The Wonder of an Ultrasound

When couples learn they are expecting, one of the first questions they ask is, “When can we see our baby?”

An ultrasound is a valuable tool employed to monitor your baby’s development. It is a painless test that uses high frequency sound waves that penetrate your uterus and return signals that are then interpreted into images of your baby. The procedure supplies the doctor with essential information pertinent to the baby in the womb.

With ultrasound we can:

• monitor and track the growth of your baby,
• detect if any abnormalities are present,
• determine if you are carrying twins,
• determine your due date,
• locate the placental position, and
• discover the sex of the baby.

During an early ultrasound, the baby’s heartbeat may be visible around seven weeks, but it’s not unusual to have problems viewing it. Do not be alarmed if your doctor asks you to return for a later scan. In this later scan, the doctor will be noting the changes in the pregnancy sac size, the developmental progress of the baby and the baby’s heartbeat.

In some instances, several scans may be necessary before your doctor can detect the baby’s current state and development. This uncertainty may be difficult for some women but unless otherwise instructed, this is a very normal condition.

Please feel free to ask questions you may have during and after your ultrasound. We understand how important it is for you to see for yourself how well your baby is doing.

Urinary Tract Infections

When bacteria enters the urinary tract through the urethra and multiply in the bladder, a urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs.

This infection can affect any part of the urinary system: kidneys, bladder and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract: the bladder and the urethra. Our physiological make up normally keeps bacteria out of the urethra, but sometimes the best defense fails. If the bacteria take hold, you have a full-blown urinary tract infection.

The female anatomy places women at a greater risk of developing a UTI than men. These infections can be painful and bothersome.

If you experience any of the below symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible.

• A burning feeling when urinating
• An intense urge to urinate, and only a small amount of urine comes out
• Pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
• Cloudy, dark, bloody or strange-smelling urine
• Feeling tired or shaky
• Fever or chills (a sign the infection may have reached your kidneys)

Here are a few tips that can reduce your chances of developing a UTI.

• Don’t “hold it.” Urinate when you feel the urge.
• Urinate after having sex.
• Don’t use products that aggravate the urethra, like deodorant sprays or scented products.
• Flush bacteria by drinking eight glasses of water each day.
• Add acidic juices like prune, plum and cranberry to your diet.
• Avoid coffee, black tea and alcohol. They can irritate the bladder.

Other conditions that increase the risk of a UTI are pregnancy, multiple sclerosis, and kidney stones. Also, women with diabetes may be at a higher risk of a UTI because of their compromised immune systems.

If you get frequent UTIs, have trouble getting rid of a UTI or are unsure if it is a UTI, visit any of our providers. We’re here for you!

Getting the Right Amount of Calcium

Are you taking calcium supplements for osteoporosis? Are you following a physician’s treatment plan or have you started taking daily calcium on your own? Improper use of calcium supplements can have a harmful effect on heart health.

Taking too much calcium can lead to calcification of arteries, which is a known heart disease risk factor. Researchers through the use of CT scans have found that people who took calcium supplements had a significant increase in the risk of plaque buildup in their arteries. This observation is important because atherosclerotic coronary artery disease is the number one cause of death in the Western world.

Even though the risk of osteoporosis is real, before you begin taking an over-the-counter calcium supplement, discuss your concerns and intentions with us. Also, during wellness visits, you’re routinely asked what medications you are currently taking. Be sure to include OTC supplements, too. It is important to follow your doctor’s guidelines before taking any supplements, especially calcium. Your physician’s recommendations are based on your recent lab work and unique health condition.

Have questions about how much calcium is enough? Give us a call, arrange a consultation, and we will be happy to determine the correct dosage of calcium you require. 865-546-1642

Painful Periods

Cramping, bloating and irritability at “that time of the month” may be more that just nuisances to some women. When cramps become crippling and are accompanied with heavy bleeding and fatigue, you should contact your doctor. Intense menstrual pain can be a symptom of more serious problems.

Primary dysmenorrhea is common and occurs at some point in up to half of menstruating women. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, primary dysmenorrhea is the result of an imbalance of prostaglandins, a hormone-like fatty acid that stimulates the uterus to contract. This imbalance causes more intense and frequent uterine contractions. These contractions compress blood vessels, which cut off oxygen to the uterine muscle, resulting in painful cramping and discomfort.

Treatments like placing a heating pad on the lower abdomen, exercise, and relaxation techniques are first-line activities for relief of cramps. But if these treatments aren’t easing your intense cramping and discomfort, discuss your condition with your doctor. Only through examination can we determine if you are suffering with primary dysmenorrhea or if a secondary condition, like endometriosis, has manifested.

Together we can try to make your periods as comfortable as possible. Call today at 865-546-1642.

Nursing during Vaccinations

A study by Cochrane Library, a global independent network of researchers, has found that breastfeeding reduces the pain babies feel during vaccinations.

The research included six studies involving 547 babies up to 12 months of age. Nursing the baby while they are being injected reduced crying time by an average of 38 seconds, scientists found.

Breastfeeding distracts, comforts and soothes infants. Also, present in mother’s breast milk are endorphins, substances that may act as a painkiller.

Experts from the University of Ottawa in Canada believe that the findings could be used to make crucial vaccinations less traumatic for babies and parents.

“Infant vaccinations are essential, but painful,” they wrote. “They cause distress for the babies and often their parents, and can result in future anxiety and fear about needles. Breastfeeding when possible and feasible may also help to comfort babies and reduce their pain beyond the newborn period and throughout infancy.”

The World Health Organization changed its guidance on vaccinations last year to recommend breastfeeding for the first time, stating that: “If culturally acceptable, breastfeeding of infants should be done during or shortly before the vaccination session.”

If you are planning on breastfeeding your baby, let your doctor know. We have information available to help you prepare.

Lung Function & Menopause

New information has been released that shows lung function begins to decline substantially with the onset of menopause. Linked to hormonal changes that are related to systemic inflammation that affects the lungs, the decline in lung function may cause an increase in shortness of breath, reduced work capacity and fatigue.

This aging effect on lung function among women is similar to a habitual twenty-cigarettes-a-day smoker. It is obviously further exacerbated if the woman is a smoker.

Pre-menopausal, younger women smokers may not experience these symptoms, but instances of lung disease will be realized later on in life when the lung function has declined with age. The key is to avoid smoking and to protect your lungs before the effects of aging have manifested.

Improve lung health and function by opting for a healthier lifestyle. Don’t smoke, avoid secondhand smoke and exercise regularly.

Questions about your lung health? Need help to quit smoking? Schedule a consult today. Call 865-546-1642.

Chlamydia: Signs & Symptoms

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI). It is usually spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex and can also be passed in childbirth from mother to baby. It often has no symptoms. Antibiotics can cure chlamydia, but if left untreated, it can cause serious health problems for women, such as difficulty getting pregnant.

What are the signs and symptoms of chlamydia?

Chlamydia is known as a “silent” infection because most women who have chlamydia do not show symptoms. If symptoms develop, they may not manifest for several weeks after the bacteria begins to develop. Common symptoms may be:

• Bleeding between periods
• Burning when urinating
• Fever
• Low back pain
• Lower abdominal pain
• Nausea
• Pain during sex
• Unusual vaginal discharge

You should get tested for chlamydia if you have:

• Had a new sex partner
• Had your sex partner tell you s/he has chlamydia
• Traded sex for money or drugs
• Had chlamydia or another STI in the past
• Not used condoms during sex
• been in relationships that are not monogamous

Chlamydia is detected by either a urine test or a swab test. A PAP smear will not detect chlamydia.

How is chlamydia treated?

We can prescribe antibiotics that can cure chlamydia. However, they cannot remedy permanent damage done to your body caused by a prolonged infection. This includes scarring of your reproductive organs.

Call us at 865-546-1642 to schedule a test, and if testing finds the presence of chlamydia, take the antibiotics as directed as soon as possible. We’ll be with you along the way!

For Memory’s Sake

For generations, women have claimed that they have a better memory than men. A new study proves just that. Middle-aged women outperformed age-matched men on all memory measures – at least until post-menopause.

For both sexes, memory loss is a consequence of the aging process. About 75% of older adults report memory-related problems. Women report increased forgetfulness and “brain fog” during the menopause transition. In addition, women are disproportionately at risk for memory impairment and dementia compared with men.

We all wish to preserve our memories and brain function for as long as possible. Think of your brain as a muscle, you have to use it or lose it.

Here are a few tips to help you do just that:
• Eat right: fresh vegetables and healthy fats, and avoid sugar.
• Exercise: increases oxygen and stimulates nerve cells to multiply.
• Avoid multi-tasking. (Multi-tasking makes you prone to errors and forgetful.) Set the phone down when you’re putting away groceries.
• Get a good night’s sleep. Not only does sleep enhance memories, certain brain connections strengthen during “downtime.”
• Play games or master a new skill. Stimulate your brain with new information and tasks that are important to you and can hold your attention.

Aging can take a toll on memory. The aging of brain tissue, reduced hormones and reduced blood flow can all interfere with cognitive abilities. If memory lapses become frequent enough or sufficiently noticeable to concern you or a family member, talk to your doctor. Now may be a good time to take steps to prevent a small problem from becoming a larger one. Call us today at 865-546-1642.

Yo-yo Dieting

It’s the start of a new year, which is a typical time for many women to adopt fad diets — only to gain the weight back almost immediately. This behavior now comes with a validated warning.

Recent medical research has upheld the belief that “yo-yo” dieting, losing weight then gaining it back again, can be harmful for older women’s hearts.

“Women with a normal weight who experience yo-yo dieting throughout their adult life are at an increased risk of sudden cardiac death and coronary heart disease death,” said study leader Dr. Somwail Rasla, an internal medicine resident at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island in Pawtucket.

Experts have long known that being overweight at midlife is linked with a higher risk of death from heart disease. This extra weight can also boost the chances for sudden cardiac death. Rasla found that sudden cardiac death was approximately 3.5 times higher and the risk for death linked to coronary heart disease was 66% higher for those that habitually gain then lose weight.
Women who began the study at healthy weights, then repeatedly gained and lost weight over the years had the strongest risk of death from coronary heart disease or sudden cardiac death, the researchers found.

Adopting a sensible, nutritional lifestyle can improve your overall health as well as reducing your risk for heart disease and sudden cardiac death. We can help you get on this healthy path. Speak to your doctor about your specific nutritional requirements and appropriate medical recommendations to preserve your health and your heart.

Being Active While Pregnant

The Internet lit up with the image of expectant mother Natalie Portman hiking. When you’re expecting, it’s important to keep active. Why?

Pregnant women who exercise:

• Have more energy
• Less back pain
• Rebound to pre-pregnancy shape faster
• Have a better body image
• Experience less stress and depression.

The baby can also reap the benefit of mom’s activity. Researchers have found that a regular workout routine during pregnancy helped lower the heart rate of fetuses at 36 weeks. The follow-up of babies at one month found effects of mom’s exercising could still be seen in the babies’ heart rates after birth. Babies of active mothers are also more likely to have a reduced chance of diabetes and lower BMIs.

Exercise is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. If your doctor hasn’t put restrictions on your activities, you may find that 20- to 30-minutes of a moderate activity can give you a great physical and mental boost. But before you start any exercise program, consult your doctor. Once cleared for activity, try starting with a simple walk around the block or light stretches. You’ll notice your mood improves, you sleep better and you may have an easier labor and quicker recover. So lace up those shoes and enjoy your own walk about town!