Pregnancy App is a Hit with Moms-To-Be and Their Midwives

Babyscripts Remotely Monitors Pregnant Patients and Provides Real-time Feedback and Intervention

 

Washington, D.C., January 11, 2018 – A new mobile app is changing how expectant mothers are receiving prenatal care at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Midwives at the Hospital Center can now remotely monitor their pregnant patients’ progress and health using the Babyscripts™ app. It’s the first mobile clinical tool that allows the midwives to elevate the prenatal care experience for their maternity patients.

Mothers enrolled in the program receive weekly educational updates tailored to their gestational period through the mobile app. The moms also track their weight and blood pressure through a Bluetooth®-enabled blood pressure cuff and weight scale, and the information is sent to their midwife. If the blood pressure or weight gain is too high or considered abnormal, the data is flagged, and the midwife can call for the mother to come in. These two metrics are important because they could indicate potential complications, such as preeclampsia, a serious condition that causes high blood pressure, kidney damage and other problems.

The combination of home monitoring plus notification of ‘abnormal triggers’ has reduced the number of face-to-face visits, some from 14 to nine prenatal visits, but that can vary depending on the individual. The program is offered to women whose pregnancy is considered low-risk.

“We piloted the app with our patients about a year ago and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. They loved it,” said Loral Patchen, PhD, CNM, director of Midwifery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “Babyscripts creates additional flexibility within our practice and provides a common bank of knowledge that allows us to personalize care to a greater degree during office visits. And both midwives and mothers appreciate that opportunity.”

Additionally, Babyscripts will be working with the Hospital Center’s Teen Alliance for Prepared Parenting (TAPP) program to provide a technology to promote healthier living and improve the overall well-being of pregnant and parenting youth. The Babyscripts Care Navigator module is the first-of-its-kind initiative for pregnant teen moms, providing automated patient education in the form of daily tips, along with the ability to interact with the moms through a HIPAA-compliant secure text messaging platform.

Currently, the Babyscripts features are only available to patients of MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Midwifery Practice and the TAPP program.

 


About MedStar Washington Hospital Center:
MedStar Washington Hospital Center is a 912-bed, major teaching and research hospital. It is the largest private, not-for-profit hospital in the nation’s capital, among the 100 largest hospitals in the nation and a major referral center for treating the most complex cases. Its cardiology program is highly acclaimed and its cardiac surgery program has consistently earned the highest national rating–three stars–from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. It also is a respected top facility in the areas of cancer, diabetes & endocrinology, Ear, Nose & Throat, gastroenterology & GI surgery, geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, pulmonology and urology. It operates MedSTAR, a nationally-verified level I trauma center with a state-of-the-art fleet of helicopters and ambulances, and also operates the region’s only adult Burn Center.

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How many people should be in the delivery room?

Most of the time, welcoming a life is a beautiful, amazing moment. I understand the urge to want to share that with family and friends, and we’re good about accommodating delivery room guests. But I’ve had expecting moms ask if they can have upwards of 10 people in the delivery room with them.  

I’ve seen women invite parents, in-laws, siblings, aunts, cousins and best friends. I guess their thought is the more the merrier.  

Before you gather a support squad to witness your baby’s debut, consider these tips and safety guidelines for the delivery room.  

Check your hospital’s delivery room policy  

Every hospital has its own rules about how many people are allowed in the delivery room. Many only allow two or three people to be with mom. You may want to double check if your partner and doula count in that number. Some hospitals allow a certain number of people to be in the room during labor, but fewer during the actual delivery.  

We allow up to seven people to be on the guest list, but only five people to be in the room at any time during labor and delivery. Our rooms are pretty large, so while five people can be a tight fit, it’s doable. Hopefully everyone likes each other! We do ask everyone to step out of the room during exams and the epidural.  

If you want your older child to see the birth of their new baby brother or sister, ask for your hospital’s policy about allowing children in the room. We allow children in the room as long as there is an adult other than the expecting mother present to take care of them.  

Talk to your doctor, midwife and nurses about what they expect from your visitors, and listen to what they say. They’re thinking of your comfort and safety. We want to be able to deliver the safest care possible while you are able to have your loved ones close.  

Cesarean sections, however, are a whole other story. Most hospitals, including ours, allow only one person in the operating room with you. The rest of your family can stay in your room or the waiting room. We’ll keep them updated on what’s happening. 

"We allow up to 5 guests in the delivery room for most births." via @MedStarWHC

Prepare your loved ones for labor and delivery

The day you give birth is one of the most important days of your life. Think carefully about who you want to share it with. If you’re concerned that your mother-in-law or another family member will add tension, don’t invite them. Feel free to blame it on the doctor’s policy!  

Once you’ve decided who you want in the room, lay down the ground rules. Don’t be shy about expressing what you’re comfortable with. Do you want everyone near the head of the bed, or are you fine with some people getting an up-close look at the “miracle of life”? Do you want everyone there during labor, but only your partner present during and immediately after the birth?  

It’s also a good idea to give everyone a rundown of your birth plan. This way, they’re not questioning your decisions on the big day.  

Ask your doctor or midwife about any rules your loved ones need to know about. For example, when we roll in the delivery cart, it will be covered with a blue sterile sheet. We’ll ask everyone in the room to stay back and not touch anything blue. We find most people intuitively know when to get out of the way, but it never hurts to give a warning.  

If at any point during labor and delivery you change your mind and want everyone to leave, just tell us. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings; we’re happy to take the blame and do it for you.    

Keep your loved ones safe in the delivery room

I’ve had the biggest of the biggest men pass out and hit the floor during delivery. It may sound funny, but it can be serious. I’ve seen one dad pass out during delivery and need to go to the emergency room. Another family member had a cardiac event.  

I’ve gotten into the habit of quickly scanning the delivery room to make sure everyone looks OK. I usually can tell if they’re feeling hesitant or beginning to sweat. I’ll prop a chair next to them and tell them to sit down if they need to.  

I tell delivery room guests there’s no shame in the game; I’ve had pro football players hit the ground! Hearing this usually makes people chuckle and feel more at ease about needing to sit down.  

Set rules for after birth

Think about who you want in the room after you give birth. Those first few hours of bonding are precious, and you’ll likely be exhausted. Are you going to feel up to entertaining?

I know everyone is excited to meet the new baby, but they can wait. Tell your partner and healthcare team if you don’t want visitors, or if you only want specific people to visit. Let them be the enforcers!

Childbirth is one of the most important stops along the journey of motherhood. It’s up to you whether you want it to be a private experience between you and your partner or a more public event surrounded by family and friends. Neither choice is wrong. But a little planning will allow you to focus on what matters most: welcoming your new family member. 

Are D.C. residents at risk for Zika virus?

An April 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 10 pregnant women in the U.S. who contracted Zika virus in 2016 had a fetus or baby with Zika-related birth defects. News about this primarily mosquito-borne infection had died down some over the winter, but this report reminds us that the threat is not over.

Of the 5,238 Zika cases reported in the U.S. between Jan. 1, 2015, and April 19, 2017, 40 were in the District of Columbia. The vast majority of people picked up the infection during travel to an area with Zika, although a few cases were acquired through sexual transmission in the States. The virus made its way to the U.S. mainland in summer 2016, with infected mosquitoes found in Miami and Brownsville, Texas.

As the days get warmer and we once again begin shooing away mosquitoes, how concerned should D.C. residents be about Zika? While a local outbreak is not likely anytime soon, that doesn’t mean our community should ignore this serious infection. Let’s look at what we know, what we don’t, and how you can protect yourself, your partner and, potentially, your unborn child.

Zika-infected mosquitoes may not live in D.C., but we shouldn’t ignore the threat of #Zika virus. -Dr. Glenn Wortmann via @MedStarWHC

What we know about Zika

The Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito. It can’t be spread through skin-to-skin or respiratory contact, such as a handshake or droplets from a sneeze, but it can be passed through unprotected sex.

The virus is not dangerous for most people. In fact, only one in five people infected will have symptoms, which can include:

  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Rash

Only 1 in 5 people with #Zika virus will have symptoms, but it can harm unborn babies. via @MedStarWHC

Zika poses the greatest danger to unborn children. When a pregnant woman is infected, Zika can cause birth defects such as microcephaly, in which a baby’s head and brain are unusually small. Microcephaly has been linked to problems such as seizures, developmental delays, hearing loss and vision problems. Zika also has been associated with miscarriage and stillbirth.

What we don’t know about Zika

While we’re learning more about Zika every day, we still don’t have firm answers to many questions.

So far, infected mosquitoes have been found only in small geographic areas of the U.S. While the potential range of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes includes the D.C. area, it doesn’t mean that infected mosquitoes are guaranteed to come.

We know Zika can be spread through sex, but we aren’t exactly sure how long someone may be contagious. It appears that the virus can stay in semen longer than in other bodily fluids. Current guidance from the CDC for couples attempting to conceive is that women should wait at least eight weeks after the last possible exposure to Zika before trying to conceive, and that men should wait at least six months after the last possible exposure before trying to conceive. During this waiting period, couples should use condoms or not have sex.

It appears that Zika does the most harm to an unborn baby when contracted during the first trimester. But while it’s been shown that Zika can cause birth defects, we’re still learning about the range of birth defects it can cause. The effects of the virus may not be obvious at birth, or they may develop later. We’ll have to track these children over the years to learn exactly what damage this virus can cause.

There is no current treatment for Zika, but the good news is that researchers are working on a vaccine. Vaccine trials are underway, and I’m optimistic one will be approved in the next several years.

How to prevent Zika and other mosquito-borne infections

Right now, the best way D.C.-area residents can prevent contracting Zika is to avoid traveling to Zika-infected areas, especially if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. The CDC has a searchable map to check travel recommendations for Zika in a particular country. Find the map here.

Avoid travel to Zika-infected areas if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. via @MedStarWHC

If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your healthcare provider. If you’re pregnant, the CDC recommends you be tested for Zika when you return, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Request an appointment to talk to a doctor about future travel or if you have returned from a trip to an area affected by Zika.

Because Zika can be passed through sex, if your partner has been to a Zika-infected area, protect yourself by using condoms or dental dams and not sharing sex toys. Again, the CDC recommends women wait at least eight weeks and men wait at least six months before trying to conceive after possible Zika exposure or after symptoms start.

Zika isn’t the only disease spread by mosquitoes – West Nile virus is one of the most common mosquito-borne infections. No matter whether you travel to a Zika-infected area or relax in your backyard, take precautions to avoid mosquito bites:

  •  Use insect repellents that contain DEET. Follow the instructions when applying it to children.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in the evening.
  • Dispose of standing water around your house where mosquitoes can breed.
  • Use screens on windows and doors, or sleep under a mosquito bed net if screens are not available.

Fortunately, Zika-infected mosquitoes have not been found in our community, nor are they expected to be soon. But that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. By avoiding travel to affected areas and taking preventive measures if you or your partner must travel, we can keep our babies healthy and help slow the spread of this disease.

3 questions to ask before downloading a pregnancy app

If you Google “pregnancy apps,” there’s no shortage of articles with titles such as “10 best pregnancy apps” or “Must-have apps during pregnancy.” According to a 2015 study, 7 percent of the 165,000 available health-related apps were related to women’s health and pregnancy. That’s more than 11,000 apps!

And we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg in healthcare apps’ potential. As more healthcare providers begin to use apps in their practices, as we do in ours, women will begin to expect and demand them. As that happens, we’ll begin to see more high-quality apps that provide better, more accurate information.

"We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg in healthcare apps’ potential." #digitalhealth via @MedStarWHC

There’s no doubt about it: Pregnancy apps are here to stay. This means healthcare providers need to stay up-to-date on quality apps, and women need to talk with their doctors and be savvy about which apps provide accurate information and which are just for fun.

Tips to choose pregnancy and fertility apps

Simple pregnancy apps send you notifications about your baby’s growth week by week or help you choose a baby name. More complex apps offer help with listening to your baby’s heartbeat or timing your contractions. Before you download an app, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Who developed the app?

There are apps that let you listen to your baby’s heartbeat – if they’re used in conjunction with a home Doppler. But if the app claims that all you need to do is put your phone against your belly and listen, don’t believe it. If you put the phone on your desk, you’ll likely hear the same sound!

This is why it’s important to look at who developed the app. Was a reputable healthcare source involved? For example, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) launched an estimated due date calculator in January 2016. Unlike due date calculators from non-healthcare organizations, this one takes more into account than the first day of your last period.

You wouldn’t go to someone other than your doctor or midwife for pregnancy treatment, so don’t rely on health advice from a non-medical group’s app. And if an app promises to do something that seems impossible, like letting you listen to your baby’s heartbeat, ask your doctor first!

2. How accurate is the app?

A study published in the July 2016 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology looked at 33 fertility calculator apps and found that only three accurately predicted a woman’s “fertile window.”

If you’re using one of these apps to help you conceive – or avoid getting pregnant – that’s a problem. Fertility is not as simple as these apps would lead you to believe. For one thing, not everyone’s menstrual cycle is the same, so you may not ovulate as consistently as the app’s algorithms would lead you to believe.

Even apps that track babies’ benchmarks week by week may not be entirely accurate. Three apps could tell you three different things about how big your baby is and which organs are forming in a particular week. Was a healthcare professional involved in creating one of them? If so, that one is more likely to be accurate. But don’t forget that your baby may not follow those growth timelines exactly.

3. What’s the privacy policy?

You wouldn’t give out your personal health information to just anyone. But that’s what you may be doing when you download and use some pregnancy apps.

Before you download a health app, read the disclaimer so you understand what it will do with your information, including whether it will be shared with third-party sites.

"Before you download a health app, read the disclaimer so you know who will see your health information." via @MedStarWHC

Which pregnancy apps did you find reliable and useful during your pregnancy? Connect with us through Facebook and Twitter.

The pregnancy app we use

We use the Babyscripts app to help us monitor our low-risk pregnant patients between appointments.

Women who participate receive a Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure cuff and weight scale. When they take their blood pressure and weigh in, the information is sent to their doctor or midwife. Abnormal results trigger an alert for the doctor, who can then request that you come in.

Some MedStar practices have been using this app for about a year and a half, and we’re seeing good results. In fact, we had one patient whose high blood pressure reading led her doctor to ask her to come in. When she did, we discovered she had preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous complication. Had the app not alerted her doctor to the blood pressure reading, it’s possible the condition may not have been diagnosed until it was advanced.

The other nice thing about this app is that it can be tailored to each practice. For example, if I recommend my patients not travel after 29 weeks, I can put it in the app. Women have told me that it makes them feel like they have a doctor in their pocket.

Not all healthcare apps are the “digital snake oil” some have been made out to be. But we do need to proceed with caution. And the medical community is beginning to work more closely with patients to do that. For instance, the American Medical Association in November 2016 approved principles to promote the use of safe, effective healthcare apps.

If you’re looking for a fun way to pick a name for your baby, go ahead and download that app. But if you’re looking for more in-depth pregnancy information or advice, talk to your doctor or midwife first. They may have their own app for that!

 

2 reasons we’re seeing more high-risk pregnancies in D.C.

We care for about 3,500 pregnant women every year. While that number has remained fairly steady over the past decade, the number of those women with high-risk pregnancies increases every year.  

Because “high-risk pregnancy” is a catch-all term that includes factors such as age and chronic health problems, it can be difficult to determine exactly how many of these women there are. But my colleagues and I can tell you that we’re treating more women who fall into this category than ever before.  

The most severe pregnancy complications – such as eclampsia, heart failure and hemorrhage – are referred to as severe maternal morbidity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the severe maternal morbidity rate has more than doubled from 2000 to 2010, and now affects 650,000 women in the United States every year.  

Many factors contribute to this increase, but the two we see most often in the District of Columbia are obesity and advanced maternal age. 

1. How obesity can complicate pregnancy  

Nearly one in four U.S. women was considered obese when they became pregnant in 2014. While the rate of pre-pregnancy obesity in D.C. was lower than the national average at about one in five women, we still feel the effects of this epidemic.

 Obesity is defined as having a body mass index greater than 29.9, and it can increase the risk of problems during pregnancy, including:

  • Birth defects
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Preterm birth or stillbirth  

Excess body fat also can make it difficult to analyze an ultrasound and monitor fetal heart rate.  

Obesity also increase a person’s risk for health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart conditions. Our patients are not nearly as healthy going into pregnancy as they once were. I commonly find myself caring for patients with a condition that requires me to collaborate with a specialist such as a cardiologist.  

The number one thing you can do to decrease the risk of obesity-related pregnancy complications is to lose weight before you become pregnant. Talk with your doctor about lifestyle changes you can make to reach a healthier weight.  

Also, talk to your Ob/Gyn or a maternal-fetal medicine specialist before you become pregnant about what to expect if you have a heart condition or another chronic health problem such as obesity. 

2. More D.C. women delaying pregnancy until 35 or older

Not even 15 years ago, I would have exclaimed, “Whoa! You have a 45-year-old patient who’s pregnant?” These days, we don’t blink an eye at a pregnant woman in her 40s.  

The District of Columbia is somewhat unique in that we have more professional women who delay having children until they are older.  

  • The birth rate for D.C. women age 35 to 39 was 72.7 births per 1,000 women in 2015, compared with 51.8 nationwide.
  • The birth rate for D.C. women age 40-44 was 21.8 births per 1,000 women in 2015, compared with 11 nationwide.
  • The birth rate for D.C. women age 45-49 was 2.5 births per 1,000 women in 2015, compared with 0.8 nationwide.  

It’s wonderful to have the option to wait to have children until you’re in your late 30s and early 40s. However, it does increase certain risks for mom and baby, including:

  • Birth defects
  • Gestational diabetes
  • High blood pressure  
  • Miscarriage
  • Premature birth  

We may recommend additional testing and screening if you are 35 and older to detect certain birth defects. The best thing you can do if you’re 35 or older and want to get pregnant is to talk with your Ob/Gyn about your specific risk factors and how to go into pregnancy as healthy as possible. 

Reduce and manage pregnancy risks

Obesity and advanced maternal age are just two factors for the increase in high-risk pregnancies. Thanks to advances in science, we’re also caring for more women who are having multiples (twins or more), have had organ transplants or are cancer survivors. We also see a number of pregnant women who have HIV.  

With proper preparation, we’re better able to manage the increased risks of these health factors. Request an appointment with an Ob/Gyn or maternal-fetal medicine specialist to discuss your unique challenges. The doctor can help you prepare for pregnancy and manage your and your baby’s health during pregnancy, labor and delivery.  

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions. These can include:

  • How can I get healthier before I become pregnant?
  • What type of prenatal testing will be done?
  • Should I stop or adjust my medications?
  • Will I need extra ultrasounds to monitor my baby’s health?
  • Will I need additional prenatal appointments?  

We may care for high-risk pregnancies more often, but each pregnancy is different and comes with its own challenges. We want the same thing for every woman: to go home with a healthy baby.  

Are Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women Different than in Men?

More than half of the 500,000 individuals who die each year from a heart attack are women. Unfortunately, heart conditions are often stereotyped as a primarily male health concern, and symptoms of heart disease in women go unchecked because they differ than those found in men.

For example, in a 2005 survey cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 92 percent of people were able to recognize chest pain as a sign of a heart attack. But symptoms such as chronic fatigue, anxiety and sleep disturbances can also be warning signs of a heart event for women.

If you are a woman of any age, it's critical that you know and understand the different women's heart disease symptoms, so you know how to take control of your health and potentially save your life.

Know the Symptoms

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, causing approximately one in every four fatalities each year. Educational programs have made great strides in alerting people to the warning signs of heart disease, as well as heart events such as heart attacks. But only in recent years has the medical community taken greater steps to ensure women and men are aware of the gender-specific signs of heart issues.

While many women think they are at little risk for heart disease - either due to age, history or lifestyle - the reality is that even young, relatively healthy women may find themselves experiencing a heart incident. That is why it is so important to know symptoms of heart disease in women.

Signs of Heart Issues in Women

The term "heart disease" actually refers to a collection of different conditions and coronary events, rather than a singular diagnosis. Each one has distinct symptoms, although they may be closely related in terms of your overall health. Remember these are all possible signs of heart issues, but you may experience only one or a few. For example, some women have a heart attack without experiencing chest pain.

Coronary heart disease - which can lead to a heart attack - is a condition characterized by reduced blood flow to the heart. Over time, the major blood vessels (coronary arteries) that provide oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to the heart may narrow due to a buildup of cholesterol and other waste deposits.

You can have coronary heart disease for many years and not know it. Common symptoms of CHD in women include angina (chest pain) and pain in the neck, jaw, upper abdomen, or back.

With a heart attack, women may experience the following symptoms, in addition to chest pain:

  • Upper back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath and fatigue, as well as swelling of the abdomen, feet, ankles, and legs.

Another relatively common condition is arrhythmia, which is characterized by an irregular or abnormal heartbeat. You may experience heart palpitations or a fluttering sensation. This becomes more serious when it leads to other symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Heart events of any kind are a serious medical emergency. So if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, contact 9-1-1 services immediately.

Taking Control of Your Health

Heart disease is a serious concern for women. But knowing the signs and symptoms of chronic disease or a coronary event can help you to get long-term treatment and life-saving assistance in an emergency.

Take steps to help yourself and the other women in your community. Discuss the symptoms of heart disease in women with your family members so they know what to look for and be vigilant to protect those around you by spotting the signs in others. Heart disease can affect women of all ages, so make women's heart disease symptoms a family conversation that includes all generations.

Have questions?

If you're interested in learning more about symptoms of heart disease in women, or to schedule a consultation, call us at 855-546-1974.

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Fighting Fibroids

Abnormal bleeding. Pelvic pain. Backache. Not long ago, a woman either suffered with fibroids or surrendered her uterus. But modern medicine offers many better options.

Abnormal but non-cancerous, uterine fibroids affect more than 50 percent of all American women, a figure that jumps to 80 percent among African Americans.  Fortunately, most women never even know they have the growths until their gynecologists tell them so.

But those who experience fibroid’s most troublesome symptoms crave relief from the abnormally heavy or long periods, intermittent bleeding, backaches, pelvic pain, uncomfortable sex and other problems caused by the benign masses. At their worst, fibroids can even result in infertility, premature labor and miscarriage. 

Not too long ago, a woman had two choices: Suffer through fibroid’s woes to preserve child-bearing and hormone-producing abilities, or undergo a hysterectomy to surgically remove the uterus, host to the unwanted growths.

Modern medicine offers many better, and less dramatic, options.

“Today, we have a range of approaches—medical, surgical and non-surgical— to help women with fibroids,” says James Robinson, MD, Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “When surgery is the answer, many procedures are minimally invasive, performed on an outpatient basis and using small incisions and precise targeting for less pain and a quicker recovery.

“Some procedures can even get rid of the tumors while preserving the uterus and ovaries. That allows for future pregnancies and hormone production, which is important for healthy aging.”

And if a woman and her doctor decide that removal of the uterus is the best approach? Fear not, Dr. Robinson says.

“This isn’t your mother’s hysterectomy. Whenever possible, we’ll leave the ovaries intact so you won’t automatically go into menopause.”

The exact cause of fibroids is still unknown, although heredity, race and obesity all play a role. While today’s procedures can successfully remove existing lesions, others may grow afterward.  At this time, the only way to rid the body of fibroids completely is a hysterectomy.

But Dr. Robinson cautions that a diagnosis of fibroids doesn’t mean you should be overly concerned.

“We can take care of your problem,” he says. “Our goal is to get you back to your life in the least disruptive, and fastest, way possible.”

We are here to help!

If you have any questions call MedStar Washington Hospital Center at 855-546-1974.

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Ladies: Celebrate National Women’s Health Week!

At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we are known for being stewards of women's health in our community. Listen up women: now's the time to take stock of your well-being and focus on your health during National Women's Health Week May 8–14, 2016!

From our community outreach efforts to help drive awareness of breast cancer, to providing advice about when to start breast cancer screenings and how often to get them, we recognize the importance of ensuring the women in the Washington, D.C. region are cared for from head to toe.

That's why in addition to those critical health topics, we have dedicated physicians who focus on all areas of women's wellness, such as women and heart disease and how the symptoms in women may be different than those in men. We are also experts in treating female-specific conditions that many are hesitant to talk about, such as pelvic floor disorders, which affects 1 in 3 women over the age of 45.

Pain in your feet? Our podiatry experts have an innovative way to treat Morton's Neuroma, a condition related to excessive wear and tear on your feet. And, that discomfort in your legs could be a result of one of many conditions, such as varicose veins, that our physicians might be able help you with. 

Because your health evolves over time, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health (OWH) offers checklists for every decade that provide advice for what you can do to improve your overall health. Whether you’re in your 20s or 90s, take at least one of the steps on the list for a healthier you.

National Women's Health Week helps you understand what steps you can take for better health, and the OWH encourages you to:

Your health begins with you, so take your first step in living a healthier life! 

 

 

Have any questions?

We are here to help! If you have any questions about women's health issues or would like to speak with a physician Call MedStar Washington Hospital Center at 855-546-1974.

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A Breast Cancer Diagnosis: It Takes Your Breath Away

Breast Cancer Can Affect Anyone 

My name is Heidi Kirby. (Photo L to R:  Dr. Sandra Swain, former medical director of Washington Cancer Institute and current Associate Dean for Research Development at Georgetown University Medical Center and Heidi)  I am young. I am healthy. I have no family history of breast cancer, yet, somehow I found myself with the phone against my ear, being told that's what I had. For anyone touched by this disease, you know how powerless you can feel.  For anyone being told they have cancer, it takes your breath away.

My story is nothing special.  In fact, my story happens every day and can happen to anyone at any age. When I first felt something different in 2014, I was preparing to run in the annual Race to Beat Cancer 5K, sponsored by my former employer, The Four Seasons Hotel Washington, D.C. All the proceeds benefit cancer research at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. I was focused on the run, therefore not that concerned. But when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of that year, I went from denial to anger and back to denial over and over. During this stressful period, I reached out to my close work family, and because of their long-standing relationship with the Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, I was put in touch with an oncologist so that I could start treatment right away. The wonderful doctors and medical professionals were determined to make me well. I'm happy to say that I am now cancer free and I know that my risk of recurrence is low.

Advances in Breast Cancer Treatment

I'm constantly amazed by the advances in cancer research, science and technology. I recently learned the Washington Cancer Institute at the Hospital Center offers intraoperative radiation therapy for a select group of breast cancer patients with small tumors, in which a single dose of radiation is delivered after lumpectomy, as opposed to standard radiation treatment over several weeks. In addition, physicians are studying chemotherapy–free options for metastatic breast cancer patients. Progress like this is possible thanks in large part to public and private donations.

I never imagined having to ask so many people to help me.  I never thought I would celebrate a genetic test result. Of course, I never thought I would need a genetic test at all. The simple part of my story is this: I'm going to live and love longer because so many people who I’ll never meet selflessly gave their time and resources - to beat this disease.

Contribute to Breast Cancer Research

I will continue to support the annual Race to Beat Cancer 5K, and the ongoing fundraising efforts of  the wonderful volunteers and donors who support cancer research at the Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. I urge everyone to sign up for this year’s race.  There’s also the annual Drive Four the Cure Golf Classic at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, which is another opportunity to support the Washington Cancer Institute's cause. Together, we must continue to fight this disease so that we give friends, family, colleagues and many others the same opportunity! 

 

Have any questions?

We are here to help! If you have any questions about the Washington Cancer Institute or cancer treatments at MedStar Washington Hospital Center Call us at 855-546-1974.

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Women and Heart Disease: What you Need to Know

Eighty percent of all heart disease is preventable – and heart disease does affect women. In fact, it is the leading cause of death among women in the U.S. So it is very important for women of all ages to learn the facts about heart disease and know the symptoms, because there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and get treatment when you most need it.

What are the risk factors for heart disease?

Many different factors can put women at risk for developing heart disease.  Some things are out of your control. However, it is important to understand how the following risk factors contribute to your chances of developing heart disease:

  • Age - Research indicates that about 6 out of 100 women in their 40’s will develop coronary heart disease growing to nearly 1 out of 5 women in their 80’s.
  • Family History of Heart Disease - You are at greater risk if a close family member, a parent, brother, sister or grandparent developed heart disease before age 59.
  • Race – African–American women are at higher risk of developing heart disease as compared to women of other races.

Risk factors more under your control include:

  • Smoking – Smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times and women who smoke have a 25 percent higher risk of developing heart disease than men who smoke.
  • Obesity - Excess body weight puts a strain on your heart, raising your blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowering your HDL (good) cholesterol. Obesity also increases your risk for developing diabetes.
  • Diabetes- Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without the condition.
  • High Blood Pressure (HBP) - Elevated blood pressure makes the heart work harder. Chronic HBP scars and damages your arteries and can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure and
  • Lack of Physical Activity - A lack of physical activity comes with great risks as a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to an increased risk for blood clots, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other heart related problems.
  • High Cholesterol - Cholesterol hardens over time into plaque which can narrow the artery walls and reduce blood flow leading to blood clots, heart attacks or strokes.

The ABCs of Women’s Heart Disease Symptoms

Heart disease symptoms can be different for women than men. They are sometimes subtler in nature and harder to identify. Because women tend to dismiss their symptoms as not significant, they are more likely to have a silent heart attack or die during their first heart attack.

The following is an ABC listing of heart disease symptoms to help guide you.

  • Angina:  pain, discomfort or fullness in the chest. (Women also report pain in the jaw, right arm or abdomen.)
  • Breathlessness: experienced during activities or waking up breathless at night
  • Blackouts: fainting
  • Chronic fatigue: an inability to complete routine activities and a constant feeling of tiredness
  • Dizziness: this can indicate irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias
  • Edema: swelling, particularly of the lower legs and ankles
  • Fluttering heartbeats: palpations, rapid heartbeats that may cause pain or difficulty breathing
  • Gastric upset: nausea or vomiting, unrelated to diet, indigestion or abdominal pain

If you experience any of these symptoms frequently (about once a day), see a physician—the symptoms are serious and should not be ignored. Keep notes about when the symptoms occur, what triggers them, and what, if anything, relieves them. It is also helpful to make a list of past treatment and all medications you are currently taking.

How can I prevent heart disease?

There are steps you can take today to prevent heart disease. Here are some ways you can stay healthy:

  • Identify behaviors that contribute to your risk (smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise)
  • Ask your physician about your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, body mass index or BMI
  • Learn about your family history
  • Discuss all of the above with your physician

We urge you to start on the road to become heart healthy today.  Learn more about heart disease.  Seek out guidance and support from medical professionals. Heart disease can be treated, prevented and even ended.

Have Any Questions?

We are here to help! Contact us for more information about heart health or to schedule an appointment. Call us at 855-546-1974.

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