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'Women's Health' posts

Information on emergency birth control

Oops, the condom fell off or broke. Oops, you went away for the weekend and your birth control pills stayed home. In the past, women ran the risk of an unintended pregnancy when birth control was not used or failed.
 
Emergency birth control has been available for many years, starting with medicine approaches that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In 1999, Plan B, levonorgestrel pills taken by mouth, was approved for use by prescription and in 2006 was approved without prescription for women 18 years old and over. It was approved for those 17 and older in 2009 without prescription. In late February, 2014, FDA approved over the counter sales of generic emergency contraceptives without proof of age.
 
Another  ...

How to get the most out of your OB/GYN appointment

Unless you are having a baby, seeing an OB/GYN often makes women feel very nervous.  This can lead to forgetting questions, forgetting important information about your condition and leaving feeling dissatisfied.

In order to get the most out of your appointment here are some simple tips:

1. Come prepared!
  • Bring a list of your medications; this can help us be sure that anything we prescribe will be safe for you.  Your problem may also be related to your medication – for example, blood thinners can cause heavy periods.
  • Know your family history. Things that are important for OB/GYNs to know include family member with blood clots, recurrent (more than 3) miscarriages, family members with cancer of the breast, ovary, uterus or colon (bowel.)  It is also helpful to know the age they were diagnosed.
  • Bring a list of questions! The more you ask, the more you’ll know.  We want our patients to be well informed so that we can help you make the right treatment plan for you. Also, there may not be time to go over everything in one appointment so make sure you start with what is important to you.
2. Check your inhibitions at the door!
  • Trust me, we have seen and heard everything and there is very little than can shock us! It is important that you are open and honest so that we can make sure we understand exactly what is going on to come up with the right diagnosis. 
  • It is likely that ...

To Mammogram or Not to Mammogram? A note on recent studies

A Canadian medical research study has recently been published questioning the value of doing screening mammograms on women in their forties. The article has spurred controversy because the results contradict multiple other similar research studies which showed that women in that age group who get regular mammograms actually are spared death from breast cancer more often that women who are not invited to screening.

Some problems with the methods of Canadian study, published in the journal BMJ, were pointed out by a scientist at the University of Washington, Judith Malmgren, who has worked with Swedish Medical Center doctors to see how women in their forties have fared in our system. Click here to read Dr. Malmgren’s letter to the editor of BMJ.

There are two ironic features to the Canadian study. First, the authors say it is okay for women to not get screening starting in their forties “when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is readily available.” This means that it is okay to diagnose breast cancer later because you can mop up bigger and more advanced cancers with treatment like chemotherapy, radiation and bigger surgery. But at Swedish, we do not think that many women prefer more severe therapy rather than earlier detection.

Secondly ...

4 alternatives to a hysterectomy

There are many reasons women need a hysterectomy.

Some of the most common are:

  • Heavy periods that are not controlled on hormones or an inability to take hormones to control the period.
  • Large fibroids that press on the bladder or the bowel, or are so large they can be felt on the abdomen.
  • Endometriosis (usually if this is requiring a hysterectomy it is due to both pain and bleeding).
There are several treatments to avoid hysterectomy:

  • Uterine artery embolization where microscopic plastic beads are inserted into the uterine arteries to block the majority of blood flow to the uterus.  This causes the uterus to slowly shrink in size.  The uterus may decrease to half of its normal size within 2-3 years.  Initially there is a lot of inflammation of the uterus as it loses its blood supply.  The pain associated with this will usually require ibuprofen and narcotics.  Most women stay in the hospital for overnight, and it is usually about 2 weeks before you are feeling well enough to resume normal activities.
  • Myomectomy, a surgical removal of the fibroids.  There are two ...

What you should know about ovarian cysts

Finding out there is a cyst on the ovary is often a concerning experience for a woman.  Women aren't sure what it means for them or what will need to be done.
 
A woman has two ovaries, which produce eggs, which allow a woman to get pregnant, and produce female hormones.  These hormones cause the lining of the uterus to grow, which then shed (as the period).  Ovaries are actively making hormones and ripening eggs from when the period first starts until when she goes through menopause.  As an egg is ripening in the ovary, several small cysts will form.  These grow to about 2.5 cm, or one inch, and then when the woman ovulates or releases the egg the cyst drains and is gone.  So when a woman has an ultrasound that shows a cyst less than 3 cm it is usually a "follicular" cyst - that is a cyst with a developing egg.  This type of cyst is completely normal and will come and go.
 
Cysts that are  ...

New options for genetic testing in pregancy

Congratulations!  You just found out you are pregnant and so many things start going through your mind.  When you’re not dry heaving or completely exhausted you start planning for your exciting future but in the back of your mind you wonder… how do I know everything is okay with my baby?

We are entering an exciting time in the field of obstetrics that involves less invasive and more accurate options for genetic testing in pregnancy.  ACOG, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, recommends that all women, regardless of maternal age, be offered prenatal testing for chromosomal abnormalities. 

For quite sometime our options for this testing have been somewhat stagnant.  We have offered noninvasive risk profiling that involves a mixture of blood tests and ultrasounds at various times in the first and second trimesters to help evaluate the baby’s risk for Down syndrome or other lethal chromosomal abnormalities.  Depending on how these tests are processed, the sensitivity ranges from 80-95% with about a 5% false positive rate.  They are fairly accurate at identifying babies at higher risk, but can have false positive results (meaning an abnormal result followed by more invasive testing that shows normal results but of course this causes a lot of worry for the patient). 

Obviously we want to be able to offer testing that has a high rate of detection and a low rate of false positives.  More invasive testing is often offered also.  This testing involves removing a sample of placental cells called chorionic villus sampling, or removing a sample of fetal cells from the amniotic fluid called amniocentesis.  These cells are then analyzed for chromosomal abnormalities.  Although these invasive tests are the most accurate, they do carry a small risk of miscarriage or fetal loss. 

Fortunately, new testing has come out on the market called cell free fetal DNA testing.  This is ....

When should I have my first pelvic exam?

A good time to schedule a visit with a gynecologist (or women’s health specialist) is when you first have problems or concerns with menstrual periods, including premenstrual moods, acne around menses, vaginal discharge or any other cyclic discomfort. That appointment will involve a conversation about what is bothering you and may include a pelvic exam or may not.  Likely the doctor will ask you questions and together you will decide whether or not an exam is necessary.

Around age 13, even if you feel fine and are just wondering when you should come in for a routine exam, is a good time to schedule an appointment to discuss your female health, contraception and screening for sexually transmitted infection.  Vaccinations may be recommended if you have not already received routine immunizations. Some of the things that may be discussed include your health history, family health history, your habits with regard to diet and exercise, smoking or any drug use and sexual activities.  Some of these topics are things you may find difficult to discuss with friends and family.  In the gynecologists office we talk about those things all of the time!  Often we give you pamphlets or point to online resources for you.  The conversation is confidential and it is okay for you to remind the health care provider that you wish it to remain confidential. 

What is a pelvic exam and why might I need one?

A pelvic exam is ...

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