Straight Talk About Women’s Health Issues

andrea allenAndrea Allen spends every working day talking with women at Swope Health Services’ OB/GYN clinic.

Women, so often responsible for the health and wellbeing of others, can sometimes pay less attention to their own needs.

Andrea, SHS Certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, likes to remind women to listen to the feedback from their own bodies, especially as they undergo natural life changes and respond to environmental situations.

Here are some of the top questions and challenges she addresses regularly with women:

Why do I need a check-up or a well-woman exam?
If you’re in good shape, let’s celebrate that and document your vital signs as a baseline. We perform only the screenings that make sense for you, at whatever age and stage of life you are in. If you’re not feeling good, let’s take care of that.

I don’t want to think about breast cancer.
We know that people get really scared and worked up about breast screenings. But you’re missing out if you’re not getting a regular exam. The screenings, over time, give a good view of changes for comparison. That’s important, especially if there’s any family history with breast cancer. If you come every year, you’ll get just what you need.

What is family planning?
This just means coming to the clinic to discuss if you want to have a baby. If you don’t want a pregnancy right now, we can discuss birth control options. If you do want a pregnancy, we can help you get ready by educating you on important steps to take such as stopping smoking and drinking, eating fruits and vegetables, and starting on a prenatal vitamin, for example.

motherI’m having a baby.
Great! We’re with you throughout the journey. We want you to keep all of your appointments to take care of your health and the health of your baby. Please take your prenatal vitamin every day as this helps you and baby.

And by the way, that ultrasound scan at 18 to 22 weeks into your pregnancy? The main reason we need it is to look at all of the baby’s parts (brain, heart, spine, bowel, etc.), to make sure your baby is growing correctly. During that ultrasound you might get to find out the sex of the baby — that’s a bonus.

I’m having trouble with a relationship.
We routinely ask everyone: Are you living in a safe place, with safe people? We start with the recognition that abuse, of any kind, is never acceptable. We will help women find alternate shelter, protection from an abuser, whatever assistance is needed. We are here to help.

I want to be good to myself.
That’s what we want, too. We’ll encourage you to take care of yourself and take time for yourself. And we can help with questions about food, drinking, exercise, stress, sleep and other ways to take care of yourself. We’ll also tell you about stuff you don’t have to worry about. For example: All those vaginal hygiene products? You don’t need them. I like to describe the vagina as a self-cleaning oven! Washing outside with unscented bar soap is all you need; you really don’t want to kill the good bacteria inside your body. So skip the vaginal hygiene products.

If there’s one bit of advice to pick up from all this, it is: Just come! We want to see you.

Take charge of your health! Today is a good day to make an appointment for an annual checkup or well-woman exam —call SHS at 816-923-5800. Talk with us about all the ways we can help you get healthier, at any age.

Read Across America Celebration at SHS!

Dr. SeussOn Wednesday, March 2, Swope Health Services joined thousands of organizations in celebrating Read Across America Day.

Volunteers Ann Goodrich and Pam Bickel spent the morning in Pediatrics and WIC departments at SHS Central.

They sat one-on-one with children and quietly explored books, and at other times they read out loud to groups of kids. Children who participated selected stickers and took home a bag of books, donated via the Barnes & Noble holiday book drive.

Reading 1Sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA), this annual celebration of reading also marks the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. That’s why our volunteers wore “Cat in the Hat” costumes and frequently used favorite Dr. Seuss books for read-alongs.

Goodrich, who has been a Reach Out and Read volunteer for more than two years, said she knows from personal experience as a Kindergarten teacher how important it is to read to children.

Children need a vocabulary of about 5,000 words by the time they start Kindergarten, she said. Those without will feel left behind, and she noted it can be difficult to catch up.

“I always tell parents to share their words with their kids,” she said. “You have 80,000 to 100,000 words — just give some to your child.”

Goodrich says it doesn’t even matter what you read — it’s OK to read your Facebook feed or text messages.

“They need to hear your voice,” she said. “They need to hear words and sounds to learn.”

According to the NEA, children who are read to and who read for pleasure are significantly more successful in school than children who do not.

Reading 3Goodrich agrees, and frequently takes time with parents to coach them with reading tips. You can make reading interactive by pointing out what’s happening on the page and asking your child questions about the story. Help build your child’s vocabulary by talking about interesting words and objects.

“You should read to children from Day One,” she said. “Take 20 minutes a day and hold the child on your lap. It’s a confidence you are putting into your child.”

If you missed our Read Across America celebration, you can still learn about reading to your children. You can find a Reach Out and Read volunteer in the WIC department, typically every Thursday morning, reading to kids and meeting with parents.

Call to make an appointment, even for a same-day visit, at 816-923-5800. Do you have suggestions for reading with kids? Leave us a comment about your favorite books or ways you make reading fun.

Reading 2