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November 26, 2013

The holiday season is typically a time to focus on family and friends, and what better way to do that than to introduce a new tradition into the mix? Especially for families with younger children, getting them involved in a new tradition can be something they look forward to for years to come. Traditions are an important way to establish a lasting connection between family members and are a wonderful way to keep loved ones closer together. In fact, most children love rituals, according to Martin V. Cohen, Ph.D., associate director of the Marital and Family Therapy Clinic at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. “Children find a certain security and solace in something that gives a sense of belonging and comfort. Kids find rituals fascinating – artistically, spiritually and emotionally.”

Suggestions for Introducing New Traditions FDP

If your children are old enough to start participating in yearly holiday traditions, introducing a new one, and even inviting them to help introduce a new one, can make a lasting impression on them. Here are some suggestions on selecting new traditions for children of all ages:

  • Showcase holiday artwork on the table before your big family meal. Every budding artist loves to feel appreciated for their work.
  • Involve your kids in making one of the can’t-miss dishes for your meal. Let younger kids help you mix the ingredients or help dollop treats onto a cookie sheet. By including one of the five senses, your children will make a stronger connection to that memory.
  • Ask older children if there’s a tradition that one of their friends’ family holds each year that they’d like to start in your own family.
  • Suggest a tradition from another culture to weave into your current traditions. This could be a way to introduce new experiences as well as teaching understanding of others.
  • For interfaith families, create holiday traditions that respect and honor both faiths. Discuss with your spouse or partner ahead of time the traditions that are most important for you to focus on, and build from there.
  • Suggest at least one tradition where your family gives back or donates to the less fortunate. Instilling these values in your children early will help shape them into compassionate people. (And what parent wouldn’t be proud of that?)
  • Looking for a couple more suggestions? Here are 50 Holiday Traditions to get you started, or conduct a quick search on Pinterest for even more exciting ideas.

What are some of the traditions you currently have with friends or family? Share your favorite with us by leaving a comment below. And from the entire staff at Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists, we wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

November 22, 2013

Last week on our blog, we featured some creative ways to announce a pregnancy or adoption to friends and family. This week, we wanted to focus a little more on the decision to adopt – and what that might entail for some families or couples. November is also National Adoption Month, and as a family OB/GYN practice, we place an equal importance on the role of adoption in building a family as we do on obstetrics and prenatal care.

National Adoption Month begin as an initiative from Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in 1976 when he announced Adoption Week to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care. In 1995, President Clinton expanded the awareness week to the entire month of November. According to the Adoption Institute, there are more than 1.5 million adopted children in the United States, and according to an Adoption Institute survey, about 60% of Americans have a personal connection to adoption in some way.

Sharing the Decision to Adopt Baby gnawing on finger

Close friends and family members may know some of the details as to why you and your partner chose to adopt. If infertility plays a role in your decision to adopt, be sure to let them know upfront about your feelings. If you’re uncomfortable discussing the details about your infertility, set those boundaries early on. There’s no reason to feel pressured to share information you’re not ready to share.

Many people will be excited to hear about your  news, and you should be prepared to answer lots of questions. “What country are you adopting from? How long with the process take?” These questions might lead to other questions that you aren’t prepared for. Explain to them that you are making a decision that you feel is best for your family. While it’s not an easy decision, you would really appreciate their support.

Encourage Positive Adoption Language

As much as possible, encourage positive adoption language with family and friends and use the same words around them so they can get used to adding them to their own vocabulary. For example, dropping words like “adoptive” and referring to the parents simply as parents can help clear up any misconceptions, and will allow the family members and other siblings to build the family just as they would if they were the biological parents.


If you would like to learn more about the adoption process in the state of Georgia, you can visit the Division of Family and Children Service’s website here. There are also plenty of great books and blog posts related to adoption, with a wide variety of topics, both for children and adults.




November 13, 2013

With the holidays quickly approaching, lots of new Moms and Dads choose to let their friends and family members know they’re expecting at an event where they know lots of people will be in attendance. Spilling the pregnancy beans can be a lot of fun for both the parents-to-be and the family, and there are a multitude of creative ways to share the news. If you’ve got a new family member (or more!) to announce, here are a couple of fun ways Cherokee Women’s Health found to share the news with your family.

Creative Ways to Announce a Pregnancy

  • If you’re the crafty type, print out a photo of your first sonogram and carefully Mod Podge the photo to a puzzle. Once it’s dry, use an x-acto knife to carefully cut around the edges to create a personalized puzzle for your family members to put together! Of course, if you’re less-than-crafty, there are plenty of websites that offer personalized photo puzzles.
  • Get your furry family members involved! Plan a quick photo shoot with your pups or cats and have them sitting next to a sign that says something like “big brother/sister in training”, or with a copy of the iconic What to Expect When You’re Expecting book. Another option – “Baby (your initial here) Guard Dog, reporting for duty (insert due date month and year here).”
  • If you’re not able to spend the holiday with family, announcing a pregnancy or adoption via Google hangouts or Skype is popular. Bonus points if you can video your family’s reaction to save for years to come!

Ways to Announce an Adoption Announcing a pregnancy or adoption

If you’re adding a new member of your family via adoption, there are a ton of great ways to announce the news, using many of the same ideas as pregnant couples.

  • If you’re good with photoshop, create an image that looks like a typical sonogram image with an outline of the country you’re adopting from, for example, this outline of China.
  • Use other props like suitcases or globes in a photoshoot to share an international adoption.
  • Chalkboard signs with sayings like, “Growing in our heart, waiting for you” were popular finds on Pinterest and on online blogs.
  • Design a custom announcement similar to a birth announcement. Modern, classic, vintage or whimsical, there’s something available for everyone.

Pinterest and other blogs are a wealth of ideas when it comes to announcing a pregnancy or a the adoption of a new family member. How did you announce a pregnancy or adoption to your friends and family? What other creative ways to announce a pregnancy or adoption have you seen? Share with us by leaving a comment below!

November 6, 2013

Nothing is quite as exciting as the first time parents bring a new baby home. All the planning and purchases have finally come to fruition and you can celebrate a new addition to your family. If you have furry members of your family, they may not understand what all the fuss is about, and it’s important to include them and let them know that they have a new person to love. Cherokee Women’s Health searched the internet for some of the best advice on introducing your pet to a new baby, and here’s what we found.

Preparing Your Pet

You can prepare your pet for the new baby’s arrival in a number of ways:

  • If you have friends with new babies or young children, ask them to come over for a visit so you can see how your animals will react around them.
  • Consider how your daily routine will affect your pets, begin to change your routine accordingly. Things includes things like walks, feeding times, and outings to the park.
  • If you have a cat, make sure their nails are trimmed regularly. Additionally, many cats love snuggling up in a crib or bassinet, so make sure to keep the nursery room door closed.
  • As you begin to assemble your nursery, let your animals get familiar with smells associated with a new baby – diaper cream, baby powder, and lotion – so they’re already familiar with these scents before bringing your little one home.
  • Create a space for your pets that’s off-limits for baby. They need their own space too, especially once your little ones are mobile.

After Baby is Born Introducing baby to pets

Many experts agree that bringing home an article of clothing or blanket that smells like your newborn is a great way to introduce the scent of your new baby. Having Mom walk in first to greet your animal(s) is recommended, as your pets will be excited to see you after your visit in the hospital. Talk to them calmly and have treats nearby if you can. Have Dad or another family member bring baby inside and keep your dog on a leash in case you need to pull him away . Once your dog seems calm and isn’t showing any signs of aggressive behavior,  you can slowly allow him to see and sniff – but not lick – the new baby.

In the following weeks, watch out for any signs of jealousy or aggression. If you can, take some time with your pet just the two of you so that he knows that you’re not replacing him. If your pet begins to show any unwanted behavior, address it with a firm “no” and be sure to reward all positive behavior.

Pets can be a wonderful addition to any family and when introduced to a new baby properly, and can have an amazing connection with them. For more information on introducing baby to pets, here are a few handy resources:

Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby
How to Introduce Pets and Baby
Introducing Your Pet and New Baby





October 29, 2013

It’s finally the week many kids have been waiting for all month – Halloween week! We love welcoming the ghouls and goblins at our own doorsteps every year, and seeing the inventive ways kids – and their parents – dress up. Since most of the Cherokee Women’s staff have gone trick-or-treating a time or two, we thought we’d put together a quick list of reminders and tips to keep your little skeletons, princesses, and pirates as safe as possible on All Hallow’s Eve.

CWHS Staff Halloween

Halloween Safety Tips for All Ages

  • Reflection protection – If you can, put together a costume that’s bright and reflective. If your little vampires are dressed all in black, insist they wear a glow bracelet or necklace so they’re more visible once it’s dark. Or put a few pieces of reflective tape on the front and back of the costume or treat bags for even better visibility.
  • Bring flashlights – Mom and Dad, grab a couple flashlights and extra batteries to carry around with you in case you need to replace them while you’re out.
  • Pre-plan a route – If your children are older and are trick-or-treating on their own, pre-plan their route together and set a mid-route check-in to have them stop by before heading back out. Agree to a specific curfew as well.
  • Fill ’em up – Fill your kids up before setting out on the candy trail so they’re less likely to want to fill up on sugar. This will also keep younger siblings from getting tired and cranky too early.
  • Light the night – Stick to streets with streetlights or well-lit areas or to houses with the porch lights on. In most neighborhoods, a porch light equals a house accepting trick-or-treaters.
  • Bring cellphones – If chaperones are splitting up, or older kids are splitting up and heading out on their own, keep cell phones on you for quick communication.
  • Inspect treats – Check treats when you get home before sampling to make sure that there aren’t any spoiled, opened or unwrapped pieces. Additionally, check homemade goodies and only eat items prepared by people you know.

The staff of Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists hopes you all have a safe and fun-filled Halloween. Excited to share your little one’s costume? Don’t forget to share photos of your babies (and furry babies, too!) on our Facebook page! We’d love to see them!

October 22, 2013

When it comes to family, we usually first think of parents, kids and spouses. But more and more families are adding pets to their families. Maybe it’s because they’re adorable, funny creatures or maybe it’s because more of us are learning the health benefits associated with having a “fur baby” in the house. After all, it’s been shown in study after study that pets have the ability to vastly improve quality of life. They can help children develop, they can help prevent allergies and improve immunity, and they even help to improve mood. So it’s little wonder that a recent survey shows that 68% of U.S. households own at least one pet. This equals a staggering to 82.5 million homes.

As a family practice, we understand the importance of a loving, supportive family but we also realize that we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge all the wonderful ways our furry friends add to the happiness and health of our homes. So as we start heading into the holiday season, we’ll be celebrating all things family – including our furry friends.

When word got out around the office that we were going to run a Cutest Pet Photo Contest in November, it got us all talking about the impact pets have on our families. One staff member in particular surprised us with this touching testimonial about how she dealt with the devastating news that she would not be able to have children…

“I was 38 and on a business trip 1,000 miles from home when I received a call from my OB/GYN. I held my breath as I recognized the number on my caller ID. This was the call that would determine whether or not I could have children. After a few years of trying and months of receiving hormone shots to ready my body for a baby, this was it. The time had come. Sitting in the back of a rented car with three of my co-workers, I discreetly answered my phone as they went about chatting. In less than a minute I was told my FSH level was over 100 and that it would be impossible for me to have children of my own.

I didn’t say a word to anyone about it on that trip. In fact, I barely told any of my friends when I got back home. And when I did, I tried to keep it very matter of fact for fear of being a downer. After all, my circle of friends were all at ages where they were either having babies or in the throes of celebrating motherhood.

Thankfully, my husband was a rock during this time but even so, I felt there was only so much he could understand because not only is he a guy, but he’s a very left brained, logical-thinking kind of guy so while he was very understanding and supportive, I felt there was only so much he could relate to.

I did, however, find one “person” I could talk to – and cry with – for as long as I needed. I received no judgment, I never felt guilty for burdening him with my troubles and I could go on and on and he would patiently listen to me. He’s the one I credit with saving me during that very dark time. This “person” was my dog Jack.

CWHS dog, Jack

Jack 🙂

Because I didn’t know anyone who had experienced what I was going through, I truly felt that Jack was the only one I could talk to. And talk I did. We’d lay for hours on the bed, with my head on his big furry body, clutching him for dear life as my tears fell on him. He became my savior. I could just be me while I let out all the anger, sorrow and guilt for not being able to give my husband a baby and for the loss of our dreams. He was by my side morning and night. To this day, I truly believe he understood how much I needed him at that time. He was extra loving and attentive and there was a connection with him that I’ve hardly felt with any other person, much less an animal.

So when people ask me how I dealt with that type of news at such a young age, I credit my husband for being a such a rock but I also credit Jack for truly saving me because I honestly don’t think I would’ve come out the other end as well as I did without him. His unconditional love was exactly what I needed at that time and it’s something I don’t think anyone else could have offered. So when we think of pets, it’s easy to be flippant about them but their very special kind of love and support can’t be discounted. And to me, that sounds like the very best kind of family member!”

To see more ways of how pets can be beneficial to your family, click here.

*According to the 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey

October 10, 2013

Last week on our Facebook page, we featured a photo of our certified nurse midwife Susan Griggs after her 500th delivery at Northside Cherokee in Canton in honor of National Midwifery Week and received a great response. Susan has been a part of the Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists team for six years, and many of our patients choose to have Susan assist them when it’s time to have their babies. With all of the questions a new mom has to ask herself to prepare for a delivery, “What is the difference between a certified nurse midwife and a regular obstetrician?” might be one of them. Here’s a closer look.

What is a certified nurse-midwife? Susan and Dr. Litrel

A certified nurse-midwife is a separate but complementary profession to an obstetrician. Physicians are experts in pathology (the study and diagnosis of disease) and should have primary responsibility for the care of pregnant women who have recognized complications or diseases. Midwives are experts in normal pregnancy and in meeting the needs of pregnant women that aren’t related to pathology. In many countries, midwives have the primary responsibility for women with uncomplicated pregnancies.

With a focus on the normalcy of pregnancy and its potential for health, midwives view birth as a natural process that should be treated as such until there is evidence of a problem. Midwives are experts in supporting and enhancing the normal physiology of labor and delivery as well as breast-feeding.

With Susan on our team at Cherokee Women’s, we are pleased to be able to give women more flexibility in regards to their labor and delivery options, ultimately offering them the best in prenatal care for each patient. Here is one of a handful of testimonials we have received about Susan’s six years with us:

“Thank you to everyone at Cherokee Women’s for all you have done for me and my growing family. Susan Griggs is my favorite midwife. She is highly recommended, and the office is very friendly. They have carried me through my 4th pregnancy, and now 5th. Wouldn’t go anywhere else.” Kathy V.

If you have more questions about the differences between an obstetrician and a certified nurse-midwife, don’t hesitate to contact one of our offices to make an appointment with Susan or one of our other doctors.


October 4, 2013

Each October, the world begins to  “think pink” when it comes to breast cancer awareness. With statistics such as “1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer*”, it’s no surprise. But the good news? About 2.6 million female breast cancer survivors currently live in the United States*. And that number continues to grow thanks to research provided by the numerous foundations that make it possible.

The “pink” campaign began in 1990 by the then-titled Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation but is now called Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Now it’s so much easier to purchase the items you regularly buy (or even splurge on a new one) and benefit breast cancer awareness and research at the same time. Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists have put together a handful of options for every type of personality and budget. CWHS Facebook photo

  •  Sonia Kashuk’s Proudly Pink 5-piece brush set benefits the Breast Cancer Research Foundation all year-round. The set is available at Target.
  • Philosophy’s Shower for the Cure ($20) Has a feminine tangerine scent and multi-tasks as shampoo, bubble bath or shower gel in one. 100% of the proceeds support the Women’s Cancer Research Fund.
  • Have the man in your life show his support for breast cancer with a pink tie from theShopKomen.com online store.
  • Gift a teddy-bear lover (young or old) with an incredibly soft pink bear with a “I heart volunteers” t-shirt.
  • Planning on running or walking in the 3-Day in Atlanta this October? New Balance sneakers have partnered with the Susan G. Komen foundation and have a line of (really cute) pink sneakers for runners and walkers everywhere.

When purchasing items to benefit breast cancer research, because of a phenomenon known as “pinkwashing,” be advised when you’re out and about and looking for items that truly do support breast cancer research. According to the Better Business Bureau, in order to make sure donations go to the right place, it’s best to research pink product claims before making a purchase. Ask questions, research the business, confirm the charity’s corporate sponsors, and lastly, consider a direct donation in lieu of purchasing an item. Choose your own favorite breast cancer outreach and research charity and donate to them directly. (It’s tax-deductible that way.)

How do you and your family raise awareness and support breast cancer research? Share your stories by leaving a comment below.

*Statistics via this infographic and the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation

October 3, 2013

Each year, much of the world goes pink to help spread awareness for breast cancer. In an effort to do our part, Cherokee Women’s Health wanted to devote our first blog in the month of October to reminding women how important it is to get regular mammograms.

According to the National Cancer Institute,  women age 40 and older should have mammograms every 1-2 years, and women who are at higher than average risk of breast cancer (due to family history or women who carry the known mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene) should talk with their health care provider about whether to have mammograms before age 40 and how often to have them.

What to Expect

If you haven’t been to a doctor for a regular mammogram appointment yet, don’t worry – it’s a fairly painless process. Mammography is a fast procedure (about 20 minutes), and discomfort, if any,  is minimal for most women.Mammograms require very small doses of radiation, however the risk of harm from this radiation exposure is extremely low. The benefits of mammography nearly always outweigh the potential harm from radiation exposure, but if you’re concerned about exposure to radiation (especially if you’re pregnant), it’s important to talk to your doctor about these concerns.

Tips for a Successful Mammogram Pink Ribbon

Here are a couple extra tips to help make sure your visit goes smoothly:

  • Bring your past mammogram films/results with you. If you’ve been to the same facility before, make sure your past results are available to whoever is reading the study.
  • Discuss your family history of breast and other cancers — maternal and paternal — with your doctor.
  • Ask if your center has CAD — computer-aided detection — a tool that assists the radiologist in finding any areas of concern that need further attention.
  • If you’ve been referred for a mammogram because of a suspicious lump or a finding on another test, get a detailed note from your doctor including the reason the mammogram has been ordered.
  • Work with your doctor to compare your mammogram results with any other tests you may have had done, such as ultrasound or MRI.
  • On the day of the exam, avoid wearing a dress, since you’ll need to remove your top for the test. Don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant, since these can show up on the film and interfere with the test results.
  • Schedule your mammogram to avoid the time when your breasts are swollen or tender, such as right before your period.

In between your routine mammograms, it’s important to maintain self-checks each month. Women can do this in the shower, in front of a mirror or lying down, whatever they find most comfortable. If you have questions about routine self-exams or about mammograms, don’t hesitate to contact one of our offices conveniently located in Canton or Woodstock.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

September 25, 2013

Is it hot in here, or is it just you? Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause, the time in a woman’s life right before she experiences menopause, or permanent infertility. During perimenopause, your body’s production of estrogen and progesterone rise and fall, and many of the other symptoms are a result of decreasing estrogen.

Other symptoms of perimenopause include menstrual irregularity, sleep problems such as night sweats, mood changes, vaginal and bladder problems, loss of bone density, changes in sexual function or desire, and changes in cholesterol levels.

Treatment for Perimenopause Woman thinking

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, you can make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the various treatment options, the most popular of which is hormone therapy.

Hormone Therapy can help relieve the symptoms of menopause. For women who still have their uterus, estrogen is usually given in conjunction with progestin, a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone. This helps reduce the risk of cancer of the lining of the uterine that occurs when estrogen is used alone.

Estrogen is used to treat hot flashes specifically, which is the main complaint of women experiencing perimenopause symptoms. Estrogen can also relieve vaginal dryness and can help to relieve some changes that can cause problems associated with urinary incontinence.

It is recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy, staying active and getting enough sleep during this time. Once you’ve gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, you’ve officially reached menopause, and the perimenopause period is over. If you have questions about hormone therapy treatment for menopause or would like talk to one of our doctors about your perimenopause, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment.

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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