Birth Control: Options and Health Benefits

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 1:55 PM comments (0)

birth controlChoosing the right birth control method can be difficult; there are a variety of options available and nearly every type can affect different women in different ways. Ultimately the best method for each individual woman will be the one that doesn’t cause side effects that disrupt and impede normal daily activities and one she will use consistently. 

Diana Atashroo, MD, Obstetrics and Gynecology at NorthShore, discusses how birth control works, as well as birth control options and possible benefits beyond pregnancy prevention: 

Hormonal birth control, often referred to as “the pill,” contains estrogen and progestin. Birth control reduces the risk of pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation, or the time during a woman’s cycle when a mature egg leaves the ovaries. The pill also causes a thickening of the mucus of the cervix making it impenetrable to sperm and keeping the lining of the uterus thin.

Birth control options include:

Hormonal methods:

  1. A pill (typically a combination of estrogen and progestin, though progestin-only is also available.
  2. Skin patch changed weekly
  3. Injection given every three months
  4. Vaginal ring changed every month

Implanted devices (with and without hormones):

  1. Implant under the bicep for up to three years
  2. Intrauterine device (IUD) for between five to ten years

Health Benefits: 
The most common use of oral contraception is the prevention of pregnancy. While the daily contraception pill is the most popularly used and prescribed medication, the most effective method is the implanted devices. With appropriate use of these methods of contraception they are 99% effective. 

However, birth control is not prescribed or taken exclusively for the prevention of pregnancy. There are several benefits to hormonal birth control, and many women choose to take it for these reasons:

PMS symptom relief. Hormones have been shown to provide significant relief of many of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including menstrual cramps, headaches, depression, heavy or irregular periods and hormonal acne.

Iron deficiency anemia. Women with heavy periods often experience iron deficiency anemia due to blood loss. Hormonal birth control can make heavy periods lighter.

Reduces risk for some cancers. Birth control has been shown to potentially reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian, endometrial and colon cancers.

Bone thinning. Some studies have shown that the use of birth control helps protect against bone thinning, which begins in most women after age 30.  

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Tips for a Happy, Healthy Pregnancy After Age 35

Wednesday, June 05, 2013 12:42 PM comments (0)

pregnancyIncreasingly more women are waiting until later in life to start families. And while there are many benefits to postponing motherhood, there are some health risks that increase as a woman ages. 

What are the risks? Starting in their mid-30s, women face an increased risk for miscarriage, fetal chromosomal abnormalities, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, placental abruption, preeclampsia, early labor and are more likely to require a cesarean. 

It’s important to remember that these are risks all women, no matter their age, face during pregnancy. While every woman’s pregnancy is unique, older moms-to-be often face some unique challenges. Knowing what challenges might arise and how to reduce your risk increases the likelihood you’ll enjoy a happy and healthy pregnancy.

Scott MacGregor, DO, Maternal-Fetal Medicine at NorthShore, shares his tips for staying healthy throughout your pregnancy: 

  • Talk to you doctor or midwife before getting pregnant. If you are older than 35 and thinking of starting a family, talk to your doctor or midwife about the current state of your health.  He or she can assess your personal risks and recommend certain lifestyle changes or evaluations to ensure you are at optimal health prior to getting pregnant. 
  • See your doctor or midwife early and regularly. As soon as you think you might be pregnant, see your doctor or midwife. The early stages are very important for any woman. Your doctor or midwife can assess your pregnancy and medical status in the early months and provide you with information to help guide you through the process.  Your doctor or midwife can also discuss your management plan and options during the pregnancy.
  • Take your vitamins. Again, this is important for any pregnant woman. Prenatal vitamins should contain at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. If you are not yet pregnant but are considering starting a family, start prenatal vitamins or folic acid now. Getting the recommended amount of folic acid before pregnancy and during the first trimester helps prevent birth defects. 
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Pregnancy is an excellent time to embark upon smart lifestyle choices. Moderate exercise—walking, swimming, yoga, stationary bike—for 30-45 minutes daily is encouraged. Make sure to maintain adequate hydration and avoid overexertion.  Cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs should be avoided.  Over-the-counter medications and herbal medicines should be avoided. 

Are you waiting until later to start your family? When did you have your first child?

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Gearing up for Motherhood: Pregnancy Checklist from Beginning to Baby [Infographic]

Thursday, May 09, 2013 9:23 AM comments (0)

Mother's Day might have passed but every day can be a celebration of moms, moms-to-be and the many adventures of motherhood. For expectant mothers, the experts at NorthShore University HealthSystem have created a checklist for the stages of pregnancy, week by week. Every mommy-to-be can learn how to take care of herself during each and every stage of pregnancy and track her baby’s developments along the way.

Click on the infographic to learn more about the stages of pregnancy and how a mommy-to-be can prepare for baby.

motherhood

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Fertility and Acupuncture

Thursday, June 28, 2012 8:48 AM comments (0)

Fertility AcupunctureConception difficulties and infertility aren't as uncommon as one might think; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 10 percent of women between the ages of 15-44 in the United States have difficulty getting or staying pregnant.

There are many fertility treatment options available, including conventional biomedical treatments, such as fertility medications, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, and traditional methods, like Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. Many couples have found great results with a combination of treatments.

Ultimately, the right choice is the one that works. While there is no preferred method for everyone, in many cases, the age-old treatment of acupuncture has been shown to help enhance fertility and increase a woman’s chances of conceiving.

Nicole Hohmann, Acupuncturist with NorthShore's Integrative Medicine Program, shares some of the health benefits of fertility acupuncture treatments:

  • Regular periods. Menstrual cycles and ovulation often regulate with acupuncture treatment. Studies have shown that when menstrual cycles are predictably regular a woman has a much higher chance of conceiving.
  • Fertility Improvement. Acupunture has been shown to increase fertile cervical mucous, which can help predict ovulation and the best time periods for conception.
  • Better health. Overall signs of enhanced health may be experienced throughout acupuncture treatment, including reduced premenstrual symptoms, increased energy and an improvement in sleep patterns.
  • Herbs tailored to your cycle. Acupuncture might be combined with Chinese herbal medicines as well. Different herbal formulas may be given at different points in a woman's cycle to help support follicle development, ovulation and uterine lining, and implantation.
  • Benefits for men, too. Acupuncture also treats low sperm count and poor morphology in men.
  • Stress reduction. Fertility challenges can increase stress. Acupuncture can enhance one's sense of well-being and reduce stress, which are essential when trying to conceive.

Has acupuncture worked for you or someone you know? 

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