Though the mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still felt by people all over the world, women face additional and distinct mental health challenges that can impact their overall wellbeing every day. Let’s look at some of the ways in which women’s mental health is unique and how you can nurture your own good mental health.

Women’s Mental Health is Unique

Taking care of your mind is important for everyone, but mental health can impact women in unique ways. For example, women are much more likely to develop anxiety and depression, which could lead to further problems with their physical health, too. “Unlike their depressed male counterparts,” Everyday Health warns, “women tend to develop problems with alcohol abuse within a few years of the onset of depression.”

Natural hormonal changes may also impact women’s mental health, including perinatal depression, perimenopause-related depression, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This is why paying attention to your moods, anxiety, and stress levels — as well as prioritizing self-care — is important as your body goes through changes.

Practice Self-Care

This piece of advice is commonly stated, but not everyone is clear on what self-care is, or how to fold nurturing their mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing into their daily lives. It’s easy enough to advise someone to simply go for more short walks, or get enough sleep, but self-care can be understandably difficult to accomplish.

For example, many women have time-consuming jobs, childcare and households to manage, or feel guilty for taking care of themselves. But even if you aren’t experiencing immediate distress, regularly practicing self-care helps you prepare for and overcome potential future stressors.

Physical:

The mind and body are intertwined, so it’s important to take good care of both. Physical self-care can include:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising regularly doing something you enjoy
  • Eating nutritious food
  • Regularly visiting healthcare providers
  • Drinking lots of water

Mental:

As the name implies, this category of self-care focuses more on your mental health. This can include anything that stimulates your brain and helps you practice self-compassion. Examples of mental self-care include:

  • Participating in fun, relaxing activities
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Cultivating a positive mindset
  • Getting outside
  • Setting healthy boundaries

Emotional:

“Negative” emotions are valid and normal, but it’s important to practice healthy coping mechanisms while you experience them. Emotional self-care allows you to feel your emotions while expressing them in ways that are nurturing to your mind and body. You can do this by:

  • Connecting with friends and family for support
  • Surrounding yourself with motivating quotes
  • Engaging in rejuvenating activities
  • Practicing relaxation techniques or meditation
  • Interacting with a pet

Seek Professional Support

Women have a significant risk of experiencing mental illnesses, including eating disorders, postpartum depression, and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). This makes it very important to reach out for support if you feel like your symptoms are becoming overwhelming. If you’re experiencing the following symptoms for more than two weeks, consider speaking to a mental health professional:

  • A sudden change of appetite
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Difficulty performing everyday tasks
  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning

Mental health is an essential part of gynecology, and our team of professionals want to help you overcome any obstacles affecting your overall wellbeing. To discuss potential treatment options for mental health challenges, schedule an appointment online or by calling us at (404) 352-2850.

 

Vaginal prolapse occurs when the pelvic muscles and connective tissues weaken, allowing other organs (including the uterus, bladder, or parts of the lower intestine) to drop beyond their normal position and into the vaginal canal. Characterized by feelings of fullness, pressure, or pain in the vagina, the condition affects up to 50% of women at some point in their lives.

In addition to vaginal discomfort, prolapse can cause several frustrating symptoms that disrupt daily life, including painful intercourse, urinary or fecal incontinence, and constipation. Vaginal childbirth and menopause are common causes of the condition, but other risk factors include extreme physical activity and genetics.

Just because vaginal prolapse is common doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Fortunately, there are ways to repair a prolapse through the following treatments.

Pessary

Prior to pursuing surgical treatments, you may be advised to try a pessary. This device resembles a diaphragm, and is placed in the vagina to lift the bladder or provide compression to the urethra to stop the leakage of urine. While the treatment is a low-risk, nonsurgical option, it does require ongoing care, including routine removal and cleaning. Moreover, the treatment may not be ideal for patients with very weak pelvic floor muscles.

Obliterative Surgery

Also known as colpocleisis, obliterative surgery involves stitching the vagina shut. This approach has yielded positive outcomes for women aged 70 or older, but it does prevent vaginal intercourse. For this reason, obliterative surgeries are often reserved for women who cannot withstand more extensive procedures.

Reconstructive Surgery

For patients wishing to have penetrative vaginal intercourse, reconstructive surgery aims to reconstruct the vaginal canal. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists outlines the following types of reconstructive procedures to address vaginal prolapse:

  • Native Tissue Repair: In this treatment, the patient’s own tissues are used to correct the prolapse. A surgeon will attach the prolapsed area to a pelvic ligament or muscle for support.
  • Colporrhaphy: Performed through the vagina, a colporrhaphy resolves a prolapse of either the front or back wall of the vagina. Stitches are placed to provide support to the surrounding organs, including the bladder and rectum.
  • Sacrocolpopexy: This approach lifts the vagina into its original position through the insertion of a synthetic mesh, which attaches to the vaginal walls and tail bone. The procedure may be performed through an abdominal incision or laparoscopically.
  • Sacrohysteropexy: This procedure is ideal for patients experiencing vaginal and uterine prolapse who wish to avoid a hysterectomy. It involves the placement of a surgical mesh that runs from the cervix to the sacrum to reposition the uterus.
  • Vaginal Mesh: If the patient’s pelvic tissues aren’t strong enough to support the prolapse on their own, they may be recommended for vaginally placed mesh. While the treatment may repair any type of prolapse, it presents higher risks and is therefore reserved for only select patient populations.

As with any procedure, the decision to pursue surgical treatment for prolapse is best made after an in-depth discussion that examines symptoms, risks, and benefits with your doctor. Our providers are ready to discuss both surgical and non-surgical options to address vaginal prolapse and restore your quality of life. Schedule an appointment by calling (404) 352-2850 or booking one online.

Endometriosis is a gynecological condition affecting about 11% of women in the United States. These women often struggle with severe menstrual cramps and reproductive complications. If you are experiencing similar problems, and are wondering if you should seek treatment, here’s more information on the topic:

What is endometriosis?

The uterus has an inner lining of tissue called the endometrium, and it is released during each menstrual cycle. Endometriosis is when similar tissue grows on the outside of the uterus — often around the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvis. This tissue is normally “programmed” to shed through your vagina during childbirth or your period, but, when it grows outside the uterus, it becomes trapped and can therefore cause severe pain.

Endometriosis can distort the fallopian tubes and inflame ovaries, hindering the ovulation process. Approximately 20-40% of infertility cases are also related to endometriosis.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

There are many other symptoms of endometriosis on top of extreme menstrual pain and infertility, and these include:

  • Painful menstrual cramps that worsen over time
  • Lower abdomen or intestinal pain
  • Experiencing pain during sex or afterward
  • Bowel movements and urinating are more painful during periods
  • Heavy flow on periods
  • Spotting or bleeding before or in between periods
  • Difficulty conceiving

In some cases, endometriosis can be asymptomatic — you may not notice you even have it. But, if you do experience any of the above symptoms, it is always important to discuss them with your doctor and assess your condition.

Who is at risk?

Risk factors for endometriosis are still being researched, but women with abnormal cycles may experience higher risk than others. For example, you’re twice as likely to have endometriosis if you have a less than 25-day cycle or your period lasts for more than 7 days.

Other common risk factors include having endometriosis in your family history, including a sister, daughter, mother, or grandmother. This risk is further heightened if you started your period at an early age or if you have been diagnosed as infertile.

Diagnosis

Unfortunately, diagnosis of endometriosis cannot be based on symptoms and outward evaluation. Instead, your doctor might first assess your family history and may do a pelvic exam or ultrasound to detect any cysts or scars.

For an official diagnosis, your doctor will perform a laparoscopy, making a small incision in your abdomen and inserting a small tube equipped with a camera. This process collects images of any tissue outside of the uterus. A biopsy (sample of the tissue) may also be taken.

Treatments

Endometriosis can either be treated with prescription medication or with surgery. Your best option will depend on your individual case, symptoms, and whether or not you want to have children. Hormonal birth control, for example, is a common option for those not looking to conceive, as it helps relieve pain symptoms and regulate your menstrual cycle.

Surgery is often best for those struggling with fertility or if over-the-counter medication fails to relieve your pain or uncomfortable symptoms. This surgery entails removing the tissue outside of the uterus under general anesthesia.

Others have found that alternative treatments like acupuncture, physical therapy, and/or herbal medicine can help relieve symptoms.

If you are experiencing endometriosis symptoms or complications, our physicians will provide personalized care to confirm a diagnosis and determine your next steps towards comfort. To schedule an appointment, visit us online or call us at (404) 352-2850.

On Sunday, January 30th, 2022, Avant Gynecology’s Drs. Lynley Durrett and Obiamaka Mora returned as guests on The Weekly Check-Up on News/Talk WSB Radio.

During the show, Drs. Durrett and Mora spoke about several women’s health topics with host Ashley Frasca. Some topics of discussion included mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 era, the importance of regular gynecological exams with personalized testing, hormone therapy and its alternatives, and menopause symptom management. They also talked about ThermiVa, the use of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene, Uterine fibroids and treatment with the Acessa procedure or myomectomy, urinary incontinence, libido, and heavy bleeding. They fielded calls from callers throughout the segment.

You can listen to the entire show below.

Have questions? Schedule an appointment with our team of specialists.

While January is nationally slated as Cervical Health Awareness Month, this serious disease was once “the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States,” and still affects thousands of women annually. It’s why we believe cervical cancer deserves attention regardless of the date on the calendar.

Fortunately, it can often be prevented with both vaccination and screenings — two key elements to reducing your risk.

What Is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer occurs when healthy cells mutate in the lower area of the uterus which connects to the vagina, known as the cervix. Symptoms may include prolonged bleeding during your period, or bleeding in between periods, as well as unexplained pelvic pain — sometimes during or after intercourse. In its precancerous phase, symptoms may not manifest at all.

Although research is still ongoing regarding the direct causes of cervical cancer, strains of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) human papillomavirus (HPV) appear to play a large role. Other risk factors include smoking, age, a decreased immune system, and having had other STIs.

How to Prevent Cervical Cancer

HPV Vaccination

Even though there isn’t an absolute guarantee, the CDC notes that up to 93% of cervical cancers can be prevented through both HPV vaccination and screenings. Just as others do, the HPV vaccine works by producing antibodies which will bind to the virus and render it ineffective.

HPV is the most common STI, affecting 43 million Americans in 2018 — many of them young adults, or people who have only had sex with one person. Oftentimes, you may not know you even have it, as it may not present symptoms, and frequently goes away on its own. While this may not sound as alarming as other STIs, HPV’s potential to cause cancer over time makes it a condition that calls for proactive prevention.

All people ages 9 to 45 can get the HPV vaccine to protect against genital warts and/or different types of HPV that can cause cancer,” advises Planned Parenthood. And though it may seem surprising or uncomfortable for parents and guardians, they also suggest “that children get the vaccine at age 11 or 12, so they’re fully protected years before they become sexually active.” This vaccine can easily be incorporated into the same appointment when other preventative shots are given.

Regular Pap Testing

The Papanicolaou (Pap) test is another helpful step in cervical cancer prevention. According to the American Cancer Society, “The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test.” This is because early detection of any pre-cancerous cells can lead to a greater chance of effective treatment and cure. Most doctors advise Pap tests for women at a minimum of three-year intervals starting at the age of 21, but some risk factors such as a family history of cervical cancer may affect your personal timeline.

During your Pap test appointment, your doctor can also give you an HPV test, which screens for the presence of HPV. This may be particularly helpful if you have not been vaccinated against HPV.

According to the National Cancer Institute Cancer Trends Progress Report, 73.5% of women aged 21-65 reported being up-to-date with their cervical cancer screenings in 2019. We’d like to help include you among that number if you aren’t already. If you’re due for a Pap test, would like to discuss the HPV vaccine, or want to know more about cervical cancer and its prevention, schedule an appointment with us online or call (404) 352-2850.

Annual gynecological exams are an important part of preventive wellness for women, giving you the opportunity to discuss any health changes or evolving needs with our practitioners. During these yearly visits, you’ll also receive a Pap smear, a special type of screening that can detect abnormal cervical cells. Here’s what you should know about the test.

What Is a Pap Smear?

During a Pap smear, your provider will gently remove cells from the cervix with a specifically designed brush. Though you may experience brief, minor discomfort, this brushing is typically done within 15 seconds or less.

Once the cells are extracted from the cervix, medical experts will inspect them under a microscope most specifically for signs of cervical dysplasia, or precancerous changes. The National Cancer Institute further notes that Pap smears can also detect other abnormalities in the cervix, including infections and inflammation.

Why Is the Annual Pap Smear So Important?

The sooner abnormal cervical cells are detected, the earlier doctors can determine the cause and treat the condition before cancer develops. For instance, an abnormal Pap smear may necessitate repeat testing within shorter time intervals or call for a biopsy to determine the root issue and inform treatment decisions.

Annual testing ensures any changes are detected as early as possible. As Johnathan Lancaster, MD, PhD, and chair of the department of women’s oncology at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute explained to Everyday Health, “Like all medical tests, Pap smears are not 100% accurate. This reinforces the importance of having regular Paps, so that even if one Pap misses an early abnormal change, it’s likely to be picked up at the next Pap.”

Fortunately, cervical cancer is largely preventable through both screenings and vaccinations. While it was once the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., the Pap test has drastically decreased cervical cancer rates by helping doctors find changes early, when they’re most treatable.

Going for an annual Pap smear also allows you and your doctor to discuss human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer, and whether or not you are at risk or should be tested.

How to Prepare for Your Pap Smear

Women 21 and older should be receiving routine Pap smears as part of their annual gynecological exam. If you’re due for yours, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Try to plan your appointment around your menstrual period. Blood and tissue swelling could make it more difficult to get an accurate assessment of cervical cells.
  • Ask if you can empty your bladder before the test. You may need to provide a urine sample during your appointment, so speak with a nurse first.
  • Avoid intercourse, vaginal medications, or putting any substances (including spermicidal creams) two days prior to your appointment to avoid obscuring abnormal cells.

At Avant Gynecology, we aim to make women’s annual care as comfortable as possible with an inviting atmosphere and gentle, caring practitioners who are ready to answer any questions you may have. If you’re due for an annual exam, contact us at (404) 352-2850 or schedule an appointment online.

Defined by the United States Department of Justice as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent,” sexual assault affects millions of Americans each year. While offenders may manage to avoid jail for their crimes, victims can remain imprisoned by this abuse for years — with harmful consequences to their health.

According to the American Addiction Centers, “Sexual abuse victims are three times more likely to suffer depression, six times more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs than those who have not been sexually abused.” But these are not the only dangerous after-effects victims may face.

At Avant Gynecology, we care deeply about our patients in all matters, but especially when it comes to this incredibly serious one.

Psychological Effects

According to a 2010 study published by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, “A history of sexual abuse is associated with an increased risk of a lifetime diagnosis of multiple psychiatric disorders,” including anxiety, eating and sleeping disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicide attempts.

Self-harm, panic attacks, and dissociation (a detachment from reality) are other potential psychological consequences. These conditions can wreak havoc on a victim’s well-being, and should be treated with the care and supervision of a medical team.

Sexually Transmitted Infections and Diseases

According to research by Dr. Oscar Beltran, a research fellow in the Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention at CDC, “Women who were forced to have sex were more likely to have had STD testing in the past 12 months.” Another study published in Reviews of Infectious Disease also indicated that STD infections, “including herpes simplex viruses, hepatitis B virus, and human immunodeficiency virus,” were described by victims after their assault.

Beyond the symptoms of these infections, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can be a result of an untreated STD or STI. “Delayed treatment for PID dramatically worsens future fertility and chronic pelvic pain,” a 2005 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners concluded. Though undergoing STI, STD, and HIV testing after the horror of abuse may feel challening, knowing results will empower you to take control of your sexual, reproductive, and overall health.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy has the chance of occuring during the healthiest, most consensual vaginal intercourse, even when contraception is used. Which means it remains a possibility in the case of sexual abuse, as well. As soon as you’re able, get a pregnancy test so that you are equipped to make decisions, and monitor your body’s well being.

Physical  Damage

A study shared by the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center examined types of injury in sexually abused women, specifically those who had been raped. Resulting injuries included genital damage (42% of women) and external vulvar bruising (36% of women). In the case of women reporting anal rape, tears and bruising were seen in 73%. Though this damage can often heal on its own, attention from a family doctor or gynecologist can aid proper healing.

If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, free and confidential assistance is available through the National Sexual Assault hotline. Avant Gynecology’s team of specialists can also provide conscientious care. Call (404) 352-2850 or schedule an appointment with us online.

On Sunday, October 3, 2021, Avant Gynecology’s Drs. Lynley Durrett and Obiamaka Mora returned as guests on The Weekly Check-Up on News/Talk WSB Radio.

During the show, Drs. Durret and Mora spoke about several women’s health topics with host Ashley Frasca. Topics included Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the importance of mammograms, menopause, hormone replacement therapy, first-time gynecological visits, and more. They also took many questions from callers.

You can listen to the entire show below.

Have questions? Schedule an appointment with our team of specialists.

We know your menstrual cycle can be both a blessing and a curse — sometimes literally. Pliny the Elder once said, for example, that the living things that come in contact with periods are poisoned! You may find yourself feeling the same, as your menstrual cycle can affect mood, food cravings, skin health, and even weight.

You may be a part of the 90% who experience multiple symptoms when their period comes or even the 32 to 40% of those who say their cramping becomes so severe that they have to skip work or school. This is why befriending your period and learning its cycles will help. 

Why Should You Track Your Period? 

If you have regular periods, tracking them can help you and your doctor understand the standard patterns of your body. Irregular periods may be a sign of other underlying health issues, such as  PCOS, thyroid disorders, or endometriosis, so tracking can help your doctor find the root cause of any abnormalities. 

Tracking your period can also show you when to expect cramps, why you may be craving a certain food, and help you understand mood fluctuations. It can also help you determine when you are ovulating. The average length of a period cycle is 28 days, but can range between 21 and 40 days. Ovulation usually occurs 14 days after the last day of your period. So if you’re trying to conceive, paying close attention to your period cycle can inform when you’re most likely to get pregnant. But it can also help if you want to avoid having a baby. 

Ways to Track Your Period 

Pen and Paper 

The old-fashioned way, with a pen and paper, can work just fine. Grab a notebook and pen, or even a calendar, and record some key points of your period, including: 

  • When your period starts 
  • How heavy/light your flow is 
  • Pain from cramps 
  • The emotions you’re feeling
  • Other noticeable symptoms including skin health and bloating 

Stress, weight changes, and birth control can affect the regularity of your cycle, so note these things as well. Tracking your basal body temperature (which lowers right before your ovary releases an egg), can help you determine when you’re ovulating — and therefore most likely to conceive. 

As you get used to tracking your cycles, you can add things like what you ate, how you slept, your social life, etc. to see if you find any more patterns! Then use your “handy dandy” notebook to discuss matters with your doctor. 

Tracking Apps 

There are many apps that automate the process of tracking your period. These allow you to enter when you get your period, when it ends, and in some cases keep notes about the different aspects of your daily life. 

These apps can also calculate ovulation days, and provide a countdown for when you should expect your next period. Whichever app you choose can take the place of your notebook when you talk to your doctor. 

What to Look Out For 

There are a few things you can pay attention to that will help determine when to see a doctor.

  • Your period lasts for more than 7 days 
  • Your period stops for two months 
  • Your period is less than 21 days apart 
  • Your period is more than 40 days apart
  • Your regular period suddenly becomes irregular 

Avant Gynecology’s mission is to make every patient feel valued and appreciated through all cycles. If you would like to learn more about reproductive health, visit our website. If you notice anything abnormal while tracking your period, contact our team of specialists by calling (404) 352-2850 or schedule an appointment online

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means you’re probably already seeing pink ribbons everywhere — reminding us how important it is to get regular mammograms for breast cancer screening. 

Most medical professionals advise that women over 40 partake in annual mammograms to screen for breast cancer. While the risk of breast cancer is relatively low for someone in their early 40s (without prior family history), it’s still a good time to start discussing the procedure with your doctor so you know what to expect ahead of time and can schedule a regular screening cadence. If you have dense breast tissue, mammograms can be particularly helpful in detecting any abnormalities early on. 

“Breast cancer that’s found early, when it’s small and has not spread, is easier to treat successfully,” the American Cancer Society assures. And experts at the CDC agree: “Mammography is the most effective method of detecting breast cancer in its earliest and most treatable stage.” Diagnosing (and therefore treating) breast cancer early also improves survival rates, according to a January 2021 study reviewed by Cancer Research UK. 

Women and transgender men over 50 should continue to receive mammograms at least once every two years. Ultimately until the age of 75, the more regularly you’re keeping up with these screenings, the better. 

How to Prepare for a Mammogram

The process of getting a mammogram typically takes less than thirty minutes and requires little preparation. Here are a few tips on how you can get ready for your screening:

  • Schedule the appointment during a time when your breasts will be the least tender (typically the week following your period).
  • Don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant, as many contain aluminum, which can interfere with imaging
  • If you’re concerned about pain, prep with Tylenol or ibuprofen ahead of your appointment to ease potential discomfort. 

What to Expect During a Mammogram

In general, mammogram appointments are quick and straightforward. The exam itself only takes about ten minutes. But during the process, here’s what you can expect:

  • You will be asked to undress from the waist-up and given a medical gown to wear.
  • During the exam, it will be only you and the technician in the room. They will take X-ray images of your breasts one at a time, placing them between two imaging plates for scanning.
  • The technician will read the results later that day or the next day and will contact you within 48 hours if follow-up testing is needed.

For reassurance, keep in mind it’s not uncommon to get results that need a second look. “Abnormal” results can be caused by dense breast tissue or benign cysts — but your doctor and screening technician will stay in close touch to keep you informed. 

Why You Should Get Your Mammogram

Now that you know how to prepare and what to expect, here are a few final reminders for making your mammogram appointment this year:

  • Abnormalities within the breast cannot always be felt. They are best examined with the X-ray technology used in a mammogram. 
  • Breast cancer is 99% curable when it’s caught early. (By mammograms!) 
  • Breast cancer caught early can save your life — and your boobs. 
  • The process really only takes 30 minutes. 

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Avant Gynecology encourages you to speak with your primary care physician about getting an annual mammogram.