Your common questions answered
According to certain studies, there has been little to no effect of birth control pills in women when it comes to gaining weight. However, there are also reports where women have gained weight temporarily while they were on birth control pills. If you happen to be one of those women who put on weight, talk to our obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Kavita Maravar.
While HPV (Human papillomavirus) is typically transmitted via skin contact, vaginal sex and genital contact that doesn’t involve sex, HSV (Herpes simplex virus) can primarily get transmitted through oral-genital contact, kissing, or anal sex. Even though HPV can live for a time on hard surfaces, it is highly unlikely that you contract HPV or HSV from toilet seats.
According to professional obstetricians and gynaecologists, it is recommended that you must visit a gynaecologist if:
– You have any concerns or questions regarding the female reproductive system, including ovaries, uterus and the vulva.
– You have concerns about urological symptoms.
– There are concerns related to sexual health, such as libido, pain.
– You have issues concerning menstrual cycles, pregnancy, fertility or contraception or any questions related to the same.
– You are seeking age-appropriate screenings and a preventive health exam.
Note that there are services in gynaecology that are similar to the services provided by family medicine. In issues like thyroid disorder, mood changes, or birth control, it is best to consult with someone or a health provider you feel comfortable with. They can then guide you to another professional if the provider cannot address your concerns fully.
Using a heat patch around your abdomen, staying hydrated, doing yoga and taking a long warm bath while soaking in a tub can help in relieving your menstrual cramps. You may as well take pain relievers to treat your period cramps. However, before taking any medication, consult with your gynaecologist to consume it as directed. Consider following the below tips for treating period cramps:
1. Taking over-the-counter medications – NSAIDs (if not allergic), Panadol and Naprogesics. These drugs may help lower the body’s prostaglandins and reduce pain.
2. Applying heat to your lower back and abdomen.
3. Essential oil massage.
4. Avoid food that causes bloating and water retention. Example – alcohol, fatty foods, caffeine.
5. Some herbal remedies with anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic compounds may be soothin.
Even if you are familiar with the self-breast exam procedure, detecting the signs of any infections or breast cancer requires a breast screening exam. It should be noted that breast exams are crucial for your breast health, resulting in early detection and treatment outcomes that improve breast cancer survival. Therefore, no self-breast exam should replace the exams or breast screening tests recommended by your family doctor.
Significant hormonal changes can occur during varied phases of a woman’s life, from menstruation to puberty and pregnancy to menopause. These changes can trigger the growth of hair anywhere in your body, including your breast and around the nipples.
Understand that there is always a risk of getting pregnant if you have sex without using contraception, no matter the span of your menstrual cycle.
Having sex without contraception comes with a high chance of you conceiving during your menstrual cycle, just after your period, after the first time you had sex or even if you have never had a period before.
However, 12 to 14 days prior to your next period, you start to ovulate, which is when you are most fertile. This time period becomes the time of the month when you are most likely to get pregnant. Note that it is quite improbable to get pregnant just after your period, although it can happen.
Bear in mind that sperm can survive for up to 7 days in the reproductive system of a woman. Hence, sperm ejaculated during sex, when the woman is on her period, may fertilize the egg if ovulation occurs, especially if the woman has a naturally short menstrual cycle.
You can have sex during your period, just to be aware of a tad bit of mess that it leaves behind. Considering that you are okay with it and using protection unless you are actively trying to conceive, you are good to go. You also should be particular about your menstrual cycle and be extra careful if you have a short menstrual cycle; since the risk of getting pregnant during this period is there; however, it is not higher.
To reduce the risk of cervical cancer, the important ways to prevent cervical cancer, in addition to not smoking, are given below:
a) Cervical screening test – A cervical screening test is a simple but important procedure that is conducted to examine the health of your cervix. HPV (human papillomavirus) can lead to cell changes in the cervix which may further develop into cancer if left untreated.
Cervical screening tests help in monitoring these changes to render effective treatment that can be commenced to prevent cervical cancer from developing.
Coming to its execution, this procedure is ideal for anyone between the age of 25 and 74 who have been sexually active. If your cervical screening test is negative, you are not due for the next one in 5years.
In this procedure, a speculum is used to examine your cervix. Then, a small brush is used to collect some cells from the cervix so that they can be sent to the lab for testing.
b) HPV vaccine – Currently available in Australia, Gardasil and Cervarix are the two HPV vaccines that can help prevent cervical cancer.
While HPV Vaccine protects you from two types of HPV (types 16 and 18) that are the main causes of cervical cancer, Gardasil shields you against 4 types of HPV – type 6 and 11, which causes 90% of genital warts and type 16 and 18 that causes 80% of cervical cancers in Australia.
The HPV vaccine can be rendered to people up to the age of 45. However, it should be given to young people before they start having sex and become sexually active since the vaccine only secures people who have never been exposed to these types of HPV before.
It is still recommended if you have been tested for HPV previously to take the vaccine as you still get some protection.
It is important to understand that vaginal discharge can be normal!
Fluid secreted from the tiny glands in the vagina and cervix is vaginal discharge. Every day, this fluid escapes from the vagina to flush out old cells and debris, keeping the reproductive tract and vagina clean and in good health.
While a normal vaginal normal discharge varies a lot from woman to woman, the unusual colour or consistency of vaginal discharge might also signify a healthy body.
Depending on where a person is in their menstrual cycle, the colour, consistency, and volume of the vaginal discharge might also vary from day to day.
As the body sheds the uterine lining at the start of the menstrual cycle, the discharge is typically red or bloody. Less vaginal discharge might be experienced after the menstruation.
The cervical mucus starts to get misty and turn white or yellow as the egg begins to mature. And one might feel greasy. The mucus resembles the texture of egg whites a few days prior to ovulation.
Before the next period, the cervical mucus becomes lighter and less visible.
If you are concerned about the colour of your vaginal discharge, the following points can help you understand what they mean.
● When the vaginal discharge is clear, it might reflect healthy discharge, hormonal disbalances, ovulation or pregnancy.
● When the vaginal discharge is white, it might reflect a healthy discharge or a yeast infection.
● When the vaginal discharge is grey, it reflects bacterial vaginosis.
● When the vaginal discharge is yellow green, it might reflect sexually transmitted infection.
● When the vaginal discharge is pink, it might reflect cervical bleeding, implantation bleeding or vaginal irritation.
● When the vaginal discharge is red, it might reflect menstruation, cervical infection, endometrial or cervical cancer, or cervical polyp.
If a person experiences irregular or unexplained changes in vaginal discharge or any other symptoms, such as itching or a burning sensation during urination, that might indicate an issue with their reproductive health, they should consult a doctor.
Usually, menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes or tiredness, begin around the age of 47. Though there is no reliable source to figure out the time when you will experience menopause, 51 years can be the age when you experience your final menstrual period. However, it can vary significantly.
Menopause can happen before the age of 45 and even before 40 years. While premature is a term that is used when menopause happens before 40 years, it is called ‘early’ when it happens before 45 years.
One should also note that there is no upper age limit when it comes to experiencing menopause. Nevertheless, most women experience it by the age of 55.
● Mood swings
● Hot flashes
● Night sweats
● Vaginal dryness
● Loss of breast fullness
● Sleep issues
● Weight gain
● Slowed metabolism
● Irregular periods
● Dry skin
● Thinning hair
Risk factors elevate the chances of someone developing a certain condition. However, it is difficult to figure out the contribution of the same risk factor in the development of that very disease. One should know that having the below risk factors does not imply that you will develop cervical cancer. Also, in some cases, a person with cancer may not have had any of these risk factors.
Conditions that can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer are given below:
● Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
● Exposure to diethylstilbesterol (DES)
● Multiple sexual partners
● Having several children (5 or more)
● Lack of routine Cervical Screening Tests
● Taking contraceptive pills for a long time
Typically, the first prenatal visit or appointment takes place in the second month of pregnancy, which is between week six and week 8. But, you may visit the doctor or your gynaecologist before the mentioned timeline if you feel the need to.
The foremost reason to meet your doctor is to understand your maternity care options. Before you can get a health care provider or carer of your preference, it is much more affordable to see your local GP first for your early routine visits and first tests and other examinations.
The tests organised by your GP can include:
- Blood tests to check your blood group, iron levels, sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, immunity to rubella, Thalassaemia and the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome or other genetic disorders. This is also done to check for RhD factor and anti-D antibodies.
- Urine test to check for infection.
- Genetic tests
- Cervical Screening Test
Along with the above tests and examination, your GP also converse with you about:
- Your concerns regarding your pregnancy or general health.
- Organising your tests and ultrasounds.
- Giving up smoking, alcohol or any other drugs for the better health of the baby.
- Your diet and exercise.
- The medications you are taking.
- Past abortions or miscarriages.
You may as well go ahead and ask questions regarding any complexities that might affect your pregnancy.
It is not natural if the baby’s movement is slowing down towards the end of pregnancy. Around 18 to 24 weeks in pregnancy, the baby makes more movement than in the initial weeks.
However, there have been common misconceptions about baby movements which include the baby’s movements getting slowed down towards the end of pregnancy or stimulating the same by having something to eat or drink.
It should be noted that you can feel the baby’s movement right up to the moment when you go into labour and even during labour. Also, there are several ways you can understand the pattern of your baby’s movements. Some of those include sitting or lying down quietly and focusing on feeling your baby’s movements.
The pattern of the baby’s movement sometimes indicates the baby’s strength as well as if the baby is unwell. If you feel a change in your baby’s movements, then you should make an appointment with your obstetrician.
Make a list of certain things so that you have a basic knowledge about your own medical history, your partner’s health history, and anything vital that the obstetrician must know.
Get familiar with your medical condition, mental health, gynaecology history, obstetrical history.
- Learn about any illness, disorder or health condition that runs in your family and your partner’s family.
- Take a note of the medications and supplements you take, possibly the dosages you consume as well.
Prepare a list of questions to ask your obstetrician.
The estimated parental visits can be summarised into:
- Pregnancy weeks upto 28: one prenatal visit a month for every four weeks
- Pregnancy weeks upto 36: one prenatal appointment every two weeks
- Pregnancy weeks from 36 to 40: Prenatal appointment every week
- If your pregnancy is complex and requires more care – your obstetrician will discuss more frequent visits with you
Vaginal bleeding can be caused due to varied reasons. However, bleeding and spotting during pregnancy are quite common. Causes of vaginal bleeding include having sex, going through hormone changes, miscarriage, etc. While bleeding and spotting are common during pregnancy, it happens for a reason which is why you must contact your obstetrician about it the first time you notice a spotting.
First of all, it is pretty normal for your sex drive to change during pregnancy. Secondly, it is perfectly safe to have sex or involve in sexual activity during pregnancy unless your obstetrician or doctor has told you not to due to certain complications. Like placenta praevia (where the advice would be to refrain from sexual intercourse due to the risk of bleeding .
Exercise and some physical activities are safe and helpful for pregnant women. If the pregnancy is normal and you are healthy, then you can continue or even start with physical activities, such as swimming, walking, pelvic floor exercises, and yoga, among others. And exercises that involve extensive activities like jumping or skipping should be avoided. However, knowing those safe and productive activities won’t increase the risk of low birth weight, miscarriage, or early delivery.
Flying or travelling via plane isn’t harmful to your baby or you, however you may want to discuss any health issues or complications with your doctor. After 37 weeks the chances of going into labour is high and 32 weeks if you are pregnant with twins!
Long distance travel (more than 4 hours) carries a small risk of blood clot (Deep venous thrombosis). If you must travel discuss with your doctor about the precautions, you need to take on flight.
Again, the decision to travel should be made after the discussion between you and your obstetrician.
During early pregnancy, there are going to be ultrasound, and several other routine lab tests, including complete blood count (CBC), blood type and Rh factor. You will also be expected to test for specific infections and diseases, such as STIs or HIV. Tests like glucose tolerance test, Group B streptococcus (GBS) test, Invasive testing like amniocentesis or CVS to check the risk of chromosome issues and tests checking for birth defects may be advised if any concerns with the initial chromosomal testing is found.
During your pelvic exam, there will be tests and check-ups of the organs that form the pelvic or the pelvic includes. In this exam, your uterus, vulva, vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, bladder, rectum, ovaries, exterior and interior are examined.
Using two fingers of one hand, already gloved and lubricated, into the vagina, your doctor uses the other hand to press the lower abdomen in order to feel the position of the ovaries and uterus and examine the vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, and rectum. This is done to assess your gynaecological health and diagnose any medical condition.
For similar reasons, a Pap smear test (Now called cervical screening test) is also suggested to monitor your body for cervical cancer cells even before the symptoms show up. A speculum is inserted during this examination into the vagina in order to widen it. Further steps include garnering cells from the cervix via a brush that is inserted into the vagina. The cells are then checked for signs of disease.
Regardless of the term, morning sickness can happen at any time, around the clock. It stays with you for the first trimester of your pregnancy, but in some cases, you may experience it throughout your pregnancy.
In order to feel better, you can try:
- Eating 5 or 6 small meals a day.
- Not drinking water with food, and rather consider having it before and after a meal.
- Eating a cracker shortly after you wake up.
- To drink 8 glasses of water a day.
- Taking a multivitamin daily.
- Not to skip your meals.
- Avoiding spicy and fatty foods.
- Trying ginger lollies/peppermint tea.
- Having protein-rich foods, such as cheese or nuts.
In some cases, pregnant women may as well become too sensitive to strong food smells. If the same happens to you, then you can consider either asking someone to help you prepare food or increasing the ventilation in the kitchen while cooking.
If you are overtired, there is a chance of your nausea getting worse. In that case, consider following the below suggestions:
- Anti-nausea wristbands
- Relaxation and deep breathing exercises
You may as well treat your morning sickness with medications and acupuncture treatments to help relieve your nausea but only after consulting your obstetrician.
While you will be suggested to dye your hair and get tanned and waxed after you have given birth, it is somewhat safe to work with all these activities during pregnancy except tanning. Hair colour isn’t dangerously toxic and can be used while you are pregnant. The chemicals in the hair colour won’t affect your scalp or bloodstream; it is only going to be getting absorbed by your hair. However, your hair can be less absorbent or react differently to the hair dye due to your condition.
Waxing is also a normal activity that you can employ during pregnancy. But one must know that during pregnancy, one’s skin is more sensitive than usual.
When it comes to tanning, using fake tan creams and lotions during pregnancy is generally considered safe. It is considered safe due to its active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is non-toxic and comes with the reasoning that it does not go beyond the outer layer of skin. But the one thing it can still do is render the risk of an allergy reaction.
The following signs can tell if you are close to your labour and that it might be starting.
- If your water broke.
- If you are having cramps and contractions or tightening’s.
- If you are feeling pelvic pressure which is unbearable.
- If you have a backache (usually comes and goes like a contraction)
- If you feel the need to open your bowels with pressure in the vagina which is the result of your baby’s head pressing on your bowel.
- If you are feeling pain in your lower back or belly.
The following signs confirm that you need to call the maternity unit:
- If you feel you might be going into labour even though you are less than 37 weeks pregnant.
- If you have vaginal bleeding.
- If your water breaks.
- If you feel your baby is moving less than usual.
While it is important to identify the cause of the pain during pregnancy, paracetamol is considered the safest and best choice for any short-term treatment for pain or fever during pregnancy. However, consult with your doctor as well based on your medical history. Also, mention the same in your next parental appointment.
Alcohol can harm your unborn child and even affect the fertility of both women, which is why the consumption of alcohol is not recommended during pregnancy, and it should be avoided if you are trying to conceive.
Women who are breastfeeding also shouldn’t drink alcohol to prevent any developmental and lifelong effects on the baby.