PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is one of the most common causes of female infertility in the U.S. and, because it is involves hormone imbalance and insulin resistance, women with PCOS are at higher risk for developing additional serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is also a difficult disease to diagnose by many doctors not familiar with the possible signs and symptoms.
Do You Recognize Any of These Typical Signs of PCOS?
While some women with PCOS do not follow a typical phenotype (external features or characteristics), most women with PCOS experience at least one, if not all, of the most common signs – or the PCOS “red flags.”
Irregular (or hardly any) periods
The multiple cysts indicative of polycystic ovarian syndrome, along with hormone imbalance, can prevent regular ovulation. As a result, most women with PCOS have irregular periods – often going months at a time without one. While this may be a “norm” for them, it’s important that women and men understand that irregular periods are rarely “normal,” and almost always indicate an underlying issue.
Shaped like an apple
Most women with PCOS are overweight, with the majority of their weight carried in the middle and the face. This can result in a body shape that is apple-like, with arms and legs that seem disproportionately thinner than the body. You may struggle to lose any weight at all regardless of how hard you try, which is extremely disheartening. The good news is that the right PCOS diet (typically a low-carb diet such as the revised Adkins or South Beach diet) can help with this because it addresses one of PCOS’s biggest issues – insulin resistance.
Insatiable sugar cravings
And that leads us to another symptom of PCOS: insatiable sugar cravings. These women are typically insulin resistant but they don’t know it. As a result, these patients experience intense blood sugar spikes and crashes. When blood sugar levels plummet, they crave sweets – which causes a spike that leads to another crash. It’s a vicious cycle and is often a source of shame. Depending on the severity of PCOS or the symptoms, eating and exercising as if you have diabetes can help tremendously. Your doctor may also prescribe Metformin or a similar drug to support balanced blood sugar levels.
Thinning hair on top, extra hair on face, chest and/or back
Women with PCOS have higher androgen (male hormone) levels. As a result, their hair patterns mimic males’ – with thinner hair on the scalp and excess hair growth on the face, chest, back and/or arms.
While other women may have to contend with a whisker-esque hair here or there from time to time, women with PCOS often shave or wax regularly to avoid growing a mustache/beard. Those elevated androgen levels are another reason why women with PCOS don’t ovulate regularly.
Pelvic pain and discomfort
As you can imagine, all those ovarian cysts (which show up on an ultrasound looking like a “string of pearls”) cause inflammation and swelling in the pelvis and abdomen. If you have PCOS, you’re more likely to experience pelvic and lower abdominal discomfort, pain and tenderness. If you do have periods, they may be more painful than normal.
Moodiness, irritability and sleep disorders
Hormone imbalance takes its toll on moods and sleep – as women going through menopause can tell you. Because PCOS is characterized by hormone imbalance, you may find you are moody and irritable, you may have trouble sleeping and that exacerbates moodiness, and women with PCOS are more likely to experience depression.
Do some of these signs and symptoms ring a bell for you? Do you recognize them in someone you know and love? It’s important to spread the word about these common symptoms of PCOS so women get the attention and treatment they need to be healthy, happy, whole and fertile!
You may be surprised to find that not only older women, but women of all ages need to be aware of the condition of their bones and work toward maintaining habits that will reduce the risk of osteoporosis and frail bones in the future.
What is bone density and why is it important?
Bone density is the measurement of how strong one’s bones are. In general, bones that are denser are healthier, meaning the bones have more calcium stored. Bones are a living tissue and go through phases of formation. At a younger age our bodies carry out this process quickly, but as we age our bodies slow and bones may not be reformed at the same pace they once were. This deficit leads to a lower bone density and we become more at risk for fractures and signs of osteoporosis.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that affects your bones. When bones are lost or not made quickly enough, they become frail and are more prone to breakage. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, 1 in 3 women aged fifty years and over are at risk of an osteoporotic fracture. Those at a greater risk are older in age, female, have a low body weight, are undergoing menopause, and are often smokers. There are no symptoms of this bone disease until a bone is fractured, which is why it is important to be screened regularly. Some preventions and treatments include regular calcium and vitamin D intake, regular weight-bearing exercise, and specific medications if necessary.
How can I improve my bone density?
Getting enough calcium and taking additional supplements if needed are your best plan of prevention. Some examples of foods and drinks with high levels of calcium include: greens and vegetables, salmon, milk, cheese, yogurt, nuts, seeds and foods containing soy.
The most natural way of promoting good bone density is to get outside and spend time in the sun. This increases your Vitamin D intake, which is important for bone formation. Maintaining an active lifestyle and participating in light weight lifting can also help to strengthen bones. Depending on your health, medical history and age, some good exercises include walking, light weight training, water aerobics and yoga. Regular exercise and healthy eating pair well in improving bone strength!
What can affect bone density?
Gender: Bone density is especially important in women. In general, women tend to have lower bone density throughout life and lose mass more quickly. In the first few years after menopause, most women go through rapid bone loss which then slows but continues throughout the postmenopausal years. During menopause, estrogen levels drop, making it more difficult for calcium to penetrate into the bones; this results in further lost bone.
Low Body Weight/Eating Disorders: People in the underweight range and those with eating disorders tend to have less bone mass than those at a healthy weight. Eating disorders can affect bone density even more significantly if women stop menstruating.
Age: As mentioned previously, as our bodies age, the rate in which we repair and grow bone mass slows, leaving bones at a greater risk for fracture.
Genetics: Osteoporosis can run in the family. If your mother or grandmother has osteoporosis, you have a greater risk of developing it as well.
What is a bone density test?
A bone density test is performed to determine whether you have or are at risk for osteoporosis. Bone density tests, also known as bone mineral density tests or bone scans, are used to evaluate the strength of bones. Since we all lose bone mass as we age and bones naturally become thinner, it is important to be aware of the current strength of your bones. With this information, your physician will be better prepared to recommend steps to prevent fractures and further bone loss.
Should I have a bone density test done?
We recommend that all women age 65 or older, those with a family history and postmenopausal women under the age of 65 should be tested. Women with a history of fractures, excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, low estrogen levels, and women who smoke should mention these factors to their physician.
Most women assume they’ll be able to get pregnant when they’re ready to start a family. But that’s only true for women who have a healthy reproductive system who start trying to get pregnant. They also have an ample reserve of viable eggs and a whose partner has healthy sexual function and healthy sperm.
While younger couples have time on their side, testing fertility potential via AMH testing is a good idea for women who know or suspect they won’t be starting their family until their 30s or later.
AMH Tests Determine Whether to Consider Fertility Preservation
Historically, AMH tests (performed via a simple blood draw) have been done as a part of the routine fertility testing when couples are having difficulties getting pregnant at home and want to find out why. These days, however, AMH tests are being used for younger women to test their potential fertility.
Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) is produced by special cells in your ovarian follicles. The higher the AMH levels , the more eggs are available to mature and – potentially – become fertilized. Knowing your AMH levels earlier in adult life can assist you in creating a more informed fertility plan.
Which fertility treatments are likely to be the most successful should you need them
Whether it’s a good idea to freeze your eggs now to improve your chances of fertility success in the future
AMH Levels Do Not Tell Us Anything About Egg Quality
It’s important to note that AMH levels only provide information about egg quantity, but not about egg quality.
Again, age affects fertility, and as you age, eggs become less and less viable. After the age of 35-years, women’s eggs decline in terms of both quantity and quality. So, even if your AMH levels seem pretty good when you’re in your early 30s, fertility preservation is worth considering if you’re planning to wait until 38-years or older to get pregnant. Similarly, women whose eggs carry chromosomal abnormalities, or who are carriers for certain genetic diseases or disorders may also have a hard time getting pregnant, regardless of how many eggs they have available.
Other Ways to Test Your Fertility Potential
While AMH tests are a more concrete method of assessing egg quantity and fertility potential, there are other tests you can take, or things you can do, to assess your “fertility prognosis.”
Visit your OB/GYN every year (and be honest!)
Your OB/GYN is often the “first line of defense” when it comes to diagnosing potential infertility factors. Being honest about your personal history (medical and sexual) is key to determining whether or not addition tests should be considered.
Upon request, we can provide pre-conception genetic testing. This will provide insight into the quality of your eggs (being clear of chromosomal or genetic abnormalities is a good sign). If and when we notice that something may be amiss, we can assess and treat you accordingly, helping to support your ability to get pregnant when you’re ready and on your terms.
Interested in learning more about AMH testing and other things you can do to glean insight into your fertility potential? Schedule an appointment at Women Health Associates
When your pap smear results come in “abnormal,” it can cause a flurry of mild panic. Fortunately, most abnormal pap results don’t mean anything at all. Perhaps there was still a bit of blood from your period that made its way onto the slide. Maybe you forgot and had sex the night before? However, there are cases where an abnormal pap smear will lead your doctor to recommend a colposcopy in order to see what’s going on around the cervix that caused the abnormal results.
Frequently Asked Questions About Colposcopies
Here are some of the questions we are asked most frequently about colposcopies and we hope the answers will help. If you need more information about the process, feel free to contact us!
What is a colposcopy? Of course, the first question is – What is a colposcopy? It provides a way for your doctor to get a microscopic view of your cervix so she can see if there are still abnormal cells and, if so, what type of cells they are. The colposcope looks like a large set of binoculars and the procedure is considered noninvasive since the colposcope does not penetrate your body.
Does a colposcopy hurt? Typically, a colposcopy is pain-free. However, because it may require manipulation of the cervix, it can be uncomfortable. In most cases, it should feel similarly to the sensations you experience during your routine annual exam and pap smear. If you have a low-pain tolerance or you have any type of fear or mental discomfort around doctors, hospitals or the general OB/GYN experience, it can cause the experience to be more painful. Be honest with your doctor about your concerns so she can put you at ease and do her very best to make you as comfortable as possible.
What does the process entail? The first phase will seem much like your pap test: feet up in the stirrups and the insertion of a speculum to widen the vaginal canal, giving your doctor a clear view of your cervix, which is normally a nice pink color. She will then use a swab soaked in a special vinegar solution. It will be rubbed around your cervix and the vinegar will turn any abnormal cells white. The aforementioned colposcope will be used to get a highly-magnified view of your cervix and to further examine any abnormal cells that show up.
Will I have to have a biopsy? Not necessarily. Often, the doctor will not see any abnormal cells at all, in which case she will tell you to have a nice day and to schedule an appointment for another pap smear in six months just in case. If your doctor does see abnormal cells, she may opt to do a biopsy right then and there to send a sample of the cells to a lab for further testing.
What causes abnormal cells? The most typical causes of abnormal cells is cervical dysplasia caused by HPV. If this is the case, your doctor will probably leave things alone since dysplasia often goes away on its own and will advise you if further treatment is required. It may also indicate a bacterial or yeast infection. Abnormal cells may indicate cervical cancer and a biopsy will determine which type of cancer they are so you can decide on your treatment course accordingly.
What is the recovery like? If your colposcopy does not involve a biopsy, odds are you won’t require any recovery at all. If you feel a little tender or crampy, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen. A little post-procedural spotting is also normal. If a biopsy was done, you may feel sore for up to a few days and bleeding is also normal during this period. Limit your physical activities to match your discomfort. You should avoid sex, using tampons or douching for the few days after your biopsy to let the tissues heal.
When will I get my results? If you don’t require a biopsy, your results should be given to you by the doctor right then and there. If a biopsy is required, the results typically take 7 to 10 days to come back unless specified otherwise. Always ask your doctor for a number to call in case you don’t receive a call by the end of the specified results period.
Do you have questions regarding an upcoming colposcopy? Contact Women’s Health Associates and we’ll be happy to answer them for you.
Your pregnancy diet is important for your baby and you! First and foremost, the nutrients you consume throughout your pregnancy are the building blocks of your baby’s in-utero development. Folic acid (a B vitamin) is one of the most important of these “blocks” because we now understand folate is one of the supports healthy neurological development.
Fetuses who don’t have access to enough folic acid are at higher risk for brain, spine and nerve defects, most commonly in the form of anencephaly and spina bifida. That’s why we want to shine the spotlight on folic acid for a bit and share these 5 facts.
1. You need folic acid whether you’re pregnant or not – so start while TTC
Folic acid hardly comes up in conversation until you’re pregnant; yet, folic acid is integral to cell regeneration, and is also required for healthy nails, hair and skin. Adults should take about 4 mg/day.
Once you’re pregnant, however, you need more folic acid, and it’s best to optimize that intake during the first trimester – about .6/mg per day is the standard – and then dial it back to 5 mg/day if you breastfeed.
Since many women don’t know they’re pregnant until month 2 or even 3, taking a prenatal vitamin when you’re preparing for pregnancy is the best way to ensure you’re getting what you need from the minute your baby is conceived.
2. Nature made folate, we made folic acid
Just to be clear, Mother Nature created this essential nutrient in the form of folate, which is found in a variety of foods. Once the medical realm realized its importance in preventing serious birth defects, manufacturers created folic acid as an alternative.
Our bodies are best at assimilating folate via a diet rich in leafy greens, legumes and citrus fruits (O.J. is a delicious and nutritious form of folate!). Supplemental forms are a next-best option. Additional foods that include high levels of folate include:
Nuts and seeds
3. You absorb nutrients – including folate (folic acid) – best through your diet
Prenatal vitamins are wonderful, but they’re not the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need. And, for women battling morning sickness, prenatal vitamins may be a no-go for a while as they can further stomach upset. Integrating the foods listed in #2 provide the best foundation for folate absorption, and prenatal supplements should be just that – supplements.
4. You benefit from folic acid, too!
Yes, during pregnancy, your developing baby becomes the focus. However, moms benefit in a big way when getting the nutrients you need before, during and after pregnancy.
First, a well-nourished woman feels better while pregnant and will experience less fatigue and other typical pregnancy discomforts; you’ll benefit after pregnancy as well because studies show women who intake adequate folate/folic acid levels (again, at least .4 mg/day in “normal life”) are less likely to experience heart disease, strokes and certain types of cancer.
5. You can O.D. (overdo) folic acid intake
Yes, you need enough folic acid, but too much is dangerous also. Sometimes women go overboard, ingesting larger doses of folic acid than necessary “just to be safe,” and this can have negative outcomes.
According to Harvard.edu, taking too much folic acid can wind up hiding the sign of anemia and, because folic acid isn’t excreted through your urine, it can build up to high levels in the blood stream, blocking the cells from absorbing any folate at all since the body “senses” a proliferation. Only take the level of folic acid your OB/GYN recommends – no more, no less.
Looking for an pregnancy, labor and delivery team who has your well being at heart? Schedule a consultation here at Women’s Health Associates.
Are you thinking about having a baby? If so, you’ve probably got a lot of exciting thoughts running through your mind. You might be making lists of baby names or picking out colors for the nursery. You might also be thinking about health changes you’ll make when you’re pregnant. Pregnancy is a special experience in a woman’s life, and many women know they should take extra good care of their health while they’re pregnant.
Did you know that a healthy pregnancy can actually begin even before conception? You can take charge of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby before you even become pregnant by taking care of your health now.
The basics of a healthy lifestyle lay the foundation for a healthy pregnancy:
Get into the routine of eating healthy meals—lots of fiber, low in fat, and include lots of fruits and vegetables. If you are a vegetarian, make sure you are getting enough protein.
Exercise 3 or more times each week
Get to within 15 pounds of your ideal body weight, which is based on your body mass index and calculated by age and height.
Take a daily vitamin that includes 400 micrograms of folic acid. This reduces the chance of some birth defects and congenital heart disease.
Go to the dentist. It’s best to get any dental work you need taken care of before you become pregnant.
Make an appointment with your primary care physician. Tell your doctor you are trying to become pregnant so the prescription and over-the-counter medications you take can be evaluated for safety during pregnancy.
Your doctor may order blood tests to check your immunity to certain diseases, such as rubella and chicken pox, even if your vaccinations are up to date. If you are no longer immune, your doctor may recommend receiving the vaccination before you become pregnant.
You may want to consider genetic testing for diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, and Canavan disease.
The first weeks of pregnancy are crucial to a baby’s development, and many women don’t know they are pregnant right away. If you are trying to become pregnant:
Don’t drink alcohol
Don’t use recreational drugs
Minimize your exposure to hazards such as lead, solvents, x-rays, and other potent chemicals.
Avoid drugs used to treat acne.
These substances can cause your baby to develop abnormally and can lead to birth defects.
Take precautions to limit your risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease. Avoid having multiple sexual partners, avoid partners who use intravenous (IV) drugs, and avoid partners who have other sexual partners. STDs can complicate pregnancy and even lead to miscarriage.
If you have a cat, find someone else to change the litter box. Cats can carry toxoplasmosis, which is passed in their feces and can cause birth defects in human babies.
You may also want to prepare for other aspects of pregnancy and having a baby.
If you don’t currently have an obstetrician and/or pediatrician, do some research in order to find a doctor you feel comfortable with
Look into health insurance options and understand your policy
If you work, think about how you’ll schedule your prenatal care and what you’d like to do about childcare
When making financial decisions, keep in mind the day-to-day baby expenses you will soon have
Once you become pregnant, be sure to get regular prenatal care. At that point, your obstetrician will give you much more information and help guide you through a healthy pregnancy.
As you can see, taking charge of your own health now is good for both you and your future baby. By following these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy pregnancy!
Age is relative – to a point. And, by that, we mean that no matter how young you feel mentally, emotionally and even physically – the human body cannot defy the aging process. While healthy diet and regular exercise are essential to living a long and healthy life, we’re increasingly aware genetics and environmental factors play integral roles in an individual’s health, including the diseases or conditions you’ll develop as you age.
As the folks at WebMD put it, “More than 9 in 10 older adults have some type of chronic disease, and almost 8 in 10 have more than one. So chances are, you’ll have one sooner or later. But there are things you can do to live a healthier life.”
Pay attention to common health conditions affecting women 55+
After crossing the half-decade marker at your 50th birthday, you are at higher-risk for the most common women’s health issues.
Your awareness, commitment to observing routine wellness and health checkups and adherence to your doctor’s recommendations and treatments are essential to minimizing the effects of (or avoiding) the following health conditions.
In addition to being the most common type of cancer found in women, breast cancer is also the leading cancer-related death for women. The American Cancer Society warns that 1 in 8 women (30%) will experience breast cancer in her lifetime. Mortality rates for women with breast cancer increase with age.
The hormone restructuring that triggers menopause is also responsible for physiological changes that require attention. One of these is the decrease in bone mass that leads to osteoporosis. In addition to a healthy diet and a doctor-approved calcium supplement, weight bearing exercises help to increase bone mass.
Typically, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol go hand-in-hand – and lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD). Women are now just as likely as men to die from a heart attack, the result of the blocking and/or narrowing of blood vessels all around your body.
Diet and exercise are key to preventing and treating heart disease, but stress reduction is critical as well. Haven’t found your idea route to a more calm and centered self? Start exploring your options and it could save your life.
Type 2 Diabetes
You may have noticed it’s harder to maintain your target weight after menopause. In addition to a slower metabolism, older women tend to move less and this leads to decreased muscle mass, which leads to muscles converting to fat; before you know it, you’re caught in a vicious cycle.
Genetics play a strong role here; if you’re immediate family members have type 2 diabetes, you’re more likely to develop it too. Start using diabetes diet guidelines to shape how you eat. Again, those weight-bearing exercises help – building both muscle and bone mass – a win-win.
Osteoarthritis often crops around the mid-50s. There are a combination of factors involved, repeat joint use due to occupation, hobbies or sports being some of them. Genetics are a factor, as is inflammation.
Systemic inflammation is the enemy of vulnerable joints, increasing joint swelling, pain and discomfort. If you have arthritis, we recommend trying an anti-inflammatory diet. Many patients find switching over notably relieves arthritis pain (as well as the symptoms of other health conditions) and eliminates or decreases their need for over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatories/pain relievers.
Genetics are the #1 indicator of whether a person will develop dementia; lifestyle is the immediate second. The cleaner your lifestyle is, the less likely you are to develop dementia. Studies also show cleaning up your lifestyle (no smoking, no drinking, anti-inflammatory diet, regular physical and mental exercise) slows down the onset of dementia and dementia-related conditions.
However, we’d like to place an emphasis on healthy sleep habits. Recent research by Alzheimer’s expert, Dr. Dale Bredesen and the Buck Institute show a correlation between individuals with healthy circadian rhythms and uninterrupted sleep habits and reduce plaque in the brain. Menopause doesn’t help the sleep cause so check in with Healthy Sleep Habits & Good Sleep Hygiene and practice their recommendations for a good night’s sleep.
The all-women’s team at Women’s Health Associates celebrates what it is to be a woman, and we make it our mission to support women’s physical, emotional and reproductive health at all ages. Contact us to schedule your consultation.
There are several reasons why we recommend prioritizing a vaginal birth over a C-section if you have the choice. One of them is that while considered “routine,” C-sections are major abdominal surgeries and they require the same post-operative recovery treatment as any other invasive, abdominal or pelvic surgery. However, in this case, you’re recovering from surgery at the same time as adjusting to life with a newborn and in your home.
That’s a tough order, so the more you’re prepared for the realities of a C-section recovery, the better you will handle it, and the more you can line up the help and support you’ll need.
5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Recovering From a C-Section
Here are some of the things we hope you’ll take to heart so you can be prepared as possible for your postpartum, C-section recovery:
1. It’s slow going no matter how strong you are
The body takes a long time to heal after an incision and stitches that go through every layer of tissue, muscle and the uterine wall. The C-section healing process is slightly stymied by the fact that you’ll also be holding and moving a newborn as you adjust to breastfeeding and the skin-to-skin, chest holding that newborns require.
As a result, it’s going to be slow going – and that means even when you’re starting to feel better – you cannot do things like load/unload the dishwasher/washing machines, mop, lift grocery bags, walking up/down stairs, driving, bending, lifting older children, etc., In fact, trying to prove you’re different than the rest results in more time spent in bed recovering.
Odds are, it will be about six weeks before you’re able to begin resuming a “normal life” and even that will be slow going at first.
Note: If you’re a single parent or your spouse can’t take much time off for the immediate weeks after your baby is born, enlist the help of family and friends to be in-home helpers. You can also look online for postpartum doulas in your area.
2. Keep taking the anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers
Women who try to minimize them, or “wait until it hurts” before taking prescribed or over-the-counter pain relievers can wind up in considerable pain – often in the middle of the night. These medications are designed to sustain their effects through your blood stream by taking them in regular doses. Keep on pain meds as directed to protect yourself from unnecessary pain and discomfort.
Note: Use lochia as your guide; this blood, which seeps from the uterus until you’re more fully healed, should continuously diminish (from pink, to dark red, to yellowish to clear) over time. If it scales back up, it’s a sign you’re doing too much and need to spend more time resting. Be aware that after a C-section, your lochia may be more and darker than it was with previous vaginal births as you’re healing from the outside and inside.
3. Prepare young-older siblings in advance
If you currently have a baby or toddler in the home, it’s going to be challenging on him/her when you are unable to hold them, snuggle, participate in the bedtime routine, etc., – not because of the new baby but because of your healing body.
Do your best to prepare little ones, having dad, grandma, auntie, neighbors and family friends prepared to give your other children extra special attention. Help them understand you’ll be back to yourself with your boo-boo feels better.
4. Have feeding/changing stations at the ready
Odds are you’ll spend the majority of the first four to six-weeks in bed, on a couch or chair. Have baskets or bins in each of these locations that include everything you’ll need to change, feed, burp and cuddle comfortably with baby. Also make sure you have a full container of water and some healthy snacks at the ready to minimize your need to get up, down or call for assistance.
5. Take the restrictions to heart to avoid infection or complications
After a C-section, you’re at risk for infection and other serious complications so take your doctor’s advice seriously – even if you feel “better.” This includes avoiding:
Sexual intercourse until your doctor has given you the green light AND you feel safe and ready to participate
Soaking in pools or hot tubs
Lifting anything heavier than your newborn
Repeatedly using stairs
The team at Women’s Health Associates would love to facilitate your successful and safe recovery from your C-section should you need one. Contact us to schedule a consultation.
Ectopic pregnancies occur when a fertilized egg implants into tissue outside the uterus lining. In most cases, these pregnancies are located in a fallopian tube, which is why they’re also called tubal pregnancies. Unfortunately, all ectopic pregnancies require termination of the pregnancy in order to save the mother. According to the APA, they take place in about 1 of every 50 pregnancies.
The sooner you know you have an ectopic pregnancy, the better as this prevents more extreme outcomes, which can include the loss of a fallopian tube or a tubal rupture. As you can imagine, a ruptured tube is extremely painful and causes extreme bleeding. It can also impact your future fertility.
Causes of tubal pregnancies
Typically, a fertilized egg won’t implant into the tube or outside the uterus lining unless:
The tube is inflamed or has existing scarring or blocking
Previous pelvic surgery or injury that caused adhesions
Abnormal growths inside the tube
Anatomical abnormalities cause partial- or full-blockages
In all of these cases, the fertilized egg is unable to pass all the way through the fallopian tube and into the uterus, so it has no choice but to implant into the closest available space. Unfortunately, the uterus is the only organ equipped to expand, house, nourish and support a developing fetus and baby.
Are you at risk?
Knowing you have a higher risk of developing an ectopic is helpful because you can pay close attention to your physical signs and symptoms of pregnancy. While some, like breast tenderness, are common in all pregnancies, the majority of the others are not.
Risk factors for developing an ectopic pregnancy include:
Women 35-years old and older
Having a previous ectopic pregnancy
Multiple induced abortions
Conceiving a baby while an IUD is in place or after a tubal ligation
Know the signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy
There are also times a woman doesn’t know she’s at risk; the ectopic pregnancy may be the first indication that tubal inflammation, blockages or scarring exist. By knowing the signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, you’ll be quicker to take action if you or someone you know experiences them.
Sharp, stabbing pains in the pelvis and abdomen. If the tube tears or ruptures, excessive bleeding can also cause pressure that leads to pain in the shoulder or neck areas
Bleeding or spotting
Nausea and vomiting
Call your doctor immediately (get to an urgent care or ER facility if it’s after-hours) anytime you experience sharp pains or bleeding during your pregnancy.
Diagnosing and treating an ectopic pregnancy
Typically, ectopic pregnancies are diagnosed via a transvaginal ultrasound. Low HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin and low progesterone levels also indicate a pregnancy may be ectopic.
Even the “best case scenario” is still traumatic for anyone who experiences an ectopic pregnancy. When caught early enough, women take Methotrexate, a drug that stops the fetus from developing any further, after which the body absorbs the pregnancy material. This treatment is optimal because it poses the least harm to the fallopian tube.
Laparoscopic surgery is a potential treatment, allowing doctors to remove the pregnancy tissue and try to repair the tube if it’s damaged. If the tube tears or ruptures, it may need to be removed.
Observing routine woman wellness visits and being completely honest with your doctor gives us the opportunity to learn if you are at risk so we can do all we can to prevent an ectopic pregnancy. Women’s Health Associates is an all-women, for-women service provider and we hope you’ll schedule your next appointment with us to receive exceptional care throughout all stages of your reproductive life.
Finding out you’re pregnant causes some major shifts in terms of lifestyle choices and perspective, and it can feel as if all you want to do is lay down and play it safe to protect the developing fetus. Experts agree, however, that regular moderate exercise is not only safe – it’s essential for most pregnant women to enjoy a healthy pregnancy, labor and delivery.
Talk to your OB about your exercise choices
In almost all cases, your OB will give you the go ahead when it comes to exercise and pregnancy. That being said, you should always discuss your exercise plans with your doctor to make sure, especially if you haven’t been exercising regularly before you got pregnant.
Odds are, you’ll learn that eating well and getting regular exercise are two of the most important steps you can take to improve the health of you and your baby. Exercise can:
Regulate pregnancy weight gain while simultaneously preparing your body for the inevitable weight you’ll gain as your baby grows
So, yes! You can and should exercise during early pregnancy. BUT – it’s important that you do the right types of exercise. It’s also imperative that you listen to your body – resting when it needs to rest and hydrating when you feel thirsty, etc.
Stick to exercises that are mild- to moderate
Pregnancy is not a time to continue those extreme sports – like marathons, triathlons, record-breaking track runs or exercises that pose a physical risk or hard impact to your body (contact sports, rock climbing, jumping horses, etc.).
The safest exercises are those that range from mild- to moderate. Here are examples of exercises that are safe during your early pregnancy and throughout the third trimester:
Walking, hiking and/or running
Walking and hiking are always safe activities, and it’s good for you to get outdoors. Sunshine is key for optimal Vitamin D production and absorption and fresh air and exposure to nature is good for your mental and emotional well-being.
Running is also safe as long as you were a runner before you got pregnant (if you weren’t running before, consider walking and other forms of exercise until the baby arrives to be on the safe side). However, there are certain things to remember to ensure runs don’t push you over to the “unsafe exercise” category:
Get an official “okay” to run from your OB, along with an approved running plan
Modify your runs as your body changes and your belly grows larger (consider substituting a milder exercise form on one of your normal run days)
Stick to stable running surfaces
Cease running if you experience any signs of complications, physical pain, discomfort or strain
Yoga and Pilates
Both yoga and pilates are pregnancy-safe exercises. While pregnant, it’s best to participate in classes designed for prenatal women to ensure all of the exercises are safe for your pregnant body and your baby. You’ll want to avoid exercises and poses that:
Have you lying flat on your back once you’re into the later 2nd and/or 3rd trimesters
Require abdominal twisting
Place your feet above your head – such as inverted poses
You should also avoid Bikram (hot yoga) classes or any high-impact classes designed for intense-level aerobic workouts.
Swimming and water exercise
Swimming laps and water exercise classes are great for you during pregnancy, allowing you to get an aerobic workout while providing whole-body support. You’ll especially appreciate water exercises as you get bigger and heavier – submerging yourself in a medium that makes you feel light and buoyant.
Exercising during pregnancy is proven to reduce the risk of certain pregnancy complications and can relieve typical pregnancy discomforts. And remember, it’s always important to listen to your body, never pushing it beyond its limits while pregnant.
The team at Women’s Health Associates is dedicated to promoting holistic wellness before, during and after your pregnancy. Contact us to schedule a consultation and enjoy the luxury of being cared for by an all-female team that provides personalized pre- and postnatal care.