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Happy Doctor Assisting Woman Undergoing Mammogram X-ray Test; blog: When Should I Get a Mammogram?

When Should I Get a Mammogram?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s an ideal time to talk about breast cancer screening. An estimated 1 in 8 women (or 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. To give yourself the best possible chance of survival, early detection is critical. The most reliable method for early detection is regular screening tests including self-breast exams and mammograms. Recommendations on when and how often women need mammograms depend on factors like age and risk level. If you’ve been wondering “when should I get a mammogram?” then read on to learn the guidelines.

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

The following recommendations from the American Cancer Society are for women at average risk for breast cancer. Meaning, she doesn’t have a personal history of breast cancer, a strong family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation known to increase the risk of breast cancer (such as the BRCA gene), and has not had chest radiation therapy before the age of 30. 

  • Women ages 40 to 44 have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so.
  • Women ages 45 to 54 are advised to get mammograms every year
  • Women ages 55 and older have the option of switching to a mammogram every two years or continue with yearly screenings.

It is recommended that women continue regular screenings as long as she is in good health and expected to live longer than 10 or more years.

Types of Mammograms

As researchers have continued to learn more about breast cancer, new technologies have been developed to help increase the rate of early detection. So not only should you be asking “when should I get a mammogram?” you should also ask “which type of mammogram should I get?” Your OB/GYN can help give you guidance on the type of screening that’s right for you, but often they will recommend 3D mammography. 

Traditional 2D mammograms take pictures of each breast from the front and the side to create a single image of each breast. Tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, is an FDA-approved advanced technology that takes multiple images, or X-rays, of breast tissue to recreate a 3-dimensional picture of the breast compared to traditional mammography in which only a single image is obtained.

Multiple images of breast tissue slices allow radiologists to have a clearer image of breast masses, making the detection of breast cancer easier and more accurate. Additionally, this technology allows physicians to detect more cancers, reduces the risk of false positives, and makes it easier to see the cancer size compared to a regular mammogram.

What to Expect During a Mammogram

Women notice little difference between 3D mammography and a traditional 2D screening. The tube taking the X-ray sweeps across the breast in an arch taking about four seconds to obtain an image, just a little bit longer than a digital mammogram.

Because 3D mammography produces more images, it does take radiologists a little longer to read than a single digital mammography image, but the original procedure is much the same. 

The whole procedure takes about 20 minutes. It is far more accurate in the early detection of breast cancer than a traditional mammogram. Your breast must be flattened to obtain a high-quality picture, which can cause discomfort.

 

Preparing for Your Mammogram

Now that you’ve answered “when should I get a mammogram?” now you need to know how to prepare for the screening. The American Cancer Society suggests scheduling your mammogram when your breasts are not tender or swollen to help reduce discomfort, and in turn, get good images. It is advisable to avoid the week just before your period.

Contact Raleigh OB/GYN Centre

The physicians, nurses, and medical staff at Raleigh OB/GYN offer a comprehensive list of gynecological and obstetric services to the women of the Raleigh, NC area. If you have questions or concerns about breast cancer screening or mammography, call our office at (919) 876-8225 to make an appointment.

Woman holding menstrual cup and sanitary pad in hands. Feminine hygiene alternative product instead of tampon during her period. Menstruation, critical days, zero waste, eco, ecology concept; blog: What is Menstruation Awareness?

What is Menstruation Awareness?

Menstruation, or getting your period, is a normal and healthy part of life for most women. However, it’s still stigmatized in many places, including the US.  Some girls and women feel embarrassed or ashamed when they have to address their periods. It can even cause some people to avoid certain activities and miss out on important experiences. That’s why menstruation awareness and events like National Period Day on October 10th are so important.

Why Menstruation Awareness Matters

Menstruation awareness is something of a recent phenomenon on a national stage. While women have been working to make hygiene products accessible and erase stigmas for a long time, only recently has it been making public waves. Menstruation awareness emphasizes making hygiene products available to those who need them, but it has other facets as well.

Breaking Down Stigmas

A girl’s first period can be exciting because it is a symbol of entering womanhood. But it can also be confusing and a bit intimidating. That’s because a lot of girls are not equipped with all the right information to manage their first menstrual cycle. It’s rare that periods and feminine hygiene is openly talked about in a way that would make a girl feel at ease with this new stage in life. 

Society often treats periods and women’s health in general as if it’s something you don’t talk about in public. Menstruation awareness can help erase the stigmas around periods. That doesn’t just apply to girls who will experience menstruation firsthand. Boys need to be in on the conversation too so they know there’s nothing “gross” about a girl being on her period.

Educating Young People

Another really important issue menstruation awareness helps with is educating young people about their periods and feminine hygiene. Because of the stigmas we talked about earlier, some girls may not want to talk to their parents or guardians about their periods. If they hear the facts from reliable sources, they will not have good information to follow, the mystery surrounding periods will go away. 

Normalizing open conversations about menstruation will help girls learn about the different feminine hygiene products available to them and how to properly use them. According to Unicef, poor menstrual hygiene can pose physical health risks and has been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections. Creating awareness and openness is one of the most effective ways to help teach girls how to properly manage their menstrual hygiene. 

Addressing Period Poverty

Another reason menstruation awareness has become an important issue is period poverty. Period poverty includes According to reporting by Forbes, 35 states in the US have a tax on menstrual products because they are considered “non-essential goods.” The increased cost of things like pads, tampons, and menstrual cups means many women can’t always afford the products they need every month. This is referred to as period poverty. 

Non-profits created and lead by young women have been a huge part of the menstruation awareness movement. Organizations like PERIOD have partnered with brands and other non-profits to form a Menstrual Movement Coalition that is working to make freely accessible period products available in places like schools and shelters.

Contact Raleigh OB/GYN Centre

The physicians, nurses, and medical staff at Raleigh OB/GYN offer a comprehensive list of gynecological and obstetric services to the women of the Raleigh, NC area. If you have questions or concerns about menstruation, call our office at (919) 876-8225 to make an appointment.

Concept polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS. Paper art, awareness of PCOS, image of the female reproductive system; blog: The Top 4 PCOS Symptoms & How They're Treated

The Top 4 PCOS Symptoms & How They’re Treated

September marks the start of PCOS Awareness Month, so we wanted to take some time to discuss the symptoms and treatments of this common syndrome. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormone disorder that is common among women who are at reproductive age. The disorder can be difficult to diagnose, but there are PCOS symptoms that may help your doctor come up with a treatment plan.

While the exact causes for PCOS are unknown, there is a correlation between women with PCOS also having resistance to insulin. This resistance means that the body is unable to effectively use insulin. If the insulin levels start to build up, this may lead to higher levels of the male hormone androgen. Obesity can also contribute to increased insulin levels, ultimately worsening PCOS symptoms.

The Top 4 PCOS Symptoms

PCOS usually develops during puberty, but can also develop in response to substantial weight gain. 

Women with PCOS most commonly experience:

  • Prolonged or infrequent periods
  • Excess levels of the male hormone androgen
  • Ovaries that develop small collections of fluid, and fail to regularly release eggs

While it can be difficult to diagnose, common PCOS symptoms include:

  1. Polycystic ovaries: Women with PCOS commonly experience enlarged ovaries that contain follicles that surround the eggs. Because of this, the ovaries might fail to function properly. 
  2. Irregular periods: When the ovaries are not able to regularly release an egg, this can lead to prolonged or irregular periods. Some menstrual cycles may be longer, shorter, or lighter than others, and some cycles may be missed altogether.
  3. Infertility: The combination of malfunctioning ovaries and irregular periods make it difficult to ovulate, leading to infertility.
  4. Excess body hair, acne, and/or weight gain: Elevated levels of androgen may result in a variety of physical factors, such as excess facial and body hair, weight gain (specifically in the abdomen), and occasionally severe acne and male-pattern baldness.

If you have two or more of these symptoms, your doctor may administer certain tests to form a diagnosis. Ultrasounds can produce images of the ovaries to see if they are enlarged, or if there are any visible cysts. Blood tests check for hormone levels and can determine if there are high levels of androgen.  

Treatment Options for PCOS

PCOS symptoms can be more extreme if the woman is obese, so diet and exercise are two of the best steps to reducing PCOS symptoms. Making healthy changes can also help your body use insulin more efficiently, lower blood glucose levels, and may also aid in ovulation.

Additional treatments may include certain medications to help aid in ovulation. While these medications can help the ovaries to release eggs regularly, it’s important to note that there are certain risks, like ovarian hyperstimulation, where the ovaries release too many hormones. 

If you don’t plan to become pregnant, birth control may also serve as a treatment to PCOS by helping to control periods, lowering levels of androgen, and clearing up acne.

In some cases, medications used primarily for helping with diabetes can also help with PCOS symptoms. For example, if a woman with PCOS also has a resistance to insulin, these medications can help lower this resistance. In turn, this may lead to more regular ovulation and lower levels of androgen.

If you have any concerns with irregular periods or any other potential PCOS symptoms, give Raleigh OB/GYN a call at 919-876-8225 or request an appointment.

Peaceful loving young African mother sitting on bed and leaning on headboard while feeding baby with breast; blog: Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms

11 Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms

If you have made the decision to breastfeed your baby, you might have some questions about what it’s like and how you can nurse successfully. To prepare for National Breastfeeding Month in August, we have come up with some breastfeeding tips for new moms.

1. Enlist Help

One of the first breastfeeding tips that can help new moms is to see a lactation consultant. You can research local consultants and meet them before you give birth so they can help you from the very start of your baby’s life. Some insurance plans will cover or pay for part of a lactation consultant’s services. Get your partner involved as well, because they’ll need to provide support even if they aren’t going to be nursing the baby. UNC Rex Hospital has excellent lactation consultants on staff to help you get started and address any difficulties while you are in the hospital, and many pediatricians also have lactation consultants to help after discharge.

2. Join a Lactation Support Group

Some women find it useful to find a local lactation group to join. That way you can get breastfeeding tips in person from other women going through the same process you are.

3. Start Right Away

Experts recommend starting nursing within the first hour after delivery when possible. Skin to skin contact is also recommended as soon as possible. In uncomplicated deliveries, immediate skin to skn is standard at UNC Rex Hospital. It may seem like you’re just producing a few drops, but starting early is important and the first you produce (colostrum) is great for your baby.

4. Get Comfortable & Relaxed

Find breastfeeding positions that are comfortable for you and your baby. If either one of you is tense or uncomfortable, it probably won’t be a very productive nursing session.

5. Help Your Baby Find a Good Position

One breastfeeding tip some moms have found useful is to make sure the baby’s feet touching a surface like your leg, a pillow, or the arm of a chair. This can help make them feel more secure when they’re tucked up against you.

6. Try a Nursing Stool

Many moms swear by nursing stools to help them find a comfortable position while nursing. You put the stool at your feet while you sit on a chair or the couch. The stool will allow you to stay in a comfortable position that is good for your back, neck, and shoulders. 

7. Hold Off On Bottles if You Can

If possible, hold off on feeding with a bottle until you and your baby are completely comfortable with breastfeeding. Once you’ve gotten good at nursing, you can start expressing milk with a pump and feeding with a bottle. Many people find that they can introduce the bottle at 4-6 weeks.

8. Make Sure You’re Eating Right (And Enough!)

Unlike during pregnancy, what you eat and drink doesn’t pass directly to your baby when you breastfeed. However, the things you consume can still affect the baby. Plus, you need to maintain good nutrition for yourself so you can continue to produce nutritious breast milk and have enough good stuff left to fuel your own body. And make sure you’re always well hydrated.

9. Research a Good Pump

If you plan to pump, do some research before you commit to one. Most insurance plans will cover the cost of a breast pump, and we’ll take care of starting the ordering process during your pregnancy. If you plan to buy one yourself, check reviews and ask your friends for recommendations. You don’t want to invest in something that doesn’t work for you.

10. Find Ways to Soothe Soreness

As you continue to nurse, you and your baby will both get more comfortable with it. However, along the way, you might still have some soreness or chapped skin on your nipples. There are many products available to soreness and keep nipples moisturized. Some moms like ointments and creams with lanolin but there are vegan options as well. Cooling pads or compresses can also help with discomfort.

11. Be Kind to Yourself

You might have heard that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. But the truth is that everyone needs a bit of time to adjust to it. And it’s difficult for some people even after they spend time working at it. Just do the best you can for you and your baby and don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’re struggling. And know you can always reach out for help.

The physicians, nurses, and medical staff at Raleigh OB/GYN offer a comprehensive list of gynecological and obstetric services to the women of the Raleigh, NC area. If you have questions about pregnancy and breastfeeding, call our office at (919) 876-8225 to make an appointment.

Beautiful young brunette woman at doctor's office; blog: 5 Reasons Your Annual Women’s Wellness Exam Is Important

5 Reasons Your Annual Women’s Wellness Exam Is Important

Though it’s probably not your favorite thing to do, your annual women’s wellness exam is one of the most important things you can do for your long-term health. Even though in most cases an annual pap smear is no longer required, that doesn’t mean you should skip out on your annual wellness exam altogether. Here’s why:

1. You Need to Build a Relationship With Your Physician

In order for your gynecologist to be an effective partner in your care, you need to build a relationship. Over time, you and your physician will get to know each other. In doing so, they’ll have a better understanding of your medical history and can help you navigate through various life experiences.

2. Annual Appointments Establish Health Trends

Part of your annual women’s wellness exam will include ensuring systems in your body are functioning correctly. Checking your baseline vitals like heart rate and blood pressure will establish trends that can help your physician spot and address irregularities in a timely manner.

3. Screenings May Lead To Early Detection

Even if you aren’t due for a pap smear, other screenings including a pelvic exam, breast exam, or sexually transmitted disease screening are equally important. These exams can help your physician identify problems before they start. Early detection can mean the difference between catching a serious problem while it can still be managed or having to undergo treatment when it’s already advanced.

4. Annual Women’s Wellness Exams Are Preventative Care

New studies, equipment, medication and healthcare guidelines come out often. Making sure you get your annual women’s wellness exam will ensure you stay up-to-date on all preventative treatments available to you like the best birth control method for your individual needs or the HPV vaccine.

5. You’ll Get Necessary Supplemental Care

You may think that because you already had your annual physical with your primary care physician that you don’t need to see your gynecologist every year. However, the two actually work together to give you a more comprehensive picture of your overall health. While there may be some overlap like a blood pressure check, your gynecologist will screen for things your primary care physician won’t and vice versa.

Raleigh OB/GYN Centre COVID-19 Update 

At Raleigh OB/GYN Centre, the health and safety of our patients, as well as our staff, remain our top priorities during the COVID-19 outbreak. We are no longer restricting types of appointments, so we are currently scheduling annual women’s wellness exams again. However, we are seeing a limited number of patients in the office per day in an effort to maintain social distancing.

We are taking other steps to protect our patients and staff as well. Only patients and staff are permitted in the office to limit interaction and potential virus exposure. Therefore, you should attend your appointment alone. We are minimizing the amount of time that patients spend waiting in public spaces. Of course, we are also following CDC guidelines on cleaning, disinfecting, handwashing, and facial coverings.

If you are due for an annual exam, you can contact your provider at Raleigh OB/GYN Centre about delaying your appointment if you need to. Patients can also schedule telehealth appointments for certain issues if they do not feel comfortable coming into the office. However, annual exams do require a physical exam, so you will need to come in at some point for that part of the wellness exam. 

To schedule an appointment or talk to a member of our staff about your healthcare options, contact Raleigh OB/GYN Centre at 919-876-8225.

Pregnant woman with allergy sitting on bed at home; blog: ways to avoid getting sgick while pregnant

9 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick While Pregnant

It’s always worrying when there’s a contagious illness going around. It can be even more worrying if you’re in a high-risk group or are pregnant. Some viruses are more dangerous to pregnant women and their babies than to the general population. The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting sick while pregnant.

1. Practice Good Hygiene

The first step to take to avoid getting sick while pregnant is to make sure you’re washing your hands frequently. You have to wash them thoroughly and for at least 20 seconds. For information on the proper way t practice good hand hygiene, check the CDC’s guide on hand washing

Other things to do include disinfecting commonly touched surfaces like counters, doorknobs, electronics, and light switches. Launder clothing, sheets, and towels frequently. Some doctors also recommend showering daily when there are contagious illnesses spreading.

2. Get Vaccinated

Vaccination is important at all stages of life, and there are some vaccines you should get during pregnancy. Pregnant women should get flu and Tdap vaccines. Consult this March of Dimes vaccination chart to find out what other immunizations you should get before, during, and after pregnancy.

3. Eat Well

The best defense against getting sick while pregnant is to be proactive about your overall health. When you’re pregnant, what you eat is important in keeping both you and your baby healthy. Eat whole foods including lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Make sure you follow any guidelines and restrictions your OB/GYN or other healthcare provider gives you.

4. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is a critical part of your overall health. And as we’ve already said, being healthy in the first place is the best defense against getting sick (whether you’re pregnant or not). Lack of sleep can negatively affect your mental and physical health and weaken your immune system. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body secretes extra stress hormones.

5. Take Your Vitamins & Supplements

A healthy diet is the best way to get all the necessary nutrients you need to stay healthy. However, sometimes you need more of certain nutrients than you can get from foods. You should also take your prenatal vitamins and any other supplements your doctor recommends. 

6. Try Not to Stress

Being stressed can make you feel run down and may even make you more likely to get sick. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there is evidence that people under stress have weaker immune systems. Find ways to relax and take your mind off things. Meditation, yoga, reading, or listening to calming music can help you unwind.

7. Stay Active

Again, the best way to avoid catching an illness is to be the healthiest version of yourself. Along with following a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep, you should stay active. Not only will this help with your overall health, but there is evidence that it can help your immune system. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, exercise causes your white blood cells (WBCs) to circulate more rapidly, which may help fight illness sooner. Exercise also slows the release of stress hormones.

8. Avoid Sick People

If you know someone who is sick, avoid contact with them. This can be difficult if you already have children and one of them or your partner is sick and you have to care for them. If you can’t avoid it, take your hygiene routine up a notch. Wash your hands after contact with the sick person, disinfect surfaces more frequently, and follow all the tips above for self-care to keep yourself healthy.

9. Follow Public Health Guidelines

When there are widespread or highly contagious illnesses in an area, look for warnings and guidelines from public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), or the World Health Organization (WHO). These may include stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions, and recommendations on hygiene or protective clothing. Make sure you follow any recommendations and guidelines and stay home to avoid contact with others if needed.

The physicians, nurses, and medical staff at Raleigh OB/GYN offer a comprehensive list of gynecological and obstetric services to the women of the Raleigh, NC area. If you have questions or concerns about how to avoid getting sick while pregnant, call our office at (919) 876-8225 to make an appointment.

*If you do think you’ve caught a contagious illness, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider immediately. Make sure all providers know about your pregnancy before they treat you. 

coronavirus covid-19 update

An Update from Raleigh OB/GYN Regarding COVID-19

After careful consideration and guidance from the rest of the medical community, we have enacted a few new policies, effective Monday, March 16th.

1. No one other than patients and staff will be permitted to enter the office. If you rely on another person for transportation, they may wait in their personal vehicle during the appointment. We ask that you minimize waiting in public spaces.

2. If you have a fever or respiratory symptoms, we ask that you call to reschedule your appointment. We can help guide you to a place for viral testing if deemed necessary. At this time, we are not testing in our office.

3. We will be rescheduling routine appointments, like annual exams. Someone will be contacting you to reschedule. If possible, please try to wait for a call. We expect our incoming phone lines to be overwhelmed. Don’t worry about prescription refills, we can take care of that until we get you rescheduled

4. We will likely be moving many visits to phone or video visits for the next few weeks. This is a work in progress. We’ll be contacting you if this is our plan for your visit.

5. We will likely adopt a protocol for less frequent prenatal visits suggested by the World Health Organization. We will call you if we plan on rescheduling your appointment. Please rest assured that we will not reschedule your visit if we feel like this is, in any way, unsafe for your or your baby.

6. We will remain open to see our pregnant patients and our patients with urgent gynecological needs. We consider birth control to be an urgent need.

Please understand that all of these restrictions are to limit exposures for both our patients and our staff. We do not take any of these decisions lightly and do it with the utmost concern for your health.

We will continue to make updates as we have them.

woman have bladder pain sitting on bed in bedroom after wake up; blog: urinary tract infections

What You Need to Know About Urinary Tract Infections

Your urinary tract is made up of your kidneys, bladder, ureters (tubes that connect your kidney to your bladder) and your urethra. The primary function of your urinary tract is to flush waste, including bacteria, out of your body through your urine. Sometimes things can go wrong and potentially harmful bacteria will begin to reproduce in your urinary tract and cause infections. 

Most infections are commonly found in the lower urinary tract in the bladder and urethra. If left untreated, it can spread to your upper urinary tract (i.e. bladder and kidneys) and can lead to serious health problems that can be potentially life-threatening. Unfortunately, if you’re a woman, your chances of developing a urinary tract infection are far greater because of your anatomy. 

The most common UTIs in women affect the bladder (cystitis) and urethra (urethritis) and 90% of the time they are caused by the gastrointestinal bacteria, E. coli. Since a woman’s urethra has a shorter distance to the bladder and is in closer proximity to the rectum, the chances of transmitting bacteria from the GI tract increases. 

However, people of any age or sex can develop a urinary tract infection, but women are at a higher risk. About 40 to 60% of women will experience a urinary tract infection in their lifetime. Certain medical conditions and lifestyle factors can increase your chances of developing a UTI if you:

  • Are sexually active
  • Are post-menopausal
  • Are pregnant.
  • Use diaphragms or spermicide
  • Have a spinal cord injury or nerve damage around the urinary tract
  • Have urinary tract blockage, such as kidney stones
  • Have diabetes or immune deficiencies 
  • Recently used a urinary catheter
  • Experienced a UTI in the past

How do you know you have it?

Symptoms common to any type of urinary tract infection include: 

  • Strong, frequent urge to urinate
  • Painful, burning sensation while urinating
  • Bad-smelling urine
  • Cloudy urine or urine with blood in it
  • Passing small amounts of urine, frequently
  • Abdominal discomfort

Other Types of Infections

UTIs can be confused with symptoms caused by other types of infections. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and mycoplasma can also cause urethritis. Yeast infections are a fungus that causes a thick, white vaginal discharge that doesn’t have an odor but shares some symptoms with UTI including burning sensations while urinating. 

Life-threatening Complications

If your UTI is left untreated, it can spread from your bladder into your kidneys. Kidney infections can be serious and lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called sepsis. In addition to UTI symptoms, kidney infections can include fever, chills, pain in your lower back or side and nausea or vomiting. 

Although most kidney infections are from a UTI they can happen following kidney surgery or from an infection that spreads from another part of your body. With March being National Kidney Month, now is a good time to learn how you can improve your kidney functions with a few simple lifestyle steps. 

You can lower your risk of developing a urinary tract infection by:

  • Drinking plenty of water to dilute your urine and flush out bacteria. 
  • Drink cranberry juice.
  • Wipe from front to back.
  • Empty your bladder after intercourse.
  • Avoid irritating products like douches and powders.
  • Change your birth control method. Diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth. 

Treatment

UTIs, including kidney infections, can be treated with a course of antibiotics. You may begin to feel better after a few days on your antibiotics, however, you should continue taking the medication as prescribed. If you don’t take it as prescribed, stronger bacteria may not be killed causing another flare-up. People with severe kidney infections may need to be hospitalized. While being treated:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication.
  • Use a heating pad to ease the pain.
  • Avoid coffee and alcohol, which can make you feel like you need to urinate more often. 

If you are concerned by the symptoms you are experiencing, call our Raleigh OB/GYN Center at (919) 876-8225 to schedule an appointment. Our team of healthcare providers has provided personalized and comprehensive care for women in all stages of life for more than 40 years. 

Doctor vaccinating pregnant woman in clinic; blog: Preventing Infections During Pregnancy

Preventing Infections During Pregnancy

February is International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month. For nearly forty years, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has recognized the importance of reducing prenatal infections in the US. They first focused on preventing mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV, but their efforts have expanded to other harmful infections during pregnancy. 

Prenatal Infections to Be Aware Of

Some of these infections during pregnancy are rare in the US, but can be dangerous and have serious effects on both mother and baby.

Listeriosis

Listeriosis is a rare but potentially serious infection caused by bacteria called Listeria. Listeria is spread through contaminated food. The symptoms of listeriosis are similar to the flu and may include fever, muscle aches, and unusual fatigue. However, listeria infections in pregnant women can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, and even stillbirth. The infection can be passed on to the baby, which can be life-threatening.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women are 10 times more likely than other people to get listeriosis. Other groups at elevated risk include newborns, people with weakened immune systems, and older adults.

The following foods have been linked to listeriosis and should be avoided during pregnancy:

  • Unpasteurized/raw milk and dairy products (cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc)
    •  Along with listeria, raw milk products may carry other harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli.
  • Undercooked meat; During pregnancy, you’ll have to set preferences aside and order all meat well done. 
  • Luncheon meats and deli meat unless they are reheated to the point where they are steaming hot
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood that is not part of a cooked dish
  • Refrigerated pâté or meat spreads
    • Canned varieties that are shelf-stable and do not need refrigeration are safe
  • Any type of sprouts that are raw or not completely cooked
  • Cut melon that has been left at room temperature for more than 4 hours
    • Throw out refrigerated cut melon within 7 days

Zika Virus

Zika virus is primarily spread by infected mosquitos, but you can become infected by having unprotected sex with someone who already has the virus. Zika infection during pregnancy may cause serious birth defects like microcephaly and brain defects.

Several years ago, there was a large outbreak in the Americas, including some places in the US. That outbreak is over, but it is still a potential risk here and in the rest of the world. To prevent Zika infections during pregnancy, you exercise caution when traveling to areas with a high incidence of Zika infection. The CDC has a Zika Travel Recommendation Map for individuals to consult. Women who are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant should avoid regions where the virus is prevalent. 

Other ways to protect yourself against Zika if you might be at risk include following recommendations on preventing mosquito bites and using a condom to prevent sexual transmission. The CDC has more complete information on their Zika and pregnancy page.

Group B Streptococcus

Group B strep (GBS) is a common bacteria that approximately 1 in 4 women carry. Most women do not feel sick when they are carrying these bacteria. GBS can be passed to a baby during childbirth, which can be life-threatening to newborns and infants. Complications can include fever, meningitis, breathing difficulties, pneumonia, and blood infection (sepsis).

However, GBS infection in babies can be prevented. Doctors recommend getting tested for GBS near the end of pregnancy. If the test is positive for a group B strep infection, the mother will be given antibiotics during childbirth to protect the baby.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Like GBS, cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common infection that many people have. According to the CDC, more than half of adults have had a CMV infection by the time they reach 40. Most people do not know they have it. 

Pregnant women can pass CMV to their babies. Babies with congenital CMV infections are often healthy and show no signs of infection. However, some babies will have long-term health problems like hearing loss, vision loss, developmental delays, and seizures.

Because CMV is so common, it can be hard to prevent infection in adults. However, because it is spread through bodily fluids, women can reduce their risks by avoiding contact with the urine and saliva of babies and young children (who are more likely to spread CMV than older kids and adults). Food or utensils shouldn’t be shared with babies and young children and good hand hygiene should be practiced, especially after changing diapers.

General Tips for Preventing Infections During Pregnancy

Along with following specific guidelines for the above prenatal infections, there are some other things you can do to prevent infection from other bacteria or viruses:

  • Practice good hygiene
  • Avoid people with infections
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Ask your doctor about getting vaccinated
  • Only take vitamins and supplements approved by your doctor.
    • Only take the recommended dosage of all vitamins, supplements, and medication.
  • Do not touch dirty cat litter.
    • During pregnancy, someone else in the household should be in charge of cleaning out the litter box. Soiled cat litter has been linked to toxoplasmosis.
  • Avoid contact with rodents, lizards, and turtles. This includes both wild animals and those kept as pets.
    • Just like changing the litter box should be delegated to someone else during pregnancy, it is best to let a friend or family member care for these pets to avoid infection.

Raleigh OB/GYN Centre has been serving the women of the Raleigh, NC area for more than 40 years. Our team of healthcare providers offers personalized and comprehensive for women in all stages of life, including during pregnancy. If you have concerns or questions about having a safe and healthy pregnancy, call our office at (919) 876-8225 to make an appointment.

Young woman suffering from strong abdominal pain while sitting on sofa at home; blog: Painful Periods: When to See Your Gynecologist

Painful Periods: When to See Your Gynecologist

Most women are familiar with the pain and cramping associated with menstrual periods. However, the severity of period pain can vary greatly on an individual basis. Some women experience mild discomfort that is easily managed, while others have pain severe enough to interfere with everyday activities during the menstrual cycle each month. Painful periods may be caused by several factors. Depending on how bad the symptoms are and what is causing them, your gynecologist can help you manage the pain.

Causes of Painful Periods

Period pain, medically referred to as dysmenorrhea, is separated into two categories: primary and secondary.

Primary Dysmenorrhea 

Primary dysmenorrhea is pain that is caused exclusively by the menstrual period. Dysmenorrhea is described as throbbing or cramping pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic area. Cramps are caused by the uterus contracting to help expel its lining, which is the purpose of menstruation. These contractions are triggered by prostaglandins, a hormone-like substance. Higher levels of prostaglandins are linked to inflammation and more severe dysmenorrhea.

Secondary Dysmenorrhea

Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by another condition in the reproductive system. Some conditions that cause secondary period pain include:

  • Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. It is a common health issue, and according to the US Office on Women’s Health, endometriosis may affect more than 11% of American women between the ages of 15 and 44. The primary symptom of endometriosis is pain, including severe menstrual cramps that may worsen as the disease progresses. Endometriosis also causes pain in the lower back, pelvis, and intestines. It is also one of the most common causes of infertility in women of reproductive age in the US.
  • Adenomyosis: Although it is much rarer than endometriosis, adenomyosis is also a disorder involving the uterine lining. In adenomyosis, the uterine lining grows into the muscle of the uterine wall. Symptoms of the condition include prolonged periods with heavy bleeding and pain.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal disorder found in many women of reproductive age. According to the CDC, PCOS affects between 6% and 12% of US women of reproductive age.  Some women with PCOS have irregular periods, which may be infrequent and/or prolonged. When women with PCOS have a menstrual period, they often experience heavy bleeding, clots, and severe period pain. As with endometriosis, as PCOS progresses, symptoms like period pain will get worse as well. Other symptoms of PCOS include weight gain, fatigue, painful intercourse, excess facial and body hair growth, acne, male-pattern baldness, ovarian cysts, and infertility.
  • Uterine Fibroids: Fibroids are noncancerous growths in the uterus. Often, uterine fibroids don’t cause noticeable symptoms. However, the size, location, and the number of fibroids may cause symptoms like heavy, painful periods that last more than a week. Other symptoms include pelvic pressure or pain, frequent urination, backaches, and leg pain.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection in the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. PID is usually caused by sexually transmitted bacteria that travel from the vagina into other parts of the reproductive system. The infection causes inflammation. If the infection is present during the menstrual period, cramping and discomfort may be more severe than normal.
  • Cervical Stenosis: Cervical stenosis is a rare condition in which the cervix is much smaller or narrower than usual. It can cause menstrual flow to slow, resulting in increased pressure and pain in the uterus.

How Your Gynecologist Can Help

If you are experiencing period pain that interferes with your daily life every month, then you should talk to your gynecologist. They can determine whether your period pain is primary or secondary dysmenorrhea. From there, the gynecologist can prescribe treatment that will help you manage your symptoms.

If your pain is caused by primary dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps on their own, the doctor may prescribe medication to relieve pain. Period pain can also be managed with hormonal birth control, which prevents ovulation and reduces the severity of cramps. Birth control can be given orally, by injection, through an implant in the arm, vaginal ring, dermal patches, or intrauterine device (IUD).

If period pain is caused by an underlying condition, your doctor can recommend treatment options based on the specific condition. Conditions like endometriosis and PCOS are also treated with hormonal birth control and pain relievers but further treatment such as other medications or surgery.

Raleigh OB/GYN Centre provides state-of-the-art care for gynecologic conditions, including painful periods, endometriosis, bleeding problems, and pelvic pain. If you have concerns about severe period pain or another condition, call (919) 876-8225 to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations.