IUDs – What You Need to Know

If you’ve been doing your research, you are probably already aware of the different forms of birth control. From the pill to the patch and the good (or not-so-good) condom options, they may all seem like they are less-than-ideal.

Maybe you’ve even tried the pill or other options, but don’t love the idea of having to remember to take something every day or even every month.

Have you ever thought about getting an Intrauterine Device (IUD) for birth control? There are many IUD choices on the market, some of which are newer, and you may not know about.

Read on for more information about what IUDs are, how they work, how they differ, and how you can make the best decision for yourself concerning IUDs as the ideal birth control option.

What Exactly is an IUD?

IUDs are small devices that are permanently placed in the uterus to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Unlike most other options, IUDs are both long-term and reversible.

And as far as birth control effectiveness goes, they are also believed to be at least 99% effective, if not more. Unlike condoms, they are not prone to breakage, leaks, or other types of human mistakes that can affect their overall efficacy.

They are also not “forgettable” – that is, they are permanent and working all the time, so you can’t forget to insert them or take them, as you could a diaphragm or pill, respectively. You can have one inserted and forget about it for years.

It’s important to note that IUDs do not protect against STDs.

How Safe Are IUDs?

IUDs got a bad rep back in the day when they were first introduced, and there were some complications. But since then they’ve come a long way.

Strict screening also comes along with wearing an IUD so that on the very small chance of infection, your gynecologist can treat it right away.

Some people might wonder if the copper in IUDs like ParaGard could cause problems in the body, but there shouldn’t be much to worry about as there is no evidence that there’s enough copper for it to be toxic.

Side effects like pain, cramping, spotting, and irregular periods, as well as regular periods, do happen with some IUD users. These should only occur in the first several months.

There is a risk of expulsion — that is, the IUD may come out of the vagina. While there is only a small chance of this (though it may be more likely for younger women), most experts conclude that IUDs are a safe and effective birth control method and that the risks of unwanted or dangerous pregnancies associated with other methods far outweigh the very low risks associated with the IUD.

Getting an IUD Inserted

If you’re wondering what getting an IUD feels like, here’s a bit of an overview. Some women will feel more discomfort than others, of course. In addition, sometimes you may be offered medicine to help open the cervix and numb the pain.

With a speculum, a gynecologist will put the IUD in through the cervix and into the uterus. It only takes a few minutes on average and can be done at any time. Some women feel pain or cramping as it’s being inserted, and if this is the case, pain medication can be prescribed.

There’s a small chance that you will feel dizzy or have more severe cramps after the time of insertion, and for this reason, your gynecologist will recommend that someone pick you up after the surgery.

Most of the time there is no recovery time, but you may have cramps so treat it like a period and schedule some rest just in case.

The Different Types of IUDs

There are a few different types of IUDs. Some IUDs are hormone-free, and some secrete low doses of progesterone to prevent pregnancy. All of them essentially “kill” sperm on the way to the uterus, making pregnancy impossible.

ParaGard is a copper, non-hormonal option and is the most effective – it can even serve as emergency contraception if you get it five days after unprotected sex, and in this case, you can also opt to keep it in.

The other four are hormonal and use progestin (like progesterone) for pregnancy prevention. If size is an issue, newer models are coming out with smaller sizes than earlier models, so ask your doctor if you think a smaller option may be a better fit.

To learn more about IUDs and other contraceptive options, contact us today at our Wilmette or Glenview locations to schedule an appointment with a gynecologist.

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Ectopic Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

Ectopic Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

Have you heard of an ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancies are when a fertilized egg starts to grow outside of the uterus or womb. These types of pregnancies are rare, and although they may be disappointing, so long as they are caught early, they usually will not affect a woman’s ability to bring future babies to term.

Ectopic pregnancies are rare, but they can cause severe complications if not addressed early on. If you’re trying to get pregnant, you need to know the signs and communicate them to your OBGYN or midwife as soon as possible.

Here’s an overview on what you should know about ectopic pregnancies, the symptoms you should look out for, as well as what to do if you think you have one.

What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancies describe the condition when a fertilized egg is embedded in an area other than the uterus. This situation usually happens because the fertilized egg is not carried all the way to the uterus properly, and is therefore stuck in the cilia of the fallopian tube.

Most often, the egg will embed itself in the fallopian tubes, but these types of pregnancies can also happen in various parts of the pelvic area, including the cervix and ovaries.

Some studies show that women who experience infertility that has to do with their fallopian tubes are more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies are almost always nonviable and will not result in a live birth. Thus, even if the mother is not experiencing signs of expulsion, they should expect to abort the fetus.

Delivery is uncommon for ectopic pregnancies. These pregnancies are typically terminated because they can be extremely dangerous if left untreated. In fact, some experts recognize that ectopic pregnancies cause 32 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies.

Signs and Symptoms

One of the problems with these types of pregnancies is that they may not have any specific symptoms, which means they are difficult to pinpoint. To make matters worse, symptoms that do appear may mimic PMS, miscarriage, UTIs, ovarian problems, or even appendicitis.

Typical symptoms include vaginal bleeding, a sudden pain, nausea, and vomiting. If the pregnancy ruptures, the woman may feel other symptoms such as swelling, inflammation, and tenderness in the abdomen.

Risk Factors

Possible risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include pelvic inflammatory disease, certain types of infertility (and associated surgeries), smoking, STDs, IUDs, endometriosis, and previous ectopic pregnancies.

It should also be noted that heavy smokers are almost four times more likely to experience this type of pregnancy.

Prevention

Unfortunately, there’s nothing that you can do to protect yourself from this type of pregnancy completely. But you can understand the risk factors and try to mitigate those in advance where possible. For instance, Chlamydia (and PID) seems to be a factor in ectopic pregnancies, so steering clear of STDs can help to minimize the chance of this happening.

What Happens Once an Ectopic Pregnancy is Discovered or Diagnosed?

To the mother, an ectopic pregnancy may feel like a regular early pregnancy, with no specific signs or symptoms other than what would normally be expected during the first trimester.There’s typically no “test” for this type of pregnancy, which is one of the reasons why OBGYNs, midwives, and other medical specialists are trained to look for them.

In most cases, if you find yourself with this type of pregnancy, it is too dangerous to attempt to save it. Not only is it dangerous for the mother to try to let it grow, typically the fetus will not survive. Sometimes surgical removal is necessary, in which case the surgery will usually be laparoscopic and therefore result in minimal scarring and complications itself.

If You Think You Have an Ectopic Pregnancy

It’s important to understand that, while most of these types of pregnancies must be terminated, they will not necessarily impact your ability to become pregnant in the future. That being said, if you recognize the signs of an ectopic pregnancy, you need to get proper help as soon as possible in order to prevent internal scarring, which has a small chance of affecting future pregnancies.

If you believe that you are at risk for an ectopic pregnancy or that you may have one, be sure to call your healthcare practitioner immediately as this should be treated as a medical emergency.

If you believe you have an ectopic pregnancy or are at risk for one and have questions, contact us at our Wilmette or Glenview locations (link to each location page) to schedule an appointment with a trusted OBGYN.

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Why Are My Periods Heavier?

Why Are My Periods Heavier?

Have you ever experienced a particularly heavy period (also known as “menorrhagia”) and wondered why?

A woman’s cycle can fluctuate for many reasons, most of which aren’t usually indicators of serious health issues.

However, it’s essential that you know about what to look for when it comes to unusually heavy bleeding, and that you pay close attention to the cause and symptoms to make sure that it’s nothing serious.

How Can You Tell if Bleeding is “Heavy”?

Generally, bleeding can vary from month-to-month, and typical patterns will differ significantly between individuals. But if you experience a sudden change, fatigue, shortness of breath, severe cramps, or are unable to follow through with normal activities, then you should definitely see a gynecologist or midwife as soon as possible.If you’re finding yourself consistently using several pads or tampons and changing them out within an hour or two, this constitutes heavy bleeding. If you’re bleeding for more than seven straight days, that is also heavy bleeding. And if you see large clots regularly, this could also be cause for alarm.

Medical Conditions Causing Heavy Bleeding

Sometimes unusually heavy bleeding is caused by a medical condition. Medical conditions that can cause this type of bleeding include inherited blood disorders, cancer, liver or kidney disease.

Stress Can Play a Role

Unusually high levels of stress can cause changes in menstruation patterns, and this can go either way. Some women have very light or no periods during times of extreme stress, and others may have heavier periods. Changes in flow may also coincide with alcohol use, depression, anxiety, and even dietary changes.

Hormones May Also Have Something to Do with It

Menstrual cycles depend on the careful balance and timing of estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones essentially determine when and how the uterus lining is shed each month. If there is a reason why hormone production changes, that can affect menstruation and associated symptoms, sometimes making it heavier and more painful.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid problems, and insulin issues are just a few of many things that may disrupt regular hormonal cycles.

STDs and Other Problems with the Uterus or Ovaries

In general, STDs can cause unusual patterns of bleeding, as well as bleeding during sex. Chlamydia is one example of a disease that, although it may not have any obvious symptoms, may cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which sometimes presents itself as unusually heavy bleeding.

In some other cases, uterine fibroids or polyps (benign growths) may cause unusual or heavy bleeding.

Medication Can Affect Flow

Because blood thinners allow blood to flow more freely, if you are taking them, then it may look like you are bleeding heavily – that is, there is less clotting.

Menopause Might Bring Heavier Bleeding

For some women, periods get heavier during menopause, but it’s not always clear why. If you are generally in good health, yet you have other symptoms of perimenopause or menopause, it may very well be associated with the fact that you are producing fewer eggs. You might have noticed this change happening in your early 30s or even later in your 40s.

Changes Because of Birth Control

Sometimes changing your birth control type or even dosage has the effect of changing the patterns of your period. For instance, if you are used to hormonal birth control, but you get an IUD inserted (which essentially emits the same type and level of hormone), you may feel heavy bleeding just because the insertion of the IUD changes the structure of your uterus.

That being said, sometimes a low dose birth control (as prescribed to reduce period pain, for instance) may change your menstruation patterns and have you worrying.

When to Call Your Gynecologist

The bottom line is that a slightly heavier period is nothing to worry about. However, if you think that you’re at risk for an STD or severe health problem, or if your periods are too painful to bear, it’s vital that you speak with a trusted professional as soon as possible.

If you are bleeding between periods, bleeding after menopause, or have unusually heavy bleeding, you should see a gynecologist as soon as possible and track your symptoms in the meantime. Keeping track of all of your symptoms during this time (not just the signs you are worried about) will help them diagnose your situation accurately and suggest the most appropriate treatment methods.

If you have more questions about your menstrual cycle, contact us today at our Wilmette or Glenview locations to schedule an appointment with a gynecologist.

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7 Signs Menopause Might Be Starting

7 Signs Menopause Might Be Starting

When you reach your 40’s, chances are you’ll be thinking about menopause and wondering when it will happen. And if you’re well into your 40’s or 50’s, and you believe you are experiencing changes, you’re probably wondering what’s normal.

Perhaps you have started to see changes in your period or even experienced some hormonal swings.

Does this mean that menopause is officially starting? It can be difficult to say.

Here are some key signs and symptoms you’ll want to keep an eye out for and track so that you and your gynecologist can determine if you are reaching menopause.

Your Age

Most women today start menopause between ages 50 and 52 and start perimenopause at about 47, though women may experience both earlier or later.

Perimenopause begins several years before the full transition to menopause and is essentially the time where women begin to feel the same symptoms of menopause, but not as extreme. Full menopause doesn’t occur until a woman has not menstruated for an entire year.

Libido Changes and Vaginal Dryness

Most changes in your body that come alongside menopause are typically the result of hormonal changes. One noticeable aspect is that you may experience vaginal dryness. If over-the-counter lubricant doesn’t do the trick, some women opt for hormone replacement therapy (which can help with natural lubrication) or prescription creams and gels.

Loss of libido can happen alongside physical symptoms like dryness or even emotional changes like mood swings and depression.

Bladder Problems

Some women experience bladder problems like incontinence and UTIs as a part of the transition to menopause. There are a few reasons for these reactions and most of which are linked to the fact that the entire pelvic area, as well as internal tissues, will become thinner and weaker as estrogen production drops. The acidity levels in both the bladder and vagina could shift as well, leading to more infections.

Weight Gain and Bloating

Weight gain tends to happen during middle age because of a natural loss of muscle mass. Also, the metabolism tends to naturally slow. For this reason, men and women can expect to gain a bit of weight around this age.

However, weight gain can be more extreme in menopausal women because of dropping estrogen levels, which may affect both your “hunger” hormones and even insulin resistance. Bloating is likely to come along with menopause because of water retention, constipation, and other digestive changes.

Irregular Periods

If you’re the kind of woman who has regular periods but all of a sudden it seems to be skipping weeks or months, this could be a sign of menopause.

It’s important not only to look at the timing but also the type of period you are having. If you usually have lighter bleeding patterns, but suddenly they come on heavy (or vice versa), this could signal a transition to perimenopause.

Do bear in mind that it’s still possible to get pregnant well into your 40’s, and that going on or off contraception can also change bleeding patterns.

Hot Flashes

You have heard of them before and may have even experienced them. They’re not pleasant, and this is especially the case when they sneak up on you in the middle of the night (aka “night sweats”).

A hot flash comes on suddenly and is overwhelming, leaving you sweaty and uncomfortable, sometimes all over the body and sometimes just in one area. They are unmistakable and are almost always a signal that menopause is coming.

Changes in the Skin, Hair, and Nails

Around the time of menopause, you’ll likely notice your skin, hair, and nails becoming drier and more brittle. You may experience hair loss and thinning, as well as slower hair and nail growth.

Again, this can be linked back to a lack of estrogen production.

Bear in mind that the symptoms above may be similar in the case of various illnesses and even pregnancy. It’s also worth noting that menopause may arrive early for multiple reasons, such as a hysterectomy.

Menopause symptoms can be extremely varied, and it affects some women much more than others. However, preventing uncomfortable symptoms isn’t always possible, and you can take extra steps to minimize discomfort by:

  • Having extra moisturizing lotions, lubricant, and shampoos available
  • Opting for hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Taking medications or supplements designed to prevent bone loss
  • Paying close attention to diet and exercise
  • Noticing hot flash triggers and being prepared to deal with them at all times
  • Tracking symptoms to report to your gynecologist or doctor

​If you have questions about menopause or think it might be starting for you, contact us today at our Wilmette or Glenview locations to schedule an appointment with a gynecologist.

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