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In discussing the concerns of Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) with patients in the office, it’s evident that ‘the fear’ of developing breast cancer from hormone use, by far outweighs the benefits of use, for many women. With breast cancer being the number one cancer diagnosed among US women, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths (second to lung cancer,) those concerns are certainly understandable.
Though concern for an association of breast cancer from hormone use have perplexed patients and the medical community for many years, in the last 10 years, that level of concern has escalated to nearly a level of fear. Despite some public perception of hormones as the cause of breast cancer, the medical evidence does not support hormones as a cause for breast cancer. Unlike the causal link between smoking and most cases of lung cancer, a causal link between hormone use and breast cancer has not been established. In fact, the cause of breast cancer is still unknown.
Expecting and new mothers are faced with many decisions in preparation for the care of their newborn baby, the decision to breastfeed, being among one of the most important ones. We’ve all heard the advice of family and friends that “breastfeeding is better for the baby”, but how true do we really know this to be?
The fact is, it is true. Medical research has shown human breast milk, over formula feeding, to benefit the infant in several ways. Some of those benefits include, improvement in gastrointestinal functioning, improvement in immune defenses, thereby reducing the occurrences of several acute illnesses, and enhancing the maternal-infant bonding, possibly reducing infant stress. Because of the proven health benefits to infants, many national health organizations have recommended exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first 6 months of life (i.e., Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, The World Health Organization.)
As an Ob/Gyn physician, it’s not uncommon for me to hear the question from patients, “Am I actually ABLE to conceive?” For some women who are planning pregnancy, as well as for some others who’ve never had a pregnancy (intended or not)…the question, “Can I get pregnant?” may be a looming concern.
Other than actually attaining a ‘positive’ pregnancy test, there really is no other specific test allowing us to know IF a woman CAN actually achieve pregnancy. What we do know is, that for the normal couple (those without risk factors/or a history of infertility, regularly sexually active,) the chances of conception are actually stacked in our favor. In fact, for regularly sexually active couples, there is a 15-25% probability of pregnancy with each menstrual cycle!
It is expected that nearly 90% of sexually active couples, without contraception, would become pregnant (intentionally or not) within one year. The one year mark is typically used in defining those couples with ‘infertility’…the inability to become pregnant, despite frequent, unprotected sex within one year. An infertility evaluation by your health care provider may be initiated at this time, and even earlier (at 6 months) for those women over 35.
Suzanne Hall, MD (@drsuzyyhall)
Eastside Gynecology Obstetrics
An exciting time for expecting parents is the first sensation of fetal movement, medically termed ‘quickening’. Though fetal movement can be seen by ultrasound as early as the first trimester, the perceived, physical sensation of fetal movement generally occurs by around the 20th week of the pregnancy. This sensation of fetal movement may vary among women, and among different pregnancies. Some first-time moms may not perceive this movement until up to 22nd-24th week of pregnancy, while others may recognize the sensation of movement as early as 16-18 weeks.
This sensation of early fetal movement has been described as feeling like the fluttering of a butterfly, a tickling, or a light tap. The differences in the timing of your perception of fetal movement may be based fetal/placental location, or the anatomy of your abdominal wall. Initially, it may be hard to distinguish these movements from a feeling of gas or a hunger pang. But once you recognize the sensation as fetal movement, you’ll most likely be reassured and happy with your baby’s activity!
Would you describe your sexual response as ‘fireworks’…‘a budding flame’…or ‘not much at all’? Despite our societal conditioning of the ‘typical’ female orgasmic response, not all women experience “fireworks” at climax (like in the movies,)…possibly leaving those women with a ‘less than typical’ response, left wondering…‘Is there something wrong with me?’
If you experience ‘fireworks’, that’s great! But not all women experience ‘fireworks’ with climax (orgasm.) In fact, less than a third of women even consistently experience orgasm with sex. Like other sensory responses in our body, the frequency and quality of our individual sexual response vary amongst women (and often vary amongst experiences). Just like the ‘savor’ of chocolate cake, the ‘scent’ of spicy perfume, the picturesque ‘vision’ of a floral garden bring different sensations to different women, so does our experience of sex. Women vary in type, intensity and duration of orgasm, as well as in our level of satisfaction with the experience.
There is no ‘right’ answer for your response to sexual stimulation. A ‘less than typical’ response, is only a problem if you see it as one, and desire more from your experience.
What is a Certified Nurse-Midwife?
More and more women in the US are choosing a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) for their pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and well-woman care. Certified Nurse Midwives are licensed health care providers educated in nursing and midwifery. They have master’s degrees in nursing, certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board, and are licensed to practice midwifery in the state of Michigan. National statistics show that in 2009 CNMs attended 11.9% of vaginal births, an all time-high. This trend has been discussed in newspapers such as the New York Times and in movies such as The Business of Being Born. As a leader and innovator in women’s health care, Eastside Gynecology and Obstetrics has committed to bring midwifery services to their clients, the only practice that does so in the area.
The midwives at Eastside Gyn/OB provide personalized, individualized care. We nurture each mother and her family with sensitive, holistic care. Our clients love that they get to know the person who will be taking care of them for their birth. We also have a commitment to promoting physiologic labor and birth, believing that labor works best when allowed to begin in its own time and progress at its own pace. At the same time, we are trained to recognize those situations where intervention is warranted and have the benefit of a close and supportive working relationship with the physicians in the practice when referral or consultation is needed. As midwives, we aspire for you to have the birth experience that you desire. We promote mother-infant bonding immediately after birth, delayed cord clamping, breastfeeding, and childbirth classes such as hypnobirthing. We also desire for each birth to be a family experience for all who wish to be involved.
Heavy menstrual flow is a common occurrence affecting 10-35% of women, and a common reason for visits to the gynecologist. Though the causes for heavy menstrual periods (menorrhagia) vary, the Novasure endometrial ablation procedure is an excellent treatment option for many women, when child-bearing is completed.
As an Ob/Gyn physician with greater than 10 years of experience performing the Novasure procedure (and with hundreds of satisfied patients having selected the procedure), I thought it may be helpful to discuss common questions from patients considering the procedure as their treatment of choice. Here are my answers to 5 common patient questions regarding the Novasure procedure:
1. How is the procedure performed?/What can I expect from my menstrual flow after the procedure…lighter periods or no period?
The procedure is considered minimally invasive, performed through the vaginal aspect without surgical incisions. The Novasure wand (containing a triangular mesh) is inserted within the uterus, where a short (less than 2 minute) cauterization of the uterine lining occurs. The procedure may be performed in an outpatient surgical setting (with anesthesia) or possibly in your doctor’s office. You should expect to be back to normal activities within a day or so.
Several research studies on the results of the Novasure procedure note over 90-95% patient satisfaction with the procedure. Expected results range from notably lighter menstrual periods (for most patients)…to skipped/or absent menstrual flows (up to 40% of patients.) It’s not possible to predict for patient’s what result they will get, but when questioned overall, most patients are (very) satisfied with the results achieved.
Suzanne Hall, MD, FACOG
Heavy menstrual periods (medically termed ‘menorrhagia’) is a common GYN concern, and a frequent reason for women visiting their doctors. 10-35% of women report heavy menstrual periods in population-based studies. Though patients may not know the clinical definition of menorrhagia, I believe them when they report ‘heavy periods’… (based on relative changes in their flow compared to when their period was more ‘normal’…or based on their perception of the flow being ‘heavier than normal’.)Menorrhagia is clinically defined as menstrual flow lasting longer than 7 days…or greater than 80ml (5-6 tablespoons) blood flow…but who really knows how to measure blood flow that way? Admittedly, for both patients and physicians, blood loss is difficult to quantitate by these measures. More relevant descriptions of heavy menstrual flow may include
50%-90% of pregnant women experience symptoms of ‘morning sickness’ in the early months of pregnancy. These symptoms can range from mild intolerance to certain odors or food, to more significant, daily nausea and vomiting (N/V). Studies suggest that up to 25% of pregnant women experience nausea, 50% experience both nausea and vomiting, leaving only 25% of pregnant women unaffected. In those affected, the symptoms usually manifest by the 9th week of pregnancy.
Much is written and discussed about home/medical remedies for morning sickness, but much less is written/discussed about the (possible) causes for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP). Though the cause of NVP has not been proven, it has been postulated that NVP is an innate mechanism, presenting as a ‘protection’ for the developing fetus (an inherent ‘aversion’ to substances that could be harmful to the fetus.) Leading medical theories consider the adverse reaction of the ‘hormones of pregnancy’ as potentially causative (in the absence of other intestinal or medical problems that could present with N/V.)
At 15 years old I remember asking myself, “Is this what they mean by menstrual ‘cramps’?” The term ‘cramp’ just seemed too mild to explain the horrid, 1 or 2 day experience, which regularly preceded the start of my monthly period. Back pain, ‘front’ pain, nausea, and sweats…felt more like a suffering from the flu…with an elephant stepping on my back!... than what I’d describe as menstrual ‘cramps’. The usual ‘mother’s home remedies’ like a heating pad, hot tea, or over-the-counter pain reliever, hardly ever seemed to do enough, but I adhered to the regimen every month anyway…What else was I going to do?
As a Gynecologist, I now know the significance of the menstrual ‘cramps’. In our rhythmic, monthly, hormonal cycle, and in response to the rise in our ovarian hormones (estrogen and progesterone), our ovaries form the ‘dominant follicle’, which releases the fertilizable egg for that month. At the same time, the uterine lining develops a thick, shaggy layer (like a shag carpet) to enhance implantation of a fertilized egg (egg fertilized by a male sperm=pregnancy.) On the other hand, if no egg fertilization occurs (no pregnancy), the ovarian hormones decline, allowing for release/shedding of the previously developed thickened uterine lining tissue (representing our ‘menstrual flow’), and the obvious sign of menstrual bleeding.
Did you know that up to 10-15% of pregnancies are affected by hypertension? About 5% of those cases are in women previously known to have hypertension (termed ‘chronic hypertension’), prior to pregnancy. Another 5-8%, develop hypertension within the pregnancy (termed ‘gestational hypertension’ or ‘pregnancy-induced hypertension’.)
Hypertensive disorders are characterized by blood pressures consistently ranging 140/90 or greater. Women with chronic hypertension (existing before pregnancy, or diagnosed before 20 weeks of gestation) may require blood pressure medications to control their blood pressure, even throughout the pregnancy. Those medications should be reviewed with your healthcare provider, to assess their safety in pregnancy, even before conception.
If anyone should know the concerns of choosing pregnancy and childbirth later in life, as an Ob-Gyn physician, having given birth to my first child at 39 yo, I should think I’d be one of them. With my training and experience as an Ob-Gyn physician, I was fully aware of my risks in deciding on childbirth…as a woman of ‘advanced maternal age’. I counsel women on their risks nearly every day.
I already knew that at my age, it may take longer for me to get pregnant. I knew that advancing age is associated with subfertility (prolongation in time to achieve conception,) and I knew this to be related to altered/changing hormonal patterns as we age, leading to suboptimal ovulation. I already knew that there is decreased ovarian reserve (fewer fertilizable eggs remaining in our ovaries) as we age. I also knew that advancing age was associated with a higher risk of miscarriage, most likely related to the poorer quality of aging eggs, and the increased chances of fertilizing an egg containing abnormal chromosomal material...
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Suzanne Hall, MD (@drsuzyyhall)
A quote from a friend & middle-aged Mom--"So many of my friends had sex by age 17...but they refuse to think their daughters are having sex by age 17!"
According to the CDC's 2011 stats 47.4% of high school students have been sexually active. In my practice I see many parents struggle to balance between contraception for the (realistic) potential of sexual activity
And to remember, abstinence is still a choice.
I’m glad you asked. There seems to be some confusion about the term, and how it’s used to define our reproductive state of being. First off, menopause is the permanent cessation of our reproductive hormones, and therefore, the end of our menstrual cycling. The average age of menopause is approximately 51yo in the United States, though some women may end earlier, and some later. For most women it’s not so much the ending of the periods that’s bothersome, but the symptoms that may go along with this “change"...
Check out this amazing 'life-like' computerized graphic video of fibroids from simulated Myosure procedure!
Who really likes going to see the Gynecologist? For some women, it probably ranks right up there with getting a tooth drilled at the dentist, or like nails to a chalkboard. But let’s face it, the gynecologic exam/Pap smear is a necessary part of preventative Women’s Health screening. Whether it’s your first visit, or you’re seeing the Ob/Gyn you’ve known for years, here are a few tips that may help to make your visit go more smoothly…
Prepare your questions/concerns
Make a list of your concerns/questions, include your medical history, medications, allergies, ect…
In that the average patient-physician interaction is 10-20 minutes, it’s helpful when your list of problems/concerns is concise. Know your medical/surgical history, medication allergies, and list your current medications. Think about (or write down) your problem list/symptoms, when they began/worsened, what aggravates/or improve the symptoms, and from a gynecologic perspective, if they’re cycling with your menstrual period. Understand that if your list of questions/concerns is long, we may have to address some of them at a subsequent visit.
We’re fertile at the ovulatory time in our cycle, which with regular menstrual cycles, is around cycle day 14. This is approximately 2 weeks from the first day of your period (and also, 2 week from your next period, if you have regular cycles.) The issue is, not all cycles are regular, and therefore the timing of ovulation may be unpredictable. Tracking your menstrual cycle/ovulatory time (the rhythm method) can be used for contraception (natural family planning) or to predict ovulation when you’re trying to conceive
Confused about Menopausal Hormone Replacement Therapy? Let's discuss the differences in FDA-Approved versus Bio-Identical Hormones...
I often use analogies when explaining concepts with patients in the office. Though the issue of Menopause/Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a complex one, with many different considerations…We have to start somewhere in grasping the array of options. Here’s my bit. In my analogy we’ll start with 3 options:
1) FDA-approved HRT,
2) Bio-Identical HRT
3) Herbal options.
One of the main differences in FDA HRT and Bio-Identical HRT is their derivation. FDA/HRT may come from plant or animal sources, whereas the Bio/HRT and herbal options come from plant sources only. I explain to patients, you can take certain plants (mostly soy containing yams) and “squeeze out’’ products EQUAL to “human hormones” (there are both FDA-approved HRTs and Bio-identical/HRT options.) Certain other plants have “plant hormone” with similar qualities, but not equal to human hormone (isoflavones like soy, Siberian rhubarb.)
The use of estrogen/progesterone containing Birth Control Pills have long been known to slightly increase one’s risk for Venous Thromboembolic events (i.e., deep vein blood clots.) Recent reports have put into question additional increased risk by use of BCPs containing the progesterone, dropserinone (Yasmin, Yaz, Beyaz, and their generics.) Available studies on this issue are inconsistent, some studies showing a fractional increased risk, others showing no increased risk. In comparing risks of VTE, the increased risk from any Birth Control Pill (3-9/10,000) is still significantly less than the increased risk of VTE in pregnancy (5-20/10,000), and the immediate post-delivery time period (40-65/10,000)… According to the FDA’s advisory committee, the benefits of all contraceptive methods still outweigh the risks.
(See WXYZ's interview with Dr. Suzanne Hall on their recent story on Yaz