In recognition of Women’s Health Month, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is addressing five key health topics affecting women in all stages of life. Those topics include breast and cervical screenings, preconception health, congenital syphilis, smoking and using e-cigarettes during pregnancy, and postpartum depression.

“Women’s Health Month is a great opportunity to remind women to make their health a priority, and to build positive health habits,” said OSDH Director of Maternal and Child Health Service Joyce Marshall.  “We encourage women of all ages to talk to a health care provider about recommended preventive screenings and ways to develop healthy living habits.”

Breast and cervical screenings

OSDH reports indicate breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer, and a leading cause of death among Oklahoma women. Most women should begin receiving mammograms at age 40, however, specific recommendations vary by age and other risk factors.

In addition, American Indian women in Oklahoma face higher incidence rates for cervical cancer. Getting the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, and being screened as recommended can help prevent cervical cancer as more than 90 percent of cancers are preventable. Women are encouraged to see a health care provider for regular well-woman visits and preventive screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

Preconception health

In order to increase the chance of having a healthy baby, women are encouraged to build healthy habits before getting pregnant. Habits include being free of tobacco and e-cigarettes, maintaining a healthy weight, taking multivitamins with 400 mcg of folic acid daily, managing stress and getting tested/treated for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Spouses, partners, family and friends can assist in encouraging and participating in a woman’s healthy choices.

Congenital syphilis

Congenital syphilis is a disease which occurs when a mother with syphilis passes the infection on to her baby during pregnancy. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, low birth weight, extreme health problems or death shortly after birth. Syphilis is easy to cure with antibiotics if caught early. All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis as many people who are infected do not have any symptoms.

Smoking and using e-cigarettes during pregnancy

Smoking and using e-cigarettes while pregnant is harmful for the mother and her baby. A recent study shows 1 in 10 women in Oklahoma used electronic vapor products around the time of pregnancy. Electronic vapor products are not safe to use during pregnancy because most contain nicotine and other harmful additives. Quitting all forms of tobacco, including e-cigarettes, is best for the mother and baby. Regardless of how far along a mother is in her pregnancy, she and her baby will be healthier after quitting. The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline offers assistance at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is a type of major depression, which affects about one in eight new mothers within the first year after childbirth. Many new mothers experience the “baby blues,” which do not tend to be severe, do not need treatment and generally do not last more than two weeks. Postpartum depression symptoms often last longer, are more intense and have an impact on a new mother’s health and her ability to care for her baby.

A new mother may experience insomnia, irritability, mood swings, persistent sadness, and thoughts of harming herself or the baby. These symptoms can significantly impact the mother’s ability to parent the way she would like to. While it is a serious condition, it can be treated successfully with medication and counseling. Family and friends should know the signs and help their loved one seek help. For assistance, contact the postpartum helpline at 1-800-944-4773, by text at 503-894-9453, or visit http://www.postpartum.net

For more information about any of these topics, contact the OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service at (405) 271-4480.