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Birth Control: Are You Protected?

The best way to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy among women who are sexually active is to use effective birth control correctly and consistently. Among reversible methods of birth control, intrauterine contraception and the contraceptive implant remain highly effective for years once correctly in place. The effectiveness of the contraceptive shot, pills, patch and ring, and barrier and fertility awareness-based methods, depends on correct and consistent use.

When used correctly, modern contraceptives are very effective at preventing pregnancy, but there is no "best" method of birth control. Each method has its pros and cons. 

There are 61 million U.S. women in their childbearing years (aged 15–44), and about 43 million of them (70%) are at risk of unintended pregnancy. In other words, they are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant but could become pregnant if they and their partners fail to use a contraceptive method correctly and consistently. If you fall into that group, there are many options from which to choose. How does one decide?

Making choices about birth control, or contraception, isn't easy. There are many things to think about.

Before choosing a birth control method, think about:

  • Your overall health

  • How often you have sex

  • The number of sex partners you have

  • If you want to have children someday

  • How well each method works to prevent pregnancy

  • Possible side effects

  • Your comfort level with using the method

Keep in mind, even the most effective birth control methods can fail, but your chances of getting pregnant are lowest if the method you choose always is used correctly and every time you have sex.

If you are interested in starting, changing, or exploring your options for birth control, schedule an appointment with any of our doctors. We can help you find the right solution that fits your unique needs.

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Genetic Testing 101

While most babies are born healthy and without birth defects, approximately 3-5% of all babies are born with a birth defect. Some of these babies will have birth defects that are due to or associated with genetic disorders or syndromes. Women are routinely offered a variety of genetic screening tests during their first three months of pregnancy to evaluate the risk for genetic disorders in their unborn baby. 

The first trimester screening tests are usually done between the 10th and 13th week of pregnancy. These tests involve measuring the level of certain substances in the mother's blood and obtaining an ultrasound.

Information from these screening tests, along with other risk factors such as a woman's age, a couple's ethnic background, and family history of genetic disorders are used to help calculate the odds that a fetus might be born with genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, or sickle cell anemia.  

A key fact to remember is that these tests do not diagnose the disorders, but instead, they only screen for the substances and show if there is an increased risk of a disorder. Further testing is always suggested to make a diagnosis.

Abnormal screening test results don't mean your baby is affected. In fact, most of the time, the fetus is not affected with a disorder, even if the screening result is abnormal. Out of 1,000 serum screening tests, an average of 50 will suggest an increased risk for open neural tube defects, but only one or two of the fetuses will have such a defect. Likewise, an average of 40 out of 1,000 will test positive for increased risk of Down syndrome, but only one or two fetuses will actually have the condition.

Whether or not a woman decides to undergo genetic screening is her own choice, as positive results could produce anxiety and conflicting emotions. It's important to understand one's options and to be informed in order to make educated decisions about what is best for you and your family.

If you are pregnant or are planning on conceiving, talk to any of our doctors at your next appointment about any concerns you may have. You can also ask about what screenings or tests are right for you.

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Robotic Surgery: The Future is Here

The da Vinci Robotic Surgical System uses 3D cameras and multiple robotic arms manipulating minimally invasive instruments with precision. It has been used worldwide since its approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000. 

Unlike industrial robots, surgical robots are not autonomous; they are a collection of wristed “servant” tools called manipulators, which receive digital instructions from an interfaced computer. The  surgeon, who is seated at an ergonomically designed video console with a three-dimensional display, initiates the digital instructions by controlling sophisticated hand grips — essentially, joysticks with seven degrees of freedom. The manipulators inside the patient's body duplicate the surgeon's hand movements at the console, and software filters out even physiologic hand tremors. 

Unaccommodating places are what robot-assisted surgery is all about. The human surgeon is not optimized for tiny spaces. The robot makes it much easier to spare nerves and maneuver through the small, sometimes rigid spaces of the human body. 

Some of the benefits of robotic surgery:

  • Agility - The robot can spin its instruments 360 degrees. The level of precision it can take compared to other open surgeries is much more advanced.
  • Endurance - The robot can hold other parts of the anatomy out of the way indefinitely without fatigue.
  • Minimally invasive - The goal in using the robot is to provide a less-invasive option for procedures like hysterectomies. Due to smaller incisions, less trauma to the body, and greater surgeon precision, robotic surgery means shorter hospital stays, less blood loss, less pain, fewer complications such as infection, and a quicker return to normal activities.

One procedure our doctors use the da Vinci Robotic system to perform is single-site/single incision hysterectomy. In this procedure, your uterus can be removed through a small incision in your belly button using single-incision traditional laparoscopy or da Vinci® Single-Site® Surgery. This procedure allows for virtually scarless results. If you’re facing hysterectomy, schedule a consultation with any of our surgeons to see if robotic surgery is right for you. Make an appointment by calling (702) 438-2229.

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Your Annual Well-Woman Exam: What to Expect

Your well-woman visit is all about you, your body, and your reproductive health. Well-woman visits are also called gynecological exams, pelvic exams, or annual exams. As a female, these visits are an important part of taking care of your health. What happens during a well-woman visit depends on how old you are, your sexual history, and your medical history. 

It’s a good idea to have your first well-woman visit around age 13 to 15. You might talk about your period, especially if you’re worried about it being heavy, painful, or irregular. If you’re under 18, you may get some shots, like the HPV vaccine, as well. If you’re sexually active, you may talk about birth control or STD testing.

Around age 21 or when your doctor decides it’s appropriate, you’ll start needing regular pelvic exams, Pap tests, and breast examinations. As you get older, or as your health changes, your well-woman visits will include other tests and referrals for age-appropriate screenings like mammograms.

One thing that should stay the same no matter your age is having a good, honest relationship with your doctor and members of your healthcare team. It’s important to feel able to talk about healthy relationships and other parts of your emotional health during your well-woman visit. The more honest you are, the better care you’ll get.

What should you expect during an annual well-woman exam?

  • General physical exam (including breast exam)
  • Pelvic exam (pap smear)
  • Update of life and work situation
  • Update of family health history (any new serious illnesses in your family?)
  • Review of your health history
  • Update of current medications, herbs, and supplements (bring list)
  • Need for medication refills
  • Evaluation of need for health screening tests based on age and personal and family history (such as mammogram, test for sexually transmitted diseases, and colon cancer screening)
  • Update on immunizations

Preparing for this yearly appointment isn’t difficult, but here are a few tips to make your well-woman visit go as smoothly as possible:

  • Go on a day when you don’t have your period, or when it’s at least light — unless you have a bleeding problem that your doctor or nurse wants to see.
  • Make a list of the questions you want to ask your doctor or nurse. Write them down so that it’s easier to remember during your appointment.
  • Ask if you can have a friend or parent in the room with you if that would make you feel more comfortable.

Our doctors are here to help with your well-woman needs. Call (702) 438-2229 to schedule an appointment. 

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Pregnancy: The Fetal Frontier

Cutting-edge fetal research is challenging some of the conventional wisdom about pregnancy, producing findings that may surprise you. Research is revealing that pregnancy is not a generically ideal experience to which one must aspire (and, inevitably, fall short of), but instead it's a highly personal and particular shaping of the fetus for the specific world into which it will be born. The mix of influences one encounters in the womb are as individual and idiosyncratic as the pregnant woman herself -- and that's the way nature intended it.

Nonetheless, throughout history, lack of medical knowledge, superstition, and stereotypes have produced several myths and misconceptions about pregnancy. Modern research is debunking some of them: 

  • Myth - Stress during pregnancy is always bad for the fetus.

REALITY: New research shows that a moderate level of stress is actually good for the fetus. It tones the fetus's nervous system and accelerates its development. Women who experienced moderate stress during pregnancy have two-week-old infants with brains that work at a faster speed than infants of mothers without the same stress, and two-year old toddlers with higher motor and mental development scores.

  • Myth - Pregnant women shouldn't eat sweets.

REALITY: There's a big exception to this rule: chocolate. New studies show that pregnant women who eat chocolate every day during pregnancy have babies who show less fear and smile and laugh more often at six months of age. Another study finds that women who eat five or more servings of chocolate each week during their third trimester have a 40 percent lower risk of developing the dangerous high blood pressure condition known as preeclampsia.

  • Myth - Pregnant women should avoid exercise.

REALITY: When a pregnant woman exercises, her fetus gets a beneficial workout too. Research shows that the fetuses of pregnant women who are physically active have heart rates that are slower and more variable which are both signs of good cardiovascular health. The babies of exercisers have lower birth weights and may even become more intelligent adults because of their bigger brains.

  • Myth - Pregnant women should stay away from seafood.

REALITY: In fact, eating lots of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury during pregnancy produces smarter kids. Children whose mothers ate at least twelve ounces of seafood a week during pregnancy had higher verbal IQ, better social and communication skills, and superior motor skills, according to a study published in a leading journal.

  • Myth - Pregnancy is just a nine-month wait for the big event.

REALITY: Scientists are learning that pregnancy is a crucial period in itself: "the staging ground for well-being and disease in later life," as one researcher puts it. Pregnancy is now like a new scientific frontier. Obstetrics was once a sleepy medical specialty and research on pregnancy a scientific backwater. Now the nine months of gestation are the focus of intense interest and excitement and the subject of an exploding number of journal articles, books, and conferences.

There’s so much to learn about pregnancy and still many unknowns. If you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant, work with any of our doctors. They can help you come up with a plan for a healthy pregnancy and delivery and can answer any questions you have about symptoms, complications, and what to expect.

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Exercise During Pregnancy: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Trimesters

The benefits of regular activity are undeniable for pregnant women. Keeping fit during pregnancy not only helps maintain energy levels but can also make it easier to get back in shape after childbirth. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day can reduce backaches, prevent gestational diabetes, improve mood, promote muscle tone, help you sleep and even give you more energy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Always check with your healthcare provider before starting, continuing, or changing an exercise routine. If you exercised regularly before getting pregnant and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, you can probably continue working out as before, with a few modifications (noted below). However, in some cases it's not okay to exercise during pregnancy, so talk to your provider about your fitness routine to make sure your activities don't put you or your baby at risk.

The first 24 weeks may be the easiest times to exercise because you don't have a large belly getting in the way. As the fetus grows, however, your joints are prone to injury because the hormones produced during pregnancy cause the ligaments supporting your joints to relax, according to the ACOG. In addition, the added weight of the baby may affect balance or cause back pain.

If during the first trimester you'd much rather sleep than swim, that's fine. However, while there's little you can do to offset low energy levels early on in pregnancy, healthcare experts agree exercise and a balanced diet are the best ways to fight off fatigue.

For many women the second trimester gets easier. Most women have more energy in the second trimester and will be more inclined to exercise more regularly. Walking and yoga can be wonderful activities during this time.

Of course, in the third trimester, the extra weight and the lack of sleep can lead you full circle back to a state of exhaustion. But most experts say there's no reason women can't exercise in their final weeks of pregnancy; although the activity will probably need modification. Back and abdominal strength are important for the upcoming birth and the lifting you'll do after the baby comes.

You don't have to sign up for a special pregnancy exercise class if that's not your thing. Just getting outside for some fresh air and the sunlight is beneficial. Do some regular daily stretching when possible. Do Kegels during commercials. You don't have to run a marathon or overachieve, just go for a walk. 

Talk to any of our doctors at your next appointment about what types of exercise are right for you. Whether you're pregnant or not, they can offer advice for activities that could fit your lifestyle and fitness level.

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Healthy Pregnancy: Eating for Two?

There is a common belief that pregnancy is the time for indulgence. This is a myth. Not only can overeating make it harder to lose excess weight after delivery, but you're also at increased risk during pregnancy for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Eating healthily is more important now than ever! You need more protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid than you did before pregnancy. You also need more calories. But "eating for two" doesn't mean eating twice as much. Rather, it means that the foods you eat are the main source of nutrients for your baby. Sensible, balanced meals combined with regular physical fitness is still the best recipe for good health during your pregnancy.

You may sometimes be tempted to eat twice as much, but that's not what the doctor ordered. Your body becomes more efficient during pregnancy and can absorb more of the nutrients you eat. 

While guidelines vary, the Institute of Medicine says if you're a healthy weight when you conceive, you need:

  • no additional calories in the first trimester
  • 340 extra calories a day in the second trimester
  • about 450 extra calories a day in the third trimester. 

If you're overweight or underweight when you become pregnant, you'll need to take in more calorie or less calories depending on your weight gain goal.

At the same time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that pregnant women consume 71 grams of protein per day. You need extra protein to support new cell growth in the fetus. 

The number of extra calories you require is small compared with the amount of extra nutrients, so make sure your additional calories come from high-nutrient foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and lean meats. All of these give you lots of nutritional bang for your calorie buck. 

Inadequate nutrition during pregnancy is thought to have lifelong effects on a baby's health. What you eat is important, so when you're tempted to overdo it, remember that you're eating for a baby, not another full-size adult. Choose quality over quantity!

Talk to any of our doctors about nutrition and diet at your next appointment. They can advise you on what is right for you before, during, and after your pregnancy.

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Contraception Methods - Pros and Cons

There are many different types of contraception, and they vary in how effective they are at preventing pregnancy, how much they cost, how easy they are to use, and whether they also protect against sexually transmitted infection (STI). Together, you and your partner should figure out the best choice for the two of you. Whatever type of contraception one of you uses can influence the health of both people in the relationship. 

As with most things, there are pros and cons to all forms of contraception. Here are some of the most commonly used forms of birth control and their benefits and downfalls:

Birth Control Pill (*Success Rate with Typical Use: 91%)

Pros

  • Very effective against pregnancy if used correctly
  • Makes menstrual periods more regular and lighter
  • Decreases menstrual cramps and acne
  • Makes you less likely to get ovarian and uterine cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, and anemia
  • Doesn’t interrupt sexual activity

Cons

  • Doesn’t protect against STIs
  • Depending on your insurance, your birth control may be free or there may be a co-pay.
  • Need to remember to take every day at the same time
  • Can’t be used by women with certain medical problems or by women taking certain medications
  • Can occasionally cause side effects such as nausea, increased appetite, headaches, and, very rarely, blood clots
  • Need a prescription
  • Still need condoms to lower the risk of STIs

Intra-Uterine Device (IUD) (*Success Rate with Typical Use: 99%)

Pros

  • Very effective against pregnancy
  • Provide protection against pregnancy if in place in your uterus- protects as soon as inserted (so don’t need to remember to use contraception if you have sexual intercourse)
  • Doesn’t need daily attention- just need to check to make sure in place at least once a month at time of menstrual period
  • Comfortable- you and your partner cannot feel the IUD, although you partner may feel the string
  • The levonorgestrel IUD (Mirena, Skyla) lessens menstrual flow and can be used to treat heavy periods
  • Can be removed at any time and you can get pregnant right after removal

Cons

  • Doesn’t protect against STIs and shouldn’t be selected if high risk of STI
  • Needs to be inserted by a health care provider
  • Can fall out or can rarely puncture the uterus
  • The copper IUD can have side effects such as menstrual cramping, longer and/or heavier menstrual periods, and spotting between menstrual periods
  • Slightly higher risk for infection in the first 20 days after insertion

Hormonal Implants (*Success Rate with Typical Use: 99%)

Pros

  • Long-term method of birth control (protects against pregnancy for 3 years after insertion–it can be removed by a health care provider when you want, or you can wait for 3 years when it’s time for a change of implant)
  • Very effective against pregnancy
  • May cause light or no menstrual periods

Cons

  • Doesn’t protect against STIs
  • Requires minor surgery and insertion of the tiny rod(s) underneath the skin
  • Requires minor surgery to remove device
  • Can cause side effects such as irregular menstrual periods, depression, nervousness, hair loss, and weight gain
  • Could get infection at area where capsule is implanted
  • Can’t be used by women with certain medical conditions and by women who use certain medications

These are only a few of the contraceptive methods available. If you are interested in starting, changing, or exploring your options for birth control, schedule an appointment with any of our doctors. We can help you find the right solution that fits your unique needs.

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What to Expect at a Gynecology Appointment

The thought of having your first gynecology exam might be nerve-wracking, but it should be a straightforward and quick procedure. In addition, it is an important part of maintaining your overall health. Hopefully, once you understand the purpose of the annual well-woman exam and what it involves, you will see that there is nothing to worry or be embarrassed about.

Here’s what women should know about gynecological exams:

During a routine gynecological visit, expect to cover a wide range of topics. Your gynecologist should care about your general wellbeing, so it's not unusual for questions to go well beyond gynecological issues. 

Your doctor may ask about: 

  • domestic violence
  • social habits
  • drinking
  • smoking
  • family history
  • current health
  • sexual activity
  • menstrual cycle
  • contraception
  • STD prevention
  • pregnancies
  • illnesses
  • surgeries
  • drug use

Some of these questions will be quite personal in nature, but it is important that you answer honestly. Don't let shyness be a health risk. You should have complete confidence that what you say is kept confidential.

Teenagers who are not sexually active usually don’t need screening for sexually transmitted diseases. Women under 21 do not need invasive vaginal exams unless they have specific conditions or medical risks.

A Pap Smear checks for precancerous or cancerous cells. This is a quick procedure that involves taking a sample of your cervical cells and testing them to verify that they are healthy. Your doctor might perform a Pap smear, which is a test for cervical cancer. This involves the patient lying on her back and placing her feet in supports called stirrups. The doctor inserts an instrument called a speculum to keep the vagina open enough so that a swab can be inserted to scrape a small sample of cells from the cervix. 

Pap smears used to be done annually, but guidelines now recommend them every three to five years for women 21 and older. It might feel like a strong pinch. This annual test is very important, and it is necessary even if you are not experiencing any symptoms and do not have any personal concerns. However, you will not know the results of the Pap Smear test at your appointment. The cell sample must be sent to a laboratory where it is carefully examined. Your results will take a few weeks to get back to you.

After the Pap test, your health care provider will remove the speculum and perform a manual exam to check the health of your ovaries and uterus. This portion of the exam involves inserting a gloved and lubricated finger in to the vagina with one hand. With the other hand, they will press down on your stomach. You will feel pressure and some light discomfort is possible, but always tell your gynecologist how you are feeling throughout the examination.

The doctor should also perform a thorough breast exam which should be brief and painless. Your health care provider will manually palpate your breast, feeling for lumps, thickening, or discharge. They should also teach you how to give yourself a personal breast exam.

You will be asked to provide a urine sample. Urine is used to check for kidney health, various infections, and pregnancy.

Your annual gynecological exam is also a time for you to ask any questions that you may have. There are no wrong questions to ask when it comes to your personal health, and the more knowledge you have about your body, the more confidence you can have about taking care of it. 

Schedule your well-woman exam with any of the doctors at WHASN Central. We're here to answer your questions and provide the best care possible.

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Pregnancy Prep 101

If you are trying to have a baby or even just thinking about it, it's never too early to start getting ready for pregnancy. There are things you can focus on before and between pregnancies to increase the chances of having a healthy baby. For some women, getting their body ready for pregnancy takes a few months. For other women, it might take longer. Regardless of whether you're preparing for your first pregnancy or if you've had several children already, here are some things you can do to be the best you can be:

  • See Your Doctor -- Before getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about preconception health care. Your doctor will want to discuss your health history and any medical conditions you currently have that could affect a pregnancy. He or she also will discuss any previous pregnancy problems, medicines that you currently are taking, vaccinations that you might need, and steps you can take before pregnancy to prevent certain birth defects.
  • Take 400 Micrograms of Folic Acid Every Day -- Folic acid is a B vitamin. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body at least 1 month before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.
  • Stop Drinking Alcohol, Smoking, and Using Street Drugs -- Smoking, drinking alcohol, and using street drugs can cause many problems during pregnancy for a woman and her baby, such as premature birth, birth defects, and infant death.
  • Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight --People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for many serious conditions, including complications during pregnancy, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, talk with your doctor about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight before you get pregnant.
  • Get Mentally Healthy -- To be at your best, you need to feel good about your life and value yourself. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes. However, if these feelings do not go away and they interfere with your daily life, get help. Talk with your doctor or another health professional about your feelings and treatment options.
  • Have a Healthy Pregnancy -- Once you are pregnant, be sure to keep up all your new healthy habits and see your doctor regularly throughout pregnancy for prenatal care.

Talk to any of our doctors if you are considering becoming pregnant. Our team is here to help with all of you women's health and pregnancy needs!

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Hysterectomy: Conditions, Symptoms, and Treatment

The decision to undergo a hysterectomy is not an easy one to make. Weighing the pros and cons of a surgery that involves removing the uterus, while dealing with health issues is a lot to handle. Add to that the many mixed emotions that some women deal with as well, and one might find themselves overwhelmed with the decision. However, the more informed you are, the less stressed you'll be. There are several conditions that might require gynecologic surgery.

Many benign (non-cancerous) conditions can affect a woman’s reproductive system, including the uterus, cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Common benign conditions include: 

  • Fibroid
  • Endometriosis
  • Adenomyosis
  • Pelvic prolapse

Some of the more common symptoms of these conditions include: 

  • Pelvic pain
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Irregular periods
  • Fatigue
  • Unusual bloating
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Infertility

If you experience symptoms like these, your doctor may suggest medicine, lifestyle changes, or surgery. 

If your doctor suggests a hysterectomy, the most common ways to remove your uterus are: open surgery or minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgery refers to both traditional laparoscopy or robotically-assisted da Vinci Surgery. 

When using da Vinci Single-Site Surgery for benign conditions, your surgeon operates through a small cut in your belly button. This results in patients seeing almost no scar at all.

Da Vinci Single-Site Hysterectomy offers the following potential benefits when compared to other methods:

  • Low blood loss
  • Low rate of complications
  • Low chance of a blood transfusion
  • Low chance of surgeon switching to open surgery
  • Short hospital stays
  • Low levels of post-operative pain

Though it is often called a “robot,” da Vinci cannot act on its own. Surgery is performed entirely by your doctor. Your doctor controls the da Vinci System, which translates his or her hand movements into smaller, more precise movements of tiny instruments inside your body. 

The da Vinci Surgical System is designed to provide surgeons with enhanced capabilities, including high definition 3D vision and a magnified view. Together, the da Vinci System and Single-Site instruments allow your doctor to remove your uterus, fallopian tubes and/or ovaries through a single incision. As a result, you may be able to get back to life without the usual recovery that follows major surgery. Surgical options will depend on your exact condition, symptoms, and overall health. 

Drs. Strebel, Grolle, and Rosenbaum are all highly skilled, experienced surgeons and are experts with the da Vinci Single-Site Hysterectomy system. Call for an appointment at 702-438-2229.

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How to Find the Right Gynecologist for You

Few places are more intimate than a gynecologist’s exam room, right? The small things that can make you tense – palm-sized speculums, questions about your sexual activity – these are the very tools used to define huge aspects of your health and wellness. Your gynecologist, OB-GYN or women’s health specialist screens you for diseases, helps you plan a family – whether that means assisting with or preventing pregnancies – troubleshoots below-the-belt problems and more. No matter what the reason for the visit is, there’s a good chance this person will throw on gloves, spread your legs, and put their face right in front of a very private part of your body. As such, it is extremely important to find the right doctor for you.

These tips can help you in your search:

  • What are your needs? If you want to get your annual well-woman exam – which may include cancer screenings, breast exams, evaluation and counseling – a general gynecologist or women's health specialist and some nurse practitioners can administer this appointment. Well-woman exams, may also include a Pap test or pelvic and internal examinations.
  • If you want to get pregnant in the next five years, look for an obstetrician-gynecologist now. Think of the gynecologist-OB-GYN as your women's health specialist across your lifespan. Find an OB-GYN who you know and trust – who you'd trust to eventually deliver your baby. 
  • Make sure you and your doctor share the same values. For example, if you're going to the gynecologist seeking contraception and, upon discussing it at the appointment, discover that your doctor does not believe in birth control – red flag!
  • Value bedside manner. While all doctors should be respectful and compassionate, those qualities can be particularly important for those professionals looking between your legs. Discussing sex, family planning, fears, and your overall health could be quite difficult with someone who seems uninterested, judgmental, or short on time.
  • If you feel your doctor doesn't listen or have time for you, then he or she isn't the OBGYN for you. While credentials, experience, and expertise rank the highest when narrowing your doctor search, once you're in the office, comfort matters too. Discomfort (beyond the paper dress) is a red flag that should probably send you searching for a different doctor.

At WHASN, our doctors want to help and spend time with you. Call 702-438-2229 to schedule an appointment.

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Prenatal Care: What to Expect, and When to Expect It.

Anyone thinking about becoming pregnant should also be thinking about prenatal care. This care is important for the mother’s health and the health of the child. Ideally, it should begin prior to pregnancy.

Schedule a visit with your health care provider prior to pregnancy to: 

  • Review your immunizations 
  • Start a prenatal vitamin with folic acid (which can prevent certain birth defects if begun prior to pregnancy)
  • Have a thorough checkup. 

Once you are pregnant, regular prenatal care visits during pregnancy are just as important to your baby’s future health as regular visits for well-child exams after birth.

A first prenatal visit, best done before the 12th week of pregnancy, typically involves:

  • A physical exam 
  • A pelvic exam
  • Lab work (on blood and urine)
  • Sexually transmitted infection screening (to check for Hepatitis B, syphilis, chlamydia, and HIV)
  • A Pap smear test. 

Your health care provider calculates your approximate due date at this first visit. Often, an ultrasound will be ordered to confirm how far along the pregnancy is. If you are at least 10 weeks pregnant, your health care provider might listen for the heartbeat. This can be difficult before 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Subsequent prenatal visits are every four to eight weeks until you are 28 weeks pregnant. At all prenatal visits, you can expect your health care provider to:

  • Weigh you
  • Check the size of your uterus
  • Check your blood pressure
  • Listen to the baby’s heart rate

An ultrasound at about 20 weeks is often done to view the baby’s organs and measure growth of the baby and the placenta.

Around 15 to 22 weeks, blood tests are available to screen for genetic and spinal cord abnormalities. At 26 to 28 weeks, expect to have blood tests to check for anemia and be encouraged to take a glucose challenge test to check for gestational diabetes.

From weeks 28 to 38, prenatal visits are every two to four weeks. The baby’s position will be checked to make sure the baby is pointing head down.

After 38 weeks, prenatal visits are weekly until delivery. Your health care provider may want to check your cervix for dilation and thinning as you get close to your due date or if you go past it without delivering.

A healthy baby depends on taking good care of yourself. Stay physically active, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and an otherwise healthy diet, drink lots of water, take your prenatal vitamins, get good sleep, and see your doctor at WHASN throughout pregnancy.

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The Pill: Learn if it Could be Right for You

Birth control pills are a medication that women take daily to prevent pregnancy. Sometimes they are referred to as oral contraception or perhaps most commonly, “the pill."

Birth control pills work by releasing hormones. Hormones are chemicals that affect different parts of the body. Most women use a combination birth control pill, which contains both estrogen and progestin. However, there are also progestin-only pills available. 

These hormones prevent pregnancy by:

  • Making cervical mucus thicker, which prevents sperm from getting to the eggs
  • Stopping ovulation, so there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize

Birth control pills come in 21-day or 28-day packs depending on the type and brand you use. Both kinds of pills come with 21 “active” pills which contain hormones. The extra 7 pills in the 28-day pack contain placebo pills with no hormones. These extra 7 pills serve as a reminder so that you don’t forget to take pills when time to begin the active ones again. You are not required to take the placebos, but they will help you maintain the habit of taking a pill at the same time every day.

Most women get their period during the 4th week, when they are taking the reminder pills. However, experiences vary depending on body type. You may notice spotting throughout the month or you may not get your period at all.

Progestin pills only contain progestin -- no estrogen. They come in 28-day packs only and each pill contains hormones. This means all the pills in these 28-day packs are “active”. To avoid pregnancy, you must take every pill in the pack, at the same time every day. There is no week off, like with the combination pills. You may get your period on the 4th week, you may notice spotting throughout the month, or you may not have your period at all. It depends on your body. Talk with your doctor if you are concerned with irregular periods while taking birth control pills.

The pill is safe, simple, and effective to use, and sometimes women take it for reasons other than contraception. The combination and progestin-only pills can also:

  • Help your period become more regular and sometimes lighter
  • Reduce menstrual craps
  • Protect against pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Reduce acne
  • Help reduce headaches, depression, and other premenstrual symptoms
  • Prevent or reduce cysts in ovaries and breasts
  • Guard against iron deficiency (anemia)
  • Help prevent bone thinning

The pill can also be used to predict when you’ll get your period. Some pills are made for women to only have a few periods a year and others follow a regular, monthly cycle. 

Many women adjust to the pill with little to no problems, but some women do experience undesirable side effects. The most common side effects are bleeding between periods, nausea, vomiting, and breast tenderness. These usually occur within the first 2 to 3 months of use and fade after that.

Another side effect is the possibility of changes to your libido. Sexual desire may change because of the hormones in the pill. 

The pill does not protect against STI’s. If infection is a concern, a condom should be used.

This birth control method is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, when taken correctly at the same time every day. This allows the correct amount of hormones to enter your body every 24 hours.

If you're considering taking the pill, speak with your doctor. He or she will provide insight based on your medical history and how the pills could react with any other medications you are taking. Call for an appointment!

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Pelvic Vs. Pap - Do You Know the Difference?

Do you know the difference between a Pap smear and a pelvic exam? Many women think they are the same thing, but there are important differences between the two.

What’s a Pap smear?

A Pap smear, or Pap test is a medical screening used to detect any changes in cells on the cervix. The test looks for changes that could indicate cancer of the cervix or any cervical abnormalities that might lead to cancer. 

Your doctor performs the screening by using a small plastic spatula and brush to collect cells from the cervix. Your physician will check internal organs and will take a small sample of cells to examine for abnormalities. The cells are then examined under a microscope in a laboratory.

What is a Pelvic Exam?

During a pelvic exam, your physician will check for signs of illness or abnormalities. Your doctor looks for medical problems in your pelvis, vagina, and the pelvic floor. He or she will examine your external genitalia, vagina, and pelvic organs such as the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and bladder.

All women should see a doctor every year for a well-woman visit. However, many women do not need a pelvic exam every year. When they do need one, it usually takes place as part of an annual well-woman visit with their physician.

During your well-woman visit, discuss whether you need a pelvic exam and whether and when a Pap test would be appropriate for you. Of course, don't wait for your yearly exam if you have any issues with bladder function, sexual function, or any concerns. 

Talk to your doctor about the best pelvic exam and cervical cancer screening schedule for you based on your health and family history. Your doctor may recommend more frequent screening if you have certain health indications, such as a history of cervical cancer or a weakened immune system. Our doctors are here for you. 

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Mastitis - Know the Symptoms and When to See Your Doctor

Mastitis is a condition that results in a woman's breast becoming painful, swollen, and red. It is most common in breastfeeding women, although this condition can also occur in women who aren't breastfeeding.

With mastitis, signs and symptoms can appear suddenly and may include:

  • Breast tenderness or warmth to the touch
  • Generally feeling ill
  • Breast swelling
  • Pain or a burning sensation continuously or while breast-feeding
  • Skin redness, often in a wedge-shaped pattern
  • Fever of 101 F or greater

Risk factors for mastitis include:

  • Breastfeeding during the first few weeks after childbirth
  • Sore or cracked nipples, although mastitis can develop without broken skin
  • Using only one position to breastfeed, which may not fully drain your breast
  • Wearing a tight-fitting bra or putting pressure on your breast from using a seatbelt or carrying a heavy bag, which may restrict milk flow
  • Becoming overly tired or stressed
  • Previous bout of mastitis while breastfeeding
  • Poor nutrition

If mastitis isn't adequately treated, or it's related to a blocked duct, an abscess can develop in your breast and form a breast mass or area of firmness with thickening. An abscess usually requires surgical drainage. To avoid this complication, talk to your doctor as soon as you develop signs or symptoms of mastitis.

Minimize your chances of getting mastitis by following these tips:

  • Fully drain the milk from your breasts while breastfeeding.
  • Allow your baby to completely empty one breast before switching to the other breast during feeding.
  • Change the position you use to breastfeed from one feeding to the next.
  • Make sure your baby latches on properly during feedings.

Often, you'll feel ill with flu-like symptoms for several hours before you recognize that your breast has an area of tenderness and redness. As soon as you recognize this combination of signs and symptoms, it's time to contact your doctor.

Oral antibiotics are usually effective in treating this condition, but your doctor will probably want to see you to confirm the diagnosis. If your signs and symptoms don't improve after the first few days of taking antibiotics, see your doctor right away to make sure your condition isn't the result of a more serious problem.

Sometimes mastitis leads a mother to wean her baby before she intends to. However, continuing to breastfeed, even while taking an antibiotic for the mastitis, is better for you and your baby. Talk to any of our doctors if you have any questions.

 

 

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Treating Pain During Pregnancy

When you're pregnant, treating a simple ailment can seem complicated. Because of fear about the use of medicines during pregnancy, some pregnant women would rather suffer than treat their pain. Consequently, it is possible that such women are at risk of undertreatment, or no treatment, for painful conditions. Chronic, severe pain that is ineffectively treated is associated with hypertension, anxiety, and depression, and none of those are good for a healthy pregnancy either. 

In general, it's best to avoid any unnecessary medications in your pregnancy. But that doesn't mean you should suffer. If you truly can't get by without medication, your doctor can tell you which over-the-counter and prescription drugs are safe to take at your stage of pregnancy. Your healthcare provider can also suggest drug-free options that might ease your symptoms.

A cold compress, rest, and staying well hydrated can help alleviate headaches and muscle pain during pregnancy, but if you need additional relief, your doctor may recommend acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). When this drug is used as directed, it's usually a safe option. However, it's best to avoid aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen (the painkiller in Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (the active ingredient in Aleve). Some studies suggest that taking these medications near conception or in early pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects.

Ultimately, medications used in therapeutic doses for acute and chronic pain appear to be relatively safe in pregnancy. To minimize fetal risk, most prescribers will start with the lowest effective dose, especially in late pregnancy, and select analgesics only after careful review of a woman’s medical or medication history.

Women should avoid using NSAIDs after 32 weeks because of the possibility of antiplatelet or prolonged bleeding effects. Opioids should also be used with caution, especially in higher doses in late pregnancy when the infant should be observed carefully in the neonatal period for any signs of withdrawal (neonatal abstinence syndrome).

If you are pregnant and experiencing chronic or acute pain, you don't have to suffer. Ask your doctor what relief methods or medicines might be right for you.

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da Vinci® Single-Site® Hysterectomy - Less Pain and No Scar

If your doctor suggests a hysterectomy, it's important to know your options. He or she can tell you about traditional open surgery and about minimally invasive/laparoscopic methods also in use currently. If you are a candidate for laparoscopy, ask about da Vinci Single-Site Hysterectomy. Doctors and patients are choosing it because hysterectomies done with the da Vinci robotic arm via a single incision result in very little downtime and virtually no scarring.

Hysterectomies, which once required large abdominal incisions with long hospital stays and extensive recovery time can now be done without those previous drawbacks.  

Why da Vinci Surgery?

Clinical data suggests a da Vinci Single-Site Hysterectomy offers the following potential benefits compared to other laparoscopic procedures:

  • Low blood loss
  • Fewer complications
  • Less chance of need for a blood transfusion
  • Low chance of surgeon switching to open surgery
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Less post-operative pain

Surgeons can remove the uterus and fallopian tubes through a single half-inch incision in the navel using the da Vinci surgical robot. The robot’s arms and wrists can be manipulated with greater agility than that of its human counterpart, while the 3D high-definition viewing system provides the surgeon better overall control.

During the surgery, a port for the robot’s arms (guided by your surgeon at a nearby station) is placed in the patient's belly button. The 3D high-definition camera provides magnified images of tissues, nerves, and uterus for better visualization during the surgery.

All the steps in traditional surgery—cutting, clamping, or sewing—can be done with the da Vinci surgical robot through one tiny incision. As a result, the robotic-assisted, single-site hysterectomy offers decreased risk of infection and quicker recovery times.

The da Vinci System has provided minimally invasive surgery to more than 3 million patients worldwide and the surgeons at WHASN are helping women in the Las Vegas area with this state-of-the-art technology. Call 702-438-2229 to schedule a consultation.

 

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Resolutions You Can Keep that Really Make a Difference

When it comes to New Year's resolutions, health-related goals are definitely in the top three. For many women, however, the path to good health is not an easy one, with too many obstacles along the way. Procrastination, family obligations, work demands, and lack of time and energy are only a few of the excuses that can stop even the best of intentions. If your goal is to lose those last 10 pounds -- for the fifth year in a row -- why not consider making a new, more easily-done resolution that has equally big health payoffs?

Take your pick of these attainable resolutions that you can actually stick to this year:

  • Get More Sleep – Want more energy, improved mood, and help losing weight? Try sleep! The body repairs and regenerates during sleep. Getting enough sleep is the best way to help your mind and body function at its best. Optimum sleep time varies from person to person, from 4 to 11 hours a day. An easy way to find your optimum sleep time is to sleep until you wake up without an alarm clock or other interruption. Do this two or three days in a row, and you'll know what the ideal amount of sleep is for you.

  • Eat a Veggie or Fruit with Every Meal -- The evidence linking vegetable and fruit consumption to disease prevention makes this a smart resolution anyone can make and gain rewards from. To work in more healthy additions try slicing a banana into your morning cereal or yogurt, have an apple as dessert with your lunch, and start every dinner meal with a salad. Eating fruits and vegetables increases your fiber intake, which helps fill you up, making you less likely to eat unhealthy foods. In addition, fruits and veggies are full of vitamins and antioxidants, which your body needs for a strong immune system.

  • Find a Form of Exercise That You Love – Just because you don't like to jog or do aerobics doesn't mean you should give up on exercise. What works for one woman doesn't always work for everyone else. It can take some trial and error to find which forms of exercise are enjoyable for you. Try making a list of five new forms of physical activity that you haven't tried—like yoga, rowing, or swimming laps -- and give each a try for two weeks. Then, pick the ones that you enjoy most. Try new machines and/or classes; look for news about new exercise trends; do whatever it takes to keep your workouts consistently fun. That's what will ultimately get you working out more regularly.

  • Cook More at Home -- Relying on restaurant food after a long day of work is certainly convenient, but it can have health consequences. A lot of restaurant food is served in huge portions with more calories, fat, and sodium than a home-cooked meal. Cooking at home can be just as easy as calling for takeout. It only takes a little bit of planning. Planning your meals for the week can also ensure that you don't get caught short and have to order pizza -- again.

  • Cut Back on Sugar – This does not mean you must live your life without your favorite flavor of ice cream. You don't have to give up your favorite indulgences to make this resolution work. Just by taking a look at the added sugar in foods and trying to eat as little of the sweet stuff as possible, your body will thank you. Too much sugar is basically too many calories without any nutritional benefit for your body. More than likely, if you're consuming too much sugar, your diet may be lacking in healthy foods, increasing your chance for disease, decreased energy, and unhealthy skin.

Happy New Year from all of us at WHASN! We wish you a very healthy 2018.

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Healthy Diet for Healthy You!

Women often are the ones who make sure that their families eat healthily. Unfortunately, many women are prone to neglecting their own dietary needs. Excuses such as being too busy to eat right or trying to adhere to an extreme diet are common, but that kind of eating just leaves you short on vital nutrients and feeling cranky, hungry, and low on energy.

Eating in a healthy manner shouldn't be difficult. According to Womenshealth.gov, to help prevent heart disease, stroke, and perhaps other diseases, women should eat mainly:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grains (at least half of your grains should be whole grains, such as whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice)
  • Fat-free or low-fat versions of milk, cheese, yogurt, and other milk products
  • Fish, skinless poultry, lean red meats, dry beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats

Also, you should limit the amount of foods you eat that contain:

  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Added sugars

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For women, that means one drink per day. One drink is defined as:

  • 12 fluid ounces of regular beer
  • 5 fluid ounces of wine
  • 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits

Just because you're trying to follow a healthy eating plan doesn't mean that you can't indulge once in a while. If you generally eat a healthy diet, it won't hurt to indulge in a rich dessert or serving of fried food every once in a while.

Women tend to need fewer calories than men, but requirements for certain vitamins and minerals are much higher. Hormonal changes that come along with menstruation, child-bearing, and menopause make women have a higher risk of anemia, weakened bones, and osteoporosis, requiring a higher intake of nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin B9 (folate).

A balanced diet is one of the cornerstones of good health. Women should enjoy a variety of foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat dairy and lean protein, but keep in mind that women also have special nutrient needs, and during each stage of a woman's life, these needs change.

Talk to any of our doctors about eating a healthy diet and what vitamins or nutrients you might need more of during this time in your life. Remember, nutrient-rich foods provide the energy you need for your busy life as well as help prevent disease.

 

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