Hunter Women's Health Centre, Newcastle, NSW
02 4959-3883
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The Pap Smear is Changing in 2017

  • By lemaster
  • 24 Mar, 2017

Most women think of a Pap smear as a necessary evil and therefore the news of changes to the cervical screening program will be a breath of fresh air.

Currently, all sexually active women between the ages of 18 and 70 are recommended to have Pap smears every 2 years. As of 1 May 2017, the new screening program will test women between the ages of 25 to 74 every 5 years for the presence of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – even if they have received the HPV vaccine.

Why is screening changing?

Based on new evidence, improved technology, and the advent of the highly successful HPV vaccination program, we now know that an infection of cervical cells by the HPV virus is implicated in almost 100% of cervical cancer cases.

Since a persistent infection by the HPV virus is a pre-requisite to, and occurs before cells start to become abnormal (and before the development of cancer), the new screening will detect abnormalities earlier, rather than the current Pap smear, which looks for abnormal cells changes.

It is important to note that persistent HPV infections can cause abnormal cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer, however, this usually often takes more than 10 years.

How will the new screening test work?

The procedure for collecting the sample is the same as the procedure you’re already used to for a Pap smear. Dr Bailey will take a small sample of cells from your cervix and send it off to the pathology lab for examination.

What do I need to do between now and 1 May 2017?

If you are due for your regular Pap smear before 1 May 2017, please continue to attend your appointment as scheduled to ensure you are not at risk of developing cervical cancer. You will then be due for your first cervical screening test two years after your last Pap smear.

If you have any questions about the new Cervical Screening Program, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Hunter Women’s Health.

By proadAccountId-386548 19 Dec, 2017
Our office will run on reduced hours thru the holiday season beginning 18/12/17 thru 7/1/18.

During this time if your matter is not urgent feel free to ring the office and leave a message or email us at info@hunterwomens.com.au. We will get back to you on a sporadic basis during this time.

If your matter is urgent, as always contact 000 or your local hospital.

There will, of course, be coverage 24/7-365 days of the year.
By lemaster 24 Mar, 2017

Summer is here and in our part of the world, that means humidity, discomfort and sweat. As we all know, it’s easy enough to lose patience with the heat, but add in a pregnancy, particularly an advanced one, and things get a lot more complicated. There are however, some clever tricks (hacks even) to help you deal with the summer heat, whether you’re an expectant mother or a parent with a newborn.

Stay comfortable whilst pregnant

Stay hydrated
This is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your baby. Obviously, drinking enough water is essential all year round, but it’s particularly vital during those summer months. Limit foods and liquids that act as diuretics, which include caffeine and salt, as they will decrease your hydration levels by increasing the frequency of urination.

Dehydration while pregnant can worsen discomfort, lead to swelling and even trigger contractions. It’s also important not to drink two litres in one go. Doctors recommend getting your H2O gradually throughout the day. And since you’ll be sipping all day long, you might be interested in checking out Pinterest for all the ways you can keep water interesting (and up your Vitamin C intake), with citrus, mint and crushed berries.

Keep your cool
You know that feeling on a hot day when you stick your face in the fridge? Make that cooling sensation last longer (especially if you don’t have air conditioning), by keeping a spray bottle of water in the fridge and spritzing it regularly over your face and body. You can even pick up spray bottles that come with small fans attached at K-Mart and carry it around with you (add some ice), spritzing yourself whenever the urge strikes. While you’re at it, stock the fridge and freezer with frozen yogurt, ice blocks and plenty of other refreshing treats.

A cool facecloth or a padded icepack over your face, pulse points, or the nape of your neck can also provide relief, and if you can, enjoy a cooling dip in the pool. If you don’t have access to a pool, opt for a gentle lukewarm shower, rather than a hot steamy one. Deep breathing exercises (in a cool an environment if possible) can also help during those times when you feel yourself becoming overly-stressed by the heat.

Make time for rest and relaxation
We know that many pregnant women suffer from swollen ankles and other extremities. This swelling is exacerbated by the summer heat and can be helped by putting your feet up. If ever there was a time to accept that the vacuuming can wait, it’s now. Physical exertion can be more strenuous for women while pregnant, due to higher internal temperatures and weight gain. So elevate those tootsies and make the most of the opportunity to guilt trip whoever is around at the time (preferably your partner, family member or friend!) into a foot and leg massage. For the times when chores can’t be avoided (and there’s no-one else to do them), leave them for the cooler times of the day (early morning or late evening). If you have air conditioning, don’t refrain from blasting it.

An additional tip while you’re sleeping is to sleep on your left side, as that will assist blood and nutrients in reaching the placenta and the baby.

Keep your clothing light and loose
There’s a reason why pregnant women don’t usually like lycra. Breathable, lightweight maternity wear will allow sweat to evaporate from your body and lessen the chances of overheating. Also, the last thing you want right now is chafing, so clothing that allows easy movement is important.

Road and air travel
If you can’t avoid making long trips in the car over summer, make sure you take frequent breaks (every hour or two) to increase circulation and stretch your legs. If you have to fly, decrease the risk of blood clots by taking regular strolls up and down the aisle. Also consider wearing support socks and stockings, which will help with swelling. When the glass is feeling half empty, remember that at least airplanes are air-conditioned!

Slip, slop, slap
The sun is extra fierce in summer as we all well know, and pregnancy makes women more susceptible to melasma (caused by hormone changes) and sun damage. Do your best to avoid the afternoon sun and embrace sunscreen (make sure you use enough and reapply frequently) and wide-brimmed hats.

Help your newborn stay cool and comfortable

Babies are very susceptible to hot summer conditions and can quickly overheat, as they can’t regulate their temperature as well as adults can. To avoid this, make sure your baby is well hydrated, dressed in light, comfortable clothes (on a hot day, keep them in a nappy and not much else, when they’re inside).

Chill out your nursery
During the hottest parts of the day; keep the blinds or curtains closed (this can help throughout the house). Keep the ceiling fan on if you have one (or a pedestal or box fan) that can circulate the air throughout the room (rather than blowing directly on your baby).

Embrace minimalist clothing and bedding
A nappy and singlet, possibly a summer weight blanket is all your baby needs to sleep comfortably. A cool bath before bedtime can also help them cool down and ready themselves for sleep.

Car trips
When you need to take your newborn out in the car, try to go during the cooler part of the day (early morning). Crank the air conditioning up or open the window. If your car windows aren’t tinted, think about ways to keep your baby shaded from the sun. And most importantly, never leave your baby in the car alone.

Keep their hydration levels up
Babies need plenty of fluids to stay hydrated in hotter weather, just as adults do. If you’re breastfeeding, your baby may want to be fed more than usual, but there is no need to give them water on top of that. If you’re bottle-feeding, keep bottles of cooled boiled water in the fridge to give them throughout the day, on top of their normal formula.

Shield them from the sun
Babies, particularly newborns can easily overheat and become ill when left in the sun. Always provide plenty of shade for your baby, in the form of wide-brimmed hats, and a shade shield on your pram. Keep them inside during the hottest part of the day, and for when they’re outside playing, sit with them holding a large umbrella. Baby sunglasses are not only cute, but work well to protect their eyes, and don’t forget to protect their sensitive skin with plenty of baby sunscreen.

What to look out for

Prickly Heat
Babies do not have fully developed sweat glands, and as such, are more at risk of developing a prickly heat rash. This is characterised by small, raised and itchy red spots that commonly affect areas of the skin that stay moist such as in the nappy area or under the chin. To combat prickly heat, try using zinc or barrier cream to protect their skin. Frequent nappy and clothing changes, as well as tepid baths can also help prevent prickly heat.

Heatstroke
Heatstroke is a very dangerous condition that occurs when the core body temperature rises above 40 degrees. It can lead to parts of the body not working, and can cause organ failure, brain damage, and even death. Needless to say, it’s vital to be on the lookout for warning signs, including the following:

  • Temperature of 40 degrees or higher
  • Extreme sweating that suddenly stops (the body is unable to produce more sweat and is dehydrated)
  • Increased thirst, but as baby gets weaker they may drink less
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sunken fontanelle
  • Fewer wet nappies and/or dark coloured urine
  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Headache and muscle cramps
  • Baby becomes floppy and/or sleepy
  • Confusion, shortness of breath and vomiting
  • Coma

If your baby is showing any of these signs, they need urgent treatment. Call an ambulance or take your baby to the emergency room. In the meantime, keep your baby as cool as possible. Do this by removing excess clothing and placing them on a damp facecloth while fanning them. If your baby is conscious, try to give them cool water to drink

Otherwise, during the summer months, if you’re feeling unwell or uncomfortable, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Hunter Women’s Health.

By lemaster 24 Mar, 2017

Hunter Women’s Health Centre is pleased to announce an addition to our healthcare providers. Dr Penelope Thomas will be joining our practice in March 2017!

Penelope graduated from medicine in Liverpool, England in 2000 and came to Australia for a holiday in 2003. She met her husband on that visit and never returned permanently to the UK, practising in Queensland and NSW ever since. She took time out from her training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology to have two children, and completed her Australian Fellowship in 2015. Currently she is an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist at Manning Hospital, an educator with the University of Newcastle training our new doctors, and is completing a Diploma in Ultrasound. She loves her profession and feels privileged to be able to help women in this role.

Join us in welcoming Dr Penelope Thomas.

By lemaster 24 Mar, 2017

Most women think of a Pap smear as a necessary evil and therefore the news of changes to the cervical screening program will be a breath of fresh air.

Currently, all sexually active women between the ages of 18 and 70 are recommended to have Pap smears every 2 years. As of 1 May 2017, the new screening program will test women between the ages of 25 to 74 every 5 years for the presence of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – even if they have received the HPV vaccine.

Why is screening changing?

Based on new evidence, improved technology, and the advent of the highly successful HPV vaccination program, we now know that an infection of cervical cells by the HPV virus is implicated in almost 100% of cervical cancer cases.

Since a persistent infection by the HPV virus is a pre-requisite to, and occurs before cells start to become abnormal (and before the development of cancer), the new screening will detect abnormalities earlier, rather than the current Pap smear, which looks for abnormal cells changes.

It is important to note that persistent HPV infections can cause abnormal cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer, however, this usually often takes more than 10 years.

How will the new screening test work?

The procedure for collecting the sample is the same as the procedure you’re already used to for a Pap smear. Dr Bailey will take a small sample of cells from your cervix and send it off to the pathology lab for examination.

What do I need to do between now and 1 May 2017?

If you are due for your regular Pap smear before 1 May 2017, please continue to attend your appointment as scheduled to ensure you are not at risk of developing cervical cancer. You will then be due for your first cervical screening test two years after your last Pap smear.

If you have any questions about the new Cervical Screening Program, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Hunter Women’s Health.

By lemaster 24 Mar, 2017
Dr Bailey and the staff at HWHC welcome 2017. Everyone has returned refreshed from the holiday season and ready to take care of YOU.

One of Dr Bailey’s ‘babies’ helping at work.

By lemaster 24 Mar, 2017

The silly season is upon us and we all know too well how easy it is to overindulge in everything from gifts to one too many mince pies.

Other than the usual suspects of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, a lot of our favourite foods are also contributing to women’s health issues such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis and fibroids through increases in oestrogen.

Elevated levels of insulin can exacerbate symptoms of PCOS for example. Insulin is produced when certain carbohydrates are converted into energy by your body – carbs found in cakes, bread, biscuits, chips, soda and the array of yummy treats you’ve got planned for your Christmas feast.

Caffeine is another culprit adding to gynaecological issues due to anxiety, that first cup of coffee in the morning may help you kick-start your day, but when we come to rely on keeping that cup topped up, that’s when the problems start.

And lastly, a high salt intake is associated with the development of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of stomach cancer. Reducing your salt intake can be challenging as it is found in almost all our everyday foods, but the long-term benefits are tenfold.

Making those subtle healthy changes

It’s always more difficult to go cold turkey and just cut out those “bad foods”, so we’re suggesting that you make small “bite sized” changes to help you live a healthier life to avoid food-induced stress and triggering any symptoms of female health conditions.

Substitution is key; consider swapping from white bread to wholemeal bread. Choose brown rice and sweet potatoes instead of the classic potato – they also leave you feeling fuller for longer as they have a lower glycaemic index, meaning your body can utilise the energy for longer and reduce your cravings for high sugar or salty convenience snacks. Remember to add more green vegetables to every meal and replace cakes or chocolates with fruit.

Often food cravings are masked by dehydration, as the brain cannot always distinguish between feeling hungry and thirsty. So before you reach out for that packet of crisps, try drinking a glass of water first.

Switch at least one of your coffees for green tea and gradually increase it. Even though tea contains as much caffeine as coffee, it has the added benefit of being full of antioxidants.

Improved gynaecological health through diet

Weight gain is a vicious cycle for women – the extra kilograms can cause female specific problems, which in turn lead to cravings, which leads to more weight gain.

You don’t need to stop eating all the foods you love, but you should consider the ways in which you can make healthier choices, especially for special occasions like Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Within only a few days of eating right you’ll start to feel better because your body will be getting the nutrients that makes it thrive – and many of your issues such as pain, anxiety, weight, sleeplessness or women’s health may ease or even disappear.

If you have any questions about your how your diet is affecting your health, please contact Hunter Women’s Health to book an appointment.

By lemaster 24 Mar, 2017

Happy Holidays from Hunter Women’s Health Centre

Our office will be taking a much needed break over the holiday season. We will be running on a skeleton schedule from 16 December 2016 thru 9 January 2017.

If you have a medical or obstetric emergency please go to your nearest hospital. They can page Dr Bailey if necessary. For non emergencies please feel free to leave a message with the answering service and we will contact you upon our return. Remember that you can see your G P for scripts and other necessary requests.

We will be in the office on a weekly basis in order to care for our precious currently pregnant mothers.

We wish you a very blessed holiday season.

By lemaster 24 Mar, 2017

If you’ve recently had abnormal or ‘positive’ results from your routine cervical screening, or pap smear, you will likely be referred for a colposcopy. The first thing you need to do is try not to worry. It can be scary to be referred for more tests and we understand it is easy to assume the worst but a colposcopy referral doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer.

Less than 1 woman in 1,000 referred for a colposcopy is found to have cervical cancer requiring immediate treatment. The whole point of regular cervical screenings is to catch cell changes as early as possible as these changes can occur many years before cancer develops, if at all, and getting them early means treatment can be provided to prevent cancer from developing.

It is also worth noting that colposcopies are not limited to detecting cancerous cells, they are also used where previous pap smears did not yield readable results, to investigate unexplained bleeding or if your gynaecologist thought your cervix did not look as healthy as expected.

What happens during a colposcopy?

Dr Bailey will explain the procedure and will answer any questions you may have on the day. The procedure is not too dissimilar to your pap smear; a speculum will be inserted and gently hold your vagina open to allow us to look more closely at your cervix.

A microscope (colposcope) with a strong light, resembling a pair of binoculars, will be used to look at your cervix. The colposcope doesn’t enter your body; it stays outside and allows Dr Bailey to see the cells on your cervix on a screen. Different liquids may be dabbed onto your cervix to stain abnormal cells so they can be seen more clearly. You may feel a mild burning sensation when the liquid is applied to your cervix but if this causes you pain we will make you feel more comfortable before continuing.

Should we find abnormal cells we may take a small biopsy for testing. This shouldn’t be painful but if necessary, we may administer a local anaesthetic to numb the area. This procedure will take 5-10 minutes on an outpatient basis.

Colposcopy results

If a biopsy is taken you will get the results within 2 weeks.

About 60% of women referred for a colposcopy are found to have abnormal cells but it is important to remember that this doesn’t mean the cells are cancerous. The idea is to catch and treat these cells before they have the opportunity to become anything more menacing than just abnormal.

Treatment

Some mild abnormalities will not require treatment but should treatment be needed, the aim will be to remove the abnormal cells.

The most common treatment is a large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ). This involves using a heated wire loop (diathermy) to remove the abnormal cells. Although, this 10-minute procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis, Dr Bailey prefers to perform the procedure under a light general anaesthetic.

After the procedure, you will need close follow up to ensure the abnormal cells are gone. This involves another colposcopy and Pap smear a few months later.

After your colposcopy

Post-appointment you should be able to continue with your daily activities but for a few days after you may have vaginal discharge or light bleeding. This is quite normal and usually stops after three to five days. It is recommended that you wait until any bleeding stops before having sex or using tampons, lubricants or vaginal creams.

Being referred for a colposcopy can be worrisome but we’re here to help and are pleased to report that the removal of abnormal cells has a high success rate (about 90%). If you have any questions about colposcopies or treatments for abnormal cervical cells please get in touch.

By lemaster 24 Mar, 2017

There have been many myths surrounding cervical screening and something that is quick, painless in most cases and crucial to gynaecological health has become a medical bogeyman. We want to change that and make women’s health a topic that can be discussed freely, without fear and get more women attending their vital appointments.

What is a pap smear and what can you expect?

Cervical screening, or pap smears, is a quick and simple test to check for changes in the cells of the cervix. An instrument called a speculum is used to open the vagina to look at the cervix. A few cells are taken from the cervix, which is sent off for testing. A pap smear can be mildly uncomfortable for some women and there may be some spotting afterwards. For the vast majority of women it is about as conversation-worthy as a sneeze that just won’t come and is never spoken about. Perhaps this is why the very few negative stories are exaggerated and amplified so much.

What do pap smears look for and how often should they be done?

All women aged between 18 and 70 should have a pap smear at least every two years.

Some women over 30 who have had three normal pap smear results in a row could have them less often. However, young women in particular need to understand the importance of having these tests. Contrary to popular belief a pap smear does not detect cancer but it does check for abnormal cells and HPV (human papillomavirus) in the cervix.

The results of a smear can determine if any further medical attention is needed. Young women concerned about the procedure or unaware of what it actually entails are avoiding these vital check-ups and that can cause problems down the road as potentially harmful cells are left to their own devices rather than stopped in their tracks.

What does an abnormal pap smear result mean?

It is natural to feel anxious if your pap smear result is abnormal and the not wanting to get bad news is another reason so many young women are avoiding booking in their pap smears. However it’s valuable to know that in most cases abnormal Pap smear results do not result in cancer – indeed less than one per cent of abnormalities become cancerous.

The majority of abnormal results result in further tests to keep an eye on changes. Many of these abnormal cells will go back to normal on their own but some need to be removed so they can’t become cancerous which prevents almost all cases of cervical cancer and can be performed during a routine appointment.

Don’t be afraid anymore

The view of many health professionals about the fear of pap smears could inadvertently be perpetuating it. To the medical mind it can seem totally irrational to be scared of something so innocuous but so crucially important to gynaecological care. At Hunter’s Women’s Health we understand that the fear is entirely rational because like all fears it is rooted in the unknown. We want young women, and women of all ages, to take their pap smears seriously and that is why we take their fears seriously. Our sample takers are trained to understand your concerns and operate in an embarrassment-free and judgement-free environment. If you are nervous please talk to us about it and we will do everything we can to put you at ease. If discomfort is worrying you we can use smaller instruments.

We encourage you to book your all-important biennial pap smear to keep on top of any changes to your cervical cells. If you are apprehensive about coming along we also encourage you to bring a friend or family member who will be welcome to sit in reception. Why not speak to our friendly receptionists about booking a group of you all in on the same day? You all want long, healthy lives and you can empower yourselves with a group getting over your fear session.

You don’t have to be afraid of pap smears, take control and book yours in now.

By lemaster 24 Mar, 2017

We all know how important it is to get regular exercise to keep our muscles strong and supple yet there is a vital group of muscles that almost always gets neglected – the pelvic floor.

The pelvic floor is a sling shaped group of muscles that hold your pelvic organs (uterus, vagina, bowel and bladder) in place and gives you control when you urinate. As you grow older and/or have children your pelvic floor muscles can weaken and result in a prolapse.

 

What is a prolapse?

A prolapse is when your weakened pelvic floor slackens and allows your bladder, bowel or uterus to descend from its usual position. Prolapse is a very common problem for women, especially those who have birthed naturally. Some prolapses will require surgery and this can actually increase your risk of repeat prolapse. As such gynaecologists will never recommend surgery unless it is absolutely necessary and very rarely in pre-menopausal women.

 

How to manage prolapse

Many women have mild prolapse with no symptoms, but untreated prolapse can deteriorate over time. Corrective surgery can help but it will require a commitment to following medical advice for pre- and post-surgery exercises for a speedy recovery.

Here are 8 steps to help manage prolapse:

1 – Hormones

The pelvic floor can be affected by a declining supply of oestrogen and collagen – unavoidable with menopause and general ageing – however like any muscle it can be strengthened with the proper exercises (see below). Hormone supplements may help reduce some of the symptoms of prolapse but HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) isn’t known to reverse prolapse on its own.

2 – Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy

Childbirth is a leading cause of prolapse so if you’ve suffered pelvic floor damage you may benefit from pelvic floor physiotherapy, which is specifically aimed at strengthening your pelvic muscles.

3 – Learn to poo

Straining with constipation or through poor technique stretches and weakens the pelvic floor. This can have a snowball effect as your weakened muscles have to work and strain even harder to empty your bowels in the future.

The shape of conventional toilets and the natural position actually causes us to strain – or in other words, we’ve been using toilets wrong all along. It’s not too late to retrain yourself to use the recommended technique of brace and bulge – or you can use a stool to help elevate your knees above your hips. Whatever you choose to do just ensure you take your time. Don’t hold on if you need to go but also don’t force yourself to go quickly as this causes straining.

4 – Diet

A huge part of healthy bowel and bladder movements is diet. A high fibre diet combined with drinking plenty of fluids will help keep your stools at the optimum consistency for a clear, strain-free and total evacuation.

5 – Weight

A balanced diet will not only help you empty your bowels and bladder with good control but it will also help manage your weight. Obesity is another cause of prolapse, especially if you have excess abdominal fat.

Visceral fat is fat that is stored in the abdomen and collects around important organs like the liver, pancreas and intestines. This fat puts pressure on your pelvic floor as you walk around or sit upright. Overworked muscles are more susceptible to strain and injury.

6 – Respiratory health

As strange as it may sound, good respiratory health is really important for keeping the pelvic floor strong. Coughs force the pelvic floor downwards which stretches and weakens the muscles and ligaments. If you have a persistent cough you should get it checked out anyway but definitely do so to avoid further damage.

Smokers should consider quitting or cutting down to reduce the chances of developing a cough. Allergy, asthmas and bronchitis suffers should speak to their physician to ensure they are on the right medication.

7 – The right exercise

Heavy-lifting and incorrect or prolonged exercise (such as some Pilates moves, running, jumping or weight-training) can put a strain on your pelvic floor. It’s important to do exercise to keep fit but not at the expense of vital muscles. Cycling and swimming are good low impact exercises to help with or avoid prolapse.

8 – Strengthen your floor

Doing regular pelvic floor exercises will improve their strength and flexibility. Not only are they good for recovery they are excellent as a preventative measure, especially before and during pregnancy.

The exercises are pretty simple and can be done at any time or place. Here’s how you do them.

Make sure you are sitting comfortably and squeeze the muscles 10 to 15 times in a row without holding your breath or tightening your stomach, thigh or bum muscles. Don’t overdo it; a quick contraction will do to start. Over time you can add more squeezes (ensuring you always rest between sets) and hold each squeeze for a second or two.

You’ll notice an improvement after a month or so which should improve any incontinence issues you’ve had and could benefit your sex life too through increased sensitivity.

The two most important things to remember about pelvic floor exercises are to start doing them and to keep doing them!

  Still have questions about prolapse?

Hopefully this information will help you manage your prolapse or avoid developing one. If you have any questions or are concerned you may be suffering from prolapse please get in touch. We’re happy to help.  We have helped many women recover from and manage their prolapse, and you could be one of them.

Just pick up the phone and call us on 02 4959 3883 to schedule your appointment.

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