The Love Blanket Project Spreads Love Around UMCH

Love comes in many shapes and sizes, but for Robin Chiddo it’s square, 44×44 and fuzzy.

Today, Robin from the Love Blanket Project dropped off 33 custom t-shirt blankets that will be given out to children staying at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.

The Love Blanket Project started in 2015 when Robin, who recently retired from her position as director of business development at the UMD Alumni Association at College Park, was looking for a heartfelt gift for her sister. In her research, Robin also wanted to find a company that had a clear, mission-driven purpose—then she came across Deaf Initiatives’ Keepsake Theme Quilts (KTQ).

Deaf Initiatives is an organization that employs deaf individuals and teaches employees how to run a small business in a deaf-friendly environment. Robin and her sister loved the first quilt they received, and she started the Love Blanket Project soon after.

Robin sends donated t-shirts to KTQ, and in 4-8 weeks, she receives beautifully crafted blankets. Each blanket is gift wrapped by Robin and the Love Blanket Project team, topped with a “have a comfy day” card and donated to hospitals across the state. The Love Blanket Project has donated to University of Maryland Children’s Hospital since the organization’s beginnings.

Myracle and her mom with a new Love Blanket

Robin has no trouble finding enough shirts—between the UMD bookstore, athletics department and generous donations from Corrigan Sports and Tough Mudder, the Love Blanket Project is swimming in shirts!

So, how can you help?

Robin is always looking for volunteers to help with fundraising. Each blanket costs $110 to produce, and all money to produce the blankets comes from fundraising and donations. If you want to get in touch with the Love Blanket Project, call 202-528-2208 or email loveblanketproject@gmail.com.

Shannon Joslin (left, Child Life Manager) and Robin Chiddo with one of past years’ blankets.

Going Above and Beyond to Ease the Stress of Blood & Marrow Transplant Patients

The facility where the stem cells are stored.

The Blood and Marrow Transplant unit at the University of Maryland Medical Center was presented with a challenge in housing recovering cancer patients at the beginning of March 2017. Usually, UMMC and the BMT unit use The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge to provide temporary housing for out-of-town BMT patients recovering from stem cell transplants. However, building construction began across the street from the Hope Lodge, making it unsafe for recovering BMT patients to stay there. Recovering from a stem cell transplant can be physically challenging, and construction debris and dirt could compromise patients’ recuperating immune systems, impeding the healing process.

This left Majbritt Jensen, a social worker at UMMC who oversees the psycho-social aspects of BMT treatment and recovery, concerned for her recovering cancer patients. Out-of-town patients must stay within an hour of UMMC to ensure that their recovery from their stem cell transplant was successful. Without discounted housing from the Hope Lodge, these patients would need to stay at a local hotel for at least 100 days. Not all insurance policies cover lodging expenses, meaning that many patients and their caretakers would be financially responsible. Jensen and her team knew that adding a financial burden to the patients and their families during this time could complicate and stress their recovery. So Jensen, along with Bob Mitchell, Associate Director for Administration, and Stan Whitbey, Vice President of Cancer Services, searched for a solution.

The solution they found was a generous grant from the Meizlesh Memorial Fund. This grant ensures that BMT patients can be housed at hotels in close proximity to UMMC. This will make it easier for the patients to be monitored during their recovery and visit the hospital if they experience any complications. Jensen attributes the success of receiving the grant money to the hard-working team surrounding her and the patients who inspire her.

“Everyone in our unit values life and treats everyone so kindly,” says Jensen. “And, I love being there for the patients and seeing them get well. Every day I am reminded of what really matters.”

Jensen also runs a support group that aims to connect current BMT patients with those who are in recovery.

For more information, visit the Bone and Marrow Transplant Service at UMGCCC.

Maternal Mental Health Matters

MAY 3, 2017 IS WORLD MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS DAY
#maternalMHmatters

Today is World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day, and we’re helping to bring attention to an important health issue and available treatment options.

Worldwide, as many as one in five women experience some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). PMADs include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder and others.

“There is still this myth that pregnancy is blissful and if you don’t enjoy pregnancy and having your baby, there’s something wrong with you,” says Patricia Widra, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a psychiatrist at University of Maryland Medical Center.

“But fifteen to twenty percent of women have this experience, and there are ways to treat it.”

Because of the stigma that often surrounds mental health disorders, many women hide or downplay their symptoms. Not getting support or treatment can have a devastating impact on the woman affected as well as on her partner and family. It’s important to treat a PMAD like any other health problem so that families can thrive.

“Most people don’t realize it, but post-partum depression (PPD) is the most common serious complication after delivery,” says Dr. Widra.

Women whose pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth often experience not only grief but also postpartum depression. In addition, giving birth to a premature child, or having a child spend extended time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can also take a toll on a mother’s mental health.

Why is PMAD so prevalent? “We don’t know,” says Dr. Widra. “Part of it is depression in women in this age group is already more prevalent than in men anyway, even without pregnancy. Pregnancy is a major change-of-life event. Sometimes a woman doesn’t have enough social or financial support or doesn’t have a partner. Hormonal changes also have an effect – this is where a lot of current research is focusing. Somehow these shifts seem to trigger PMADs. We don’t know specifically why it happens in some people and not others.”

Symptoms of PMAD can appear any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth. The good news is there are effective and well-researched treatment options available to help women recover.

“It’s important that a woman is medically screened for a mood or anxiety disorder at least once during her pregnancy – preferably in the second or third trimester,” says Dr. Widra. “Just as we screen women for diabetes and thyroid disorders during pregnancy, it is just as critical to screen for mood and anxiety disorders. Currently this is not the standard of care. There is a lot of push federally and in Maryland to make it the standard.”

What you can do: If you are a new mom, be aware of how you’re feeling, and seek help if you’re experiencing symptoms of PMAD. If you know someone who is a new mom, ask her how she is really feeling and encourage her to seek help if she needs it.

“Some women think that because they’re discouraged from taking most medications during pregnancy that there isn’t anything their doctor can do to help with an anxiety or mood disorder,” says Dr. Widra. This is not the case. “We now have research to show that there are non-medical treatments that are evidence-based to help women with mental health problems during pregnancy. It’s also considered relatively safe to use some antidepressants during pregnancy.” The bottom line, says Dr. Widra, is there are effective medical and non-medical treatment options available to women even during pregnancy.

Life changes around pregnancy make women more vulnerable to mental illness. Mental healthcare provides the necessary support to empower women to identify resources and personal capabilities. This can enhance their resilience to difficult life circumstances and support them to nurture their children optimally. Caring for mothers is a positive intervention for long-term social development.

Here are some mental health tips for women during their reproductive years:

  • If you are feeling blue, anxious or depressed, don’t wait. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about it as soon as possible.
  • If you’re taking medications for a mood or anxiety disorder and you become pregnant, don’t stop taking them without talking to a mental health professional.
  • Eating well, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep are important during this period of your life as they are at any time in your life.
  • Do things that are good for brain health such as meditation and yoga.
  • If you have a history of depression, be proactive and aware of any signs and symptoms.

For more information or to make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in women’s emotional health and reproductive psychiatry, call 410-328-6091.

Fertility: 12 things you didn’t know (and 1 to never ask)

By Katrina Mark, MD

1. Fertility naturally declines as we age

That alone doesn’t mean you should start to worry. The general advice I give a woman is if she has been trying to become pregnant for a full year with no luck, she might consider a fertility evaluation. For a woman over age 35, she might consider it after six months. If a woman is younger and has irregular periods, it’s likely she isn’t regularly ovulating, so she might want to be evaluated sooner.

2. Sometimes there’s a reason for infertility – and sometimes, there’s not

There are some things we know cause infertility. About 20 percent of the time, we find no reason for it. For a woman, infertility can be due to a condition that causes you to not ovulate regularly such as diabetes, thyroid disease and polycystic ovaries. It can also be caused by blocked fallopian tubes or a history of ectopic pregnancy. For men, it can be due to semen issues such as a low sperm count.

Early menopause in women under the age of 40 is rare, but it can run in families and cause infertility. Lifestyle factors such as smoking and obesity contribute to infertility in both women and men.

3. Taking birth control for long periods of time does not hurt fertility

No, taking birth control stops you from getting pregnant, but it doesn’t hurt fertility once you stop taking them.

4. If you are having trouble conceiving, consider these culprits:

  • Lifestyle factors: If you smoke, try to quit. If you are obese, try to lose weight. Vigorous exercise and low body weight can also cause ovary issues. Marathon runners and gymnasts have this issue frequently. Luckily, increasing body fat percentage or decreasing exercise a small amount can often correct it.
  • Chronic conditions: If you suffer from a chronic condition such as diabetes or hypertension, make sure you are managing it and keeping it under control.
  • Ovulation issues: For women who aren’t ovulating regularly, the first line is usually Clomid, a pill that makes a woman’s body produce eggs and ovulate each month. Many OB-GYNs will prescribe this, so you don’t necessarily need to see a fertility specialist.

If there’s no known reason trouble conceiving, your OB-GYN may refer you to a fertility specialist for treatment. Fertility specialists and even some OB-GYNs perform intrauterine insemination (IUI), where sperm are placed directly in the uterus around the time the ovary releases one or more eggs to be fertilized. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is when the sperm and egg fertilize outside the woman’s body and then the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus.

5. Your OB-GYN can often provide some fertility assistance

If a woman is trying to conceive, she should share this with her OB-GYN. If she is having trouble, an OB-GYN can provide a general evaluation to look for causes, as well as provide education, which often is very helpful.

6. Don’t worry if it’s been a month or two and you’re not pregnant

Ninety percent of couples get pregnant within a year. Don’t worry if it’s only been a few months. This is normal and usually there’s nothing wrong with you.

7. The overall rate of infertility hasn’t changed

Although more are seeking treatment. In this age, more women may be delaying fertility because of better access to education and career opportunities. The average age of a woman when she has her first child has gone up over the last few decades. Delaying childbearing increases the likelihood for a woman to experience fertility issues. There also may be more people pursuing fertility treatment now because there is better access to treatment.

8. Egg freezing is much better than it used to be

Typically, egg freezing is recommended for those who desire it when a woman is between the ages of 35 and 38. If a woman is interested in having eggs frozen, she should speak with a fertility specialist. This technology has gotten better in the last several years and there has been better success. Fertility specialists can now freeze eggs without having to fertilize them. Insurance generally doesn’t cover egg freezing unless there is a medical reason.

9. Fertility treatments have come a long way

Overall, fertility treatment has high success rates these days. In vitro fertilization (IVF) has a very high success rate. Even for women who have premature ovarian failure, which is loss of ovary function before the age of 40, can opt for a donor egg and carry a pregnancy. Sometimes it depends on what a person is willing to go through and what you can afford, although many insurances cover some fertility treatment. Most don’t cover everything and it can be expensive.

10. There are reasons not to consider fertility treatment

Some treatments can be quite expensive. Some people may have moral objections. In some cases, a woman may have a chronic condition that it wouldn’t be recommended or safe to pursue pregnancy, such as certain heart conditions. Sometimes if either partner has a genetic disorder that is hereditary, they may not want to risk passing it along to a child. If a couple chooses not to pursue fertility treatment but still wants to have children, adoption or a donor egg are also options.

11. Fertility treatments aren’t just physically demanding

They’re also mentally draining. There have been studies that have shown a woman going through fertility treatments may experience the same level of depression as someone going through cancer treatment. The psychological aspect of fertility treatments is under-recognized. We view pregnancy as a positive thing because you get a baby at the end, but fertility treatment can make a person anxious and terrified – while trying to conceive and also during pregnancy and after the baby is born. Some women are traumatized from the experience and develop an anxiety disorder. Women often go through these struggles in private because they often don’t want to tell anyone. The same is often true with miscarriages. Many women experience very real grief and depression during these times. It’s important to make sure people are getting counseling because a lot of times they aren’t even talking to their friends or family about it. If you have breast cancer, people bring you food. There is no greeting card for infertility.

12. Don’t shy away from a friend who’s having trouble conceiving

If you someone close to you who is going through fertility issues, don’t completely ignore it or become distant. Be a friend, act normal and open yourself up to the person for conversation if he or she wants to talk. A lot of times people want to talk about it but don’t know how. Give them the hope and space to talk as much or as little as they want. Everyone deals with a loss and struggles differently; some are private about it and don’t want to talk about it, but others do.

Don’t ever ask a woman when she’s going to have a baby

For someone who is going through fertility treatment, being constantly asked when they’re going to have a baby can be devastating. You don’t know what someone may be going through.

Dr. Katrina Mark is an OB-GYN at University of Maryland Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

 

 

 

All About Infant Immunizations: Q&A with Pediatrician Dr. Adam Spanier

 

Adam Spanier, MD, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a Pediatrician with University of Maryland Medical Center.

What vaccines are recommended for infants and children?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a group of medical and public health experts called the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices. They develop and regularly review vaccine recommendations. Parents should talk to their pediatrician or family doctor, or reference the CDC or American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s important to know the vaccine schedule is reviewed every six months and often gets updated to reflect new evidence.

Are there any recent changes to the vaccine schedule?

In fall 2016, there was a decrease in the amount of HPV vaccine children need. The guidelines used to recommend three doses, now it’s only two. Everyone’s happy when there’s fewer shots!

Why should infants get immunized?

Vaccines protect children. They help infants develop immunity to serious diseases that we don’t want them to get. One example is polio. Because of immunization, we’ve almost wiped out polio.

Why are some parents choosing not to have their infants immunized?

My experience has been that some people don’t trust the medical system. Sometimes people read something on the Internet that wasn’t necessarily fact-based. There was a paper published in a prominent medical journal many years ago that showed an association between vaccinations and autism. But the paper was withdrawn for inaccuracies in the data and there have been many studies since that have disproven it. Unfortunately, it’s like Pandora’s Box and it is hard to put the cork back the bottle (a mixed metaphor). There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet. I always refer my patients and their families to the CDC’s vaccine information statements (VIS), which provide everything you need to know in an easy-to-digest format. We’re required to give them to parents. It’s also just good practice.

What are some of the myths out there around infant immunization?

The most common myth is that vaccines cause autism, which is false. Autism is not something that can be diagnosed at birth; the child has to show signs. Signs of autism usually start around age 1 to 2 years, which is also a period where children are receiving immunizations frequently. So parents might assume they’re related. But this possible relationship has been thoroughly evaluated and they’re not related.

Is spacing out your infant’s immunizations a good idea?

No, it’s not a good idea for a few reasons. First, there is no evidence to support changing the spacing between vaccinations. Second, it may affect a child’s response to the vaccinations. The spacing recommendations are based on medical studies with years of data behind them. The timing is important too, in order for the vaccines to be effective. And there are certain windows of exposure. For example, the Rotavirus vaccine must be given within the first four months of life; once you get past that age, you aren’t able to get it. You don’t want to miss your opportunities to prevent serious illnesses.

What if a family can’t afford to have their child vaccinated?

These days, no child should be without insurance, but even without insurance, there are places to get free vaccinations. Vaccines for Children is a program that helps doctors’ offices get free vaccines for children whose families can’t afford them. Health departments also provide free vaccines to children in need.

Is there any reason a child should not get vaccinated?

There are very few reasons why a child shouldn’t be vaccinated. Usually it is related to specific vaccines and specific health conditions. A few vaccines are live vaccines and we don’t give them to a child who is immunosuppressed. When a child is on cardiac bypass, live vaccines are not recommended. These are rare, complicated issues. Most healthy kids can and should get vaccinated.

Can a vaccine make a baby or child sick?

Some parents have this misconception. The average child gets eight to 10 colds per year, so it’s more likely the child caught a cold around the time of the shot. If you have an infant and he or she is getting vaccines every couple of months, it’s statistically likely you’ll be getting a vaccine and also happen to have a cold. The regular vaccines do not have anything in them that cause cold symptoms.

Are there any side effects to infant vaccines?

The most common side effect of a shot is a little pain and sometimes swelling at the site of the shot, or a low-grade fever. It usually only lasts a couple of days. Most of the vaccines can’t cause illness because they’re not live viruses. Only a few vaccines are live viruses, and even those are very inactive viruses so the risk of getting the actual illness is practically nonexistent and transmission to anyone else is unlikely.

What are some ways to reduce child anxiety or fear around vaccinations?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Comfort techniques, such as a position where the baby or child can be held while getting a shot
  • Numbing medication
  • Distraction techniques, such as the Buzzy®
  • Sugar water solution, such as Sweet-Ease®

Often, kids are too young to be scared. Parents on the other hand sometimes get nervous when their child needs shots. There are some children who have anxiety related to shots and often they say afterward that it was no big deal. I don’t think it’s a good idea to surprise the child, but you also don’t want to build them up too much. Explain to children that they need a shot and it’s going to keep them healthy. Some kids get anxious, but most of the time they do just fine.

What’s the bottom line?

The vaccine schedule was based on decades of scientific evidence and expert guidance.  It is not a good idea for families to try to take medical practice into their own hands by making up a new schedule. Trust your doctor – he or she has the most up-to-date medical advice. When it comes to infant immunization, the problem is if too many people don’t get vaccinated, we start to see disease outbreaks. There have been mumps and measles outbreaks – many more in recent times and it happens where people haven’t had their shots and immunization coverage isn’t as great.

To make an appointment with Dr. Spanier or one of our other pediatricians, please call 410-225-8780.  Visit our website for more information. 

Minority Health Month



By Jameson Roth, Communications Intern

Each April marks the beginning of Minority Health Month at UMMC, when we strive to celebrate and acknowledge the initiatives in place to reduce health disparities among minority groups in the greater Baltimore area. UMMC also seeks to honor the service of the individuals who work tirelessly to bring these initiatives to deserving communities across the city.

One of these hardworking individuals is Anne Williams, DNP, RN, whose current role is director of community health improvement at University of Maryland Medical Center.

Williams perfectly sums up her mission at UMMC, “I am committed to trying to decrease the levels of health disparities across West Baltimore communities.”

Thanks to the contributions of dozens of full time staff, UMMC can facilitate multiple community outreach programs designed to decrease health disparities of minority groups. These widely acclaimed programs include:

  • Stork’s Nest , a series of perinatal education classes for low-income, minority women
  • Violence Intervention Program, an R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center initiative that aids victims of violent injuries
  • MD Health Men program, a citywide health initiative to decrease rates of hypertension in African American males
  • Breathmobile, a custom-built asthma and allergy clinic that provides preventive asthma care to over 500 children in 2016, increasing access to critical evaluations, testing and ongoing treatment

“We are able to offer care to individuals age 2-18 at 17 schools in Baltimore,” said Lisa Bell, MSN, CPNP, AE-C, and Breathmobile nurse practitioner. “The outcomes we measure are ER visits, hospitalizations and missed schools days; all of which significantly decrease after participating in the program.”

While the Breathmobile is responsible for serving Baltimore city youth, the MD Healthy Men program, of which Williams is especially proud, is responsible for serving the population of African American adult males.

“With MD Healthy Men, 35% of the African-American men who participated decreased their blood pressure,” said Williams. “Two individuals who participated in the program were sent directly to the emergency room after evaluation because their blood pressure was so high that they were in immediate danger of experiencing major cardiac events. This program provides immediate and impactful health benefits to African-American males in West Baltimore.”

Mariellen Synan, UMMC’s Community Outreach Manager, is responsible for the coordination, staffing and operation of UMMC community health fairs. As a 34 year veteran of community outreach, Synan is regularly tasked with administering blood pressure screenings at community outreach events. One of Synan’s major upcoming events to debut in August is the back to school community health fair, designed to provide immunizations and encourage school attendance in children who attend the Samuel Coleridge Taylor Elementary and James McHenry Elementary schools in West Baltimore. This community health fair will feature fun, games and health education alongside critical vaccinations.

“With this outreach event, we hope to reach the kids before school starts so that more children are able to attend school without interruption,” said Synan. “My favorite part of my job here at UMMC is being able to make a difference in reducing unhealthy behaviors in the lives of West Baltimore residents.”

For more information on UMMC’s community outreach programs, please visit: http://www.umm.edu/about/community

Brain Injury Awareness Month

By Jameson Roth, Communications Intern

At UMMC, we recognize individuals who have experienced Traumatic Brain Injury, directly and indirectly, throughout the month of March with the acknowledgment of Brain Injury Awareness Month.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is defined as a complex injury caused by an outside force on the brain, which can result in the permanent or temporary loss of brain functions. Individuals who have survived a TBI may experience symptoms such as memory loss, impaired cognition, headaches and mood swings following their injury.

The leading causes of TBI include motor vehicle crashes, said Karen McQuillan, lead clinical nursing specialist at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. As a 30-year veteran of trauma nursing, McQuillan has seen it all. Other causes of TBI include sports activity, physical assault, gunshot wounds, domestic violence and falls. “Falls dominate the cause category for individuals aged 65 and over for TBI,” McQuillan said.

McQuillan is an active proponent of TBI prevention tactics. To prevent TBI in individuals age 65 or older, McQuillan suggests removing floor obstacles and installing wall railings in home hallways and bathrooms. One way to prevent motor vehicle crash-related TBI is by putting a stop to distracted driving. “A motor vehicle crash is 23 times more likely while texting,” McQuillan said. For individuals who ride bikes or drive motorcycles, McQuillan suggests wearing a helmet for head protection.

While not all individuals diagnosed with TBI make a full recovery, McQuillan suggests for an optimal recovery:

  • When appropriate, formalized rehabilitation
  • Plenty of rest
  • Reliance upon a strong support system
  • Patient-specific cognition activities to help patients overcome deficits

To learn more about the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center’s role in TBI recovery, please visit http://umm.edu/programs/shock-trauma/patients/survivors-network

High Blood Pressure Has No Minimum

How tall is your child? How much does he or she weigh? Most parents can answer those questions easily. But here’s a tougher question: what is your child’s blood pressure?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often considered an adult health problem. But this serious condition is no longer adults-only.

“The number of children with high blood pressure is rising,” says Susan Mendley, MD, head of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Left unchecked, high blood pressure can result in lifelong health complications including heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Fortunately, small changes now can turn this trend around.”

What’s Normal?

For adults, 120/80 or lower is normal blood pressure and 140/90 or greater is high blood pressure. But for children, high blood pressure is determined differently.

“Children are not little adults,” says Dr. Mendley. “High blood pressure for children is defined as a blood pressure reading greater than the 95th percentile for their age, height and gender.”

It’s estimated that about 2 million kids in the U.S. have high blood pressure, and many of those children-and their parents- don’t know it.* That’s because high blood pressure, also known as the “silent killer,” has no symptoms. However, childhood high blood pressure often has a common clue: obesity.

Predicting hypertensions

A growing number of children are eating more, exercising less and weight in above their ideal weight range. As a result, obesity rates have been rising in the U.S. for the past two decades.**

“Obesity is one of the highest predictors of high blood pressure in children,” says Dr. Mendley. “It’s difficult for parents to tell on their own if their child has health risks related to weight.”

The American Academy for Pediatrics recommends screening children for high blood pressure annually starting at age 3. “It’s really important to keep up with your child’s annual checkup,” Dr. Mendley says. “Don’t wait until there is a problem. There are many small things that parents can do to prevent big problems later.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Mendley or the Nephrology team call 410-328-6749 or visit umm.edu/PediatricNephrology

*Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association

**Source: Centers for Disease control and Prevention

 

 

What Can Women Do to Prevent Early Menopause?

About Early Menopause

The average age a woman goes into menopause is 51. Menopause is considered abnormal when it begins before the age of 40 and is called “premature ovarian failure.” Common symptoms that come with menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, sexual issues, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, pelvic floor disorders (urine, bowel leakage, pelvic organ prolapse), losing bone mass, and mood swings.

Menopause is mostly genetically predetermined, which means you generally can’t do much to delay it from happening. What you can do is work to counter-balance or prevent the symptoms and effects that tend to develop during menopause.

What You Can Do

Women can do a lot of things to prepare themselves for changes that will come with menopause. These include modifying your lifestyle so you are eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

Diet and Exercise

Related to diet, women should look into their caloric intake and make adjustments like eating smaller meal portions, and eating a well-balanced diet that includes lots of fiber and protein and less carbohydrates. Avoid eating late at night or snacking, which means no eating two to three hours before bed time.

Take calcium and vitamin D supplements for bone health to prevent osteoporosis. Well-balanced food with decreased caffeine intake also helps to decrease night sweats.

Exercise is one of the most important and modifiable factors that all women must take advantage of. Cardio workouts including walking or jogging three times a week will boost your cardiovascular system and endurance, and also help you control your weight. It’s also important to do weight-bearing exercises regularly to build up bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Kegels

Kegel exercises can help prevent pelvic floor disorders (urine, bowel leakage, pelvic organ prolapse). Kegel exercises should ideally be done every day three times a day. Every woman needs to know how to do Kegel exercises properly. Unfortunately, many women think they do Kegel exercises when, in fact, they do not, because the muscles are hidden inside the body. Your physician should be able to help you with it. You can do long squeezes for 10 seconds, or fast squeezes. This helps to maintain strength and endurance of the pelvic muscles in order to prevent urinary or bowel leakages in the future.

Mental Health

If possible, I recommend having regular sex. It improves vaginal lubrication and helps to prevent vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse. It is also good for your overall mood.
Finally, every women should work on developing a positive attitude, and spending time in a healthy environment helps – for example, taking frequent walks in a park or whatever makes you feel good; finding a way to de-stress and/or control any stress in your life. This will improve your mental health.

Hormone Therapy

Hormonal treatment for early menopause and menopause has been out of favor because of concerns with breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. With that said, it is still gold-standard treatment especially for hot flashes and night sweats. Hormonal therapies could offer significant benefits to women especially those going through early menopause. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.

Fertility

A woman going through early menopause is still fertile. Unless you don’t have periods at all anymore, there is still a risk that you can get pregnant, so it’s important to use some form of contraception to avoid pregnancy.

Harry Johnson, MD, is Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at University of Maryland School of Medicine and Division Head of Urogynecology at University of Maryland Medical Center.

 

 

Child Life Month

How Play is Helping UMMC’s Youngest Patients

By: Colleen Schmidt, System Communications Intern

As many parents know, the hospital can be a scary and unfamiliar place for a child. To help relax these fears, UMMC’s team of child life specialists and assistants use a variety of techniques to help children adjust to the hospital setting. Child life specialists, or CLS, aim to provide a positive and non-traumatic hospital experience for all patients at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.  UMMC’s Child Life team consists of six CLS and two assistants. They work in the Pediatric Progressive Care Unit (PPCU), Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and the Pediatric ER.

Members of the Child Life Team

 

Play is one technique often used by child life team to help normalize the child’s hospital experience.  Various types of play are thoughtfully used to help children meet developmental milestones, express emotions, and understand their medical situation.  For example, during a practice called medical play, a CLS will provide their patient with a “hospital buddy” or small doll that the child can decorate. Next, with the guidance of a CLS, the child is introduced to medical equipment that they can explore and use on their new hospital buddy.  According to Aubrey Donley, a CLS at the pediatric ER, medical play is helpful in addressing misconceptions the child has about medical equipment.

“It gives them a sense of control and mastery over their hospital experience and over what they’ve been through,” she explains. Medical play empowers patients and allows them to have an active role in their hospitalization. Helping the children understand their environment lessens the chances of confusing or traumatizing them.

In addition to medical play, the child life team uses therapeutic play to help children work through a variety of issues that may accompany hospitalization. Sometimes, children who are hospitalized have experienced severe trauma. Unlike adults, children may not be able to verbalize their feelings. Play is how they express themselves and work through their experiences. For instance, one of Donley’s young patients survived a house fire and used play to understand what happened to him. “He was running around in a fireman costume pretending to put out a fire. For an onlooker, it might seem like he was just playing but we understand he is trying to make sense of the chaos and trauma that he had witnessed,” she explained. Therapeutic play can also help children who are at the hospital for long periods of time meet their physical and cognitive milestones.

With backgrounds in child development, the child life team is able to make individual plans for each child that matches their medical, physical, and emotional needs.  The team advocates for the children they support, and work with an interdisciplinary team of medical professionals to provide a comprehensive plan for that child. Child life specialists also provide educational and emotional support for families. All services provided by the child life team come at no charge to families.


For more information on our child life services please visit: http://umm.edu/programs/childrens/services/inpatient/child-life