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August 1, 2014
photo via freedigitalphotos.net; Ohmega1982

photo via freedigitalphotos.net; Ohmega1982

July was Group B Strep Awareness Month. Group B strep can be a deadly disease if left undetected or untreated. It’s our goal at Cherokee Women’s Health to arm our moms-to-be with as much information as possible so they can have peace of mind during pregnancy.

What is Group B strep?

Group B strep disease (GBS) is a bacteria that is carried by one in four pregnant women and is not threatening to women who are not pregnant. Most women who carry GBS never feel any symptoms. If left untreated or undetected, GBS can be responsible for meningitis, sepsis and in some cases, pneumonia in babies. Premature babies as well as babies that are delivered long after the water has broken (up to 18 hours) are at greater risk when the mother is a carrier.

There are two kinds of group B strep, early-onset and late-onset. Babies with early-onset could potentially show symptoms as early as birth and into the first week of life. Early-onset is the more common type of GBS. Babies that have contracted late-onset can begin developing symptoms months after they are born. Symptoms for both early and late-onset include irritability, grunting, difficulty feeding and fever.

In extreme cases, babies may be permanently impaired by the disease and develop cerebral palsy or other developmental problems.

How can it be prevented?

The best way to prevent group B strep is for all pregnant women to get tested during the final weeks of pregnancy (usually at 35-37 weeks). The test is very simple and minimally invasive. Your doctor will swab the vagina and rectum to be tested for the bacteria, in some cases you can even do the swab yourself with instruction from your doctor. The swabs are then tested and results are usually given within two days. If the test comes back negative, no further measures will be necessary unless otherwise instructed by your physician. Testing positive does not mean your baby will have GBS.

About one in every 200 babies born to carrier mothers will show symptoms. Antibiotics will be given during labor through an IV to further ensure that the baby does not catch it. There are no antibiotics that can be given beforehand as the baby will be most likely to contract the disease during the birthing process when it is exposed to the mother’s fluid.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women get tested with each pregnancy. If you have further questions about GBS testing and prevention please contact our office at 770.720.7733 to make an appointment or contact us here.


July 22, 2014

It’s a common misconception that women don’t need an annual checkup from their gynecologist each year. In fact, women do need an annual checkup each year, especially for a pelvic exam and breast exam. Cherokee Women’s Health sheds some light on the difference between a pap smear and a pelvic exam and why they’re so important to maintaining your overall health.

Pelvic Exam vs. Pap Smear

A pap smear and a pelvic exam are not the same thing. A pap smear is a brushing of cells from the cervix, or opening of the uterus. These cells are evaluated by a laboratory to look for signs of precancerous diseases of the cervix, which if successfully treated, can prevent cervical cancer. Sexually transmitted diseases can also be diagnosed and treated through information gained from a pap smear. Pap smears do not test for uterine or ovarian cancer.

A pelvic exam usually occurs after a pap smear at your annual checkup. This is when your healthcare provider examines the skin of the vulva, vagina and cervix, looking for any suspicious lesions, which could indicate skin cancer or vulvar diseases. He or she will also perform a bi-manual exam using their hands to feel the pelvic organs and check for masses or inconsistencies. During this process, your doctor will gently place two fingers inside the vagina and use the other hand to gently press down on the area he or she is feeling. In doing this, your doctor is noting if the organs have changed in size or shape, and it allows them to feel the uterus, the ovaries, the bladder and the rectum. If your doctor determines that your uterus or other organs feel enlarged, he or she may order an ultrasound to check for fibroids, cysts, or other inconsistencies.

Do I need a Pap Smear Every Year? Happy female patient and doctor at office

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggest that certain women do not require a pap smear every year. If you are over the age of 30, in a mutually monogamous relationship and have never had an abnormal pap smear, you may not need a pap smear each year. If you’ve ever had a hysterectomy that was not done for an abnormal pap smear and you fall into any of the above categories, your doctor may suggest you only need a pap smear every three to five years. However, any changes to menstrual cycle, abnormal bleeding, or vaginal pain or discomfort should warrant a call to your gynecologist.

Do I need a Pelvic Exam Every Year?

Annual pelvic exams in addition to your yearly well-woman exam are essential for maintaining your overall health. It is imperative that you do not skip your annual pelvic exam, even if you have had a hysterectomy with removal of the uterus and ovaries. Your annual well visit not only includes a pelvic exam but a breast exam, as well as an opportunity to talk to your doctor about birth control options, weight, cholesterol, blood pressure or any other concerns.

If you have questions regarding the recommendations of when to get a pap smear or a pelvic exam, contact our office speak to one of our healthcare providers or to make an appointment.


July 18, 2014

While new mothers have a ton of new things on their minds after giving birth to a baby, one of the most important things they need to keep in mind is the importance of self-care, particularly the tightening of pelvic muscles to prevent further decline. For many women, practicing pelvic floor exercises can help repair their pelvic muscles and speed up recovery time.

Tighten Your Pelvic Floor with Kegels Woman sitting on exercise ball

Kegels, or pelvic floor muscle training, can be especially helpful for women who may be experiencing urinary incontinence due to pregnancy or childbirth. The great thing about Kegels is that you can do it discreetly, and just about anywhere or anytime. To make sure you have the right muscles, stop urination midstream. If you succeed, you have the right muscles. (However, be sure not to do this often, as doing Kegel exercises while emptying your bladder can actually weaken the muscles.) Once you identify your pelvic floor muscles, follow these tips to help tighten them:

  • Empty your bladder and lie on your back. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
  • Maintain your focus on your pelvic floor muscles only. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks, and avoid holding your breath. Focus on breathing freely during the exercises.
  • Repeat times three. Once you feel comfortable flexing and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles, aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.

Pelvic Reconstruction Surgery

While Kegels can be helpful in repairing pelvic floor muscles, it’s not a solution for every woman. The uterus, vagina, bladder and rectum can be injured during childbirth, resulting in uncomfortable symptoms for women after they give birth. These symptoms include pelvic pain, pelvic heaviness, back pain, bladder leakage, pain during intercourse, sexual dysfunction, and many others, and can be difficult to talk about. Sometimes, pelvic reconstruction surgery is necessary depending on the level of discomfort of the symptoms. The physicians at Cherokee Women’s Health are expertly trained in surgery to repair a woman’s reproductive and pelvic organs. If you are suffering from pelvic floor problems due to pregnancy, childbirth or age, don’t suffer silently. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to speak to one of our doctors.

Photo via Flickr.



July 9, 2014

We are constantly looking for ways to make our patients’ lives easier and to help them get the information they need quickly and easily. Recently, we upgraded to a new and improved online patient portal that will do just that. Cherokee Women’s patients can now check results, message providers, make appointments and view health records online.

How Do I Sign Up?

Signing up for our new patient portal is super-easy. All you have to do is call the office and verify your email address, and we’ll send you a sign-up email. From there, you’ll need to input your password (our front staff will be able to help you with the temporary password) and follow the process to create your new account. Once you have your new account, you will have access to all your medical information, 24-hours a day. If you were signed up for the old system, your information is retained and automatically transferred to the new system, you just need to call the office for the new password and to verify your email address.

By using the Patient Portal, you can: Sign Up for (1)

  • Request appointments that are convenient to your schedule
  • Pre-register and fill out health forms before your appointment, saving you time when you’re at our office.
  • View lab results (As soon as we get them, they’re available on the patient portal.)
  • Access your health records online for FREE. This is handy if you need to take them to a PCP, or for your own personal records, as you can do this with no hassle and no cost.
  • Send a question or message to your health provider
  • Pay your bill online safely and securely
  • Change your address or insurance information

Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists is dedicated to giving the best in OB/GYN care to Canton and Woodstock residents. If you have any questions or concerns regarding our new system, don’t hesitate to contact our office and we’ll make sure we get answers to you. Have a suggestion about the patient portal? Let us know!

July 7, 2014

Miscarriage is a pregnancy complication that happens when a woman’s pregnancy ends on its own before 20 weeks.  Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Studies reveal that anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Chemical pregnancies, or when a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation, accounts for 50-75% of all miscarriages. Often, a woman may not realize that she conceived when she experiences a chemical pregnancy, and may think that it’s her expected period instead.

There are common misconceptions about miscarriage and miscarriage rates, according to an article recently published on Health.com called 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Miscarriage. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Age increases likelihood to miscarry. As women get older, the chances of genetic abnormalities increase due to an increasing lack of healthy eggs.
  • Being overweight or underweight can increase your risk of miscarriage.
  • Smoking is a known risk factor linked to miscarriage. Alcohol and drug use can also increase your risk.
  • Sex doesn’t cause miscarriage. Neither does moderate exercise or continuing to work.
  • One miscarriage does not mean that you will have more. Women who have miscarried have gone on to have one or more children. Your doctor will not look for signs for concern unless you have had two or more.

Symptoms of Miscarriage

Spotting is fairly common during early pregnancy, but shouldn’t be overlooked and you should always follow-up with your OB/GYN. Symptoms of miscarriage include:

  • Bleeding that progresses from mild to severe
  • Back pain
  • Heavy cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Weakness

If you or someone close to you has suffered from a miscarriage, take the time to grieve. Women connect with a pregnancy early on, so it’s normal to grieve the loss. Some women have depression or depression-like symptoms following a miscarriage, and of course, fathers may suffer the effects as well. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with family, friends and healthcare providers during this difficult time. Contact Cherokee Women’s Health immediately if you experience any of the above symptoms.


June 23, 2014

If you’re a first-time mom, you may not have expected sleep problems to arise before your little one was born. Sleep problems are common in pregnancy and can affect even the most resilient women. The key is to remember that any discomfort you may be feeling is short-lived, with the result of welcoming your new baby. Staying comfortable as your belly grows is probably the most common sleep problem during pregnancy, with frequent bathroom breaks, changes in temperature and weird pregnancy dreams being some of the other culprits. Here are some of Cherokee Women’s suggestions on getting a good night’s sleep while pregnant.

Finding a Comfortable Sleeping Position Sleeping Pregnant woman

As your belly continues to grow, you won’t be able to sleep on your stomach or on your back, leaving side-sleeping as the only option in those last few months. Back sleeping isn’t advised after your first trimester, since being flat on your back can put unnecessary pressure on blood vessels. More than likely, it won’t be comfortable anyway, as the weight of your uterus and baby pressing up against you will make it difficult to sleep. Sleeping on your side is easier on your circulatory system, and the left side is preferred because it allows for maximum blood flow.

Stock up on Pillows

To help make sleeping on your side more comfortable, especially if you’re a tummy or back sleeper, stock up on pillows. Some pregnant women find relief by putting a pillow between their legs. You can also place one under your belly and behind your back. There are also custom-fit full-body pillows specifically designed for pregnant mamas that cradle all these areas, aiding in a better night’s sleep.

Of course, if you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you’ve shifted to your stomach or back, don’t panic. More than likely, it was your body’s way of telling you to shift positions, or you’re waking up to use the bathroom, again. To help you make the most of your pregnancy sleep cycles, avoid caffeine after lunchtime, curb your liquid intake after dinner (to keep you from those frequent bathroom breaks), and make sure you’re getting plenty of exercise (but avoid exercise right before bed). You can also take a warm bath or practice relaxation exercises to help you drift off easier.

If you’re not getting enough sleep or have concerns about sleep positions during pregnancy, talk to your doctor the next time you’re at our Canton or Woodstock office.

Photo via FreeDigitalPhotos.net


June 20, 2014

Thanks to the significant improvements in obstetrics and labor and delivery, more and more women are choosing to have children later on in life. What does this mean for mamas who want to have a baby after their 40th birthday? Cherokee Women’s Health takes a look at what you need to know if you’re considering waiting to have children.

How Healthy are You?

The chance of becoming pregnant during any one month drops to only 5 percent after age 40 (down from about 20 percent on average in your 20’s). Being able to conceive without the use of fertility drugs in your 40’s depends on a variety of factors, including your level of fitness, daily habits (think smoking, drinking, and diet), and whether this is your first baby. Pregnancy can take a toll on a woman’s body at any age, and making sure you’re the healthiest you can be will give your baby a healthy start.

What are the Risks? pregnant woman standing and holding on to her stomach

While being an older mom can have advantages such as financial stability and more life experience, there are more risks associated with pregnancies later in life. These include:

  • Birth defects – Older women are more likely to have a baby with a chromosome disorder such as Down syndrome. By age 45, the chances are 1 in 30, up from 1 in 1,250 at age 25.
  • High blood pressure and diabetesDiabetes and high blood pressure are more prevalent in women who become pregnant later in life.
  • Placenta problems – Placenta previa, where the placenta covers all or part of your cervix, is more common in pregnancies in women over 40. Placenta previa can cause severe bleeding before or during delivery.
  • Premature birth and low birth weight – Women who have children later in life are at risk for premature birth (babies born before 37 weeks) or having babies weighing less than 5.5 lbs.
  • Higher risk of miscarriage – As you age, your risk of miscarriage goes up. By age 45, your chance is 80%.

Many of these risks can be avoided with excellent prenatal care. Talking to your doctor about your risks and concerns is your first step in determining whether having a baby after 40 is the right decision for you. If you’re considering adding to your family a little later on and have questions about conception, pregnancy, and delivering a healthy baby, don’t hesitate to contact us to make an appointment with one of our healthcare specialists.


June 5, 2014

Have you decided that it’s time to make your family of two an official family of three or more? The decision to start trying to get pregnant is exciting, but it’s easy for hopeful mamas to get discouraged after a few months without seeing those two little lines. Studies have shown the link between stress and a woman’s ability to conceive, so the first step in trying is an easy one – relax and enjoy the process.

Next, visit your doctor for a pre-pregnancy checkup. Your doctor will talk to you about your current lifestyle, weight, medications and medical history and how they will affect your chances of getting pregnant. He or she can also recommend changes you can make to help you get pregnant faster.

Here are some additional steps you can take to get pregnant sooner: CWHS - conceive

  • Start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. Start taking prenatal vitamins at least a month before you officially start trying to conceive. Most prenatals contain the 400 micrograms of recommended folic acid, but check the label just to make sure. Folic acid is also naturally found in leafy green veggies, citrus fruits, beans and whole grains, so doubling up is always a plus.
  • Improve your diet. Healthy babies start with healthy moms. Try to avoid junk food and load up on fresh fruits and veggies, which will aid in both helping you maintain a healthy weight and give you the energy to maintain a baby-friendly exercise plan.
  • Start limiting your caffeine intake. If you’re a 2-or-more-cup a day gal, it’s best to start cutting back, as the recommended daily intake of caffeine is 200 milligrams while pregnant.
  • Have your teeth cleaned. A rise in hormones causes gums to bleed more often than usual during pregnancy, causing what’s known as pregnancy gingivitis.
  • Get to know your cycle. Knowing when you ovulate will increase your chances of timing intercourse, which should be during the three to four days around your most fertile time of the month. There are lots of ways to track, including free apps for your phone or the good ‘ol fashioned way – with pen and paper.

85% of couples get pregnant within a year of trying, but only about 8% to 10% do in a one-month timeframe. Give it time and remember to relax and enjoy the time you have alone with your partner. For any additional questions or concerns, or to schedule your pre-pregnancy checkup, contact our Canton or Woodstock office.



May 27, 2014

When it comes to being pregnant during the sweltering summer months, many pregnant mamas think, “whose pool can I spend the next three months in?!” It’s true – being pregnant during the warmer months may not be fun for some, but there’s lots of pros and cons to being pregnant at any time of the year. Here at Cherokee Women’s Health, we wanted to share some summer pregnancy survival tipsPregnant woman drinking water

  • Use the pool – Or the beach, or the lake, or wherever you may find yourself this summer. One of the best perks about being pregnant in the summertime is being able to take a load off in the water. Swimming is also great exercise!
  • Stay hydrated – Drinking plenty of water during your pregnancy is important for any time of the year, but it’s especially important during the summer.
  • Try a mocktail – A cold beer and fruity alcoholic drinks are a no-no during pregnancy, but you can join the fun with a fruit mocktail. There are tons of delicious-looking recipes on Pinterest that will serve every palate.
  • Use that SPF. Protect your skin by wearing a high SPF sunscreen and make sure you apply liberally throughout the day, especially if you’re in the water or prone to sweating. Protect your head with a wide-brimmed hat that will provide extra protection for your face and neck.
  • Maximize your wardrobe – with a stretchy maxi skirt or dress. These summery outfits are perfect for pregnant women, as they accommodate a growing belly and are lightweight and flowing. And for tired, swollen feet, nothing beats a comfortable pair of flip-flops.

It’s important to note that during pregnancy, your body temperature is already higher than normal. Pay attention to the heat index (hot hot the temperature feels due to the combination of heat and humidity) and for days in the 90s, stay in doors as much as possible with your air conditioning turned on.

If you have questions about the do’s and don’ts of summer pregnancies, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor the next time you’re at one of our offices.

Photo via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

May 19, 2014

We are pleased to announce that the Cherokee Women’s Health 2nd Annual Cutest Baby Contest was a smash hit! With the tallies officially in early last Friday, we would like to thank each and every person who entered photos, as we had a wonderful time ooh’ing and aah’ing over them.

With the success of  our 1st and 2nd Annual contests, and with so many adorable babies entering the world each day, we look forward to celebrating them each year with our Cutest Baby Contest. (Mark your calendars for next year, Moms – 2015 will be our 3rd year!) Cherokee Women's Health Cutest Baby Contest

We were lucky enough to have another group of amazing prizes this year, so we’d like to offer a HUGE Thank You to all the organizations who participated. If you haven’t already, please show your support by liking their Facebook pages to stay up-to-date on their events and offerings (Links below.) If you missed our post from last week, here are the winners of our 2nd Annual Cutest Baby Contest!

2014 Cutest Baby Contest Winners

  • 4th place: Hunter and Meegan Price – Bojangles’ tailgate party pack
  • 5th place: Brittany Reece – Chick-Fil-A nugget tray with prizes
  • 6th place: Merle Stepler – Papa John’s large pizza
  • 7th place: Mialanna Cater – Papa John’s large pizza
  • 8th place: Ali Hoad – Papa John’s large pizza
  • 9th place: Tracy Dinsmore – Papa John’s large pizza
  • 10th place: Mandy Hannah – Papa John’s large pizza

Congratulations to all the winners, and we look forward to seeing a brand new crop of adorable babies next year!

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“Dr. Litrel was a fantastic doctor. I had my first exam with him, although at first I was skeptical about a male doctor for my GYN. But after I met him I’m glad I kept an open mind, and I couldn’t have dreamed up a better doctor. He cares about you as a person and not just a patient. The front desk ladies and nurses were very friendly and it’s a great office, very clean and not intimidating. I highly recommend Cherokee Women’s Health.”
– Vicki