OSDH Highlights Five Key Topics for Women’s Health Month
OKLAHOMA CITY – May is Women’s Health Month. The goal when highlighting this month is to empower women to make their health a priority and to help women understand what steps they can take to improve their health.
“Women’s Health Month is a great opportunity to remind women to make their health a priority and to build positive health habits,” said Joyce Marshall, MPH, director of maternal and child health service at OSDH. “We encourage women of all ages to talk to a health care provider about recommended preventive screenings and ways to develop healthy living habits. We also encourage women to speak up, ask questions of their health care providers and reach out for help when indicated."
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is highlighting five key health topics affecting women in all stages of life. Those topics include breast and cervical screenings, congenital syphilis, heart health, preconception health, postpartum depression, and smoking and using e-cigarettes during pregnancy.
Breast and cervical screenings
While breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among Oklahoma women, cervical cancer also has a significant impact on women in our state. Getting the HPV vaccine and regular screenings, as recommended, can help prevent cervical cancer. Engaging in healthy behaviors increases the chances of living cancer-free, including visiting a healthcare provider for a well-woman visit and scheduling preventive screenings for breast and cervical cancer.
Congenital syphilis is a disease that occurs when a mother with syphilis passes the infection on to her baby during pregnancy. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, low birth weight, extreme health problems or death shortly after birth. In 2020, Oklahoma ranked fifth in the United States for the highest rates of congenital syphilis. This was nearly two times higher than the national rate. Syphilis is easy to cure with antibiotics if caught early. All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, as many people who are infected do not show symptoms.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. Some risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet and smoking. Women are encouraged to see a health care provider for regular well-woman visits, including blood pressure screening.
To increase the chance of having a healthy baby, women are encouraged to build healthy habits before getting pregnant. Healthy habits include being free of tobacco and e-cigarettes, maintaining a healthy weight, taking multivitamins with 400 mcg of folic acid daily, managing stress, and getting tested/treated for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Spouses, partners, family and friends can assist in encouraging and participating in a woman’s healthy choices.
Postpartum depression is the number one complication in pregnancy throughout the United States. While many new mothers experience the “baby blues,” – which does not tend to be severe, does not need treatment and generally does not last more than two weeks – postpartum depression symptoms often last longer, are more intense, and have an impact on a new mother’s health and her ability to care for her baby.
A new mother may experience insomnia, irritability, mood swings, persistent sadness and thoughts of harming herself or the baby. These symptoms can significantly impact the mother’s ability to parent the way she would like. More than anxiety and depression, there is an umbrella term for mental health concerns in this period of life called PMADs. PMADs is an acronym that stands for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Although Postpartum Depression is the most well-known perinatal mood disorder, PMADs cover other mental health concerns in the time before, during, and after pregnancy such as Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Postpartum Psychosis.
While challenging, regular screening and early intervention can protect the well-being of the mother, baby, and the entire family. While these are serious conditions, treatments such as social support, cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy and medication assistance are proven to treat these concerns successfully.
Family and friends should know the signs and help their loved ones seek help. For local mental health services, contact the Postpartum Support International support hotline (toll-free) 1-800-944-4773 or visit http://www.postpartum.net.
Smoking and using e-cigarettes during pregnancy
Smoking and using e-cigarettes while pregnant is harmful to the mother and her baby. Electronic vapor products are not safe during pregnancy because most contain nicotine and other harmful additives. Quitting all forms of tobacco, including e-cigarettes, is best for the mother and baby. Regardless of how far along a mother is in her pregnancy, she and her baby will be healthier after quitting. The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline offers assistance at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).
For more information about any of these topics, visit the Women’s Health page or contact OSDH Maternal and Child Health Services at (405) 426-8111.