Worried that you may have PCOS? Find out more about this condition and what we can do to help.
Do you notice that you have irregular menstrual cycles? Do you sometimes skip your periods altogether? You could be dealing with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition in which estrogen and progesterone levels are off kilter and can lead to to ovarian cysts. Find out more about this condition and how your OBGYN can help.
What causes PCOS?
Unfortunately, no one really knows what causes this condition, but it is believed that genetics and hormonal imbalances have some responsibility in who develops PCOS and who doesn’t. If your mother or immediate family member has this condition, you are also more likely to develop PCOS.
Women with PCOS also tend to have an overproduction of androgen, a male sex hormone. Androgen can affect how an egg develops or is released each month.
What are some telltale signs that I have PCOS?
Many women will start to notice that something is amiss one they start menstruating. Of course symptoms varies from woman to woman, but many people with PCOS notice that they have irregular menstrual cycles.
With the imbalance of hormones, some women may start developing more masculine characteristics such as:
- Excess hair on the face, chest, fingers or toes
- Thin hair
- Deeper voice
Besides these symptoms women with PCOS may also experience:
- Weight gain (usually caused by other chronic health problems like diabetes)
- Abdominal pain
How will a PCOS specialist treat my condition?
While there is no cure for PCOS, there are certainly ways to manage your symptoms. Your treatment plan will be tailored to what symptoms you are experiencing. Of course, a healthy diet and regular exercise are recommended for everyone who has been diagnosed with this condition.
Birth control pills may also be prescribed to help regulate hormones and your menstrual cycle, and they sometimes have the added bonus of improving your acne. For women with PCOS who are looking to get pregnant, fertility treatments may be recommended to help assist in successful ovulation.
If you are concerned that you may have PCOS, or if you are having issues with irregular periods, it’s time you talked to your gynecologist.
You're more likely to experience a birth control failure if you select a method that's not comfortable or convenient for you. Fortunately, there are plenty of effective birth control options available if you're not happy with your current method. Your OBGYN can help you evaluate the pros and cons of each option and make an informed choice.
Types of birth control available
Birth control options include:
- Barrier Methods: Barrier types of birth control physically prevent ejaculated semen from entering your cervix. Condoms are the most well-known type of barrier birth control. Other options include cervical caps, diaphragms and contraceptive sponges. Condoms also help protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Spermicide: Spermicide is a cream, foam, gel or film placed inside your vagina to kill sperm. It's most effective when combined with other birth control methods, such as diaphragms, condoms or cervical caps.
- Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): IUDs are T-shaped devices inserted in your uterus at your OBGYN's office. The devices protect you from pregnancy for several years and provide reversible protection against pregnancy. Some IUDs release a hormone that thickens the cervical mucus and makes it difficult for eggs to attach to the uterine lining. Others secrete small amounts of copper to prevent sperm from moving.
- Hormonal Methods: Hormonal birth control thickens your cervical mucus and prevents you from ovulating, a process that occurs when you release eggs into the Fallopian tubes. Birth control pills are taken every day, while implants, patches, rings and shots can provide protection from three months up to three years, depending on the method.
- Natural Family Planning (NFP): If you choose NFP, you'll chart your monthly menstrual cycle and avoid sex during fertile periods. NFP doesn't work as well as other methods because ovulation doesn't always occur at the same time every month.
Factors that will affect your choice
Before you select a birth control option, you'll need to consider the method's effectiveness and ease of use. Will you remember to take a daily pill or use a condom every time you have sex? If not, a long-term birth control method may be a better choice.
Your health is an important consideration when selecting a birth control option, particularly if you're interested in hormonal methods. Although hormonal birth control is a good choice for many women, it may not be recommended if you smoke and are over age 35, or have a history of breast cancer, stroke, blood clots, migraine with aura, or other conditions.
Do you need a little help selecting a birth control method? Contact your OBGYN to schedule an appointment to discuss your options.
A Pap smear is one of the most effective tools an OBGYN has to be able to detect the early signs of cervical cancer. During this quick procedure, your doctor will collect cells from the cervix, which will then be tested to check for any abnormal changes in the cells. Most women begin getting Pap smears by the time they reach 21 years old. If your Pap smear results came back abnormal, relax. We know you may be concerned but there are several reasons your test results may have come back abnormal.
What can cause abnormal Pap smear results?
While there are many causes, you might be surprised to learn the something as simple as a cervical or vaginal infection could cause enough changes to the cervical cells to produce an abnormal Pap. In this case we may either monitor the infection to see if it goes away on its own or we may decide to provide you with medication. Other causes of an abnormal Pap smear include:
- Herpes (HSV-2)
- Recent sexual activity
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Dysplasia (abnormal cells; can be pre-cancerous)
It’s important to specifically address HPV, which is an STD that has over 100 different strains. The body will clear some strains of HPV over time while others may cause genital warts or eventually lead to cervical cancer. If we find unusual-looking cells during your test then we may recommend undergoing an HPV test.
How is an abnormal Pap smear treated?
The only thing Pap smear results tell your gynecologist is that there are abnormal cells within the cervix. This is only a test; this is not a diagnosis. What this means is that your gynecologist will need to perform a further evaluation that could include another Pap smear, a colposcopy (a simple procedure that allows your OBGYN to look into the cervix using a microscope) or a biopsy (to remove and test cervical tissue). This is something your doctor will discuss with you beforehand.
An abnormal Pap test is actually fairly common and most of the time it is not serious. If we suspect that infection is the cause we may need to do further testing to diagnose inflammation, a yeast infection, trichomoniasis, or herpes. Some women may require a repeat Pap smear if their results came back “unsatisfactory” due to recent sexual activity or using vaginal douches prior to the test. Women who have an abnormal Pap result will need to come back in a few months for additional testing.
Your annual women’s checkup is an important part of maintaining your health. Is it time for your appointment? Call your gynecologist today.
If you’ve just found out you are pregnant then you are probably getting ready to schedule your first prenatal care visit with your OBGYN. It’s important that you find an OBGYN that you trust, as they will be with you throughout your pregnancy providing care, monitoring the health of you and your baby, and offering important recommendations about your health, specific testing you should undergo and even creating your ideal birth plan.
If you aren’t dealing with a high-risk pregnancy then you won’t need to come in for prenatal care as often in the very beginning. As your pregnancy advances you’ll need to come in more regularly. If you are between the ages of 18 and 35 years old and healthy then you’ll need to come in for prenatal care about every 4 to 6 weeks for the first 32 weeks of your pregnancy. Once you reach the 32ndweek then you’ll need to come in every 2-3 weeks until the 37thweek. From the 37thweek until delivery you will need to see your obstetrician once a week.
The first prenatal visit is often the longest one. During your first visit you can expect to provide detailed information about you and your family’s medical history. You will also undergo a thorough physical exam, as well as urine and blood tests to look for any health problems. We will also measure your height, weight, heart rate and blood pressure and perform a breast exam and pelvic exam.
If necessary, your gynecologist may also choose to perform a Pap smear, STI testing, and other screening tests (e.g. anemia; diabetes). Depending on how far along you are, an ultrasound may also be performed during your first visit to determine how far along you are and your expected due date. We may even be able to listen to the fetal heartbeat.
This checkup is also a time to ask us any questions or address any concerns you may have about your pregnancy, from what foods to avoid to what prenatal vitamins you should take. We can offer up advice to help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
It’s important that you schedule your first prenatal visit as soon as you get a positive home pregnancy test. Better yet, if you are planning on becoming pregnant it’s a good idea to see your gynecologist prior to getting pregnant for pre-pregnancy care.
Menopause is a natural event that will occur in all women at some point as they age. Menopause occurs when menstruation stops and fertility ends. Once a woman has missed her period for one year she is considered menopausal. While the age at which a woman reaches menopause varies, it’s common for this transitional period to occur between the ages of 45 and 55.
For some women, menopause causes little to no symptoms; however, other women may experience:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Decreased libido
Some of these symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats will go away after menopause. To reduce the frequency and severity of their symptoms, it’s important that menopausal women maintain a healthy lifestyle.
When should I see my gynecologist?
No matter your age, you should visit your gynecologist for routine checkups ever year. During these visits it’s important that you ask any questions or address any concerns you might have regarding your health. Your OBGYN is able to address everything from birth control options and fertility treatments to hormone replacement therapy.
The type of symptoms you are experiencing as well as their severity will determine whether it’s worth visiting your gynecologist or your general practitioner to rule out other conditions that could be responsible for these symptoms. As we mentioned earlier, some women go through menopause and don’t experience any issues; however, women who are struggling to get their symptoms under control should talk to their gynecologist.
If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause but you’re under 40 years old you should also schedule a doctor’s appointment to determine what’s causing your symptoms. Hormonal issues and imbalances could be to blame and they should be treated as soon as possible.
What can be done to ease symptoms of menopause?
Once a woman reaches perimenopause (the stage right before menopause) she may start to notice a heavier or irregular menstrual cycle. Sometimes your gynecologist may prescribe birth control pills at this time to treat these issues. Birth control may also alleviate vaginal dryness and hot flashes.
Hormone therapy is the standard treatment when it comes to managing menopause symptoms. For example, estrogen therapy has been know to treat hot flashes and vaginal dryness and can be administered as a cream, patch, or pill.
During menopause your gynecologist may also recommend getting a blood test to check your hormone levels. Hormone therapy isn’t right for every woman. Women who have a high cholesterol, gallbladder, or liver disease, a history of blood clots or breast cancer shouldn’t undergo hormone therapy. In this case, non-hormonal treatment options such as prescription medications like gabapentin may be able to treat mood swings, night sweats and other common symptoms of menopause.
If you are experiencing menopause symptoms it’s important to consult your gynecologist. When you come into our office we can help you determine the best methods for getting your symptoms under control. Call us today to schedule an appointment.
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