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    Women’s Health Care: Gynecological Exams After Menopause

    Women’s Health Care: Gynecological Exams After Menopause

    For comprehensive women’s health care, women should get regular gynecological exams. Yet, many women do not get regular exams after menopause because they believe they no longer need them. We’re here to set the record straight and explain why you should continue to schedule gynecological exams and what to expect from these exams once you have reached menopause.

    Women’s Health Care After Menopause is Important

    mature woman reading wondering about what women's health care services she needs

    Gynecological exams after menopause are important, so talk to our women’s health care providers about your gynecological health.

    It’s a commonly held misconception that women no longer need gynecological exams or well woman checkups after menopause. Most experts recommend continuing annual gynecological exams after menopause (yes, even if you’ve had a hysterectomy). Gynecological exams are part of preventative women’s health care. Just as you should continue seeing your dentist for checkups, it’s also important to continue to visit your gynecologist for preventative care and treatment. Taking part in health care can help you stay healthy and feel your best as you age.

    Gynecological Exams are Essential for Women’s Health Care at Every Age

    Gynecological exams are important health exams for women. Most health experts recommend getting a gynecological exam at least once per year for women of all ages. Even after menopause, regular gynecological exams are important for getting the health screenings and care you need to continue to stay healthy and help with early detection of health conditions.

    What Does a Gynecological Exam Include?

    Our providers tailor gynecological services to you based on your medical history and other factors. However, generally a gynecological exam includes several different tests and exams rolled into one appointment.

    One common part of your annual gynecological exam is the pelvic exam. This is where our provider examines your genitals, vagina, and pelvic organs both externally and internally. This exam is to help the doctor determine the overall health of your pelvic organs, such as your:

    • Uterus
    • Vagina
    • Cervix
    • Fallopian tubes
    • Ovaries
    • Bladder
    • Rectum

    Typically our providers will also conduct a breast exam and may recommend mammograms. We also use the gynecological exam as an opportunity to talk about your overall health and take readings of your vital signs to look for any signs of potential illness. During this time, our women’s health care team also typically asks about any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Your exam may also include several recommended health screenings, such as a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer. Therefore, a gynecological exam involves many different “pieces” to help address your health.

    Why Visit Your Women’s Health Clinic for Gynecological Exams after Menopause?

    You no longer have a period, so why continue to schedule gynecological exams after menopause? Well, these exams address much more than just menstrual or even reproductive health. According to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it’s important to continue to visit a gynecologist after menopause. Gynecological exams can help you address your health through regular health screenings and looking for underlying causes of symptoms you experience.

    Important Health Screenings During Gynecological Exams

    Scheduling regular gynecological exams at our women’s health clinic also helps you get the health screenings and preventative care you need. Screenings help assess your risk for certain health conditions and can also help with early detection and treatment. Many of the health screenings you receive during your gynecological exam look for signs of potentially serious or life-threatening conditions, which is another reason why experts recommend continuing gynecological care after menopause.

    In many cases, you will also need regular Pap tests even after menopause. Current recommendations are to get a Pap test at least every three years between the ages of 21 and 65. After 65, you may be able to stop getting tests if you have had three consecutive negative Pap tests or at least two negative HPV tests in the last ten years. Our women’s health care providers can help you determine if you can stop getting regular Pap tests based on your individual risks.

    Even if you no longer need a Pap test, you may still need regular pelvic exams. Regular pelvic exams can help find signs of issues with your pelvic organs. For instance, during a pelvic exam our doctor may look for signs of ovarian cysts, STIs, uterine fibroids, and cancer in your pelvic organs. Many experts recommend getting regular pelvic exams after menopause as part of preventative care.

    Depending on your individual circumstances, our providers may also recommend other health screenings during your gynecological exam. We offer personalized services and recommendations to help you address your health.

    Discuss Your Gynecological Symptoms with Our Women’s Health Care Providers

    Another reason to continue scheduling gynecological exams after menopause is to talk about your symptoms with our health professionals. According to one study published in the North American Menopause Society’s journal Menopause, over half of women experience gynecological symptoms after menopause. Yet, many don’t seek help for these issues.

    The study surveyed hundreds of post-menopausal women and found that 51% of them experienced symptoms such as itching, irritation, dryness, discharge, and odor. For 40% of those women, their symptoms caused emotional distress. Also, 33% said symptoms impacted their lifestyles. For those who were sexually active, 76% said symptoms interfered with their sex life. Despite these symptoms and effects, about one-third of the women hadn’t seen a gynecologist in two years. From the study, the researchers suggested getting regular gynecological exams and discussing any symptoms you experience.

    In many cases, our women’s health care providers can help treat the underlying causes of your symptoms to help you find relief. For example, many women experience bladder symptoms such as frequency, urgency, urinary incontinence, or even burning while urinating. Many of these symptoms can be tied to vaginal atrophy, where the walls of your vagina become thin and dry, which is common after menopause.

    Treating your vaginal atrophy can often help with not only your vaginal symptoms, but your bladder symptoms as well. This is just one example of how discussing your symptoms with our team can help you find treatment solutions personalized to you.

    Not only can symptoms interfere with your quality of life, but they can also be a sign of something more serious. For instance, bleeding after menopause can be a warning sign of anything from non-cancerous polyps to endometrial cancer. Talking to our providers about symptoms may help with early detection of serious health conditions.

    HerKare – Empowering Women Through Quality Women’s Health Care

    Getting quality health care is important at every age, including after menopause. Our team at HerKare provides you with quality care at every stage of life. We are here to help you take care of your overall health, whether you need preventative care or are experiencing worrying symptoms. We believe in empowering women by providing them with the personalized health care solutions they need to feel their best. Schedule a gynecological exam at one of our convenient locations or make an appointment for our other treatment services to learn how we can make a difference for you.

    Talk to Your Gynecologist about Postmenopausal Bleeding

    Talk to Your Gynecologist about Postmenopausal Bleeding

    Any type of vaginal bleeding after menopause is a sign to visit our gynecologist. Vaginal bleeding is not normal after you have reached menopause, which is 12 months without a period. If you’re experiencing postmenopausal bleeding, this is typically a symptom of an underlying health conditions, some of which can be serious or life-threatening. Let’s talk about what to do if you noticed postmenopausal bleeding, what to expect at our clinic, and some common causes of vaginal bleeding after menopause.

    Vaginal Bleeding After Menopause? Visit our Gynecologist

    woman sitting alone wondering if she needs to see a gynecologist for postmenopausal bleeding

    Vaginal bleeding after menopause isn’t normal. Your gynecologist can help address your symptoms.

    Any time you experience vaginal bleeding after menopause, it’s important to discuss your symptoms with a women’s health care professional. While there is no reason to panic, you should take abnormal vaginal bleeding seriously, whether you’re experiencing light spotting or heavy flow.

    An estimated 4% to 11% of women experience postmenopausal bleeding for one reason or another. Many women mistakenly believe that a little bleeding after menopause is no cause for concern and put off getting healthcare. However, we advise scheduling a gynecological services appointment as soon as possible to talk about your symptoms. While it may be something benign, postmenopausal bleeding can also be a sign of serious conditions like endometrial cancer. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so talk to one of our providers about abnormal bleeding.

    What Will the Gynecologist Do for Postmenopausal Bleeding?

    It’s understandable that you might be concerned about visiting our gynecologist to talk about postmenopausal bleeding. We realize that knowing what to expect during your appointment can help you feel more prepared and may help you feel better before and during your appointment. If you’re experiencing vaginal bleeding after menopause, our treatment providers may recommend a few things to help with diagnosis. In addition to talking about your symptoms, medical history, and relevant family history, the gynecologist may recommend different exams and procedures to help find the root cause.

    Our Gynecologist will Likely Perform a Pelvic Exam

    If you’re experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding, our gynecologist will typically perform a pelvic exam. Pelvic exams can help our providers assess the health of your reproductive organs, like the vagina, uterus, cervix, and ovaries. During the exam, our provider may also screen for cervical cancer with a Pap test if you have abnormal vaginal bleeding.

    Our Gynecologist May Recommend an Ultrasound

    In some cases, our gynecologist may recommend a pelvic ultrasound to get a closer look at your pelvic and to help determine the source of your postmenopausal bleeding. This ultrasound may be abdominal or it may be transvaginal. Transvaginal ultrasounds use a thin imaging “wand” placed inside the vagina to get more detailed pictures of your pelvic organs.

    Our Gynecologist May Recommend Diagnostic Surgery

    While less common, sometimes our doctors may recommend a diagnostic surgery called a hysteroscopy. This procedure allows the doctor to look inside your uterus with a small camera to look for potential causes of postmenopausal bleeding. During the procedure, the doctor may also take a tissue sample to send to the lab for testing to help diagnose the source of your abnormal vaginal bleeding.

    Talk to Our Gynecologist about Possible Causes of Postmenopausal Bleeding

    There may be many causes of your postmenopausal bleeding. Some of these causes are more serious than others. Visiting our women’s health clinic can help identify underlying causes of your postmenopausal vaginal bleeding and help determine a course of treatment to help relieve your symptoms.

    Uterine or Cervical Polyps

    Polyps are small, noncancerous growths. If you’re suffering from vaginal bleeding after menopause, polyps in the uterus or cervix may be to blame. Polyps can easily become irritated and bleed, which can lead to spotting or even heavy vaginal bleeding. Uterine and cervical polyps are pretty common and are unlikely to become malignant, but when they cause symptoms like vaginal bleeding, generally gynecologists recommend removing them with a surgical procedure.

    Vaginal Atrophy

    Low estrogen levels during menopause can cause vaginal atrophy, which is where the skin becomes thin and dry. Vaginal atrophy can make the vagina more delicate and more prone to tears which can lead to vaginal bleeding. For instance, if you experience vaginal bleeding after sex, it may be due to friction. If this is the cause of your postmenopausal bleeding, our treatment providers may recommend vaginal moisturizers, vaginal estrogen, or lubricants to help.

    Thickening Uterine Lining

    In some cases, you may experience endometrial thickening after menopause that causes vaginal bleeding. This is called endometrial hyperplasia and while it is not cancer, it can increase your risk for endometrial or uterine cancer. Depending on your risk factors, our gynecologist may recommend taking progesterone to thin out your uterine lining. For women with higher risks for cancer, you may consider a hysterectomy as treatment.

    Some Medications

    Certain medications can also cause vaginal bleeding as a side effect. For instance, some women experience postmenopausal bleeding when taking blood thinners. Postmenopausal women taking hormone replacement therapy can experience vaginal bleeding as a side effect for the first six months of treatment. If you’re experiencing bleeding after menopause due to medications, we may explore changing your medications or recommend closely monitoring your symptoms to see if they change or get worse to determine if you may benefit from changing medications.

    Infections

    While rarer, endometrial infections can cause inflammation and vaginal bleeding after menopause. Doctors will generally prescribe antibiotics to help treat bacterial uterine infections. After treatment, your symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge should improve.

    Sexually Transmitted Infections

    Another rare cause of postmenopausal bleeding are sexually transmitted infections. Infections like chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause inflammation that may lead to abnormal vaginal bleeding. In these cases, treating the STI generally stops the postmenopausal bleeding.

    Endometrial Cancer

    While it’s rare, postmenopausal bleeding can be a sign of endometrial cancer. Endometrial cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lining of the uterus. About 10% of women who experience postmenopausal bleeding have endometrial cancer. However, an estimated 90% of women with endometrial cancer experience postmenopausal vaginal bleeding. Therefore, while endometrial cancer isn’t a common cause of postmenopausal bleeding, it can be an early warning sign of endometrial cancer. When caught early, the five-year survival rate is approximately 95%. In later stages, the survival rate is much lower. Because of the seriousness of endometrial cancer, most doctors recommend visiting a gynecologist to talk about postmenopausal bleeding and any other symptoms you’re experiencing.

    Gynecological and Women’s Health Care from HerKare

    Our health professionals at HerKare are here to empower you to take control of your health. We provide total women’s health care for every stage of life. Whether you need preventative care or are experiencing concerning symptoms, we offer quality care in our warm, welcoming clinics. As a clinic owned and operated by women for women, we are here to provide health care that suits your lifestyle. Make an appointment at one of our clinics today.

    What to Know About Vaginal Yeast Infections

    What to Know About Vaginal Yeast Infections

    An estimated 75% of women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection during their lifetimes. Some women experience yeast infections more frequently during and after menopause, often due to hormone changes. In some cases, other conditions you might experience during menopause can also increase the risk for vaginal infections like yeast infections. If you’re experiencing yeast infection symptoms, schedule a gynecological services appointment with our team to discuss diagnosis and treatment. Let’s go over some information you should know about yeast infections to help protect your health. 

    What is a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

    woman smiling after getting gynecological services for chronic yeast infections

    Vaginal yeast infections are an overgrowth of yeast. Gynecological services can help with diagnosis and treatment of yeast infections.

    First and foremost, you might be wondering what a vaginal yeast infection is. Many of us have heard of them or even experienced them without really knowing what they are. To understand what a yeast infection is, it’s important to understand that the vagina is like its own ecosystem. A healthy vagina typically has an acidic pH with a balance of bacteria and yeast. Those bacteria and yeast actually help keep your vagina healthy! However, if the balance between them gets thrown off for one reason or another, then the yeast cells can start to multiply and take over. When this happens, you experience a yeast infection. If you think you have a yeast infection, gynecological services can help diagnose the problem and one of our providers can prescribe treatment for the yeast infection.

    Symptoms of Yeast Infections

    There are many signs that can point to a yeast infection. Some common symptoms include:

    • Itching
    • Swelling
    • Redness
    • Pain during sex
    • Burning during urination
    • Soreness
    • Rash
    • White, clumpy discharge (like cottage cheese)
    • Watery discharge 

    However, it’s also important to keep in mind that other conditions can cause similar symptoms. This can make self-diagnosis tricky, which is why we recommend visiting one of our gynecological service providers if you’re experiencing yeast infection symptoms.

    Causes of Yeast Infections

    There are many potential causes of yeast infections. For instance, taking certain antibiotics can raise your risk for yeast infections because they can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in your vagina responsible for keeping yeast cells in check. Other common causes include stress, lack of sleep, and uncontrolled blood sugar if you have diabetes. 

    Hormone imbalances may also be a risk factor for yeast infections. Hormones can have a pretty big impact on your vagina’s delicate microbiome. Fluctuations in estrogen can lead to an overgrowth of yeast and eventually a yeast infection. Therefore, some women notice that they get yeast infections more often during perimenopause when hormone levels start to change. During this time period, vaginal atrophy is also pretty common, which can also increase your risk for vaginal infections. We’ll discuss these common menopause-related causes in more depth a little later. 

    In many cases it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of your yeast infection. Also, in some cases they may not be preventable. It’s important to talk to one of our gynecological treatment providers about your symptoms and what you can do to help avoid yeast infections. Some general tips involve following good hygiene practices, keeping your vulva clean and dry, and avoiding potentially irritating things like scented bath products. Our treatment providers can help determine other changes that may help your specific situation.

    Why Get Gynecological Services for Yeast Infections?

    Some women choose to self-diagnose and self-treat yeast infections with over the counter medications. However, our team generally recommends scheduling an appointment with a gynecological services provider if you think you have a yeast infection. 

    There are several reasons to visit one of our treatment providers for a yeast infection. Self-diagnosing a yeast infection can be quite difficult. Several studies have found that women frequently misdiagnose themselves with yeast infections. One study showed evidence that only 34% of the study participants who purchased over-the-counter yeast infection treatments had accurately diagnosed themselves with a yeast infection.

    Many other conditions can have similar symptoms to yeast infections. For instance, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, or even allergies from soaps or skincare products. Seeing a doctor can help rule out other causes of your symptoms and help verify that you have a yeast infection. One way to diagnose a yeast infection is to perform a lab test of your discharge to look for an overgrowth of yeast cells. 

    In addition, most over-the-counter yeast infection treatments are geared toward the most common type of yeast that causes yeast infections. However, some women may have a yeast infection from another type of yeast. Therefore, OTC treatments may not work for you if your yeast infection is due to another strain of yeast. In these cases, one of our providers can help identify the specific type of yeast and prescribe treatments specifically for that type of yeast infection. This can help you get the right type of treatment rather than deal with ongoing symptoms from using the incorrect anti-fungal treatments.

    Can Menopause Lead to Yeast Infections?

    Vaginal yeast infections can occur at any age. However, some women notice they get more yeast infections during and after menopause. Some common conditions you may experience during menopause can increase your risk for yeast infections. In addition, some of the symptoms of menopause can make you more vulnerable to yeast infections.

    Vaginal Atrophy

    We mentioned vaginal atrophy earlier as a potential risk factor for vaginal infections. Vaginal atrophy occurs when the tissues of your vagina become thin and dry. It’s pretty common with low estrogen levels during and after menopause. Vaginal atrophy may increase the risk for yeast infections, as it can change your vagina’s pH, bacterial levels, and yeast levels. These changes from vaginal atrophy can make your vagina more vulnerable to yeast overgrowth and yeast infections.

    Also, some women even mistake vaginal atrophy symptoms for yeast infections. Vaginal atrophy can cause itching, irritation, pain during sex, and several other similar symptoms to yeast infections. This can lead some women to believe they have a yeast infection when they don’t. Gynecological services such as a pelvic exam and lab testing of vaginal discharge can help determine if you have a yeast infection or if there may be other causes of your symptoms. 

    Other Common Conditions During Menopause that can Lead to Yeast Infections

    Also, there are other conditions you might experience during menopause that can increase your risk for yeast infections. For instance, many women experience frequent urinary tract infections during menopause due to low estrogen levels and vaginal atrophy. The most common treatment for UTIs involves taking antibiotics, which, as we mentioned earlier, can increase the risk for yeast infections. If you’re struggling with frequent UTIs after menopause, you may also experience more frequent yeast infections due to the antibiotics. 

    In addition, poor sleep can lower your immune system and increase your risk for yeast infections. Many women experience poor sleep during menopause due to hot flashes and night sweats. Frequent sleep issues during menopause may lead to vaginal yeast infections as well. Therefore, there may be many factors at play if you’re experiencing yeast infections during menopause, such as menopause symptoms that can affect your health. 

    Gynecological Services Can Help Address Underlying Causes of Yeast Infections

    Sometimes yeast infections just happen, but symptoms should go away with treatment. However, if you have four or more yeast infections per year, you might have chronic yeast infections. This is important to discuss with one of our women’s health care providers, as there may be underlying causes to chronic yeast infections.

    Treating underlying conditions may help reduce the number of yeast infections you get. For instance, if you’re struggling with vaginal atrophy after menopause, we may recommend estrogen or vaginal creams to help moisturize and thicken vaginal tissues, which may help reduce the number of yeast infections you experience. In other cases, our providers may recommend taking yeast infection medications for a longer period of time to help with chronic yeast infections.

    One of the first steps toward getting help for frequent yeast infections is scheduling an appointment for gynecological services from our team. Our providers can go over your medical history, symptoms, and perform examinations and tests to determine if there may be underlying causes to your yeast infections. 

    Quality Women’s Health Care and Gynecological Services at HerKare

    Our professionals at HerKare are here to help you feel your best, whether you have chronic yeast infections or need preventative well woman care. We are a women’s health clinic owned and managed by women. We take time to listen and understand what you’re feeling to help provide quality care for a wide range of conditions, from gynecological concerns to menopause symptoms. Make an appointment today to discuss how we can help you address your health.

    Gynecological Exams After a Hysterectomy

    Gynecological Exams After a Hysterectomy

    Even if you have had a hysterectomy, gynecological exams are still important! Many women don’t realize that they still need regular gynecological care even after a hysterectomy. Skipping your exams may mean skipping important health screenings and preventative care. Talk to one of our treatment providers about your situation. They recommend regular gynecological exams based on your circumstances and risks. 

    What’s Included in a Gynecological Exam?

    gynecological exams help you stay healthy even after hysterectomy

    Gynecological exams help you address your health, even if you have had a hysterectomy.

    Before we discuss why you may still need gynecological exams after a hysterectomy, let’s talk about what a gynecological exam is. These exams address the female anatomy and reproductive system. They are an important part of regular well woman care.  

    Gynecological exams may be different for everyone and tailored to your individual risks. They may include a pelvic exam, a pap test, and other well woman care like general health questions and screenings. One of our treatment providers can discuss your medical history, family history, and other factors with you to determine appropriate screenings and exams during a gynecological exam. 

    Pelvic Exam

    A pelvic exam involves a few different steps to assess the health of your pelvic organs. The exam may start with an external exam of the vulva, vagina, and surrounding area. This can help detect visual signs of things like cysts, abnormal discharge, irritation, and other potential gynecological issues. The doctor may also look for signs of warts or potentially cancerous skin growths.

    The pelvic exam may also include a manual exam where your provider will put one or two gloved and lubricated fingers into your vagina and press on your abdomen with their other hand. This can help assess a few things, such as the size of your ovaries and fallopian tubes. The manual exam may help detect signs of ovarian cysts or tumors. Also, it may help assess for any pain or tenderness, which might be the result of an infection or another condition.

    In addition, your pelvic exam might also include a speculum exam. The speculum is a tool made of metal or plastic that helps open the vagina. This can help allow our treatment provider to see the walls of your vagina and the cervix (if you still have a cervix after a partial hysterectomy). During the speculum portion of the pelvic exam, your provider may also take samples of discharge from your cervix. This can help with testing for things like sexually transmitted infections. In addition, they may also take samples of cervical cells for a pap test or HPV test.

    Pap Test

    A pap test is a screening used to look for signs of cervical cancer. The test involves collecting cells from your cervix and analyzing them in the lab for abnormalities. Abnormal cervical cells can be one of the first signs of cancer or precancerous cells. In some cases the doctor may also use the same sample from the pap test to perform an HPV test to look for the HPV virus, which can increase the risk for cervical cancer. 

    In some cases, you may not need pap tests after a hysterectomy. For instance, if you have had a complete hysterectomy (where the surgeon removed both the uterus and the cervix) for reasons not related to cancer and you have a history of normal pap tests, then you may not need to continue getting pap tests. This is a conversation you can have with one of our providers based on your health, history, and risk factors. 

    Other Healthcare Screenings

    Depending on your unique circumstances, your gynecological exam may also include other screenings. For instance, our providers may recommend a breast exam, bone density screening, and other tests to address your health. 

    Breast exams can help screen for breast cancer. The doctor feels the breast and may do a visual exam to look for changes in the breast tissue and skin. For example, lumps or abnormal discharge that might point to breast cancer. For women over 45 years old, most doctors recommend regular mammograms to screen for signs of breast cancer as well. In some cases a mammogram may require a separate appointment from your annual gynecological exam.

    Our providers may also recommend other health exams or screenings when you come in for a gynecological exam. These may be based on your individual circumstances and risks. For example, they may recommend bone density scans to look for early signs or risk factors of osteoporosis. Other screenings might include cholesterol screenings, hormone level tests, or body composition assessments to help you address your health as a whole. 

    Why Do I Still Need a Gynecological Exam After a Hysterectomy?

    A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes all or part of the uterus. There are a few different types of hysterectomy procedures. Depending on the type of hysterectomy, the surgeon may also remove the cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, the upper part of the vagina, and nearby lymph nodes. It’s a common misconception that women who have had a hysterectomy no longer need gynecological exams. However, regular pelvic exams are still an important part of preventative care for many women, even if they no longer have a uterus.

    Cancer Screenings

    One important reason to talk to your doctor about whether you need regular gynecological exams is because providers may perform several cancer screenings during the exam. Even if you no longer need a pap test after a hysterectomy to look for signs of cervical cancer, our providers may perform other cancer screenings during a gynecological exam. For instance, providers may look for signs of cancer on the vagina, vulva, ovaries, and other organs. While a hysterectomy can decrease your risk for some types of cancer, you may still need regular screenings. For instance, even if your ovaries were removed, there is a small chance that leftover ovarian cells could become cancerous after the hysterectomy.

    Sexual Health

    Another reason our treatment providers may recommend regular gynecological exams after a hysterectomy is to help monitor your sexual health. This may include treatment plans for vaginal dryness that makes intercourse uncomfortable, regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and other care to help you have a safe, healthy, and enjoyable sex life. 

    Screenings for Pelvic Organs 

    Gynecological exams also check many other pelvic organs, such as the bladder, rectum, and other organs in the pelvic area. Gynecological exams may be part of a multifaceted strategy for checking pelvic organ health. One common condition that your treatment provider may detect during a gynecological exam is pelvic organ prolapse, where the pelvic floor weakens and allows the pelvic organs to slip down and bulge into the vagina. 

    Some Symptoms that May Warrant a Gynecological Exam

    In addition to regular well woman appointments with gynecological screenings, you may also need to schedule an appointment for a gynecological exam due to symptoms you experience. Some of these symptoms may be signs of a health condition, so our providers may recommend a gynecological exam to help identify underlying causes of your symptoms and to help rule out other health issues. Some symptoms to talk to our medical providers about include:

    • Abnormal bleeding
    • Abnormal discharge
    • Pelvic pain
    • Vaginal odor
    • Vaginal soreness, itching, or irritation
    • Sores in the genital area
    • Urinary symptoms
      • Frequency
      • Urgency
      • Leaks

    Healthcare At Every Stage of Life from HerKare

    As a clinic operated by women for women, our team at HerKare is here to offer compassionate care at every stage of life. Whether you need regular well woman exams and birth control management or are wondering what types of exams you need after menopause, we are here to help. Our goal is to help empower you to prioritize your health by providing quality health care and a team that listens. Book an appointment now to discuss your health with our providers!

    Kegel Exercises & Menopause: Exercise the Pelvic Floor

    Kegel Exercises & Menopause: Exercise the Pelvic Floor

    Did you know doing Kegel exercises after menopause offers many benefits? Many women’s health care professionals recommend women do these pelvic floor exercises daily to help prevent many common issues during menopause. Talk to our provider about whether Kegel exercises are right for you and how to include them in your lifestyle.

    middle aged woman sitting on porch drinking coffee smiling after talking to a women's health care provider about her health

    Talk to our women’s health care professionals about Kegel exercises. They may help prevent uncomfortable symptoms and conditions during menopause.

    What Are Kegel Exercises? Why Might a Women’s Health Care Provider Recommend Them?

    Never heard of Kegel exercises before? These are essentially exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor helps support the organs in your pelvis, such as the uterus, bladder, rectum, and vagina. 

    With age, these muscles can start to become weaker. What’s more, lower estrogen levels during menopause can also contribute to a weak pelvic floor. This puts you at risk for many different issues, such as pain during sex, difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels, or even uterine prolapse. 

    Some other things that might contribute to weak pelvic muscles include:

    • Being overweight
    • Chronic cough
    • Chronic constipation

    Fortunately, Kegel exercises can help make your pelvic floor stronger and are fairly easy to incorporate into your every day routine. 

    Kegel exercises were developed in the 1950s by a gynecologist named Arnold Kegel. He studied the use of pelvic floor exercises for women with urinary incontinence. Today, many women’s health care professionals recommend Kegel exercises for women of all ages because of their many benefits. This is especially true for women during and after menopause who are more likely to experience pelvic floor weakening and related conditions.

    Benefits of Regular Kegel Exercises after Menopause

    So, why might you start doing Kegel exercises after menopause? Since your pelvic floor supports a lot of important organs, it’s important to keep these muscles strong. This can also help with the function of your pelvic organs. 

    Your Women’s Health Care Provider May Recommend Kegels to Help with Urinary Incontinence

    Millions of women experience urinary incontinence (UI), which can take the form of anything from small leaks when you sneeze or even having accidents because you’re unable to reach the restroom in time. Your risk for this condition increases with age and after menopause due to lower estrogen levels.

    Many women with urinary incontinence deal with a reduced quality of life. A lot of those with UI change a lot about their lives due to the condition, like avoiding going places due to fear of leakage. Many also feel embarrassed and isolated socially because of the condition.

    If you have UI, it’s important to talk to our women’s health care provider about causes and treatments. One common recommendation for urinary incontinence is doing Kegel exercises. Stronger pelvic muscles may help you hold your urine in more effectively until you can make it to the bathroom. 

    One study from 2018 even found that regular pelvic floor exercises helped improve quality of life for those with urinary incontinence. So, Kegel exercises may be used both as a preventative measure and a treatment for urinary incontinence. 

    Reducing Your Risk for and Treating Uterine Prolapse

    Uterine prolapse is a somewhat common condition, and your risk for it goes up after menopause. This is where your uterus starts to sag lower than normal, sometimes entering the vagina (a partial prolapse) or even protruding outside of the vagina (complete prolapse).

    Some symptoms of uterine prolapse include:

    • Heaviness or pressure in the pelvis
    • Pelvic pain
    • Abdominal pain
    • Back pain
    • Painful sex
    • Frequent bladder infections
    • Unusual or excessive discharge
    • Constipation
    • Urinary leaks, frequency, and urgency

    These symptoms may also get worse when you’re standing or walking, as gravity can pull on the prolapsed uterus. 

    If you have uterine prolapse, Kegel exercises may be the recommended treatment for mild cases. In other cases, you may need surgery to remove the uterus or put it back in place. 

    However, Kegel exercises may also help reduce your risk for experiencing uterine prolapse. Generally, the reason the uterus slips down from its normal position is due to a weakened pelvic floor. Therefore, keeping these muscles strong may help provide the support needed to prevent uterine prolapse. 

    Improving Intimacy with Kegels

    Another issue Kegel exercises can help with is intimacy after menopause. As your estrogen levels start to fall, you might notice vaginal dryness or pain, especially during sex. Kegel exercises help in a few different ways. 

    First, a common reason you might experience pain during sex is due to tight vaginal muscles. Kegel exercises can help you relax these muscles so they’re not as tight and painful during sex. 

    Also, pelvic floor exercises can help increase circulation to the pelvic floor and vagina. Better blood flow to the area can help improve arousal and lubrication. In some cases, doing Kegel exercises regularly may even help improve orgasms. 

    All this can come together to help improve intimacy after menopause. So, Kegels may even help your sex life!

    How to Do Kegel Exercises

    Did you know about one-third of women who do Kegel exercises are actually doing them wrong? That means they may not get any of the benefits of doing Kegel exercises. Your women’s health clinic can help you determine whether you’re doing Kegel exercises right and offer some tips to help you with Kegels during your next checkup or appointment. However, here are some general tips that may help you learn how to do Kegel exercises.

    Find the Right Muscles

    Remember how we mentioned about a third of women aren’t doing their Kegels right? In many cases, this is because they’re actually flexing other muscles, like the buttocks, abdomen, or legs. Finding the right muscles for Kegel exercises can be a little difficult, but we do have a few tips.

    First, it might help if you lie down while you try to find the right muscles and get used to doing pelvic floor exercises. While you can do them in practically any position, like sitting at a red light, it’s much easier to contract the muscles when you’re lying down. 

    A lot of guides say that the easiest way to find the right muscles is to stop the stream of urine when you’re going to the bathroom. While this can help you find the right muscles, doing this can make it difficult to fully empty the bladder, which can cause other issues like urinary tract infections. Instead, we recommend pretending you’re trying to avoid passing gas, or to tighten your vagina around a tampon. This can help you find the right muscle group. 

    If you’re still having trouble finding the right muscles, lie down and insert a clean finger into your vagina and try to do a Kegel. You should feel the muscles tighten around your finger.

    Also, try placing a hand on your abdomen when doing your Kegel exercises. This can help you feel any unintended muscle contractions in your abdomen. If you’re contracting your abdominal muscles, there’s a good chance you’re doing your Kegel exercises wrong.

    How Often to Do Kegels?

    Once you have the hang of which muscles to contract, you can start doing them regularly to help reap the benefits of a strong pelvic floor. 

    If you’re just starting out, then you may need to work your way up to longer contractions and multiple reps. Generally, one rep is contracting the pelvic floor for three to five seconds and relaxing for three to five seconds. For most women, aim to do about ten reps two or three times a day. Once that becomes easier, you can even try mixing them up by holding for longer, like ten seconds, or even shorter, like two or three second bursts.

    Just keep in mind that doing Kegel exercises too much can make your pelvic floor muscles too tight. This can cause issues like:

    • Constipation
    • Incomplete bowel movements
    • Pelvic pain
    • Lower back pain
    • Painful sex

    If you notice these signs of a tight pelvic floor, then try giving your muscles a break from Kegels for a little while. If your symptoms don’t improve, visit our women’s health care team for help finding underlying causes, like overworking the pelvic floor muscles or even other health conditions.

    Talk to Your Women’s Health Care Providers About Staying Healthy

    At HerKare, we’re a women’s health clinic dedicated to your wellness. Our team is here to help you feel your best at every stage of life. Whether you’re looking for advice on maintaining a healthier lifestyle or need to talk about symptoms you’ve noticed, we take time to listen, understand, and work with you to find personalized health solutions for you. Be proactive about your health. Schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations today.

    Can COVID-19 Affect Your Menstrual Cycle?

    Can COVID-19 Affect Your Menstrual Cycle?

    Have you noticed something off about your period? Wondering if COVID-19 may be to blame? It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for changes in your menstrual cycle and talk to your women’s health clinic about anything out of the ordinary. Many women are noticing that their menstrual cycle has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some explanations for this, but experts are still researching the effects.

    Women’s Health Clinic - COVID & Menstrual Cycles

    The COVID-19 pandemic may be affecting your menstrual cycle in a few ways, but our women’s health clinic is here to help you find answers for period changes.

    While changes to your menstrual cycle may be nothing to panic about, it  can still help to talk to our women’s health care provider about changes. In some cases, this can signal bigger health issues that may need some extra attention. 

    Talk to Your Women’s Health Clinic if You’ve Noticed Changes with Your Period

    Slight changes in your menstrual cycle can happen for many different reasons. These include things like hormone changes, weight changes, and reproductive conditions like PCOS. Pregnancy may also seem like period changes, as many women experience spotting in their first trimester that could be mistaken for a light period. Perimenopause can also cause changes to your period, like irregular cycles or skipped periods.

    However, because period changes can also signal something more serious going on with your health, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry and talk to our doctor about differences you’ve noticed.

    Some signs you should make an appointment at your women’s health clinic to talk about your period include:

    • Frequently having periods fewer than 24 days apart
    • Consistently bleeding for longer than 7 days
    • Regularly going two or more months between periods
    • Frequent spotting between periods
    • Heavy bleeding (needing to change your pad or tampon every hour or more)
    • Clots larger than the size of a quarter
    • Excessive clots

    Period Changes since the Pandemic Started? Visit your Women’s Health Clinic to Rule Out More Serious Conditions

    Many women are reporting period changes since the COVID-19 outbreak. A lot of these differences vary between women, but a lot of people are connecting the dots between the changes they noticed and the timeframe of the pandemic.

    Women around the country are asking women’s health care professionals whether COVID-19 has anything to do with their period changes. Researchers are still studying the virus and its effects after infection, but there’s a chance that it could. 

    Some of the symptoms women have reported include:

    • Spotting
    • Skipped periods
    • Longer or shorter cycles
    • Unusual clotting
    • Worse PMS symptoms
    • Heavier periods

    This is concerning because many of these symptoms are also on the list of period signs that you want to have checked out at your women’s health clinic. Once again, it’s generally better to be safe than sorry and give us a call to see if our provider recommends an exam or testing for other health issues.

    How can COVID-19 Affect My Period?

    While there’s still much we don’t know about COVID-19, there are a lot of theories as to why your period might change. Even if you haven’t been infected with the coronavirus, there’s still a chance that your menstrual cycle may be affected. 

    Many experts believe that these changes can be due to stress, lifestyle changes during quarantine, or COVID-19 infection. As research continues, there are a few explanations why many doctors believe the pandemic may be affecting some people’s cycle.

    Pandemic Stress can Wreak Havoc on Your Cycle

    Most people would agree that the pandemic has been stressful. A lot of us are worrying about our health and our loved ones’ health. Some have gone through the pains of working from home. Also, we are all dealing with uncertainty of when things will return to normal.

    Needless to say, many of us are dealing with way more stress on our plates than normal.

    Stress can quickly take a toll on our bodies, leaving people feeling drained, irritable, and even leading to things like stomach problems and losing hair. This pandemic stress can also affect our menstrual cycle

    Even before COVID-19, stress has been a common cause in period changes. The problem with feeling stressed is that it initiates our fight or flight response. When we’re stressed, we release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can delay or stop ovulation and reduce our progesterone levels. This can lead to menstrual changes.

    Also, stress can affect your hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. This is basically how your brain communicates with your ovaries using hormones as the messenger. Things like mental stress, physical stress, and even sleep disruptions can all bog down your HPO axis, which affects how much estrogen and progesterone your ovaries produce. This, in turn, can meddle with your cycle. 

    Everyone’s body may react a little differently to the stress of the pandemic and quarantine. Some women may notice shorter, lighter periods and others may notice longer, heavier periods, and others may notice different symptoms or nothing at all. It’s generally a good idea to get a checkup for your symptoms from your women’s health clinic, but if you’ve skipped a period because of stress, it’s generally not a major health concern. However, if you’re sexually active, even if you’re on birth control, a skipped period may warrant a pregnancy test. 

    Lifestyle Changes Make a Big Difference

    Also, many people have had to change a lot of things about their daily life because of COVID-19. These lifestyle changes may also affect your menstrual cycle. For example, your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits may have changed. Weight changes can lead to hormone imbalances which can affect your period. Lack of sleep can also induce a stress response from your body that may affect your periods as well. 

    Another issue many of the providers at our women’s health clinic have noticed during the pandemic is increased alcohol consumption and tobacco use. Smoking and chronic heavy drinking can also take a toll on your menstrual cycle, as well as the rest of your body. 

    The Virus Itself May Change Your Period

    Also, the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the one responsible for COVID-19) may also affect your period if you’ve been infected. Viral infections in general can put your body under stress and take up a lot of your body’s resources. This means that ovulation and menstruation may get put on the back burner as your immune system fights the virus. Many doctors note that period changes during COVID-19 are similar to those of many other illnesses, like the flu or the common cold. Fortunately, many women notice their periods go back to normal as they start to recover and their symptoms improve.

    However, there is also a potential that the virus may also attack the ovaries similar to how it attacks other organs. This could also affect your menstrual cycle.  While this potential has been proposed by some, it hasn’t been studied and is only speculation until we have further research. 

    Visit Our Women’s Health Clinic & Let’s Talk About Your Cycle

    Our providers at HerKare are here to help you address your health. As a women’s health clinic, we’re dedicated to helping you find underlying causes of your symptoms and providing personalized care for your needs. If you’ve noticed changes in your menstrual cycle, or any other symptoms, make an appointment today to talk to our doctors. We help with a wide range of health conditions, from hormone imbalances to diabetes and sleep apnea. Our team is here to help you feel like yourself again.