Summer is the perfect time of year for all our favorite warm-weather activities; from drinking cool glasses of sweet lemonade, to swinging in hammocks under the shade, to getting out and being active. What better way to enjoy a low-impact summer-time activity that requires a minimal investment in equipment and supplies, than by bike riding. Summertime bike riding is the perfect way to enjoy warm summer days and get fit. Don’t take this easy-breezy activity for granted, though. Bike riding is not without its safety hazards. Before you pedal the pavement, read our summer bike safety tips (and yes, that includes wearing a helmet!).
- Protect Your Head. Even though the law only requires children under the age of 14 to wear safety certified bicycle helmets in New York, adults should wear them too. According to data provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, each year approximately two percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists, and in a majority of bicyclist deaths, the most serious injuries are to the head. In addition, helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of head injury by 50 percent, and the odds of head, face, or neck injury by 33 percent.
- Be Alert. Whether you’re biking on a busy road with two-way traffic, or on a quiet neighborhood side street, always be alert for pedestrians, other bikers, pets, vehicles, and unexpected road hazards. Learn to always scan ahead, center, left, and right. Resist the temptation to look down at the ground. Keep your head up to scan the upcoming area for obstacles or hazards.
- Be Seen. Especially if you’ll be biking on main roads, utilize proper and expected hand signals:
- Right Turn: Extend your right arm out straight with all fingers extended or use your index finger to point right.
- Left Turn: Extend your left or right arm sideways and bend your arm at a 90-degree angle at the elbow, hand pointing down, and the palm of your hand facing backwards.
- Also, make sure your bike is equipped with a horn, and a reflector and light for evening travel.
- Travel Safely in Pairs and Groups. Biking can be a great group activity, but make sure to do it safely. Whenever biking with another person, or with a group, ride in a single file line with enough space between bikers that if one has to stop abruptly, you won’t be at risk of a collision.
- Ride on the Right Side of the Road. Unlike pedestrians, bikers are required by law to ride with traffic. Not against it. Bike on the right side of the road. Failure to follow traffic rules could result in a law enforcement ticket.
- Have Fun. Getting out and being active is one of the best ways to maximize the summer sun before we all have to trade in our lemonade and sandals for pumpkin spice lattes and fur-lined boots. Enjoy what’s left of the summer by biking your way to fitness. Just remember to put your safety first in every situation.
It’s easy to remember that smoking can put you at risk for cancer, but it can be easy to forget that the summer sun we love so much can be just as dangerous. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, each year in the United States over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people. Every year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidences of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer, and over the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
You don’t have to stay indoors all summer long to protect yourself from skin cancer, but you do need to understand the risks and make choices that will limit your direct sun exposure. Read on for our summer sun safety best practices, and tips for choosing the SPF that’s right for you.
Tips to Limit Your Sun Exposure
- Stay in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and during late spring and early summer when UV rays are the strongest.
- Do not intentionally tan.
- Avoid sunburns. Getting sunburned just once every two years can triple your risk of developing melanoma skin cancer.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV-coating to protect your face and eyes.
- Wear long sleeves and pants of breathable fabric while out in the sun.
- Use extra caution around water, snow, and sand, as such surfaces reflect damaging rays, which can increase your chance of a sunburn.
- Protect yourself, even on cloudy or hazy days, as 80% of damaging UV rays can still reach you through the clouds.
- Wear sleeves or sunscreen even when driving. Harmful UVA rays can still reach you through window glass.
Sunscreen and SPF Facts
- Sunscreens are regulated as over-the-counter drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- SPF stands for sun protection factor. Sunscreens with a higher SPF generally offer more protection from the sun’s UV radiation.
- The SPF rating on a sunscreen product refers mainly to the level of UVB protection it offers. For example, SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB radiation, while SPF 30 blocks nearly 97%. Higher sunscreens block slightly more UV rays, but no sunscreen can offer 100% protection.
- SPF clothing is 100% effective at blocking UV rays, making it more effective than regular cotton materials.
- The FDA has banned sunscreens from claiming to be waterproof or sweat proof, however there are products available that offer protection if you plan to be in the water. Water resistant products are generally effective for up to 40 minutes in water, while very water resistant products are generally effective for up to 80 minutes in the water.
- When outdoors, always apply a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. Such sunscreens protect you from both types of damaging UV rays.
- When choosing sunscreens, read the label. If a product has a skin cancer/skin aging alert in the Drug Facts section, it means it will only prevent sunburn and will NOT reduce the risk of skin cancer.
- Always choose a sunscreen that is water resistant, but especially if you anticipate extended outdoor activity.
- Apply one ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) to your entire body, and to dry skin, 15 to 30 minutes before going outside.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Don’t forget to protect your lips. Choose a lip balm that contains at least SPF 30.
- Rather than using a product that claims to offer SPF and insect repellent, use these products separately for best results.
- Check the date of your sunscreen. The FDA requires that sunscreens retain their strength for at least three years. If you have an old bottle at home, or one that has passed its expiration date, replace it.
- Sunscreens come in a variety of forms. Choose the one that best fits your needs:
- Creams – Best for the face and dry skin.
- Sprays – Often chosen by parents for their convenient application, just be sure to apply the proper amount.
- Gels – Best for hairy areas.
- Sticks – Best for application around the eyes.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding summer sun exposure, or your personal risk factors for skin cancer, talk to your doctor. Chouchani, Sayegh and Robinson MD are currently accepting new patients. Call for an appointment today.
Infertility. Go ahead and say the word out loud. There is no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed if you fear you may be experiencing infertility issues. Rather than fearing that infertility is a word that should go unspoken and unacknowledged, learn the truth about this treatable condition, and when you should seek help.
Infertility is a condition of the reproductive system. Not entirely a female-related condition, approximately 30 percent of infertility is due to a female factor, 30 percent is due to a male factor, and the remaining 40 percent is due to problems in both partners or some other unexplainable component.
What follows is a list of some common terms associated with infertility that you should familiarize yourself with if you feel you may be experiencing this condition.
ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) – Any procedure where a woman’s eggs are surgically removed from a woman’s ovaries and combined with sperm to assist a woman in getting pregnant. IVF, GIFT, and ZIFT are all forms of ART.
Cryopreservation – The process of freezing extra embryos from a couple’s ART procedure for potential future use.
DES Exposure – A possible cause of infertility, Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of estrogen that was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent pregnancy complications. It is now known that DES may be the cause of premature birth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy among daughters born to mothers who were prescribed DES before it was banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Endometriosis – A possible cause of infertility, endometriosis is a painful chronic condition in which tissue, like that which lines the uterus, develops outside the uterus in areas such as the abdomen, on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and ligaments that support the uterus.
Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) – A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that helps an egg mature and be released. High levels of FSH may be an indication of infertility caused by low ovarian reserves.
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT) – A procedure to treat infertility in which a woman’s eggs are removed, mixed with sperm, and immediately placed into her fallopian tube.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – A procedure to treat infertility in which a woman is prescribed an ovulation stimulating medication to produce an excess number of eggs. The eggs are surgically removed and fertilized in a dish with sperm. If fertilization is successful, the embryo is transferred back to the woman’s uterus.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) – A procedure used to treat infertility in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – Formerly known as artificial insemination, IUI is a procedure used to treat infertility. The procedure takes the male’s sperm, washes and treats it, then injects it into the woman during ovulation to increase the chances of conception.
Luteal Phase Defect (LPD) – A possible cause of infertility, LPD occurs when the ovaries don’t release enough progesterone, or the uterine lining does not adequately respond to the hormone.
Male Factor Infertility (MFI) – A term used when a man has a lower than normal chance of fertilizing an egg without assistance.
Miscarriage – Also referred to as “spontaneous abortion,” a miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the twentieth week of pregnancy.
Reproductive Endocrinologist – A specialist who identifies and treats infertility in both men and women.
Tubal Disease – A possible cause of infertility, tubal disease is a disorder in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked or damaged, restricting the egg and subsequent embryo from making it to the uterus.
Uterine Factor – A structural or functional disorder of the uterus that results in reduced fertility.
Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT) – A procedure used to treat infertility in which a woman’s eggs are surgically removed and fertilized in a dish with sperm. If fertilization is successful, the embryo is transferred back to the woman’s fallopian tube.
When Should You Seek Help?
You may be diagnosed with infertility if you are under age 35 and have had unprotected, well-time intercourse for one year without being able to get pregnant and/or carry a baby to term. You may also be diagnosed with infertility if you are age 35 or older and have had unprotected, well-timed intercourse for six months without being able to get pregnant.
If either of these scenarios describes you, and you think you may be experiencing infertility, speak with your OB-GYN. He/she can properly diagnose you and help guide you toward a treatment plan that is right for you and your family. And if you are looking for a new practice and live in the WNY area, give our team a call today. We are accepting new patients.
Postpartum depression is a devastating emotional disorder that negatively impacts a significant number of mothers every year. It’s estimated that approximately 10 to 15 percent of women suffer from some form of postpartum mood disorder (PPMD), including postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety/OCD, or postpartum psychosis. If you feel that you or a loved one could be suffering from this emotionally, and physically painful disorder, know that you are not alone, and that treatment is available to help you recover and begin enjoying your time with your new baby in positive ways.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression symptoms typically develop within the first few weeks after baby is born, but could begin up to six months after birth. While every case is different, typical symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
- Feelings of anxiety or sadness that result in pulling away from family and loved ones.
- Panic attacks.
- Unexplainable sadness that leads to seemingly unprovoked, excessive crying.
- Rapid and severe mood swings.
- Unexplainable feelings of sadness or depression.
- Uncontrollable and intense irritability and/or anger.
- Overwhelming fatigue.
- Difficulty sleeping, or wanting to keep all the time.
- The feeling of being overwhelmed, and/or unable to concentrate, think clearly, or make decisions.
- Not feeling hungry as usual, or overeating.
- Reduced interest in hobbies or typically enjoyable activities.
- Having difficulties bonding with your baby, and/or a strong fear that you are not a good mother.
- Irrational thoughts of harming yourself, or your baby.
- Thoughts of suicide or death.
Your Doctor Can Help
If left untreated, postpartum depression may last for many, painful, and sad months where you are not bonding with your baby in the ways that you’d like. In the most severe cases, postpartum depression can have devastating, deadly consequences.
If you or a loved one think you may be suffering from postpartum depression, your OGBYN can help. A variety of treatment options are available. Your doctor will customize a treatment plan that is right for you, based on your unique circumstances or symptoms. Your recovery plan may include any of the following treatments:
- Medication — Postpartum depression is caused by severe fluctuations in hormones. To treat these changes and restore balance to your system, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant. Medication can also be helpful in improving your sleep- and appetite-related symptoms.
- Psychotherapy (talk therapy) — For many women suffering from postpartum depression, talk therapy has proven successful either as a stand alone treatment, or when used in conjunction with antidepressant medication. Psychotherapy helps women suffering from postpartum depression to work through their feelings and resolve internal emotional conflicts with the support of a trained professional.
- Support groups — Similar to individualized psychotherapy, support groups can be an effective way for women to feel the support of others with whom they share similar feelings and experiences. Support groups may be recommended in conjunction with medication.
- Inpatient treatment — In the most severe cases, such as when a woman’s postpartum depression is presenting as suicidal ideation, your doctor may recommend a more intense treatment program provided in a focused, inpatient setting. When your doctor is confident that you are not a danger to yourself, or your baby, you will be discharged for continued outpatient treatment.
The initial months after your baby is born are essential for proper emotional bonding, and developing the skills you will need to care for your baby long term. Don’t let postpartum depression interfere with those precious months. Talk to your OBGYN today and learn what your options are, not just for managing symptoms, but for treating the underlying condition that is impacting your emotional and physical well-being.
The doctors at Chouchani, Sayegh and Bagnarello take your physical and mental health very seriously. If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above post pregnancy, please schedule an appointment to talk with us.
If you’ve ever experienced the searing, burning, indescribable pain that is a urinary tract infection (UTI), then you certainly never want to experience one again. If you are among the lucky ones that have never experienced this painful health condition, count yourself among the fortunate. Regardless if you have experienced a UTI in the past or not, there are several steps that all women can take to stay healthy, and mitigate their risk of experiencing this unpleasant condition.
- Stay hydrated. Women should drink plenty of water throughout the day for a variety of health reasons, but staying hydrated can also be an effective prevention technique for preventing UTIs. Water helps to dilute your urine, and encourages you to urinate more frequently—two factors that help ensure that the bacteria that can cause a UTI is regularly flushed from your urinary tract. When you urinate, your urine should be a very pale yellow if you are drinking enough water.
- Hydrate after sex too. Also, be sure to drink a full glass of water after sex, and immediately empty your bladder after intercourse. These two practices will again help to flush unwanted bacteria out of your urinary tract.
- Wipe front to back. After a bowel movement, be sure to wipe from the front to the back, and never wipe twice with the same tissue. Following proper cleansing techniques can prevent pathogenic bacteria that originates in the anal region from spreading to your vagina and urethra, where it can cause a UTI.
- Carefully choose feminine products. Irritating feminine hygiene products, such as certain douches, powders, and deodorant sprays, can irritate your urethra, and lead to infection.
- Choose tampons over sanitary napkins. Unlike sanitary napkins or pads, tampons keep the bladder opening area drier, which limits the possibility of bacterial growth.
- Urinate frequently. Avoid long periods of time in between urinating. Aim to empty your bladder completely at least once every four hours during the day to mitigate the risk of bacterial build-up.
- Consider changing your birth control. If you use diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, these forms of birth control can put you at risk of bacterial growth that can cause a UTI.
- Wear loose clothing. Tight-fitting undergarments and non-breathable materials can encourage moisture build-up, which can lead to maceration of the skin and bacterial overgrowth. Choose breathable underwear to prevent contamination of the bladder opening area.
- Choose showers over baths. Avoid soaking in bathwater for prolonged periods of time. Bath water can become contaminated with skin florae as you bathe, and allow bacteria to reach the bladder opening area.
If you have any questions or concerns about your risk for developing a UTI, speak with your OBGYN. If you feel you may be experiencing UTI symptoms, be sure to contact your docotor immediately so that he or she can prescribe treatment and set you on the road to recovery.
You have been waiting for nine months to meet your new baby. With each day that passes, your anticipation grows until you are wishing every minute of every day for the time to come. When the moment finally does arrive you’ll know, won’t you? You may be surprised to know that there are several signs and symptoms that you should watch for to determine when you have truly gone into labor. Familiarize yourself with the list of labor signs below so that you will be ready to go for the ultimate go time.
Contractions That Occur at Regular Intervals. One of the most accurate ways to tell if you are in labor is to time the sensations you believe to be contractions. In the beginning, the contractions will feel like menstrual cramps. Begin to time the “contractions” from the start of one to the start of the next. If they occur at regular intervals, with about the same amount of time in between, and if they start to appear closer to one another or if the pain increases, you’re likely in labor.
You Lose Your Mucus Plug. The mucus plug prevents bacteria from entering the uterus by blocking the opening to the cervix. Before labor, however, the mucus plug is expelled, ultimately allowing the baby to pass through the cervix during birth.
Bloody Show. When the mucus plug is expelled, you may experience what is known as “bloody show,” which is a mucusy discharge tinged pink or brown by blood. The appearance of the bloody show is a sign that blood vessels in the cervix are rupturing as it begins to dilate.
Your Water Breaks. This is the sign that everyone anticipates as the ultimate signal of labor, but don’t count on it. Breaking water only occurs in less than 15 percent of births. If your water does break, you will experience a trickling or gushing of amniotic fluid. The liquid should be odorless. If you do notice a color, or an odor, call your OBYGN immediately, as it may be a sign that the baby is in distress and has passed meconium, or the earliest infant stool, in the uterus.
Loose Joints. During your pregnancy, your body produces the hormone relaxin, which makes all of your ligaments soften. Before labor, you may feel as if your joints have gone loose. This is your body’s natural way of preparing your pelvis for the birth.
Nesting. Some women experience a biological phenomenon known as nesting in the days and weeks before birth. Nesting during pregnancy is the overwhelming desire to get your home ready for your new baby. When nesting occurs women experience a burst of energy and find themselves motivated to clean, or bake, or in some way prepare the home for their new arrival. Just be careful not to overdo it!
The birth of your baby will be a monumental moment in your lives. Remember to stay calm, and if you have any concerns about the symptoms you are experiencing, contact your OBGYN. Your doctor is prepared to help you bring your newest member of your family into the world as safely as possible.
Gestational diabetes is a form of the metabolic disease that impacts pregnant women who do not have a previous history of diabetes, but who have high blood glucose levels during their pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that in 2014 as many as 9.2 percent of pregnant women suffered from this condition. If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, understand the risks and treatment options available to help ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.
The causes of gestational diabetes are not completely known, however it is believed that hormones from the placenta that help the infant during development begin to block the action of the mother’s insulin into her own body. When proper insulin levels decline, glucose cannot leave the blood to be converted into energy, instead building up in the blood in unsafe levels, a condition known as hyperglycemia.
All pregnant women are at risk of developing gestational diabetes, however some women are at a higher risk. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
- Age. Women age 25 or older during their pregnancy are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
- Weight. Women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
- Family history. Women who have a close relation, such as a parent or sibling, that has previously been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk for gestational diabetes.
- Personal health history. Those who have suffered from prediabetes are at a greater risk of gestational diabetes. Prediabetes is a condition defined by slightly elevated blood sugar that may be a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Women are also at a greater risk if they were diagnosed with the condition during a previous pregnancy, if they delivered a stillbirth, or if they delivered a baby who weighed more than nine pounds.
- Race. While experts are uncertain of the reason, women who are African American, Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
Potential Impact to Mother and Baby
Gestational diabetes impacts the mother in late pregnancy after the baby’s body has been formed. Untreated or poorly controlled gestational diabetes can have serious consequences on infants. Women with gestational diabetes experience an overuse of the pancreas as it works to produce insulin that is ultimately ineffective in lowering blood glucose levels. The high levels of blood glucose are eventually transferred to the baby through the placenta, causing the baby’s pancreas to overproduce insulin as well. Eventually, the extra, unneeded energy is stored by the baby as excess fat, a condition known as macrosomia.
Babies with macrosomia face several potential health risks, including damage to their shoulders during birth, low blood glucose levels at birth due to extra insulin levels, and breathing problems. Later in life, the babies are at a higher risk of suffering from obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Your OBGYN will likely evaluate your risk factors for gestational diabetes early in your pregnancy. Based on those factors, he or she will help determine a screening frequency to identify any risk factors early. For example, women at high risk may be tested at their very first prenatal visit, while women at average risk will likely be screened during the second trimester.
Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes will require frequent checkups, especially during the final trimester. During these exams, and possibly even in between visits through self-testing, their blood sugar will be monitored. Your OBGYN may also prescribe insulin to help control your blood sugar.
Directly after the birth, your OBGYN will likely check your blood sugar and will want to test it again in six to 12 weeks to determine if levels have returned to normal. Even with an eventual normal reading, women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes should receive a diabetes screening at least every three years.
In addition to constant monitoring of blood sugar levels, there are treatment options available for women to manage gestational diabetes, including:
- Following a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Receiving regular exercise, which helps lower blood sugar by stimulating the body to move glucose into cells and use it as energy.
- The use of insulin, which is prescribed for 10 – 20 percent of women suffering from gestational diabetes.
Every woman strives for a healthy pregnancy. Talk to the doctors at Chouchani, Sayegh and Bagnarello about the factors that may impact your risk for developing gestational diabetes. Our doctors will work with you to help identify any threats early to keep you and your new loved one safe and healthy.
The terms HIV and AIDS are powerful. They can instill fear, conjuring images of a terminal disease that causes years of painful suffering, isolation, social stigmas, and the risk of infecting those you love. HIV and AIDS are serious diseases with deadly consequences, but when fear of a diagnosis leads to an avoidance of testing, you only put yourself, and your loved ones, at a greater risk. According to a recent survey published in AIDS and Behavior, the majority of people who do not seek out testing for HIV and AIDS are either afraid of the test or afraid of getting a positive diagnosis. If you are one of the millions of Americans avoiding the HIV test, put your fears aside and consider the dangers you put yourself in by living in denial.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 13 percent of the more than 1.2 million Americans with HIV are unaware that they have the virus, which means they could be spreading it further without knowing they are putting others at risk. Noticing any unusual signs or symptoms that could be indicative of a sexual transmitted disease (STD) is scary, but just hoping that the symptoms will go away on their own will only leave you in greater danger. Diagnosing HIV early is crucial both to an effective treatment plan, and to stop its spread. Early detection also reduces rates of mortality and morbidity.
Know Your HIV Status
All women should know their HIV status for these four reasons:
- Many new HIV infections are caused by people unaware that they are infected.
- HIV medicines are more effective when treatment begins early.
- Starting treatment early can mean the best health for you, and for a longer time, before you develop AIDS or other infections. When HIV is not identified until it has progressed to advanced stages, treatment options are limited.
- If you are pregnant, there are precautions you can take to avoid passing HIV to your baby.
It can take between two weeks and three months after infection for HIV antibodies to be found in your blood. It may take up to three months for an HIV test to be positive if you have reason to believe that you may have recently been infected. Talk to your doctor about how frequently you should be tested, given your lifestyle and risk factors.
To help save your own life, and the lives of your loved ones, set your fears aside and get tested:
- At least once after becoming sexually active.
- If you are pregnant.
- If you are having unprotected sex with more than one partner.
- If you are, or have, injected drugs.
- If you are having sex with someone to get money or drugs in return, or have had sex with someone who has traded sex for money or drugs.
- If you have another sexually transmitted infection (STI).
- If you had a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985.
AIDS and HIV are serious diseases, and being afraid of contraction is understandable, but living in denial that you could be carrying a serious illness won’t keep you or your loved ones safe. Early detection provides the only hope for effective treatment and longevity. Living a lifestyle that mitigates risk factors will help keep you safe. Even if you believe you are not at risk, getting tested will only reaffirm your peace of mind and help diminish the fear and stigma that surrounds testing.
And if you have any questions or fears, discuss them with your doctor. These discussions are 100% confidential.
Miscarriages are saddening medical occurrences that happen more often than is realized, yet the couples who suffer them rarely speak of their losses. Whether their silence is born out of a fear that the sympathies of others may make the loss more emotionally distressing, or out of a greater fear that a pregnancy may never be possible, miscarriages are often an emotional burden that too many couples bear alone. Such isolation is unnecessary, however, as approximately 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, and as many as 50 percent of pregnancies are miscarried so early that the pregnancy is not even known. Though the early termination of any pregnancy can be heart breaking, couples looking to conceive should take comfort in knowing that they are not to blame or at fault for the loss of their fetus. Understanding the truths and overcoming the misperceptions of miscarriages can give comfort to those recovering from such a loss.
The majority of miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks after conception. Since many women wait to share news of their pregnancy with family and friends until after the first trimester, many of the miscarriages that occur during the first thirteen weeks are often unknown by anyone other than the mother and father.
Truth: A great number of miscarriages occur so early that even the couple is unaware that an embryo had formed.
Though it is commonly believed that lifting heavy objects, participating in dangerous activities, and long-term stress can cause miscarriages, none of these factors have been proven to be valid risk factors. It is believed that the majority of miscarriages are caused by genetic abnormalities within the embryo that would prevent a baby from fully developing healthily and surviving after birth. About 60 percent of the time, miscarriages occur when the embryo or fetus has an abnormal number of chromosomes. In addition, some illnesses may place a woman at a greater risk for miscarriage, including some viral infections, thyroid disease, and diabetes.
Truth: Fatal genetic errors are not usually caused by the mother’s genetics.
Some of the risk factors that may lead to a miscarriage include:
- An older maternal age
- Extremely low or high maternal weight
- Moderate to high alcohol consumption during pregnancy
- Smoking or illicit drug use during pregnancy
- Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) around the time of conception
- Uterine trauma
- Previous miscarriage(s)
About 5 percent of women have recurrent miscarriages, a condition defined by three or more losses. In most of these cases, however, the recurrent miscarriages are caused by underlying health issues such as a structural problem with the uterus, thyroid problems, hormonal imbalances, or clotting disorders.
Truth: Most women who miscarry go on to have a successful pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby.
In order to be best positioned to deliver a baby to full term, women should maintain a healthy weight through proper nutrition and exercise, should not consume drugs or alcohol, and should be screened and treated if necessary for any sexually transmitted diseases (STD). In addition, pregnant women should take a folic acid supplement, avoid possible radiation exposure, and avoid contact sports.
Truth: In most cases, fully preventing a miscarriage is outside of a woman’s control.
The loss of any child at any time is devastating, however women must understand that as long as they lead a healthy lifestyle and avoid drugs and alcohol and other risky behaviors, they are giving their fetus the best possible chance for a healthy birth. For the many women who experience a miscarriage caused by genetic factors outside of their control, they should not take on the burden of guilt, or the feeling that the loss was their fault. Rather, they should emotionally and physically prepare themselves to try again to carry a baby full term, since for the great majority of women who miscarry, a healthy and happy baby is still on the horizon.
Whether you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, it’s important to see your OB-Gyn. Our office is currently accepting new patients. Call for an appointment today.
Eighty-five percent of women experience the discomfort of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) every month. If you are among those who suffer with such symptoms as cramps, bloating, and mood swings prior to the onset of your period, take comfort in knowing that there are many natural, and healthy ways to manage the symptoms of PMS. Consider the list below of eight tips for managing PMS.
- Get moving. While you may be tempted to stay in bed until your PMS symptoms improve, being active may actually help you feel better. Many women find that 30 minutes or more of cardiovascular exercise helps to specifically ease feelings of sadness and anxiety that they experience during their periods.
- Eat healthfully. It is particularly important in the days directly proceeding your period to increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while reducing the amount of sugar, artificial sweeteners, salt, and fat that you consume. The complex carbohydrates in whole grains, in particular, have been shown to enhance your mood. Researchers have also found that an increase in certain fatty acids, like the omega-3s, can lessen irritability and reduce pain and discomfort.
- Reduce alcohol. Reduce the amount of alcohol that you consume premenstrually. Alcohol is a depressant, which can enhance your mood swings, increase your anxiety, and feelings of depression or sadness.
- Limit caffeine. Reduce the amount of caffeine that you consume prior to the beginning of your period. Research has shown that the effects of caffeine are magnified premenstrually, leading to greater breast tenderness, more nervousness, and potentially more irritability. Aside from your morning cup of coffee, consider limiting the amount of caffeine that you consume from tea, cocoa, and chocolate as well. If you miss your warm morning beverage, switch to naturally caffeine-free chamomile tea, which contains properties that relieve muscle spasms, and may therefore help reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.
- Get enough sleep. If you are among the many women who lose sleep due to their monthly hormonal shifts, you may wake up on premenstrual days feeling irritable and moody. Try to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep on the days proceeding your period. If you are struggling to get solid hours of sleep at night, consider a short nap during the day.
- If you are a smoker – quit. Not that you needed another reason to crush this bad habit, but if you are a smoker that experiences painful and discomforting PMS symptoms, know that your smoking habit could be making your symptoms worse. A study of more than 3,000 women showed that those who smoked were more than twice as likely to develop moderate or severe PMS symptoms than those who never smoked.
- Manage your stress. If the most uncomfortable PMS symptom that you experience is an increase in feelings of stress and anxiety, consider finding healthy ways to combat these feelings through such practices as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage, or even simple deep breathing exercises.
- Increase your calcium. Supplement your diet during your period with extra calcium. Adding a daily dose of 1200 milligrams of calcium has been shown to ease PMS symptoms for many women.