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Category: Greenville Women’s Clinic Blog

What is a Midwife?

The term midwife means “with woman”. Midwives are known for being present with women typically during labor and childbirth, but many people do not know that midwives are trained to care for women throughout the lifespan.

Historically and traditionally, women were present with other women during childbirth. This began to change when childbirth was moved into hospital institutions after Obstetrics as a medical practice began. Today, most midwives in the U.S. practice in hospitals, continuing to be with women during childbirth. Midwives have prescriptive authority, so YES, you can still get medications and/or an epidural with a midwife. And if you choose to have an unmedicated birth, the midwife is well trained on techniques to assist you.

The shortage of Obstetrical providers including midwives can be felt in many areas throughout NC, especially rural areas. I’m proud to say that I’m a graduate from ECU’s midwifery program, the only program for midwives in the state. I believe in the role of midwives in meeting the needs of the community. Eastern NC has such a gem in ECU, producing much of the midwifery care of NC and surrounding states.

Midwives typically function in a collaborative role with Obstetricians, working together as part of the healthcare team. This collaboration is essential in helping to reduce the cesarean rate, reducing infant and maternal mortality rates, and bridging the gap in healthcare. Midwives routinely are available for prenatal and postpartum care, annual exams, primary care, STI screening, Contraception and Gynecological evaluations.

As a midwife provider, and as a woman who has received midwifery care, my desire is to be with women, acting as an advocate and a bridge in helping them in meeting their healthcare needs. That may be in providing safe, professional and comfortable exams, or being in the labor room for one of the most monumental moments of a family’s life. It may be in providing education on contraceptive options or holding a hand when it’s needed. The role of a midwife isn’t defined by the task of the moment but by being present.

If you’d like to have a consult or schedule an appointment, call the Midwife, Sarah Sears, CNM at Greenville Women’s Care 252-757-3131.

If you would like to learn more about Midwives visit, http://www.midwife.org/

Ovarian Cyst Warning Signs

Ovarian cysts are solid or fluid-filled sacs that form within your ovaries. Many women develop ovarian cysts at some point in their lives. These cysts typically form during ovulation, which is the time during your monthly cycle when one of your ovaries releases an egg.

Ovarian cysts sometimes cause pain and other symptoms, but sometimes they don’t cause any symptoms at all. Often cysts form and then go away on their own in a few weeks or in one to three months.

Although most ovarian cysts are benign — meaning they are not cancerous — in rare cases cysts are a sign of ovarian cancer. For this reason, it is always wise to tell your doctor about any symptoms that might suggest the presence of ovarian cysts.

The physicians at Greenville Women’s Care recommend calling our office for a checkup if you experience any of the following warning signs of ovarian cysts.

1. Pelvic pain.

You feel pelvic pain in your lower belly. Ovarian cysts are one of many possible causes of pelvic pain. The pain from ovarian cysts may feel sharp or dull. You may feel pain for extended periods of time, or it may come and go.  Ovarian cyst-related pain tends to be worse during your menstrual period. The hormones produced during your period can cause ovarian cysts to form or enlarge, triggering pain. When a cyst ruptures, you may feel sudden, severe pain in your pelvic region.

2. Referred pain.

Pain from ovarian cysts can travel beyond the pelvic area to your low back or even your thighs. This is called referred pain.

3. Bloating.

Like many women, you may experience bloating during your period, but watch for unusual bloating that can result when an ovarian cyst grows larger.

4. Nausea and vomiting.

Nausea and vomiting may sometimes occur when an ovarian cyst causes one of your ovaries to become twisted.

5. Changes in urination or passing stools.

Occasionally ovarian cysts can affect the action of your bladder or bowels so that you have trouble emptying them. You may also find that you need to urinate more often.

6. Fever.

If an ovarian cyst becomes infected, you may develop a fever.

7. Unexplained bleeding.

Ovarian cysts can sometimes cause bleeding when you do not expect it. Call our office without delay if you have unexplained bleeding — it can be a sign of a medical condition that requires attention.

8. Unexplained weight gain.

In rare cases, ovarian cysts can grow surprisingly large. Their size, along with the bloating that can occur, may make a difference in the numbers on your bathroom scale.

9. Pain during sex.

Ovarian cysts can occasionally result in pain or discomfort during sex. This is especially likely if you develop a type of ovarian cyst known as an endometrioma, which occurs most commonly in women with endometriosis, a condition in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus.

10. Trouble getting pregnant.

In women with a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), many ovarian cysts form over time. Sometimes women with PCOS can have trouble getting pregnant.

Although many ovarian cysts go away on their own, some require surgical removal. The doctors at Greenville Women’s Care have extensive experience with the surgical methods used to remove ovarian cysts. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed here — or if you need other gynecological care — call us for an appointment. Our team of women’s health care providers can help you with all of your gynecological needs.

Five Topics to Always Talk to Your Gynecologist About

When you visit your gynecologist for routine check-ups, you may look at it like a chore for getting a clean bill of health and then move onto the next item on your to-do-list. But it is important that you pay attention to your body throughout the year and make a list of questions that you may have. Take the time to ask your gynecologist questions, so you have a better understanding of your body. If any of these 5 topics apply to you, you should never leave the gynecologist’s office without discussing with your physician.

Pregnancy and Fertility

Your obstetrician is an excellent resource for you to talk with about fertility, becoming pregnant or if you are currently pregnant. Your obstetrician can offer advice on topics ranging from ovulation kits, pregnancy tests, early signs of pregnancy and also early signs of infertility.

While you might want to keep that you are trying to get pregnant a secret from friends and family, you should never keep that fact from your doctor. Not only will they be able to provide helpful information about lifestyle changes that help promote conception, but they will also understand the emotional stress that can occur when trying to get pregnant.

Painful Intercourse

If  having intercourse is uncomfortable and causes you pain, you may need to talk to your doctor. Even if you are uncomfortable discussing your sex life with your doctor, or you are embarrassed to talk about it with anyone other than your best friend, painful intercourse should not be ignored. You may even want to call your physician before your visit and let them know this is going on so they will remember to bring it up during your appointment.

Your gynecologist can also help answer questions or find the cause of pain during intercourse. Pain during sex does not just happen during menopause, it can be a symptom of birth control, endometriosis, or other underlying medical issues. Bleeding during intercourse should also be discussed with your gynecologist. Bleeding can be caused by dryness, infections or other underlying issues and talking about this during your visit can help your gynecologist help you effectively.

Heavy, Painful, and/or Irregular Periods

As women, we are often discouraged to discuss our menstrual cycle. Because of this, it can be hard to know if your period is “normal”, or if something you are experiencing is due to an underlying medical issue. Heavy periods can mean different things to different women, so it is important that you talk to your gynecologist if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Heavy periods can be caused by a number of things such as uterine fibroids, hormonal imbalance, polyps, uterine hyperplasia or cancer. Painful periods may also be a sign of endometriosis, uterine fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease. Your gynecologist can help you figure out why your periods are abnormally heavy and painful and recommend treatment that can provide you relief.

Irregular periods can be normal in the adolescent years, but not as you mature. A typical menstrual cycle is anywhere from 21 to 35 days. As with heavy bleeding, every woman is different, but if you have a hard time predicting when you are going to have your period, be sure to speak with your gynecologist.

If your periods are irregular. Even if you are used to some periods lasting a week and being extremely heavy, and other months having a two-day menstrual cycle that is lightweight, you need to talk to your doctor about the topic. It could be the sign of a more serious problem.

Depression After Childbirth

If you do not feel like yourself after childbirth and suffer from signs of depression and negative thoughts, contact your doctor immediately. These feelings are not uncommon and are nothing to be ashamed of or brushed under the rug. Your gynecologists can work with you to find the right treatment to get you back to your happy and healthy self.

Menopausal Concerns

Going through menopause is a very challenging time in a women’s life. And to make matters worse, it comes with a slew of side effects like hot flashes, restlessness when trying to sleep, weight gain and mood swings. Your doctor can work with you to reduce the symptoms and let you know what is normal, and what is not. If anything can be done to relieve the symptoms of menopause, you should definitely consider them.

Whether you are going to the OBGYN for the first time, or if you have been going for many years, it can be uncomfortable to share private information about your body with your gynecologist. Our office has the most female physicians – and like you, as women, we have been in your shoes. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our gynecologists.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Each year it is estimated that 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and of those diagnosed, one-third will die as a result of the cancer. But thanks to improved screening and vaccination, cervical cancer is highly preventable and treatable.

The American Social Health Association and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition have recognized January as Cervical Health Awareness Month to encourage women across the country to get screened and receive the HPV vaccine if they are eligible.

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50%. The main reason for this change is the increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early − in its most curable stage.

Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife. Most cases are found in women younger than 50. It rarely develops in women younger than 20. However, many older women do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age. More than 15% of cases of cervical cancer are found in women over 65. It is important to keep in mind though that these cancers rarely occur in women who have regular tests to screen for cervical cancer before they were 65.

Every women should be screened no matter their age, but some women are at greater risk than others for cervical cancer. Some of those risk factors include:

  • Women with HPV, HIV or chlamydia
  • Women who use tobacco products
  • Women who are obese
  • Women who have a family history of cervical cancer

Women with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers usually have no symptoms. Symptoms often do not begin until the cancer becomes invasive and grows into nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptoms are:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Bleeding after vaginal intercourse
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Bleeding and spotting between periods
  • Periods that are longer or heavier than usual
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina
  • Pain during intercourse

These signs and symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cervical cancer. For example, an infection can cause pain or bleeding. Still, if you have any of these signs or other suspicious symptoms, you should see your health care professional right away. Ignoring symptoms may allow the cancer to progress to a more advanced stage and lower your chance for effective treatment.

Even better, don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Make sure to plan and attend your regular check-up appointments at Greenville Women’s Care for regular screenings. An additional step that women can take to prevent cervical cancer is to receive Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. Ask your doctor if this vaccine is right for you.

Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer in Just 25 Minutes a Day!

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women. Because of this, it is no surprise that much research has been done to discover how women can reduce their risk of development.

Did you know that with just 25 minutes of physical activity a day your risk of developing breast cancer decreases? Sounds easy enough, right? Notice we said physical activity and NOT exercise! The word “exercise” can seem intimidating. But, being physically active doesn’t have to involve weights, treadmills or mile-long runs. Any activity that makes you breathe a little harder and gets your body warmer will help reduce your risk. Across numerous studies, evidence has shown that there was a 25% average breast cancer risk reduction amongst physically active women as compared to lesser active women. 

So how can you get moving? Everyday tasks can count as physical activity, like gardening and washing the car. Or, devote more time in your day to active hobbies you enjoy, like swimming, tennis, yoga or dance! The American Cancer Society recommends that all adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intense activity a week. At just 25 minutes each day, you are exceeding this recommended amount.

In addition to just 25 minutes of physical activity, you can also get moving by taking small steps each day, like:

  • Using the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Parking farther away from the store
  • Taking your pet for a longer walk
  • Using a stationary bike or treadmill while watching TV

You may be wondering how being physically active can reduce your risk for breast cancer. Physical activity helps to maintain a healthy body weight, which decreases the risk of cancer development after menopause. It is also thought that physical activity helps to regulate hormones including insulin and estrogen and keeps the immune system healthier. By improving your immune system through exercise, a woman’s body will also be more effective at killing or slowing the growth of cancer cells.

Not only can physical activity decrease the risk of breast cancer, it can also improve your long-term health and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Additionally, exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress and depression, and improve mood.

Remember, it is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle! In fact, studies have shown that women who increase their physical activity after menopause may have a lower risk of breast cancer than women who do not. So, no matter your age it is important to add physical activity to your lifestyle today. Start slow and gradually build up the amount of physical activity you do.

At Greenville Women’s Care, we are committed to encouraging women of all stages of life to lead a healthy and active lifestyle! To learn more about breast cancer risks and for regularly scheduled mammograms, contact us today!

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month – Know the Signs and Symptoms

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and Greenville Women’s Care would like to make you aware of the signs and symptoms of this disease.

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that may have multiple causes and it may begin in the ovary or adjacent structures including the Fallopian tube and lining of our abdominal cavity.  A woman’s reproductive system contains  two ovary and Fallopian tube, one on each side of the uterus in the pelvis. Each ovary is about the size of an almond and produces hormones and eggs (ova) for the purpose of our female composition and reproduction.  Your ovaries also produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The Fallopian tube is the tube or “conveyor belt,” if you will imagine that transports the egg to meet the sperm and travel back to the uterus for implantation.  The Fallopian tube serves no other purpose. 

Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen because there is not yet a perfect test, like a mammogram for breast cancer screening, to detect it early.   Late-stage ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat. When the cancer is confined to the ovary, early-stage ovarian cancer, it is likely to be treated more successfully.  The best chance of catching this cancer in its early- stages is to know your body well and to have regular exams with your Gynecologist.  There are different types of ovarian cancer and each usually present at different age groups.  No matter the type of ovarian cancer, it is generally treated with surgery and chemotherapy.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

Your ovaries are made up of three main types of cells and each can develop into a different type of tumor. The type of cell where the cancer begins is the type of ovarian cancer you have. The three types include:

  • Epithelial tumors. These start in the thin layer of tissue on the outer surface of the ovary. Most, about 90%, ovarian cancers are epithelial tumors. 
  • Germ cell tumors. These start from the cells that produce the eggs (ova). This rare ovarian cancer tends to occur in younger females. 
  • Stromal tumors. These start from the structural tissue that produces the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These tumors, about 7%, are usually diagnosed at an earlier stage. 

Benign tumor s(non-cancerous) don’t spread beyond the ovaries. Benign tumors are treated by either removing the ovary or removing the part of the ovary that contains the tumor. Malignant (cancerous) tumors can metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body and can be fatal.  It must be treated. 

Signs & Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Early-stage ovarian cancer rarely causes any symptoms. Women are more likely to have symptoms when the disease has spread beyond the ovaries. However, most of these symptoms are likely to be caused by other conditions, and most of them occur often in women who don’t have ovarian cancer. 

Some of the signs and symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms, such always feeling like you have to go or having to go often
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Change in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • Menstrual changes
  • Abdominal swelling with weight loss

Symptoms caused by ovarian cancer are typically more persistent and are a change from normal – meaning they occur more often and are more severe.   It is important to know your body well and if any unexplained symptoms persist for an extended period of time, see your Gynecologist. 

Causes of Ovarian Cancer

It’s not clear what causes ovarian cancer, however physicians have identified several factors that can increase the risk of the disease. Generally, cancer begins when a cell develops mutations in its DNA. The mutations tell the cell to grow and multiply quickly which creates a tumor of abnormal cells. Those cells continue living as healthy cells die. The abnormal cells can invade nearby tissues and break off from an initial tumor to metastasize in the body.

Risk factors of Ovarian Cancer

Factors that can increase your risk of ovarian cancer include:

  • Beginning menstruation at an early age     or starting menopause at a later age, or both, may increase your risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Infertility or never having children or having them at a later age
  • Pelvic conditions like endometriosis
  • Older age. Although ovarian cancer can occur at any age, it’s most common in women 50 to 60 years of age.
  • Inherited gene mutations. A small percentage of ovarian cancers are caused by gene mutations inherited from your parents.  We have now learned of several genetic mutations and a blood test is available to determine if you are a carrier. 
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Family history of ovarian cancer. Woman who have two or more close relatives with ovarian cancer have an increased risk of the disease.

Prevention of Ovarian Cancer

There’s no guaranteed way to prevent the disease, however there may be ways to reduce your risk:

  • Consider taking birth control pills as a means for menstrual manipulation to protect your ovaries.  Ask your gynecologist whether this approach may be right for you.   A birth control pill places your ovaries into a dormant state and is thought to be protective of the ovary to stop ovulation.  This is how it protects one from pregnancy.  When a woman is not on birth control, each month ovulation occurs and the egg bursts out of the ovary.  This process creates a small scar.  The scar is thought to be one of the many causes that could set of the ovarian cancerous process overtime.   Women who therefore ovulate monthly are at increased risk.  A birth control pill much like pregnancy prevents the ovary from being able to ovulate and therefore protective.   Oral contraceptives do have risks, so you should discuss whether the benefits outweigh the risks with your gynecologist.
  • The other method to reduce your risk resides with the Fallopian tube.  When one no longer desires future fertility, this structure can be removed.  It is recommended to be considered at time of permanent sterilization, like a tubal ligation, or at a hysterectomy.  Evidence shows that removing the entire Fallopian tube may be protective.  It is believed that the more aggressive ovarian cancers may not start in the Fallopian tube and not the ovary.  This operation is called an opportunistic salpingectomy.  It is not recommended to have this surgery for this reason alone.    Surgery comes with many risks and evidence has not yet confirmed this should be the sole reason for a surgery to warrant the risk of having surgery.  It is recommended however to be done when one is already having surgery for other reasons, hence the opportunistic consideration. 

Whether you’re worried about developing ovarian cancer, making decisions about treatment options, or trying to stay well after treatment for ovarian cancer, the physicians and staff at Greenville Women’s Care do care and are here to help!

Top Pregnancy Apps

For expectant mothers, pregnancy can be an overwhelming time in their life. There is a lot of information to absorb, like what types of food to avoid, how to stay fit while pregnant and how to prepare for baby’s arrival. In addition to the expertise from your obstetrician, there are many smartphone apps that can help mothers-to-be navigate the world of pregnancy. With the click of a button, you can track your pregnancy and get valuable information about your baby’s development.

Below are several of our top picks for FREE pregnancy apps.

Ovia Pregnancy Tracker and Baby Calendar (available on iTunes and Google Play)

Developed by Harvard scientists, pregnancy specialists and fit moms, the Ovia app has a high-tech, personalized approach to tracking your pregnancy and your baby’s development. This app connects with FitBit, which allows you to easily track your weight, sleep, symptoms, moods and more. Receive feedback completely tailored to you! All information is based on where you are in your pregnancy, BMI, age, personal goals and health data. As your baby grows, you can use the kick counter and contraction timer. Connect with other mothers in a private, anonymous community where you can share experiences.

Totally Pregnant (available on iTunes and Google Play)

Totally Pregnant was created by real mothers who have been where you are. This community of moms have gathered information that is tailored to your location, stage of pregnancy and needs. Personalize your experience by entering your name and due date. Watch 3D videos showing you the development of your fetus as your bump grows. Sign up and attend prenatal and birth classes online through the app. Shop for all the products you need during your pregnancy and for the first few months after you give birth. Join discussion groups and be supported by a community of Totally Pregnant moms.

What to Expect – Pregnancy & Baby (available on iTunes)

From the world’s most trusted pregnancy brand, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, this app guides you through pregnancy hour-by-hour. You’ll receive the latest parenting news and health information based on your due date. Find the right support group for you based on location, interest, medical condition, parenting style and more. Get the tools and support you need to help you prepare and feel in control every step of the way. Once your baby is born, you’ll get answers, advice and guidance as you navigate life as a new parent.

Baby Names (available on iTunes and Google Play)

One of the toughest decisions expectant parents face is what to name their new baby boy or girl. The Baby Names app by Sevenlogic is packed with more than 30,000 names and compiles suggestions in an easily sortable list. Check name popularity, meaning, origin and pronunciation all in one place. Save and rate your favorite names and share by email and Facebook for feedback from trusted family and friends.

There’s an app for everything these days, including pregnancy. They can offer a place for you to track your pregnancy, learn more about motherhood and connect with other pregnant women. Although, the internet and available apps are a great source of information they are not a replacement for prenatal care.  The information these sources provide isn’t specific for your own health and pregnancy.  The physicians and staff at Greenville Women’s Care remind you to always consult your obstetrician about anything that you read or even bring in articles to discuss how they could apply to you and your baby.

Preventing Vaginal Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are fairly common. If you’re like three-quarters of women, you’re likely to get at least one during your lifetime, and fifty percent are likely to get two or more.

More times than not, a yeast infection is due to an overgrowth of Candida. Candida is a type of yeast that occurs naturally on the skin. Yeast is part of the fungi family and, in normal amounts, is harmless.

Women are more likely to get a vaginal yeast infection when they:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have a weak immune system
  • Are taking an antibiotic
  • Have diabetes
  • Use vaginal sprays or douches
  • Take birth control with high doses of estrogen

It’s not possible to completely prevent a yeast infection, but here are some things you can do to prevent your chances:

  • Wear breathable underwear and change it regularly. We recommend cotton as it doesn’t hold heat or moisture, and it tends to keep you drier.
  • Wear loose clothing. Tight jeans, skirts, underwear, yoga pants, tights, pantyhose, etc. can raise your body temperature and the amount of moisture and friction around your private parts. These things can increase your chances for a yeast infection.
  • Change out of wet clothes, specifically this time of the year, wet bathing suits. When possible don’t sit in a wet bathing suit or gym clothes after working out, try to change into dry clothes right away.
  • Hot and damp are not a girl’s best friend. Avoid hot tubs if possible, but if you indulge change into dry clothes as soon as possible.
  • When using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back. Doing this will help prevent microorganisms from being pushed into the vagina or introduced into the urinary tract.
  • We don’t recommend douching. Feminine hygiene products like this can alter the balance of bacteria in your vagina by removing bacteria that is there to prevent infections.
  • When using feminine products, skip the scents. This includes soaps, sprays, bubble baths, tampons, and pads. Again, this can disturb the balance of bacteria in your vagina; and, cause a yeast infection.
  • Change tampons, pads and liners frequently when you’re on your period.
  • If you have diabetes, manage it. Be sure to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels and keep them under control.
  • Use antibiotics only when prescribed and when needed. You shouldn’t take them for a cold, because they won’t do anything for a virus.

Keep in mind, some people are more prone to yeast infections than others. If you are more susceptible here are some additional things to keep in mind, specifically if you have a yeast infection:

  • Avoid sexual activity. Yeast infections can be passed back and forth, and they can also be transferred to other areas of the body.
  • Wash certain garments regularly and in hot water using a gentle detergent.
  • Eat foods that help balance your microflora in the body, such as yogurts containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, a type of natural probiotic.

Even with preventive efforts, you can still get a yeast infection. So, how do you know when to give Greenville Women’s Care a call? You should consider calling for an appointment if:

  • This is your first infection,
  • Your symptoms won’t go away, and you’ve tried an over-the-counter product,
  • You have recurrent infections,
  • You have unrelated symptoms and finally,
  • You’re not sure if you actually have an infection.

Osteoporosis – Preventable & Treatable

Osteoporosis is a condition of fragile, brittle bones, and if not prevented or treated, can lead to easily breaking a bone like your rib or hip after a fall.  Osteoporosis is a health threat for millions of Americans. It is estimated that 10 million people have the condition and over 30 million others have low bone mass, also known as osteopenia, placing them at risk for osteoporosis.

Although osteoporosis is more common in older people, and is thought of as an older person’s disease; it can strike at any age. Everyone loses some bone density (mass) as they age, however some will lose more, or lose it faster, than others.  The rate at which we lose bone density depends on hormonal status, medical conditions like thyroid disease and even diet. 

Approximately 80% of people affected by osteoporosis are women. This is due to the fact that women have lighter, thinner bones and can lose up to 20 percent of their bone density after menopause, which makes them more predisposed to the disease. A woman’s risk of osteoporosis is actually equal to her combined risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • older age
  • a family history
  • being petite and thin
  • certain ethnicities, such as Caucasian and Asian
  • a history of broken bones
  • a poor diet, especially low in calcium, Vitamin D or if drinking numerous carbonated beverages
  • low estrogen levels as in premature menopause or if ovaries are removed at a young age (< age 50)
  • an inactive lifestyle
  • smoking and excessive alcohol use
  • certain medications, conditions & diseases

Since you cannot feel your bones getting weaker, you probably will not know you have osteoporosis until you break a bone. If you have osteoporosis, you can fracture a bone from a minor fall, or in extreme cases, from a simple sneeze. Spinal fractures may first be felt or seen in the form of severe back pain, loss of height, or spinal deformities. In many cases, a spinal fracture can even occur with no pain.

Because 85-90% of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys, building strong bones during childhood and adolescence can help to prevent osteoporosis later in life. Several steps that you can take to optimize bone health and prevent osteoporosis are:

  1. Get your recommended daily amounts of calcium and vitamin D
  2. Participate in regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise
  3. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol
  4. Talk to your physician about bone health
  5. If appropriate, have a bone density test and take medication.

The only way to diagnose and determine your risk for osteoporosis is a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test.  A standard BMD screen is recommended at age 65 unless there are concerns sooner.  A BMD measures bone mass and is necessary to determine whether you need medication to help maintain your bone mass, prevent further bone loss and reduce fracture risk. A BMD is accurate, painless and noninvasive.

Since osteoporosis can be undetected for decades, sometimes not until a fracture occurs, early diagnosis is important. It is never too early or too late to start your prevention program, so consult your physician at Greenville Women’s Care to learn more about the prevention and detection of osteoporosis.

Preparing For A Visit To The Gynecologist

Whether you’re heading to the gynecologist for an annual checkup or to get help with a medical issue, there are several things you can do, or avoid, beforehand to make your visit as streamlined as possible. Having efficient and thorough appointments is important because many women use their OB-GYN as their primary care doctor.

1. Make sure you ask for the appropriate type of appointment.

Physicals can be quicker but if you are having concerns make sure you ask for adequate time with your doctor or ask for an additional problem visit another day.

2. Try not to schedule your appointment while you are on your period.

Many times a visit to the gynecologist will involve a pelvic exam, it is best to not be on your period for these exams. Blood may interfere with the results of tests, like a Pap test. Although, there are certain situations when making a visit on your period may be inevitable or necessary, for example if you have heavy or irregular periods. However, if you happen to be on your period during your scheduled appointment, do NOT cancel! While the situation may be a little ‘uncomfortable’ for you, remember it’s not for your OB-GYN – it’s what they do

3. Keep track of your cycle.

At some point during your appointment, your provider will ask you, “When was the first day of your last period?” Make it easier on yourself, and your gynecologist, by knowing the answer to this question. You can keep up with your cycle in a planner or in your phone, there are even period tracker apps!

4. Have health updates for your doctor.

It is important to tell your doctor about any medications you have begun or stopped taking. You should also note any changes in your health since your last visit. Bring up the “small” stuff too. Remember, the more your doctor knows about your health, the better! Don’t overlook family medical records, either. If your grandmother was just diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor should know. This will give your provider more information about your potential health risks, which will help give you a more thorough and focused checkup.

5. Come prepared with questions.

Do you ever think back on an appointment and kick yourself because you forgot to ask something you wanted to? Feel free to keep a list of questions for your provider. At Greenville Women’s Clinic we want to give women the knowledge and power to take control of their health.

6. There are certain things you should avoid doing before your appointment. 

It is advised to not have intercourse or douche before going to see your OB-GYN. Both can obscure or mask abnormal cells that the Pap test is screening for, which can lead to an erroneous result. You do not need to clean in any way outside of your normal routine before an appointment. You should be using a gentle cleanser daily.

While going to the gynecologist isn’t something many women look forward to, it is an important part of staying healthy. At Greenville Women’s Care, it is our goal to make every woman feel as relaxed as possible, no matter the reason they come to see us. Our doctors, nurses and staff are here to make sure you have a pleasant experience in our office. By following the above advice and with just a little preparation, you can help make your next appointment the most informative and productive yet! Are you due for your annual checkup? Call us today to schedule your appointment!