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Women's Health Tips

Women's Health Tips

Gynecology

Alcohol Consumption and the Ovaries
Heavy and chronic drinking can lead to inadequate functioning of the ovaries, resulting in hormonal deficiencies, sexual dysfunction, infertility, menstrual irregularities, and early menopause.


Alternatives to Postmenopausal Hormones
All women can adopt a healthy lifestyle, such as not smoking, regular exercise, and good nutrition. In addition, other prescription drugs, such as statins or beta-blockers, are available to lower blood lipid levels or blood pressure levels. A healthy lifestyle can also help decrease a woman's risk of bone loss. In addition, health professionals also recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements as a means of preventing osteoporosis. Other drugs, such as raloxifene, tibolone, alendronate, and risedronate have been shown to prevent bone loss. These drugs increasingly are becoming the treatment of choice for osteoporosis in many postmenopausal women. The investigational drug PTH (parathyroid hormone) is another prevention approach being evaluated in clinical trials.


Counter PMS
Eat right to counter PMS symptoms.
Studies have shown that certain foods can help ease PMS symptoms. These include complex carbohydrates such as pasta, vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals. Avoid foods that contain caffeine -- cola, coffee and chocolate can all trigger PMS symptoms.


Device to Treat Fibroids Wins Approval
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a medical device to shrink non-cancerous uterine fibroid tumors, sparing women from painful surgery to remove them.

The device, meant for women who no longer intend to become pregnant, could also save many from having to have hysterectomies, where the entire uterus is removed.

Made from a material called Embosphere Microspheres, the product is used in less invasive surgeries that involve uterine artery embolization (UAE), designed to block blood flow to the tumors and shrink them.

In clinical trials sponsored by the maker of the device, Biosphere Medical Inc., 132 women with uterine fibroids were treated at seven hospitals throughout the United States. After six months, 65 percent of women implanted had a 50 percent or more reduction in bleeding attributed to the fibroids.

As a condition of approval, the company is required to follow study participants for at least three more years to gauge the long-term effects of the treatment, including whether the fibroids tend to return, the FDA says.


Easing Hot Flashes During Menopause
To help ease hot flashes during menopause:
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing made of natural fibers.
Limit your intake of beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol.
Avoid eating rich and spicy foods.
Drink lots of cool drinks, especially water.
Avoid drinking hot beverages.


Easing the Emotional Ups and Downs of Menopause
To ease the emotional ups and downs of menopause:
Exercise regularly for energy and to relieve stress.
Seek out and talk with other women who have or are going through menopause.
Avoid stressful situations whenever possible. Incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily life. Meditation, yoga and massages can help ease the stress and emotional turmoil you're going through.
Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet and check with your doctor about taking vitamin supplements.


Easing Vaginal Dryness During Menopause
To ease vaginal dryness during menopause:
Avoid using deodorant soaps or scented products in the vaginal area.
Use water-soluble lubricants during intercourse.
Avoid using oils and petroleum-based products, these can lead to infection.


Hormone Therapy Doubles Dementia Risk
Combined hormone therapy for women doubles the risk of dementias such as Alzheimer's disease.
Combined hormone therapy also does not protect against mild cognitive impairment, a less severe loss of mental function, and it increases the risk of stroke.


Hormone Trial Halted Due to Cancer, Heart Risk
Researchers announced that they have halted one of the largest and best-designed studies of hormone replacement therapy because women taking the hormones after menopause had a greater risk of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke and blood clots than those who did not take the drugs.
More than 6 million women in the US currently take estrogen/progestin combination therapy for a variety of reasons, including relief of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. The hope--and the hype--has been that such hormones would also confer a number of other advantages, including a reduced risk of heart disease. The study suggests that when women take the drugs for more than about 5 years, the risks of the hormones clearly outweigh the benefits.


Non-Prescription Remedies and Menopause
Many women find relief from short-term menopause-related changes with non-prescription remedies, such as estrogen-containing foods (soy products, whole-grain cereal, seeds, certain fruits and vegetables) and creams, certain herbs such as black cohosh, and vitamin E and vitamin B complexes. Researchers are studying the safety and efficacy of these therapies. Local non-hormonal therapy is available for vaginal dryness and urinary bladder conditions.


Pap Test Guidelines Revised
The American Cancer Society has revised its guidelines on Pap tests, recommending for the first time that women at low risk for cervical cancer don't need them.

The revisions are designed to spare women from unnecessary, invasive medical procedures.

The new guidelines say testing isn't needed for young women who are not sexually active; women 70 or older who have had normal Pap tests in the past; and women who have had hysterectomies for non-cancer-related reasons. They also recommend that sexually active women begin getting Pap tests within three years of the start of sexual activity, but no later than age 21.

The problem with Pap tests, according to the experts who wrote the new guidelines, is that they detect non-cancerous lesions, causing doctors to perform additional tests that needlessly worry patients, cost money and sometimes have harmful effects, such as reduced fertility.


Risk Factor for Gynecologic Cancers
A big risk factor associated with gynecologic cancers is not bearing children.


RU 486
After years of waiting, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally approved the abortion pill - aka mifepristone (or RU 486) and within the month, doctors may be able to prescribe the drug to women in their first seven weeks of pregnancy. But getting RU 486 won't be as easy as, say, getting your Rx for allergy pills filled. The FDA has ruled that each prescription must be accompanied by an RU 486 brochure. Also, physicians who prescribe it must be able to perform a surgical abortion or make prior arrangements with a doctor who can in case the mifepristone regimen fails, as it does in about 5% of cases. Treatment with the drug (sold as Mifeprex) involves three doctor visits. Here's the breakdown:

Step 1: The patient takes three mifepristone tablets, which block the action of progesterone, the hormone that prepares the uterus for pregnancy.

Step 2: Two days later, the patient takes another drug to start the uterine contractions that will expel the fertilized egg. (Pain, bleeding and discomfort are possible side effects.)

Step 3: The patient has a follow-up visit with her doctor two weeks later to confirm the abortion is complete.


STD and Cancer
Get out your condoms: Doctors have recently linked chlamydia, a very common STD, to an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. While human papillomavirus (HPV) has long been recognized as the leading cause of this cancer -- which currently strikes 13,000 women a year -- the role played by chlamydia was less clear. Chlamydia is the most prevalent bacterial STD, with 4 million to 8 million new cases diagnosed each year. Unlike HPV, it can be treated with antibiotics, but since the infection often produces no symptoms, many women carry the disease without knowing it. This finding gives doctors new reason to screen women for chlamydia as part of their annual gynecological checkups.


STD Complications
Some STDs can spread into the uterus (womb) and Fallopian tubes to cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which in turn is a major cause of both infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. The latter can be fatal.
STDs in women also may be associated with cervical cancer. One STD, human papillomavirus infection (HPV), causes genital warts and cervical and other genital cancers.
STDs can be passed from a mother to her baby before, during, or immediately after birth; some of these infections of the newborn can be cured easily, but others may cause a baby to be permanently disabled or even die.


Tampons and STD Diagnosis
STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) testing just got easier and a lot less embarrassing. South African researchers have begun using tampons to diagnose the sexually transmitted disease trichomoniasis, which causes itching and vaginal discharge and can increase a woman's chances of having a premature or low birth weight baby. Some 1,000 women inserted an ordinary tampon for 15 minutes. The tampons were then stored in a saline solution and transported to a lab where they were tested. The tampon test was highly effective at not only detecting trich, but chlamydia and gonorrhea as well.


Postpartum

Alternate Breast Massage
Alternate breast massage will not only increase your milk supply, but it will also produce milk that is fattier and higher in calories. You do alternate breast massage almost the exact way you do your monthly breast self-exam. While breastfeeding (after your baby has stopped sucking vigorously) or pumping take two fingers and starting at your armpit and going around your breast, gently massage in a circular motion.


Breastfeeding and Contraception
Breastfeeding IS NOT a form of birth control. Many couples have been fooled and have had Irish twins as a direct result. You should consult your OB/GYN about appropriate forms of birth control for nursing mothers.


No Tampons Postpartum
A woman in the postpartum period should not use tampons until after her OB/GYN approves their use. Tampons increase the chance of a vaginal or uterine infection.


Personal Care After Birth
Perineal pain after childbirth can be eased with the use of a rubber glove filled with ice chips and applied to the area 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off and repeat.


Proper Breast Care
Women in the postpartum period, especially nursing mothers, should wash their breasts with a liquid antibacterial soap such as Dial at least once per day to prevent mastitis, a very painful infection of the breast tissue. Wearing a clean, supportive bra is also a necessity.


Pregnancy and Birth

Autism Linked With Smoking in Early Pregnancy
Women who smoke regularly during the early stages of pregnancy can increase the risk of their child developing autism by as much as 40 percent.


Coffee and Pregnancy
Moms-to-be should take a break from coffee -- caffeine crosses the placenta and large amounts may lead to low birth-weight infants.


Exercise and Pregnancy
Non-contact forms of exercise are encouraged during a normal pregnancy. Both the woman and her baby benefit from regular activities such as walking and swimming.


Fats and Nausea
A diet high in fat content increases a pregnant woman's chances for having problems with nausea.


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Each year 4,000 to 12,000 babies are born with the physical signs and intellectual disabilities associated with FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), and thousands more experience the somewhat lesser disabilities of fetal alcohol effects.


Fish Pregnant Women Should Not Consume
The FDA advises pregnant women not to eat four fish species that contain the highest levels of mercury: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, also known as golden or white snapper.


Folic Acid and Pregnancy
Taking the B vitamin folic acid at recommended levels early in pregnancy can help prevent certain birth defects.


Healthful Pregnancy Diet
A healthy diet for a pregnant woman consists of servings from all 4 food groups with special emphasis on the dairy group, foods high in folic acid, like orange juice, and foods high in iron, like liver. Keep foods high in sodium content to a minimum. Sodium causes water retention.


Heartburn During Pregnancy
Heartburn is a common complaint of pregnant women due to increased abdominal pressure caused by the fetus. Tums are a safe method of heartburn relief.


Hemorrhoid Treatment
Pregnant women frequently experience hemorrhoids due to the increased pressure on the rectal area caused by the developing baby. A simple and inexpensive treatment is witch hazel. Apply to hemorrhoids with a cotton ball 3 - 4 times per day.


Planning on Breastfeeding?
If you're planning on breastfeeding your baby, toughen your nipples while you're pregnant by rubbing them briskly with a towel after your bath or shower. It will lessen the chance of your nipples cracking when nursing.


Pregnant Women Should Get Group B Strep Test
All pregnant women should be routinely screened for Group B streptococcus, a major cause of illness and death among newborns.

Group B streptococcus (GBS), or "strep," can cause serious infections, such as meningitis, in newborns. Infants can become infected with the bacterium during labor and delivery, so pregnant women are screened for GBS during the last few weeks of pregnancy. Women infected with strep may be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of passing on the infection.


Pregnant Women Should Limit Tuna Consumption
Pregnant women who eat too much tuna risk exposing their unborn babies' developing brains to possibly harmful mercury levels, but there is no need for the women to cut the highly nutritious fish out of their diets altogether.
Two six-ounce cans of tuna per week is fine if that's the only fish they eat, or a single six-ounce can if other seafood, which also can contain mercury, is part of their diet.


Sex During Pregnancy
Sex during pregnancy is safe up until the time of rupture of membranes (the water breaking) as long as there have been no complications during the pregnancy.


Smog and Pregnancy
Women exposed to high levels of ozone and carbon monoxide were three times more likely than others to have babies with cleft lips and palates and defective heart valves.


Treatment of Dry Skin to Abdomen
Stretching of the abdomen during pregnancy causes dry, itchy skin. Olive oil applied once per day is an effective treatment. Use only a small amount and massage it well into the skin after a bath or shower.


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