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Prematurity Awareness Month

What is Prematurity Awareness Month?

Prematurity Awareness Month is part of the March of Dimes’ Prematurity Campaign. This campaign has two purposes:

  • To raise awareness of premature birth and its consequences
  • To reduce premature birth in the United States.

The March of Dimes launched both the Prematurity Campaign and Prematurity Awareness Month in 2003.

What does the Prematurity Awareness Campaign do?

The Prematurity Campaign has developed a number of initiatives to help combat some of the risk factors listed above. For example, the March of Dimes donated $1.4 million to group prenatal care programs in 38 states in 2015. Group prenatal care programs provide care, educate mothers, and provide social support.

The Prematurity Campaign also encourages women to space pregnancies so they are at least 18 months, which lowers a woman’s risk of premature labor. Since tobacco use can increase many pregnancy complications, including premature labor, the March of Dimes funds programs that help people quit smoking.

Regular prenatal care may help identify women who are at risk for premature labor. Additionally, good prenatal care and nutrition are the best ways to lower your risk.

Whether you are trying to conceive or just found out you are pregnant, there are a number of steps you'll need to take to prepare for your baby. The first step is finding an obstetrician who you trust to care for you and your baby through pregnancy and birth. Every pregnancy is unique (and so are you!), and your obstetrician should feel that too. Whether this is your first pregnancy or you are just looking for a new provider, these guidelines may prove helpful in finding the right obstetrician for you.

How to Choose an Obstetrician

Looking for the perfect obstetrician doesn’t need to be a daunting task, but you should take the time to find someone who you trust and who makes you feel comfortable. Start by asking for tips from friends and family. When you get referrals from people you trust, you're likely to feel more at ease. Women who have already been through pregnancy can help you decide what to look for in an obstetrician to ensure that you're happy with your experience when it comes to check-ups and procedures during your pregnancy. Your primary care physician may also be a good resource for referrals.

If you have recently moved or you are not ready to share your news with anyone, consider looking online for reviews for the obstetrician practice you are considering. Don’t just randomly choose an obstetrician your insurance covers.

Every woman, at some point in her life, is likely to experience a yeast infection. A yeast infection is an annoying infection of the vagina and vulva that causes itching, discharge and irritation. It is a type of vaginitis caused by an overgrowth of yeast known as Candida albicans and is often easily treated at home, but occasionally it may be severe enough to warrant a visit to your doctor.

Woman with Yeast Infection Seeks Help from Ob/Gyn

On average, three out of four women will suffer a yeast infection at some point in their lives. Some women experience several throughout their lifetimes. While the condition isn’t considered to be a sexually transmitted disease, the fungus can spread through oral contact with female genitals. It’s important to know about the signs and symptoms of a yeast infection and when you should see your ob/gyn.

A gynecologist, a specialist in women’s reproductive health, screens you for disease, assists with family planning and troubleshoots any issues that may arise with your most intimate and private parts of your body. Making sure your gynecologist is someone you feel comfortable with and can trust completely is essential. Your gynecologist will discuss personal information with you involving your health, lifestyle and sexual activity.

How to choose the right gynecologist for you

Before seeking recommendations, take a moment to consider what is personally important to you and your healthcare experience. Consider a gynecologist’s education, experience and expertise. After that, delve into some more personal factors.

Are you more comfortable with a female or male gynecologist, or are you equally comfortable with either? Not all women have a gender preference in their provider and it’s important to understand that gender does not play a role in qualifications. If you go to a male gynecologist and feel at ease and in good hands, that is more important than their gender. But if you still prefer a female provider, it is essential to listen to your needs. Other factors worth considering are location, affiliated hospital if needed (for example, Kansas City ObGyn is affiliated with Overland Park Regional Medical Center), and philosophy on topics such as birth control.

by Dr. Crystal M. Newby, MD

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a metabolic condition occurs when the body produces excess androgens (male hormones), excess insulin or has low-grade inflammation. There are many genetic and environmental factors that come into play with this condition. If a woman is obese, does not get adequate exercise, or has a family history of the disease, she has a greater chance of developing this disorder.

PCOS has links to the endocrine system. It typically affects women between the ages of 18 and 44, and can cause infertility. The condition isn’t just a modern-day issue. Historical documents show that women experienced the symptoms as long ago as 1721 in Italy. Today, anywhere from 2 to 20 percent of women in the reproductive-age will develop polycystic ovaries.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of PCOS?

One underlying cause of this condition is insulin resistance. The body produces excessive amounts of insulin to control the sugar, which is mostly caused by being overweight. All the excessive insulin causes overactive productions of both testosterone and androgen, both male sex hormones.

Finding a bump or lump on your body can often be a reason for concern, especially when it comes to your vaginal area. It is good practice to regularly check your genital area so that you can quickly identify anything out of the ordinary. This might include unwelcome additions such as lumps, bumps, rashes or anything in between.

It is important to monitor your genital health, because bumps appearing on or around the vagina could be indicative of the early signs of a condition that needs medical attention, such as a sexually transmitted infection. Spotting them as soon as they occur is ideal so you can seek appropriate medical attention when necessary.

This article will discuss five potential explanations for the bumps near or on your labia. Certainly, vaginal lumps and bumps do not always spell doom and could be just regular pimples. However, it is essential that you see your gynecologist if you spot these lumps, so they can evaluate whether they are dangerous or not.

Woman Consulting Gynecologist about Vaginal Bump Symptoms

What Does Low Birth Weight Mean?

Low birth weight contributes to 60 to 80 percent of neonatal deaths worldwide. Approximately 20 million low birth weight babies are born every year, most of them in developing countries. Preterm births, those occurring before the 37th week of pregnancy, are also on the rise. They account for over 10 percent of births globally. Most premature infants also have low birth weights.

Complications from prematurity and low birth weight are the leading cause of death for children under age five around the world. Many survivors of preterm birth and low birth weight may suffer from disabilities such as learning problems, hearing impairment and vision issues.

The normal range of birth weight is from 5.5 to 8.75 pounds. Delivery after the 37th week of pregnancy is considered “at term.” Any baby born weighing less than 5.5 pounds is low birth weight, and a baby born before 37 weeks is premature.

Newborn Baby Being Weighed on Scale

About one in 12, or eight percent, of babies in the United States is born underweight, and about two-thirds of these low birth weight babies are also premature. A small percentage, about 1.4 percent of babies have very low birth weight – under 3.5 pounds. Almost all of these babies are premature, and some are extremely premature – born at 25 weeks or earlier.

The number of babies born with low birth weight is increasing along with the number of multiple births in the United States. More than half of multiple birth babies have low birth weight, and six percent of single birth babies are born with low birth weight.

Vaginal itching is sometimes painful and can cause extreme discomfort, but it is incredibly common among women. You know that when the delicate areas of the vagina, clitoris and vulva are inflamed and irritated, your entire day can be ruined.

There are many possible reasons that your vagina may be irritated, including bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted diseases, a yeast infection or menopause.

The use of chemical irritants such as creams, douches and condoms can also cause itching. Many women are sensitive to contraceptive foams, fabric softeners, laundry detergents and scented toilet paper, too. There is also a condition called lichen sclerosus that can make white patches form on the skin around the vulva and scar the vagina.

How can a woman know if the symptoms are abnormal?

The vagina usually produces a discharge that is clear to milky white. This discharge is created by the glands in the cervix and vaginal walls and has a thick, thin or pasty texture. Normal vaginal discharge may have an unpleasant odor or no odor at all. Once it is exposed to air, it turns white or yellow in color.

If you do not have an infection, the vaginal itching may go away on its own. An allergy to soaps and scented toilet paper can be cured by simply not using these products, particularly near your vagina. However, if you are having vaginal discharge that is foul smelling and has a change in color, you may have an infection. Abnormal discharge can be thick, white and clumpy or green and yellowish in color and produce a foul-smelling odor.

by Dr. Crystal M. Newby, MD

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes occurs only while a woman is pregnant. The disease usually develops in the second trimester, after the 24th week of pregnancy if the woman was not already diabetic. Studies reported by the Centers for Disease Control estimate anywhere from two to 10 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. develop gestational diabetes every year. The rate was 9.2 percent in the 2014 CDC report.

Woman Checks Blood Sugar Levels Managing Gestational DiabetesDiabetes, including gestational diabetes, occurs when the body does not efficiently process food into glucose, or blood sugar. The pancreas makes insulin, a hormone which helps the body do this efficiently or use glucose for energy like it should. When the pancreas produces insufficient insulin, or the body cannot use the insulin it creates in the way it should, diabetes is the result.

When a woman is pregnant, the placenta that supports her baby also secretes hormones. Some of these hormones block the action of insulin from the mother, creating a condition called insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance makes it harder for the mother’s body to use her insulin, and she may need up to three times the insulin she would otherwise. Without enough insulin, her body cannot take the glucose from the food she eats and turn it into energy. The glucose builds up in her blood to dangerously high levels, called hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

by Dr. Crystal M. Newby, MD

Woman Tracking Her Period on a CalendarWith each menstrual cycle, the uterine lining (endometrium) prepares itself for fetus development. If fertilization fails to happen, the body discharges the endometrium during the cycle, which typically lasts for about three to eight days. While the severity and duration of the menstrual periods are not the same for every woman, it is abnormal when the periods are too light, too heavy, occur too often, last longer, irregular or occur after menopause.

Some causes of irregular bleeding are not consequential. A number of things can cause the abnormality. These may include hormone-based birth control, infection of the uterus lining or cervix, STI, blood clotting disorders, and other health conditions.

About Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

PMS is an unpleasant, but typically normal, symptom that women experience during the menstruation cycle. The symptoms may last for a few hours to several days, and the intensity and variety of the symptoms differ from woman to woman. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is the most prevalent form of PMS. It affects approximately 5 percent of women at reproductive age.

What is Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression, or postnatal depression, is a cluster of symptoms nearly identical to clinical depression but diagnosed only in women who are pregnant or who have recently delivered a baby or suffered a miscarriage. Postpartum depression symptoms can be so severe they impair the woman’s ability to care for herself, her baby, and her family. Without proper treatment, symptoms may last for months or years, and they may go on to become a chronic depressive disorder.

Symptoms can include:

  • Deep feelings of sadness, anxiety or despair
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Constant worry or obsession about the health of the baby
  • Negative or ambivalent thoughts about the baby

Woman Experiencing Postpartum Depression with New Baby

Postpartum depression is a common medical condition, occurring in about 14 percent of births.  Any woman can get the condition. It happens after childbirth, stillbirth and miscarriage. It merely is a common complication of childbirth. Considering the enormous biological, physical, emotional and other changes a woman undergoes during pregnancy, labor, birth and motherhood; it is no wonder she is at risk for emotional disturbances.

Nearly 50 to 75 percent of women experience what is called the “baby blues” after delivery. These feelings of unhappiness, fatigue, worry, anxiety, sadness and crying spells usually start a day or two after birth and go away on their own after a week or two. They do not interfere with the woman’s ability to care for her baby.

However, at the other end of the spectrum, postpartum psychosis is a very rare condition affecting only 0.1 to 0.2 percent of women, or about one to two per 1,000 women after childbirth. It is a different disorder than postpartum depression and involves psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. This disorder is a medical emergency and may place the life of the mother and her baby in immediate danger.