What Women Should Know to Live a Healthy Life

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant 

In many ways, men and women have different health needs and issues. Area experts shared with us a few of the top issues women face.

Joseph Fasanello
Joseph Fasanello

From Joseph Fasanello, family physician at Trinity Medical Primary Care in Kenmore:

• “It’s always about the screening. Don’t change the oil when the engine is knocking; it’s too late. Many people say, ‘I’m fine. I don’t want to go for a screening.’ But that’s when you want to find it. We want women to be up to date with STD screening, breast cancer screening, colon cancer screening, cervical cancer screening and one time a year, blood work. It allows us to dig our heels in and stay on top of things. Cancer screenings and routine labs and check-ups: that’s 99% of our focus.

• “Many women who’ve had babies are afraid to take their children in for vaccines. They wonder, ‘Should I even get vaccinated for COVID?’ There’s so much we’re still learning as this is a novel vaccine. 

• “There are so many stressors for women. A woman who has four children who are schoolaged and a full-time job as the primary breadwinner now has to perform at a higher level for her work, home and children’s education. That would be enough to push a lot of people to the breaking point with that much responsibility. And there’s a limited outlet for stress. I do think things are improving. Since spring has come, I’m seeing a little return to normal. We’ve tried to go out of our way to be helpful and accommodating. We tell patients they’re not in this alone. You’re never bothering us when you call. There’s always something that can be done to help. Their primary care providers are their advocates.” 

Jessica Burke
Jessica Burke

From Jessica Burke, certified through DONA as a post-partum doula and owner of Birth Grove Doula in Buffalo  

• “The number one problem that so many women have across the board is domestic violence. When a woman goes into the hospital, typically if she doesn’t have the A to Z warning signs or prerequisites, they skip the domestic violence screening. It’s usually a printout they give her. That’s not sufficient. Pregnant women are at a much higher risk for domestic violence. Studies show that a change in focus of the mother provokes jealousy which is a huge risk factor. It’s that way before she was pregnant, but it gets worse. When you see chronic pain syndrome, depression and anxiety, these correlate with domestic violence. Oftentimes, you will see the partner will do all the talking. The birthing person might continuously look at the partner for approval when asked questions. They may also have constant physical contact from the abuser. If it seems like it’s not being reciprocated and it’s a controlling gesture, you can tell, especially if there are these other signs, like history of insomnia, lack of energy. There won’t always be a bruise to look for. 

• “Living in constant survival mode in pregnancy increases the mom’s stress hormones. That can negatively affect the fetus. Chorangiosis is when the placenta is not getting enough oxygen. Stress hormones create a lack of oxygen. That causes mini strokes all over the placenta and calcifications. It can cause pre-term labor and cause the baby to not receive enough oxygen in the womb which can cause brain damage and bradycardia. Women with seemingly healthy pregnancies have emergency C-sections because the baby’s heart is slow or stopped beating. The stress causes a huge cascade of physical and mental health problems. Instead of going home with their babies, they go home confused, terrified and without answers. In a high-stress environment, doctors don’t have time to explain things all the time.”

From Physician J’Leise Sosa, from General Physician Women’s Health in Buffalo

• “Maternal mortality is a big issue. We are seeing a lot of preventable deaths or near deaths for women giving birth. There are a lot of studies going on to identify why we are experiencing this and the education moms need. Access to safe housing, transportation, healthy food can affect overall health and increase risk for death and poor outcome. We should focus on this now and realize that health is intertwined with public health and all of these other factors. 

• “If I had a magic wand, every pregnant woman would have their insurance cover pelvic floor therapy. The heavy uterus weighs down on the lower back, pelvic floor and uterus and abdominal muscles. This can cause back pain and incontinence. Postpartum yoga or Pilates six weeks after giving birth can help. Those exercises are geared toward this area. A physical therapist and even bringing it up with their OB-GYNs may help. Some insurance will cover this.

• “The other thing that’s of particular interest to me is treatment of fibroids in the uterus. Fibroids can affect up to 80% of women by age 50 and 15% to 30% will end up with heavy, painful periods and chronic pelvic pain as a result. We haven’t had as much research as to who’s at risk and how to prevent them. The treatment has been hysterectomy or removing the fibroids. It puts women out of commission for six to eight weeks. The Acessa procedure allows us to do a minimally invasive procedure. It goes from a baseball to a marshmallow consistency and the volume decreases. You no longer have the pain. Patients are three to five days out of work.”

From OB-GYN Lisa Jane Jacobsen from the University at Buffalo.

• “As OB-GYNs, we look out for their health as a whole, including heart disease and breast cancer. Those are the biggest health concerns overall for women. For breast cancer prevention, they need to be screened appropriately. If you have risk factors, like a family member, with breast cancer, that needs to be discussed with the primary care provider or OB-GYN. At the age of 40, discuss if that’s the right time to begin mammograms as they can reduce the risk of breast cancer deaths.

• “Overall, more women die of heart attack than any other cause. It’s important to address the risk factors including elevated lipids and high blood pressure. One of the hardest things to address is probably weight, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. It takes a lot of effort to make sure exercise is part of your daily lifestyle—that it’s a priority.”