Breastfeeding benefits both mom and baby

As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”.
by Dr. Avelino Garcia

Breastfeeding is a fantastic bonding experience that benefits both mom and baby. There are many reasons that breastfeeding is so beneficial. If it is possible, it is encouraged to breastfeed for at least the first six months of life.

Most healthy infants are ready to breastfeed within the first hour of life. It is encouraged to breastfeed a young infant every two to three hours, according to hunger and need. Hunger signs include nuzzling the breast, sucking on hands or fingers and clenching fists. Crying is a late sign of hunger in a baby. Many women are concerned about the baby getting enough to eat. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “once your breast milk transitions from colostrum to mature milk, your baby will soak at least six diapers a day with urine and will have at least three bowel movements a day. [The baby may lose weight, but] After 10 days, your baby will be back up to birth weight.”

Breastfeeding in the postpartum period releases a hormone called oxytocin, which causes the uterus to contract. This helps the uterus return down to its normal size, and reduces the amount of bleeding that might occur after delivery. Breastfeeding helps burn extra calories, which helps return to pre-pregnancy weight sooner than if strictly formula feeding an infant. Women who breastfeed their infants have proven to have lower rates breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding women also have shown to have reduced rates of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Breast milk contains maternal antibodies that help protect infants from infections, illnesses and some allergies. Breast milk is easy for babies to digest and has the perfect amount of fat, sugar, water, protein and minerals needed for appropriate growth and development. Breast milk supply adapts and changes according to the infant’s growing and changing nutritional needs. Even short term breastfeeding has been proven to decrease an infant’s risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Although breastfeeding is a natural thing and works for most women, many women have trouble and need assistance. If you decide that breastfeeding is what your infant needs, there are many ways you can get assistance. Directly after delivery, hospital nurses can help you find a comfortable position and monitor correct infant latch. Certified Lactation Consultants can help teach you what you need to know to get started with breastfeeding your infant and help you with common problems many women face. Peer counselors, such as people who work with La Leche League or Women, Infants and Children (WIC) can provide support and answer non-medical questions regarding breastfeeding. Your OB/GYN can discuss breastfeeding during pregnancy and can help in the hospital and postpartum period. Your baby’s pediatrician can help answer questions regarding infant nutrition and infant weight gain to keep your baby in optimal health.

MCH Center for Women & Infants has a free drop-in breastfeeding center called the Baby Café that is staffed with Certified Lactation Consultants. Baby Café is every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12 pm in the Center for Women & Infants Classroom. The Baby Café offers free breastfeeding education in a friendly, private environment. For more information, call (432) 640-1714 or (432) 640-1784.



by Dr. Krystal Murphy

Perimenopause and Menopause are natural events. However, the body undergoes some major changes during this time. Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when she naturally stops having menstrual cycles. This signals the end of her reproductive years. The time leading up to menopause is called perimenopause. These changes may cause some bothersome symptoms, although many women only have a few symptoms.

Many women wonder what causes the body to undergo such a drastic change. During childbearing years, monthly changes in estrogen and progesterone control the menstrual cycle. These hormones are created by the ovaries. As a woman ages, the ovaries make less estrogen. The decrease in estrogen causes perimenopausal symptoms, typically starting with a change in the menstrual cycle. Cycle length and heaviness may vary from the norm. Some women have shorter cycles or skip them altogether. Although these cycle changes are normal as menopause approaches, these symptoms should still be discussed with a healthcare provider because abnormal vaginal bleeding could indicate a problem. Call a provider to discuss bleeding between menstrual cycles, bleeding after intercourse, intermittent spotting, heavy or prolonged vaginal bleeding or bleeding after menopause. It is important to note that even if a woman no longer has a uterus, but still has ovaries, she may show signs and symptoms of perimenopause.

Some women suffer from more bothersome signs and symptoms of perimenopause. Some women have hot flashes and night sweats. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of overwhelming heat that rushes to the upper body and face. It can cause the skin to turn red or may cause sweating. While some hot flashes only last a few seconds, others may last several minutes. Hot flashes may cause sleep disturbances in perimenopausal women.

Other women may suffer from recurrent vaginal and urinary tract infections. As estrogen levels in the body decrease, vaginal tissue gets thinner and dryer. This may cause recurrent vaginal infections or pain with intercourse. Hormonal changes in the body also affect the urethra. The urethra can become dry and irritated. Some women have urinary frequency or recurrent urinary tract infections because of these changes.

To relieve these symptoms, many women see a gynecologist for treatment of perimenopause. Some providers recommend hormone therapy. Hormone therapy helps treat bothersome symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness or pain with intercourse. Some hormone therapy helps prevent hip and spine fractures, as well as reduces the risk of some cancers. Your provider will discuss these benefits, but also the risks associated with hormone therapy. These risks include possible cancer risks, slightly increased risk for heart attack and possible risk of stroke, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or other blood clot formation.

Other treatment options are available to treat perimenopausal symptoms. Certain medications, like antidepressants and blood pressure medications, can be used to reduce hot flashes and sleep disturbances. Vaginal moisturizers and water based lubricants are over-the-counter products that can help improve vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse.

Estrogen produced by a woman’s ovaries helps prevent bone loss, heart attacks and stroke. When these estrogen levels decrease, the risk for bone loss, heart attacks and stroke increases. Taking Vitamin D and Calcium supplementation is important to prevent bone loss and maintain bone health. Healthy lifestyle choices, like healthy eating and exercise, reduce heart attack and stroke risk. Routine annual exams give you a chance to sit down with your provider and discuss any changes or problems you may be facing. If you are showing signs of perimenopause or have questions about treatment for hormone changes, call ProCare Women’s Clinic at (432) 640-2491 to schedule an appointment.

Why Gynecological exams are necessary over the age of 50

As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”.
by Dr. Avelino Garcia

Many women feel that there is no longer a need for a gynecologist after childbearing. For women over the age of 50, yearly exams are encouraged and very important. Even if a yearly pap smears are not needed, pelvic and breast exams can give your doctor information to keep you healthy.

Getting a yearly physical exam is so much more than just a pelvic exam and breast exam. A general physical exam begins with a detailed health history, including family history and any health changes that may have occurred. An examination of vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse and oxygen saturation, is also included with a yearly examination. Measurements of your height and weight combine to create your Body Mass Index, or BMI. These numbers can tell a doctor a lot of helpful information regarding your current health.

A pelvic exam can evaluate the condition of your vaginal tissues, cervix, uterus, ovaries and rectum. Even if you no longer have a uterus, a yearly pelvic exam is still encouraged to evaluate vaginal anatomy and pelvic health. If you have a cervix, a pap smear with screening for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is collected. A positive HPV test could mean that you are a carrier of the HPV virus and therefore at increased risk of cervical cancer. If your pap smear shows abnormal cells in conjunction with the HPV virus, further testing and treatment may be required. If both pap smear and HPV screenings are negative, it is safe to have a pap smear collected every two to three years. Just as a reminder, even if a pap smear is not required, a yearly pelvic exam still needs to be performed.

Even though it is uncomfortable, a rectal exam is encouraged to check for masses or lesions. A check of your stool for blood can also be done at the same time. Baseline screening colonoscopies are encouraged after the age of 50. However, if there is blood in the stool, a visit to the gastroenterologist is imperative for evaluation of your colon health. Screening colonoscopies are recommended earlier than the age of 50 if there is a history of cancer or colon problems in the family.

A yearly breast examination is performed to evaluate breast health. This examination includes the doctor looking at your breasts and nipples for leakage, lesions, redness, dimpling or other signs that there could be a problem present. The provider then does a manual examination, feeling the breast tissues and the under arms for lumps or masses. A yearly mammogram is recommended after the age of 40, unless a close family history of breast cancer is present. This includes mother and/or sisters with breast cancer.  If there is a close family history, yearly screenings may begin earlier, based on the age of diagnosis.

Bone Density, or DEXA scans, help the provider evaluate your bone health. These tests are generally recommended for those aged 65 or over. These tests are encouraged every two years. It is important to keep bones healthy with Vitamin D and Calcium supplementation as well as regular weight bearing exercise.

Screening blood work can be completed by your primary care provider or your gynecologist. Yearly testing to check iron levels in the blood, cholesterol levels, thyroid levels, and blood sugar levels are some recommended testing. Further blood work can be completed to check for hormone imbalances. The provider may also check your Vitamin D and Calcium levels to help evaluate bone health.

Last, but certainly not least, it is important to discuss required immunizations with your provider. A yearly flu shot is encouraged, especially over the age of 50, unless there is a contraindication. A TDaP (Tetanus/Diptheria/Pertussis) vaccine is required every 10 years. After the age of 65, a one-time pneumonia vaccine is recommended. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 60 receive the Shingles vaccine.

It is time to put your health first and get your yearly examination.

Busy life? Single Site Robotic Surgery can get you back to your life quickly.

As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”.
by Dr. Avelino Garcia

Life moves pretty quickly and the thought of not being able to perform your normal daily activities due to a gynecological surgery can be daunting. There is no need for worry! There is a technique known as “Single Site” that is available with a surgeon utilizing the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System.

The Da Vinci Robotic System has been around for a while. However, the skills of the surgeon to treat patients in the least invasive way possible are available right here in Odessa. Surgeries that used to be completed with large incisions, or multiple incisions, can now be completed with assistance of the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System and one single incision.

There are many benefits for a patient when the SINGLE SITE approach is utilized:

  • Performing procedures using this approach is virtually scarless for the patient.
  • Having a smaller incision reduces recovery time for the patient.
  • The reduction in recovery time means that the patient is back to performing normal activities of daily life, like caring for family members or working, faster than if a more invasive approach with multiple incisions or a large incision was used.
  • Less time away from work and family reduces costs for the patient.
  • The risk for complications is greatly reduced with a less invasive surgical approach.
  • The risk for pain, infection and bleeding is reduced with a single incision surgery as the robotic system allows for very precise surgical movements by the surgeon.

Advancements in robotic technology allow the hand movements of the surgeon to be translated into small, very precise movements of tiny instruments used inside of the patient’s body. One of these instruments, a laparoscope (a thin tube with a tiny camera and light attached), sends images to a video monitor in the operating room to guide the doctor during the procedure. The surgeon has total control of the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System at all times (source:

Many gynecologic issues can be addressed using robotic surgery including severe pelvic pain, abnormal or very heavy vaginal bleeding, uterine fibroids and pelvic prolapse which is the falling/slipping of a pelvic organ. Some procedures that can be completed with assistance of the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System include hysterectomy, endometriosis resection, myomectomies, re-section of ovarian cysts or management of other gynecological problems.

If you or someone you care about has been postponing a procedure due to fear of a long recovery time, please share this information about SINGLE SITE procedures now available with robotic surgery. It is time to feel better and get back to your life quickly!



Singing the Blues

Singing the Blues
by Dr. Krystal Murphy

Postpartum Blues or Baby Blues is a form of mild depression that generally starts 2-3 days after the birth of a child and should be taken very seriously.  Sometimes the signs are subtle, but the effects it can have on the new family are very real. Although lack of sleep, irritability and anxiety are common problems for new moms, there should be special attention given if these feelings are extreme or become persistent.

Things about Postpartum Blues you should know:

  • At least 50% of new moms experience postpartum blues
  • Symptoms usually get better within a few days to 2 weeks and resolve without any treatment
  • Women with postpartum blues are at increased risk of developing postpartum depression
  • 25% of new fathers suffer from the Baby Blues

Early signs and symptoms of the Baby Blues:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Crying for no clear reason
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Trouble eating, sleeping and making decisions

If you or a loved one experience these symptoms for more than two weeks, you should contact your OB/GYN for evaluation. Starting a life with your new baby is a tremendous challenge, but know that you are not alone! Prompt treatment and attention can place you and your baby on the path that will lead to a beautiful journey of discovery.



Eating for Two?

Eating for Two?
by Dr. Avelino Garcia
(As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”.)

Good nutrition is vital for a healthy pregnancy. Between fatigue and pregnancy cravings, it can seem difficult to keep healthy eating habits. Planning healthy meals and staying physically active can help.

Eating five or six small meals daily, rather than three large meals, can help with nausea and can also help pregnant women get extra vitamins and minerals needed for growing babies. Each day, eat foods from the major food groups, keeping fats and sugars in moderation. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins are encouraged. Be sure that red meats are fully cooked, not rare, as this can cause illness in a pregnant woman. Fish and seafood are good sources of protein, but stay away from seafood with high mercury content such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish. Limit white (albacore) tuna to six ounces weekly.

Hydration is also a key part of proper nutrition. Pregnant women are encouraged to drink at least two liters of water daily. Symptoms of dehydration in pregnancy include thirst, headache and uterine cramping. Sugary and caffeinated drinks increase risk for dehydration, so they are to be avoided.

Staying physically active is one of the healthiest things an expectant mom can do for her unborn baby. Thirty minutes of low intensity exercise, like walking, is encouraged. Unless an expectant mother has a high-risk pregnancy, exercise can help regulate blood sugar levels, keep blood pressure in the normal range and minimize abnormal weight gain.

The United States Department of Agriculture has made meal planning easier by creating The website assists everyone, including pregnant women, figure out how to make healthy choices with each meal. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Nutrition During Pregnancy”, the MyPlate website gives “personalized nutrition and physical activity plans by using the ‘Super Tracker’ program. This program is based on five food groups and shows the exact amounts needed each day from each group during each trimester of pregnancy.”

Choose MyPlate provides practical information to individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information.




by Krystal Murphy, M.D.

Twenty years ago, infertility was a very taboo subject. It was not something you discussed with your friends, and in some cases, even your family. Even today, infertility is a subject that many women do not discuss openly.

For many women, the ability to bear children is an important aspect of their roles as women. The majority of women want to be mothers.

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a child after one year of unprotected, timed intercourse. Infertility is much more common than one might think. In a survey of married women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1.5 million women in the United States are infertile (source: National Survey of Family Growth, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2006-2010).

Twenty-five percent of infertile couples have more than one reason contributing to infertility. There can be many reasons why a woman is unable to achieve pregnancy. Some of those reasons could include PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) or recurrent untreated pelvic infections. Certain physical problems can also attribute to infertility, including blocked fallopian tubes, an abnormally shaped uterus, uterine polyps or even a thickened endometrium (lining of the uterus).

Up to 15 percent of couples are infertile. In up to half of these couples, male infertility plays a role (source: Mayo Clinic). Male infertility can be caused by many things. Certain illnesses, injuries, chronic health problems and different lifestyle choices all can cause issues when attempting to conceive a child.

Infertility can be frustrating and stressful. When expert care and answers are needed, it is best to seek care from a gynecologist. Your doctor can help find the answers, provide comfort or recommend referrals.

If you are having difficulty conceiving a child, or if you have questions or concerns regarding infertility, call ProCare Women’s Clinic at 432-640-2491 and make your appointment today!



by Dr. Raymond Martinez

One very important aspect of Women’s Health is bone health. Having a healthy bone structure is vital for women of all ages. Calcium and Vitamin D intake is essential to maintaining strong bones. Weight-bearing activity can also help keep bones and the surrounding muscles strong.

As women age, some changes in bone density may occur. Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by a decrease in bone mass, weakened bone structure and an increased fracture risk (Source:National Osteoporosis Foundation). Osteoporosis is sometimes called a “silent” disease because many women do not know there is a problem until they experience a broken bone. In particular, postmenopausal women are at an increased risk for bone loss. When too much bone loss occurs, there is an increase in fracture risk.

“In the five to seven years after menopause, women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass, leaving them at risk for fracture. In fact, one in two women over the age of 50 will have a fracture related to osteoporosis in their lifetime.” (Source: National Osteoporosis Foundation)

The most common places to experience fractures due to bone loss include the spine, the hip and the wrist.

  • In severe cases, spinal fractures can occur from a wrong step or by lifting a small object. Hip fractures are serious and may require surgical intervention.
  • Hip fractures may cause future issues with walking or mobility. Most hip fractures are caused by falls.
  • Wrist fractures can be caused by even a minor fall onto the hand or outstretched arm.

There are multiple factors that put patients at an increased risk for fracture including age, low bone density, frequent falls, low body weight, low calcium or vitamin D intake, smoking and inactivity.

It is recommended that postmenopausal women over the age of 50 discuss osteoporosis risks with their doctor. These patients are encouraged to get enough calcium and vitamin D in their diet and talk to the provider regarding any necessary supplements. Regular weight bearing exercise, like daily walking, is encouraged to build bone density and strengthen the surrounding muscles. Keeping healthy lifestyle habits, like not smoking or drinking alcohol to excess can also increase bone health.

Regular bone density screenings (or DEXA Scans) can be ordered by your physician to monitor bone health. These can be done at the same time as a mammogram.

To discuss your bone health, call Procare Women’s Clinic at 432-640-2491 to schedule an appointment.


Smoking during Pregnancy – It is possible to quit smoking!

Smoking during Pregnancy – It is possible to quit smoking!
by Dr. Antonio Chavez

At ProCare Women’s Clinic, we want your pregnancy to be as healthy as possible. A healthy pregnancy includes good diet, exercise and staying away from things that can be harmful to your body. This includes tobacco use.

Everyone knows that smoking is not healthy. Smoking can be especially dangerous during pregnancy.

Smoking during pregnancy exposes the unborn baby to harmful chemicals like tar and nicotine. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict and may limit the oxygen and nutrients that reach the baby. Smoking also exposes the baby to Carbon Monoxide, which decreases the amount of oxygen the baby receives.

Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk for preterm births. Smoking also can cause problems with the placenta, or the tissue that provides nourishment to the baby. Babies of women who smoke during pregnancy tend to be smaller than those babies born to nonsmokers.

Even being exposed to someone who smokes puts baby at risk. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “Breathing secondhand smoke – smoke from cigarettes smoked by other people nearby – can increase the risk of having a low birth weight baby by as much as 20 percent.”

Babies of women who smoke during pregnancy are also more likely to have problems with breathing or asthma, colic and childhood obesity. They also are at increased risk for dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

It is possible to quit smoking! If you are pregnant and smoke, tell your health care provider. Health Care Support and quitting programs are available everywhere, including the National Quit Line at 1-800-Quit-Now (1-800-784-8669). Locally you can attend FREE Smoking Independence Classes every Thursday from 6pm to 7pm at the Medical Center Hospital Cardiopulmonary Education Room. For additional information on the free classes, contact the Pulmonary Patient Educator at 432-640-2638 or 432-640-2395.