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Dense breast tissue is an independent risk factor for breast cancer, both increasing our risk of breast cancer and decreasing the sensitivity of mammography to detect breast cancer. Increased breast density, as identified by mammography, can negatively impact the ability of mammography to detect breast cancer. Further, women with dense breast tissue have a 3-5 fold increased risk for breast cancer, over those without significant breast density.
“My husband wants me to discuss my lack of interest in sex”… As Gynecologists, this is a patient concern not unfamiliar to us. Has low sexual desire been a concern for you in your relationship? Would you ever consider the use of a medication for its improvement? Well I’d hope that most of my patients would want to first examine the possible reasons for low libido, even if their answer is ‘yes’ to trying a medication for it.
But herein lies the concern. Defining the sources of low libido in women is not easy. Research tells us that nearly 4 in 10 women experience some degree of female sexual distress at some point in our lives. The definition of Female Hypoactive Sexual Disorder is made by conditions characterized by loss of sexual desire, impaired arousal, difficulty in achieving orgasm, or sexual pain, with low desire and sexual pain being the most common.
The stages of female sexual arousal have been well studied, and fairly well defined, since the 1960’s with research done by Masters and Johnson. However, the components of female sexual desire remain complex. Sexual desire in women is likely a multi-factor phenomenon, involving biologic, psychologic and social factors, which can elude clear delineation.
Are you a woman still using douching as a method to ‘clean’ your vagina? If you are, you’re not alone. Studies say that up to 1 in 4 women use douching. But it’s time to kick the habit! Despite some cultural beliefs that douching ‘cleans’ the vagina, the truth is that douching may actually increase our risks for vaginal infections. The vagina is well equipped with a natural balance of good bacteria, and needs no ‘cleaning’. Douching can disrupt this balance of protective bacteria, and increase the chances for overgrowth of infectious bacteria, thus increasing our chances for vaginal infection.
Whether common knowledge or not, the Cesarean Section birth rate in the U.S. hovers around 31%. meaning that 1 of 3 babies in our country are born by Cesarean Section. In the last 2 decades, the rate of Cesarean Section births has continued to rise, even for first-time mothers. According to our national organization, ACOG, the most common reason for Cesarean Section birth among first-time mothers is abnormal progess in labor. The rate of Cesarean Section birth among first-time mothers varies throughout the country, raising their concern for the re-evaluation and standardization of the definitions of 'normal labor progress' among practicing Obstetricians in our country.
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.
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’.
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!
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
A natural birthing experience is desired by many expecting mothers…But what does ‘Natural Birth’ really mean? For some women it means a vaginal birth with little or no medical interventions, for some it means a vaginal birth without pain medications (or without an epidural), for others it may mean any accomplished vaginal birth, and not a cesarean section.
Nearly a third of babies in this country are delivered by cesarean section. The more recent adoption of early skin-to-skin contact and intraoperative breastfeeding, not only benefit maternal-infant bonding, but also benefits the baby in terms of earlier success with breastfeeding. It simulates a more ‘natural birthing’ experience, preventing the feeling of ‘disconnect’ for the parents of cesarean section babies, while separated from their baby in the operating suite.
As a practicing Ob/Gyn, I hold no strict or definite definition of ‘Natural Birth’. I allow the patient to decide and define whatever ‘Natural Birth’ means to them.
Suzanne Hall, MD (@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.
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.