2 posts tagged “menopause”

Age-by-age guide to navigating reproductive health with lupus

Posted 3 months ago by

Lupus can affect your reproductive health in a variety of ways throughout your life and can raise the risks of complications during pregnancy. Thanks to medical advances, the chances of having a safe pregnancy have improved — the key is careful planning.

Check out this timeline of gynecological and reproductive health considerations when you have lupus, plus pointers if you’re considering getting pregnant.

Teens

Puberty and childhood treatments – The stress that lupus causes to your body can delay puberty (join PatientsLikeMe and log in to see our recent forum discussion on lupus and period problems). If you had lupus earlier on in life, you may want to ask your doctor about how different treatments you’ve had could affect your reproductive possibilities. Teens and young women should also talk with their doctor about contraception for those with lupus (more on that below), especially because some lupus treatments can harm a fetus.

HPV vaccine and cervical cancer prevention – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all girls get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine when they are 11 or 12 years old to protect them against cervical cancer. The vaccine is considered safe for people with a suppressed immune system, according to Lupus.org. But it’s recommended that people with lupus get vaccinated while on a lower dose of steroids for a better vaccine response.

20s and 30s

Pap tests – Although general guidelines call for women (ages 21 to 65) to have a pap smear every three years, women with lupus should have a gynecology exam with a pap test annually. This is because lupus meds can cause you to be immunocompromised, increasing the risk for abnormal paps and possibly cervical cancer down the road.

Contraception – If you have lupus, using contraception can help prevent unplanned pregnancy, but it’s important to talk with doctor about the right form of birth control for you and your case of lupus. For example, if you have antiphospholipid antibodies, which increase the risk of blood clots, you might need to avoid certain kinds of birth control pills. Some women choose a long-acting contraception device like an IUD.

Planning for pregnancy – We know much more now about how to manage lupus to achieve a healthy pregnancy than we did decades ago. Consider these pointers:

  • Think ahead and try to avoid getting pregnant during a lupus flare-up. Women who become pregnant in remission generally have better outcomes.
  • Talk with a rheumatologist and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at least three to six months before you plan to get pregnant so they can help you adjust or switch your medications to protect a developing baby, and to monitor you every step of the way—including post-pregnancy, during breastfeeding.
  • Consider the possible complications and risks, but keep in mind that many women with lupus are able to get pregnant and deliver healthy babies. MotherToBaby.org says that lupus increases the chances of complications like infections, high blood pressure, and serious conditions like preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome. Having other health issues including lupus nephritis or kidney disease, high blood pressure, high antibody counts or blood clots could increase the risks.
  • Choose a hospital with a NICU just in case. Lupus can raise chances of miscarriage or early delivery, as well as infant health problems. Read more about lupus, pregnancy and newborn health here. If you’re feeling anxious about your health or your unborn child’s, explore stories of women with lupus who’ve had babies (like one woman recently featured in SELF magazine) to learn about their experiences.

Finding support for fertility issues – There are many ways to build a family. You are not alone. You may find comfort and wisdom talking with other women, such as at Resolve, an infertility site with links to local groups, or PatientsLikeMe members who’ve dealt with fertility issues (see “On PatientsLikeMe” below).

40s, 50s and beyond

Bone health – Taking corticosteroids can affect your bone strength, so remind your doctor to keep tabs on your bone density. Regular, weight-bearing exercise can help you strong. Your doctor may recommend extra vitamin D and calcium supplements.

Menopause – Lupus can cause early menopause (which can also affect your bones). “The good news for women in their 50s is that menopause may lead to a decrease in some lupus activity, although some studies have disputed this,” according to Lupus.org. “As women with lupus move through their 40s and 50s and beyond they need to be sure to get regular mammograms and Pap tests, especially if they have had long-term treatment with immunosuppressive agents.”

On PatientsLikeMe

Members have shared about their experiences with pregnancy and women’s health issues — join the community and sign in see what others with lupus have said about:

Any questions or anything to add based on your experiences? Add a comment here or in this forum discussion.

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Women’s Health Week: “It’s Your Time”

Posted May 14th, 2012 by

Ladies, we know your lives get busy.  So why not pull out your calendar or smartphone right now and see if you’re due for a visit to your health care providers?  You’ll be doing your part for National Women’s Checkup Day (observed today, Monday, May 14th), an annual event that’s part of National Women’s Health Week.

It's National Women's Health Week

Checkup Day encourages women to get regular checkups that are vital to the early detection of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental illnesses, sexually transmitted infections and other conditions.  The reason is simple.  Women often serve as the caregivers for their partners, children and parents. As a result, their own well-being can be secondary at times.  The theme of National Women’s Health Week 2012 – “It’s Your Time” – speaks to the fact that women need to prioritize their own health as well.

Not sure what preventative screenings are recommended for you?  Check out this handy chart organized by age group.  Then take the Checkup Day pledge along with women around the country to get at least one recommended screening during May. If you’re concerned about cost, you should know that all recommended preventative screenings – such as mammograms, colon cancer screenings, Pap screenings and well-woman visits – are now covered by your insurance plan with no out-of-pocket costs.

Join the 2012 WOMAN Challenge and Get Healthy for Good

But scheduling an appointment may just be the first step.  If you’re looking to get healthy in 2012, why not do it with the help of a community?  The 2012 WOMAN Challenge offers an online platform for tracking your nutrition goals and daily activity.  The challenge is to follow through with planned nutrition changes and be active 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week, for six out of eight weeks.  Register here to get started.

If you’re a woman living with a health condition, you can also find a community of women right here at PatientsLikeMe.  We have 70,995 female members who are sharing how they are managing more than 1,000 different conditions, including fibromyalgia, endometriosis, menopause, infertility and postpartum depression.  Take control of your condition with the help of women just like you today.