Our Gynecological Health – Part 1

First of all, we women have left all the charting of our gynecological health in the hands of our doctors. We can keep our own records, at home.

I will be posting a .pdf file of a chart you can use as a “master sheet” of your exams and an example chart to assist you in filling it out. Use it to keep track of your weight, blood pressure, general gynecological health (which would include the breast exam, pap test, vaginal culture, etc.).

Much of what we see in our doctor’s charts, may seem to be a problem, only because we women do not understand or are taught about normal feminine health. We can understand them better when we see what actually are the “true” gynecological conditions.

These “True” Gynecological conditions would be:

• Vaginal infections
• Abnormal bleeding
• Premenstrual syndrome
• Breast lumps
• Endometriosis
• PCOS
• Nabothian (cervical) cysts

“…charting enables a woman to understand her body in a practical way (Wescheler, 230)”. A woman who charts every day is so aware of what is normal for her own body, that she can actually assist her doctor determine what is not normal based upon her symptoms. Keeping the chart of her menstruation cycle assists her In well-being, and working with the doctor.

Normal Healthy Cervical Fluid VS. Real Vaginal Infections

We live in a culture that advertises douche and sprays for vaginal “discharge” giving women the idea that they are “dirty” all the time. Douching and sprays only act to confuse the identity of healthy cervical fluid and what would be a real infection.

Wescheler explains in her book, that doctors say you don’t need either. On a talk show she watched, she says that the doctor stated that the infections from these products were “…enough to send his children to college (Wescheler , 231)”. Then there is also the yeast infection products that women self-diagnose and take every month for a “recurring” problem.

But, using the chart, detection of an actual infection will be easier, and discovered earlier. You can get treatment before discomfort sets in. Secretions mid-month are normal, but late in the month may indicate infection.

Symptoms of Vaginal Infections That Can Be Distinguished from Normal Cervical Fluid
Once you have routinely charted your normal cervical fluid, an infection can be distinguished by the unpleasant symptoms that set them apart from what is normal. Vaginal infections can range from STIs (See: The Effects of Sexually Transmitted Infections on Pregnancy) to a variety of forms of Vaginitis and of course the generic “yeast infection”.

• Abnormal discharge
• Itching, stinging, swelling, and redness
• Unpleasant odor
• Blisters, warts, and chancre sores

Avoiding Infections

Besides the consequences of douching, you should not wear clothing that is damp or too tight, as these create an unhealthy vaginal environment. Also you should wear cotton underwear, or at least cotton crotch underwear as these allow your body to breathe.

For more information see: Part 2

Miscarriage – Part 2

AFTER A MISCARRIAGE

Miscarriage is a loss as much as a full-term pregnancy where the baby is stillborn. Allow yourself to grieve the loss. Those who know ahead of time, when early signs of miscarriage is observed or during premature labor, will begin the process of grieving. This is called “anticipatory grief” and it assists you to prepare for the loss. Don’t feel bad if you have a sense of relief, the uncertainty is now over and you may feel relieved your baby’s ordeal is over.

Other people may not understand your sense of loss, unless they too have had a miscarriage. You may feel alone and isolated. Don’t keep to yourself as this can add to your feeling of doubt, and sense of self-blame.

Many people will expect you to ‘to be back to normal and may say things like ‘aren’t you over this yet?’ or ‘Buck up—no use crying over spilt milk!’ Because you are still grieving so intensely, these remarks can make you wonder if your feelings are silly or unjustified (41)”. Try to surround yourself with people who will listen and care, avoiding those people who are very insensitive.

If the baby miscarried late in the second trimester, you may have memories to grapple with. Such as, when you first heard you were pregnant, the ultrasound that showed you the baby is a boy or girl, and when you first felt the baby move. These types of things are important things to remember in the process of grieving.

You may wonder how long this process will take. It depends upon you and how well you work through the grieving process! Allow yourself the time to work through the shock, anger, denial, your memories, etc.

REFERENCES:

Davis, Deborah L. PhD. Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: surviving the death of your baby. (1994) Fulcrum.

Romm, Aviva Jill. The Natural Pregnancy Book: herbs, nutrition, and other holistic choices (2003) Celestial Arts

Pain in Childbirth – Part 2

father in delivery room

What contributes to PAIN in labor?

Fatigue

Muscles that are stretched, hurt. The muscles of the uterus work faster, the blood and oxygen flow is lessened. When there is tension, the uterus works even harder and fatigue sets in. The tension of the surrounding muscles has created a “brick wall”. So, relax.

Tension

The stretching of the lower uterine portion and the intense contractions of the upper uterine muscle are what is thought to be the source of the pain felt. But these muscles actually have very few pain receptors. You would not feel the pain unless the muscles were forced to work in an unnatural manner. If tense and fearful the nerve endings of the muscles and tissues around the uterus send messages to the pain receptors. There is a direct correlation of tension to pain.

Tired muscles

The biochemistry of the muscle is imbalance when tired. It creates tension that sends out more electrical activity. The physiological changes will lower the point at which the muscle will hurt.

The outlet is too small, or baby too big

These actually do not need to be an issue. Usually the position of the baby or laboring mother, are the causative factor of pain. The pain messages are signaling that something isn’t right. What will help is a change of position of the mother.

Get out of the horizontal position, to a vertical one, and things will change. The baby is assisted (most of the time) to re-position him/or herself in the womb to facilitate birth without as much pain. As stated in a different hand-out, just doing this type of change in position opens the outlet by 20%.

Fear

Information is out there on all the things that “can go wrong”. We are not taught that birthing is a natural process; we women are pummeled with media and other females telling horror stories about birth.

There is a shroud over the whole process of birth, making it seem to be a great mystery. What is needed is correct information.

Your uterus is a magnificent muscle which is affected by the neuro-hormonal pathway that connects the brain, the circulatory system and the uterus. Fear causes an alteration of the pathway creating a reduction of blood and oxygen to the brain. This results in the tightening of the cervical opening of the womb.

Fear unbalances the hormones of the body. Being fearful causes the release of labor inhibiting hormones. These are the stress hormones of the adrenal glands that when in stress, we release hormones that are the fight-or-flight mechanisms. Animals also have them, and the hormones are released to stop labor allowing them to find a safe place for birthing. These then block the labor enhancing hormones . This lengthens the labor and increases the pain felt.

A well-informed, correct education about birthing will assist you. Make sure your labor supporters also have been educated so that their fear is not surrounding you when you are in labor.

Occasionally, the sensation of pain will continue, even after all the relaxation techniques are implemented. This may be due to a tightened psoas muscle or mal-aligned hip. Both can cause tension in the body, and / or problems with the baby being delivered easily. These two issues can be checked, and remedied.

The Natural Pain relieving Narcotic: Endorphins

“Circulating throughout the body are natural hormones that relax you when stressed and relieve pain when you hurt (138)”

What is sad is that most women do not know about these hormones, or that they can activate them when needed. In the 1970s studies were being done for drug addiction and the presence of these hormones in the receptor sites of the brain (for morphine-like substances). What was found was that the nerve cells that are attached to receptor sites, had chemical pain relievers that acted to dull the sensation of pain in the cells. Here is how they can work for you:

As you probably know, Endorphins are raised during exercise and well, labor is strenuous exercise!

  • When the abdomen contracts in labor, the Endorphin level is raised.
    o This is especially true in the second stage of labor.
    o They are the highest after labor, and two weeks beyond.
    Endorphins are highest during vaginal birth, not so much when labor was started but delivery was cesarean.
  • Endorphins are higher in newborns that had signs of fetal distress during their delivery.
    o Baby also receives Endorphins during birth.
  • The release of Endorphins also will stimulate the production of prolactin, the hormone that relaxes and creates the “mothering” sensation.
    o Prolactin regulates milk production, which boosts the interaction with baby and mother.
    o These hormones are what researchers think are the cause of the “birth high”.
  • Mothers who had surgical birth have lowered hormone levels, which would account for the delay in milk supply after cesarean birth.
  • Endorphin production is directly tied to a person’s emotional state.
    o So if stress and anxiety are not resolved the body increases the stress hormones, Catecholamines, which counteract the relaxation produced by Endorphins.
    o Like commercial narcotics, Endorphins may behave differently woman to woman, which is why some women may feel more pain than others.
  • Injectable narcotics give you a bit of blast of pain relief, whereas Endorphins give you a steady dose throughout labor.

Women in labor are very aware of the natural hormone effects and describe the experience as a “natural high”.

Sexually Transmitted Infections – Part 3

Syphilis

Transmission “is thought to be by entry in the subcutaneous tissue through microscopic abrasions that can occur during sexual intercourse (Lowdermilk & Perry, 182)”. It also can be transmitted through kissing, biting, and oral-genital sex.

The rate of transmission declined from 1995-2004. Syphilis continues to be at a high rate in the southern states.

Primary syphilis appears 5-90 days after as a lesion or chancre, usually painless. Then it erodes into an ulcer appearing sore.

Secondary syphilis occurs 6 weeks to 6 months after transmission. Its appearance is a widespread, symmetric rash on the palms and soles of the feet; with affected lymph nodes. Some individuals also have a fever, headache, and generalized malaise (under-the-weather sensation).

In the vulva, perineum, or anal area Condylomata lata may develop. If left untreated the female may enter a latent phase. If still left untreated, tertiary syphilis will develop, in approximently 1/3 of these women. In this third stage, neurologic, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, or multi-organ system complications can develop.

Screening and Diagnosis

All women who are diagnosed with another STI or with HIV should have a screen form syphilis. All pregnant women should be screened at the first prenatal visit.

Diagnosis is dependent upon the microscopic exam of primary and/or secondary lesion tissues during the latent or late infection. Serologic tests of antibodies may not be reactive, in early tests.

There may be false-positives with VDRL or RPR screenings. This is not unusual for several reasons, such as: drug addiction or acute infection. To confirm the positive results the use of treponemal tests, fluorescent treponemal antibody absorbed (FTA-ABS) and microheagglutination assays of antibody to T. palidum (MHA-TP) are used to confirm positive results.

Testing should be repeated at 1 to 2 months when genital lesions exist. This is due to early exposure not showing results until 6 to 8 weeks after exposure.

Other STI tests should be done at this juncture, for chlamydia, gonorrhea, et al. HIV should be also offered as a test if indicated.

Management

Penicillin is the preferred drug for treatment. Doxycycline, tetracycline, and erythromycin are alternative treatments. Tetracycline and Doxycycline are contraindicated in pregnancy.

Some pregnant women may get what is known as “Jarisch Herxheimer ” reaction, that may be accompanied with headaches, myalgias, and arthalgias . If the treatment occurs at the second half of pregnancy, it may cause early labor and birth. Their doctor should be contacted if fetal movement stops or if contractions occur.

Women should abstain from sexual activity during treatment and all evidence of primary or secondary syphilis is gone. She should also tell all partners that have been exposed, and that this disease is to be reported.

Sexually Transmitted Infections – Part 2

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is exclusively transmitted sexually, genital-to-genital contact; but can also be transmitted oral-to-genital or anal-to-genital. In females the disease can spread from the genitals to the rectal area. It can be spread to the newborn in the form of ophthalmia neonatorum through vaginal birth.

AGE is the most important factor. Statistically, sexually active teens, young adults, and African Americans are at the highest risk. The majority of those who have contracted this disease are under the age of 20.

Girls who are prepubescent the two most common symptoms is vaginitis and vulvitis. There may be signs of infection, or vaginal discharge, dysuria and swollen, reddened labia.

The factor of concern, most adolescent females show no signs or symptoms. When they DO have symptoms they are less pronounced than those of men. In women there may be some cervical discharge, but usually it is minimal of lacking altogether. Irregularity of the menses may be the presenting symptom or complaints of pain within the pelvis.

In rectal gonorrhea, the symptoms may not be asymptomatic or the opposite with severe discharge, pain and blood in the stool. There may be rectal itching, fullness, pressure, and pain…as well as diarrhea.

Since Gonorrhea is a highly transmittable disease all recent partners (30-days prior) should be reported, cultured, and examined. Most treatment failures occur due to reinfection.

Screening and Diagnosis

All pregnant women should be screened at the first appointment. Those women with risky behaviors indicated, should be re-screened at 36 weeks. The screening is done through “cultures”.

Management

45% of those women who are found to have Gonorrhea also have Chlamydia. For both pregnant and non-pregnant women, the treatment should be cefixime in a single dose.

All women with co-existing syphilis infections should be treated as for syphilis. Penicillin is the preferred drug for treatment. The alternative (especially for those allergic to penicillin) is Doxycycline, Tetracycline, and erythromycin. Tetracycline and Doxycycline are contraindicated in pregnant.