Voted "Best OB-GYN" in Towne Lake, Woodstock and Canton Voted "Mom-Approved OBs" by Atlanta Parent magazine readers


June 4, 2013

Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists‘ first Babypalooza has been a wonderful success! We would like to thank each and every person who submitted photos and voted in our Cutest Baby Contest. We had a wonderful time viewing all the photos and the captions, and we’re not just talking about the photo submissions of Dr. Litrel and Dr. Providence! (Yes, they entered themselves as well!) Since we started, we’ve added a handful of great prizes for runner-up winners, so a HUGE Thank You to all the organizations who participated. If you haven’t already, please show your support by liking their Facebook pages! Without any further ado, here are the winners of our first-ever Cutest Baby Contest!

Grand Prize to a CWHS friend/patient for a photo session with Clear Creek Images valued at $190:

CBC patient winner photo

Baby Mia, submitted by Mialanna Cater

Grand Prize to a CWHS staff member for a photo session with Clear Creek Images valued at $190:

CBC Staff winner photo

Baby Zariyah Hawkins, submitted my Sammy Colon

1st Runner-Up prize: One free big bo box from Canton Bojangles:

CBC 1st runner up photo

Baby Logan, submitted by Caitlin Tate

2nd Runner-Up prize: One free exam and spinal adjustment at Riverstone Chiropractic:

CBC 2nd runner up photo

Baby Callen, submitted by Lindsay Sparks

3rd Runner-Up prize: Complimentary Pilates class, a discount on their first package of classes and a free water bottle with Absolute Pilates in Woodstock AND a small Chick-Fil-A nugget tray.

CBC 3rd Runner up photoBaby Ruby, submitted by Ciara Whitty

4th Runner-Up prize: Complimentary Pilates class, a discount on their first package of classes and a free water bottle with Absolute Pilates in Woodstock.

CBC 4th runner up photoBaby Madison Love, submitted by Kaye Taylor

5th Runner-Up prize: Complimentary Pilates class, a discount on their first package of classes and a free water bottle with Absolute Pilates in Woodstock.

CBC 5th runner up photo

 Baby Parker, submitted by Carolyn Hansen Duncan

6th Runner-Up prize: Complimentary Pilates class, a discount on their first package of classes and a free water bottle with Absolute Pilates in Woodstock.

CBC 6th runner hup photo

Baby Kayson Moore, Casie Moore

Thank you again to everyone for participating! We’ve had so much fun seeing all your great photos!

June 3, 2013

If you have been following along on our Facebook page, Babypalooza and our Cutest Baby Contest came to a close on Friday, May 31st. For the last week of Babypalooza, Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists wanted to focus our blog on the top must-have baby products.

We know sorting through baby gear can be overwhelming – endless choices! Atlanta-area Moms and Dads want only the best for their little ones, but with the hottest toys and baby gear, how do you choose? We put together a list of items gathered from top parenting websites and reached out to our Twitter followers for responses. Here’s what we came up with: pregnant woman in pink

  • Swaddle blankets with velcro – Swaddling can help babies feel like they’re back in the womb, and can calm a fussy baby in seconds. Thankfully, tired moms and dads can now purchase swaddlers with velcro tabs to snuggle their babies up tight – and fast!
  • Dishwasher Basket – A dishwasher basket can help keep small parts of a breast pump or bottles from slipping out of your racks to potentially get broken or melted.
  • Noise Machine – Noise machines can also help mimic the sounds inside the womb with white noise. Many other baby gear items like swings and bouncy seats also have built-in noises for baby’s comfort.
  • Links for toys – A package of multicolored links have a multitude of uses – link toys to the car seat or stroller, changing table, to each other, or anywhere in between. Babies also love the bright colors.
  • Baby carrier – Busy moms and dads agree – a baby in one hand doesn’t allow for much multi-tasking. Baby-wearing, whether it’s in a front-facing carrier or a carrier that ties around your body, can come in handy – literally.
  • Video monitor – Baby monitors have come a long way to help bring parents peace of mind. A video monitor will allow you to listen to and see baby’s movements, which is helpful once your little one is beginning to roll around in their crib.

These are just a handful of helpful items for brand new moms and dads. Do you have a must-have baby item that isn’t on this list? We invite you to share with us by leaving a comment below! And be sure to stay tuned when we announce the winners of our Cutest Baby Contest!


May 30, 2013

Pilsbury-Doughboy Crying in the Exam Room

A patient I’d known for twenty years called to let me know her daughter was coming in to see me. She reminded me it had been eighteen years since I’d delivered her “baby girl.” I began to feel old, and I knew right away this was going to be a difficult appointment.

For me.

Baby Olivia had just returned from her first year of college. After gaining the traditional “freshman fifteen,” she had begun to suffer the effects, with her menstrual cycles becoming painful and irregular. One month she would miss her period, and the next bleed heavily for fifteen days. The cramps were so severe, she sometimes had to stay in her dorm room in bed. Her grades and social life had deteriorated.

An ultrasound confirmed the obvious culprit, ovarian cysts. But I knew the underlying problem was her weight gain. Fat tissue can throw off a woman’s menstrual cycle; it introduces excess estrogen into the hormonal milieu. A high school cheerleader, Olivia had entered college almost underweight, so she wasn’t medically obese – just overweight for her small figure. As I reviewed the photos from her ultrasound, I debated with myself about how to broach the subject.

No woman responds well to critical conversations about her weight, particularly a young woman struggling emotionally with the reflection she sees in the mirror. But I was confident that my extensive experience as a board certified OB/GYN, coupled with a natural soft touch with the opposite gender, gave me the requisite skill set to negotiate the conversational landmine. Olivia’s mom would be grateful she sent her daughter my way.

Olivia began to sob as soon as I opened my mouth.

Every exam room has a box of tissues for when my “conversational skill set” falls short. I handed Olivia some tissues and apologized for hurting her feelings. She reassured me it wasn’t what I had said that bothered her. She told me her story.

Roommates Share

Olivia and her roommate Sara started the year best of friends. They studied and ate together and went to parties with each other on the weekends. They even shared each other’s clothing. The stress of schoolwork and being away from home took its toll on Olivia. Sara was always ready to listen. Sara always had had snacks in the room – Oreos, Pop-Tarts, Doritos, Hershey’s chocolate and Coke. Olivia was free to help herself anytime she wanted. The comfort food made Olivia feel better. Any time Olivia was upset, Sara handed her something yummy.

As the months went by, Olivia’s weight crept up, and her clothing became tighter. In her second semester when her periods began going haywire, she resigned herself to wearing sweats and baggy shirts.

Sara kept her petite figure the entire year and took full advantage of Olivia’s unused clothing. It was toward the end of the school year that Sara made a shocking confession. She had filled their dorm room with snack food and encouraged Olivia’s overindulgence so Olivia would not fit into her clothing.

“You had such nice things to wear, I couldn’t resist,” Sara told her with a laugh.

Olivia’s problem wasn’t just weight gain; it was also an evil roommate.

Life is painful enough without betrayal from those you trust. And yet betrayal is at the root of many of our medical problems.

Making You Feel Good

Smoking is a good place to start this conversation because most of us know it is the number one lifestyle choice that adversely affects our health. We know cigarettes are bad, but many continue to smoke. That’s because cigarettes are addictive. Yes, they lead to cancer and heart disease, but there is undeniably something about them that makes us feel good.

Despite thirty years of evidence showing that the tobacco industry was not only purposefully increasing the addictive properties of their product, but also marketing them directly toward children, the tobacco industry successfully fought off all litigation.

By the 1990’s, astronomical amounts of money had been spent caring for patients whose illnesses were the direct result of tobacco abuse. These were dollars often directly funded by the taxpayer as Medicare or Medicaid expenses. Finally, Attorney Generals from multiple states successfully brought a class action lawsuit, and in 1998 the tobacco industry agreed to pay 206 billion dollars to the states over twenty-five years. They also agreed to get rid of advertising icons, such as the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel, specifically designed to attract and addict the next generation of smokers.

After smoking, what we choose to eat is the number two lifestyle choice that adversely affects our health. The typical American diet leads directly to obesity, heart disease, cancer and stroke. Many of the products sold on the shelves of our grocery store or in restaurants are virtually addictive. They don’t create a physical addiction in the same way that nicotine does, but in the book Salt Sugar Fat, author Michael Moss details exactly how the food industry has focused on creating mouth-watering products that are essentially irresistible. In 1990, Philip Morris, the tobacco giant responsible for almost half of the cigarette sales in the United States, purchased food giants Kraft and General Foods, and with these acquisitions began to control ten cents of every dollar Americans spend on groceries. Consuming salt, sugar, and fat, in the right combinations, with the perfect “mouth feel,” is like smoking cigarettes. And that’s why it’s impossible to eat only one Dorito or Oreo or McDonald’s French fry.

The Pillsbury Doughboy, the Keebler elf, and Ronald McDonald smile like old friends but are actually evil roommates.

New Choices

I recommended a plant-based diet for Olivia, so she would become healthy again. I alerted her that if she didn’t lose the weight, she might suffer from infertility or eventually need surgery. Anything wrapped in plastic, containing sugar, fat, preservatives, or artificial flavors, was off-limits, no matter how delicious. The change would be tough at first, but the choice would prove life-changing.

I also began to recommend a different roommate for next year, but Olivia stopped me before I could finish.

This was one new choice, she assured me, she had already made.

-Dr. Mike Litrel

May 24, 2013

May 23rd, 2013 marks the United Nation’s very first International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, a day dedicated to raising global awareness about obstetric fistula and commemorating the 10th year of the UNFPA’s Campaign to End Fistula. Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists‘ own Dr. Providence brought this very important day of recognition to our attention and we wanted to share ways to help the organization with some of the most thoughtful people we know – our patients.

What is Obstetric Fistula? Fistula Foundation Logo

According to the UNFPA’s website, obstetric fistula is “a hole in the vagina or rectum caused by prolonged labor – often for days at a time – without treatment.” Because the fistula causes women to leak urine or feces, or both, they live in a world of social isolation and shame, often coinciding with depression and deepening poverty. If left untreated, fistula can lead to chronic medical problems.

How You Can Help

If you’re interested in getting involved with the Fistula Foundation, you can do so in a number of ways:

  • Self-Awareness – Learn more about the Fistula Foundation and how much the obstetric fistula community has evolved over the past decade by visiting their website.
  • Education – You can educate others through gifts in the Dignity Gift catalog or join the Fistula Foundation’s Circle of Friends, a group of fistula ambassadors raising awareness and funds for treatment.
  • Play a Game – Play Half the Sky Movement: The Game for just a few minutes a day and your in-game actions translate into actual fistula repair surgeries for women around the world.
  • Raise Money – Donate to the Fistula Foundation. From now until June 6th, every donation made through this link to the Fistula’s Raise for Women Challenge page will count toward helping the organization win a bonus grant of $40,000! You can also start your own fundraising campaign which will count toward the Fistula Foundation’s campaign total.

To learn more about Obstetric Fistula, please visit the Fistula Foundation’s website.

Image taken from The Fistula Foundation’s website.

May 21, 2013


One False Move

Recently, my son Tyler and I went to Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama to drive a NASCAR race car, in celebration of his nineteenth birthday. Under the watchful eye of a professional driver in the passenger seat, we took turns driving a race car around the world’s fastest track. Standing five stories high and banked at 33 degrees, the Talladega track allowed us to reach speeds that topped 170 miles per hour. Driving that fast felt just like my early experiences in the operating room; I was both exhilarated and frightened. One false move would spell disaster.

When I was a young doctor, the drama of life-and-death situations appealed to me. Adrenaline coursed through my body as I directed the operating room team, scalpel in hand, barking out orders like a sergeant to his troops under enemy fire.

I think as a young man I enjoyed feeling important.

I’ve never liked braggarts, so I hope I projected some modesty. But I was charged up by the drama and my role in it, and in retrospect, I suspect I swaggered around the operating room despite myself. Nowadays, I never swagger, and I don’t feel important, either.

Mostly I am highly concerned to the point of being terrified.

Racing To Save a Life

This Wednesday morning, a call from the delivery room nurse woke me up at four. A laboring patient had just arrived at hospital. She was bleeding, nowhere close to delivering, and her baby’s heart rate was faltering. Her baby was dying. I told the nurse to set up the operating room for an emergency c-section. I ran to my car and screeched out of my driveway.

It was Talladega time.

I am careful when I drive fast. I gathered speed, hazard lights flashing, punching a few red lights along the empty road before finally opening up my engine. My speedometer crawled into some high numbers. Already this week I had witnessed the unexpected loss of an 18-week-old pregnancy, and the pain a mother and family experience when hope is shattered.

I didn’t want to see any more.

This wasn’t fun like a birthday lap around the racetrack with my son. When I reached the hospital, I ran up the stairs, arriving just as the patient was being placed on the operating room table. By the time I had washed my hands and caught my breath, the anesthesia team had done their job. I could make the incision. In less than a minute, the baby’s head could be lifted free. The baby’s arm, when I grasped it, had the muscle tone of a live baby, not the terrifying ragdoll floppiness that signifies unconsciousness, or even death.

This baby was okay. I breathed a sigh of relief and profound thanks.

However, my blood pressure remained elevated the rest of the day.

Grief and Joy

I became a doctor because I wanted to be in people’s lives in those moments I believe really matter. I was drawn to OB/GYN because I am awed to witness the miracle of birth, and drawn to help in the sudden emergencies that require my utmost concentration and ability. The moment when a baby is ready to leave his or her mother’s body, so much is at stake.

Will we celebrate the miracle or grieve the tragedy?

But as I have matured, I have come to understand this: every moment of our life hangs in the balance. We are just as much at the junction of life and death in this very moment as we are in any surgical emergency. We live biologically mortal lives, and none of us are promised tomorrow. We are racing around a track, always at that point of losing control, never knowing when our lives will be shattered.

Life is fragile. The image of the baby’s death earlier in the week, and my patient’s grief, dogged my thoughts that day like a fragment of a song I couldn’t shake from my mind. How does a family survive the loss of a baby, just before the baby shower?

As we endeavor to relieve our suffering, we reach out for answers. When we pay attention, God does answer, and the answer is always the same. Our lives are not biological accidents – they are spiritual inevitabilities. We are each a manifestation of God’s Love, and we are thus each blessed with spiritual immortality.

Grief – no matter the pain – is a spiritual gift, once we understand.

As we heal, we see this simple truth: the tears we shed at funerals are the confetti used in Heaven.

-Dr. Mike Litrel

May 16, 2013

One of the most exciting parts of the baby-planning process can be finding just the right baby shower theme to help celebrate your little one’s arrival. With the extreme success of Pinterest, soon-to-be Moms can plan out every single detail, including the color scheme, food served (cupcakes or cake pops, anyone?), games played and the overall theme of the event.

So without further ado, Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists has put together some of our favorite baby shower themes from Pinterest and a few other great internet sources: Baby Shower Theme - Duckies


Owls, giraffes, elephants and other wildlife have and will continue to be a huge trend in baby shower themes. Baby animals typically incite an uncontrollable “Awww” from even the manliest of men, and it’s no surprise that baby animals are a favorite for baby showers. Modern color combinations like aqua and soft pink and yellow and gray keep the theme updated and oh-so-cute. Birds have been a popular theme, with a play on words of “feathering the nest” for Mom and Dad.


For vintage-themed baby showers, think a Radio Flyer wagon, a bright red tricycle or charming silhouettes of Mom and Dad on the invitations. You can get creative with vintage alphabet stacking blocks, spelling out the name of your new baby (if you’re not keeping the name a secret, of course!). Other options include just spelling out either “Boy” or “Girl,” or “Baby.”


Did you have a favorite book as a child? Many expectant mothers are creating baby showers themed after their favorite books as a child. Favorites include Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, and Green Eggs and Ham. You could even stay generic with a book theme, asking guests to bring a copy of their favorite childhood book with an inscription for the new baby in lieu of a card.

If you’re currently planning a baby shower for yourself or for a friend, what theme are you considering? Share with us by leaving a comment below!


May 8, 2013

Yesterday on our Facebook page, we asked our fans how they came up with their baby’s name, or how their mom came up with their own name, and we received some great responses! Naming your child can be one of the most exciting parts of having a baby, but for some, it can be a difficult process trying to choose between the Megan’s, Melissa’s and Morgan’s or the Jesse’s, Jake’s and Jasper’s.

Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists wanted to get in on the baby-naming action so we scoured the internet and found a list of Nameberry’s 13 unusual and surprising names that are attracting significant attention from Moms and Dads around the country in 2013: Sitting babies


1.) Marnie

2.) Marlowe

3.) Nelly

4.) Mavis

5.) Severine

6.) Phaedra

7.) Linnea


1.) Christian

2.) Thor

3.) Bruce

4.) Wilder

5.) Mingus

6.) Finnegan

Which name(s) are your favorite? Be sure to head over to our Facebook page to share with us how you choose your baby’s name, or if you’re still trying to choose, what contenders you have so far!


May 6, 2013

Fear is our Friend-Water

Why Are We Afraid?

It used to trouble me when a patient became nervous before surgery. Maybe she doesn’t think I will do a good job? Maybe I haven’t explained myself well enough? Maybe she doesn’t trust me? But after twenty years of being a surgeon, I now welcome a patient’s anxiety before she undergoes an operation.

Fear can be good for your health.

When my son Tyler was two years old, we took a family vacation to Jekyll Island, one of Georgia’s coastal isles that had been my wife Ann’s and my honeymoon spot a decade earlier. Tyler was thrilled at his first view of the ocean. The winter sun was warm as we slowly walked the sand to the water’s edge, and he grew more excited, pointing his chubby finger and saying “Water, water, water!!!” Tyler walked between Ann and me, and we each held one of his hands, swinging him high to prevent his feet from getting wet in the waves. But Tyler didn’t just want to get his feet wet. He fought to pull free of us, his intention clear: he wanted to walk into the ocean.

At first, Ann and were laughing as we enjoyed Tyler’s insistence that he be allowed to walk freely. But a spectacular temper tantrum soon followed, and our morning family stroll was ruined.

Tyler is now nineteen, finishing his first year of college, but in some ways things haven’t much changed. Three months ago, I taught him how to drive a manual transmission on my old 2004 silver Corvette; the car accelerates like a rocket ship. Tyler is a good driver. But when he asked to borrow the car to visit his buddies, my answer was an emphatic ‘no.’ There is no way I will put my son in a car that will go 160 MPH, so he can visit his teenage buddies. What good can come from that?

I’d just as soon let a two-year-old walk into the ocean.

Good Choices Can Cause Temporary Unhappiness

The reason parenthood is difficult is because that inexperienced human being you love more than life itself will do stupid things and hurt himself, if given the opportunity. Not only that, but when you rightfully say ‘no,’ he will express his anger adamantly – no matter that your heart and mind are in the right place.

The longer we are on this planet, the more we learn. If we look at the experiences we share as human beings, we see that each of us is born into this world as a helpless newborn, and a hundred years later – give or take – we die. In the process, we lose everything and everyone we love.

The truth is actually brutal. Anyone paying attention has a right to be terrified.

Surgery reminds us what we have to be afraid of. Every patient thinks about the same thing: “In a few moments I will be lying unconscious on a table while the surgeon cuts on my body! Who knows?!! I could die here today! ”

Yesterday my patient gave me a big smile before her operation. But I saw right through her poker face: her eyes clearly telegraphed her fear. I smiled at her, shook her husband’s hand, and asked her and her husband if they had any questions or concerns. They did not.

But it was obvious they did. We are all afraid of suffering. And although surgery always hurts, we know that when we wake up, there are narcotics and other drugs that will take care of the physical pain. Simply put, what we are really afraid of is not waking up.

What We Care About

I’ve had thousands of conversations with patients in the intense moments before an operation, and as I listen and try to comfort each patient before they go into the operating room, there is an additional truth my patients have shown me. We don’t want to say good-bye to the people we love.

In the moments when we brush with death, what matters to us is not our money, our home, our job or possessions – it’s the people we know and experience life with. Admittedly, they may sometimes annoy us – but they make our lives worth living.

Fear is good for our health because it serves as a spiritual reminder. God does not grant eternal biological life for any of us. As mortal beings, we lose all that is most important to us – our loved ones and our lives. So as experienced human beings who have suffered during our short time here, our spiritual lesson is fairly obvious – to love those around us more and more each day.

This is the path of a healthy life.

The more we love others, the more we understand the heart of God. This understanding brings us courage and comfort as we face the terrors of life. This courage is called faith. It is the understanding that true life is eternal.

I held my patient’s hand and said a prayer of gratitude. Together we asked God to be with my patient and her husband so their hearts were at peace, and with me and the other doctors and nurses and staff, so once again we would be blessed to witness the miracle of healing grace.

When I looked at my patient again, I noticed that now her eyes were smiling too. Already my prayer had been answered.

-Dr. Mike Litrel

May 2, 2013

May is officially here! The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming and the pollen is (mostly) gone. The team at Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists thought that May would be a perfect time to celebrate babies (especially with Mother’s Day right around the corner), and we’re henceforth calling May Babypalooza!

What is Babypalooza? CWHS CBC

Babypalooza is a term coined by some of the staff here at Cherokee Women’s, with a goal of celebrating everything about babies. This month, our goal is to make everyone say, “Aww” at least once.  Here on the blog, expect informative articles, testimonials from our patients, news on baby names, and a whole ‘lotta baby photos!

We’re kicking off Babypalooza with a Cutest Baby Contest on our Facebook page, with a grand prize of a free 30-minute photo shoot with Clear Creek Images. Interested in entering your baby’s photo? Head on over to our Facebook page to enter and vote! And make sure you tell your friends about the contest so they can enter their babies as well.

Do you have an idea for a post during Babypalooza? Share with us by leaving a comment below!


April 26, 2013

If it’s been a while since your last SexEd course, here’s a quick refresher – the ovaries are the two small reproductive organs located inside a woman’s body. The ovaries make hormones, including estrogen, which trigger menstruation. Every month, the ovaries release an egg that travels down the fallopian tubes to potentially be fertilized. This cycle of egg release is called ovulation.

Sometimes, the ovaries develop cysts, fluid-filled sacs that are particularly common during a woman’s childbearing years.

What causes ovarian cysts? woman-consulting-doctor

There are several different types of cysts, with the most common being a functional cyst that forms during ovulation. This formation happens when either the egg is not released or the sac–follicle–in which the egg forms does not dissolve after the egg is released. Other types of cysts include:

  • Endometriomas – In women with endometriosis, tissue from the lining of the uterus grows in other areas of the body, including the ovaries.
  • Polycystic ovaries – In polycystic ovarian syndrome, the follicles in which the eggs normally mature fail to open and cysts form.
  • Dystadenomas – These often fluid-filled cysts form out of cells on the surface of the ovary.
  • Dermoid cyst – This type of cyst contains tissue similar to that in other parts of the body, including skin, hair and teeth.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?

Most ovarian cysts are small and don’t cause symptoms. Large cysts may cause a dull or sharp ache in the abdomen and pain during daily activities. Larger cysts may cause pain and twisting of the ovary. Cysts that bleed or rupture may lead to serious problems requiring immediate treatment.

Diagnosis and Treatment

At Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists,we diagnose ovarian cysts through a number of ways: during a routine pelvic exam, during a vaginal ultrasound, laparoscopy, or blood tests. Treatment of ovarian cysts include the use of birth control pills to shrink the size of the cyst, or your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the cysts depending on your age, the size and type of the cysts. To discuss diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cysts with one of our doctors, please don’t hesitate to contact us 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