When it comes to women’s health, there’s a lot of noise out there. From Instagram experts to unsolicited advice, it can be hard to keep up with what’s right — and what’s not. To set the record straight, we sat down with a women’s health expert from Centennial Women’s Group to get answers to some of the most important questions a woman may have.
Dr. Lisa Morgan is an OB/GYN here in Nashville. She has been in practice since 1997, and now she sees women who she once delivered! While she loves delivering babies, she puts much of her emphasis on the relationships she maintains with her patients. Today, she answers 10 SB staff and crowd-sourced questions about women’s health.
Welcome, Dr. Morgan!
1) October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s start there. What can women do to prevent or catch breast cancer early?
Patients should get mammograms every year after the age of 40 and do self-exams on a monthly basis. Moderate exercise, as well as drinking alcohol in moderation, are also recommended.
2) If someone has a family history of breast cancer, does this differ?
If a patient has a mother or a sister who has been diagnosed with breast cancer — especially if the family member is pre-menopausal when diagnosed — the patient should start receiving mammograms 10 years prior to the age of diagnosis of that family member. For example, if the mother received a diagnosis at age 42, then the patient should start screening by
mammogram at 32.
3) What causes dense breast tissue, and is there anything that can be done to repair the tissue or prevent it?
Dense breasts are breasts that have higher amounts of glandular connective tissue as well as amounts of fatty tissue. Increased breast density can be affected by age, genetics and having been pregnant. Dense breasts can be more difficult to interpret by mammogram. Therefore, 3-D mammography, MRI and/or ultrasounds may be of use.
4) How often should a healthy female see a gynecologist, and what age should she start?
Women do not need a pap smear until the age of 21, regardless of sexual activity. A woman should come in annually to see her GYN, mainly to touch base about issues such as contraception or fertility. One does not necessarily need a pap smear every year, though.
5) Should patients shave/wax down there before coming in for an appointment?
GYN physicians do not care if a patient waxes or shaves prior to the exam; however, some patients feel more comfortable if they are groomed.
6) Do you recommend any supplements or specific dietary choices for women?
Vitamin D is an important supplement that contributes to energy and reproductive health. Most women are deficient in vitamin D and should consider supplementing. Additionally, a high-quality probiotic with at least 10 billion organisms can be protective for gastrointestinal health, vaginal health and possible immune strength.
7) Are there other advantages or reasons for taking a birth control pill besides contraception?
Yes! Oral contraceptives can decrease ovarian and uterine cancer risk. They can help reduce ovarian cysts and symptoms of endometriosis. Oral contraceptives can also help tremendously helpful with heavy periods and cramping.
8) If you’re trying to get pregnant but aren’t conceiving, how many months should you try before consulting your OB/GYN?
Infertility is defined as actively trying to conceive for one year for women under the age of 35 and 6 months for women over the age of 35. I usually recommend that a woman come and see me after six months of trying if she is younger than 35, and even sooner if she is over 35 years of age.
9) Are there any diet and exercise tips that might help with fertility?
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for fertility. Extremes in weight on either side of the scale can prevent ovulation. Training for a triathlon is probably not recommended. No real diet tips other than eating a colorful diet and less processed foods.
10) If you could recommend that a woman do just three things for her health each year, what would they be?
Get enough sleep, drink enough water, and take a daily probiotic.
As always, consult with your physician on your personal health situation. If you’re looking for an OB/GYN, you can meet the Centennial Women’s Group team here.
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