In 2012 I started my job as a connection specialist, which allows me the opportunity to help our community get properly matched with great health care. I was able to use my job skills to match myself with excellent health care in 2014 when I became pregnant!
I’ll never forget the moment I found out I was pregnant. I had visited my OBGYN with complaints of hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. I thought I was starting early menopause, and I laughed when the nurse asked if I was pregnant. But sure enough, the pregnancy test came back positive. I couldn’t believe that at 40 I could be pregnant again!
It took a little bit to let everything soak in. All of the questions of the pregnancy process began to swim around in my mind: who would I choose as an OB and what were the steps I needed to take to make sure both baby and I stayed healthy? Finding out you’re pregnant is an exciting time but very overwhelming time, no matter what your age. Thankfully, Affinity has a whole team of experts to guide moms-to-be, partners and your baby along the journey.
This is where I, as a connection specialist, became a patient again. Only you can decide what the most important considerations are for you. Before you choose a provider, your connection specialist will ask the following questions about: Continue Reading »
Menopause can be an uncomfortable time, and for some an uncomfortable topic, but this normal, natural process is just one more phase of women’s lives. While it does mean the end of fertility, it certainly does not mean the end of an active, healthy lifestyle as a woman. Signs, which are mainly related to lowered levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, can be both physical and mental.
Menopause begins 12 months after a woman’s final menstrual period, which typically happens during a woman’s 40s or 50s. However, women can begin experiencing signs of menopause while still menstruating; this is called perimenopause and occurs in the months or years before menstruation ends. Signs include:
• Irregular periods. Leading up to the end of menstruation, most women do not have a period on a regular monthly schedule, and the periods they do have may be heavier or lighter than usual, with occasional spotting. Since pregnancy is still possible during perimenopause, it is important to test for pregnancy if you are unsure if you’re transitioning into menopause. A missed period without pregnancy may be an indicator of perimenopause, but can also occur with physical or emotional stress, thyroid dysfunction, etc.
• Vaginal dryness and more urinary tract infections (UTIs). Signs of vaginal dryness include stinging or burning, itching around the vulva and pain or light bleeding during sexual activity. It can occur at any age, but in perimenopause it is related to the lowered levels of estrogen and progesterone that signal menopause. This dryness can be soothed with a water-based lubricant or physician-approved vaginal moisturizer. Decreased estrogen and progesterone also account for more instances of UTIs due to a lack of hormonal influence on the urethral lining and may be characterized by a persistent urge to urinate or a burning sensation when urinating. Continue Reading »
Congratulations on your pregnancy! If you’re a first time mom-to-be, you’ll likely be filled of both questions and excitement. After you’ve celebrated your good news, your next to-do item is a trip to your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) or Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). It’s a good idea to meet with your provider regularly throughout your pregnancy, and it’s best if your first appointment takes place soon after you suspect you’re pregnant or take an at-home pregnancy test.
At your first appointment, your health care provider will confirm your pregnancy and then do an examination, much like your typical physical, to assess your general health. Your weight and blood pressure will be recorded, and your provider will check your heart, lungs, belly and breasts. You’ll also receive a pelvic exam, which includes a Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer and vaginal cultures to screen for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Your provider will then manually determine the size of your uterus and pelvis while simultaneously checking for any abnormalities of your uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Everyday factors that could affect your pregnancy, such as high blood pressure or infections, should be identified right away and addressed immediately.
At your first visit, they will also go over your health history and your family’s medical history to determine if there are any risk factors that could affect your pregnancy. These risk factors could include your age, any existing or previous health conditions you may have and any genetic illnesses that may be present in your family. Your provider will also ask about any previous surgeries or exposure to contagious diseases, and they will ask about any medications—prescription or over-the-counter—that you take or have taken in the past. Continue Reading »
Most of us have seen the pictures that result: sepia or black and white, tiny fingers and curled legs—babies sure are fascinating to see through ultrasounds! Ultrasounds have become a typical part of modern pregnancy and prenatal care, and provide important insight into your baby’s development. Health care providers recommend that all pregnant women receive an ultrasound at least once, usually between the 18th and 20th week of pregnancy. If other medical issues are present, ultrasounds are sometimes needed at other points during pregnancy as well.
Early in pregnancy
If your provider did not confirm your pregnancy with a Doppler heartbeat monitor, your first ultrasound will confirm your baby’s heartbeat and that your pregnancy is uterine. If your pregnancy appears to be ectopic or tubular, it is best to find this out immediately so that your can discuss your and your baby’s health with your provider.
If you’ve never received an ultrasound before, be prepared to be a little chilly and a little slimey. A standard transabdominal ultrasound starts with a cool gel that is rubbed onto your lower belly (over your uterus). The ultrasound technician then rubs a transducer wand, which emits sound waves, over the area. The gel conducts the sound waves, which bounce off of the contours of your baby to produce the image you’ll see on-screen. That image, or sonogram, will be the first picture you have of your baby! It also allows the technician to take the baby’s measurements, to be compared at later ultrasounds. If it is very early in the pregnancy, the technician may perform a transvaginal (internal) ultrasound, which uses the transducer wand to scan the uterus from the vaginal cavity in order to detect the baby more clearly or earlier than would be possible with a transabdominal ultrasound. Continue Reading »
You may have just been told the news that no one wants to hear—you have cancer. You may feel frightened and wonder what lies ahead for you. You will need the support of your family, friends and community as you make decisions about your care and treatment process. If it is recommended that you will need chemotherapy, chances are that you are going to experience hair loss. If you are going to lose your hair during treatment, there are plenty of resources available to you for head coverings.
Some health insurance companies cover the cost of a wig or other headwear for cancer treatment patients, but if yours does not there are other options. Calumet Medical Center provides free wigs, turbans and headscarves for our chemotherapy patients; you can stop by Calumet Medical Center from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to try them on. St. Elizabeth Hospital and Mercy Medical Center also have cancer navigators that are available to help in the search of wigs or anything else that you may need throughout your journey. These resources are just a phone call away, and the staff is both friendly and knowledgeable about the process.
There are several websites that offer help finding affordable head covers, such as The American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org, or Tender Loving Care at www.tlcdirect.org. If you choose a wig, many of the salons in the area will cut and style your wig at no cost.
If you enjoy the outdoors, wigs, hats, turbans or scarves are important for protecting your head from sun exposure, especially in these hot summer months. How you look is certainly not as important as how you feel, but everyone deserves to feel confident and dignified, no matter what their health status is.
Cancer is the toughest fight many of us will ever face, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Calumet Medical Center has a cancer support group called C.A.R.E.S—Cancer Awareness, Resources, Education and Support Group. We meet the fourth Tuesday of each month. Call (800) 450-4042 ext. 2406 for more information.