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How To Stay Healthy When You Work From Home

The onset of the pandemic brought many changes in our lives. One of the largest is the opportunity to work remotely. It has offered the flexibility to juggle all the roles we must fill. And it has been pleasant for many, but it has brought along stress as well. Overcoming gender inequality in the workplace and filling traditional roles in addition to professional roles can be difficult.

It’s important to remember to take the time for self-care and staying in control of your health when working from home. Here we’ll share the good and bad of working from home as well as tools and tips to help you stay in your best mental and physical health while working remotely.

BENEFITS FOR WOMEN WHO WORK FROM HOME

While working from home, women can take care of their domestic duties while earning a living. Instead of working all day and getting home to work another full-time job, they can multi-task and get things done throughout the day.

BENEFITS OF WORKING FROM HOME INCLUDE:

· Not having to commute

· Savings from gas and dry cleaning

· Less exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses

· Relaxed dress code

· Favorable work-life balance

· Control and flexibility

DRAWBACKS TO WORKING FROM HOME

There is a downside to working from home. Women, who already have salaries disproportionate to their male counterparts, find that remote positions may pay less than on-site positions.

Distractions from family and friends who don’t understand that work hours cannot be used to run errands and chat on the phone can be disruptive. Children often walk into zoom shots during business meetings. It also can be hard to tell where work ends and home begins. Women sometimes find themselves taking calls and completing projects well into the evening. We can also find our distractions from social media, email, television, and intrusive notifications on the cell phone or computer.

OTHER DRAWBACKS TO WORKING FROM HOME INCLUDE:

· Time management difficulties

· Health issues

· Difficulty detaching after work hours

· Getting and staying organized

WORKING FROM HOME WHILE PREGNANT

Working remotely while pregnant certainly has its advantages. Not having to worry about pulling yourself together and get to work each morning while dealing with morning sickness is a big one! When dealing with the pandemic, being able to stay home and avoid potentially being infected by COVID is another.

Expectant moms working from home don’t have to spend all that money on maternity wardrobes to keep their professional appearance. They can also easily squeeze a few minutes of exercise into each day. There are no reaching hands that want to feel your belly, unsolicited advice, and questions to interfere with you getting your job done. And you can make it to those doctor’s appointments easily when you’re not having to schedule with the office staff. Then after your appointment, you’re not rushing back to work.

MENTAL HEALTH AND WORKING FROM HOME

While working from home, it’s essential to keep the stress at a minimum and stay centered enough to notice if your mental health is suffering. Usually, remote workers are more engaged and happier. But you must check in with yourself. Some remote workers experience:

· Loneliness and isolation

· Performance anxiety

· Burnout

TOOLS & TIPS TO STAY HEALTHY WHEN WORKING FROM HOME

To maintain good mental and physical health, you must be intentional. Set SMART goals that are short, realistic, and easy to achieve. The acronym SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, practical, and timely. When setting your goals, think about every area of your health and the things required to stay healthy. For example:

PHYSICAL FITNESS GOALS

  • 30-minute workout each day
  • Legs workout twice a week
  • 50 sit-ups each morning

EATING HEALTHY GOALS

  • Drink 80 oz of water each day
  • Eat veggies 5 days a week
  • Drink at least one glass of green tea each day

Self-Care Goals

  • Journal each day
  • Meditate twice a week
  • Take a soak and do a home spa day once a week

HEALTHY ROUTINE GOALS

  • Get to bed by 10 pm each night
  • Say affirmations each morning
  • Take a walk outside three times a week

ALSO, TRY THESE TIPS TO STAY HEALTHY AND MENTALLY FIT:

  • Empty your thoughts after each workday by jotting down your notes and to-dos in a journal
  • Practice Yoga
  • Use mood music for work time and home time
  • Keep water nearby and stay hydrated
  • Use healthy snacks instead of processed snacks while working
  • Walk away from your work area a few times a day

Working from home can be a great thing when you’re keeping your mental and physical health at the forefront and managing your time wisely. Follow these tips above and do what’s best for your family and health. Visit your physician regularly and discuss any stressors or difficulties with them. If you’re pregnant, follow your OBGYN’s recommendations for caring for yourself while working remotely.

How To Get A Good Night’s Rest

We all need a good night’s rest. When we get the sleep we need we wake up feeling refreshed and have a better chance of staying healthy. So, are you getting enough sleep?

WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SLEEP

One warning sign is that you are waking up tired in the morning. You might also feel lethargic or your work productivity declining. You might have an increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, poor mental health, and even early death.

Your cognitive performance diminishes, and your memory is impaired. Your work and personal relationships can suffer when you are unhappy due to a lack of sleep.

But crankiness and forgetfulness are only the tips of the iceberg. Research shows that continuing to get enough sleep or not getting quality sleep will increase your chance of serious conditions including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression.

If you have these symptoms, we recommend that you take a step back and evaluate
how you can improve your sleep.

HOW YOUR ROUTINE CAN IMPACT YOUR SLEEP

Your day-to-day routine can impact your sleep pattern.

  • Working late into the night, being attached to your phone every hour of the day, and more can adversely affect your sleep.
  • Exercise routines performed close to bedtime can make for a restless night. Timing matters as exercise causes the body to release endorphins. These chemicals can create a level of activity in the brain that will keep you awake.
  • Taking lengthy naps at irregular times can also keep you up at night. A brief nap can be refreshing but naps taking longer than 20 minutes, can interrupt a good night’s sleep.
  • Taking lengthy naps at irregular times can also keep you up at night. A brief nap can be refreshing but naps taking longer than 20 minutes, can interrupt a good night’s sleep.
  • Evening meals that include sugar and carbs can keep you awake at night. Spicy and acidic foods can cause heartburn and reflux that can disturb your sleep. Too many liquids can keep you running to the bathroom instead of sleeping.
  • Caffeine can still stimulate you up to 6 hours after drinking it. “Results demonstrated a moderate dose of caffeine at bedtime, 3 hours prior to bedtime, or 6 hours prior to bedtime each have significant effects on sleep disturbance.”
  • Smoking will certainly keep you up at night.

TIPS TO GET A GOOD NIGHT’S REST

To keep your energy up, be productive, and wake up in a better mood, try these tips to help you get a good night’s rest.

KEEP TO A SCHEDULE

Adhere to a regular sleep schedule. Set a particular time to wake up each morning and to go to bed at night. Stick to this schedule even on the weekend and vacation. This helps to set your internal clock. Don’t nap too late in the day and limit naps to 20 minutes.

HAVE A ROUTINE

When you follow a routine, you’re signaling to your body what happens next. So, develop a bedtime routine that will relax you and get you ready for bedtime. Choose a good book to read, turn on some soft music, or take a relaxing bath. It will also help to turn off your devices and dim the lights.

REMOVE BLUE LIGHT

The blue light from devices makes it harder for you to sleep. Make sure you aren’t exposed to these bright screens within two hours of bedtime. Your device should have a blue-light filter. Make sure you are using this feature when using your device late in the day. Set a time to peruse social media, check emails, and make phone calls. This will help you reserve bedtime for only sleep preparation.

EXERCISE AT LEAST 3 HOURS PRIOR TO BEDTIME

Exercise is important for our health, but timing is everything. When you exercise your metabolism speeds up and cortisol is increased. Make sure that you set a regular exercise time that’s not within three hours of your set bedtime.

AVOID ALCOHOL AND LARGE MEALS

Large meals before bed can keep you up and alcohol can disturb your sleep. Try sticking to a heart-healthy diet full of vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats.

REDUCE YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE

The recommended cut-off time for caffeine use is a minimum of six hours before bedtime. For example, if you typically go to bed at 10 pm, avoiding caffeine after 4 pm can help minimize sleep problems.

QUIT SMOKING

There is no surprise here. Bottom line is that you need to quit smoking for more reasons other than sleep.

WHEN TO SPEAK TO A DOCTOR

Many other conditions could be affecting your sleep. If you feel that one of these may be at the root of your sleeping issue, talk with your physician.

Pain – Some conditions can cause pain, stopping you from getting a night of restful sleep.

Insomnia – Common for those 60 or older, it can stop you from getting to sleep and staying asleep. If it takes you a long time to fall asleep or wake up several times throughout the night, you may be suffering from insomnia.

Medications – Heart medications like beta-blockers can cause insomnia. Asthma medications like theophylline contain chemicals akin to caffeine. Insomnia is the most common side-effect of anti-depressants that are SSRI’s.

Sleep Apnea – Those with sleep apnea experience pauses in breathing, causing you to snore loudly and leaving you feeling sleepy all day.

If you are experiencing tiredness and are not able to perform your normal activities for more than a couple of weeks, you might have a sleep problem that needs to be addressed. It’s time to speak with your doctor about making some changes to help you get a better night’s rest.

Call your physician at Southwest OB/GYN of you are experiencing sleep issues.

6 Way You Can Stay Healthy & Fit as You Get Older

Aging gracefully. We all want to make sure that we are living our best lives for as long as we can. Remembering that it is not all about our appearance.

Aging gracefully also means approaching each day in the best physical and mental condition possible. It all begins with taking responsibility for our health. With the right practices and day-to-day choices, you can stay healthy and fit as you get older. With that in mind, we have gathered some tips to help you achieve that.

1. MIND YOUR SKIN
As we age, our skin can appear thin and pale. Age spots come with sun exposure. Our skin loses elasticity, becomes drier, and can even be affected by prescribed medications.

With all these things at play, it is important that we take care of our skin. Use sunscreen when you’re out during the day. It can decrease your risk of skin cancer and help ward off age spots. It is important to apply a broad spectrum SPF15 or 30 each day a half an hour before leaving the house and reapply every two hours while you are in the sun. You should also opt for sun-safe clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses with UV protection.

While it is recommended that everyone perform self-examinations for skin cancer each month, for those at higher risk for skin cancer it is extremely important. These include people with compromised immunity, those who have had skin cancer in the past, and those with a family history of the disease.

To perform a self-check, stand in front of a full-length mirror and use a handheld mirror for hard-to-see places. Get to know the marks, moles, and freckles on your body so that you will notice any changes over time. If you find an area of concern, let your doctor know. Everyone should also have a skin cancer screening with their doctor each year.

Keep your skin hydrated by drinking water. Skin with great elasticity has fewer wrinkles. Keeping yourself hydrated helps to prevent the signs of aging on the skin.

While the amount of water each person needs will vary, drinking half of your body weight in ounces each day should suffice. And remember, sports drinks, decaffeinated coffee and teas, jello, soups, and popsicles count towards your daily water count.

2. EXERCISE
Regular exercises provide numerous benefits. Including decreasing heart diseases and improving mental health. As soon as you finish your first session you’ll benefit from better sleep, sharper thinking, and reduced anxiety and depression.

Getting at least 150 minutes each week of moderate aerobic activity can lower your blood pressure as well as your risk for heart disease and stroke. Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you are already a type 2 diabetic, keeping active can help control blood glucose levels.

You will also help to strengthen your joints and muscles and prevent falls. This is best accomplished by multicomponent physical activity. This combines aerobic, muscle strengthening, and balance training.

You don’t have to commit to hours a day in the gym to stay fit. Try to devote 30 minutes five times a week to moderate exercise. Moderate exercise would result in your breathing being a little heavier than normal. Start small, with five-minute sessions, and work your way up. If you have medical issues that are stopping you from being active, talk with your doctor about your workout options.

And you don’t have to go to the gym. Walk and get your steps in as you clean the house and work on your lawn. Washing the car also is a great way to get a little exercise in. Park a little farther out and walk, use stairs instead of elevators, and play with your kids in the yard.

3. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Getting the right amount of sleep is important for your physical and mental health. There are several benefits you get from getting a full eight hours of sleep each night. When you get ample sleep, you boost your immune system. Also, the cortisol released when you are running on less sleep makes your heart work harder, leading to high blood pressure and heart attacks. You also get up on the right side of the bed in a great mood when you feel rested. This better mood leads to increased productivity and improved memory throughout your day.

Sleep is tied to mental and emotional health. Poor sleeping habits contribute to worsening mental health issues. Each stage of sleep plays a role in brain health, with each part ramping up and down. REM sleep, for example, facilitates the processing of emotional information in the brain. Sleep issues are both the cause and consequence of mental health issues.

But there are some things you can do to improve your quality of sleep. To get the right amount of sleep you should:

  • Set a precise wake-up time and bedtime and stick to it.
  • Wind down leading up to bedtime with relaxation techniques.
  • Avoid having alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.
  • Reduce blue light exposure by using blue light filters and putting all electronic devices away at least an hour before bed.
  • Ensure that you have plenty of bright light exposure throughout the day.
  • Try not to take long naps during the day.

4. PROTECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
To reduce stress, you must first acknowledge it. Knowing that the stress exists helps you to identify the source and manage your reactions. Be mindful of what is going on around you, just be present. Think about how you are feeling, in your body and breathing. Once you’ve figured out your stressors, it’s time to decide how to manage them.

  • Avoid the Stressor – Start your morning commute earlier to avoid rush hour traffic.
  • Resolve Issues – Resolve conflicts through forgiveness or talking them through.
  • Preparation – Make sure you are fully prepared for meetings, so you’re ready to focus on the meeting and perform well.
  • Take it Easy on Yourself – Set realistic goals and stop trying to be perfect.
  • Take a New View – View situations as challenges instead of stressors.
  • Embrace Acceptance – Accept what you cannot control and stop worrying about things, you cannot change.
  • Take Small Bites – Transform large jobs into small tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Exercise to relieve anxiety and stress. The movements help to relax your muscles and relieve tensions.
  • Meditation allows you to be more present at the moment and manage your thoughts.
  • Yoga not only boosts your mood but also elevates levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain, decreasing anxiety.

5. QUIT SMOKING AND DRINKING
Tobacco and alcohol can cause a multitude of problems including lung cancer and liver failure. Smoking causes diseases and disabilities, affecting every organ in the human body. Smoking-related illnesses include cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and COPD.

Too much alcohol can lead to car accidents, drownings, violence, and alcohol poisoning. In the long term, alcohol can cause high blood pressure, liver disease, cancer, mental health problems, and more.

It’s best to consume alcohol in moderation. This amounts to two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less per day for women. If you feel that you should cut back on your alcohol intake, try these tips:

  • Come up with a list of reasons why to quit.
  • Set a limit for your drinking and keep a diary.
  • Don’t have alcohol in the house.
  • Set alcohol-free days.
  • Seek support from friends, family, and even your physician.

Quitting smoking can be hard and won’t always work the first time. But it is important to keep trying. To quit smoking:

  • Identify your reason for quitting. Lowering your risk for disease, being here longer for family, or reducing the amount of secondhand smoke you are passing on to them. Whatever your reason, place reminders around you to remind you.
  • Speak to your doctor for help like classes, apps, counseling, nicotine replacement therapy, smoking cessation medications, or hypnosis.
  • Find support from your friends and family to get their encouragement. Throw them all out and your ashtrays, lighters, and clean up all the smokey areas of your home and car.
  • Find a reward that will help you see the finish line and celebrate your success.

6. FINALLY, VISIT YOUR OB/GYN REGULARLY.
We’ve gone through several reasons to regularly visit your doctor. Below are some recent posts.

When Should I See a Gynecologist?

Gynecologists specialize in the area of reproductive medicine in women. They help women with pregnancy, childbirth, menstruation, hormone disorders, and other issues specific to the female body. Preteens, teens, and adults should visit with their gynecologist regularly. There are other times when a visit is necessary outside of the regular gynecological visits. Here we share … Continue reading

Empower Yourself — Get Screened for Better Health

This month, the Office on Women’s Health will sponsor Women’s Health Week, beginning on Mother’s Day, May 12, and running through May 19. In celebration of Women’s Health Week and throughout the year, we encourage women of all ages to empower themselves by focusing on their personal health and getting the tests and screenings they … Continue reading

Awareness + Early Detection = Weapons in Fighting Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. Throughout October, women, healthcare professionals and organizations around the world are calling attention to the importance of awareness and early detection of the disease during … Continue reading

Remember that every person is different, and it is important that you consult with your doctor for a personalized regimen customized for you. The physicians at Southwest OBGYN can help you do that.

Why Your Child Needs a Covid-19 Vaccine

The Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 is now available to anyone 12 years old and older. The vaccine protects children from COVID-19 and from spreading it to others. Even though COVID-19 illness and complications in children have been milder than in older adults, some children can get seriously ill from COVID-19. Here is some information for you to know about COVID-19 vaccines for adolescents, from physicians in the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Outpatient Workgroup

  • The long-term effect of COVID-19 infection in children is unknown. Research shows some children who have recovered from mild COVID-19 may have long-term inflammation in the lungs and heart. That’s why it’s important for your child to get the vaccine.
  • Vaccines will help protect adolescents so they can get back to school, sports, camps, and other social activities they missed during the pandemic. They will not be protected fully until two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, so consider getting your child the first dose as soon as possible.
  • When adolescents get sick from COVID-19, even if their own symptoms are mild, they can spread infection to family members who cannot be vaccinated because they are too young or have certain health conditions.
  • Just like the Pfizer vaccine was tested for adults, it was monitored for safety and effectiveness in children aged 12 and older.
  • Vaccines for adolescents are the same ones currently available to adults. Adolescents may have similar side effects as adults.
  • Some teens may feel faint after receiving the vaccine. They can safely leave the vaccination clinic site following a 15-minute wait after they get their shot.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recognize that vaccines do not affect fertility, puberty, or menstruation.
  • Getting the COVID-19 vaccine along with any other routine vaccines for adolescents aged 12 and older is safe. If your child is behind on getting required vaccines such as HPV, meningococcal, and Tdap vaccines, now is a good time to catch up.
  • COVID-19 vaccine and the associated visit are free for you and your child if this is the only purpose of the visit. Although you may need to show proof of insurance at the vaccination clinic, you should not be billed for a shot-only visit. If your child receives the shot as part of a well or sick visit, you will be charged for the visit but not for the vaccination.
  • Parental consent is required for a child under age 18 to receive the vaccine. A parent does not have to be present at the time of vaccination if the clinic does not require it.

 Learn more

11 Tips to Ѕtау Неаlthу in the Houston Summеr

The summer months in Houston can be brutal. As temperatures and humidity rise, so do health
risks — especially if you’re pregnant. You need to take special care to keep yourself cool,
comfortable, and healthy. Here’s what to keep in mind throughout the dog days of summer.

1. STAY HYDRATED
The more you sweat, the more fluids your body loses. Staying hydrated helps boost your
metabolism and energy levels and, of course, prevent dangerous dehydration. Make it a habit
to keep a water bottle nearby throughout the day. When you’re thirsty, take a few sips.
Pure water is the best way to stay hydrated. Pick water over sugary juices or soda, and avoid
energy drinks as much as possible. These drinks can actually lead to dehydration.

2. EAT LIGHT
Did you know that eating causes your body temperature to rise? It makes sense: a nice, hot meal
makes you feel warm during the winter. Unfortunately, the same thing happens during the
summer months.

To help prevent overheating, keep your meals lightweight. A bunch of small meals throughout
the day are better than several heavy meals. Plus, it’s easier to regulate your calories. Opt for
fresh fruits and veggies, soft foods such as yogurt, and lean proteins.

3. EAT COOL
Hot foods don’t just make you feel warmer; they can actually raise your body temperature.
Keep yourself cool with chilled or room-temperature foods. Try delicious gazpacho soups or
tabouleh-style dishes rather than heavy chilis or casseroles. Opt for chilled proteins such as
chilled cooked shrimp, ahi tuna, or hardboiled eggs in your salads.

Also, stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. As a bonus, by eating these raw means, you can get
more nutrients from them. A lot of produce, including watermelon, grapes, and tomatoes, has
a high water content that keeps you hydrated as well! Plus, your baby will appreciate all those
amazing nutrients.

4. STAY CLEAN
Your skin is the first line of defense against overheating. When you sweat, the moisture
evaporates to cool you off. Unfortunately, a mixture of sweat and dead skin cells can lead to
skin irritation, dryness, or plain B.O.
You should regularly exfoliate and moisturize your skin during the summer. This also ensures
that your skin is healthy and unbroken, which means it’s a better barrier against germs that
could cause harmful infections. So, don’t be afraid to indulge in some skincare!

5. EXERCISE SMART
As a mom-to-be, you benefit from working out. It keeps your heart healthy and helps you
maintain your metabolism. However, you definitely don’t want to go for your usual jog in the
Houston summer heat! Your body temperature rises when you exercise, so it’s much easier to
overheat if you’re out in the sun.
Now is the time to splurge on that gym membership — or stick to early morning or evening for
your workout. Exercise indoors whenever possible, and be sure to keep plenty of water on
hand.

6. DRESS TO KEEP COOL
Speaking of exercise, avoid stretchy leggings or tops while you work out. Those materials
actually trap heat and make it harder for you to cool off. Instead, keep your clothing loose-fitting
and light in color. (Plus, your growing belly will appreciate the extra room.) Choose garments
made of cotton, linen, and other natural fabrics that allow your skin to breathe.

7. BE SUN-SAFE
You need sunscreen all day, every day, even if you’re not on the beach. In addition to
preventing painful burns, sunscreen is crucial to minimize your risk of skin cancer. As a mom-to-be, there’s no better time to make sun safety an essential part of your daily routine.

Remember that sunscreen only lasts a couple of hours, so be prepared to reapply throughout
the day!

8. STAY INDOORS
The best way to beat the heat? Enjoy that amazing A/C. Avoid going out during the warmer
times of the day. Between 1 and 5 p.m., the sun is at peak intensity. Much like winters up north,
the summer months in Texas are meant to be spent indoors.

Tired of being stuck in the house? Good thing there’s plenty to do in Houston! Enjoy the lovely,
indoor museums, galleries, theaters, and restaurants.

9. CLEAN YOUR HOME
You won’t be able to enjoy that A/C if it’s not working well. Your home’s air ducts and vents are
probably dirtier than you think. Allergens and dust build-up throughout the year. This means
that during summer when the AC should be in optimal condition, you could be dealing with a hot, stuffy home.
Also, poor indoor air quality could lead to respiratory infections, which you definitely don’t want
while you’re pregnant.

So, be sure to change your filters regularly, keep your vents clean, and considering hiring
someone to clean the ducts.

10. SLOW DOWN
Summer is not a time for busyness and high-energy work, especially if you’re pregnant. The
more you can stay relaxed and cool, the healthier that you and your baby will be. Take some time to
unwind with a good book and a cold glass of water (or if you’re craving some summer
sweetness, lemonade). Put your feet up: you deserve it, momma!

WRAPPING UP
Staying cool during the Houston summer is not just a matter of comfort; it’s crucial to your
health during your pregnancy. You will feel less stressed, more energetic, and overall better if
you skip the hot foods, heavy meals, and binding clothing. Think “breezy” for everything you
do: embrace early mornings, A/C, and indoor activities. And don’t forget to stock up on water,
fresh foods, and sunscreen!

Excessive heat can make you sick and stressed.

By following these tips, you and your baby can enjoy a cooler, healthier summer.

Get Educated and Empowered About Your Healthcare Planning Today

National Healthcare Decisions Day is the perfect time to give yourself the peace of mind you deserve.

WHAT IS NATIONAL HEALTHCARE DECISIONS DAY?
National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is an annual event celebrated on April 16th worldwide. NHDD is a national initiative to empower and encourage all adults to plan for and safeguard against a health crisis in the future, a process called advance care planning. Making important decisions about your health ahead of time can alleviate a potential situation’s difficulty, providing you and your loved ones with peace of mind. This requires planning on the part of you, your family, and your healthcare community.

WHY NOW?
The timing could not make it more clear how important planning for unexpected health issues is. Given the current public health crisis, people’s health is at the forefront of their minds, and the best way to ease any anxiety is to prepare well for any situation. These situations are usually hard to avoid – for instance, nobody can predict when a global pandemic might occur – but by planning with uncertainty in mind, you can much more effectively manage the big picture.

The ideology behind National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is not just for families but also for medical professionals and their patients. At Southwest OBGYN, we know how important it is to take your health into your own hands at the right time and are eager to assist with your decision-making. It is so essential for women to empower themselves with the knowledge to make these impactful decisions.

STARTING (AND PARTICIPATING IN) A CONVERSATION WITH YOUR MEDICAL PROVIDER
We want to stress to our patients and their families the importance of talking in-depth about the types of care desired when faced with serious issues or a chronic illness. These questions ask you to think about the highest priority to you and go from there. Your personal choices should guide your planning, so it’s vital to move forward with what you’re comfortable with.

To better equip yourself with what you might need, there are many great medical decision resources available that include:

ADVANCE DIRECTIVES
An advance directive is a living will that allows you to document your wishes about medical treatment options at the end of life in writing. This is a great way to outline the care you wish to receive or refuse. Advance directives differ by state, so be sure to pick the correct form for you.

POWER OF ATTORNEY OR HEALTHCARE PROXY
Giving someone rights under a power of attorney is a serious undertaking and should be taken as such. Whoever you appoint will be known as your agent or healthcare proxy and will be legally authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf. As with all complex legal matters, the definitions differ by state. NHDD was designed to help you learn more about these differences and the laws about your healthcare.

HEALTHCARE PREFERENCES AND CHOICES
The world inside of hospital walls can be overwhelming if you ever find yourself there unexpectedly. There are so many choices regarding care and procedures that can impact your well-being if you’re undergoing serious health issues. These include the use of CPR, intubation, ventilators, artificial hydration (IVs), artificial nutrition (also known as tube feeding), and comfort or palliative care. If you haven’t planned accordingly, it can be difficult for others to make these decisions for you.

When it comes to a health crisis, it is never too early to plan. Join the women and men who have taken control of their health and celebrate National Healthcare Decisions Day. Let Southwest OBGYN show you what you can do to ensure that your rights and wants matter in any event.

Finding a Women’s Health Group That Is Right for You

Choosing the women’s health group that is right for you is important. Not only do you want to work with experienced and knowledgeable health professionals, but you also want to choose a practice with compassionate providers and competent administrative staff.

VISITING YOUR GYNECOLOGIST VS. YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR
Some women believe that visiting their family doctor will suffice, but a gynecologist has a unique perspective and specialized training to help you with your reproductive system better. It is essential to have both a primary care physician and a gynecologist. Just as you need a yearly physical exam performed by your primary care doctor, you need an annual gynecologic exam.

Gynecologists deal with fertility issues, birth control, cancer prevention, sexually transmitted infections, and care during and after menopause. Pelvic exams and pap smears need to be conducted by an OB/GYN. Your provider can also help you with clinical breast exams and the need for cancer screenings at all ages.

THE PURPOSE OF YOUR VISIT
The purpose of your visit will also dictate which type of doctor you see and help you choose the right women’s health group. Suffer from the polycystic ovarian syndrome, congenital abnormalities or benign conditions of the reproductive tract, premalignant conditions, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory diseases; you need to choose a practice experienced in dealing with these conditions.

WHAT HAPPENS AT EACH AGE?
At each age, gynecological care is essential. Here is what is essential at each stage of your life:

ADOLESCENCE
Puberty and the start of the menstrual cycle. Once you begin to be sexually active, you need regular OB/GYN appointments. This is a great time to find your women’s health care provider, begin your relationship, and develop trust. Here is what will happen on your first visit.

YOUR TWENTIES
Estrogen, progesterone, and androgen are at peak levels. Your regular screenings with your OB-GYN should continue. This begins your family planning stage. Your annual exam will include a breast, abdominal and pelvic exam. Contraception and fertility options are usually discussed at this time.

YOUR THIRTIES
You could begin to experience hormonal shifts that can affect your menstrual cycles. This is when your uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts risk increases. It is recommended that you be screened for the human papillomavirus (HPV). Pregnancy in your mid to late thirties can be complicated.

It is essential toget the appropriate screenings and maintain your regular OB/GYN visits. Your pap smear at this stage will determine how often you will need to return for your next pap test.

YOUR FORTIES
Menopause symptoms can begin as early as the late ’30s. Discuss any symptoms with your OB/GYN. Mammograms usually startat this age if they have not before this time. Discuss your provider the proper frequency for your pap smears and pelvic exams at this stage of your life. This is the time for regular bone density screenings and colonoscopies.

YOUR FIFTIES AND BEYOND
In the U.S., many women begin menopause in their early 50’s. This stage can mean significant changes to your body. In the ’60s & ’70s, painful conditions can occur due to reduced estrogen production. It is also important to continue your visits and focus on detected early-stage cancers.

EMERGENCY CUES
There are times when meeting with your OB/GYN is vital. If you have any of these issues, it is time to schedule your appointment with your provider:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge or odor
  • Changes in your menstrual cycle
  • Appearance of lesions
  • Urinary problems
  • Pelvic pain or bloating
  • Painful sex
  • Spotting after sex
  • Vaginal bleeding post-menopause

QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK
Before choosing your women’s health group, make sure that you ask questions. You need to determine that your doctor can maintain a relationship with you for years to come.

  • Do you provide all kinds of obstetrics and gynecological services?
  • How responsive are you? Do you quickly respond to calls and concerns?
  • Do you have an after-hours emergency line?
  • What are your specialties?
  • Is lab work done on-site?
  • How quickly can I be seen for emergency conditions?
  • How easy is your appointment scheduling system?

THINGS TO CONSIDER
You want to make sure that your women’s health group is affiliated with a well-equipped hospital that can care for a variety of medical conditions. Your provider should have access to state-of-the-art technology. Get a feel for your compatibility, you want to be able to trust and easily communicate with your provider.

Choosing your Houston OB/GYN should be done with care and consideration. Your practice should make you feel welcome and comfortable. You should be able to communicate with your provider and the office staff.

SW/OBGYN was founded by physicians who are experts in Obstetrics and Gynecology. We have nine physicians, a nurse practitioner, and an office staff of 50. We strive to deliver the highest quality medical care and treatment to our patients in Houston and the surrounding areas. Our providers have privileges at Houston Methodist Sugar Land and Memorial Hermann Sugar Land. Learn more about our doctors. We welcome you to give us a call today or visit to schedule your appointment or inquire about our services.

Depression During & After Pregnancy: It’s Not Just in Your Head

Many expectant and new mothers experience depression. The stress produced while your body is going through the changes that pregnancy brings along makes you more vulnerable to the condition. Age, substance abuse, familial history of depression, and lack of support can contribute to your chance of developing postpartum depression. Those with depression during their pregnancy are also more likely to experience it after their child’s birth.

VISITING YOUR GYNECOLOGIST VS. YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR
When you experience what could be symptoms of postpartum depression, you may wonder if you should speak to your primary care physician or see your gynecologist. Especially after the birth of your child and you do not visit your OB/GYN regularly. But physicians who practice obstetrics and gynecology are uniquely qualified to help women throughout their lives with women’s health issues. They also commonly see patients who are dealing with issues of depression during and after pregnancy.

PREPARING FOR YOUR VISIT
Getting what you wish to discuss with your doctor clear in your head and on paper is a good idea. Please discuss this with them when you first begin to experience signs of depression. Research information about postpartum depression, write down any symptoms you have experienced, prior experiences with depression and anxiety, and any questions. Take this list with you to be prepared to discuss these concerns with your OB/GYN.

Ensure you are clear about the severity of your symptoms, any scare thoughts you have, or any of the signs that are particularly worrying to you. Do not be concerned about what your doctor, or others, may think of you. Part of being a good mother is taking care of yourself to be the best parent you can.

Ask your doctor about any medical conditions or physical reasons you may be experiencing your symptoms. This includes running a thyroid function test and doing a complete blood count. Discuss any concerns or questions about antidepressants and other treatments. No questions are silly. It would help if you had all of the pertinent information to make the best decisions for you and your child. Ask for a therapy referral for help getting through this challenging time.

Suppose you don’t feel that the medical professional you are working with is minimizing, making light of, or judging your condition. In that case, it is time to find a new doctor to work with that is more experienced in dealing with postpartum women’s needs.

BREAKING DOWN THE TERMS
BABY BLUES
Many women suffer from baby blues after bringing their baby home. Usually marked by mild symptoms that last for up to a few weeks, baby blues usually resolves itself without needing to see a physician. The symptoms include excessive sleeping, loss of appetite, crying, feelings of being overwhelmed, sadness, anxiety, and mood swings.

POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
Along with more extreme versions of Baby Blues symptoms, postpartum depression also includes a lack of interest in your new infant or thinking about harming yourself or your baby. This needs immediate medical attention.

POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS
Women who have bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions find themselves in situations such as attempting to harm themselves or their child, severe mood swings, confusion, seeing things that aren’t there.

LISTENING TO THE SYMPTOMS AND EMERGENCY CUES
Mood swings and other symptoms may feel like standard parts of pregnancy. But if you have been feeling these symptoms for more than two weeks, it’s time to speak to your doctor. Pregnancy can be hard on the body and mind. You may wonder if what you are feeling is just a normal part of pregnancy. Watch for these symptoms:

  • Persistent body, head, or stomach pain
  • Avoiding loved ones
  • You are no longer interested in things that you used to enjoy
  • Memory problems
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Not able to focus
  • Frequent crying, sadness, hopelessness, or feeling overwhelmed.
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Mood swings, restlessness
  • Not bonding with baby.

SOUTHWEST OB/GYN CAN HELP
If you have been excited to meet your newborn and you don’t have the feelings you thought you would have, it may be as simple as the baby blues. But when it extends to postpartum depression or psychosis, these may interfere with your ability to care for your child.

If you have experienced any of the symptoms listed, please contact us to make an appointment with our Houston Ob/GYN practice to speak with a medical professional here at Southwest OB/GYN. We are experienced in helping new mothers through this stage and ensure that you are prepared to take care of their newborn.

We can help you understand your emotional and psychological state throughout your pregnancy. Call us today or send us a message. Find our care team at swobgyn.com/doctors/. To help you prepare for your first Houston gynecologist visit, please read this article.

Sharing Our Support and Belief for the Covid-19 Vaccine

SOUTHWEST OB/GYN IS CONFIDENT IN THE COVID-19 VACCINE

A lot of women may have serious questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

The United States Food and Drug Administration presented an Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNtech mRNA vaccine for 16 years of age and older as a 2-dose regimen given three weeks apart. The Pfizer vaccine is shown to have a 95% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 after the second dose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current recommendations are that healthcare personnel and vulnerable populations prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations due to limited availability. Once this round has been completed, the focus will expand to include all people.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine also be available for pregnant women who meet the criteria for vaccination based on prioritization groups.

Pregnant women considering the COVID-19 vaccination should contact their medical provider, who will work with you to assess the risks for infection for you and your baby. These increased risks are compounded in women of color who have a higher prevalence of COVID-19 disease.

SHOULD YOU GET THE COVID-19 VACCINE?
The CDC and health experts believe that the mRNA vaccine will not likely pose a risk for pregnant women as they are not live and degrade quickly.

When considering the COVID-19 vaccine, consider the level of occurrence of the virus in your community, the efficacy of the vaccine, and the risk of severity of the virus.

What Is the Difference Between an OB/GYN and a Gynecologist?

To understand the difference between an OB/GYN physician and a gynecologist, one must know that both encompasses two separate medical specialties. Women see an OB/GYN provider for their health needs, including pregnancy and menopause management, while seeking an obstetrician has its own set of requirements. Although both gynecologists and OB/GYNs are medical doctors in women’s health, the scope of practice for these two careers differs considerably.

For example, a gynecologist is a doctor whose focus is on the routine care of the female reproductive system, including treating diseases and disorders specific to women. An OB/GYN, on the other hand, is a practitioner in both obstetrics and gynecology. Because of the addition of obstetrics in an OB/GYN’s practice, these doctors are also specially trained to work with pregnant and postpartum women, aiding in prenatal care, child delivery, and recovery after childbirth. You need to identify first which specialist you need before finding the nearest doctor in the Houston area.

Here’s a closer look at the differences between the two and their job responsibilities:

AN OB/GYN SPECIALIST
An obstetrician specializes in the care of a pregnant woman and her unborn child. They are trained to handle potential complications or situations that may happen during pregnancy and during the birthing process, including:

  • Ectopic pregnancy – A kind of pregnancy wherein the fetus develops outside of the uterus
  • Fetal distress – Signs before & during birth that may show signs that the fetus is not be doing well
  • Placenta issues
  • High blood pressure – often leads to preeclampsia
  • Cesarean section
  • Provides patients with prenatal care
  • Assisting women with family planning
  • Helping women get through the postpartum depressions
  • Conducting regular routinary procedure for women’s health such as mammograms, vaginal examinations

OB/GYN’s are trained to work with patients of all ages, although they tend to work mostly with women of childbearing age, including those who are currently or have recently been pregnant. For the gynecological side of treatment, these practitioners can provide their patients with the preventative care and remedies essential to their reproductive health, including pap smears, breast exams, and managing sexually transmitted infections. OB/GYNs are responsible for ensuring the continued health of their patients – through pregnancy and childbirth. This would include performing ultrasounds and genetic screenings, conducting routine check-ups to ensure that the pregnancy is progressing as it should, and aid women through both vaginal and cesarean deliveries.

Due to the OB/GYNs’ essential role in their patients’ labor and delivery, this career can often involve demanding–and sometimes erratic–hours for its practitioners. An obstetrician also guides a mother safely through the entire experience from conception to delivery to the postpartum period. A Houston OB/GYN offers services that include fertility treatment, fetal diagnostic procedures, and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

A GYNECOLOGIST
A gynecologist’s focus is on the non-pregnancy aspects of a woman’s reproductive health. When women become sexually active or are at the onset of puberty, seeing a gynecologist is often needed. Once a woman has a trustworthy physician who understands their unique requirements, she will visit her gynecologist through menopause and beyond.

Regular checkups are essential for a woman’s health, as a gynecologist’s primary specialty is the maintenance of a woman’s reproductive health. These practitioners are responsible for conducting regular check-ups on their patients, taking into account a woman’s age and genetic risk factors that may affect the continued reproductive well-being of the patient they are caring for over the years. A gynecologist may also administer medications and treatment plans to deal with various women’s health issues, including polycystic ovarian syndrome, sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, breast abnormalities, and fertility concerns.

Gynecologists are taught to recognize the signs of potentially significant women’s health problems, such as breast and cervical cancer. They can guide their patients to seek out care plans for these diseases in their early stages. Since a gynecologists’ focus is primarily on health maintenance, these practitioners may be afforded a greater degree of flexibility in their hours and work environment than those in other areas of women’s health.

The basic responsibilities of a gynecologist include:

  • Advocating for women’s health & safety
  • Performing genetic screenings to identify risk factors for reproductive health concerns
  • Performing bone density assessments to check osteoporosis
  • Educating patients on safe sex practices
  • Ensuring women’s reproductive & overall well-being through gender-specific medical care

In addition to the above, practitioners specializing in gynecology perform standard examinations, such as Pap tests and pelvic exams. Gynecologists may also be seen for diagnosis and treatment of a variety of conditions that encapsulates more severe emergencies, including those below:

  • Cancer of the ovaries, uterus, cervix, vagina, or fallopian tubes
  • Prolapse – A condition, often after menopause, wherein the pelvic organs slip forward or downward within the body
  • Yeast or bacterial infections
  • Endometriosis – A harrowing condition in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus
  • Cervical and vaginal polyps
  • Fibroids – Compact tumors that develop in the uterus
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Painful intercourse
  • Irregular menstruation or pain during menstruation.
  • Other menopause-related diseases

But that’s not all. A gynecologist performs surgical procedures on reproductive organs, such as a hysterectomy, tubal ligation, and labiaplasty. It’s worth noting that many practices of a Houston OB/GYN choose to combine the obstetrician and gynecologist specialties to provide more comprehensive women’s care.

TO WRAP UP
Both an OB/GYN and a gynecologist play a vital role in the overall healthcare of women. The practitioners in these two separate fields administer comprehensive treatments and preventative care for women’s reproductive health concerns, and, in doing so, promote the reproductive and all-embracing well-being of their patients. It’s important to recognize that despite this shared mission, there are a number of key differences between the roles played by gynecologists and OB/GYNs within the medical community.

It’s also vital to understand the cues of a woman’s body when something isn’t right and needs to be addressed by either type of practitioner. Focusing on the maintenance of a woman’s health through pregnancy and childbirth, and the broader spectrum of routine health and care for a woman throughout her years is significant with an OB/GYN and a gynecologist. The key is to understand why you need either profession and to go into your initial examination with a willingness and a reason for seeking expert care.

WHEN SHOULD I SEE A GYNECOLOGIST?

Gynecologists specialize in the area of reproductive medicine in women. They help women with pregnancy, childbirth, menstruation, hormone disorders, and other issues specific to the female body. Preteens, teens, and adults should visit with their gynecologist regularly. There are other times when a visit is necessary outside of the regular gynecological visits. Here we share the recommendations of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and information about when a visit to your provider is prudent.

WHEN YOU NOTICE CHANGES IN YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE
Changes in your menstrual cycle are your body’s way of communicating to you that there is a problem. If you should suddenly stop getting your regular regularly or if you notice that the dates of your period are starting to change from month to month, check with your provider as soon as you can. Often the first sign of pregnancy is that your period has not come.

Getting prenatal care as early into your pregnancy is critical to having a healthy baby. Fluctuations and changes in your period could also signal a condition that requires monitoring or treatment.

WHEN YOU BEGIN MENOPAUSE AND THROUGHOUT THIS PERIOD
Changes in the degree and frequency of your cycle can signal that you are perimenopausal or menopausal.

While this usually happens when you are in your 50’s, it can start earlier. Communicate your symptoms to your doctor and allow them to help you navigate this period in your life.

WHEN YOU HAVE OCCURRENCES OF IRREGULAR BLEEDING
Bleeding between periods or during or after intercourse is abnormal and needs to be checked out by your gynecologist. Bleeding can indicate a cervix injury, uterine polyps, and fibroids or even cervical or uterine cancer. Catching these conditions early on is critical in achieving a favorable outcome.

WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE PAIN OR DISCOMFORT
Vaginal discomfort can signal urinary tract, bacterial or yeast infections. It can also be a sign of having contracted a sexually transmitted disease. If you notice vaginal itching, burning, or pain, you should consult with your doctor to manage and treat your condition. While yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter treatments, your first experience with the condition warrants a gynecologist’s visit.

WHEN YOU HAVE A CONDITION THAT REQUIRES ANTIBIOTICS
Antibiotics help treat conditions like ear infections, strep throat, and upper respiratory infections as they kill off harmful bacteria. But antibiotics can also eliminate the bacteria that are beneficial to your body. When this “good bacteria” is not present in your body, this leads to the development of yeast infections.

WHEN YOU HAVE FERTILITY OR CONTRACEPTION ISSUES OR CONCERNS
When you are planning to have a baby, it is important to consult with your doctor. This is especially true if you have been trying for a while, have irregular periods or other conditions. Your doctor is also there to help you decide and implement the right contraceptive method for you.

WHEN YOU BECOME PREGNANT
Regular prenatal visits and monitoring are necessary to have a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby.

With these visits, your provider can catch any potential concerns early on and prevent or manage pregnancy or birth complications.

WHEN IT IS TIME FOR PREVENTATIVE HEALTH AND AGE-RELATED VISITS

  • Your First Appointment. Having regular visits to see your gynecologist is necessary. Your first visit should be between 13 and 15, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Another rule of thumb is that you should see your gynecologist within two or three years of becoming sexually active. At the latest, your first visit should be by the age of 21. Starting early on allows you to develop a relationship with your provider and get comfortable sharing useful information with them.
  • Regular Appointments – You should continue to see your provider every three years—the recommendation used to be once every year. Doctors conduct pap smears to detect cancer cells within the cervix. The pelvic exam detects any abnormalities and identifies STD’s and other issues. Now Pap and human papillomavirus tests should be once every five years. If you should have an irregular pap smear, changes in your cycle, or pain, you may want to visit each year. Speak with your provider and decide together how often you should have your regular exams. How often you need to visit your doctor for routine appointments will depend on your personal and family history and any specific issues you may be having.
  • Your Last Appointment – Women can continue to see their gynecologist even after menopause. When you reach 70 and have no irregular pap smears and no new sexual partners, you can stop the yearly visits.

ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR FIRST VISIT
We are here to help you answer any questions you have. The first step is to make an appointment with your doctor today with our licensed, board-certified physicians today.

What Happens at Your First OB/GYN Visit?

Every woman, at some point in their lives, will have their first visit to their Houston Gynecologist. It is the recommendation of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that girls have their first appointment between 13 and 15 years old.

Physicians who specialize in Obstetrics and Gynecology help you with information regarding your body, menstruation, and sexuality. They are the providers that will guide you as you make decisions about pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prevention. If you should have reproductive issues, problematic menstrual cycles, or pain, they will offer the necessary treatment.

SETTING AND PREPARING FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT
When you call the office to make an appointment, you need to be able to tell them why you are coming in to see the OB/GYN. Let them know if you are just setting your first appointment at the ACOG suggestion or if you have a specific issue that you would like to address.

If you have regular periods, be mindful of making sure that your appointment occurs in the middle of your menstrual cycle. You will also want to jot down information on the first day of your last period and note any pain, heavy bleeding, or mood changes that occur with your period.

Get together any family medical history, especially regarding female family members, and have this ready to discuss with your physician.

Take the time before your exam to make a list of questions you may have. A good question to start with at the beginning of your appointment is, “What will happen today?” The answer to this question can help alleviate your fears and prepare you for what is to come.

On the day of your appointment, shower so that you can feel your best, but avoid using any powders or cream. Dress comfortably and be on time.

GETTING CHECKED IN AND INTO EXAM ROOM
The office staff will ask about insurance information and have paperwork to complete, this is why it is essential to be on time or even a little early. The nurse will then call you back and may get your weight and ask for urine and blood samples.

Your blood pressure will also be done at this time. The nurse will then provide you with a gown or sheet to cover yourself and ask you to partially undress in preparation for your visit with the doctor.

CONSULTING WITH YOUR DOCTOR
After getting settled in the exam room and being first assessed by a nurse to check your weight, height, and vitals, your doctor will come in to have a frank talk with you. They will help answer any questions you have and share any helpful information. But they will also ask questions about you and your family. Those will include questions about your menstrual period, including when your period began and how long it lasted. Your sexual activity and history will also be on the table. Your doctor is not looking to pry or judge you. They simply need the full picture to properly treat you and know what exams you may need.

THE GENERAL EXAMINATIONS
After having a consultation with you, your physician will conduct a general and genital exam. The physical exam will include checking the results of your blood pressure, weight and height that the nurse collected. Your physician will also perform a breast exam to check for any abnormalities. Once you are feet are in the stirrups, the physician will begin the external genital exam by checking external genitals and examine your vulva.

This exam should be painless but communicate any discomfort or pain with your physician during the exam.

OTHER EXAMINATIONS THAT MAY BE NECESSARY ON YOUR FIRST VISIT
Sometimes it is necessary to have a pelvic exam or Pap smear on your first visit. The pelvic exam checks your vagina and cervix using a lubricated speculum and a physical check of the internal reproductive organs with a gloved hand. During this exam, the gynecologist will be looking for any abnormalities.

This exam will probably feel odd, but breathing through it can help. The Pap smear would include a sample of cells being taken from your cervix during the pelvic exam.

BEFORE LEAVING THE OFFICE
Before you leave the office, ensure that any questions that you had have been answered. During check out at the front desk, make your next appointment and ask how you can follow up on the results of any performed tests.

BE EMPOWERED AND IN CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH CARE
Remember that your gynecological health is an integral part of taking care of yourself. You make the choices regarding your care. For example, if you feel more comfortable with a female OB/GYN, it is okay to ask for one. Let your provider and the office staff know that this is your first visit and that you are nervous. You are in control of your health and this and all other appointments. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak your mind throughout the visit. And know that you will get more comfortable as these become more common for you.

Dispelling 11 Common Myths About Your OB/GYN Visit

Information gleamed from family members and the internet can cause confusion regarding your visits to your Houston OB/GYN. This misleading information can cause fear and trepidation about your upcoming appointment or lead you to delay getting the regular gynecological care that you need. It can also steer you in the wrong direction when asking for care and testing that may be crucial. Here we dispel 12 common myths about visiting your gynecologist.

MYTH #1 I HAVE TO BE 21 YEARS OLD TO SEE AN OB/GYN.
It is actually suggested that girls begin seeing their OB/GYN around the age of 13. Starting as a preteen gives them the opportunity to build a relationship with their provider and their physician can begin to build a history for their future gynecological health. Routine health screenings and guidance on menstrual cycles, sexuality, and STD and pregnancy prevention are all issues that an OB/GYN can help preteens with.

MYTH #2 I DON’T NEED TO SEE MY OB/GYN EVERY YEAR.
When you don’t notice any issues with your health, you may get lax about your OB/GYN visits. But you are missing out on important health screenings that check for high blood pressure, osteoporosis, STD’s and cancer. Any concerns that you may have can be discussed at this important yearly visit and there may be issues that are better addressed early on that your provider will be able to identify.

MYTH #3 IT’S FINE TO WAIT UNTIL I’M 40 TO GET PREGNANT.
The right time to get pregnant is different for every woman, but conceiving can get more difficult each year. The chance of becoming pregnant for women 30 and under ranges between 25-35%. At the age of 40, the chance drops to less than 10%.

MYTH #4 BEING ON BIRTH CONTROL FOR A LONG TIME CAN DECREASE YOUR FERTILITY.
Birth control is important for women choosing to hold off on having children or those wishing to regulate their menstrual cycles. Some women worry that their continued use of birth control can decrease their chance of getting pregnant. This is not the case. Once you stop taking birth control, pregnancy is possible but it may take up to a year for your menstrual cycle to resume its pre-hormonal schedule.

MYTH #5 GYNECOLOGICAL EXAMS AND PAP SMEARS INCLUDE STD SCREENING TESTS.
Without information from you that expresses the need for STD screenings, your OB/GYN would not suggest running one. It is also important to note that pap smears do not screen for STD’s. If you feel that you need to have this done, talk to your provider about the concerns you have.

MYTH #6 REGULAR GYNECOLOGIST EXAMS ONLY BENEFIT YOUR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH.
While your OB/GYN specializes in reproductive health, pap smears, and checkups can help to ensure not only this area, but your health as a whole.

MYTH #7 I DON’T NEED TO SEE MY OB-GYN ONCE I’M PAST CHILD BEARING YEARS.
OB/GYN’s are there to help more than just expectant women. Important cancer screenings, birth control options and help with menopause are all handled in your provider’s office. You should continue your yearly visits and regular preventive services even when you are not planning on conceiving in the future.

MYTH #8 BREAST CANCER IS THE NO. 1 KILLER OF WOMEN.
While breast cancer is frightening and takes the second spot, heart disease is the number one killer of women.

MYTH #9 YOU MUST CANCEL YOUR GYNECOLOGIST APPOINTMENT IF YOU’RE ON YOUR PERIOD.
You should take into consideration how heavy your flow is when deciding to cancel a gynecological appointment. A light flow should not interfere with an exam or Pap smear. An unusually heavy cycle may mean that you definitely should make your appointment and discuss this issue with your provider. If you are wondering just what to do, call your doctor’s office and ask them what they would advise.

MYTH #10 CERVICAL-CANCER SCREENINGS ARE ONLY FOR THOSE WHO ARE SEXUALLY ACTIVE.
Cervical cancer can occur in anyone who has a cervix who has ever been sexually active. If you are under the age of 65, you should continue this screening. If you should have an HPV infection that has gone undetected, it can lead to cervical cancer.

MYTH #11 IF YOU’RE VACCINATED AGAINST HPV, YOU CAN SKIP YOUR PAP TEST.
There are several strains of HPV and the vaccine does not protect against them all. Cervical cancer screenings should continue even if you have been vaccinated.

Empower Yourself — Get Screened for Better Health

This month, the Office on Women’s Health will sponsor Women’s Health Week, beginning on Mother’s Day, May 12, and running through May 19. In celebration of Women’s Health Week and throughout the year, we encourage women of all ages to empower themselves by focusing on their personal health and getting the tests and screenings they need to live longer, healthier lives.

Eating a healthy diet, exercising, getting a regular Pap smear and mammogram — these are just a few of the many steps women can take toward good health. It can be tough to figure out exactly which services and screenings are right for you and when, but here are some guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — an independent group of national experts in prevention that makes recommendations, based on the latest science, about what works and what doesn’t work for preventing disease and promoting good health.

FOUR HEALTH SCREENINGS EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death for women. You can help prevent CVD by addressing important risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. For example, if you are age 40 to 75, talk to your doctor about your CVD risk and whether a statin may be right for you. Statins are medications that lower your cholesterol, prevent buildup of cholesterol and fats in your arteries, and reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

Depending on your age and risk factors, taking a low-dose aspirin daily can also potentially help prevent CVD. When blood clots form in narrow blood vessels, such as the ones in your heart and brain, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin can help keep these blood clots from happening, lowering your risk. There are some risks associated with taking low-dose aspirin every day, so make sure you talk to your doctor about whether aspirin is right for you.

You can also reduce your risk of CVD by quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and becoming more physically active.

Cervical Cancer
Screening for cervical cancer finds the disease when it is most treatable. Unfortunately, 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Most cases of cervical cancer happen in women who have not been regularly screened or appropriately treated. That is why it is critical for women to get screened regularly starting at age 21. There are several effective options for screening, depending on your age and preferences. The Pap test and the human papillomavirus (HPV) test are the most effective ways to screen for cervical cancer and are done during a visit to your doctor’s office. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you and how often you should be tested.

Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women. Breast cancer screening aims to find the disease early, when it is easier to treat. Mammogramsare the most effective method of screening for breast cancer. Evidence shows that the benefits of mammograms increase with age, with women aged 60 to 69 most likely to benefit from screening. Still, about one in three women who should get a mammogram regularly do not. If you are between the ages of 50 and 74, talk to your doctor about getting a mammogram regularly. Some women start screening as early as age 40. Talk with your doctor about your individual situation and circumstances, when you should start screening and how often you should be screened.

Bone Density
As people age, their bones begin to thin. For some people, their bones become very weak and can break or fracture more easily, a condition known as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis affects one in every four women age 65 or older in the United States. Bone density tests can be used to screen for osteoporosis and identify the likelihood of future fractures. For people who have osteoporosis, treatments are available to reduce the risk of a fracture. If you are age 65 or older (or younger than 65 with certain risk factors), ask your doctor about being screened for osteoporosis and other ways to improve bone health.

As always, your doctor is your partner in health and can help you set realistic goals, given your current status and needs. Working toward those goals and achieving them will empower you to live your healthiest life.

Awareness + Early Detection = Weapons In Fighting Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. Throughout October, women, healthcare professionals and organizations around the world are calling attention to the importance of awareness and early detection of the disease during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. A mammogram – the screening test for breast cancer – can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (NBCF) offers the following guidelines for when and how often women should get mammograms:

  • If you are a woman age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them.
  • If you are a woman age 50 to 74, be sure to get a mammogram every 2 years. You may also choose to get them more often.
  • Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours had breast or ovarian cancer. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms.

Additionally, women can be proactive by performing a monthly breast self-exam to detect any unusual changes. NBCF recommends doing this simple, three-step exam once a month:

  1. In the Shower:
    Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.
  2. In Front of a Mirror:
    Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
  3. Lying Down:
    When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.

Awareness and early detection are not just goals for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Women can and should take control of their breast health by talking with their doctors, getting mammograms as advised and performing self exams on a routine basis. To learn more, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s website, where you can download free resources on a variety of topics, such as symptoms of breast cancer, healthy living tips and more.