walking. If it still hurts to walk nearly a month after giving birth, see a doctor. The spine could be out of alignment, or a pelvic bone may have broken during delivery. Watch for postpartum depression. More intense than baby blues, which is marked by crying, sadness, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, postpartum depression affects 13 percent of mothers and may appear a year after giving birth. Extreme irritability, insomnia and fear of the baby getting hurt in unusual ways are symptoms that are sometimes dismissed. If you’re a new or expecting mom, you probably have a million more questions. Contact your doctor for more info.
Women’s Health: What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)? Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that affects women by altering the levels of hormones in your body, resulting in problems affecting many body systems. Most women that are diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, generally produce excess male sex hormones (androgens), a condition called hyperandrogenism. The typical patient that has too many of these male hormones can often have excessive body hair growth (hirsutism), acne, and male pattern baldness, but that is not true in all cases. Hyperandrogenism and abnormal levels of other sex hormones often prevents normal ovulation and regular menstrual periods, leading to difficulty conceiving a child (subfertility) or a complete inability to conceive (infertility). Due to irregular and infrequent menstruation and hormone abnormalities, affected women have an increased risk of cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer). Polycystic ovary syndrome generally includes multiple cysts in each ovary that can be seen with medical imaging. These cysts are small, immature ovarian follicles. Normally, ovarian follicles contain egg cells, which are released during ovulation. In polycystic ovary syndrome, abnormal hormone levels prevent follicles from growing and maturing to release egg cells. Instead, these immature follicles accumulate in the ovaries. Affected women can have 12 or more of these follicles. The number of these follicles usually decreases with age. The causes of polycystic ovary syndrome are complex. This condition results from a combination of genetic, health, and lifestyle factors, some of which have not been identified. Common variations in several genes have been associated with the risk of developing polycystic ovary syndrome. Because they are common, these variations can be present in people with polycystic ovary syndrome and in those without. It is the combination of these changes that helps determine a woman's likelihood of developing the disease. Polycystic ovary syndrome does not have a clear pattern of inheritance, it is estimated that 20 to 40 percent of women with polycystic ovary syndrome have an affected mother or sister. This increased familial risk is likely due in part to shared genetic factors, but lifestyle influences that are shared by members of a family likely also play a role. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in learning more about polycystic ovary syndrome.
Women’s Health: Have you considered your cervical health? In women's health, cervical health, specifically cervical cancer, is an important topic in women’s healthcare. There are many ways as to how women can protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer. HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity, and causes most cases of cervical cancer. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV. Many people with HPV don’t know they are infected and each year, more than 11,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer. What can I do to combat HPV and Cervical Cancer?
- The HPV vaccine can help prevent HPV
- Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests and follow-up care
The most important thing you can do to prevent cervical cancer is to be screened regularly. Your women’s wellness exam will often include the Pap test (pap smear) and the human papillomavirus (HPV) test, which detects HPV, the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, are used to detect cervical cancer. Pap tests can find abnormal cells that may turn into cervical cancer. Removal of the abnormal cells prevents cervical cancer. Pap tests can also find cervical cancer early, when the chance of being cured is very high. In addition to the Pap test, the HPV test may be used for screening women who are 30 years old or older, or at any age for those who have unclear Pap test results. It also is used to provide more information when Pap test results are unclear for women aged 21 and older. Women should receive a Pap test starting within three years after becoming sexually active, or no later than age 21. If you are between 21 and 29 years old, it is important for you to continue getting a Pap test as directed by your doctor. Screening should be done every 2 to 3 years. At age 30, Pap and HPV test frequency can drop to every 5 years. This is called co-testing and should continue until age 65, according to the American Cancer Society. If you are older than 65 and have had a normal Pap test for several years, or if you had your cervix removed (for a non-cancerous condition, such as fibroids), your doctor may recommend discontinuing the Pap test. If you haven’t had your Pap test, it is important that you do so. Women need to be proactive in their own health care!
Next month is breast cancer awareness month. Get ready to spread the word. Do you really know what cancer is? Take a look at the National Breast Cancer Foundation's informative video below outlining the facts about what cancer is.
It’s the top healthcare news story right now-- Zika virus. But do you know what Zika virus really is? The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection. It is related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus. Although it was discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947 and is common in Africa and Asia, it did not begin spreading widely in the Western Hemisphere until last May, when an outbreak occurred in Brazil. Until now, almost no one on this side of the world had been infected. Few of us have immune defenses against the virus, so it is spreading rapidly. Millions of people in tropical regions of the Americas may now have been infected. Yet for most, the infection causes no symptoms and leads to no lasting harm. Scientific concern is focused on women who become infected while pregnant and those who develop a temporary form of paralysis after exposure to the Zika virus. Ask your doctor if you are at risk for Zika virus. And take a look at the CDC website for more information about the virus.
Menopause is a natural process for women. Knowing about menopause can help you be prepared when your body starts to change and you start moving through the process. What is menopause? Menopause is part of a gradual and natural process in which the ovaries produce less and less of the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and menstrual periods gradually disappear. For most women this process generally begins around age 40 when periods may become less regular. This time of change is called perimenopause or premenopause. The average age women complete menopause is around 51. Some women experience menopause at younger ages due to premature ovarian failure, cancer therapy or surgical removal of both ovaries. What are the signs of menopause? Each woman experiences menopause differently. Changing hormone levels can cause a variety of symptoms that may last from a few months to a few years or longer. Some women have slight discomfort or worse. Others have little or no trouble. If any of these changes bother you, check with your doctor. The most common menopause symptoms include:
- Change in periods:One of the first signs may be irregular periods. Some may have a lighter flow than normal; others have a heavier flow and may bleed a lot for many days. They may come more often and last longer. There may be spotting between periods.
- Hot flashes: A hot flash is a sudden rush of heat in the upper part or all of your body.
- Problems with the vagina and bladder: Vaginal dryness, itching and burning can make sexual intercourse painful. Vaginal infections can become more common. Some women have more urinary tract infections or problems with holding urine.
- Sex: Some women find that their feelings about sex change with menopause. Some have vaginal dryness that makes sexual intercourse painful. Others feel free after menopause, relieved that pregnancy is no longer a worry. Until you have had one full year without a period, you should still use birth control if you do not want to become pregnant. After menopause, a woman can still get sexually transmitted diseases and should make sure her partner uses a condom.
- Sleep problems: Some women find they have a hard time getting a good night's sleep. They may not fall asleep easily or may wake too early. They may need to get up to go to the bathroom and then not able to fall back to sleep. Hot flashes can interfere with sleep.
- Mood changes: There may be a relationship between changes in estrogen levels and a woman's mood. Shifts in mood also may be caused by stress, family changes or feeling tired. Depression is not a symptom of menopause.
We are commonly asked about the effectiveness of Birth Control. And specifically, does oral contraception work? Here are a few answers to your questions. Studies have found that, used as recommended, oral contraception is 91 percent to 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. However, that still means there is a very small risk of pregnancy. In most instances, however, women who become pregnant while taking oral contraceptives either miss one or more doses; take a dose at a time different from their normal time (i.e., in the evening instead of the morning); take medications (such as antibiotics) that interfere with the effectiveness of birth control in your body; or have unprotected intercourse too soon after starting their oral contraceptive. If you begin taking birth control pills within six days of the first day of your period, it's effective immediately. If you start at any other time, however, you need to take it for a full month before it's effective, and you must use another form of birth control until you've completed one full cycle of pills. While no method of contraception other than sterilization is 100 percent effective against pregnancy, the more precautions you take, the less likely you are to get pregnant. Plus, if you are not in a long-term, monogamous relationship, your partner should be using a condom to protect you both against sexually transmitted diseases. Talk to your physician for more information about contraception options and questions.
When it comes to women’s health, we are here to help. One common problem affecting women is endometriosis. Endometriosis affects the uterus and causes a kind of tissue that normally lines the uterus to grow somewhere else within a woman's body. It can grow on the ovaries, behind the uterus, on the bowels or even on a bladder. And in rare cases it can grow on other body parts as well. This often considered “misplaced tissue” can cause pain, infertility and heavy periods. Some women experience no pain or symptoms at all, but others generally experience pain in the abdomen, lower back and pelvic areas. And regularly, having problems getting pregnant can be the first sign a woman has that she even has endometriosis. The cause of endometriosis is unknown, but pain medicines, hormones, and last resort, surgery can be done to help treat it. If you are experiencing symptoms, ask your doctor for more information about endometriosis.
A woman's health is constantly changing and making sure you stick to a health regimen that is consistent with your age is very important. For example, pap smears are recommended once per year for women under age 30 and in different increments as women age. Obviously there are several factors included and each woman is different, but as women age different screenings and procedures are recommended, including a mammogram. A mammogram is equally as important as a woman ages. Mammograms have been shown to lower the risk of dying from breast cancer by 35% in women over the age of 50, due to early detection, only seen by a mammogram. The value of mammography in women 40 and over has been proven and has helped with early detection of breast cancer. A mammogram can identify an abnormality in breast tissue that could be cancerous. Detecting breast cancer early with mammography has also allowed many more women to be treated and has decreased the number of mastectomies among women 40 and over. See your physician today for a women’s wellness exam to find out if you should be receiving a regular mammogram.