Women's Health

Women have their own health issues due to a complex reproductive system that makes them unique from men.

A variety of diseases such as heart attack, depression, anxiety, sexually transmitted infections (STI), osteoarthritis, and urinary tract problems can affect women more severely than men.

These problems necessitate them visiting their doctor at timely intervals in order to screen for various diseases. Screening tests can assess the risk for future illnesses and help in their early detection.

Regular assessments are important for women’s health. Cervical cancer and precancerous changes of the cervix are common problems that should be assessed and treated early.

Approximately one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime so breast examinations should be a part of your overall health plan.

Our doctors at Batavia Health perform these examinations and assessments. We also have a fully functional treatment room with registered nurses.

Areas of Women’s Health where care is provided include:

  • Regular Health Checks
  • Pap smear
  • Contraception
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Incontinence
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Menstrual problems
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Prolapse

If you are a woman and have any questions or need advice, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Regular Health Checks

Physical examination

From time to time your height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) will be checked during examinations. Depending on individual risk factors, women over the age of 40 may need to undergo a physical examination once every 3 years.

Blood pressure check

Women with a history of borderline or high blood pressure should have their blood pressure checked at least every year. Women with diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or other related conditions also need to have their blood pressure checked regularly.

Diabetes screening

Women aged 40 or above should get tested for diabetes every 3 years. Women with blood pressure above 135/80 should regularly check their blood sugar for diabetes.

Bone density

A bone density test should be performed in all postmenopausal women with fractures. Women under the age of 65, depending on their risk factors may need to be screened for osteoporosis.

Colon cancer screening

Women between the ages of 50 and 75 need to be screened for colon cancer. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program invites Australians aged over 50 to screen for bowel cancer using a free, simple test at home. The aim is to continue to reduce deaths from bowel cancer through early detection of the disease. Additional studies may be scheduled by your doctor if you have a history of ulcerative colitis or any family history of colon cancer.

Eye examination

An eye examination is recommended every two years for women older than 45 or with vision abnormalities. You may need to be checked for glaucoma  after the age of 45.

Flu Vaccinations

A flu vaccine is recommended once a year.

Breast Checks

Women should perform a monthly self-exam of their breasts. Any lumps or other abnormalities noted in the breasts should immediately be reported to the doctor. Depending on their risk factors for breast cancer, women over the age of 40 may need to have a mammogram performed every one to two years.

The current recommendations are for two yearly mammograms from the age of 50 years or from 40 years for women with a strong family history of breast cancer. Routine screening is done by Breastscreen WA. Women are encouraged to be 'breast aware' and to self-examine regularly so that any changes can be detected and discussed with your doctor. It is also important to report symptoms such as nipple rash and bloody discharge to your GP as these may require further investigation.

Breast problems are the most common health concerns among women and can affect women at any age. In women, the development of breasts usually begins around puberty and they may undergo various changes throughout the life cycle, especially during menstrual periods, pregnancy, lactation and advancing age. Other than the normal physiological changes, the breast may also undergo a few other changes which may be a cause of anxiety among women.
Breast checks include self-inspection, clinical examinations and the use of diagnostic devices. It has been proven that breast examinations are essential for early detection of breast cancer and are also useful for breast cancer prevention.

Types of breast changes

The common pathological breast changes can be categorized into non-cancerous and cancerous changes.
Non-cancerous changes include generalized breast lumpiness; enlarged lymph nodes; painless, movable and firm lumps; presence of cysts; breast pain; abscesses or nipple discharge.
Cancerous changes in the breast include invasive ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma.

Symptoms of the breast cancer

The symptoms of breast cancer include a persistent irregularity or lump within the breast or near the underarm, swelling around the breast, changes in the appearance of the breast or nipple, nipple discharge which may be blood-stained or clear fluid, hardness or dimpling felt over the breast or any unusual changes in the breast.

Methods of breast checks

The most popular methods of breast checks involve breast self-exam (BSE), clinical breast-exam (CBE), and advanced imaging such as mammograms. Other diagnostic measures such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can also be used. These methods are commonly used for diagnostic purpose, for early detection of breast cancer.

Mammograms

Mammograms are one of the most effective diagnostic tools for identifying breast cancer. They detect the changes of the underlying soft tissue and assess the depth and cause of the pathological condition. The benefits of a mammogram include early detection of breast changes through high quality images which provide a clear picture of the involved tissue and help detect all types of lumps. Annual mammogram screenings, in women over 40 years of age, significantly reduce the mortality from breast cancer.

Clinical breast-exam

This method of breast check is performed by a physician to identify any unusual changes in the breast or presence of any lumps. It involves a careful physical examination of the breast that helps in detecting any abnormality and to devise an appropriate treatment plan.

Breast self-exam

In breast self-exam, a woman checks her own breasts to identify any abnormalities or unusual changes. It includes observation and physical examinations of the breast. Breast self-exam is simple and can be easily performed at home. Your family history and your risk for developing breast cancer are a factor in deciding the age at which you need to initiate breast self-exam. Always inform your doctor about any change in the appearance of your breasts or any related abnormality. Breasts may swell and become tender at different stages of your menstrual cycle, so plan the breast self-exam at a convenient time every month to avoid discomfort.

Ultrasound and MRI

Ultrasound and MRI are often used to confirm an examination finding as well to evaluate any abnormalities detected during mammography. MRI is one of the most sensitive diagnostic techniques for detecting breast cancer.

Pap smear

Australian guidelines recommend two yearly pap smears from the age of 20 years or within two years of starting sexual activity. Regular screening enables early detection and treatment of cervical abnormalities to prevent progression to cervical cancer. Abnormal vaginal bleeding patterns such as intermenstrual bleeding or postcoital bleeding should be discussed with your GP as this may indicate cervical abnormalities.

All women between the ages of 18 and 69 years, who have ever been sexually active, should have a Pap test every two years.

Abnormal Pap smear

A Pap smear or Pap test is conducted as part of a woman's routine health examination, after the age of 20. It is not a diagnostic test, but is a screening tool used to detect any abnormal cells in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
A Pap smear helps in early detection of serious medical conditions such as cervical cancer.
However an abnormal Pap smear does not necessarily denote cancer, it may also indicate the presence of infection or abnormal cells called dysplasia. Abnormal results highlight the requirement of supplementary testing to identify and confirm an underlying problem.

Causes of abnormal Pap smear

An abnormal Pap smear may indicate any of the following:

  • Infection or inflammation
  • Herpes
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Dysplasia (abnormal cells that may be precancerous)
  • HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection

Presentation

Usually abnormal cells do not produce any symptoms for the woman. Moreover, even the presence of HPV in an abnormal Pap smear is asymptomatic.  A regular Pap smear is therefore very useful in early detection of any abnormalities.
An abnormal Pap smear, secondary to a sexually transmitted infection, however, may induce the following symptoms:

  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina, such as change in the amount, colour, odour or texture
  • Abnormal sensations such as pain, burning or itching in the pelvic or genital area during urination or sex
  • Sores, lumps, blisters, rashes or warts on or around the genitals

Treatment

Following an abnormal Pap smear, the next step is further testing to confirm the cause of the abnormal cells.

A repeat Pap smear or test for human papilloma virus (HPV), a major risk factor for cervical cancer, may also be recommended.
Depending on the age of the patient and the type of abnormal cells, the doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

  • Cryosurgery which involves freezing the abnormal cells which are then surgically removed.

  • Cone biopsy or LEEP procedure, where a triangle segment of cervical tissue including abnormal cells is removed by specially designed instruments for evaluation.

Abnormal Pap smear during pregnancy

A Pap smear during pregnancy is very safe. In case of an abnormal Pap smear, a colposcopy can be performed during pregnancy. However, further treatments are delayed until the birth of the baby. Often, the birth process washes away the abnormal cervical cells.

Cervical Cancer Vaccinations

Women after the age of 19 should have a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years. Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination is recommended for women between the ages of 18 and 26. Women born after 1980, who have never had chickenpox, should receive two doses of varicella vaccine. Other vaccinations will be recommended by your healthcare provider if you are found to be at high risk for other diseases, such as pneumonia and shingles.

What is the HPV vaccine?

Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are the major cause of cervical cancer in women.  
HPV vaccine triggers the formation of antibodies to produce immunity and therefore protects the body from disease.
The HPV vaccine currently available in Australia is called Gardasil. This vaccine prevents infection with HPV types 16, 18, 6 and 11. HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for the majority (70% internationally; 80% in Australia) of cervical cancers. HPV 6 and 11 are responsible for 90% of genital warts. Having the vaccine will protect those who have never  been exposed to these types of HPV.

Does the vaccine protect against all HPV types?

There are over 100 different viruses in the HPV group. Some HPV types are more likely to lead to the development of cancer than others. At least 14 types of HPV have been found to cause cancer however the vaccine only protects against two out of the 14. Therefore, Pap tests are still critically important. Women between the ages of 18-70 years who have ever had sex need to have a Pap test every two years whether or not they have been vaccinated.

Who is eligible for the HPV vaccine?

The vaccine is most effective if given to girls and boys before the start of sexual activity and, therefore exposure to HPV. Under the National Immunisation, Program Gardasil is free for three groups:

  • 12-13 year old girls in a school-based program, generally delivered in the first year of high school
  • 12-13 year old boys in a school-based program, generally delivered in the first year of high school
  • A catch-up group of 14-15 year old boys in a school-based program, delivered in Year 9 during 2013 and 2014.

For all other people, the cost of the vaccine is around $460; this does not include the cost of the visit to the GP who must prescribe the vaccine.

How is the HPV vaccine administered?

GPs will administer the vaccine in three injections in the upper arm or thigh over a six-month period.

Will ‘boosters’ be required, and if so, how often?

Since the vaccine is new, more studies need to be done. It is not yet clear if or when boosters will be needed.

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

Tests of the vaccine showed only minor problems. Some people had a slight fever; others had redness or irritation of their skin at the site of where the vaccine was administered.

I can’t afford the vaccine. Are Pap tests still a good option?

Pap tests are still critically important. Women between the ages of 18-70 years who have ever had sex need to have a Pap test every two years whether or not they have been vaccinated.

Should I have my son vaccinated?

The HPV vaccine will be offered to 12-13 year old boys from 2013 as part of the National Vaccination Program. Genital warts and some cancers in males are related to HPV, including most anal cancer, and some cancers of the penis, head and neck.

I am sexually active. Will the vaccine benefit me?

You will not be protected if you have already have been infected with the HPV types covered by the vaccine, prior to vaccination. The Cancer Council recommends regular Pap tests every two years for all women who have ever had sex. For these women, Pap tests are still the best protection against cervical cancer.

What trials have been undertaken to test the vaccine?

Clinical trials across Australia and in the US have shown the vaccine to be close to 100% effective against HPV types 16 and 18.

Menopause

The word ‘menopause’ comes from the Greek words ‘menos’ meaning month and ‘pause’ meaning to cease. Menopause means the monthly period stops.
Every woman goes through several changes in the way her body functions,  these changes mark different stages in her life. With puberty, starts the menstrual cycle, where certain hormones control the monthly release of the egg and preparation for pregnancy. The termination of menstruation and fertility of women is known as menopause, and occurs 12 months after your last menstrual period, when you are in your 40s or 50s. Some women can experience menopause before their 40s, and the condition is known as premature menopause.

Menopause Symptoms

Menopause can be characterized by physical and emotional changes. Approaching the time of your menopause (perimenopause), you may experience irregular menses, dryness of the vagina, sagging of the breasts, dry skin, thinning hair, slow metabolism, weight gain, hot flashes, night sweats, problems with sleeping, and mood changes.

Menopause Causes

Menopause is a natural process that takes place in every woman’s like as you reach your early 40s or 50’s. The production of the hormones by your ovaries to regulate your menstrual cycle, namely oestrogen and progesterone, start to decrease. Eventually, your ovaries will stop producing eggs. This will make you experience changes in your menstrual pattern and bring an end to your periods.

There are some factors that can induce menopause. These include the following:

  • Cancer treatment - Chemotherapy (treatment with chemical agents) and radiotherapy (treatment by exposure to radiation) can cause menopause symptoms, and a temporary or permanent stop to your menstruation.
  • Failure of ovaries - Autoimmune diseases or genetic factors can cause your ovaries to produce less than normal amounts of reproductive hormones. This is known as primary ovarian insufficiency, and can lead to premature menopause.
  • Surgeries - Surgeries such as total hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy that involve the removal of your uterus and both ovaries, will immediately stop menstruation.

Menopause Complications

Some of the possible complications associated with menopause include the following:

  • Your risk for heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) diseases increases with the decrease in oestrogen production.

  • Your bone density may decrease, making them brittle and leading to a condition known as osteoporosis. This can make you more prone to fractures.

  • Your vaginal and urethral tissues will begin to lose their elasticity, and you may experience the sudden urge to urinate, or may lose control over your bladder (urge incontinence or stress incontinence). You may also become more prone to urinary tract infections.

  • The loss of moisture and elasticity of your vagina can cause discomfort during intercourse, and can affect your sexual desire (libido).

  • As the rate of your metabolism slows down, you may start gaining weight.

Menopause Diagnosis

Your doctor can identify your transition to menopause with your signs and symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may order blood tests to check your levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestrogen (oestradiol), as a decrease in the level of these hormones can project menopause.

Menopause Treatment

Menopause itself needs no treatment, but treatment may be required to control its signs and symptoms. Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits and may recommend any of the following depending on your condition.

Hormone replacement therapy

Your doctor may recommend treatment with hormones including oestrogen and/or progestin for your hot flashes and bone loss. It may also help prevent cardiovascular problems if started within five years of menopause.

  • Vagina oestrogen - Small doses of oestrogen in the form of cream, pills, or rings can help you manage vaginal dryness, urinary symptoms and discomfort during intercourse.
  • Antidepressants - Low-dose antidepressants can help you manage hot flashes when hormone replacement therapy is not advisable for you, and will also help improve your mood.
  • Medication treatment - You may also be prescribed medications to reduce your bone loss and risk for fractures.

Lifestyle Remedies

Some of these lifestyle remedies can also help you reduce or prevent the symptoms of menopause.

  • Cool off hot flashes by drinking cold water or staying in a cool room. Identify factors that trigger your hot flashes, like hot beverages, alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods, and try to avoid them.
  • Use water-based vaginal lubricants to help you with vaginal dryness and discomfort.
  • Reduce stress, get adequate sleep, eat healthy, stay active and don’t smoke.
  • Exercise regularly. Certain exercises called Kegel exercises can help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and improve urinary incontinence.

Conclusion

Menopause is an unavoidable phase in every woman’s life. Its signs and symptoms can be often disturbing, but it is important to understand your body and learn ways to cope with your difficulties. There are various options available to successfully manage your distress, and your doctor will be the right person to guide you through.

Contraception

Family planning is the method of planning your family in terms of the desired number of children, and comfortably spacing your pregnancies. Family planning is achieved with the use of contraceptives.

There are many different methods of contraception to avoid pregnancy including the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), the mini-pill, a condom, an intrauterine device (IUD) such as Mirena, an Implanon rod, the natural family planning method and more permanent measures such as tubal ligation and vasectomy for men.

Some of these methods are confined for women and others for men, while some of the methods are reversible and some are permanent methods.

Abstinence

Abstinence means not having sexual intercourse. It is the only birth control method that is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted diseases.

Natural family planning method

Natural family planning (NFP) or fertility awareness does not require medication, physical devices, or surgery to prevent pregnancy. This method relies on the woman's body physiology to know the time of ovulation. This method involves monitoring different body changes such as basal body temperature or cervical mucus variations. The woman then abstains from unprotected sex for approximately 7 to 10 days when she may have ovulated.

Barrier methods

It is one of the most common contraceptive methods and involves forming a physical barrier to obstruct the sperm from entering a woman's uterus. Barrier methods include use of male condom, female condom, spermicides, diaphragm, cervical cap, and contraceptive sponge. The male condom is a thin covering made of latex or polyurethane that is rolled over an erect penis before sexual intercourse to prevent the sperm from entering a woman's vagina. The female condom is a polyurethane (plastic) tube that has a flexible ring at each end and is inserted into the vagina before sexual intercourse. Spermicides are chemicals that inactivate or kill sperm and are available as foams, suppositories, and jellies. A diaphragm is a flexible dome that covers the cervix inside the vagina. The cervical cap is a smaller cup made of latex rubber or plastic. These should be used in conjunction with a spermicidal gel and are placed in the vagina before sexual intercourse. The sponge is a soft, round barrier device made of polyurethane foam.

Hormonal methods

In this method synthetic hormonal preparations containing oestrogen and progesterone will be taken orally (pills), implanted into body tissue (implants), injected under the skin (injections), absorbed from a patch on the skin (skin patches), or placed in the vagina (vaginal rings). These methods work by preventing ovaries from releasing an egg for fertilisation. The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device made of copper that is inserted into the uterus. It works by thickening the mucus around the cervix and by thinning the womb's lining, making it difficult to accept a fertilised egg.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal method involves the complete removal of the penis from the woman's vagina before ejaculation.

Sterilisation

This method is a permanent solution and is meant for men and women who do not intend to have children in the future. Male sterilisation involves vasectomy, a surgical blocking of the vas deferens, the tubes through which sperm pass into the semen. Female sterilisation involves a tubal ligation, a surgical procedure that blocks the fallopian tubes which carry the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus.

Implanon

This is a contraceptive implant inserted in the arm under local anaesthetic. It is a highly effective contraceptive and lasts for up to three years. It is an ideal method for young women leading busy lifestyles requiring a safe and effective contraception.Implanon is the brand name for the contraceptive implant containing the hormone progestogen.

What is Implanon?

Implanon is a small flexible rod, which is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It slowly releases progestogen (a hormone similar to the hormone progesterone, which is naturally produced by the female body) into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy for up to three years.

The implant works by preventing ovulation (egg release from the ovary), preventing thickening of the mucus of the cervix so that sperm cannot enter the uterus (womb), and changing the lining of the uterus, making it unsuitable for pregnancy.

Implanon is at least 99.9% effective. This means that if 1,000 women use Implanon for a year it is possible that 1 woman could become pregnant.Some medications can reduce the effectiveness of Implanon. It is important to inform doctors you have an Implanon when other medication is prescribed.

Mirena IUS

This is an intra-uterine device that is a highly effective form of contraception with minimal hormonal side effects. It lasts for up to five years and like Implanon has the advantages of being a 'fit and forget' method of contraception.

Intra Uterine Contraceptive Device

We have practitioners  who are experienced in both Implanon and Mirena insertions. Please ask at reception for details.

The choice of a particular method of contraceptive depends on an individual's age, health, frequency of sexual activity, number of sexual partners, plans for future pregnancy, and certain medical conditions. Discuss with your doctor about the choices of birth control available for your particular situation.

Pre-Pregnancy

Pre-pregnancy counselling is a counselling session conducted before you conceive, and is beneficial for the mother as well as the baby during the term of pregnancy. It helps in checking for possible risk factors during pregnancy and also gives a way to resolve any medical issues you may have before you become pregnant. Pre-pregnancy counselling and care will help you to become physically healthy and emotionally strong before you enter into the phase of pregnancy.

What happens during a pre-pregnancy counselling session?

You can discuss and clarify with your doctor, all the things that concern you before you get pregnant, like starting prenatal vitamins, diet or any hereditary health issues. Many important points will be discussed during your pre-pregnancy counselling session. They include:

Reproductive history

You doctor will discuss your menstrual history, use of contraceptives, any previous sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal infections and Pap test results.
Medical and surgical history: You should inform the doctor about any past health problems so that this can be controlled while you plan your pregnancy. Any past surgeries or hospitalizations should also be brought to the doctor's notice.

Current medications

Discuss with your doctor regarding any prescription, over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements that you may be currently taking. This can help the doctor plan your medications so as to prevent any potential problems during your pregnancy.

Weight

It is always better to have an ideal weight before you conceive. Gaining weight if you are underweight will reduce the risk of having a low birth-weight baby, and reducing weight if you are overweight will prevent the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Workplace and home environment

Your doctor will discuss potential hazards to conception or maintaining a pregnancy, such as exposure to lead or certain toxic solvents, radiation and cat faeces.

Lifestyle

The effect of certain habits like alcohol consumption, smoking and use of recreational drugs on pregnancy will be discussed. You and/or your partner may be advised to stop these habits for a healthy pregnancy.

Exercise

Inform your doctor about the type of exercises you perform or if you don't exercise. Based on this, you may be advised to continue normal exercises during pregnancy until your doctor suggests otherwise.

Diet

Having good dietary habits is beneficial during pregnancy. You will be advised to consume food rich in folic acid, calcium, fibre and other nutrients, and reduce the intake of caffeine, which is present in coffee, chocolates, soft drinks and medications, before getting pregnant.

Family health history

Inform your doctor about the presence of hereditary medical conditions and multiple births in the family.

Prenatal vitamins

You should start taking folic acid supplements before you conceive, as folic acid reduces the chances of neural tube defects in your baby.

Advice for older women

Women older than 35 years of age will be advised on the risks of infertility, abnormalities in the child and pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage and labour problems.

Your doctor may also recommend:

  • Physical exam of your abdomen, heart, breasts, thyroid and lungs.
  • Pap smear and pelvic examination.
  • Lab tests to screen for hepatitis, HIV, rubella, syphilis and other conditions.
  • Chart menstrual cycles to monitor ovulation and determine the most favourable time to get pregnant.
  • Advise appropriate vaccinations against rubella or chickenpox, and recommend delay in conception for a month.
  • Conduct genetic counselling for older mothers or those with a risk of hereditary diseases to help you understand the chances of birth defects or intellectual disability in the child.

Pregnancy Care

What is Shared care?

Shared care with a local doctor provides an option for women to have some of their pregnancy care with their GP and some visits at the hospital’s antenatal clinic (or midwives’ clinic or birth center).

Essentially, shared care with a local doctor is usually an option for women who have no pre-existing health conditions (such as diabetes) and whose pregnancies are progressing relatively normally with one baby (no twins or more). The local doctor would seek advice from an obstetric registrar or consultant at the hospital you are booked into if there were any health concerns or if complications arose. If complications do develop (such as high blood pressure, bleeding during pregnancy or the labour starting prematurely) then your care will most likely be transferred from the shared care arrangement to the doctors in the hospital’s antenatal clinic. Policies and guidelines for what is acceptable for care by local doctors will vary from hospital to hospital.

Shared care can be a convenient option for women who have a good relationship with their local doctor and find travelling to the hospital difficult (especially if they have other children). Most shared care arrangements require the GP to be accredited by the hospital you are attending.

If you require the services of a dietician, social worker, genetic counselor, physiotherapist and childbirth educator, your local doctor will usually refer you to the services provided by the hospital you are booked into or services in the local community.

Pregnancy visits

Some of your pregnancy visits will be done at your local doctor’s rooms, and some will be done at the hospital by your chosen caregivers (antenatal clinic, midwives’ clinic or birth center). Each hospital usually has their own recommended guidelines for how often you see your local doctor and how often you come to the hospital.  Your GP may take bloods and order ultrasounds or these may be done by the maternity service at the hospital (depending on when your visits are scheduled throughout the pregnancy).

The Birth

Your local doctor will not be involved in your labour and birth.

Pain relief options

Pain relief availability will depend on your birthplace and will be in line with the care arrangements you have made with your hospital.

Postnatal care

Postnatal care will be in line with the care arrangements you have made with your hospital. Local doctors do not  provide postnatal care home visits if you decide go home early, but the hospital midwives can provide this.

6-8 week postnatal check

You can go back to your local doctor for your 6 to 8 week postnatal check or you may prefer to see a caregiver at the hospital, such as the antenatal clinic, midwives’ clinic or birth center.  

Fertility

Fertility is your ability to produce a child. Infertility is when you have had 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse and you have not become pregnant. Fertility can be affected by many things and there are also ways to increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Not being able to conceive can be distressing but talking with your doctor, counsellor or psychologist can help you to understand your options and decide what to do next.

Incontinence

Are you suffering from accidental, involuntary flow of urine from your body? While this issue can be embarrassing, it’s very common and can be treated.

Urinary incontinence can affect patients differently. You may be experiencing loss of bladder control, a sudden urge to urinate or an overactive bladder.

There are three main types of incontinence:

  • Stress urinary incontinence usually occurs due to weakened or damaged pelvic floor muscles. This could be as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, previous pelvic surgery, aging or obesity. You may experience loss of bladder control when you place stress on your bladder, especially when coughing, sneezing, lifting heavy things or laughing.
  • Urge incontinence is the consequence of overactive muscles that contract too often around the bladder. You may feel a sudden, intense urge to urinate.
  • Mixed incontinence can include a combination of the symptoms above.
  • If the symptoms begin to affect your daily activities, it’s time to seek help from an expert.

What causes urinary incontinence?

There are also other reasons why a woman may leak urine. Sometimes it’s caused by an illness, in which case bladder control returns when the illness goes away.

For example, bladder infections and infections in the vagina can cause incontinence for a short time. Being unable to have a bowel movement or taking certain medicines also may make it hard to control your bladder.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects 12-18% of women of reproductive age and up to 21% in some high-risk groups, such as Indigenous women.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition commonly involving high levels of insulin or testosterone. The cause of PCOS is unclear.

Symptoms of PCOS

PCOS is often related to problems such as:

  • Irregular periods,
  • Acne,
  • Excess hair,
  • Hair loss,
  • Depression,
  • Anxiety,
  • Sex and relationship issues.

Other health problems associated with PCOS such as:

  • Metabolic syndrome,
  • Type 2 diabetes and
  • Cardiovascular disease

mean understanding and treatment of PCOS is important. Your doctor can help you learn about the signs and symptoms of PCOS, diagnoses and the treatments available.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition that affects a woman's reproductive organs. It happens when the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of it.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

Patients may experience:

  • Painful cramps in the lower abdomen, back or in the pelvis during menstruation,
  • Painful sex,
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding,
  • Painful bowel movements or urination and
  • Infertility.

Treatment of Endometriosis

We can discuss all causes, symptoms, diagnosis and the possible options to manage and treat endometriosis including lifestyle, pain relief medications, hormone therapy and different types of surgery.

Often women have questions about the effect of endometriosis on their bladder and bowel, fertility, emotional health and relationships. Knowing where to go for advice and support is important, and reading and listening to the personal stories of women who have endometriosis is helpful too.

Pelvic Floor Prolapse

Women with prolapse may have different symptoms depending on the type of prolapse. The signs and symptoms include:

  • Slow urinary stream,
  • Difficulty in bowel movements,
  • A vaginal lump,
  • Protrusion of vagina from the body,
  • Painful sexual intercourse,
  • Vaginal pain,
  • Irritation and
  • Bleeding.

Causes of Pelvic Floor Prolapse

The main cause of vaginal prolapse is weakness in the muscles, tissues, and ligaments that support the vagina and surrounding tissues and organs.

The factors that can cause vaginal prolapse include:

  • Frequent lifting of heavy objects,
  • Chronic cough,
  • Severe constipation,
  • Menopause,
  • Childbirth,
  • Previous surgeries in the pelvic area,
  • Advanced age,
  • Hysterectomy and
  • Obesity.

Treatment Options for Pelvic Floor Prolapse

Treatment options include:

  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • Lifestyle changes - to avoid heavy lifting, constipation
  • Local oestrogen treatment
  • A Pessary, a removable device fitted in the vagina to reduce pain and pressure of pelvic organ prolapse.

If non-surgical treatment does not reduce the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, then surgery is considered. There are several types of surgeries to correct different types of pelvic floor prolapse.

The surgery can be performed laparoscopically or through the vagina, depending on the nature of the prolapse.