Category Archives: Obstetrics

Your Health is Important When Trying to Conceive

Every aspect of your health – from the drinks you consume to the exercise you do (or don’t do) – can have an impact on your fertility and on the health of your pregnancy. By looking at your healthy (and unhealthy) habits now (before the bun is in the oven) you can start off on the right foot. Our expert OB/GYN team has shared some important steps to take to ensure your health is at its best for conception, which will hopefully make conception easier and your pregnancy safer.

Habits to Break

Smoking is never good for you, so just don’t do it. But if you need a little motivation not to light up, repeat this fact to yourself: smoking (cigarettes, e-cigarettes, hookahs, vape pens, and so on) causes my 30-year-old eggs to act more like 40-year-old eggs. This results in a more difficult path to conception and a greater risk of miscarriage. Heavy smoking damages the ovaries as well as the uterus, and secondhand smoke can harm your health and fertility, too, so just choose to stay away!

Along with smoking cigarettes, smoking marijuana isn’t good for conception either. Whether you smoke, vape, or consume edibles, you can inadvertently affect the ability of your partner’s sperm to fertilize an egg – even if he doesn’t smoke marijuana! The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, gets in your vaginal fluids and reproductive organs. So to be most fertile (not to mention safe), say goodbye to marijuana. (And you should obviously also not use any illicit drugs, including cocaine, crack, or heroin, etc.).

Some studies have linked too much caffeine consumption with lowered fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage. If a baby is in your immediate plans, it’s time to put a little less coffee in your cup. You don’t have to give it up completely but moderation is the key here. Limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200 mg per day. That’s equivalent to 12 ounces of brewed coffee per day.

Another beverage to limit (or eliminate completely) is alcohol. Drinking alcoholic beverages in excess can mess with your menstrual cycle, possibly interfering with ovulation. And because you won’t necessarily know the moment you conceive, there’s a chance you might be drinking in the first few weeks of your baby’s growth. Drinking alcohol while pregnant could harm your little one in the future. Choose to reduce your drinking to less than 7 drinks a week and never more than one on any occasion when trying to get pregnant. Only you and your bartender need to know you’re drinking a mocktail.

As far as medications go, most over-the-counter and many prescription meds are considered safe while you’re trying to conceive. But because some medications may compromise fertility, you should run any medications you take by your provider before you consume them. This includes the medications you take for your chronic condition and any vitamins or herbals you may take on a regular basis. The good news is there are almost always safer alternatives. Just ask your healthcare provider before making any changes to your medication routine.

Habits to Keep

There is a strong connection between weight and fertility. Reaching a healthy weight for your body type is an important step for conception. It’s not just the scale that determines this, though. The relationship between your weight and height are factored to determine your body mass index, or BMI. Being overweight can cause diminished egg quality, decreased ovarian function, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a fairly common cause of fertility issues. Alternatively, women with a low BMI can also experience conception woes. Being underweight can lower estrogen levels, which can lead to irregular ovulation or periods (or even no ovulation or periods). Women who are obese or underweight when they become pregnant also have a higher risk of miscarriage.

Though it may be different for everyone, a moderate exercise program is the key. Moderate exercise can boost fertility, and you only need 30 minutes of aerobic exercise to do this. It can be walking, stretching, strength training, or anything that increases your heart rate. Remember to keep an eye on your body fat though. Prolonged, strenuous exercise can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones needed for ovulation and conception, especially if your BMI is very low. An ideal BMI for conceiving is between 18.5 and 24.9.

Before you put yourself on a diet or start packing on the carbs, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider. Come up with a simple plan that features a well-balanced diet. Fill your meals with lean protein, veggies and fruits, and low-fat dairy. Cut down on junk foods and sugary drinks. Try water instead. Add in that moderate workout routine discussed above and you’ll be ready to kick-off your healthy path to pregnancy!

A good night’s rest is also very important. Six to nine hours of sleep per night is best. Beating the stress of the day and letting your body recuperate will only encourage fertility.

Finally, take 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) of folic acid every day if you are planning a pregnancy or are currently pregnant. You can take a vitamin or eat a breakfast cereal containing your daily quota of folic acid. This will lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine, including Spina bifida. Talk with your doctor about your folic acid needs. Some doctors prescribe prenatal vitamins that contain higher amounts of folic acid.

 

Whether it’s your first, second, or fifth baby, your body needs to be nurtured and cared for so that it can do the same for your future child. Both the female AND the male partner’s fertility can benefit from the advice listed above. And remember that no two bodies are exactly the same, so talk to your doctor before getting pregnant. They will discuss your medical history, any medical conditions you have, any medications you are currently taking, and any vaccinations you might need. This will help make a preconception health plan that is best for you.

For more information on preconception health, check out this conception plan template from the CDC.

 

The Obstetrics/Gynecology & Infertility Team at Medical Associates Clinic:
Joseph Berger, MD  |  Tara L. Holste, DO  |  Lisa A. Kramer, MD
Trupti S. Mehta, MD  |  Laura Neal, MD  |  Erika O’Donnell, MD

Call 563-584-4435 to schedule an appointment.

 

Tips to Help with Common Menopausal Symptoms

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her period stops. It usually occurs naturally, most often between the ages of 40-58. The average age is 51. Menopause happens because the woman’s ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period for one year.

Changes and symptoms can start several years earlier. This transition phase is called perimenopause and may last for 4 to 8 years. Each woman’s experience of menopause is different. Many women report no physical changes during perimenopause except irregular menstrual periods that stop when menopause is reached. Other women experience many combinations of the following symptoms:

• A change in periods – shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, with more or less time in between
• Hot flashes and/or night sweats
• Trouble sleeping
• Vaginal dryness
• Mood swings
• Trouble focusing
• Less hair on head, more on face

How severe these body changes are varies from woman to woman, but for the most part these changes are perfectly natural and normal. Below are some simple suggestions you can do to try and relieve common menopausal symptoms.

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Hot flashes are the most common menopause-related discomfort. They involve a sudden wave of heat or warmth often accompanied by sweating, reddening of the skin, and rapid heartbeat. They usually last 1 to 5 minutes. Hot flashes frequently are followed by a cold chill. Night sweats are hot flashes at night that interfere with sleep. If hot flashes and/or night sweats are interfering with your daily activities, don’t hesitate to seek relief. There are some easy and practical steps you can try:

• Sleeping in a cool room
• Dressing in layers, which can be removed at the start of a hot flash
• Drinking cold water or juice when you feel a hot flash coming on
• Using sheets and clothing that let your skin “breathe”
• Not smoking

You can also try to keep a written record of what you were doing just before the hot flash started. This might reveal some triggers for your hot flashes which you could then try to avoid. Exercise can improve your quality of life and may help with hot flashes. It will also help reduce your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Another technique of deep breathing, known as relaxation breathing, may also help reduce hot flashes.

Relaxation Breathing
Deep breathing, relaxation breathing, and paced respiration all refer to a method used to reduce stress. It involves breathing in (inhaling) deeply and breathing out (exhaling) at an even pace. Do this for several minutes while in a comfortable position. Slowly breathe in through your nose. With a hand on your stomach right below your ribs, you should first feel your stomach push your hand out, and then your chest should fill. Slowly exhale through your mouth, first letting your lungs empty and then feeling your stomach sink back. You can do this almost anywhere and several times during the day, whenever you feel stressed. You can also try this if you feel a hot flash beginning or if you need to relax before falling asleep.

Sleep Problems
Because different things can cause sleep problems, the solutions vary. If night sweats are disrupting your sleep, treating them could help you sleep better. If you find yourself getting up to go to the bathroom, try limiting fluids shortly before bedtime unless you need a cool drink to handle a hot flash. If you aren’t sure what is keeping you from getting to sleep or causing you to wake during the night or early in the morning, there are still some things you can do to get a good night’s sleep:

• Be physically active most days of the week but not within 3 hours of bedtime.
• Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, and avoid naps, if possible, in the late afternoon and evening.
• Have a bedtime routine that you follow each night—read a book or magazine, take a bath, etc.
• Make sure your bedroom and bed are comfortable for sleeping, and only use the bedroom for sleeping and sexual activity.
• Don’t eat a large meal close to bedtime, and stay away from caffeine later in the day.
• After turning off the light, give yourself about 15 minutes to fall asleep. If you don’t go to sleep, get out of bed, and only go back when you feel sleepy.
• Try relaxation breathing.

Vaginal Dryness
The drop in estrogen around menopause leads to vaginal atrophy (the drying and thinning of vaginal tissues) in many women. It can cause a feeling of vaginal tightness during sex along with pain, burning, or soreness. Over-the-counter water-based vaginal lubricants and moisturizers are effective in relieving pain during intercourse. For women with more severe vaginal atrophy and related pain, speak to your primary care provider about treatment options.

What about hormones for symptoms of menopause?
Some symptoms may require medical treatment. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) uses hormones to ease the symptoms of menopause or to prevent osteoporosis. This type of treatment comes in a variety of types and doses such as pills, creams, or skin patches. The FDA recommends that HRT be used at the lowest dose that relieves symptoms for the shortest time needed. If you are not able to take hormones, other management options may be available.

Talk to your primary care provider about how to best manage menopause. Make sure the doctor knows your medical history and your family’s medical history. This includes whether you are at risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, or breast cancer. Then work with them to find the best treatment option for you.

 

The Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology & Infertility is concerned with diagnosis and treatment of diseases, problems, or pathology affecting the female reproductive system. Additionally, the department deals with wellness of the female population. Our board certified physicians provide complete obstetrical and gynecology care. Professional infertility services include routine evaluation of infertile couples, diagnosis of infertility problems and treatment such as induction of ovulation and artificial insemination. Call 563-584-4435 to schedule an appointment.

 

Sources:
National Institute on Aging
The North American Menopause Society

Surviving your summer pregnancy

By Dr. Lisa Kramer –

Swelling ankles, constant sweating, never ending thirst – welcome to your summer pregnancy. If you’re an expectant mom, dealing with the pains of pregnancy during the summer months can be less than fun. Use these five tips to survive your summer pregnancy, even when it’s sweltering hot!

Dealing with swelling

We can’t say this enough. The best way to deal with swelling is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Eight glasses of water daily is a must. Squeezing lemon into your water not only adds flavor, but the lemon juice helps to reduce your swelling as well. Continue reading