- Women’s Health
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- Nurse Barb
I hear from a lot of women who are suddenly ready to have a baby. They want to be pregnant as soon as possible. Others are considering pregnancy and trying to get prepared.
Stop All Birth Control
It may sound obvious, and that’s because it is! If you’re ready to become pregnant, then the first thing to do is to STOP using any birth control.
With most birth control methods once you stop using them, your menstrual cycle will start up again. It may take a few weeks to see a period return, but the process that leads to your period resumes as soon as you stop birth control.
Has the switch flipped and you’re starting to think about becoming pregnant? Have you started to notice more pregnant women everywhere you go?
Does it seem like there’s a new mom pushing a stroller on every street corner? Do you see Dads with little ones in carriers? If so, you just might be starting to think about becoming a mom yourself. This is sometimes known as the pre-contemplative phase where ideas take seed and start to grow in your mind.
Questions to consider
Every woman approaches this process from their own unique perspective. Here’s some questions to consider:
This blog was written by Brad Synder, FNP-C – NP & Education Coordinator, who has worked at FAME Medical hospital and clinics in Karatu, Tanzania for several years. He now travels back to volunteer his time. I consider Brad a friend and have learned so much from him about how to listen and how to work with and learn from colleagues who care for people 1/2 way around the world.
It’s being a chameleon, becoming whoever the person you’re with needs you to be. It’s waking up everyday knowing that undoubtedly you will change a life and in return have yours changed. It’s pushing yourself to new limits, frequently on the edge of comfort as you try your best to fix and heal the person in front of you. It’s brainstorming at the bedside with a team of gifted clinicians trying to figure out the cause of a man’s internal bleeding as his blood counts continue to drop. It’s checking on a 1 day old then suddenly grabbing the oxygen and performing a resuscitation when he changes without any warning. It’s coming together in a moment’s notice and becoming one skilled unit, fighting the battle to keep a little life alive. It’s winning the battle.
It’s watching a doctor’s skill as he diagnoses cardiac anomalies with an echo or saves a woman from bleeding out during a complicated C-section. It’s opening books and crunching numbers as you try to solve a medical mystery alongside other uncertain fighters pulling deep on dusty knowledge and experience. It’s coming to a solution while vulnerably admitting that you’re not 100% certain of this plan, but it’s the best we can do with what we have. It’s feeling the slight relief of a definitive partnership amidst ambiguity and uncertainty. It’s seeing a nurse take peanut butter and a spoon into the room of a patient with severe burns and watching her patiently give one spoon at a time. It’s looking into her determined eyes as she says, “I know I can’t fix the burns but this is what I can do, so I’m doing it.” It’s feeling a rush of compassion flow through your body.
It’s a nurse’s poignant assessment as she picks up danger signs in pregnancy and prevents a catastrophe. It’s giving a woman a chance to be a mother, one of life’s greatest gifts. It’s a counselor gently comforting a suicidal woman buried deep in a cloud of depression with the fear of no way out. It’s giving her a glimpse of light and the possibility that this doesn’t have to last forever. It’s walking into a room as a midwife with experience twice as long as you’ve been alive turns the breech baby of a woman in active labor. It’s hearing the cry of a healthy baby and taking a collective sigh of relief. It’s feeling grateful to have such skilled, passionate people on your team.
It’s hearing the gentle humming of a mother who just lost her 6-year old to a battle against sickle cell disease. It’s walking outside with a father as he holds back tears surrounded by family and friends and giving him a safe space to feel whatever he needs to feel. It’s being a quiet presence as he sobs in your arms in a moment of utter grief and disbelief. It’s realizing that pain like this can only be felt by others who have experienced such a profound loss.
It’s staying up through the night diligently monitoring two premature babies as they struggle to survive in an incubator instead of the safety of their mother’s womb. It’s reading neonatology articles, emailing colleagues and adapting guidelines to what we can do here. It’s watching mothers give their babies life-saving breast milk to keep their tiny bodies growing. It’s praying that it all works out. It’s going home and preparing to wake up and do it all over again tomorrow. It’s holding onto hope. It’s who we are. It’s why we’re here.
It’s important to note that guidelines are just that, guidelines based upon data from large populations, however they may not apply to every woman that you encounter, especially to those who have unique circumstances and let’s face it, are more challenging and more rewarding as we provide personalized, individualized care.
The current American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) guidelines for pap smears differ from those of the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
The USPSTF guidelines recommend that Pap smears be stopped at age 65 if there have been adequate prior screens, however it’s not clear what the definition is of adequate prior screens.
There are as many different experiences of menopause as there are women. For some women, menopause arrives like a gentle breeze with barely a feeling of warmth or any other bothersome symptom, while others experience menopause like a Class 5 Tropical storm with overnight drenching hot flashes and night sweats, mood changes and a complete disruption in life.
While many clinicians understandably and appropriately focus on hot flashes and night sweats, many women may be more concerned with sleep disturbances, weight gain, loss of libido, vaginal dryness, incontinence and mood changes.
When women come to my office with any one or all of the following complaints from no periods to excessive bleeding, difficulty losing weight, excessive hair growth and acne or infertility, I see this as an important opportunity to change a woman’s life for the better. Many of these women have seen many other health care providers, who more often than not aren’t able to provide a diagnosis or who may not be able to provide a comprehensive plan of care. Many women with PCOS have symptoms that impact their appearance, their self-esteem, sense of shame and guilt as well as fears of infertility.
Using the Rotterdam Criteria for diagnosis provides an objective starting point for evaluating women. A diagnosis of PCOS can be made if 2 out of the following 3 conditions are met: Signs of hyperandrogenism such as hirsuitism, acne, absence of regular ovulation and/or seeing 10 or more small cysts on 1 or both ovaries with an ultrasound.
I just gave a talk to a group of about 75 women at midlife. When I asked for a show of hands for how many women experience urine leaking with a cough, sneeze or laugh, about 1/2 raised their hands.
Yes, about a third to a half of us are having a little pee pee problem. Fear not! There’s an App for that now too!
Strengthening the pelvic floor means you’ll be less like to deal with this possibility.
When I ask my patients to do a Kegel or to try to squeeze their pelvic floor muscles during an exam, it’s clear that only about 1/2 are able to isolate and squeeze the right muscles. Many use their abdominal muscles, many push out and many simply don’t have the sensation. Once we work on how to do the exercises and get women started practicing, most report that their lives have changed, for the better because they aren’t leaking at all or nearly as much.
We’re all busy, so here’s some options to help you stay dry and a surprising option at the end.
At home Kegels! There’s an App for that
For women who want to work on their pelvic floor muscles in the privacy of their own home, here’s a few new options:
Discreet vaginal inserts
Lightweight, small, discreet vaginal inserts that use Bluetooth technology connected to your smartphone so you can see if you’re doing your Kegels correctly. (more…)
Most women know that doing Kegel exercises can help prevent leaking urine, but many are surprised to learn that being able to isolate and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles can also enhance sexual functioning. Really! Strengthening these muscles has the potential to improve sexual sensation, satisfaction and orgasm in women.
It’s never too late
Many of my patients throw in the towel, so to speak, and shrug their shoulders, figuring there’s not much they can do now, and those days are behind them, settling for watching episodes of Outlander.
Studies have confirmed what real women experience – pelvic floor concerns tend to lead to more sexual complaints, from low libido and problems with sexual arousal to inability to achieve orgasm.
“Unfortunately, many women feel that decreased sexual function is an inevitable part of aging,” said Leslie Rickey, MPH, MD, Associate Professor of Urology and of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences; Fellowship Director, Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, Yale School of Medicine. (more…)
High Tech Kegel Exercises with PeriCoach – I was so excited I tried it myself!
Like many of my patients, Jana* was hesitant and embarrassed when I asked about whether she was experiencing leaking urine. She nodded and told me that it happened a few times a week and while she tried to remember to do Kegel exercises, she wasn’t sure if she was even doing them right.
Jana was also surprised to learn that she wasn’t alone. The fact is that 1 in 3 women will experience leaking at some point in their lives. Women are doing the best they can to adapt to leaking urine. We wear protective pads, visit the bathroom as often as possible and try to remember to do those Kegel exercises.
There’s an App for that!
Recently I heard about a new, easy-to-use at home pelvic trainer and app, the PeriCoach system. It teaches women with real time visual feedback via a Bluetooth connection to their smartphone how to exercise and strengthen their pelvic floor muscles, in other words how to do Kegels and do them correctly.
Women can see how strong their muscle contractions are on their smartphone and track their progress. There’s even a secure portal at my.pericoach.com that women can share with their clinicians so they can both keep track of their progress.