FAQ

On this page you will find some of the most frequently-asked questions concerning pregnancy and general women’s health issues.  If you have a question or health concern that you feel should be answered by your doctor, please call the office and speak to a nurse.  The nurse will relay your question to the doctor and call you back with an answer or instructions on what to do.

Questions Concerning Pregnancy

What can I take for a cold when I am pregnant?

You may take the recommended dose of Tylenol (acetaminophen) for body aches and fevers.  For sinus congestion you may take regular strength Sudafed or Chlortrimeton.  You may take Robitussin DM for a cough and Chloraseptic spray for a sore throat.  Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and rest when you have a cold.  Important: For fevers more than 101 degrees call your doctor’s office and leave a message for the nurse.  You will be called back with instructions on what to do.

Is it safe to travel while I’m pregnant?

Extended travel is not recommended after the eighth month of pregnancy.  If you take car trips during your pregnancy, remember to stop frequently to stretch your legs for circulation and to prevent cramps.  If you are planning to travel by air (before your eighth month only, please) check with the airlines before booking a flight. Some airlines have restrictions on flying during pregnancy. Travel is never recommended for expectant mothers whose doctors have ordered bed rest, or for those who are experiencing pregnancy-related complications.

What should I do when I’m constipated?

Drink plenty of water — at least six to eight glasses a day. A daily glass of fruit juice –especially prune juice – also can help. Eat high-fiber cereals, whole-grain breads and fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Add two tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your cereal in the morning, followed with a glass of water, or take the all-natural fiber supplement FiberCon. Regular exercise such as walking, swimming or yoga can help ease constipation.  If you feel the iron in your prenatal vitamins may be contributing to constipation, ask your doctor about prenatal vitamins that contain a stool softener.  And finally, listen to your body.  Never put off going to the bathroom when you feel the urge.

Is it normal to have spotting after an internal exam?

Yes, the cervix can bleed very easily during pregnancy. However, if heavy bleeding or spotting persists along with cramping, call the office to speak with a nurse.

What should I do after I lose my mucus plug?

You may lose the mucus plug gradually over several days or weeks, and that is normal.  Some women don’t even notice because it happens gradually over time. Sometimes the plug expels all at once, which is normal too.  It is not uncommon for the mucus to be mixed with brown, pink, or red streaks of blood from the changes occurring within your cervix.  Some women lose the plug at 36 weeks gestation while others may not lose it until labor has begun.  If you see blood-tinged mucus earlier than 36 weeks or if you have any vaginal bleeding, contractions or a fluid discharge, call your doctor’s office right away.

Is it okay to use a hot tub?

It is never safe to use a hot tub when you are pregnant.  The temperature is too hot for the fetus.

How will I know if my water breaks?

Sometimes it’s extremely obvious when the water breaks because you experience a big gush of fluid that soaks through your clothes and simply can’t be mistaken for anything else. At other times it happens in a more subtle manner that can be mistaken for vaginal discharge or urine leakage — both common occurrences during pregnancy. If you are leaking watery fluid and think that your water may have broken, contact your doctor right away.  Or if your discharge is bloody, watery, changes color, has a bad odor, or you are having itching or pain in the perineal area, let your practitioner know. This could be a sign of infection.

When the water breaks it often means that labor is imminent, even if labor hasn’t begun.  Call your doctor immediately when your water breaks. You may be advised to go to your hospital or birth center, even if labor hasn’t begun.  If the water breaks before 36 weeks gestation, medical care and antibiotics may help to extend the pregnancy by days or even weeks. Regardless of your stage of pregnancy, you should always contact your doctor if you suspect your water has broken.

General Women’s Health Questions

What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

Symptoms of UTI or bladder infection include a strong urge to urinate that cannot be delayed — followed by a sharp pain or burning sensation in the urethra when the urine is released. Most often very little urine is released and the urine that is released may be tinged with blood.  The urge to urinate recurs quickly and soreness may occur in the lower abdomen, back, or sides.

When bacteria enters the ureters and spread to the kidneys, symptoms such as back pain, chills, fever, nausea, and vomiting may occur, as well as the previously-described symptoms of lower urinary tract infection.  Proper diagnosis is vital since these symptoms can also be caused by other problems such as infections of the vagina or vulva. Only your physician can make the distinction and make a correct diagnosis, so see your doctor as soon as possible.

What causes vaginal itching?

The causes of vaginal itching can vary. Some of the common causes are:
Chemicals in products such as laundry detergent and fabric softeners, bath soaps, deodorants, ointments, lotions; vaginal douches and foams and jellies used during intercourse.

Vaginal infections, particularly vaginal yeast infections, frequently cause intense symptoms that include vaginal itching. Other vaginal infections and sexually transmitted diseases including bacterial vaginosis (BV), genital herpes, trichomoniasis and pubic lice could also be to blame.

If you have vaginal itching that isn’t clearing up, see your doctor.  Notify your doctor immediately if you experience vaginal itching accompanied by severe pelvic or lower abdominal pain and / or a fever.

What do I do if I miss one of my birth control pills?

Take the missed pill the next day or as soon as possible.  Later that day take your regularly scheduled pill. If you miss two pills, take those pills on the first day you realize this, then two pills the next day. If you miss three or more pills, you must wait for the next cycle and restart a new pack. It is imperative to use a backup method of contraception when you have missed pills, or during the month that you restarted your cycle on a new pack of pills.  Break-through bleeding is common any time you have missed a pill.  If this occurs, keep taking your pills as usual.  Your cycle should regulate again over the next month.

What do I do if I find a lump in my breast?

You will need a breast check with your physician, who will determine the need for any further testing.

When should I worry about vaginal discharge?

Some vaginal excretions are normal, however if you experience an odor, a colored discharge or discharge associated with pain, burning, or itching, call your doctor’s office and leave a message with the nurse.  You will be called back with further instructions.

My period is late — what should I do?

If there is a chance of pregnancy, leave a message for the nurse to call you back.  If not, schedule an appointment with your physician.

What does it mean when my pap smear results are “abnormal”?

Although you might think an abnormal Pap smear means you have cervical cancer, the fact is that the majority of abnormal Pap smears are not caused by cervical cancer. The more likely cause of abnormal Pap smear results is inflammation or a vaginal infection.
The Pap smear is a screening tool and not a diagnostic tool, so your gynecologist will have to take a closer look at your cervix to determine the cause of your abnormal Pap smear results. He will perform an examination called a colposcopy, a simple, painless procedure performed in the doctor’s office.  A colposcopy is used to indicate dysplasia (abnormal cell growth), cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV), or evidence of atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS).  The doctor’s office will let you know the results of this test and give you any further information, when needed.

I haven’t been myself.  Could I be depressed?

Depression is one of the leading reasons women seek medical help. True depression is more than just the occasional “blues” that most people encounter now and then. True, clinical depression affects the whole person — mind, body, personal life, work life. It is not known precisely why or how depression develops, but researchers think it’s due to an alteration in brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.

Some symptoms of depression:

  • Depressed or irritable mood.
  • Reduction of interest or pleasure in activities.
  • Loss of interest in sex.
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
  • Recurrent suicidal thoughts.
  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much (insomnia or hypersomia).
  • Changes in appetite including weight loss or weight gain.
  • Difficulty concentrating or maintaining attention.
  • Lack of energy or constant fatigue.
  • Other psychomotor disturbances.

In addition to clinical depression, women also can have significant mood swings in relation to hormonal fluctuations. Between three and five percent of women experience menstrual-related depression and anxiety so severe that it is classified as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) — a severely debilitating disorder that requires treatment.

Other possible causes of depression:

  • Giving birth (postpartum depression)
  • Miscarriage, infertility or surgical menopause
  • Oral contraceptives — particularly those with high progesterone content
  • History of physical/sexual abuse in childhood
  • Infertility treatments involving the use of gonadotropin stimulants
  • Stress
  • Loss or threat of loss of social support system
  • Being the victim of rape or domestic violence
  • Death of a parent before the age of 10
  • Family history of mood disorders
  • Personal history of mood disorders, particularly during the early reproductive years

Depression is treatable.  Treatments include talk therapy, medications such as antidepressant medications, and in severe cases electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).  If you feel depressed for more than two weeks, seek help from your physician or a mental health professional.