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|Category: Gynecologic/Women's Health Concerns|
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
Is this Depression or PMS? According to ACOG, "Depression and anxiety disorders are the most common conditions that overlap with PMS. About one half of women seeking treatment for PMS have one of these disorders. The symptoms of depression and anxiety are much like the emotional symptoms of PMS. Women with depression, however, often have symptoms that are present all month long. These symptoms may worsen before or during their periods. Your health care provider will want to find out whether you have one of these conditions if you are having PMS symptoms." (posted 7/9/13 by @drsuzyyhall)
Breast/Nipple Discharge? Though most cases of nipple discharge (especially occurring with stimulation or expression of the breast) are benign (non-cancerous), an evaluation/exam by your doctor is usually warranted. (posted 5/28/13 by @drsuzyyhall)
Low Libido? Studies have shown Testosterone supplementation to be effective in treating low libido in menopausal women. While Estrogen Therapy may not directly effect libido, it does promote increased vaginal lubrication, improving vaginal pain with sex. Testosterone supplements are not approved by the FDA for treatment in women. Speak with your healthcare provider regarding safety concerns. (posted 4/3/13 by @drsuzyyhall.)
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.
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
You may be worried about first visit to the gynecologist. Don’t worry, this is normal, and with a little preparation it can be an empowering and educational experience. Let your doctor know that you are nervous and we can be more effective at walking you through the process. The American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists recommends young women make their first visit to the gynecologist between ages 13-15. Your doctor will want to ask you questions regarding your medical and surgical history, menstruation history, sexual history, exposures to alcohol or tobacco, and review vaccinations you’ve received or may be due for. If these topics seem too personal, or you are uncomfortable discussing them, remember your conversation with the doctor is confidential. It may be helpful to go to the appointment with a parent or friend, but be sure some of the time is spent with you and the doctor in private, so you can voice concerns or questions that might be awkward to discuss around others. You may want to write questions down before-hand, as this is an opportunity for you to gain knowledge regarding your health and well-being.mind well-informed.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.)
So what is this HPV all about? HPV (human papilloma virus) is a virus that causes 90% of genital warts in men and women, 75% of cervical cancer in women. It also causes 70% of vaginal cancers and 50% of vulvar cancers as well.
So it is a big deal?
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
The recommended time for getting mammograms is at age 40 and yearly thereafter. However, I like to get one around age 35 as a baseline and age 40 thereafter. The reason is that in my practice area, there seems to be higher incidence of breast cancer, especially in younger women. So because of this demographic I get the earlier screening.
Talk to your doctor about what is best for you!
Thanks and I’ll talk to you soon.