In the last few years, the guidelines on the required frequency of cervical cancer screening (Pap smear) have changed, and more recently, even the importance of your Yearly/Annual Pelvic exam has been up for debate amongst established medical societies. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG, recently released their rebuttal statement, reconfirming their support for the importance of the Annual Pelvic Exam. Their statement was made in response to the recently released article from the American College of Physicians supporting the contrary, recommending against the annual pelvic exam in asymptomatic women, thus bringing into question the utility of the exam.
‘Tis the season for high school graduations, and thus that (sometimes dreaded) question for graduates, "What are you gonna do?" Though college bound, I can still remember that question being pretty awkward for me, because I had no real clue of what my career interests/aspirations were. I found that a simplistic answer, like “business”, seemed to satisfy most of those that asked, though I barely even had a clue of what a focus in “business” really meant. If not for a great career counselor at my university helping to identifying my strengths in math/science, and directing me towards potential careers stemming from those interests…you wouldn’t know me as Dr. Hall!
New cases of ‘Whooping ‘ cough/Pertussis infections are on the rise in the US. The CDC reports 48,000 new Pertussis infections in 2012, the highest number since 1955. Pertussis infections can result in serious illness, especially for the newborn, where the condition can be life-threatening.
The CDC and ACOG recommend the Tdap vaccine (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis) in pregnancy. The vaccine is considered safe in all trimesters of pregnancy, though recommended at 27-36 weeks gestation. Receiving the vaccine during pregnancy improves the chances of your baby receiving ‘passive’ immunity from the infection. If the vaccine was not received during the pregnancy, vaccination in the immediate postpartum time period is the next recommendation. Close contact and the baby’s caregivers should also be vaccinated. Pregnant women should be re-vaccinated with each pregnancy.
Cesarean Section Delivery isn’t Failure…It’s ‘Plan B’
If I had a nickel for the many times I’ve heard a laboring patient say, “I really don’t want a Cesarean Section!” In addressing their labor concerns, often times I try re-clarifying with them what they really mean in saying “I don’t want a Cesarean Section”. I believe what most of our patients really mean is:
“I’m really ‘hoping’ for a vaginal birth”…
“If I had a preference for delivery, it would be vaginally, rather than by Cesarean Section”…
“If circumstances arise for which a Cesarean Section would be better for the health and safety of my baby, I’d definitely agree to Cesarean Section delivery”…
Losing weight can be a challenge for many of us. For those of us that exercise regularly, further weight loss can also be frustrating. When beginning your commitment to a diet and exercise program to lose weight, it seems initially the weight does come off in manner that can be fairly satisfying.
But for those of us that have already been committed to healthier food choices, and regular exercise, the challenges of (further) weight loss can continue. It’s not uncommon to hear exercising women relate the difficulties of losing any more weight. And for me, like others, we may watch the scale actually start to ‘increase’ despite regular exercise and healthy food intake! I’ve had to reach back to my medical references to feel some sense of comfort for why this may be happening.
In our society today, women have a choice as to where to deliver their babies. Though home births have been on the slow increase (with some ‘popularization’ by certain celebrity backing,) we should be careful not to ‘over-glamourize’ the concept of home birth. Before considering the option of home birth, it’s vitally important for us to understand the risks of delivering a baby at home, even when those desires for home birth are based on concerns for a more private, comfortable, or ‘natural’ birthing experience.
Though the risk of neonatal death from a home birthing experience is (overall) considered low, findings from a new Cornell University study on home births show us that the risk of neonatal death is nearly 4X higher for babies delivered at home than those delivered in a hospital setting. According to lead author Dr. Amos Grunebaum, a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Cornell University's Weill Cornell Medical College, the predominant reason why “Home birth is more dangerous”, is that births occurring at home don't have the advantage of a hospital delivery, where immediate critical care is available for the baby if a complication arises. "There's insufficient equipment and personnel available [in the home] to address complications," Grunebaum says. Woman should know these risks before considering a home birth.
In the process of labor your baby’s normal fetal heart rate patterns assure us of the well-being of the baby, and it’s tolerance of the process of labor. During labor, the baby’s heart rate is monitored most commonly by a device called the Electronic Fetal Monitor. Many of you may be familiar with the device with the 2 Velcro straps wrapped across your belly. One of the circular sensors of the monitor laid across your abdomen picks up the fetal heart rate, while the other sensor measures the frequency of your contractions.
While we don’t intend for labor to be a ‘stressful’ condition for you or your baby, the reality is that the arduous process of labor can be a stress to both of you. While in labor, we monitor our Moms with vital signs, oxygen status, often IV hydration, and pain management when requested. Monitoring of the baby’s status during labor happens by our interpretation of the baby’s fetal heart rate patterns, using the Electronic Fetal Monitor. The monitor uses Doppler ultrasound wave forms (no radiation exposure) to record the fetal heart rate pattern, and is considered completely safe, posing no risk to your baby.
Though my career as a trained Ob/Gyn physician gives me expertise in Women’s Reproductive Health conditions, across the board, the most common medical condition I see regularly is obesity, and women struggling with weight loss management. In this 2014 upcoming year, I’ve decided to focus, both personally and professionally, on the emphasis, education, and support of weight loss, in my online work and with patients in the office.
According to the CDC, obesity affects nearly one third of all Americans, and is a known risk factor for common health conditions including hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. From a Reproductive Health perspective, we also know obesity to be linked with obstetrical complications, irregular menstrual cycles, and both breast and uterine cancers.
To know me, is to know the 'worker-bee'. My plate is usually quite full with the responsibilities of my career, a full-time Ob/Gyn physician, the ‘part-time’ role I play in assisting in the administrative duties of our practice, a Women’s health blogger, and Mommy, wife, sister, daughter and friend.
I’ve always enjoyed my work, never complaining about the dedicated additional time and energy it takes to build a high quality business that serves its public well. Though finding a healthy balance between my work life and personal/home life has been one of my perpetual challenges. (My Mom says I got the ‘work-a-holic’ gene from my Dad…She says she’s had “no problem” with knowing how to relax!)
Insurance changes, high deductibles, and faulty marketplace applicability are just a few of the burdensome changes invoked as a result of the ACA. Despite the many changes we’re sure to see in our insurance plans, keep in mind that many of the currently available preventive health screenings not only will continue to be available, but importantly, will be covered at no cost to you (no deductible and no co-pay,) by the ACA mandates. Annual Pap smear screenings, mammograms, contraception, and vaccinations will be covered by most insurance plans as a “No-fee Preventative benefit”, even if you participate in a high deductible plan.
Whether you find yourself needing to purchase insurance on the marketplace, or not, it’s possible that you may find changes in your current insurance coverage, such as the institution of higher deductibles. Studies show that participants of high deductible plans are less likely to utilize health services, even those services that are covered at ‘no cost’.
Hi all, I wanted to discuss something that plagues a lot of women with pelvic pain, and that is endometriosis. Many of you know what that is. For those of you that are not familiar with it, please referred to previous post on this blog.
Traditionally, endometriosis is diagnosed via laparoscopic surgery. We can see the active lesions and cauterize them. Once the lesions are cauterized the pain will improve. It is well known that these lesions typically have a dark brown or "chocolate" color appearance. However, it is now agreed that these lesions have a wide range of colors depending how active they are. Some of these are clear which is difficult to see with traditional laparoscopy.
I'm hearing of women losing weight with the HCG injections, and I decided to look into it. While Dr. Sheri Emma, Creator of the Dr. Emma's HCG Protocol claims that this 'crash' diet allows you to loose weight while maintaining muscle, other researcher have shown the HCG injections to be no more beneficial than saline-water/placebo injections for weight loss. The HCG diet plan usually involves severe calorie restriction (500-1500 cal/day), and it's this significant caloric reduction that's likely responsible for the weight loss, rather than the HCG injections themselves. Dr. Emma quotes, "Remember, HCG does not make you loose weight - the diet makes you loose weight!"
Keep in mind, the safest and most healthy way to loose weight is still by moderate calorie restriction & Exercise! :)
Suzanne Hall, MD
Eastside Gynecology Obstetrics
Our busy lives as working women, mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters, daughters and friends leave little time for ourselves. I'm trying to learn the importance of "Me Time", of which I'm learning to equate with a "balanced" life. I love being a "giver", but we can't forget to take time for ourselves, to rejuvenate and rest.
Check out my guest post on WhattoExpect.com on finding my "Me Time"...
Suzanne Hall, MD
In modern obstetrics, there is a growing trend in expecting mothers’ request for ‘elective’ Cesarean section (‘Cesarean Section on Maternal Request’.) This ‘elective’ cesarean delivery, is a maternal request for Cesarean section delivery, in the absence of any maternal or fetal need (nor medical indication) for Cesarean section birth. (This particular ‘request’ for Cesarean section refers to a maternal request for a first-time Cesarean delivery… not a request for a repeat Cesarean birth, as in the case of a mother with previous Cesarean Section deliveries.) In the U.S. 2.5% of births are performed by Cesarean section for this request. In my experience, concern and anxiety regarding pain in labor seem to represent the most common reason for this request.
When is the right time to start ‘the talk’ with teens about sex-related issues…how to say No -or- how to protect themselves against pregnancy and STDs if they are, or considering, sexual activity? Some studies do suggest that parents may underestimate their teen’s sexually activity. According to the CDC, among U.S. high school students surveyed in 2011, 47.4% have already had sexual intercourse.
As the health providers in our practice, we want to provide health guidance regarding responsible sexual behaviors, for both teens who are and who are not sexually active. We’ve developed a new campaign in our office to encourage health habits for teens, called “i-ProMiss Health.” Our teen patients will receive a personal wallet-sized card –a ‘personal health promise contract’-to sign (and keep with them) after considering their own personal decisions regarding the health related issues of abstinence, condom use, healthy eating and exercise. The personal wallet card will be accompanied by an “i-ProMiss Health” rubber band bracelet as a personal reminder token.
Hopefully our teens (and parents) appreciate it!
In the recent several years, public health initiatives have been underway to increase public awareness of the prevalence of the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) among the sexually active population, it’s health consequences of genital warts and cervical cancer, and the recommendations for Gardasil, one the available vaccines effective in the prevention of HPV. How much do you know/understand about HPV?
Test your knowledge of HPV here, with this simple quiz:
1. Of sexually transmitted infections, the most common is:
- – HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus)
- – HSV (the Herpes Simplex Virus)
- – HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
2. The HPV virus is spread by:
- Genital contact, most commonly through sex
- Oral-genital contact
- Straight and same-sex partners
- All of the above
3. The HPV is the cause of most cases of both genital warts, and cervical cancer?
4. The majority of cases of HPV infection cause no (visible) signs of infection at all, and are cleared by our body’s own immune system?
5. The HPV is a ‘newly’ discovered virus, linked with genital warts and cervical cancer?
6. The HPV vaccines are more than 90% effective in preventing genital warts and cervical cancer in femalefemafemifemales vaccinated before their sexual debut?
(See next page for answers...)
Have you had embarrassing episodes of leaking urine? This is actually not uncommon for women. I’d like to simplify the explanation of the 2 most common reasons for urinary incontinence. We’ll start first with the anatomy…
Imagine the bladder as a ‘balloon’ that holds our urine, located centrally just above the mid pubic bone. (It actually dwells right on top of the lower uterus.) This balloon has a short ‘straw’ that empties it (the urethra.) The urethra exits the bladder at about a 45 degree angle, in a ‘locked’ angle disallowing urine’s unexpected release. For urination to actually occur, a complex neurologic system connects the brain’s signal (which we mentally initiate) to the bladder to ‘command’ urination, with the bladder’s function of ‘contracingt’ to empty the urine, and the urethra ‘relaxing’, to allow the urine to actually release.
Have you avoided having a mammogram due to fear of ‘pain’ from the testing? This question came up on a recent vacation, while chatting with some of my (non-medical) girlfriends. They related knowing women who’ve avoided having a mammogram because of concerns of the mammogram being too painful. They suggested I write a post about it.
Having ordered many mammograms for women over the years (and having experienced a few myself), though the occasional woman may relate ‘pain’ with the mammogram, most women do not describe the test as “painful”. Uncomfortable and scary…yes. But then again, pain is a subjective matter. In a recent study polling 200 women on their level of pain with a mammogram, 72% rated the “pain” as that equal to a ‘tight fitting shoe’, or a ‘mild headache’. Which of us hasn’t pushed on through their day with a tight fitting shoe, or a mild headache?
Our breasts tend to be more full and tender the week before our menstrual period. If you’re concerned about pain with the mammogram, I’d suggest scheduling the test just after your menstrual period, and not the week or so before your period. Caffeine can cause breast pain as well, so avoiding caffeinated beverages the week or so before the mammogram may also help. An over-the-counter pain reliever taken prior to the mammogram is an option as well.
Apprehension about having a mammogram is understandable. Our breast on a metal plate, with a second plate coming down to compress it…is scary. But, in my opinion, not scarier than the possibility of a missed diagnosis of breast cancer.
Speak with your healthcare provider about scheduling your mammogram, as well as ways to make the testing more comfortable.
Suzanne Hall, MD (@drsuzyyhall)
Eastside Gynecology Obstetrics, PC
Offices in Roseville, Grosse Pointe, Macomb, Rochester, MI