Alpha Omicron Pi is so excited to celebrate women’s health with our 7th Annual Women’s Health Week! Throughout the week of May 15-19, AOII will be featuring sisters who serve as amazing health professionals to discuss different facets of women’s health. Check out the themes and topics for each day, and join us by following along on AOII socials for Women’s Health Week 2023!
Mental Health Monday
Women are so often busy taking care of others, that we don’t slow down and care for ourselves. As the flight attendants say, “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.”
Four Top Tips for Mental Health:
- Schedule your annual check-up as well as your well-woman exam. Feel empowered to ask questions and share any concerns you may have.
- Get active. Being active improves your physical and mental health. Aim for 14 miles each week to maximize the upsides of exercise. Do it outside and get Vitamin D from the sun which is also a mood booster.
- Eat balanced meals.
- Prioritize your mental health and learn coping techniques for stress. One of best ways to cope with stress is connection. Our sisterhood provides ample opportunity. Feeling connected not only boosts your mental health, but can help people maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugars, improve cancer survival, decrease cardiovascular mortality, and decrease depressive symptoms. Read more here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125010/
Source on women’s mental health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/women-and-mental-health
Six Top Tips for Breast Health:
1. Get your yearly mammogram beginning at age 40
- Mammography has been proven to identify cancers earlier than any other imaging/testing method. Having a yearly mammogram makes it easier to find subtle changes when compared to your priors.
- Early diagnosis saves lives and decreases the need for chemotherapy.
- There are competing recommendations for when and how often to get mammograms, but starting annual screening at age 40 results in the best outcomes including lower mortality from breast cancer.
- Screening mammograms take less than 15 minutes to perform and are included annually on all insurance plans.
- Women without insurance should ask for cash prices. October is the best month to find low cost exams since it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
- The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have NO FAMILY HISTORY of breast cancer.
2. Know your personal lifetime cancer risk.
- The American College of Radiology and The Society of Breast Imaging recommends that all patients have a breast cancer risk assessment before age 30.
- Women who have high risk of breast cancer (20+% lifetime risk of breast cancer) on the risk assessment are recommended to start screening at age 30. Recommended screening includes a yearly mammogram and breast MRI ideally done 6 months apart.
- Risk assessment calculators include factors like your family history of ovarian and breast cancer, age at first period, age at first child’s birth, your height and weight, Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, known breast cancer gene mutations, prior abnormal breast biopsies as well as breast density to determine your personal risk.
- Average lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is ~12%. Lifetime risk of 20% or higher is considered high risk.
- If the patient does develop a cancer, the goal is to catch it as early as possible.
3. Know your breast density.
- Dense breast tissue is associated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer and unfortunately can mask or hide cancers from being seen on mammography.
- Women with dense tissue and normal lifetime risk of breast cancer should consider adding whole breast ultrasound to their yearly mammogram to look for masses that could be hidden on mammogram. This decrease the number of “interval cancers” or cancers that are discovered between yearly mammogram exams.
- Mammography is still needed in dense breasted women since the earliest signs of breast cancer are only seen on mammography.
4. Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women should continue yearly mammograms.
- More and more women are having babies in their 40s and can go many years consecutively either breastfeeding or being pregnant.
- The rates of breast cancer diagnosed in pregnant and post-partal women is increasing. Pregnancy hormones can stimulate a cancer to grow.
- Mammography is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Mammography uses low energy x-rays that can’t penetrate deeply. There is no risk to the growing fetus.
- Mammography does not harm breast milk. It is safe to breastfeed after a mammogram.
- Women who are high risk and start screening in their 30s should also continue to have their yearly screening mammogram. Breast MRI is safe during breastfeeding but is not safe during pregnancy. Milk does not need to be thrown out after MRI contrast is given.
5. Know your own breast.
- Having an understanding of how your breasts feel and look is important, especially for women who are not old enough for screening mammograms.
- Breast cancer is diagnosed in women younger than 40, and are usually more advanced because they are found once they are felt. That usually means the mass is fairly large at the time of diagnosis.
- If you see or feel a change in your breast, contact your primary care provider for evaluation. You should request at mammogram and breast ultrasound if you are 30 or older and a breast ultrasound if you are under 30.
- Most of the time, there are non-cancerous explanations for breast changes
- Things to look for:
- New lumps
- Skin changes including dimpling, rashes, new skin bumps
- Change in nipple appearance- new inversion
- New, persistent breast pain in one area. Diffuse breast pain that gets worse around your period is a normal, hormone-driven process.
- Bloody or clear nipple discharge. Milky, yellow or green discharge are due to a normal physiological process.
- New asymmetry of the breasts when looking in the mirror. Breast asymmetry is normal when it has been present since puberty.
6. The old film is the best film.
- Having prior mammogram exams to compare to your current exam makes a huge difference in reading a mammogram.
- Abnormalities that are stable for many years don’t need to be evaluated, but would probably be called back for further evaluation if older exams weren’t available for comparison.
- Some cancers are very subtle and just look like normal tissue. The only way to find them is to see that there is new tissue in a place that wasn’t there before.
- If you change mammo centers or move to a different town/state, make sure you get a copy of all your prior exams on a disc to give to the new center where you will get future exams. This could prevent an unnecessary biopsy or help diagnose a small cancer.
A chiropractor is a primary care doctor who specializes in spinal health and well-being. Chiropractors help their patients reduce pain, increase movement, improve performance, and enhance their quality of life, without the use of drugs or surgery. They focus on prevention, diagnosis and conservative care. In addition to adjustments, chiropractors also provide soft-tissue therapies, lifestyle recommendations, fitness coaching and nutritional advice.
Six Top Tips from a Chiropractor:
- Symptoms ARE your friend! They are a sign from your body that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. If you are experiencing neck or back pain, joint pain, muscle pain, headaches, etc. it’s time to get an evaluation to determine the root cause of these issues. If a bone or joint is misaligned and causing pain, chiropractors can realign the area to restore proper function.
- It’s never too early or too late to take care of yourself. Many people seek chiropractic care as preventative maintenance to prevent symptoms in the future, and to enjoy an active lifestyle.
- Movement is medicine! Sitting for long periods of time is a future indicator of poor health. You don’t have to join a gym or take up extreme exercise to improve your health! Taking a 5 minute break once an hour to stretch can prevent pain and stiffness. Going for a 30 minute walk a few days a week will ease back pain, improve cardiovascular fitness, decrease blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke, lower your stress levels and add years to your life.
- Posture matters – especially if you sit at a desk for work or school! If you frequently have to bend your neck to look down at a laptop or phone, it’s important to move these devices up to eye level to prevent back and neck pain. Amazon has many ergonomic solutions such as laptop stands, but a stack of books works just as well. Alternating between sitting and standing is also a helpful tool to improve posture.
- Water is life! Not only do our organs depend on water for survival, so do our bones and joints. Increasing hydration lubricates and cushions joints, helping with longevity and decreased pain.
- Spend time with your AOII sisters! According to the CDC, social isolation significantly increases an individual’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that rivals smoking, etc. One of the number one indicators of health and longevity is living in community with others – a sense of belonging improves mental and physical health.
Six Top Tips from a College Health Physician:
- Sleep is not optional – Sleep deprivation messes with your mood, focus, and immune system. Aim for 7 hours straight per night at minimum.
- Get some color on your plate (besides brown and white) – fruits and vegetables have fiber, vitamins, and minerals necessary for good health, and filling up on them instead of junk food helps prevent unhealthy weight gain.
- Breakfast is important – Skipping breakfast will fog your thinking and slow your metabolism. If you want to have more energy and think more clearly, eat a meal rich in protein and whole grains before you leave the house in the morning.
- Exercise is good for you – a regular habit of daily exercise improves mood, energy levels, health, and stress.
- Alcohol and drugs will only make things worse – Using substances to numb the pain never helps in the long run.
- Don’t ignore stress, anxiety, or depression – Talking to someone helps. Get help if you need it.
For more information about the profession of college health, visit the American College Health Association at Home | American College Health Association (ACHA)
Take Care Thursday
Six Top Tips from a Licensed Medical Aesthetician:
- Sunscreen is key! The Sun and the Lighting your office cause so much damage and sunscreen with help In reducing that.
- Antioxidants!!!!!They protect against free radical damage and helps improve the overall appearance of skin dullness, redness and overall tone and texture!
- Retinol is one of the best anti-aging products to use! It improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and helps with uneven ton and texture!
- Don’t pick at your skin!!! Picking at your skin can cause more breakouts and scarring!
- Moisturize even if you are oily!! Using a non-comedogenic moisturizer will help regulate oil production.
- STAY OUT OF TANNING BEDS!!!! They cause so much damage to your skin and can cause Skin Cancer!
Learn more: https://centerforent.com/bio/crystal-graham/
Six Top Tips from a Dental Medicine Student:
- Practice good oral hygiene! Brush your teeth and tongue twice per day with a soft bristle toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every three months!
- Floss daily! This is arguably the most important aspect of a homecare routine but is commonly the most dreaded! Floss once or twice a day to remove food particles between teeth, where cavities are most common.
- Get Regular Oral Exams and Cleanings! All patients (even if you have dentures) should receive annual exams to maintain good oral health. Exams should include cleaning, plaque removal, yearly x-rays for active cavities or monitor spots for future cavities, and checks for oral cancer.
- Eat a Proper Diet! Well-balanced nutrition is essential, even with great oral hygiene. Avoid beverages with high levels of sugar and acids which degrade the enamel layer of your teeth; opt for whole fruits and veggies instead. Enjoy a glass of juice every once in a while, in moderation, but rinse afterwards with a glass of water.
- Quit Smoking! Smoking is bad for your mouth, teeth, and gums, as well as for your overall health. Smoking leads to teeth staining, periodontal (gum) disease, and an increased risk for oral cancers.
- Choose the ‘right’ dentist! You might prefer a quick visit in a large clinic, or a dentist who treats you like family, or someone who fits the bill. Decide what is important to you and your dental experience expectations to determine the best dental home for you!
For more information on oral health education please visit the https://www.ada.org/.
Kristen Janson has been a fitness instructor for a local studio in Murfreesboro, TN for over five years now and says, “It has truly changed my life.”
Six Top Tips from a Fitness Instructor:
- Getting started on your fitness journey is the hardest part! Find friends or online groups for accountability.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about class format!
- Any exercise can be modified – ask an instructor/coach for help.
- The more you do an exercise, the more confident you will become. Find what works best for you!
- Progress isn’t made overnight.
- Make it YOUR journey.
Amy Fowler-Farrell, RN, BSN, C-EFM has been a nurse since 1995. Sixteen of those years have been in Labor and Delivery. Currently she works in the Labor and Delivery department at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Milwaukee, WI. Amy was initiated into the Phi Delta Chapter of AOII at UW-Milwaukee in 1989.
Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your baby! This is an incredible time of your life as you nurture and grow your little one. But as you and your partner prepare the baby’s nursery and plan showers with family and friends, you can both begin to prepare for labor. Here is some advice I would like to share with you as you approach your big day!
- Giving birth is powerful and so are you! You may become anxious when you start to think about labor. Your mind may wander with questions. Will I be able to cope with labor? Will staff respect my birth plan? Will my baby be delivered safely? What if I need a C-section? Will I push effectively? While these are valid concerns, I would challenge you to stay in the present moment. If you are having these fears half way through your pregnancy, think about what you can control right now. You can eat well, exercise, get a prenatal massage or sign up for prenatal yoga. I highly recommend that you and your partner look into breath work, meditation or birth hypnosis classes to help you stay present. Put your hands on your belly, breath in, breath out and say a mantra that works for you, i.e. “Baby, we got this.” Labor is a fantastic opportunity to stay in the present moment. I coach my Moms to concentrate on the contraction that they are in, feeling it build, reaching the summit and feeling it release. Then I want them to do their best to relax in between without thinking about the next one. When the next contraction comes, repeat.
- My colleagues and I love spinningbabies.com! They offer classes that you can take to understand the anatomy of the pelvis and how it affects the engagement of the baby. They teach exercises that lead to a better birth experience. Many of these exercises are done with a partner, so this is a great way for them to get involved! I personally have used some techniques with patients that have had epidurals with great results. Check out spinningbabies.com!
- Every labor and delivery department that I have worked in has the ability to put you on a portable monitor if you need to be continuously monitored. If you are low risk, ask your provider if intermittent monitoring is an option and add that to your birth plan. You want to be able to move during labor. Being attached to the monitor in the room restricts this.
- You have not failed if you decide to get an epidural! We do not give out free t-shirts to Moms that deliver naturally. It is counterintuitive to breathe and relax during a painful contraction and it takes practice prior to labor to learn relaxation techniques. Think about a time when you hurt yourself, you probably held your breath and tightened up. Sometimes, if your labor stalls and the cervix is not dilating despite painful contractions, an epidural will help you and the muscles of your pelvis relax which may help progress cervical dilation. However, with an epidural, your L&D nurse is there to assist you in changing positions, including the use of a peanut ball between your legs to open up the pelvis. You should not stay in the same position for more than 60-90 minutes. Call your nurse to change position if you are.
- Have a birth plan but be flexible, especially if you never experienced labor before. Talk about your birth plan with your provider and your nurse once you are admitted. If you have some complications like gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia, you may need to be induced and you will need to be continuously monitored for the safety of your baby. Keep open communication with your physician. They want you to have the best experience possible as well as a safe delivery.
- Skin-to-skin is recommended during the first hour after birth if possible. This is best for bonding, temperature regulation and breastfeeding success. This means that your physician will put baby directly on your chest, still attached to the umbilical cord right after delivery. The nurse will dry and stimulate your baby and possibly suction with a bulb syringe. She will listen to your baby’s heart and lungs while you are holding your baby. After a minute of delayed cord clamping, your partner will be able to cut the cord. If you plan to breastfeed, it is recommended to try to have the baby latch within 30 minutes to an hour of birth. However if baby does not latch right away, do not get discouraged, they have been through quite a journey. Your nurse will help you with the first latch. 10% of term babies do need extra support, i.e. deeper suctioning or oxygen, so if the nurse and the physician determine that your baby needs that support, your baby will be brought to the warmer that is in your room for further intervention. You will be kept updated.
- What if I have to have a C-section? Breathe and know that your birth team is doing everything they can to ensure the safe delivery for you and your little one. Use the same relaxation techniques that you practiced during the prenatal period, they are not just useful for coping with labor but for managing stress during medical interventions as well. It has been my experience that the birth team does everything in their power to keep moms out of the OR. However, sometimes for the safe delivery of the baby or for mom with a deteriorating medical condition, a cesarean section becomes the next plan of care. I have one child who had to be born via cesarean and I was very anxious. However, after it was done, I realized I had built it up in my mind to be worse than it was. Most of the time, partners can be present during the procedure, except in the rare case that a mom is given general anesthesia. The baby will need to go to the warmer first for evaluation, but options for skin to skin after initial evaluation may still be available, depending on how you and baby are doing. For recovery, I suggest taking some pain medication thirty minutes before getting up to move. Walk at least four times a day, this aids in any surgical recovery.
You got this Sister! I wish you, your partner and your baby (or babies!) the best birth journey possible!