All

Cervical Polyps During Pregnancy

There are many reasons why cervical polyps might feel scary when they occur during your pregnancy. But the reality is that these growths of tissue are nearly always benign. 

In fact, for the vast majority of patients, cervical polyps are non-symptomatic–to the point that most pregnant women will never notice them. In some cases, however, these polyps can end up causing some light spotting or even discomfort. In those cases, your OBGYN or Midwife can recommend appropriate treatment options.

What Are Cervical Polyps?

A cervical polyp is a growth of tissue that develops in the passage between the uterus and the vagina. In most cases, they look smooth and red (almost finger shaped), but they can sometimes be purple or gray. 

Polyps themselves are relatively fragile (and, as a result, often easy for a medical professional to remove). The polyp structures grow from stalk-looking pieces of tissue that are connected to the cervix. As they grow, polyps may be visible from the vulva. 

Where cervical polyps come from is unknown. There are some theories that speculate the growth of cervical polyps may have something to do with increased levels of estrogen or a history of inflammation (or injury). They do seem to be more common in women over 20 who have had at least one child (and more common still in pregnant women who are in their 40s or 50s). 

Everyone wants a normal and healthy pregnancy. So it’s important to point out that cervical polyps are relatively common and can be quickly and effectively treated. 

Checking for Malignancy

While cervical polyps themselves are generally non-cancerous, there are some forms of cancer that can appear similar to cervical polyps. As a result, your OBGYN or Midwife will want to perform a biopsy on your cervical polyps in order to check for malignancy. Your OBGYN or midwife will let you know what you should get checked and when, and the results of your biopsy will determine your course of treatment.

Symptoms of Cervical Polyps

In the vast majority of cases, cervical polyps may be symptomless. Many women don’t even know that they are present.

However, in some cases, cervical polyps during pregnancy can cause some noticeable symptoms:

  • Spotting or bleeding
  • Pain and discomfort 
  • Soreness after intercourse

Less commonly, you may also experience a yellow discharge. You should report these symptoms to your OBGYN or Midwife once they occur. At that point, your OBGYN or Midwife will check for the presence of polyps.

In most cases, cervical polyps are first diagnosed visually. Your OBGYN or Midwife will be able to easily see these growths during a vaginal exam. Once the polyp tissue is detected, your OBGYN or midwife may perform a biopsy to test the composition of the tissue.

Who Gets Cervical Polyps?

While cervical polyps are not incredibly common, they’re the second most common type of polyp seen during exams.. Most estimates suggest that cervical polyps occur in somewhere between 2%-5% of all women. 

How likely you are to develop cervical polyps is strongly tied to age and whether you have had them in the past:

  • In general, cervical polyps are most common in people over 40 who have had multiple children.
  • They tend to be less common the younger you are (and the fewer children you’ve had). Cervical polyps are quite rare in young individuals who have not experienced menstruation. 

How Are Cervical Polyps Treated?

If you have cervical polyps, there are several ways that they may be treated. Which one is best for you will depend on your overall health, the stage of your pregnancy, and what your OBGYN or Midwife considers the best approach. 

Everyone’s body is different, so there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to removal of cervical polyps during pregnancy. You’ll work with your OBGYN or Midwife to develop a treatment plan that works for you and your symptoms.

Physicians tend to take a relatively conservative approach to treating cervical polyps. In cases where they are not causing symptoms or discomfort, your OBGYN or Midwife may recommend leaving your polyps in place, at least for the duration of your pregnancy. 

If symptoms are particularly potent, however, or create an elevated risk of complications during delivery, your OBGYN or Midwife may recommend removal of the polyps.

What Happens When Cervical Polyps Are Removed?

Cervical polyp removal is generally a simple procedure. You might feel some mild discomfort when the polyp is removed, but it’s usually nothing that necessitates heavy pain medication. You may also experience some mild cramping for a few hours after your polyp removal. If you are concerned about pain or discomfort, you can talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about medications to help you manage that.

In general, you should be able to return to almost all normal activities (within the limits of your pregnancy) once your polyp is removed.

Can Cervical Polyps be Prevented?

Because we don’t know much about why cervical polyps form in the first place, there are no clear prevention strategies for cervical polyps. However, there are some strategies that can help you catch cervical polyps early:

  • Ensure your provider knows if you have had cervical polyps in the past. In some cases, those who have had polyps in the past are more likely to develop new polyps in the future. 
  • Let your OBGYN or Midwife know if you are having bleeding after sex or in between menstrual cycles. 
  • Make appointments for regular screenings. The vast majority of polyps are detected during routine examinations with your OBGYN or Midwife. 

If you are diagnosed with cervical polyps or have had them in the past, it’s important to talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about what your regular follow up care should look like. This is especially true if you’re pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant.

Will Cervical Polyps Impact My Pregnancy?

In the vast majority of cases, your cervical polyps will not have an impact on your overall pregnancy. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. There is some evidence, for example, that removing polyps in the first trimester can lead to an increased risk of spontaneous preterm birth or late abortion. 

There is also the possibility that polyps left in place could complicate labor or lead to an increased risk of bleeding during labor. You’ll want to discuss your risk profile with your OBGYN or Midwife to make the best possible decisions.  

What is the Long Term Outlook for Cervical Polyps During Pregnancy?

Once the polyps have been removed, the immediate problem will have been solved. But patients may wonder about the long term implications associated with polyps. And there are some things to keep an eye on.

  • Recurrence: Many patients wonder whether their polyps will be a recurring concern. Usually, once they are removed, cervical polyps will not return. However, this is not a guarantee, and recurrence has been known to happen. It’s just not typical.
  • Fertility: There’s some evidence to suggest that specific types of cervical polyps can impact your overall fertility. Once the polyps are removed, your fertility (if impacted) should return to normal. When you’re pregnant, this might not be your top priority, but it’s something you should talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about!
  • Infection: Once polyps are removed, your OBGYN will want to make sure the site does not become infected. Your physician may provide medications or instructions designed to prevent infection. If an infection does occur, it will be treated immediately.

In most cases, cervical polyps during pregnancy are nothing to worry about. But if you have questions about any possible lingering impacts, talk with your OBGYN or midwife.

Are Polyps Different During Pregnancy?

Whether they are discovered before, during, or after your pregnancy, the physical composition of your cervical polyps will not change. So why does a polyp during pregnancy feel a little bit different? 

There are a few reasons:

  • Treatment may be more limited: There may be some common medications that your OBGYN or Midwife will want to avoid because you are currently pregnant. This could make removing your polyp a little more challenging.
  • Increased risk of pregnancy loss: As noted above, there is some evidence that seems to link polyps to a slightly elevated risk of pregnancy loss. This increase in risk may be small–but the outcome is so important that even a small increase is worth taking seriously.
  • Early detection really helps: In general, smaller polyps are easier to remove than larger polyps. And, when you’re pregnant, larger polyps can cause more problems. That’s one reason why early detection can be especially helpful when you’re pregnant.
  • It’s easier for polyps to hide when you’re pregnant: Asymptomatic polyps are a little more common when you’re pregnant. Which means that screenings are more important than ever.

Polyps are not common and generally not worrisome, but if you have any concerns at all about your cervical polyps, be sure to talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about the best way to proceed.

Get Your Polyps Checked Out

Cervical polyps are relatively uncommon, and they will often present without any noticeable symptoms. So, in most cases, you won’t even know that they’re there. For others, cervical polyps may result in vaginal discharge, spotting, or bleeding and discomfort. 

Whether these polyps are removed or not is decided on a case by case basis. Most OBGYN and Midwife teams will prefer to be as conservative as possible when treating cervical polyps, but it depends on the patient as well!

If you want to discuss cervical polyps or other possible complications during pregnancy, contact our Wilmette or Glenview offices to schedule a consultation with an OBGYN or Midwife!

When Your Newborn Needs to go to the NICU

Most parents hope for a smooth, healthy birth. And that’s usually the way it goes. According to the World Health Organization, somewhere between 90-95% of births are normal and healthy. But when your newborn needs to go to the NICU (or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), it means that the baby requires a higher level of care–and intensive intervention may be required.

There are several reasons why your baby might need to spend some time in the NICU. In all of those cases, the NICU will give your baby the best possible chance for a long, happy, and healthy childhood. But there’s no getting around the fact that this can be a stressful, lonely, and understandably scary time for parents. 

The more you know about what to expect, the better prepared you can be if and when your baby needs to go to the NICU.

Why Might Newborns Need Intensive Care?

There are several reasons why your newborn may need to spend some time in the neonatal intensive care unit. Some of the most common include the following:

  • Preterm birth.
  • A difficult or challenging birth.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Illness or other conditions.
  • Your baby is born with certain birth defects.

We don’t often think about it this way, but even a normal birth is a shock to a baby’s system. Their lungs must suddenly start breathing air. Your newborn’s digestive system must suddenly function independently. And their heart must start pumping blood in a whole new way. While these changes often occur as a matter of routine, some newborns have a harder time with transition outside the womb. In some cases, this is because their bodies simply are not developed enough. 

Neonatal Intensive Care Units are designed to help babies through this transition when problems arise. 

What is the NICU?

The neonatal intensive care unit is a section of a hospital designed to help newborns who are critically ill or have other serious conditions. A NICU will have special nurses, doctors, and technology specifically devoted to helping newborn patients recover. Not all hospitals will have equally capable or equipped NICUs, so it’s possible your newborn will need to be transferred to a better equipped facility. This will depend on the nature of their condition.

NICUs are designed to have a limited number of visitors. To the extent possible, however, parents are invited and encouraged to take part in their newborn’s care during this time.

What Should You Do When Your Newborn Needs to go to the NICU?

For parents, it may be hard to know what’s expected of you when your newborn is in the NICU. When your newborn needs to go to the NICU, your life may feel suddenly turned upside down. After all, this is likely not how you were imagining welcoming your new baby to the world. However, it’s important to remember that time in an NICU is usually temporary.

You will be surrounded by a large array of medical equipment–and you might not necessarily understand what it’s for. Parents are encouraged to ask questions about this equipment and what it does–especially if it makes them feel better!

There are some things that you can do as parents that will help with your newborn’s care:

  • Hold your baby: In some cases, physical contact can be good for you and your baby. Depending on your newborn’s condition, you may be able to hold them even if they’re hooked up to an IV. However, that’s not always true–so be sure to ask your newborn’s doctor. Additionally, for some preterm babies, touch can be stressful. In those cases, your doctor might instruct you to refrain from touching. But generally, skin-to-skin contact with your baby is good–and it helps to start building emotional support bonds as early as possible.
  • Interact with your newborn: Whether you can safely touch your newborn or not, there are other ways you can provide comfort. For example, you could try singing or softly speaking to your baby. 
  • Make sure you follow all NICU rules: Whenever anyone enters the NICU, they must thoroughly wash their hands. That’s because a newborn’s immune system is not nearly as strong as an adult’s, so minimizing the spread of germs is critical to preventing infections. The rules and regulations of neonatal intensive care units may seem strict, but they’re designed to keep all the newborns safe. This is also the reason that you should check with your nurse before bringing toys or other objects for your baby.

Neonatal intensive care units may also require parents to wear certain garments while spending time with their newborn. In some cases, direct contact between newborns and parents will be limited. Much will depend on the condition of your newborn, the nature of their ailment, and their overall health. Parents are encouraged to communicate with their providers to ensure they understand what’s happening and why.

Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself

Having a child in the NICU can be an intense and stressful experience. It can also feel quite isolating. For many, it will feel like your world has suddenly transformed. That’s why it’s important to spare some energy to take care of yourself. It becomes much harder to support your newborn’s recovery if you have no energy left.

As a result, it’s recommended that parents do the following:

  • To the degree possible, try to maintain some sense of normality. It’s okay to develop a new routine. Let this routine become your normal day.
  • Make sure you don’t ignore the needs of your other children (if you have any) or stop spending time with them.
  • Have a regular social gathering. Maybe you get together with your family for dinner once a week. You can use this time to talk about what you’re going through.
  • Make time to relax: This can include simple activities like sitting down with a good book, taking a nice hot bath, or binging your favorite show on Netflix. You will need time to recover and recuperate.

Your NICU may have other support resources available for parents. Be sure to ask your provider about those resources.

Not all parents will spend the same amount of time in the NICU. That’s okay. Every family is different. In general, the baby does not need you there every hour of every day. Some parents spend 12 hours a day in the NICU, while others might spend four. 

How Long Will my Baby Be in the NICU?

For understandable reasons, most parents are eager to take their newborns home. Not just because home is more comfortable–but also because it will signal that their baby is healthy enough to leave the hospital.

How long your newborn spends in the NICU will depend on the main reason they are there. Preterm babies, for example, usually spend the longest time in the NICU. That’s because their continued growth is critical to their wellness. Typically, preterm babies average a stay in the NICU of somewhere around 45 days, but this depends on how early they arrived and their overall progress.

For most other newborns in the NICU, the stay is somewhat shorter. The average for non-preterm newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit is close to two weeks. Again, this will vary depending on your newborn and the reason for their admittance to the NICU.

Get the Care You Need

The vast majority of babies and parents will never set foot in an NICU. But it happens. So, if you have questions about the NICU, it’s worth asking your OBGYN or Midwife about what you can expect. The more you know ahead of time, the better prepared you’ll be.

The NICU is there to give your baby the best possible chance at a healthy and happy childhood. To talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about the NICU, contact our Wilmette or Glenview offices to schedule an appointment today.

 

Tips for Traveling When Pregnant

There are plenty of reasons you may want to travel while you’re pregnant. Maybe you want to visit that tropical resort before your new baby makes travel a little more complicated (and expensive). Or maybe you want to visit out-of-state family and reconnect before you welcome your new bundle of joy. Typically, these trips will be quite safe, especially if you talk to your OBGYN or Midwife and follow these tips for traveling when pregnant.

Tip #1: Check With Your OBGYN or Midwife First

Every pregnancy is unique. And traveling can present equally unique healthcare challenges. It depends on your destination, your mode of travel, and even your overall wellness. So, it’s important to run your plans by your OBGYN or Midwife first. 

During this pre-trip visit, you can also ask your OBGYN or Midwife about disease and vaccination-related concerns, especially when it comes to:

  • Zika Virus: The Zika Virus has been known to cause birth defects when pregnant people become infected. And while there are currently no known outbreaks of Zika in the United States, this may not always be the case. Checking with your provider can help you accurately assess your risks and check the CDC website to evaluate “hot zones” where Zika cases could be on the rise if you are traveling outside of the U.S.
  • Covid-19: There are still certain states and countries where Covid-19 is more prevalent than others. In addition to the health concerns, a positive Covid test can complicate your travel plans. As a result, it’s a good idea to talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about these hot spots (especially since they often change).

Talking with your OBGYN or Midwife about your travel plans helps to keep them in the loop, lets them make specific healthcare recommendations (such as possible vaccines or medications you should take), and can help you stay informed about possible health risks (both in terms of your pregnancy and in terms of your destination).

Tip #2: Travel During Your Second Trimester (if Possible)

The first and third trimesters of pregnancy carry the greatest risk of complications. As a result, traveling during your second trimester (weeks 14-28) is generally considered to be the safest.

Your second trimester also tends to be the most comfortable. Your energy levels will likely be rebounding. And your morning sickness will likely be on the way out. During the third trimester, you’ll likely be working with your OBGYN or Midwife to get ready for the birth of your child!

Tip #3: Check with Your Airline Before You Travel

Airlines and cruises will usually have specific weeks after which they will no longer let you board. For airlines, this is usually 36 weeks. For cruises it may be closer to 28 weeks. 

However, this may vary by airline, cruise, or carrier. So, you should just double check with your cruise company or airline to make sure you’ll still be allowed to travel. 

Tip #4: Pack for your Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, you’ll likely have some very specific needs as you travel. These needs can vary depending on the stage of your pregnancy, your destination, and your mode of travel. However, in general, people who are pregnant should plan on including the following items when you pack for your trip:

  • Prenatal vitamins: You’ll want to make sure you pack enough prenatal vitamins for the duration of your entire trip. You may even want to pack a little extra, just in case a flight gets delayed here or canceled there.
  • Medical records: Even if you’re at a very low risk for complications, the risk still exists—so bringing your medical records with you is a good idea. This can help local providers better treat you if anything should happen. This is especially true if you’re traveling overseas, as communication between providers may be more difficult in these circumstances.
  • Medical provider and Hospital Facility: Before you leave on a trip it is often a good idea to know where you would go for care if you developed any pregnancy concerns during your travels. Doing this research ahead of time can reduce delay in care if an emergency arises. 
  • Provider-approved medications: You don’t want minor discomfort to keep you from enjoying your travels. That’s why most people bring some form of Tylenol with them—along with sleep aids or motion sickness remedies. It’s very important that you talk to your provider about these over-the-counter medications before you pack them (in other words, make sure they’re approved before you take them).
  • Anything that will help you relax: This tip for traveling when pregnant may seem redundant, but it’s important enough to emphasize. Stress is the enemy—and travel can be especially stressful. So be sure to pack anything that will help you stay relaxed. This could be as simple as your favorite pillow, a book you enjoy, or a nice pair of noise-canceling headphones.

Tip #5: Purchase Travel Insurance

Many people (especially young people) have never really thought about travel insurance. And if that’s the case, now’s the time to look into it. Basically, travel insurance can help you recoup costs if something goes wrong, and you have to cancel your trip. From airfare to hotel, making individual cancellations can be stressful—and varying policies mean sometimes you’re out a lot of money.

Traveling while you’re pregnant can be unpredictable; maybe more unpredictable than you’re used to. Travel insurance means you’ll feel more comfortable canceling your trip, and that can enable you to make more informed decisions.

This type of insurance will also help you cover possible medical expenses you encounter while overseas or traveling. So if your water breaks while you’re in Milan, you might be able to avoid a hefty bill when you come home. It may be worth talking to a travel insurance specialist before you plan the entirety of your trip.

Tip #6: Embrace Those Healthy Habits

There are plenty of myths when it comes to pregnant people and healthy habits. When you’re traveling, staying healthy doesn’t mean you have to eat salad for dinner every evening (unless you OBGYN or Midwife have provided specific instructions). Instead, these simple tips are designed to keep you well and help you enjoy your trip:

  • Stay hydrated: This will help with so many health issues—from constipation and UTIs to swelling and jet lag. Drink lots of non-caffeinated beverages (water is the best). If traveling outside the U.S. be sure to know what water sources are safe to drink to avoid exposure of infection.
  • Eat small amounts throughout the day: This will help you stave off nausea if you’re still experiencing any morning sickness. 
  • Eat foods high in fiber and exercise regularly: This will help you avoid constipation.
  • Don’t avoid or put off trips to the bathroom: Over time, this can lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infection (UTI). So, when possible, make sure you’re going when your body tells you it needs to go.

Tip #7: Know When to Seek Emergency Care

Sometimes it’s not always easy to know what’s normal—and what’s not—while you’re traveling. Seek out treatment immediately if any of the following symptoms occur:

  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Membrane rupture (also known as your water breaking).
  • You see spots or have changes in your vision, especially if it is accompanied by headaches. These could be symptoms of preeclampsia.
  • Contractions, pelvic pain, or pain of the abdomen.
  • Any symptoms that might be signs of deep vein thrombosis, such as swelling of the extremities or severe pain in the calf.

If any of these symptoms occur, you should seek medical attention immediately. In general, this means pulling out those references you researched prior to leaving on your trip and visiting a hospital or seeking out other emergency services. Any of these symptoms could quickly become serious, and it’s better to be safe than sorry—even on vacation!

Tips for Traveling When Pregnant Can Help You Enjoy Your Journey!

Whether you’re going by air, sea, or road, traveling can be a joyful and enriching experience—even if it’s also exhausting. If you’re thinking about traveling while you’re pregnant, talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about your plans—so you can make sure that you and your baby stay as safe as possible. These tips for traveling when pregnant will help, but there’s no substitute for information directly from your provider.

To talk to your OBGYN or Midwife, contact us at our Wilmette or Glenview locations.

 

HPV Vaccine: What You Need to Know

The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine is a critical addition to your immunization options. This particular vaccine protects you against certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). But because of the strains it targets, HPV vaccines will also protect you from some cervical cancers (as well as a few other cancers). 

In other words, the HPV vaccine can protect you against specific sexually transmitted infections and against the cancers that those infections sometimes generate. Unfortunately, HPV is exceptionally common, infecting about 13 million per year. According to one CDC survey, 45.2% of adults aged 18-59 had contracted genital HPV–including the high-risk versions of this disease. Not surprisingly, then, most providers recommend that you administer the first of two HPV vaccine doses as soon as possible after the age of 11.

Why Should You Get the HPV Vaccine?

The HPV is quite common in the United States–and it’s likely that just about everyone will end up with some form of this virus throughout their lifetimes. In many cases, those with HPV will not notice or present any symptoms. The virus is generally spread from skin-to-skin contact–and something like 42 million Americans are currently infected.

While many forms of HPV are relatively harmless, there are some specific strains that can go on to cause cancer. For women in particular, HPV has been linked to cervical cancer. In fact, HPV origins account for 91% of all cervical cancers.

HPV vaccines can successfully prevent these cancers, as well as the spread of the HPV strains that cause those cancers in the first place. This can give many individuals a significant amount of peace of mind and protection.

When Should You Get the HPV Vaccine?

In some ways, you’re never too old to get the HPV vaccine. However, there are some caveats to that. The ideal age to get an HPV vaccine is between the ages of 11-12. It’s recommended that anyone age 26 or under also get the vaccine. 

The vaccine is still approved for those between the ages of 26-45. However, it’s not always recommended. That’s because many people over that age have already contracted some strains of HPV, making the vaccine less effective. This can diminish the benefit of the HPV vaccine–but it doesn’t mean that there are no benefits. So, if you’re over the age of 26, you should talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about whether the HPV vaccine is right for you.

Dosing will increase as you get older. Here’s how that breaks down:

  • Ages 9-14: This age group responds well to a two-dose schedule.
  • Ages 15-26: This age group will require a three-dose vaccine schedule. 

Typically, doses are scheduled at least six months apart. While the first dose does provide a significant amount of protection, the full scheduled doses are needed to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Who Should Get the HPV Vaccine?

Many patients have questions about who should get the HPV vaccine and why. Here are some of the most common:

  • Should men and women receive the HPV Vaccine? Yes. The HPV vaccine can prevent some cancers in men, too (i.e. penile, anal and throat). Additionally, the more individuals who are vaccinated, the less these versions of HPV are able to spread.
  • Should I get the vaccine even if I have tested positive for cervical cancer DNA? Yes. Even if you have tested positive for cervical cancer DNA, the HPV vaccine can still prove beneficial and protective against other HPV types. 
  • Do I need to start all over if I miss a dose of HPV vaccine? Nope! You can pick right up where you left off.

Concerns and Questions Regarding HPV Vaccines

There are several concerns patients have regarding HPV vaccines. Some of the most common are the following:

Is HPV the Same Disease as Herpes?

The disease commonly known as herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), and it’s often conflated with HPV. That’s because there are multiple strains of each disease, and many strains cause sores. However, HPV and HSV are two different viruses. The HPV vaccine does not offer any protection against the herpes virus.

Does the HPV Vaccine Lead to an Increase in Sexual Activity?

Some people have expressed a concern that giving a young individual the HPV vaccine might encourage carelessness regarding sexual activity and safe sex. However, study after study has found no evidence to support this claim. Instead, providing kids (and adults) with the HPV vaccine simply leads to a decrease in HPV and types of cancer.

What Are the Side Effects of the HPV Vaccine?

Like any medication, the HPV vaccine may produce some side effects in a small portion of the population. Those side effects may include:

  • Swelling, redness, or pain near the injection site.
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or fainting (though, this is more common in adolescents)

If you have questions or concerns about the possible complications from HPV vaccine, talk to your OBGYN or Midwife to get personalized answers. For the vast majority of people, the HPV vaccine is incredibly safe and effective.

Does the HPV Vaccine Mean I Don’t Have to Get a Pap Smear?

A pap smear is a routine test designed to check for the first signs of cervical cancer (or the cellular changes that lead to cervical cancer). So you might be inclined to think that after an HPV vaccine, you won’t need a pap smear anymore. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true.

While the HPV vaccine will prevent the majority of cervical cancers, it won’t prevent all of them. As a result, your OBGYN or Midwife will still want to catch any possible cervical cancer as early in the process as possible. This means that even after your HPV vaccine, a regular pap smear will still be recommended.

How Successful is the HPV Vaccine?

Among women who have received the HPV vaccine, over 80% have seen a drop in genital warts as well as an 80% drop in cervical cancers. That’s a significant amount of protection–and the rates of protection tend to increase as the vaccination age gets younger.

That’s not because the vaccine loses potency as you age. It’s because as you age, you’re more likely to have already encountered the human papillomavirus. That’s why, for many patients, the earlier you can receive the vaccine the better. 

The HPV Vaccines Offers Significant Protection

Because the human papillomavirus is so common–often transmitted with no symptoms–your best line of defense is to prevent transmission in the first place. While the HPV vaccine will not prevent all strains of HPV, it can prevent those most likely to cause cancer in the future.

In terms of protecting your overall health, the HPV vaccine can produce impressively successful results. To find out more about how the HPV vaccine can impact you and your health, talk to your OBGYN or Midwife.

To schedule an appointment, contact our Wilmette or Glenview locations.

 

Aging and Sexuality

More than 50% of people over the age of 70 are sexually active. While sexual activity will change as you age, the desire for closeness and intimacy will likely remain strong. Talking with your OBGYN or Midwife about aging and sexuality can help you know what to expect as you grow older and how you can maintain your sexual health at any age. 

There’s an especially common misconception that the desire for sex and intimacy in women wanes as they age. But recent studies have found that this isn’t necessarily the case. True, your sex life may not be the same at 50 as it was at 20–but those differences can be enriching and fulfilling.

In those cases where physiological causes diminish your enjoyment of sex, be sure to talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about possible solutions.

What Aging and Sexuality Look Like?

One of the most common misconceptions regarding sexuality and aging is that every change is negative. The reality is that many people discover greater intimacy and satisfaction with age. But it’s also true that many people aren’t necessarily sure what to expect. Just as aging impacts everyone’s general health uniquely, aging and sexuality will look different for everyone.

For most, the primary concerns revolve around physiological changes that may interfere with your ability to become intimate. This could involve hormone changes that diminish your ability to enjoy sex, for example. But most couples can still find ways to be intimate and close to each other; it may simply look a little bit different than it used to. At the same time, your OBGYN or Midwife may be able to offer solutions that help improve your sexual health.

In many ways, the way that “most” women respond to sexuality and aging doesn’t matter. What’s important to you is how you as an individual respond to aging and sex–especially in terms of how you envision expression your sexuality in the future and how important your sexual health is to you.

Normal Changes in Sex for Women as They Age

For most women, there are two primary changes that occur which can make the enjoyment and expression of your sexuality more challenging:

  • Changes in the vagina: It’s not uncommon for the vagina to grow shorter as you age. Additionally, the vaginal walls can become thinner and more rigid. This can lead to some discomfort during sex.
  • Lower estrogen levels: As women become premenopausal, their hormone levels change. In most cases, this leads to a drop in estrogen production. This can impact many aspects of your life. But in terms of sexuality, a drop in estrogen levels may mean it’s more difficult to achieve sexual arousal. Vaginal dryness may also be an issue.

These changes can make sexual intercourse painful for many women. There are several possible solutions, including medications. Some couples may also avoid penetration and find other ways to express their intimacy.

There are other changes you can expect that are related to general aging. Issues such as arthritis or chronic pain can simply make moving around more challenging. Certain aspects of sex may be less fun when your hands or hips are in pain! As a result, it’s important to find sexual expressions that feel good and bring you enjoyment.

Conditions and Medications That Can Impact Your Sexual Health

In general, anything that impacts your overall health will likely influence your sexual health as well. Conditions ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes to simple hormonal changes can all impact your sexual wellbeing. 

You’ll want to talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about ways you can stay healthy enough for sexual activity. For some, that may mean focusing on maintaining a balanced lifestyle, including eating well and exercising regularly. In other cases, your OBGYN or Midwife may suggest medications.

Medications That Can Impact Sexuality as You Age

Of course, there are also medications which can negatively impact your sexual desire. Many anti-depressants, for example, have been known to diminish the desire for sexual activity. 

If you have concerns that your medication is interfering with your sexual desire, you should talk to your OBGYN or Midwife. It’s possible that you may be able to find a solution that treats your condition and does not impede your sexual health.

It’s also important to note that some medications can have the opposite impact–increasing your desire for sex. For example, estrogen prescriptions for perimenopause have been shown to increase sexual desire.

Medical Situations That Impact Sexual Health

There may also be some medical and healthcare-related issues that can impact your sexual wellness. Those could include:

  • Surgery: When you undergo surgery, your body will likely require time to heal. Sexual activity may not be top-of-mind during recovery–and any procedure that impacts the hips or nervous system may amplify that effect. However, with rest and recovery your sexual desire will usually return.
  • Your partner becomes ill: Many sexual activities require a partner. So, when your partner experiences illness or disease, that can put a damper on things. First, you’re worried about your partner. Second, you may find yourself taking on a caregiver role (which can diminish desire). Additionally, your partner may experience pain and discomfort, which can interfere with sexual desire in both parties. The key to rebuilding sexual intimacy is to communicate about what’s needed and perhaps brainstorm other ways to be close.

Communication is Critical

Aging is a series of changes, both for you and for your partner. Maintaining an enriching sex life depends on open and honest communication as you age. This is, of course, true at any age. But it’s especially relevant when it comes to aging and sexuality.

Here are some things you should consider communicating about:

  • Differences in desire: If you and your partner experience differences in desire, it’s important to discuss those. These conversations can feel a little tricky, so don’t hesitate to use plenty of “I feel” statements. 
  • New ways to be intimate: There are many ways to experience intimacy. Talk to your partner about what works best for you now–kissing, touching, and hugging can all be very effective ways to express love and affection. Talk about what you need from your partner (and what your partner needs from you). 
  • Safety: Ensure that you and your partner are talking about safe sex. If you’ve already experienced menopause, it’s true that you can no longer become pregnant–but you can catch sexually transmitted infections. Safe sex practices can help keep you healthy and active.
  • Communicate with your doctor: It’s not just your partner you need to communicate with. It’s also your doctor. In part, that’s because your doctor can help you with medical issues that impact your sexual health–getting your desire back on track.

An Enriching Part of Life

There are plenty of misconceptions about what sexuality later in life may look like. What’s important, however, is to determine what you want your sex life to look like. Your OBGYN or Midwife can help you maintain and improve your sexual health–so you can enjoy your sex life as you age.

To talk to an OBGYN or Midwife, contact our Wilmette or Glenview offices today.

 

close