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Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. It plays a significant role in regulating many body functions, including ovulation, metabolism and immunity, but its primary purpose is to stimulate the mammary glands to begin milk production. Increased levels of the hormone is crucial to maintaining an adequate milk supply for nursing mothers.  When not nursing, however, an imbalance of prolactin can be evidence of a serious health condition requiring medical assessment and treatment.

Milk Production

During pregnancy, a woman’s body starts to produce higher than normal levels of prolactin. This hormonal increase causes the mammary glands to begin preparation for milk production, but elevated levels of the hormone progesterone prevent the breasts from lactating before birth. Progesterone production decreases shortly after giving birth as prolactin continues to increase, stimulated in part by the baby’s first attempts to suckle at the breast, and this allows the breasts to begin lactating.

Mother Breastfeeding Her Young Baby

The United States Congress, in conjunction with the American Social Health Association (ASHA) and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month to increase public knowledge of cervical health and encourage women to get screened for cervical cancer and vaccinated against the diseases that cause it.

Teal Ribbon for Cervical Health Awareness Month in January

Cervical Health Facts

The cervix is a long, cylinder-shaped passage between the vagina and the uterus. It has two main parts, the cervix itself and the opening of the cervical canal known as the “endocervix.” The cervix is covered in squamous cells and the endocervix is covered in columnar cells. These different types of cells meet at a point between the vagina and the uterus known as the “transformational zone.” The transformational zone is the part of the cervix that is most susceptible to developing cancer.

A hysterectomy is a common surgical procedure that involves the removal of the uterus for reasons relating to certain gynecological disorders. According to the Center for Disease Control, hysterectomies are the second most frequently received surgery among women of reproductive age in the United States (the average age is 42) after cesarean sections, with nearly half a million women getting a hysterectomy in this country each year.

Hysterectomy Surgery & Recovery

There are several different types of hysterectomy and a variety of surgical options. Doctors determine the best type and method for each patient, based on the underlying medical condition precipitating the hysterectomy and the individual’s personal health history.

  • Total hysterectomy: The surgical removal of the entire uterus, to include removal of the cervix.
  • Supracervical hysterectomy: The partial removal of the uterus, but the cervix remains intact.
  • Radical hysterectomy: The removal of the entire uterus, including the cervix and the ligaments that hold the uterus in place. The ovaries may or may not be removed depending upon the specifics of each individual case.

During menopause the body stops producing the same levels of hormones that it has throughout the reproductive years. This hormonal decrease can result in unpleasant side effects such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and night sweats. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) treats these symptoms with medication that replace the hormones, typically estrogen and progesterone/progestin, that are no longer being produced naturally in the body throughout menopause. HRT is also often used an effective prevention against osteoporosis (bone thinning).  

Woman Considering HRT Options

by Dr. Crystal M. Newby, MD

An ectopic pregnancy is a serious complication of pregnancy that occurs when a fertilized embryo attaches outside of the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube. For this reason, it is sometimes also referred to as a “tubal pregnancy,” although in very rare cases an ectopic pregnancy can occur on the cervix, ovary, or elsewhere in the abdomen.

Ectopic pregnancies are a relatively uncommon condition that affects between 1% and 2% of women of reproductive age. Unfortunately, in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, the embryo is not viable since embryos cannot survive outside of the womb. If left untreated the condition can cause severe damage to reproductive organs and even become life-threatening.

by Dr. Crystal M. Newby, MD

Life is inherently stressful. The pressures of work, the demands of maintaining important relationships, commitments that pull us in a thousand different directions, and the constant background noise of social media all conspire to stress us out. And add to that the intense stress of struggling with fertility issues. It’s a lot to handle! But can it prevent you from getting pregnant?

Couple Consulting Obstetrician About Fertility

Stress and Infertility

Infertility, especially if experienced for an extended amount of time, is a particularly heavy burden to bear. It is not only personally stressful but it can also put a lot of strain on couples who are enduring the struggle together. But are emotional and physical stress also contributing factors to infertility?

If you are trying to conceive, one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant is to monitor your ovulation cycle. If your periods are regular, keeping track of your ovulation cycle is a fairly straightforward process, but if your menstrual cycle varies from month to month, it can be difficult to know when your body is at its most fertile. Ovulation calculators that record your fertility each calendar month, and ovulation predictor kits that measure your hormone levels, can be useful aids in the quest to conceive.

What is Ovulation?

Every month, an egg cell matures in an ovary. When the egg is mature, it is released into the fallopian tube and guided into the uterus where it can be fertilized by sperm. Once the egg is in the uterus, it is available for fertilization for about a day. This brief window is the only time in a given month when it is possible become pregnant. However, since sperm can remain active and viable inside the female body for between three and five days, a couple increases their chances of conceiving if they have intercourse in the days just prior to and following ovulation.

The influenza virus is a common but potentially dangerous illness and pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting a severe case of the flu than the general population. Pregnancy naturally suppresses the immune system and stresses the heart and lungs in ways that cause pregnant women to be more susceptible to the flu, but a vaccine can safely protect women and babies from the illness and its complications.

Woman Getting Flu Vaccine During Pregnancy

IUD Shape Illustration

IUD is an acronym for Intrauterine Device, and it is one of the most convenient and effective forms of birth control. There are different types of IUD, but in its most basic form it is a small T- shaped apparatus that, when placed into the uterus by your ob/gyn, prevents pregnancies from occurring.

How Does an IUD Work?

Hormonal IUDs

There are two main types of IUD: hormonal and non-hormonal. Hormonal IUDs are made out of plastic and they release a constant low dose of a synthetic hormone called progestin which prevents the ovaries from releasing their eggs. The hormonal IUD further increases its effectiveness by causing cervical mucus to thicken. This adds an additional layer of defense against sperm.

Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. It is really quite incredible. Your body produces milk that has all the nutrition to sustain the healthy growth and crucial early development of your child in its first year of life, but there is more to nursing than simply providing food to your baby. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to nourish and bond with your baby while giving it a legacy of health advantages that will last into adulthood.

Breast Milk is Mother Nature’s Perfect Recipe

young-mother-breastfeeding-babyThe first milk that is produced immediately after birth is called colostrum, and it is colloquially known as “liquid gold” because it is so rich with the nutrients and antibodies that newborn babies need. Colostrum does not look like milk. It is a sticky, yellow serum and is only produced for the first few days of your child’s life, but its high concentration of essential nutrients is easier for your newborn’s immature digestive system to break down.

As your baby grows, your milk will change to suit its evolving needs. Colostrum transitions into a white, thin milk that becomes fattier and more nutritious as your baby’s appetite increases. For the first six months of life breast milk has absolutely everything your baby requires for sustaining the healthy growth, but it does much more than simply feed your baby. Breast milk supports complex brain development, helps build the immune system, and contributes incomparably to the development of a healthy gut biome. In the first several months after your baby is born, breast milk lays the foundation for a lifetime of health.

by Dr. Crystal M. Newby, MD

young-woman-gynecological-examThe thought of having your first gynecology exam might be nerve wracking, but it is a straightforward and quick procedure that is an important part of maintaining your overall health. Once you understand the purpose of the annual well woman exam and what it involves, you will realize that there is nothing to worry or be embarrassed about.

The purpose of your routine annual gynecology exam is to allow a health care provider to check your female organs to ensure and maintain good gynecological health. The physical portion of the exam takes about 10 minutes and there is a time before and after the exam to ask and answer any questions you and your health care provider might have.