Ultrasounds and blood tests have limited value for diagnosing some causes of period pain and menstrual irregularities

I know I have said this often, but it seems that every day I get another email saying that “I have period pain and I have been to the GP and done scans and bloods tests and he/she says that there is nothing wrong”

The problem is that there is something wrong and the first thing wrong is that someone was told that there is nothing wrong, when they have only had very basic testing done

The second thing wrong is that most of these women are not being referred onto an appropriate specialist, which is what good sound ethical practice is. This is why some conditions like PCOS are taking up to 3 years to be properly diagnosed and conditions such as endometriosis are taking up to a decade to be properly diagnosed. It just should not happen

I can’t begin to tell you how many women I have seen over my years in practice, that have been told that there is nothing wrong with them, or that the practitioner hasn’t found anything, when really all they have done is a basic scan and a few random blood tests. Then when these women are properly investigated we end up finding all manner of issues. Yet, these women were told that there is nothing wrong

All I can keep telling people is that while ultrasounds can find some causes of gynaecological issues, there are many issues they cannot find. It also depends on the technician, or person scanning you too.

Gynaecological issues such as endometriosis, cannot be diagnosed by ultrasound and can only be diagnosed by surgical intervention, in the form of a laparoscopy. Then, as I have said many times too, it all depends on the surgeon you have seen. If your surgeon isn’t an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon there is a very good chance you may not have been investigated properly. I have mentioned this in one of my previous posts.

Even some cysts,PCOS, polyps and other masses can be missed on scans and let’s not even talk about blood tests. Sure, some hormones levels can be a pointer to a certain issue, but they are not an accurate diagnostic. To be completely honest, many women with serious gynaecological issues will have normal hormonal levels and have completely normal blood results. This can even happen in certain cancers and why some of the cancer markers are now not being used as definitive diagnosis.

I can tell everyone that I have seen many gynaecological issues being missed, and women being dismissed over the years, and it still happens on a daily basis. If you have menstrual issues, or are in pain daily, or just with your menstrual cycle, and you are being told everything is fine, then you need to get a second opinion and a referral to a specialist.

Better still, come and book in a consultation with me and I will help you get you sorted and managed properly.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

Asking the Right Questions about Period Pain & Gynaecological Issues.

I didn’t know how I was going to start this post, or begin to talk about what I am about to talk about, other than I got some inspiration after a text message, and a phone call later on,  from my eldest daughter yesterday. I will talk about that soon. But let’s talk about some of the phone calls and messages I get from people every day and how some of these messages gives me a heads up into what may be going on for these people and then getting them in for a proper consult and the right help.

Every day I get phone calls, emails, Facebook messages etc, from women (young and older) who are experiencing period pain, menstrual issues, and other related symptoms and nearly all of them have the same story. I have been to the GP and I have had blood tests and scans and they say that there is nothing wrong. It happens so often and it is like there is a script written for these poor women who just want to get out of pain and get some sort of normal life back. I get so annoyed when I hear this repetitious line. Not at the people telling me, but knowing that these poor women really haven’t been investigated properly at all and probably won’t be unless they come and see me.

Yesterday I got a text that I really wasn’t expecting, as it was from my eldest daughter.

It read “Hey Dad, is endometriosis hereditary?”

To which I replied “Yes it can be, why?”

I anxiously awaited the next reply and thankfully she was asking on behalf of a friend. But this poor friend had been experiencing really bad period pain and had basically had blood tests and scans and been told that everything was normal. Apparently one of the scans showed some fluid in the Pouch of Douglas (POD), which can actually be a sign of endometriosis and inflammation. Worse still, this poor girl’s mother actually has endometriosis and nobody is putting two and two together and asking the question “I wonder if the daughter may have it too?”

Well, there is more than a good chance that she does have it and thank goodness my daughter actually knows the signs and knows that scans and bloods tests cannot diagnose many gynaecological issues, especially endometriosis. Lucky my daughter also knows that you need to see an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon who specialises in the excision of endometriosis and has done years of extra surgical training to specialise in these disease states. The good thing is that she knows that you cannot just see a regular gynaecologist to get this done.

But, not everyone is as fortunate as my daughter to know this and help her friend to come and see me to help her see my surgeon and then I can help her with management of the disease, if found (which is highly likely) after the surgery. The other good thing is that my daughter knows there is no cure for endometriosis and that surgery isn’t going to fix the problem either. She knows it will help, and is needed, but after the surgery, the management post surgery is the most important, for disease states like endometriosis. Unfortunately not many people know this and don’t have the disease managed properly post surgery. Women with endometriosis and some other inflammatory gynaecological issues will need a team approach, or a multimodality approach  post surgery, because even with the best medical intervention, it really isn’t enough and why so many women have the disease and symptoms return, or may still be in pain and have other recurring symptoms. There is never a one treatment, one pill, fix all approach to disease states such and endometriosis. This is where so many go wrong.

One of the main issues for women can be that they really have not seen the right healthcare professions, especially the right surgeon and unfortunately this is many of the women that have had surgical intervention. This one is so important.

Whenever I get messages from women in pain, or I consult with women who have period pain and all the other associated symptoms, there are some standard questions I ask, to know if they have been given the right information, been diagnosed properly, or seen the right surgeon.

  1. I always ask “what tests have you had done?” – I know that if they have only had blood tests and some scans, then these women have not been investigated, or diagnosed properly.
  2. Then I usually ask “Have you just seen your GP, or have you seen a specialist?”– Most of the time many women have not been referred onto a specialist and have only just been seen to by a GP. This is one of the biggest issues women face when it comes to gynaecological conditions. GP’s are just general practitioners. They are not gynaecologists and definitely not advanced trained laparoscopic surgeons. The best thing any woman can do is ask for a referral to a specialist and a good GP should know to do this anyway. This is one of the biggest reasons that women from all over the world take up to a decade to be diagnosed with disease states such as endometriosis. On a daily basis women are missed and dismissed and told there is nothing wrong, go on the pill, or that they have some inflammatory bowel condition, when in fact they have endometriosis, or adenomyosis, or some inflammatory gynaecological issue. Btw, this isn’t to put GP’s down, unfortunately this is what happens to so many women and why it often takes up to a decade for women to be diagnosed with diseases such as endometriosis. This is an unfortunate fact and it needs to change.
  3. Then I ask “Have you had a laparoscopy?”– One of the most common responses is “What is a laparoscopy?” and that way I know they haven’t had one done. A laparoscopy is the gold standard investigation of the pelvis and the only way to properly diagnose disease states and causes of period pain, such as endometriosis.
  4. If the woman has had surgery I then ask “was the surgery done publically, or privately?” – This will tell me a few things. It will let me know if it was just done be a public surgeon, who probably isn’t an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon. The issue is that there really aren’t that many advanced trained laparoscopic surgeons that do public work, and even if you strike the jackpot and do happen to get one, there is a good chance they are only in a teaching role to instruct a trainee surgeon to do the surgery anyway. But mostly women do not get an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon in the public system. It is sad, but true unfortunately. Many times the first surgery in the public sector is purely investigative too and no excision (disease removal) is performed. This means that the woman has to come back for further surgery, or surgeries.
  5. If they the woman has had surgery done previously by a private specialist then I usually ask “Who was the surgeon that did your investigation and surgical procedure?” – Sometimes I can ask if the surgeon was an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon and the patient usually will respond to not knowing, or even know what I was talking about. That usually gives me a clue that it most probably wasn’t, but then I can go and check the specialists qualifications online and see if they are, or most probably aren’t, an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon who has done years of extra specialised surgical training.

All those 5 questions can tell me much about what some of these poor women have had done, or haven’t had done, and then I can formulate an appropriate treatment plan and management for these women moving forward. It is always hard explaining to the ones that have had surgery before that they haven’t seen the right surgeon and that they are going to need further surgery. The hardest thing for me is seeing women on support pages about to have their first surgery and I always worry that they aren’t seeing the right surgeon and if they don’t, there is a good chance that they are still going to be going through the same issues, over and over again, until they find the right person to help them. If only I could see all these women before they did anything, so that they can be given the right information and the facts and be managed properly.

The good thing is that when I do get to see women who chose to see me, I can explain to them the  facts and the right information and then why and how with a proper surgeon, that it can make a huge difference to how they are feeling and their recovery and management post surgery. I can also explain how surgery really is necessary, but is only a small part of their overall treatment and management of their disease moving forward. I can also explain the facts around their disease moving forward too and make sure that women under my care are given the right information, the right investigations and right management going forward.

This is why my initial consultations take about an hour and a half and we go over everything from their health history, medical history, hereditary issues, diet, lifestyle, surgical intervention, medications, natural medicines, blood tests, scans, investigations, sleep, sexual health, libido and everything that a woman needs to know about her particular issues. It is also about listening to a woman’s concerns and complaints and really hearing what she has to say and is experiencing. Then I formulate a treatment plan and management and 20 page report of findings for them for what we are going to be doing to help them moving forward. I also give them a step by step treatment plan of treatments and medicines etc they will need too. That is why my motto is “No Stone Left Unturned”, because there is no stone left unturned and I also make sure they see the right people (surgeons and anyone else that they may need to see). If there are things that I can’t do (surgery etc), I make sure that my patients only see the best people and then I can help manage the rest of their disease state for them.

I wish I could see every woman before that went for any investigation, or surgery, so I can point them in the right direction and help them manage their gynaecological condition properly. This is why I am so passionate about doing my posts on social media, or giving time for charity events to talk about women’s health issues and gynaecological issues such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and PCOS. It is why I do healthcare practitioner education and seminars to help educate them better too, so that they can help their patients better and not miss and dismiss them.

I just hope that I can help those who have not been heard and that have been missed and dismissed. I also hope we can get people to listen to the things I have presented above and also help women get a voice, be heard and get government listening and get more education to younger women too.

Lastly, I cannot say it often enough….. Period Pain “IS NOT” normal and if you, or your daughter, or your sister, or your mother, or cousin, your best friend, or anyone you know has period pain, especially bad period pain and other symptoms, please, please, do not tell them that this is normal. It is not normal and they need to come and see me, or another healthcare professional who specialises in women’s health and gynaecological conditions, so that they can be investigated properly and have their issues managed properly too.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

 

 

The Truth About Natural Killer Cells & Miscarriage

On a daily basis we get people, who are having failed IVF cycles, calling my clinic looking for some miracle pill, to supposedly eradicate the body of natural killers cell and wipe them off the face of the planet in some war like rage, all because they have been told this will bring an end to their fertility woes.

I wish it was that easy and when my staff go on to explain that treating natural killers cells (uterine killer cells), and especially looking at the cause of natural killer cells (uterine killer cells), is complex, there is no one miracle cure, nor some magic pill, people get annoyed and hang up the phone in a huff ,without listening to the reasons why.

One of the things I always say, when people ask me about regulating natural killer cells for fertility purposes, is “How long is a piece of string?”

This is because this subject is very complex and there are many reasons why natural killer cells may be impacting implantation. So, hence the response is always going to be “How long is a piece of string?”

While Natural killer (NK) cells have an important role in the early responses to viral infections, they have also been linked with failure of pregnancy.

Increasingly, clinics are offering blood tests, at an increased cost to the patient, to measure the number and activity of circulating NK cells. As a result of these investigations, many women are offered treatments such as steroids, intravenous immunoglobulins, and tumour necrosis factor blocking agents. The scientific rationale for these tests and treatments, however, is not always supported by our current knowledge of the function of uterine NK cells.

So, I thought it was about time I set the records straight on the BS information, that seems to being handed around as gospel, by money hungry fertility clinics run by big health conglomerates, and by the rotten Dr Google, about natural killer cells (uterine killer cells) and these supposed miracle pills, that will miraculously fix someone’s fertility issues.

Let’s Look at the Facts about Natural Killer Cells Relating to Miscarriage

  1. There is no miracle pill, or one supposed miracle treatment, or a one pill solution to treat, or get rid of natural killer cells. You do not want to get rid of NK Cells.
  2. Natural Killer Cells are a natural part of the immune system designed to target inflammation, kill of cancer cells, kill off bacteria and protect the body from harmful invasion of foreign organism
  3. There is huge difference between natural killer cells that are circulating in the blood stream, compared to uterine killer cells
  4. Uterine Killer Cells are in large numbers during a pregnancy to protect the embryo
  5. Natural Killer Cells are only in large number and are only being sent out by the immune system because there is some inflammatory process going on in the pelvis, or the rest of the body
  6. You cannot regulate Natural Killer Cells numbers unless you first address the inflammatory process that is causing them to be in high numbers in the first place (Eg- Inflammatory gynaecological conditions such as PID, Endometriosis, PCOS, Adenomyosis, Adhesions, STI’s, CIN, HPV, Herpes etc)
  7. Many people have not had the proper initial fertility investigations and testing needed to actually fall pregnant in the first place and looking at Natural Killer Cells, before all that proper testing etc is done, is actually not assessing the patient properly.
  8. If you do not treat the cause of the Natural Killer Cells being in high numbers, you will not be able to reduce the numbers of Natural Killer Cells that are actually doing the job they are meant to do, which is …. Protect the Body.
  9. Many of the so called treatments for Natural Killer Cells, regarding fertility, have never been approved for such treatment and research on it is still inconclusive.
  10. Some of the treatments being proclaimed as miracle cures (Intralipids etc) are purely money making exercises that are preying on the vulnerability of people who have been told wrong information and have this perception of some killer being inside their body attacking their embryos.
  11. Intralipids have never been proven to treat Natural Killer Cells and are derived from highly inflammatory soy based compounds, which then in turn can cause more inflammation.
  12. The drugs used in the treatment of Natural Killer Cells are steroidal based and carry many side effects and are for more harmful to the body that any natural killer cell will ever be. The steroids are also a category C drug that has been shown to have an effect on the neonate
  13. Steroids, such as Prednisone, do work on regulating NK cells, but they do so by suppressing the immune system, thus compromising a person’s immunity. There are also risk to peoples minerals by using these long term and there are also other side effects to the body.
  14. Natural Killer Cells are there to protect the body, not hurt it.
  15. Natural Killer Cells are only attacking embryos because they are seen as foreign body as well and when they are there trying to kill of the diseases and issues causing inflammation in the body, they just happen to kill of any other foreign organism and inflammatory processes at the same time
  16. Again, to address natural Killer Cells, you need to address the inflammatory process as to why they are in high numbers in the first place
  17. The perception around Natural Killer Cells being this “thing” killing off embryos in the body is misguided and is actually not a true representation of what Natural Killer Cells actually do. It is purely often used to tug on the heartstrings of unsuspecting patients, who are highly emotive and clinics use these emotions to get them to pay for treatments that have never been fully proven to work.
  18. The name “Killer Cell” is too often exploited in the wrong context by many in the fertility world
  19. Blood tests cannot measure the number of Natural Killer Cells in the Uterus, Only a biopsy can do this.
  20. A Natural Killer Cell (uterine killer cells) Biopsy has to be done between the 24th and 28th day of your menstrual cycle to give the best results.
  21. Blood tests can only measure the circulating NK cells in the body and not the uterine killer cell activity, which can be the cause of recurrent miscarriage. So, if you have had a blood test, it is not measuring what is needed. Everyone will have circulating NK cells in their blood stream.
  22. The percentage of CD56+ NK cells in peripheral blood in normal healthy individuals varies from 5% to 29% (2)Despite this, more than 12% NK cells in women with infertility or miscarriage has been arbitrarily defined as abnormally raised and used as an indication for treatment (4)
  23. The percentage of NK cells in blood can be affected by many factors including sex, ethnicity, stress, and age too.

Natural Killer cells (Uterine killer cells and other NK cells) are the main immune cell-type found in the uterus. Their numbers increase through the menstrual cycle to peak at the time of implantation. If an embryo does implant, NK cell numbers increase further to 70% of all cells.

Uterine NK numbers start to decrease at around the 20 week mark of pregnancy and are all but absent at the end of pregnancy.

Natural killer cells acquired their name as a result of the initial test used to identify them in vitro. Unlike T lymphocytes, NK cells are able to spontaneously kill cells in a non-MHC restricted manner.

Regrettably, this is a misleading name in reproduction, and the powerful image of maternal cells attacking the fetus is emotive and easily exploited. None the less, these NK cells can kill off the embryo at early stages of pregnancy, but there is nearly always a reason why. That reason is inflammation in the pelvic cavity and uterus. This needs to be addressed to regulate the number of NK cells, not some notion of killing off the “Killer Cells”.

Types of Inflammation causing high Natural Killer Cells (Uterine Killer Cells)

  • Endometriosis & Adenomyosis
  • PCOS/PCO
  • Fibroids, Myomas
  • Vaginal Infections & Bacteria
  • STI’s
  • Cancer, Trauma, Localised Lesions & Others
  • Stress

Yes, stress can lead to a compromised immune system, which then leads to high TNF (Tumor Necrosing Factor) and increase Natural Killer Cells, which then leads to prolonged increase activated T Cells, and this then causes reduced implantation of embryos.

This is also a reason why any inflammation in the uterus or pelvic cavity needs to be addressed to help fix this issue and one of the reasons why any woman having fertility issues needs to be investigated and treated properly. This needs to involve proper differential diagnosis, proper pathology testing, genetic testing and surgical investigations such as laparoscopy prior to any further fertility treatment. A laparoscopy is the gold standard for addressing and treatment of issues in the uterine and pelvic cavity.

Natural Killer Cells (Uterine Killer Cells) can be a part of recurrent miscarriage, but we need to stop the misinformation and perception of them being some killer organism that isn’t meant to be in the body. They are meant to be in the body and the name is all too often exploited by many to offer unproven treatments and medications by clinics trying to increase profits.

If you want to regulate and treat natural killer cells (relating to recurrent miscarriage) properly, you need to find out what is causing them to be there in the first place. There is no magic pill to get rid of Natural Killer Cells. You cannot rid the body of Natural Killer Cells anyway. They are meant to be there. You can only regulate the amount of killer cells doing their job and you need to find out why they are in higher numbers in the first place. This is usually because there is some sort of inflammation, infection, bacteria, or malignancy going on in the body that has not been investigated properly in the first place. Let’s not forget that stress, yes stress, increases the amount of Natural Killer Cells in the body too.

At my clinic, I have a proper Natural Killer Cell protocol and treatment plan that is individually tailored and looks at the “cause” of high number of Natural Killer Cells and makes sure that proper investigations, testing and treatment are administered to treat the person properly. This can also be done alongside current medical protocols such as the Bondi protocol, or California protocol.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist)

-The International Baby Maker

-No Stone Left Unturned

References

  1. Moffett-King A. Natural killer cells and pregnancy. Nat Rev Immuol 2002;2: 656-63.[CrossRef][Web of Science][Medline]
  2. Pijnenborg R, Vercruysse L, Hanssens M, Van Assche A. Incomplete trophoblast invasion: the evidence. In: Critchley H, MacLean A, Poston L, Walker J, eds. Pre-eclampsia. London: RCOG Press, 2003: 15-2615. Parham P. NK cells and trophoblasts: partners in pregnancy. J Exp Med 2004;200: 951-5.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  3. Hiby SE, Walker JJ, O’Shaughnessy KM, Redman CWG, Carrington M, Trowsdale J, et al. Combinations of maternal and paternal innate immune genes influence the risk of pre-eclampsia. J Exp Med 2004;200: 957-65.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  4. Aoki K, Kajiura S, Matsumoto Y, Ogasawara M, Okada S, Yagami Y, et al. Preconceptional natural-killer-cell activity as a predictor of miscarriage. Lancet 1995;345: 1340-2.[CrossRef][Web of Science][Medline]
  5. Ntrivalas EI, Kwak-Kim JY, Gilman-Sacchs A, Chung-Bang H, Ng SC, Beaman KD, et al. Status of peripheral blood natural killer cells in women with recurrent spontaneous abortions and infertility of unknown aetiology. Hum Reprod 2001;16: 855-61.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  6. Bisset LR, Lung TL, Kaelin M, Ludwig E, Dubs RW. Reference values for peripheral blood lymphocyte phenotypes applicable to the healthy adult population in Switzerland. Eur J Haematol 2004;72: 203-12.[CrossRef][Web of Science][Medline]
  7. Kwak JY, Kwak FM, Gilman-Sachs A, Beaman KD, Cho DD, Beer AE, et al. Immunoglobulin G infusion treatment for women with recurrent spontaneous abortions and elevated CD56+ natural killer cells. Early Preg 2000;4: 154-64.
  8. RCOG Scientific Advisory Committee. Immunological testing and interventions for reproductive failure. London: RCOG, 2003. (Opinion paper 5.)
  9. Scott JR. Immunotherapy for recurrent miscarriage. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003;(1): CD000112.
  10. Daya S, Gunby J, Clark DA. Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy for recurrent spontaneous abortion: a meta-analysis. Am J Reprod Immunol 1998;39: 69-76.

 

 

Do you suffer pain with sex? (dyspareunia)

Do you suffer Dyspareunia?

Pain with sex, Intercourse pain, or dyspareunia, can cause problems in a womans life and it can be a cause of problems in couple’s sexual relationship. In addition to the physically painful sex, there is also the possibility of negative emotional effects. Then even when a woman may feel aroused and wanting sex, the fear of the pain can cause the whole process of wanting sex to stop.

How many people get Pain with Sex

It is estimated that about 20%-25% of women suffer vaginal pain with foreplay or intercourse. Pain can be acute, intermittent or chronic and can stem from a wide variety of causes that will be covered shortly. Unfortunately when women complaining of pain during sex, they are often dismissed as being inhibited, having psychiatric issues, or merely just making it up to get out of having sex. Many men would like to boast that it is them being well endowed that is causing the problem (they wish) but in fact if your partner is in pain, then you need to actually stop and listen to the reasons why. The fact is most of the time, their symptoms are related to legitimate medical issues that need to be investigated and treated accordingly. So guys, get your hand of it and start listening to your partner if she says she is getting pain.

What causes pain with Sex (Dyspareunia)?

In many cases, a woman can experience painful sex if there is not sufficient vaginal lubrication. There could be many reasons for this and one that is commonly seen in menopause. When this occurs, the pain can be resolved if the female becomes more relaxed, if the amount of foreplay is increased, or if the couple uses a sexual lubricant. Issues like this can easily be overcome, but there are some medical and gynaecological issues that could be causing the pain and being very much overlooked.

So what are the other causes of Pain with Sex

Endometriosis – This is a condition in which the endometrial like tissue (lesions) that lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. It can cause all sort of pain in the pelvis, bowel and rest of the body, but it can cause pain with sex. It is one of the leading conditions that does cause pain with sex. Many women with endometriosis may not have symptoms of it, or may only have one symptoms like pain with sex. Symptoms do not correlate to the extent of the disease either. Some people with small amounts get lots of pain, while others can have lots of it and have no pain. Endometriosis can only be properly diagnosed via surgery (laparoscopy)

Adenomyosis – is a condition which is very similar to endometriosis. It is a conditions in which the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium) breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus (the myometrium). Adenomyosis can cause menstrual cramps, lower abdominal pressure etc, before the menses and can result in heavy periods.  It can also cause pain with sex. The condition can be located throughout the entire uterus, or localized in one spot

Vaginismus-  This is a common condition. It involves an involuntary spasm in the vaginal muscles, which closes up the vagina and prevents penetration from happens. It is sometimes caused by fear of being hurt.

Vaginal Infections-  These conditions are common and include yeast infections such as thrush and candida and these can cause inflammation to the vagina and cause pain with sex and also localized bleeding.

Vaginal skin conditions– Dermatitis around the vulva and also a condition called Lichen Sclerosis can all cause pain with sex due to the inflammation of the skin.

Problems with the cervix (opening to the uterus). In this case, the penis can reach the cervix at maximum penetration. So problems with the cervix (such as infections) can cause pain during deep penetration.

Problems with the uterus. These problems may include polyps, cysts, fibroids etc that can cause deep intercourse pain.

Problems with the ovaries – Problems might include cysts on the ovaries, or tubal disease.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – Often referred to as penis injected disease. With PID, the tissues deep inside become badly inflamed and the pressure of intercourse causes deep pain.

Ectopic Pregnancy – This is a pregnancy in which a fertilized egg develops outside the uterus, or into the tubes. It can cause immense pain and even death if not death with properly.

Menopause- With menopause, the vaginal lining can lose its normal moisture and tone and become dry. The vagina, uterus and surrounding organs can all suffer atrophy, which can cause bleeding and pain. It can also cause prolapse.

Intercourse too soon after childbirth, or surgery – Trying to have sex too soon after childbirth, or a surgery,  can cause pain during sex.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) – These may include chlamydia, genital warts (HPV), genital herpes, or other STI’s.

Injury to the vulva or vagina- These injuries may include a tear from childbirth or from a cut (episiotomy) made in the area of skin between the vagina and anus during labor.

How Can Painful Sex In Women Be Treated?

Some treatments for painful sex in women do not require medical treatment. For example, painful sex after pregnancy can be addressed by waiting at least six weeks after childbirth before having intercourse, or when a women feels she is ready again. Make sure to practice gentleness and patience. In cases in which there is vaginal dryness,  or a lack of lubrication,water-based lubricants will help. In the cases of some conditions such as menopause, topical estrogen creams may be needed to bring tone back into the vaginal wall, along with lubricants during sex.

Some of the conditions such as endometriosis, PID, fibroids, or trauma to the vagina and will require surgery and adjunct therapies such as hormones and other medications.

Other issues such as vaginal infections, bacterial infections, skin conditions, STI’s etc may just need medications such as antibiotics, antifungals, steroids and other medications for their treatment

Some conditions like vaginismus, or psychological traumas (sexual abuse), may require a person to see a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or sex therapist.

There are also natural medicines such as Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine, naturopathy, herbal supplement etc than can help with pain, either on their own, or in combination with medical treatments and talk therapy

If you do have pain with sex, you need to go and speak to your healthcare provider, or seek the help of a gynaecologist, or women’s health specialist.

Pain with sex is not normal, and you need to find out the cause of these issues and not put it off. At my clinic, I can help you if you are having pain with sex.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

Incontinence, Bladder issues and Weak Pelvic Floor

Incontinence is often an embarrassing condition that will have more than a third of people suffering in silence because they are too embarrassed to seek treatment. Both men and women can suffer incontinence. Although patients don’t die of incontinence, they often can’t live a fully productive life, they may have to curtail their workload or change jobs. Many factory workers and school teachers are only allowed set times for toilet breaks, so patient with urge incontinence may have to change jobs. Patients who work in the military or the police force may have to resort to desk jobs. Too many women with incontinence stop having sexual intercourse, either because they are afraid they will leak during sex, or else they actually do leak, either at penetration, or at time of orgasm, which can be very disastrous. While men can also suffer incontinence, I am mainly going to focus on the causes of incontinence in women for this post.

Many people don’t seek treatment because they also believe that surgery is their only option. Nothing could be further from the truth and surgery should only be used as a last resort once conservative methods have been used and aren’t working. Even then, the surgical approaches used today are less invasive, are very effective and the recovery is very quick. It is not like it was 10-20 years ago. Keyhole surgery has really made major changes in this area and new surgical techniques are so highly effective.  I know people want to avoid any surgery, but sometimes it is needed and these days the recovery rates are so quick. A few days out of your life for recovery, can actually change your whole life. I just do not understand why anyone would put up with a life with incontinence, prolapse, or weak pelvic floor, when these issues are so easily fixed these days. I know many patients are so amazed at how easily their incontinence issues was fixed and how amazing they feel in getting their life back again. No more leakage when they laugh, cough, or exercise.

Some people never seek treatment believing that incontinence is just a normal part of life. Again, this is not true and all and I encourage anyone with incontinence to come and talk to me, or you pelvic floor specialist, so we can help treat you and can also refer you to the right people for treatment and management if needed. I know my pelvic floor/urodynamic surgeon is amazing and what he can do for women and these issues is amazing too. Then I just help with the management and strengthening moving forward.

Like I said before, surgery isn’t always needed. Many times conservative measures such as pelvic floor exercises, core strengthening, bladder toning, topical estrogen therapy, internal TENS (electrostimulation) and pulse magnetic therapy can all product fantastic long term treatment to this often debilitating condition, without the need for surgery. There are also some special rings and other devices that can be used to prevent leakage and support prolapsed bladder and also vaginal prolapse causing incontinence. Men with incontinence also have options at hand and these can also be explored well before surgery is needed. What people need to be aware of too, is that if you have been doing all the conservative treatments, and they aren’t helping, then it is time to get some surgical intervention. I think people think that pelvic floor exercises with fix all bladder and pelvic floor issues, and this doesn’t work, then there is nothing that can be done to help them. I need for all women (and men) to know that there is always help for bladder and pelvic floor issues and you just need to see a specialist, not just your GP.

On a natural medicine level, acupuncture has been shown to be very effective in the treatment and management of pelvic pain, prolapse and incontinence. Anyone with incontinence should be using acupuncture as part of their overall management. There are also Chinese herbal medicines that can help with toning the pelvic floor and bladder to help stop incontinence. Yoga and Pilates may also help toning of the pelvic floor and help managing incontinence, pelvic floor and post-surgical management of prolapse too.

Incontinence and bladder issues are defined as needing to pass urine more than 8 times per day, leakage of urine through cough, sneeze, urge, or without cause. It is important to seek help if you notice damp underwear, need to use pads because of leakage or are constantly running to the loo to pass urine.

There are many different types of incontinence with the main ones defined as stress incontinence, urge incontinence and voiding dysfunction/incomplete emptying. There is also mixed incontinence (mix of the 3 main ones) and also a term called overactive bladder syndrome which can be a mixture of all forms of incontinence. There are also inflammatory bladder conditions that cause incontinence such as bacterial cystitis and interstitial cystitis. Physical issues such as previous surgery, childbirth and prolapse can also cause incontinence too.

The first task for the clinician is to find out how severe the incontinence is, based on the frequency of leakage, whether the woman finds it necessary to use incontinence pads, and if so how many pads. Some patients may prefer to change their underwear more frequently, while others may tuck tissue paper inside their underwear, and just throw away the tissues whenever they are damp.

The classic feature of stress incontinence is that the patient leaks with coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, playing sport or lifting heavy objects

The classic feature of urge incontinence is that the patient rushes to the toilet with an urgent desire to pass urine, but as she gets to the loo and is taking down her trousers, the urine comes away from her- sometimes before she has even sat down. Unfortunately these patients cannot predict when these bladder spasms will come upon them, and therefore can’t really tell when they are likely to leak.

Nocturia is defined as being woken up by your bladder needing to go to the toilet- as opposed to being woken up by a crying baby, a snoring husband, or menopausal night sweats. However nocturia is age dependent. Nocturia is defined as waking 1 or more times per night if under 60 years of age

Typically this patient Voiding dysfunction/ Emptying difficulty has to strain to commence voiding (called “hesitancy”). She may also have observed that when she compares herself to other women urinating in the toilets at the movies or in airports, her stream seems poorer than others with the urine dribbling out more slowly. She will often also describe the sensation of incomplete emptying and may need to go back to the toilet within a relatively short time to re-void. Sometimes she will leak as she gets off the toilet, which is how she realises that she is not empty. This is called post-micturition dribble incontinence.

In males these symptoms most commonly occur when the prostate gland is enlarged- causing a relative urethral obstruction and making it more difficult for the urine to get out. These men have chronic high residual urine, so they end up going to the toilet very frequently in a vain attempt to empty out. They often dribble urine onto their clothes. When such men have prostatic surgery they usually find that their urine flow rate returns to normal and they usually stop dribbling.

We will also need to explore how inflammation of the urinary bladder leads to suprapubic pain, and consider the two main causes of this, Bacterial Cystitis and Interstitial Cystitis .It often feels difficult to treat incontinence in the presence of bacterial cystitis, because such patients are overwhelmed by frequency and urgency of micturition and they may experience disabling suprapubic pain. It is fixable with the right treatment though. It all gets back to who is managing you.

On the other hand, a separate cause of Urinary Pain, called Interstitial Cystitis, does not usually cause much incontinence at all- it just causes suprapubic (bladder) pain with severe frequency and urgency of micturition.

The overactive bladder (OAB) is a clinical syndrome, not a urodynamic diagnosis. It comprises frequency, urgency, and nocturia, with or without urge incontinence.

Gynaecological conditions such as Endometriosis and Adenomyosis etc can also cause issues with bladder and pelvic floor.

Please read my post on Atrophic vaginitis as this is also another cause of weakness in the pelvic floor and bladder and could be a cause of incontinence.

No matter what sort of incontinence you have, there is always an answer and a solution to your problem. Not all solutions are surgical either. More often than not some conservative treatments, some exercises and some acupuncture is all that is needed. Sometimes all some women need is some treatments with estrogen creams to help with tone in the vagina, bladder and pelvic floor

Surgery and now bionic devices are always an option for those whom have tried conservative options and aren’t getting the desired results. Surgery is often used because of quality of life issues. Again surgery these days is so effective and less invasive and the recovery is so much quicker due to keyhole surgery and new surgical interventions.

If you are experiencing incontinence or bladder issues, please book in and see me, or a good pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, so you can be evaluated properly and see what is going on and implement the right treatment strategies to get your quality of life back again. Many times there may be an easy non-invasive treatment for your particular issues. Even when surgical intervention is needed, these days even this is less invasive than it used to be and the recovery and results are very quick.

Please read my post of Atrophic Vaginitis as well as this all ties into this area too, especially for those women in the menopause and post menopausal time of their life.

 

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

– Women’s & Men’s Health Advocate

Period Pain “IS NOT” Normal and Doctors in Australia and The Rest of The World Need to Start Listening

Millions of women around the world are told that period pain is normal and then go on to endure years of suffering and even infertility because it. Some women have endured so much pain and been “missed” and “dismissed” by so many healthcare professionals so many times that they have taken their own life because of it. It just should not happen and it needs to stop.

One of the major causes of period pain is Endometriosis, or its sister disease Adenomyosis. This crippling disease can cause period pain, pelvic pain, joint pain, pain with bowel movement, irriatbel bowel syndrome, pain with ovulation, swollen painful belly (known as endo belly), chronic fatigue, anaemia, heavy painful menstrual flow and can lead to infertility. Some women will quite literally not even be able to work due to debilitating symptoms of this disease.

It is estimated to affect 176 million worldwide and affect one in ten women, but that is only the ones diagnosed, so those figures are grossly understated. The facts around the disease are also grossly understated and poorly understood by many and why so many women are “missed” and “dismissed” by all the so called healthcare professionals they have seen. The other issue for a significant portion of women with the disease, is that they are asymptomatic (meaning no symptoms) and do not even know that have it. Many of them may never be diagnosed unless they are having problems falling pregnant, and even then many of them are not investigated properly to see if endometriosis is the cause of their long-term struggle to have a baby. It really is disgusting on so many levels. There is no other way to put it.

Of those one in ten women actually diagnosed many of them have taken up to ten years, or more, to be diagnosed and have their disease “missed” and been “dismissed” by multiple healthcare professional during their debilitating journey to find an answer for their sufferings. It is a nightmare of epic proportion for women world wide and the nightmare needs to end and healthcare professionals and everyone else needs to become educated and start listening to women and getting the message out there that “Period Pain IS NOT normal”.

So many women worldwide are suffering from period pain, pelvic pain, pain during sex, or infertility and endometriosis is the first thing that needs to be ruled out. Young women in particular have trouble convincing people they are having more than just bad period pain. So many young women (and older ones) are told just to “Suck it Up”, or “Deal with it”. Many mothers will even tell their daughters “This is just normal”, or “This is just what happens”, or “I have to put up with this, so you need to as well”, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Teenagers are not too young to have the disease and have it diagnosed and investigated either. Early intervention, diagnosis and management is crucial when it comes to endometriosis. The longer the disease is left, the harder it is to treat and manage, and left untreated can cause a woman years of debilitation and misery in every aspect of her life, years of surgery, years of pain killers and opiates, even after the best medical treatment. Healthcare providers and women around the world need to know that the longer it takes to diagnose, the longer the disease is there and the more damage it can do inside the body. Some women will have their lives crippled by not having early intervention. Some women have got to the point that they can no longer put up with the disease and being dismissed and have either attempted taking thier own life, or have succeeded in doing so. It is just so wrong that women get to this point.

The other issue that women face, once they are diagnosed, is that many of them end up seeing the wrong specialist to do their surgery. While most gynaecologists can do investigative surgery, many of them are ill-equipped to surgically remove the disease and actually do not specialise in the disease, or the excision of the disease properly. So many women have not seen the right specialist, who has not investigated and managed the disease properly and then left women to deal with the consequences of this inadequacy in their scope of practice. Women and healthcare providers need to be educated that women who potentially have endometriosis, or have a high likelihood of the disease, need to see an Advanced Trained Laparoscopic Surgeon, who has had extra specialised training in the excision of the disease and who has had extra specialised training in the management and treatment of the disease as well. Just because someone is a gynaecologist, or specialist, does not mean they are a specialist in the disease. This is also a huge misunderstanding when women require diagnosis and management of the disease and why so many are still left with crippling pain and symptoms, even after medical intervention. Quite simply, they have just seen the wrong person for the job and this also needs to be addressed in education and training around this disease.

This week the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in England has released the first ever guidance on managing this horrible disease that affects millions of women worldwide. They are hoping it will not only help GP’s and healthcare providers in the UK, but also GP’s and healthcare providers here and around the rest of the world too. NICE is calling for GP’s in Australia and the rest of the world to stop overlooking symptoms of this disease, such as bad period pain, so that women are not “missed” and “dismissed” for up to a decade or more. NICE are asking for endometriosis to be taken more seriously than it presently is and while that is starting happen here in Australia and the rest of the world, the changes have still been too slow. It really is just not good enough given that so many women are suffering from this debilitating disease worldwide.

One of my mottos is that “Period Pain IS NOT Normal” and I will continue to say this forever and a day and it is great to see national health care bodies like NICE actually backing that up and trying to get healthcare providers to do the same. While others are slow on the uptake, I will never stop in my quest to get women the help they need for this disease and will do my best to stop women being “missed” and “dismissed” and get them the help, care and attention they need and hopefully be a part of one day bringing an end to this debilitating disease.

Next week I will be in Sydney at a National Endometriosis Symposium shouting my message to healthcare practitioners as well. Let’s hope they finally start listening to the facts about endometriosis too. Let’s end the silence and get this information out there to everyone. If you do want to find out more about the facts about period pain and this disease, you can visit my webpage, or you can also visit Endometriosis Australia at www.endometriosisaustralia.org. I specialise in the treatment and management of this disease and want every woman on the planet to know that Period IS NOT Normal and that there is help out there.

 

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-“No Stone Left Unturned”

-“Period Pain IS NOT Normal”

 

 

Hysterectomy “DOES NOT” Cure Endometriosis

After my recent post about the misinformation people get told, I thought I would start with one of the biggest pieces of misinformation and one of the biggest lies in healthcare, women with endometriosis are told.

Many women are led to believe that hysterectomy is a cure for endometriosis and this is probably one of the most non-factual statements that many healthcare professionals are guilty of telling women. This is because they lack the understanding of the disease and lack knowledge of how the disease can spread to other areas of the body outside the uterus.

For the record, and this is fact, Hysterectomy DOES NOT cure, never has cured, and never will be a cure for endometriosis.

Most endometriosis is found outside the uterus and can be found in the pouch of douglas, utero-sacral ligaments, ovaries, intestine, pelvic wall, bladder and it can even spread up into the diaphragm, thoracic cavity, liver, pericardium, rectum and other parts of the body. It has even been found in the brain and distal joints such as the fingers.

All women with endometriosis need to know that endometriosis will still stay in the places mentioned above, irrespective if the uterus is removed, or not.

Many women will often comment that hysterectomy has cured their endometriosis and this is because they have been led to believe what their doctor has told them, they lack the understanding of the disease and they may have had some relief of pain usually associated with their menstrual cycle.

All hysterectomy will do for a woman with endometriosis is stop their menstrual cycle and any associated symptoms and pain associated with her menstrual cycle. Some women are also just lucky to become asymptomatic after hysterectomy too.

The type of hysterectomy may also help to slow the progression of the disease too. What many people do not understand it they there are two types of hysterectomy. One is a full hysterectomy, where the uterus and ovaries are removed and the other is a partial hysterectomy, where only the uterus is removed and the ovaries are left behind. It may be possible that a full hysterectomy, where the ovaries are removed, may in fact reduce some of the estrogen that is driving the disease and make someone asymptomatic.

The other gynaecological issue that many healthcare practitioners misdiagnose and overlook is Adenomyosis. Adenomyosis is an inflammatory disease deep within the wall, muscle and tissues of the uterus. Many now believe that Adenomyosis and endometriosis are one in the same disease, except Adenomyosis is deep within the muscles and tissues, where as endometriosis tends to be more superficial.

Removal of the uterus will in fact help Adenomyosis and help with the associated symptoms, such as heavy bleeding and pain. Many women actually have Endometriosis and Adenomyosis at the same time and many do not even know they have both diseases. Then when the uterus is removed, women experience less pain and symptoms, or no pain and symptoms, that was actually caused by the Adenomyosis rather than the endometriosis. Then these women are led to believe that they have been cured of endometriosis due to the resulting levels of pain and symptoms that are now gone. But, while their Adenomyosis may be cured (and I use this term loosely due to context), their endometriosis still remains. But if they are now asymptomatic, which many women are, they many not know that the endometriosis is actually still there. If you are one of these people I do need you to know that the hysterectomy has not cured your endometriosis at all and it is still there in your body. If a hysterectomy has cured your pain and associated symptoms is because of everything I have mentioned above. Again, hysterectomy DOES NOT cure endometriosis.

I also see the opposite of this in practice too. Many women whom have had a hysterectomy are still getting lots of abdominal pain, intestinal pain, bladder pain, rectal pain and others pains in the body. It is often hard for them to hear that their pain they are experiencing is actually from endometriosis, which they have been previously diagnosed with, yet believe has been cured due to the removal of the uterus and sometimes ovaries are well (partial, or full hysterectomy). The only way that many will actually fully believe you is after they have had further surgery and the disease is found and excised and their symptoms are stopped, or reduced. It is not until then, that these women will know what you have said to be true and that they have been sold the biggest lie on the planet.

The reason I wanted to speak about this is because I see so many women believing that hysterectomy (partial or full) will cure their endometriosis and have been sold the lie. Unfortunately many of these women are still suffering greatly and are often left wondering why, or are told it can’t be endometriosis as the uterus has been removed. It is so terrible to hear this and see this statement being spread as gospel by healthcare practitioners and even surgeons who know no better and do not understand endometriosis as a disease state. It is also hard to hear other women tell their fellow sisters the same lie, even though it is not really their fault and they actually do not know any better. I am writing this so the truth is out there and we get to stop this misinformation from spreading any further.

I hope this has helped you with getting some of the facts and see why so many women are told the one of the biggest lies in healthcare.

Oh and remember one more thing….  Period Pain IS NOT Normal, no matter what anyone tells you!

 

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist)

Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader

-“The International Baby Maker”

-“No Stone Left Unturned”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atrophic Vaginitis

Atrophic Vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis is a vaginal disorder that usually happens after menopause. When estrogen levels fall, the vaginal walls can become thin, dry, and inflamed. This then causes the surrounding tissue to lose its elasticity and become atrophied. This can be uncomfortable. Gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids can make someone more prone to atrophic vaginitis as well.

As many as 40% of postmenopausal women experience symptoms of atrophic vaginitis after menopause, but only 20 to 25 percent will seek medical help. Many women will not seek treatment because they feel embarrassed due to the sensitive nature of the condition. Some women just put up with it believing it is normal. Untreated, it can affect a woman’s quality of life and even lead to increased risk of prolapse and other gynaecological and urological conditions. Many of the treatments are non-invasive and are very effective in a short amount of time.

Symptoms of Atrophic Vaginitis

  • vaginal dryness
  • pain during sexual intercourse, or dyspareunia
  • thin, watery, yellow or gray discharge
  • paleness and thinning of the labia and vagina
  • irritation when wearing certain clothes, such as tight jeans, or when on a bike seat
  • more frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), or urinary tract like infections(which is from inflammation, with no infection present)
  • Vaginal Prolapse

Symptoms can also present in issues with the bladder and urination

  • painful urination
  • blood in the urine
  • increased frequency of urination
  • incontinence
  • increased likelihood and occurrence of infections, or irritation to the bladder that may feel like an infection

There may also be a reduction in pubic hair, and the vagina may become narrower and less elastic, which may cause a condition called vaginismus.

Causes

During perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause, a woman can have decreased levels of estrogen. When the ovaries stop making estrogen after menopause, the walls of the vagina become thin, and vaginal secretions are reduced. Similar changes can happen to women after childbirth, but these changes are temporary and less severe. These same changes can happen for women with endometriosis and adenomyosis and often why there can be changes to the wall of the vagina. Some of the medications used to help these conditions can also cause thinning of the vaginal wall and surrounding area. Many women with endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids etc, will have increased risk of atrophic vaginitis during the perimenopause, menopause and post-menopausal period.

Medications, or hormones, can be used as part of the treatment for breast cancer, endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, or infertility to reduce estrogen levels. This decrease in estrogen can lead to atrophic vaginitis.

Other causes of atrophic vaginitis include:

  • severe stress
  • depression
  • Surgery, or treatment to the pelvic area
  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • rigorous exercise
  • chemotherapy

Other substances that can cause further irritation to the vagina are:

  • smoking
  • soaps
  • laundry detergents
  • lotions
  • perfumes
  • douches
  • tampons
  • yeast infections
  • condoms (due to latex allergy)

Diagnosis

The best person to see for this condition is a pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, or a women’s health specialist. While you GP can help with diagnosis of this condition, it is preferable to see a specialist who has more training in this condition and can help manage this moving forward. A specialist will carry out proper examinations, be able to diagnose this correctly and ask about medical history. They may ask about the use of agents that can irritate the area and cause or aggravate symptoms, such as soaps or perfumes.

Your specialist will also do tests to rule out STI’s and other possible causes of infections such candidiasis, bacterial vaginosis etc. Atrophic vaginitis can make the area more susceptible to becoming infected. It can occur alongside an infection. A diabetes test may be performed to rule out diabetes. A biopsy may be taken to rule out cancer.

Treatment

The first line treatment is usually conservative treatments with topical estrogen creams inserted into the vagina and focuses treatment on the affected area. A low-dose estrogen cream can be used to stimulate rapid reproduction and repair of the vaginal wall, tissue and cells. Women should be shown how to insert the creams with an applicator and then use their finger to help disperse the cream properly to get good coverage of the vaginal wall.

Creams are much better than pessaries, because pessaries often do not disperse well and may only give coverage to a small area. These creams are also safe to use for those at risk of certain cancers, or who have had hormone dependent tumors.

Some women may also need to take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), in the form of a tablet, gel, patch, or implant to supply estrogen to the whole body. These estrogens are effective, but there may be side effects. Patients should discuss the risks of long-term HRT (especially breast cancer risk) with their healthcare practitioner.

Some women may also need to use a water-soluble vaginal lubricant may help to provide relief during intercourse, for mild cases.

Regular exercise is important, as it keeps blood flow and genital circulation high. Pilates and yoga is very beneficial for the pelvic floor and core stability and should be part of a woman’s overall lifestyle management. Women in the perimenopause and menopausal periods of their life should be doing some form of weight baring and strengthening exercise regularly.

Diet is also important and very effective in the overall treatment of atrophic vaginitis, menopause and gynaecological conditions. A low GI/Low Inflammatory based diet should be adopted and it is important to see a qualified nutritionist to help set out the right individualized diet for you.

There are also herbal medicines, supplements, omega 3 oils, and other natural based formulas that can help with atrophic vaginitis. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are very effective in helping with atrophic vaginitis, menopause and gynaecological issues such as endometriosis and adenomyosis. There are many natural medicines and natural treatments that can help with pain, hormone regulation and micro-circulation for the vagina, uterus, bladder and reproductive organs.

Prevention

Regular sexual activity and stimulation of circulation to the vagina can help prevent atrophic vaginitis. It is more around climax helping, rather than just sexual activity, or intercourse. Some women have pain during intercourse, or experience dryness, so foreplay and being well lubricated can help this. Using a water-soluble vaginal lubricant can soothe mild cases during sexual intercourse. Masturbation and stimulation without intercourse to produce climax may help those women who have pain with intercourse, or who may not have a partner.

Regular climax and sexual activity can also show benefits for both the elasticity and flexibility of the region. Women who have regular climax and are sexually active report fewer symptoms of atrophic vaginitis when compared to women who do not regularly climax, or have regular sexual intercourse.

Regular exercise, such as Pilates and Yoga can help with the pelvic floor, vaginal tone, bladder and reproductive organs.

A low GI/Low Inflammatory based diet should be adopted and it is important to see a qualified nutritionist to help set out the right individualized diet for you.

There are also herbal medicines, supplements, omega 3 oils, and other natural based formulas that can help with the prevention of atrophic vaginitis and assist with circulation and hormone regulation.

Fast facts on atrophic vaginitis

  • Atrophic vaginitis refers to dryness of the vagina.
  • Symptoms include painful intercourse and an increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs), or urinary tract like infections (due to inflammation of the bladder, not from infection).
  • It is caused by a reduction in estrogen, normally following menopause or treatment with anti-estrogen drugs. It can also be caused from gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids.
  • Topical treatments and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help relieve symptoms
  • Around 40 percent of postmenopausal women experience symptoms of atrophic vaginitis, but many do not seek treatment.

If you you need help with any of the symptoms mentioned above, please book in to see me for a consultation and management. If you cant see me, please get your healthcare practitioner to refer you to a specialist for diagnosis, treatment and management of this condition and its symptoms

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-“The International Baby Maker”

-“No Stone Left Unturned”

 

Could you need an Iron Infusion?

Iron infusion: Uses, benefits, and what to expect

As a reproductive medicine and women’s health specialist I am used to seeing women with really low iron, due to various gynaecological conditions.

Many women do not even know they are low in iron until they get bloods tests to show that they are. Being low in iron can be very dangerous for a woman on so many levels.

Many women who are suffering from fatigue are actually low in iron.

Symptoms of low iron can include

Fatigue

Dizziness

Fainting, or feeling of feeling faint

Pale skin

Breathless

Frequent headaches

Palpitations, or racing heart

Easily irritated

Difficulty in concentrating

Cracked, or reddened tongue

Loss of appetite

Strange food cravings

Risk Factors For Low Iron

Heavy menstrual bleeds

Endometriosis

Adenomyosis

Fibroids

Coeliac disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Pregnant and Breast Feeding Women

Certain Cancers

Vegetarians and Vegans

Girls going through puberty

Certain illnesses

Sometimes when Iron gets too low, supplements just will not be enough to get iron levels up to where they should be quick enough. This is where iron infusions can be very effective.

So what is an Iron Infusion?

An Iron infusion is when iron is delivered via an intravenous line into a person’s body.

Increasing the amount of iron a person has in their blood can cure anaemia, or increase a low red blood cell count.

The body uses iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an important part of red blood cells and helps carry oxygen around the body.

If a person does not have enough hemoglobin, they can feel tired, or have symptoms mentioned previously. An iron infusion may be used for someone with an iron deficiency when supplements do not work.

As discussed before, there are a variety of medical reasons can cause low iron levels, so your doctor, or healthcare specialist will order iron studies and other tests to see what may be causing someone to be deficient in iron.

An iron infusion may be given if a person’s blood counts are so low that taking iron supplements or increasing their daily intake of iron-containing foods would be ineffective or too slow in increasing their iron levels.

What to expect

A person will go to a doctor’s office, hospital, or another healthcare facility to have an iron infusion. This is done intravenously and the infusion will take between 15-30 minutes if it is given in amounts of 200-300 milligrams (mg). In days gone by iron infusions would take hours to do and would have to be done in a hospital setting.

The new rapid iron infusions allow iron into the body much quicker and have little to no side effects compared to the older solutions that took hours to administer and were not as good as the new versions used now.

What happens after an iron infusion?

An individual can experience some mild side effects after an iron infusion. The symptoms are usually mild side effects such as headaches, metallic taste in the mouth, or some mild joint pain. Some people can feel faint and nauseas after an infusion but this is usually people who do not tolerate having blood taken, or having needles given. Reactions to infusion are rare, but your healthcare provider will explain all this too you. There are some people who may be allergic to iron, just like people can be allergic to certain foods.

Most people will only need one infusion done, but sometimes people with very low iron may need multiple infusions done. This will be after careful monitoring and testing to see where your iron levels are.

Usually iron levels will return to normal and symptoms of iron deficiency will decrease several weeks after the infusion. A doctor will regularly check the person’s iron levels and blood counts to ensure the iron infusion is working.

Iron infusion vs. injection

Doctors can administer iron to someone via an injection or an infusion.

Iron injections are given intramuscularly, but while iron injections may be faster than iron infusions to administer, they can have some unpleasant side effects. Some of the side effects can be pain at the site of the injection, bleeding into the muscle, and permanent discoloration at the injection site. This is why more doctors are now recommending iron infusions over the injections

Before and after the Infusion

Most people do not need to fast or stop taking their medications beforehand, and can also resume their everyday activities after an iron infusion.

If a person is taking regular iron supplements, however, a doctor will usually tell them to stop taking these about a week before the procedure. This is because the supplements may prevent the body from absorbing the iron from the infusion efficiently.

A person will need to resume iron supplements at some stage after the receiving iron infusions, t ensure levels stay where they should be. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to do this.

People who have a genetic issue called haemochromatosis should not ever have an iron infusion.

Iron infusions are now being used more and more, when iron levels are low and people are not responding to supplementation and adjustments to their diet. I recommend them to many of my patient who have low iron due to many varying reasons. Like I said said before, many of my gynaecology patients, fertility patients and pregnancy patients have very low iron levels and will actually need an infusion to get their levels up quickly.

If you are feeling tired, lethargic and may be at risk of low iron, have a talk to your healthcare provider about finding out if you are low in iron and also discuss having an iron infusion if your levels are really low. Your healthcare practitioner may not know about the new iron infusions and that they are now a great option to use and have very little side effects compared to the older methods and solutions. Some GP clinics now specialise in administering iron infusions too.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist

-The International Baby Maker

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

The Facts About Period Pain & Endometriosis- “What Women Need To Know”

The Facts About Period Pain & Endometriosis

-“Why some of the things I hear women get told gets me angry sometimes”

After my recent post on endometriosis and sharing what “Endo Belly” is,  I have to say that I think hearing your stories has got me even more fired up. Not because of your stories, these I like hearing ( if you know what I mean), but because so many of you have been ‘dismissed’ and had so much ‘missed’ over the years.

Many of you have also been told utter BS (bullshit… sorry for swearing) and it just gets me so upset to hear this BS continue in both the public arena, closed groups and by other healthcare professionals. When are women going to get the support they need and get the health system to start listening.

Today I was talking to a couple about this very topic and was explaining to the this young lady’s partner that if guys had pain in their testicles daily and couldn’t walk, were curled up on the bedroom floor, had vomiting from the pain, had to ingest copious amounts of pain killers etc to just function, then governments would rewrite the health system, laws would be made, research would be done and those testicles would endure pain no longer. Well.. that is what I think anyway.

The biggest problem for women is that many of you believe that period pain is normal, because that is what you have been led to believe. Then healthcare professionals reinforce it and you are basically made out to be neurotic when you try and tell anyone that you can’t handle it any longer. Suck it up they say. Take some painkillers they say. Have a baby they say. Take the pill they say. There are so many BS things said to you all and all of them are wrong. There are so many other things wrong with everything from support groups sprouting misinformation, GP’s telling people misinformation, specialists telling people misinformation and people now relying on “Dr Google” as the gospel for their healthcare diagnosis. This is where the problem all starts and in many ways ends.

So how do we fix this?

Well, education is the first step. This is not just to the public, but to healthcare professionals as well. We also need to start educating women at a young age that “Period Pain IS NOT normal” and neither are other menstrual irregularities that could be the signs of other gynaecological conditions. Early intervention and treatments and management it always going to be the key to any disease state. Thousands of years ago in China, the Yellow Emperor had a classic saying “To treat a disease once it has already started and been expressed in to the body is like trying to forge arms once a war has already started, or trying to dig a well once one if already thirsty”.

Trying to treat any disease once it has been expressed is hard work and for some diseases, nearly impossible. Prevention is the key and like any disease, we need to find ways of preventing endometriosis too. But if the disease is expressed, we need proper education to know the signs, know the symptoms and get early intervention and treatments and management as soon as possible.

Endometriosis can be managed, just like any other disease. I have asthma and I am symptom free because I manage it properly and have the training and education and proper treatments to manage it. I still have the disease, but I have learnt to manage it and be symptoms free. The same can be for endometriosis if you see the right people and get the right treatment.

But, finding these people is hard and we also need people to listen and do the treatment too. We do need people to take some ownership in there health too. I mean this is a caring way when I say this. Having had a debilitating and life threatening disease I know how hard it can be just to function, both physically and emotionally. I also know hard it was for me to find the right people to help me too. So I get it. But we still need to talk about this and be honest about ownership too. Please don’t buy into the diagnosis and the label if you know what I mean. Doing that can eat you up, make you angry/mad and then makes things worse. I know because I have been there. I now teach people to rise up, ditch the label and be the best they can be daily. But, it can be hard work, as many of you know. I get it.

So, lets start with looking at the facts around Endometriosis first and in the next lots of posts I’ll talk about the management and treatments to get women their lives back

The Facts about Endometriosis

1. Period Pain IS NOT Normal- You are not meant to get period pain. Some slight heaviness, or mild discomfort maybe, but pain you should not get at all. Pain is not normal and we need to stop saying it is.

2. A significant portion of women with Endometriosis are asymptomatic– A significant portion of women DO NOT get pain, or any symptoms at all. Just because you do not have pain, does not mean you do not have endometriosis.

3. Symptoms DO NOT correlate to the extent of the disease– As mentioned previously, some women with relatively small amounts of endometriosis will have significant pain, have lots of symptoms, while some women who are riddled with it may have no symptoms at all. This is why i do not like the staging system (1-4) because it really does not accurately describe a women’s symptoms, or have it correlate to the extent of the disease.

4. The only way to diagnose Endometriosis definitely is via surgical intervention– Scans, blood tests etc do not diagnose endometriosis. You cannot have a scan to diagnose endometriosis and you cannot have a blood test to diagnose endometriosis. The definitive diagnose IS and ALWAYS WILL BE via a laparoscopy/laparotomy, along with a biopsy and tissue taken to examine. A laparoscopy is the goal standard investigation of examining the pelvis and for investigating gynaecological disorders such as endometriosis. The laparoscopy also need to be done by what we call an Advanced Trained Laparoscopic Surgeon, who has extra years of surgical training, and who specialises in this disease and specialises in the excision of endometriosis. It can’t just be done by a regular gynaecologist and this is where many go wrong. They just haven’t seen the right surgeon first up who has he proper skills to deal with it effectively. The first surgery should always be your best surgery and early intervention and management of this disease is crucial. The longer it is there, the worse it can become. But, please know that surgery does not cure endometriosis. It is just the first stage in the management of the disease and endometriosis needs ongoing care and a multimodality approach to treat if  effectively. It needs a team to manage it properly.

5. There is NO cure for Endometriosis– At present there is no cure for endometriosis. Just as I mention my asthma before and it having no cure, the same applies to endometriosis. Once it is expressed into the body, it will always be there. Even if someone becomes asymptomatic, the disease it still there. But while there is no cure, the disease can be managed and women can become asymptomatic with the right help, right treatments and right management. I see this is practice daily.

6. Having a baby will not cure endometriosis– Many women are told to go away and fall pregnant and have a baby as this will fix their period pain and cure their endometriosis. This is a load of rubbish. Having a baby will not cure endometriosis. It may stop you having period pain for 9-10 months because you won’t be getting your menses, but you can still get other symptomatic pains and referral pains etc. Pregnancy does not fix endometriosis. The reason why women are told to go and have a family as soon as possible is because endometriosis can make it harder to fall pregnant, for some people.

7. Endometriosis may cause Infertility– While it may make it hard to fall pregnant for some women, other women with it may have no trouble falling at all. But women do need to be educated that it could affect your fertility and one of the major reasons women end up seeking help for fertility services.

8. Endometriosis is Estrogen Driven, Not caused by Estrogen dominance– Estrogens do drive endometriosis. This could be from oestrogen’s in our diet, in our environment, from hormones, drugs, plastics, abdominal fats, body fats and any small amounts of circulating oestrogen’s. Estrogens do not have to be in excess, or be dominant to drive endometriosis.

9. The Pill, or Contraceptives DO NOT fix endometriosis– While the pill and contraceptives can help with hormonal regulate and in some cases even stop the period, they do not fix endometriosis. In many cases the Combined pill can actually make it worse because of the oestrogen’s in it. Plus it then masks the symptoms of endometriosis and then when a woman comes off it, the endo is still there and for some women it could lead to them being infertile. The pill masks endometriosis and many other gynaecological issues. It does not fix them

10. You can have Endometriosis at a Young, or Older Age– Endometriosis does not discriminate age. Young girls can have it and older ladies can have it also. It can present at almost any age once the menses has started and can continue even when the menses has stopped. The symptoms may get less with menopause though.

11. Hysterectomy does not cure endometriosis– Hysterectomy does not fix endometriosis because many times endometriosis is not in, or on, the uterus and it can present anywhere in the body. It has been found in the joints, in the brain, around the heart, on the retina of the eyes, around the bowel and in nearly every part of the body. So removing the uterus does not cure endometriosis in many cases.

12. Endometriosis requires a multi modality approach– Like many diseases we all face, there is never one particular miracle cure, or miracle treatment for endometriosis. It requires a multi modality approach of surgery, proper diet, lifestyle management, counsellors, hormones, herbal medicines, acupuncture, physio therapy, plaits, exercise, pain killers, vitamins etc. This is how you diagnose, treat and manage endometriosis properly

13. Endometriosis IS NOT an autoimmune disease– Endometriosis is not an autoimmune disease. It is an autoimmune like disease because it is made worse by inflammation in the body, but it cannot be classed as an autoimmune disease.

14. There Are Hereditary and Genetic links– While we do not know the exact cause of endometeriosis, we do know that it does run in families and it there is genetic and hereditary links.

15. Endometriosis can cause many other issues in the body– Like any inflammatory disease, endometriosis can cause issues with moods, interfere with hormones, disturb sleep, cause fatigue, cause depression, exacerbate mood disorders, cause muscular pain, cause skeletal pain, have pain refer down your legs, make your joints ache, cause bowel movements to be difficult, cause loose bowels and IBS like symptoms, cause UTI like symptoms, cause bladder pain, nocturnal urination, pain with sex, pain and bleeding with exercise, ovulation pain and so many other symptoms not mentioned. It can cause many issues both physically and emotionally and people need to be aware of this. Some women are at the point of suicide and recently we have seen women take their lives, because they just have not been listened to and it has all become too much.

There is probably a few more things I need to add in here. Please feel free to add comments to add in more. But, this is a start and hopefully people can learn from this and we can start educating people on the facts around this horrible disease. Please know there is always help.

Please know the disease can be managed with the right people on board helping you. Please know there are some really good support groups like Endometriosis Australia out there.

Please know there are some amazing women ( and men like me) out there trying to be your voice and get people to listen. Hopefully one day we will get a cure and women will get the treatment and management of this disease that they so desperately deserve. Sorry for the long post. But we need to get this out there.

Take care amazing people. Keep your chins up and know that there are people who will listen too.

If you do need help with period pain, or endometriosis, please book in a consultation with me. I do see people from all over the world.

Regards
Dr Andrew Orr