Your PAP Came Back Abnormal. Here’s What You Need to Know!

As a general rule, not hearing from your doctor after a medical test is usually a good sign. No news is good news, right? So, it’s definitely nerve wracking when your OB-GYN’s office calls to tell you that your PAP smear was abnormal.

Now, there’s no need to start writing a will and preparing for the worst just yet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 3 million women will receive unclear or abnormal PAP results this year, but only 10,000 of those cases will actually indicate cervical cancer. So before panic sets in, here are some things you should know about abnormal PAP smears and what you need to do next.

“Abnormal” simply means change

When a PAP smear comes back abnormal, it simply means that cell changes were found on your cervix. However, those changes do not necessarily point to cancer. The cells are “abnormal” because they are not dying at the end of their usual life span or are dividing unusually.

Potential causes of abnormal cervical cells

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Most abnormal PAP results are caused by the sexually transmitted infection (STI) known as HPV. This infection is so common that almost every sexually active human will get at least one strain of it. In most cases, your body will clear an HPV infection on its own within 2 years. The strains to watch out for are 16 and 18. It generally takes 10-15 years for your cells to go from abnormal to cancerous because of HPV.

Other sexually transmitted infections

Some STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause inflammation in your cervical cells, which makes them look abnormal. Fortunately, these STIs are treatable with antibiotics, and you can protect yourself from contracting them in the first place by wearing condoms during sex.

Vaginal inflammation

When the delicate pH balance of the vagina is out of whack, you can develop yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. These vaginal inflammations weaken your natural defenses and allow bacteria to grow in much higher amounts. Over-the-counter creams, home remedies, or anti-biotics will get you back on track.

Pregnancy, menopause, or smoking can also have an effect on cervical cells.

What now?

Your doctor will most likely recommend that you come back for a follow-up appointment to determine the cause of the cell changes. During your appointment, the gynecologist will perform a colposcopy by taking a closer look at your vagina through a specialized magnifying glass. They may also take a biopsy and send the sample off to a lab.

How to get rid of precancerous cells

If your abnormal cells turn out to be precancerous, there are several things your doctor can do to get rid of them once and for all.

  • Laser ablation – burn the cells with a laser

  • Cryotherapy – freeze the cells with a cold probe

  • Diathermy – uses electric current to snip away abnormal cervical tissue

  • Large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) – similar to diathermy

  • Cone biopsy – surgically remove a cone-shaped area of your cervix

  • Hysterectomy – remove your uterus entirely

Whether you are due for a PAP smear or you want to find out more information about what your abnormal Pap smear results mean for our future, contact the caring and compassionate doctors at Women’s Healthcare Associates today!

If You Struggle with Fertility, Here are Your Options

You have dreamed about becoming a mom for as long as you can remember, and now that you are all ready to go, things are just not happening the way you expected. Why is it so easy for everyone else around you? All you want to do is start a family naturally, and yet the long months have passed without success.

If you are struggling with fertility, you are definitely not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 12% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. Fortunately, more than half of couples experiencing fertility issues will conceive after treatment, so do not give up hope! Here are some of the most common things you can do or options you can try to help increase your chances of conception.

Give your fertility a boost

Optimizing your health and trying a few low-tech methods for boosting your fertility is a great place to start. Here are some ideas:

  • Eat healthy

  • Stop smoking

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Limit alcohol use

  • Reduce stress levels

  • Get acupuncture

  • Be intimate with your partner 3 to 4 days prior to ovulation and up to 24 hours after ovulation

  • Use an ovulation predictor kit

Fertility drugs

Whether injected or taken in pill form, fertility drugs release hormones that induce ovulation to boost egg production and make the uterus more receptive to embryo implantation. This is a convenient, low-cost option for women who don’t ovulate regularly or whose partners have low sperm quality. Fertility drugs have a success rate of 40%-45% of women who ovulate as a result of taking pills and as much as 50% of women who ovulate as a result of injections.

Surgery

If you have a genetic defect, blocked fallopian tubes, fibroids, endometriosis, or PCOS, surgery may be a great option. Success rates vary. For example, women with endometriosis have a 40% chance of conceiving after laparoscopic surgery while 21%-59% of women conceive after their fallopian tubes are opened. Costs also vary depending on the procedure and your insurance coverage.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

Using a thin, flexible catheter, the doctor directly inserts specially prepared sperm into the uterus. Fertility drugs may be used prior to insemination to help increase the chances of fertilization. The chances of conception occurring on the first cycle are 15%-20%, but there is a 60%-70% chance of conception after 6 cycles.

In vitro fertilization

After removing eggs from your ovaries, a doctor will combine them with sperm from your partner in a laboratory. If fertilization is successful, the resulting embryos will then be implanted in your uterus. Fertility drugs are usually taken ahead of time to increase the chances of implantation. IVF can be expensive, but the success rate for women 34 and under is 40%.

If you are interested in finding out more information about your fertility options, please contact the excellent team at Women’s Healthcare Associates . We have been helping couples conceive for over 25 years, and we are excited to help you on your journey towards parenthood.

How to Indicate Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

For many women, their monthly cycles come at regular intervals and remain relatively predictable. Fluctuations sometimes happen, but overall, these women only have to deal with vaginal bleeding during their time of the month.

Unfortunately, there are many other ladies out there who cannot say the same thing. Some chalk up monthly spotting or overly light/heavy periods to simple deviations in their menstrual cycle, but they may actually be experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding. This type of bleeding is unrelated to normal menstruation and can range from noticing small amounts of blood between periods to having extremely heavy periods that soak a pad or tampon every one to two hours for two or more hours.

How to tell if you are simply experiencing a heavy cycle or suffering from abnormal vaginal bleeding is not always easy. That’s why the compassionate team at Women’s Healthcare Associates has compiled this simple guide that covers the most common reasons behind abnormal vaginal bleeding.

Pregnancy

Spotting to minimal bleeding during pregnancy is normal, but you should definitely consult with your doctor. Heavy vaginal bleeding that occurs before 12 weeks could indicate an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. Heavy bleeding after 12 weeks could be a sign of placenta previa or another serious problem.

Mid-cycle spotting

Spotting a week before or after your period may or may not be a cause for concern. On rare occasions, it may indicate a cervix abnormality like fibroids, HPV, or even cancer. However, there are several other potential causes that are less serious.

  • About 33% of women experience light, spotty bleeding when an egg fertilizes in the uterine lining.

  • Hormone imbalances caused by thyroid disorders, cysts, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and endometriosis can also lead to mid-cycle bleeding.

  • Other causes may include stress, rough sex, or lack of lubrication during sex.

Birth control pills

If you have just recently started using birth control pills, you may experience minor bleeding between periods for the first few months. You may also have minor bleeding if you do not take your pills at a regular time each day.

Pelvic infection

Vaginal bleeding after intercourse or douching may be the result of a pelvic infection. These infections are often caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so talk to your doctor about getting tested if there is a chance you may have been exposed.

Other causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding

  • Sexual abuse

  • An object in the vagina

  • Structural problems (polyps or urethral prolapse)

  • Uterine fibroids

  • Cancer, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes

  • Extreme emotional stress

  • Excessive exercise

When to call the doctor:

  • Sudden, severe pain in your belly or pelvis

  • Severe vaginal bleeding (soaking through your normal pads or tampons every hour for 2 or more hours)

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Fever

  • Bleeding gets worse or lasts longer than 1 week

If you are at all concerned about abnormal vaginal bleeding, then please set up an appointment with Women’s Healthcare Associates at your earliest convenience.

Why Your Pap Smear Is Abnormal [INFOGRAPHIC]

Women should get yearly Pap smears starting at 21 years old or within three years of becoming sexually active. A Pap smear is a screening that can find abnormal cells or dysplasia in the cervix. Having regular Pap smears can increase the chances of early detection. If your Pap smear comes back abnormal, it’s natural to worry, but educating yourself with this #Infographic can help give you peace of mind.

Our Commitment to Healthcare Excellence for Women in Houston

Women’s Healthcare Associates has been committed to providing healthcare excellence for more than 25 years. We are an Ob/Gyn clinic with a longstanding policy of hiring only exceptional doctors and nurses in their field. Our highly trained Ob/Gyn providers genuinely care about the well-being of the women we serve, and their dedication is reflected in our personalized, compassionate approach.

When you visit one of our two locations in Houston, you’ll be greeted by warm, courteous staff. Our bilingual staff members make our clinics welcoming and inclusive places to receive care. Here, you can receive a full continuum of Ob/Gyn services, including preventive care, contraceptive counseling, and menopause care. We routinely work with women with high-risk pregnancies, adolescents arriving for their first gynecology exam, and women who need to undergo minimally invasive surgeries. We also perform in-office procedures like Essure and IUD placements.

It’s our mission to help you optimize your health with compassionate medical interventions and preventive, well-woman exams in Houston. Call Women’s Healthcare Associates at (713) 654-8128, and let us help you work toward your health goals.

VBAC and TOLAC: Making Sense of Obstetric Choices

Creating a birth plan can be a nerve-wracking process, especially if you’ve already had a cesarean section. You can rely on your Ob/Gyn to offer reliable guidance and answer your questions. You might be surprised to hear that most moms can indeed have a safe vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC). However, since every woman’s health situation is a little different, it’s best to consult an obstetric specialist about this possibility.

Understanding VBAC and TOLAC

When a woman chooses to try for a VBAC, it simply means that she’s previously had a cesarean, but would like to give birth vaginally this time. It’s recommended that a woman with a high-risk pregnancy plan a hospital birth, rather than a home birth. Know that, while most women can successfully give birth vaginally, there is always the possibility that a C-section will be needed. This is why some doctors use the acronym, “TOLAC.” It refers to a trial of labor after cesarean. In other words, TOLAC means that you’re planning a VBAC, but acknowledge that you might still have to have a C-section if complications arise during labor.

Assessing the Likelihood of Success

It isn’t possible to definitively say whether any given woman can have a successful VBAC or not, but your obstetrician can give you a general idea. According to the American Pregnancy Association , 90% of women who have had a C-section are candidates for a VBAC. An assessment of compiled studies suggests that between 60% and 80% of women do have a successful VBAC. It’s thought that women who have previously given birth vaginally, as well as via C-section, have the highest statistical likelihood of success.

Understanding the Potential Risks

Before you make a decision to plan a TOLAC or not, talk to your obstetrician about the potential risks involved. The most significant risk associated with VBAC is uterine rupture, especially among women whose C-section involved a low transverse incision (the most common incision for C-sections). It’s thought that avoiding labor induction and augmentation may help manage this risk.

At Women’s Healthcare Associates, we pride ourselves on delivering the exceptional medical services women need, and the compassionate, supportive care they deserve. Our obstetric specialists in Houston often work with women who are considering a VBAC. We welcome inquiries from new and current patients at (713) 654-8128.

Why Women Get Bladder Leakage

A little leakage is common in women, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s called stress urinary incontinence. You can learn more about it by consulting a gynecologist and watching this featured video. You’ll hear from an editor at WebMD, who explains that stress incontinence is caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles.

These are the muscles that hold your bladder up. They can get stretched out because of childbirth, which is why women are more commonly affected by bladder leakage. There are effective treatment options available, including Kegel exercises and simple lifestyle changes. If you need medical intervention, your gynecologist may recommend getting fitted for a pessary.

Urinary incontinence is one of the many conditions we treat here at Women’s Healthcare Associates . Call (713) 654-8128 to request an appointment with a gynecologist in Houston.

3 Questions You Should Ask Your Gynecologist Every Year During Your Annual

Your annual trip to the gynecologist is just around the corner, and you are already cringing at the thought of the pending awkwardness and embarrassment. But annual exams are about more than just answering routine questions while attempting to avoid eye contact. These crucial check-ups can detect potential problems early and help you develop habits that will benefit your reproductive health, sexual health, and overall wellness. Your gynecologist is the best resource you have when it comes to female health, so make the most out of your annual exam by asking these important questions!

What tests or screenings should I have this year?

Tests and screenings are excellent early diagnostic tools, but they are not performed at every visit. Some tests have certain age recommendations and timing requirements while others are only used if certain risk factors are present. For example, mammograms that check for breast cancer are not recommended before age 40 and Pap smears that check for cervical cancer should only be done every 3 years. Ask your doctor if you are due for any tests this year, and if so, find out the specifics.

Is this normal?

Unless you are an expert on women’s health, you have probably had a situation over the past year that made you stop and wonder, “Hmmm, is that normal?”. Don’t worry, you are definitely not alone! You know your body best, so if you have noticed any recent changes or feel that something just isn’t right, you should bring it up to your doctor. Some common topics may include:

  • Vaginal itch

  • Pain during sex

  • Urinary incontinence

  • Vaginal odor

  • Hot flashes

  • Painful periods

  • Irregular menstrual cycles

  • PMS

If you are worrying about itching down there or why sex hurts sometimes, your gynecologist can help set your fears at ease.

What else can I do to improve my female health?

Even if you are in good shape, there may be ways to further optimize your intimate health. Just doing a quick internet search will bring up lots of recommendations for supplements and intimate exercise equipment (yes, it’s a thing!), but that does not necessarily make them safe to use. Some supplements can affect birth control efficacy or cause issues like bleeding or infection if you forget to list them under ‘medications’ on pre-op surgery forms. Remember to check with your gynecologist before trying anything new. Other things to discuss with your gynecologist:

  • Self-breast exams

  • Genetic testing

  • Birth control options

  • Fertility issues

  • Family planning

  • Menopause

  • Kegels

With more than 25 years of experience in women’s health services, you can trust the excellent doctors at Women’s Healthcare Associates for sound advice, accurate assessments, and high-quality services. Our courteous staff is happy to answer your questions and address your concerns, and we always make your comfort our top priority. If you would like to schedule your next annual exam, contact our caring and compassionate doctors today!

How Long Does the Birth Control Implant Last? (And Other FAQs)

The implant is one of the many options women have for birth control. And just like other birth control options, the implant can be a great choice for some women, and not for others. Every woman’s wellness needs are unique. Your gynecologist can determine if you’re a good candidate for the implant. If so, you’ll be encouraged to discuss any concerns or questions you might have before you make a healthcare decision.

What is the birth control implant?

The implant is a very small, thin rod that your gynecologist can insert just underneath the skin of your arm. This implant releases hormones gradually over time . This protects you from unintentional pregnancy. It works by thickening the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from traveling to an egg. It also stops the ovaries from releasing a mature egg. Even if the sperm were able to travel, there would be no egg available for fertilization.

How long does the implant last?

One of the reasons why women choose the implant is because it’s effective for up to four years. This means that, as long as you don’t experience bothersome side effects, you won’t have to think about your birth control for quite some time. If you decide you want to get pregnant, or you’d rather switch to a different option, your doctor can easily remove it.

Why should couples still use condoms?

Just like the pill, patch, and IUDs, the birth control implant doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The most effective way to protect you and your partner during sex is to use condoms.

Is it painful to get the implant?

No. Your gynecologist will numb the skin so that you won’t feel any pain. The implant is quite small, and it takes just a couple of minutes to insert it underneath the skin. The only thing you’ll feel is a slight pinch from the injection of the local anesthetic. After the anesthetic wears off, your arm might feel a little sore for a few days.

Personalized contraceptive counseling in Houston is available from the compassionate gynecologists at Women’s Healthcare Associates. We take the time to get to know our patients, and to help them find the right healthcare solutions for their lifestyles. New and current patients can get in touch at (713) 654-8128.

Our Patients Love Hormone Replacement Therapy, But Is It the Right Fit for You?

Menopause is a natural biological process that all women go through, but dealing with the symptoms that accompany the decreasing hormone levels can sometimes be difficult to bear. From hot flashes and mood swings to decreased libido and depression, many women desperately start to wonder if there is anything they can do to find relief! Fortunately, Women’s Healthcare Associates may have just the treatment to bring those irritating side effects under control: hormone replacement therapy.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can make a big difference in your life because it counteracts menopause (or the male equivalent, andropause) symptoms by replacing the diminishing hormones in a natural way. Both synthetic and bio-identical hormones can be used in HRT, and common treatment methods include oral medications, patches or gels that go on your skin, and pellets implanted underneath your skin. At Women’s Healthcare Associates, many of our patients are delighted by how HRT has helped them balance their hormones, but HRT is not without risks. Here are some things you should consider before deciding if HRT is right for you.

Your age

Hormone replacement therapy is the most effective and least risky if you are under 60 years of age and start it just before or soon after you begin menopause. Starting hormone therapy at this time can lower your chances of heart and brain issues and prevent bone loss. However, women over 60 are at an increased risk of heart disease, blood clots, dementia, and stroke.

Your history

Hormone replacement therapy is not for everyone, so if you a history of any of the following conditions, you should not use HRT:

  • Heart problems
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer

If you are a smoker, you cannot use HRT because of the substantially higher risk of blood clots and other health issues.

Your symptoms

If your menopause symptoms are light or nonexistent, then there is no need for HRT. However, if you are experiencing uncomfortable hot flashes, restless nights, depression, or decreased libido, then HRT can provide you with some much-needed relief!

Your options

Have you already tried other options to help relieve your symptoms? If a simple lubricant will cure your vaginal dryness or an antidepressant can lighten your mood, then HRT may not be necessary. Cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis can also help relieve symptoms. Whatever treatment you decide to use for your hormone deficiency, please make sure it is FDA-approved like traditional HRT.

Your risks

Just like all medications, HRT does come with certain risk factors. HRT containing estrogen and progestin can slightly increase your risk for breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and deep vein thrombosis, especially in women over 60. However, these risks are lower for women under 60, who go through menopause early, or who use bio-identical, rather than synthetic, HRT.

Decisions, decisions

Though there are risks involved with HRT, it is still the best way to find relief from severe menopause symptoms, which is why our patients love it so much! You should discuss the risks and benefits that would affect you specifically with one of the amazing doctors at Women’s Healthcare Associates . We will help you determine which path is best for you, so you can get back to enjoying life!