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While over 80% of mothers attempt breastfeeding their newborns, only one in four continues breastfeeding past the first six months outside the womb. The further from the birth date it gets, the less likely it is for breastfeeding to continue. There are many reasons for this pattern; in this blog, we’ll explore breastfeeding benefits, challenges, and tips for success.

Benefits of Breastmilk

Common sense tells us that breastmilk is best. Not only is it completely natural, but it’s custom-tailored to your baby’s exact needs. Doctors agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommending exclusive breastfeeding for a baby’s first six months and encouraging a full year of the practice. Studies have found a correlation between a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and babies who are breastfed longer.

Breastfeeding has health benefits for both mothers and babies. Human milk contains proteins and living leukocyte cells that protect your baby against infections from bacteria and viruses and also contain properties that encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria for a healthy flora and easy digestion in your infant’s belly. Long-term benefits to the baby include reduced risk of:

The health benefits to mothers who breastfeed include lower blood pressure along with a reduced risk of diabetes and certain types of cancer, including ovarian and breast cancer. Studies have found that the longer a mother can breastfeed her child, the more likely that she will experience improved health when it comes to the circulatory system.

Why is Breastfeeding So Challenging Now

We all pretty much recognize that breastfeeding is best, so why do the breastfeeding rates drop off so dramatically after the first few months? Let’s tackle them in the order that they usually come.

First, mothers may have trouble from the get-go while still in the hospital. Baby may have trouble latching, mom may struggle to find the right position, and mom’s milk supply may lag behind. Doctors in the hospital might push for formula or donor milk to supplement if they are concerned that mom’s supply is not sufficient. This can wreak havoc on a mom’s confidence in her ability to feed her baby naturally.

Luckily, most hospitals have a lactation consultant that diligently tries to help the new mother make the bond and get breastfeeding off to a good start. Once leaving the hospital, mothers don’t have a lactation professional nearby to help and may continue to face issues with latching. She may also struggle with the routine required to feed the baby all hours of the day and may long for sleep and a break.

If a mother is still able to continue breastfeeding once transitioning home, another transition period may upset the routine: returning to work. 7 in 10 mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force to earn income. It’s not practical to return to the office with your infant by your side to breastfeed on-demand, so most mothers will start to pump their breastmilk so that their baby can still receive the benefits of breastmilk from a bottle.

Transitioning to pumped breastmilk and time away from baby can cause problems for a mother’s milk supply, making her wonder if she will be able to maintain the supply to keep up with her baby’s nutritional needs.

Other factors that can pose a challenge and deter a mother from continuing breastfeeding include taking medications, lack of support at home or work, societal pressure, and a host of other reasons.

How to Overcome Obstacles and Breastfeed Your Baby Longer

Fortunately, society recognizes that the drop in breastfeeding is detrimental and is poised to correct it. We are collectively getting better at providing more tools for success. One such action was taken in 2011 by the Surgeon General in his Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. This call to action provided twenty action steps for harboring an environment of support for breastfeeding mothers, including:

So while organizations are still working on making breastfeeding easier and more achievable, there are other things mothers can do on a personal level to increase their chances of success with long-term breastfeeding.

Set yourself up for success by exploring resources designed especially for mothers who desire to breastfeed. One of these is La Leche League, an organization that supports breastfeeding families and provides helpful resources as well as group meetings. Meetings are free, operate online or in-person, and are run by volunteer parents who breastfed their own children. Attending meetings at any point during the process, from pregnancy to anytime after birth, is encouraged.

You can also proactively find and establish a relationship with a local lactation consultant from the United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA) that you can speak with regularly once you’ve left the hospital to help overcome challenges and transitions. A personal lactation consultant can prove to be an invaluable resource for both physical guidance and mental support.

As a breastfeeding mother, it’s likely that you’ll experience ebbs and flows in milk production, and, depending on your situation, you may need to supplement or transition to using a breast pump in order to keep your supply up or pump when your baby is not with you.

Here are some quick tips to increase your milk production:

Concluding Thoughts

Breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks. If you want to breastfeed your baby, you can do it with support. Use the support networks and resources outlined in this article to achieve your breastfeeding goals. Our online physicians at My Virtual Physician, which include OBGYN, pediatric, and primary care specialists, are also available to help if you have any concerns around breastfeeding, nutrition, or milk production.

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Itchy, red, and irritated. Those are not words women prefer to associate with their lady parts. But the reality is that 75% of women will experience a vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime. There is a delicate balance between the bacteria and yeast in the microbiome of the vagina. When disrupted, infections can fester. In this blog, we’ll discuss:

What causes yeast infections?

Candida is a yeast that is naturally present inside the healthy vagina along with other microorganisms, including Lactobacillus bacteria. If the balance among these microbes gets out of whack, it can cause an overgrowth in the others. As a result, a decrease in healthy bacteria in the vagina can cause an overgrowth of candida, causing candidiasis, commonly known as a yeast infection.

Certain risk factors can contribute to candida overgrowth. Hormones and medications are a common culprit to blame for disrupting the fragile microbial environment. If you’re pregnant, on hormonal contraceptives, are taking antibiotics, or have diabetes, you could be more susceptible to yeast overgrowth. Douching can also lead to infections.

How to identify a yeast infection

Luckily, yeast infections produce pesky symptoms to alert you that your vaginal microbiome is a bit off balance. Indicators can vary from woman to woman, but generally, the common ones include:

The onset of symptoms for a yeast infection can start as mildly annoying and then quickly spiral into intense discomfort within a few days. It’s important to monitor your symptoms and get treatment as early as possible to feel better fast. If you’re unfamiliar with the signs, you can check your symptoms with online tools. If you suspect a vaginal yeast infection, testing can confirm your suspicions.

Over-the-counter vaginal health screening tests may help instantly determine whether an infection is present. These tests help you decide whether to use OTC medication‒or whether a doctor appointment is warranted. These tests are generally available at most stores that sell feminine products and can be completed and read at home. Alternatively, your doctor can order tests and collect samples to send to a lab for testing to confirm the diagnosis.

Related: How Your Body’s pH Levels Can Affect Your Health

How to treat yeast infections

Treatment of yeast infections is simple with antifungal medications. If you are confident that your yeast is the problem, there are a range of over-the-counter antifungal medications available in a variety of forms. CDC treatment guidelines recommend the following OTC medications for the treatment of yeast infections:

Each of these creams, ointments, and suppositories are available at most drug stores and must be inserted into the vagina with an applicator (similar to a tampon applicator) over a specified treatment period. Some treatments only require a single dose, while others require repetitive treatment for a full week. Be sure to read the instructions carefully and speak with your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, get worse, or reoccur within a two-month timeframe.

Avoid sexual activity while you treat your symptoms to avoid spreading the infection to your partner or reinfecting yourself. Condoms may not be as effective while using creams or ointments because these chemicals may damage the latex material.

Your doctor can also prescribe different creams or vaginal suppositories that are not available over the counter. Some women find cream or ointment treatments can be messy and inconvenient. If you prefer to take oral medication, you can schedule an appointment with your online physician to request an oral prescription such as oral fluconazole.

 

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Preventing yeast infections

Yeast infections are common, but they don’t have to be. There are preventative measures you can take to limit your chances of yeast overgrowth. One simple change is to make sure that you are regularly wearing cotton underwear. Cotton helps absorb moisture while its breathable nature keeps your groin from staying moist‒an environment prone to yeast overgrowth.

Other quick tips for preventing yeast infections include:

Any time you are prescribed oral antibiotics, consider requesting a pre-emptive medication if you are prone to yeast infections when your bacterial flora is wiped out by antibiotics.

Related: Top 5 Tips to Maintain Vaginal Health: Things You Were Never Told

Conclusion

A woman’s body is a miraculous work of nature. The delicate balance that works to keep her microbiome healthy can wreak havoc when things get off-kilter. Now that you’re armed with this knowledge all about yeast infections, you can use it to keep your body balanced and healthy. As always, if you’re experiencing symptoms that concern you, our online physicians at My Virtual Physician are standing by, ready to hear from you.

 

 

Deciding to start or grow your family is a big decision that will have a significant impact on your life. Many families choose to use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy until they are ready for the commitment that raising children takes. When it comes to choosing your method of birth control, there are so many choices out there to talk with your OBGYN about, including:

In this blog, we’ll explore the fertility awareness method and why some women choose this as their go-to family planning option.

Choosing a More Natural Family Planning Method

Clearly, there are a lot of options. Most of the choices above are hormone-based, which means they alter your body’s hormones and change how your reproductive system functions to prevent fertilization. The options for non-hormonal pregnancy prevention are barrier methods, abstinence, copper IUD, or the fertility awareness method.

Even though the barrier methods don’t alter your hormones, some still introduce chemicals like spermicide that can affect your health. If you’re looking for a completely natural way of family planning without foregoing sex, you might want to consider the fertility awareness-based (FAB) method. This method is also used by couples who are trying to conceive, but instead of avoiding sex on the most fertile days, they do the opposite.

What is the Fertility Awareness-Based Method

The FAB method, also sometimes abbreviated FAM (Fertility Awareness Method), is when you use your body’s natural menstrual cycle to look for signs of ovulation. A woman’s body ovulates, or releases an egg, once per month and awaits fertilization. There are about nine days in each month that a woman is fertile and can become pregnant if her cycles are regular (21 to 35-day cycles are considered regular, with 28 days being the average).

The fertility awareness method aims to identify which days you are most fertile and which days you are not. There are many signs when your body is fertile if you are looking for them. Paying attention to these signs is how this method can be effective at preventing fertilization. The exact effectiveness varies based on many factors, from how regular your body’s cycles are to how many layered methods you use; current effectiveness ranges from 77 to 98%.

How to Use Fertility Awareness to Prevent Pregnancy

There are three main components to calculating your window of fertility (the week or so that you should avoid sex or use alternative contraception) with the fertility awareness-based method. Some women choose to follow only one, while others may choose to observe all three. Likely, the accuracy increases when using multiple methods in a layered approach. Here are the three methods to calculate your most fertile days:

The calendar method can give you a starting point to approximate your fertile days. This works by carefully tracking the first day of your period each month. The day you start your period is considered day one. Ovulation generally occurs about two weeks later. Since sperm can live up to 36 hours inside a woman’s reproductive system, be sure to widen your window of fertility to include at least three or four days before the calculated day of ovulation.

The basal body temperature method works by monitoring your body’s daily temperature. After ovulation, your temperature will be slightly higher than the rest of the month. Checking your body temperature as soon as you awaken with a special basal body thermometer (available at your pharmacy for a reasonable cost) will help you detect the change which is usually about a half-degree around the time of ovulation. You can use this information to establish a pattern of when your body usually releases the egg, typically two or three days before your peak basal body temperature.

Finally, the last method to nail down your ovulation window is the cervical mucus method. With this, you’ll observe changes in your vaginal discharge throughout the month. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Dry days: a few days after your period where there is no mucus
  2. Sticky days: white and sticky discharge just before ovulation
  3. Wet days: the greatest amount of mucus, clear and slippery (most fertile)

During sticky and wet days, you’ll want to avoid sex or use alternative protection to prevent pregnancy.

Tracking Your Fertility

If you decide it’s time to give the fertility awareness-based method a try, be sure that you are consistent with your tracking. While you can use a standard calendar to mark your daily vitals including temperature, bleeding, and mucus, there are apps designed specifically for this purpose. If your menstrual cycles are outside of the standard range, some apps can help you determine your window of ovulation more accurately.

Working with your body’s natural cycles and signs can be an effective method of family planning when tracked consistently. Whether you’re tracking ovulation because you want to avoid traditional contraceptive medication or for other reasons, we can help you understand how your reproductive system functions. If you have questions about using the fertility awareness-based method, reach out to your online OBGYN for answers today.

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Talking about vaginal discharge can lead to an uncomfortable, even taboo, conversation. Even when talking with your OBGYN, it can feel awkward. But if we never talk about it, how are women supposed to know what’s normal? If you’re wondering whether vaginal discharge is common, we’re here to open the door for that conversation. We’ll cover what it is, why it exists, when to worry, and how to manage it.

What is Vaginal Discharge?

Let’s open with the basics. When we say vaginal discharge, what are we referring to? Vaginal discharge is a fluid created by a woman’s body inside her vagina and cervix. There are many reasons why this discharge is needed, including:

Those are all very important functions that could not be carried out without the help of vaginal discharge. So now that you know why you have it, you may still be wondering — what does normal vaginal discharge look like?

Normal discharge is clear or milky white, and thick. A woman’s body adjusts the production of discharge to match her needs throughout her menstrual cycle; therefore, the look, feel, and amount of fluid will change at different points in her cycle. For example, a short-lived, watery-brown discharge after her period is a sign that a woman’s uterus is preparing for her uterine lining to replenish.

The menstrual cycle and fluctuation of hormones in your body aren’t the only things that control the ebb and flow of your fluids. Other factors may affect your vaginal secretions including:

Now that we’ve established that healthy vaginas produce regular discharge, let’s talk about when your secretions can function as a warning sign of illness.

When Should You Be Concerned About Vaginal Discharge?

By now, we can see that vaginal discharge serves a very important function in a woman’s body for daily health and regulation. When things start to get off course, discharge has another superpower. It’s an excellent indicator and early detector of disease.

What is your vaginal discharge telling you?

White and Chunky with Symptoms

Alone, thick white discharge is not a concern. However, if you have additional symptoms like itching, redness, dryness, or irritation, and the texture resembles cottage cheese, this could be a sign of an infection.

Yellow or Green & Odorous

Discharge that is yellow or green is usually accompanied by a foul odor and is a sign of a bacterial infection or possibly a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Other Accompanying Symptoms

If you notice a change in your regular cycle of discharge along with some of these other red flags, you should discuss your symptoms with your gynecologist.

If you are experiencing any of these red flags in your discharge, we recommend that you speak to your OBGYN to see if there is an underlying cause that can be treated. You can get a professional assessment in addition to testing and treatment online from the comfort of your own home with My Virtual Physician’s board-certified doctors who are standing by for your call.

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Good Hygiene Practices for Vaginal Discharge

If your vaginal discharge is within the normal parameters, you might just be wondering how to practice good personal hygiene when you have vaginal fluid seemingly leaking out. If you find that your underwear has been lightly coated with a white or yellowish tint, as normal as that is, it can be a nuisance.

For days where your discharge is more bothersome, you can try using unscented, breathable pantiliners. Cloth pantiliners are a good option; they are less irritating than the disposable versions that come with an adhesive that can limit airflow. If you choose disposable liners, be sure to pick unscented to avoid irritation and upsetting your normal pH balance.

Other ways to keep your undergarments fresh include choosing breathable underwear, like cotton, and changing underwear throughout the day as needed. Be sure to avoid products that can upset your natural pH levels, like scented soaps and douching, as those may increase your discharge.

Related: Top 5 Tips to Maintain Vaginal Health: Things You Were Never Told

We hope that this article clears up any confusion about what’s normal when it comes to vaginal discharge and when it may warrant further investigation. Do you have any other tips for managing your lady part secretions? If so, we’d love to hear from you, send us a message to share your insights!

 

Sometimes being a woman seems unfair. Case in point: have you ever been accused of having PMS? PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. Most have heard the term and may have used it jokingly when a woman’s emotions were high, casually alluding to the fact that her moodiness must be from imbalanced hormones during her menstrual cycle.

While it may seem like fun and games to joke about PMS, it’s a real physiological phenomenon that should be taken seriously. Nine out of ten women experience premenstrual symptoms to different degrees. If you’ve noticed your own PMS affecting other people, it might be time to consider whether you’re dealing with a more serious premenstrual disorder: PMDD.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a severe version of PMS that affects your life more significantly. In this blog post, we’ll cover the basics of premenstrual disorders and give you tips to help with your symptoms around that time of the month.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome includes a range of symptoms, both physical and emotional, that occur in a woman’s body due to changes in her body’s chemistry from the menstrual cycle. A few common symptoms can include:

Interestingly, PMS is most likely to occur in women in their 30s. Other factors that increase your chances of pre-period problems include high stress and a history of depression.

So how do you know if it’s PMS? A tell-tale sign is that the symptoms repeat at least three cycles and linger for about five days before your period begins, ending on day four of your cycle. If your PMS is more extreme and disruptive than what we described above, you may be suffering from PMDD.

What is PMDD?

Only about 5% of women of childbearing age face premenstrual symptoms so severe that they interrupt daily life. Symptoms of PMDD can include all of the physical and emotional PMS symptoms, plus more. Here are some indicators of PMDD:

If your life is completely thrown off course each month a week or two before your period, PMDD is a real possibility. There is hope — PMDD is both preventable and treatable.

Preventing Premenstrual Symptoms

If your premenstrual symptoms are mild but bothersome, you don’t just have to sit back and accept the wave of discomfort each month. Preventing PMS or PMDD may be as simple as adding self-care to your routine. Are you performing these three self-care items daily?

If those three tips are not doing the trick, you may need to move on to treatment options to cope with the symptoms. During this stage, start documenting your symptoms so that you can discuss them with your online OBGYN in the future if necessary. You can journal the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, or download a phone app. Include the date, symptom, severity, and effect on your life.

Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications may help temporarily relieve your symptoms but they do nothing for prevention. Some vitamins and herbs may help with the prevention and reduction of premenstrual symptoms including:

Treating Life-Disruptive Premenstrual Disorders

So maybe you’ve already tried the preventative measures above and are still struggling with the severe effects of PMDD each month. Sometimes medication is required for treating the symptoms, including antidepressants (SSRIs), birth control pills, water pills, or pain relievers.

The great news is — finding support and treatment for premenstrual disorders is easier than ever in today’s digital world. If you need help with PMDD, you can schedule an online appointment with My Virtual Physician to discuss your symptoms with our board-certified OBGYN and make PMDD a thing of the past.

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It’s important not to ignore your premenstrual symptoms if they are interfering with your life and relationships. PMDD can sometimes be a sign of a more serious problem including: depression or anxiety, ME/CFS, IBS, or bladder pain syndrome. That’s why it’s critical to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment if the symptoms don’t dissipate on their own. Premenstrual disorders are not a laughing matter, and My Virtual Physician will always take your concerns seriously and offer help.

 

Did you know that every year nearly 700 women die from pregnancy-related complications in the United States? Even more shockingly, over 450 of these annual deaths are preventable! Being aware of serious complications that women face during pregnancy and postpartum is critical to saving lives.

To support this mission to save lives, the CDC has launched a campaign aimed at reducing pregnancy-related deaths. Launched in August of 2020, the campaign called “Hear Her,” is still running strong today and hopes to empower women and their support network to take postpartum concerns seriously.

Most people have heard of postpartum depression, but that’s not the only health concern that should be monitored in new mothers. In this article, we gather facts from the CDC’s Hear Her campaign to help get you up to speed on a range of postpartum concerns.

First, let’s cover the most well-known concern: postpartum depression.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Having a baby is a serious life-changing event for a woman and her family. Changing hormones and roller-coaster emotions can take their toll on a woman who is using her body to grow another human being. Sometimes a pregnant woman’s body becomes chemically unbalanced, resulting in depression. There are three levels of depression that can commonly occur during and after pregnancy:

  1. Baby Blues
  2. Postpartum Depression
  3. Postpartum Psychosis

Baby blues are a mild feeling of unease, including feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness, or anxiety experienced by up to eight out of ten new mothers. Baby blues can be caused by sudden changes in hormones and generally last only a few days after birth, no longer than two weeks.

Postpartum depression, also called perinatal depression, is a mood disorder that can be caused by a chemical imbalance. It is similar to regular depression, but occurs during the last trimester or up to a year after pregnancy and is estimated to affect up to 15% of women who gave birth. Depression is usually diagnosed when these signs are present and last longer than two weeks (and not following a traumatic event):

Postpartum psychosis is an emergency situation affecting two out of 1000 births, usually in the first month after delivery. A mother dealing with postpartum psychosis should seek medical attention immediately. Signs of this include:

For any of the three layers of postpartum depression, it’s important to speak with your doctor during your postpartum follow-up appointment. If you aren’t comfortable going to see the doctor that delivered your child, our online physicians are available to help. Schedule your appointment now with Dr. Howard, our board-certified OB/GYN.

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If you have a loved one who is experiencing signs of postpartum depression, encourage them to discuss their experience with a professional, whether it’s a therapist or a physician. Postpartum depression doesn’t always have to be treated with medication; a common treatment option is psychotherapy counseling.

Related: Talk Tuesdays - Episode 1: Postpartum Depression

Other Postpartum Problems to Spot

It’s not just postpartum depression that affects the health and livelihood of pregnant or new mothers, there are a host of warning signs to keep an eye out for both during and after pregnancy.  If addressed at an early enough time, lives can be saved.

As a pregnant or postpartum woman, report any of these signs to your doctor immediately (or as a family member, encourage your loved one to seek help):

Find more information on each of these signs or symptoms, and what they could mean, on the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) website. You can also find personal “Hear Her” stories on the CDC’s campaign page, which include video testimonials of each woman’s personal story about the life-threatening symptoms she experienced during or after pregnancy.

You Can Help Save Lives

If you recently delivered your baby or are nearing delivery and you are suffering from any of the warning signs above, we encourage you to play it safe and bring up your concerns with your OB/GYN or another medical professional.

Postpartum Support International is an organization that can help. 

They also offer online specialty support groups as well as resources for loss and grief.

If you are concerned that your loved one has any of the postpartum concerns in this article, you are in the right place. The most helpful thing you can do is to offer a listening ear and show your loved one support. Provide her with resources and encourage her to seek medical help, while offering to help set up her appointment or take her to the doctor or therapist.

This type of conversation isn’t easy, so conversation guides are available on the CDC’s campaign page to get you started. Are you ready to “hear her” and take postpartum concerns seriously to prevent unnecessary deaths? The best way you can get involved is by watching for the warning signs in your pregnant and postpartum friends and family and responding with love and persistence.

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH), a division of the US Department of Health & Human Services, has found that nearly 20% of women of childbearing age are douching. What’s the big deal? These women may not realize that douching can be potentially damaging to their health and the practice is not recommended by OBGYNs.

In this post, we will cover:

What is Vaginal Douching?

If you’ve never heard the term douche or douching as it relates to vaginal hygiene, you’re not alone. According to Merriam-Webster, douching is defined as an act of cleansing, generally using a jet of liquid to flush out a bodily cavity. You’ve got that right - vaginal douching is a cleansing solution, generally consisting of vinegar-based chemicals, that is flushed into the vaginal canal.

Douching kits can be purchased over the counter at most grocery, drug, and convenience stores. Usually found in the feminine supply aisle, they include:

Why would a woman douche? There is a common misconception that the vagina needs to be cleaned out occasionally from the inside, especially after menstruation. This is false. The vagina has a delicate natural acidity that keeps it in perfect harmony. It is self-cleaning and does not require any intervention to maintain healthy hygiene.

Read the back of any douche products and you’ll realize that there is no true benefit; companies are simply playing on women’s insecurities regarding feeling “fresh” and “clean” and “removal of  odors.” On each box, you will also find a warning note indicating that douching may cause serious health problems including Pelvic Inflammatory Disorder (PID), ectopic pregnancy, and infertility.

Related: How Your Body’s pH Levels Can Affect Your Health

The Dangers of Douching

What’s so dangerous about douching? There are a host of health problems that can result from upsetting your vagina’s natural balance. Those problems can include:

Douching alters the pH of your vagina, upsetting the natural vaginal flora that fends off bad bacteria and other irritations. When your pH becomes imbalanced, a woman is more prone to see infections like bacterial vaginosis. Douching can also remove some of the healthy bacteria that are part of your normal vaginal flora and make you more susceptible to infections including STIs.

Even more dangerous, if you douche while you have an infection, it can push the bacteria up into your other reproductive organs including the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. An internal infection of these organs is called Pelvic Inflammatory Disorder, a serious health concern. Never attempt to self-treat vaginal discharge, foul odors, itching, pain, burning, or discomfort by flushing it out with a douche, which can make the problem worse.

If you’re having any of these symptoms, reach out to My Virtual Physician to schedule an online OBGYN appointment so we can help with proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Clearly, douching is not the best practice for vaginal hygiene. So if you’ve been douching, what is the alternative?

Tips for Proper Vaginal Hygiene

A healthy vagina self-maintains healthy hygiene by producing mucous that washes away any foreign substances like blood, semen, or discharge. A natural mild vaginal scent is normal; your vagina shouldn’t smell like flowers.

If you are noticing an offensive vaginal odor that is not resolved by occasional rinsing of your exterior vulva with water (or occasionally water plus mild soap), that is a clear sign from your body that your natural vaginal flora balance has been upset. Consult your online OBGYN if you need help determining what may be causing an abnormal odor.

Sometimes it’s actually the scented products, meant to mask your natural scent, that can cause your body to protest with pungent odors. Using unscented washes and menstrual products is important to keep unnecessary chemicals, which can interrupt the natural cleansing process, out of the vagina. Give your vagina some time to recover from scented products and douches and you’ll see your vaginal health return.

Related: 5 Tips to Maintain Vaginal Health: Things You Were Never Told

Conclusion

When it comes to menstrual and vaginal products, women are often targeted with advertising that feeds on their insecurities regarding their natural vaginal scent and cleanliness. Douching is one example of a vaginal product that is not only unnecessary and ineffective, but also has a detrimental effect on a woman’s health.

Have you been fooled into believing that douching is a necessary, normal, or acceptable way to clean the vagina? If so, you’re not alone. We hope to spread awareness around the misconception that douching is appropriate for any purpose when it comes to a clean vagina. Help us spread the word by sharing the dangers of douching with your girlfriends.

Did you know that if the entire population of the United States was tested for sexually transmitted infections today, about 20% would test positive? That’s what was found in a 2018 study of the top eight STIs.

The top 8 include:

In lockstep with the CDC releasing their new STI Treatment Guidelines last year, we’re providing relevant information in our blog regarding STIs to keep you informed. In case you missed it, here’s the scoop on Chlamydia.

Let’s take this opportunity to move on to our review of the second most common bacterial STI: gonorrhea.

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea, like chlamydia, is a bacterial infection transmitted through sexual contact. The name of the bacteria in gonorrheal infections is called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This bacteria grows on the inner membranes of the reproductive tracts of both men and women and can also thrive in the mouth, throat, rectum, and even eyes. You can catch gonorrhea by engaging in sexual activity, including vaginal, oral, or anal sex, with someone who is infected. It can also be passed during birth from mother to child.

Gonorrhea can cause some gnarly complications. Unlike chlamydia, which tends to only cause damage to a woman’s body, gonorrhea can cause health problems for men and women alike. Some possible health effects of untreated gonorrhea are:

Those are some very concerning conditions, so how do you know if you’ve been infected?

Gonorrhea Infection Symptoms

Similar to chlamydia, most people do not have clear signs of being infected with gonorrhea, but there are a few symptoms to look out for:

Symptoms in women:

Symptoms in men:

Should I Get Tested for Gonorrhea?

Because most people with gonorrhea don’t have any signs or symptoms of infection, screening each year is crucial for detection, particularly for women. Men are more likely to have symptoms alerting them of infection, so testing may not be necessary. The CDC recommends regular testing for gonorrhea when it comes to:

The days of going to public health to get tested for STIs may be over. Now, you can test discreetly with your online OBGYN who can order a screening test from your local lab. Contact My Virtual Physician to order your STI testing kit today.

Gonorrhea can be detected by performing a bacterial culture on either an early morning urine sample or a genital swab. The new CDC guidelines add a recommendation for rectal and pharyngeal (throat) testing if an infection is suspected in those parts of the body and also approve of patient-collected specimens.

If you test positive, be sure to notify all sexual partners within the past 60 days so they can also be tested and treated. If they are unable to see a doctor, talk with your physician to see if they can assist in making treatment medications available for others that may be infected.

How to Cure Gonorrhea

Antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria that cause gonorrhea. Sometimes your doctor may simultaneously treat you for chlamydia even if you have not been tested. With gonorrhea treatment, there is a risk of bacterial resistance; if you suspect your infection is not cured after completing your medication, call your doctor right away for a different treatment option.

Your doctor will determine whether it will be necessary to re-test after treatment. For most infections, re-testing is not required but is recommended after three months. If you had a positive throat swab, the CDC recommends testing for a negative result within 1 to 2 weeks after treatment. Both partners should refrain from sexual activity for a week after completing treatment to prevent re-infection. The CDC recommends scheduling a follow-up STI test within three months of treatment for patients who have been treated for gonorrhea.

Conclusion

STI testing and receiving a positive result, whether it’s gonorrhea or another infection, can be a mixed bag of emotions, but you don’t have to go it alone. Regular testing can catch the infection early on before any damage can be done to your reproductive system.

Have you received your annual STI screening for 2022? Schedule your appointment with My Virtual Physician so we can take care of your testing needs.

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Is your current birth control method working for you? Or are you trying to figure out what else is out there in the world of contraceptives? Luckily, your online OBGYN can help you sort through your options.

Family planning and reproductive function are a huge part of women’s health. Over 65% of women of child-bearing age are using some form of contraception. As soon as a woman decides to be sexually active, she has important decisions to make regarding either family planning or contraceptives.

If you’re not ready to start a family just yet, choosing the right contraceptive path might be overwhelming with all the options available. Here, we’ll cover the basics and go in-depth on one promising option available for pregnancy prevention: the diaphragm.

The Basics: Hormonal Vs. Non-Hormonal Contraceptives

First things first, let’s go over the basics. The two main categories to choose from are hormonal and non-hormonal birth control.

Hormonal birth control delivers medication that alters a woman’s hormones. Hormones are in charge of regulating the menstrual cycle and instructing the body to ovulate, or release an egg each month. Some examples of hormonal birth control include:

Non-hormonal contraceptive options do not interfere with your body’s natural hormones. You can think of these as barriers that physically prevent sperm from getting to your egg. Sometimes these are used in combination with spermicide products. Examples of this type of birth control include:

You have likely heard of most of the options that are listed above. The diaphragm, one of the less commonly utilized options, may be unfamiliar. Let’s uncover the mystery.

What is a Diaphragm?

A diaphragm is a soft and flexible silicone cup-shaped device used by women to create a barrier at the cervix, blocking sperm from entering where the egg lies. The diaphragm is placed into the vagina before sex and removed after a specified amount of time. Contraceptive gel, or spermicide, is used together with the diaphragm to improve effectiveness.

How to Use a Diaphragm

Let’s take a look at how to use a diaphragm. In this example, we’ll take a peek at the instructions for the Caya contoured diaphragm. Here are the basic steps to follow:

  1. Wash & inspect
  2. Apply contraceptive gel
  3. Fold the device
  4. Get comfortable
  5. Insert the diaphragm
  6. Use a finger to double-check position

A few things to remember when using a diaphragm:

Removing the diaphragm is simple. Six hours after sex, you can remove the diaphragm by hooking it with a finger on the rim. Pull it out, rinse, and repeat as needed.

Why Choose a Diaphragm over Other Methods?

So why would a woman choose a diaphragm? A major factor in the decision is that diaphragms don’t contain hormonal medication. This can be advantageous for fertility reasons and makes diaphragms an option for breastfeeding mothers (beginning six weeks post-birth).

The list of side effects caused by hormonal birth control is a lengthy one with some pretty scary possibilities. Some women experience migraines, blood clots, and even strokes while taking hormonal birth control. With diaphragms, side effects are virtually non-existent. The list is very short and includes discomfort, minor irritation, and vaginal discharge for some women while wearing the diaphragm.

Some benefits of using a diaphragm are comfort and convenience. Unlike condoms, which are disposable and require many over a lifetime, diaphragms are reusable and last for up to 2 years. That means you won’t have to get monthly prescriptions, won’t have to remember to take a pill every day, and won’t have to go through a painful IUD insertion. You can insert the diaphragm up to six hours before sex and leave it put up to 24 hours.

Conclusion

Contraception is something that most women will manage throughout a large part of their lives. Being aware of your options can help you make the best decision when choosing which method of birth control to use. Take the time to schedule an appointment with your online OBGYN to discuss your method and your options. A prescription is required for a diaphragm, but we can help with that!

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Are you ready to make a change? My Virtual Physician has expert doctors, including board-certified OBGYN Dr. Howard, who are available and ready to discuss your contraceptive options today.

 

Virtual doctor appointments are replacing in-person visits; it’s the clear direction that we are headed. While telehealth has had a slow start to overcome the technological and social barriers of moving care online, the pandemic has accelerated things.

According to a study, the number of healthcare companies that plan to increase investment in telehealth development has jumped from 77% to 93%. Providers are finally putting resources into developing the full potential of telemedicine.

The benefits to online appointments for patients are clear:

With the high demand for online doctors, you must be diligent about who you trust for your healthcare needs. In the early days of telehealth, there were just a few companies that offered virtual care. But today, online doctor portals are popping up everywhere. How do you choose the right one for you?

Below we will take a look at three OBGYN women’s health options that are currently available online:

My Virtual Physician

If you’re looking for the traditional benefits of sitting and discussing your health with your doctor but prefer to do it from the comfort of your own home, My Virtual Physician may be what you are looking for.

Skip the wait to see your OBGYN. My Virtual Physician is truly a full-spectrum women’s telehealth provider.  Our doctors are available and ready to see you today.

What We Like About My Virtual Physician

The message that we saw over and over when comparing women’s health online providers was that My Virtual Physician rises above the others when it comes to genuine concern and customized care for the patient.

Face-to-Face with your doctor

When you start your appointment with our doctors, you get to converse directly, face-to-face with your physician.

The comments on Google reviews show that patients who see the doctors at My Virtual Physician are overwhelmingly pleased with their experience. Here’s what patients have shared:

“Dr. Howard was patient and knowledgeable. Very available and super helpful.Gave me a thorough explanation of my treatment options and helped me make my decision on my next steps.” -Esther

“Doctor was knowledgeable, empathetic, understating and even put extra effort in trying to save me money since I have no insurance. I'm committed to having My Virtual Physician as my primary Doctor by choice. My experience was fast and easy. Way better then spending several hours in a doctors office. Doctor's follow up was great!!!” -Erica

This type of personal interaction is something that cannot be replaced by chats or forms that other providers sometimes use. My Virtual Physician values the opportunity to provide access directly to patients.

Full Spectrum of Care in Women’s OBGYN 

As you can see in the reviews, the doctors at My Virtual Physician are experts in their field.  Getting the correct diagnosis & treatment the first time is valuable for all involved; it saves time, money, and frustration.

The services that My Virtual Physician provides are full-spectrum. You can receive the following women’s health services from our OBGYN:

In addition to the above women’s reproductive health, My Virtual Physician offers additional services in some states.

A specialist without the hassle

Many online doctors only offer general care; however, My Virtual Physician was founded by a specialist. Dr. Howard is a board-certified OBGYN specialist who is licensed in nearly a dozen states and is focused on realizing his dream to make accessible women’s health care a reality.

So if you truly want an expert to get your reproductive health advice from, My Virtual Physician is in a unique position to meet that need.  You won’t have to wait months to see Dr. Howard as you would if you try to schedule an appointment with a local OBGYN at a physical clinic.

What You Should Know About My Virtual Physician

While My Virtual Physician has mastered bringing the traditional doctor experience online without losing the personal interactive aspect, there are a few things to know when you schedule an appointment.

Appointment Times are Limited

So you’re ready to book an appointment with My Virtual Physician. One thing to be aware of is the availability of appointment times.  Currently, there is a short window each day that appointments are scheduled.

Appointments can be scheduled:

But don’t lose hope just yet; if you need to meet with our doctors outside of the window of times available on the scheduling assistant, just give us a call to see what we can do.  In most cases, we can accommodate. Our primary mission is to make sure our patients receive the care they deserve.

My Virtual Physician may not be available in your state

Because My Virtual Physician is run by a tight-knit group of physicians who are experts in their field, it is not a huge corporation that employs endless numbers of doctors.  This means that My Virtual Physician is only able to provide services to patients who live in the states where the doctors are currently licensed.

Reference the map below to find out if My Virtual Physician is currently available in your state, and which services are offered.

Let’s move on to another women’s healthcare online provider: Nurx.

Nurx

Nurx’s mission is to make healthcare accessible, affordable, and better. However, its use is limited to more of a prescription and delivery service rather than a full-spectrum telehealth provider. Let’s go over some things to know about Nurx.

What We Like About Nurx

Nurx is convenient for receiving certain regular prescriptions and tests.

Convenience for birth control refills

Nurx is great if you already take an established birth control that works and you don’t have the desire or need to consult a doctor. Nurx provides prescription birth control and a few other recurring prescriptions.

Once you complete the initial consultation, which consists of filling out some paperwork and paying a fee, your recurring prescription will be reviewed behind the scenes. Nurx has their own pharmacy that they use to send medication to you.

Medication is shipped to your door

Your prescription is shipped to your door on a recurring basis. This is convenient if you plan on taking the same medication long-term, but it only works if the medication is not urgent. For example, you would not want to wait on shipping for antibiotic treatments if your body is trying to fight off an infection.

STI testing kits 

Getting tested for STIs carries some stigma and is a little awkward. We like that Nurx has developed some STI testing kits that can be self-administered in the privacy of your own home.

This is a good option only for regular annual testing and should not be used if you suspect you may have been infected. There is a long delay of seven working days after you send the test kit back to the Nurx lab for results on STIs.

What You Should Know About Nurx

Some of the issues women have had with Nurx are a bit concerning.  For claiming to be experts in women’s healthcare, they have some explaining to do.

No patient-doctor communication

While Nurx serves a purpose, its biggest downside is that it lacks direct communication between you and your doctor.  In fact, you don’t have a doctor with Nurx.  Your paperwork gets reviewed by a doctor along with a stack of others.

A conversation between you and your doctor is the most effective way to truly meet your healthcare needs and manage your medication competently. It is impersonal when lacking face-to-face communication with a doctor.

Subscription-based medication model

Nurx operates more like a lab or pharmacy than a doctor’s office.  There are quite a few  reviews that show some recurring problems with Nurx’s subscription model:

Limited treatment options

Of the 12 conditions that Nurx can treat per their website, only half are related to women’s health conditions, which include:

Overall, Nurx might be ok if you are simply looking to get your medication or testing and don’t need any personalized care or advice. Next up: hers.

hers (forhers.com)

If you like your healthcare to have some sex appeal, you might be tempted to try a prescription provider called hers. hers was created as a branch-off from the original website, hims, which provides a wide range of similar men’s products.

hers provides hair care, skincare, and supplement products as well as mental health, and now, primary care services.

What We Like About hers

If you like the products that hers offers, hers can be a convenient option for receiving prescriptions regularly.

Personal hygiene products that work

Hers is different from most online doctors because they carry their own line of personal hygiene products. Women must pamper themselves for optimal health, both mentally and physically. The products themselves are highly rated in customer reviews.

Prescriptions and products delivered to your door

Similar to Nurx, hers also has their own pharmacy they work with to mail birth control prescriptions and other medications directly to your door each month. All of your prescriptions will be recurring subscriptions.

What You Should Know About ForHers

Reviews on services are quite bad

While the reviews we saw regarding the actual products tended to be positive, the patient reviews of the services that hers provides were overwhelmingly bad. Out of 10 reviews at the time of this article, 70% of the reviews were 1 star. Some of the biggest complaints were:

Mostly a skincare product line

At first glance, you may not even realize that hers is providing healthcare services.  Their website gives the appearance that hers is just a skincare product line. If you look closely, there is a link for primary care services. In their sexual health section, you can find:

While a few of those options may be convenient for recurring subscriptions, it seems like hers is more of a store pushing their products than a doctor who is serving their patient’s best interests.

Forget the face-to-face with a doctor

While providing access to birth control is a noble cause, it may be irresponsible to do so without a proper assessment and time for discussion between the patient and doctor. Similar to Nurx, hers has no face-to-face appointment for women’s health care.

Their process includes completing an online intake form, chatting with a provider (it is unclear whether this is a video or text chat), and then receiving a prescription and refills in the mail if deemed appropriate.

The Takeaway

Women’s telehealth has great potential to change how we see our doctors and specialists. Switching to virtual doctors is a step that most patients will be taking in the near future, if they have not already begun to do so. As you can see, not all online women’s healthcare providers are created equally, and each has their own set of benefits and setbacks.

If you’re looking to replace your OBGYN, be sure to choose a full-spectrum provider who can address all of your reproductive care needs. Schedule an appointment with My Virtual Physician today to find out what makes us different!

 

Most women only learn about sexually transmitted infections during one short period in their lives: junior high health education class. Formerly and more widely known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), you probably haven’t reviewed the symptoms since high school, except for a quick scare a time or two when you had possible signs of an STI.

Did you know that the CDC is continually updating its recommendations on STI treatment? In 2021, the CDC released new STI Treatment Guidelines that update recommendations for diagnosing and treating STIs.

In general, from time to time, it’s a good idea to freshen up your knowledge on STI’s. So let’s begin by taking an in-depth look at chlamydia.

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is an infection caused by a specific bacteria called C. trachomatis that is transmitted through bodily fluids during sexual contact.  Chlamydia can be spread through intimate activity with an infected person during vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

If left untreated, chlamydia can cause serious complications and devastation to a woman’s body.  Some of the damage that can occur with untreated chlamydia includes:

Clearly, chlamydia is a serious infection that should be treated as early as possible once detected, but how do you recognize the signs of an infection?

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Chlamydia?

Although most people do not have signs when infected with chlamydia, there are some symptoms that some people experience.

Symptoms in women:

Symptoms in men:

Do I Need to Get Tested for Chlamydia?

Unfortunately, chlamydia can go undetected because many people, both men and women, are asymptomatic. That is why regular annual screening is critical. The demographic with the highest number of reported chlamydia cases are women under 25. The CDC’s current recommendation on who should be screened yearly includes:

Testing for chlamydia is simple and easy.  My Virtual Physician can order a screening test from your local lab when you schedule an online OBGYN appointment. Typically, a urine test or genital swab is used to diagnose chlamydia; however, the new CDC guidelines also recommend rectal and pharyngeal (throat) testing if a rectal or oral chlamydial infection is suspected.

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How is Chlamydia Treated?

Luckily, if you’ve tested positive for chlamydia, there is a simple cure.  Antibiotics are used to kill uninvited bacteria.  It is important to listen to all of your doctor’s instructions and complete the medication, even if symptoms disappear.  Refraining from sexual activity for 7 days after being treated is also very important to prevent re-infection. The CDC recommends that patients who have been treated for chlamydia should schedule a follow-up STI test within three months of treatment.

Chlamydia can be a devastating diagnosis, but it doesn’t have to be. Regular testing can catch the infection early on before any damage can be done to your reproductive system.  Have you had your annual chlamydia or other STI screening this year? Schedule your appointment with My Virtual Physician so we can take care of your testing needs.

No Health Insurance? No Problem.

Can You Book a Doctor Visit Without Insurance?

Many Americans faced job losses this year. That means that a lot of families lost their health insurance. That leaves many wondering, can you make a doctor's appointment without insurance?

Doctors and healthcare facilities allow individuals to book appointments without insurance. When scheduling an appointment, patients are asked about who will pay for the services. Without health insurance, it is possible to pay out-of-pocket. If paying for treatment without insurance coverage, it is important to consider factors like necessity and cost. 

Here's what you need to know when booking a doctor's appointment without insurance.

insurance

Can You Book a Doctor's Appointment Without Insurance?

Healthcare providers, like doctors, treat patients' health concerns. When it is time to see a physician, the first step is to contact them for an appointment. 

To make an appointment to see the doctor, patients will need these things:

Those who are not covered by a health insurance plan can still schedule an appointment. The doctor's office will charge the patient directly instead of billing an insurance company.

Making a doctor's appointment without insurance is just like making an appointment with coverage. In most situations, patients can receive the same treatment. 

Sometimes a test or medication is very expensive without insurance. However, doctors will often discuss what treatments or procedures are necessary and how costly they may be. That is why it is good to talk with a doctor even if you don't have insurance.

A recent poll found that about 44% of Americans would not go to the doctor if sick or injured because of the cost.

Many providers offer discounts for cash-paying customers. Others may be able to arrange payment plans. There is nothing more valuable than your health. Skipping the doctor because you don't have insurance is a bad idea.

How Much Is a Doctor's Appointment Without Insurance in 2021?

An average doctor's appointment costs between $68 and $234, according to Debt.org. The charge may change depending on how difficult the condition is and how much time the doctor spends with the patient. 

One cost-saving alternative to an in-office appointment is telemedicine. Online doctors offer significant savings to patients, including the expense of time and travel. And some online doctors offer reduced visit fees as well. 

Even those with insurance can benefit from saving money on gas and cutting the wait time by booking a virtual physician appointment. All of the top private health insurers offer some telehealth coverage.

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Book An Appointment with My Virtual Physician

My Virtual Physician offers the best in telemedicine services. They regularly add new insurance plans, but those without insurance can see a doctor today for only $49.99. Each patient at My Virtual Physician receives patient-focused, quality care with or without health coverage. 

If you've experienced a job change or lost health insurance coverage, check with My Virtual Physician for a doctor near you. Book now with the secure patient portal. And get the care you need.

 

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