Always pads aren’t always the culprit

I had a patient fall into my arms and sob recently because she was so relieved at the news I had given her.

Contrary to what it sounds like I hadn’t given her a reprieve from a fatal illness, or good news on her breast cancer screening. It was when I told her that the weeks of genital itching, swelling and pain she had been suffering from was likely caused by using Always brand sanitary pads.

I hate to point fingers but I have to put the brand name out there.

I’ve known for years that Always pads can cause painful chafing and irritation to the point of blisters in “that area.” Besides my personal experience I’ve read recommendations from other women and from midwifery groups warning women about the risk of burning, painful vulvas from using Always pads.

I am not making this up. There is even one small research study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that showed women with vulva pain had less pain when they stopped using Always pads.

The woman I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post had recently given birth so had been wearing pads for several weeks. She sought medical attention for what everyone thought was a yeast infection but the medication didn’t make her vulva any less itchy and painful. She was treated for bacterial vaginosis the next time she went in. That didn’t help either.

What finally gave her some relief was using diaper rash ointment and switching to cloth pads. At this point she still wasn’t blaming the Always pads, she was just looking for something really soft and gentle that wouldn’t hurt her sore bottom.

Before I went to see this woman for the first time my nurse filled me in on enough of her history to make me suspect that she was using Always pads.

“I think I may know what’s been going on with you,” I said as I entered the exam room. “Are you using Always pads?”

That’s all it took for her to break down and sob. She told me she felt like everyone thought she was crazy since she kept returning for the same problem and nothing was making it any better.

My patient asked me to tell her story. I agreed it’s a message women need to know. And since then I’ve seen several other women with similar experiences who turned out to be using Always pads.

To be fair not all women are bothered by these pads. And it’s easy to see why women love them – they’re the thinnest pads on the market.

Please don’t ask me what they’re made of because I would probably make up some  inflammatory, smart alec answer that would get the Proctor and Gamble lawyers really excited. I really have no idea what it is about these pads that are hurting women.

Proctor and Gamble, the manufacturer of Always, claims premarket research showed their product was not to blame for the vulvar irritation found in menstruating women but that women are always a little irritated in the nether regions (that may not be the exact wording that they used).

As a midwife I recommend postpartum women use some other brand of feminine hygiene pads since these women can have bleeding up to six weeks or longer. A big fat Kotex like the ones your mother used as a girl might be just what the midwife ordered. Cloth pads are a great alternative if you don’t mind that they’re not disposable. Instructions for making cloth pads are all over Pinterest. Let me know how you like them.

There are multiple causes of genital itching. Women should see a health care professional if they are having abnormal vaginal itching, discharge, pain or odor. Always pads aren’t always the culprit.

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Should Pregnant Women be Concerned About Enterovirus D68?

News about Enterovirus D68 is spreading like the virus – quickly and with increasing coverage. And all this talk of children being hospitalized for respiratory illness is scaring people.

Moms are calling me because they’re concerned and are wondering how this affects them. They want to know the best way to protect themselves and their children from this once rare virus that is on the upswing.

To find out more about how this virus affects pregnant women I asked Dr. Michella Switzer, OBGYN with MomDoc Midwives in San Tan Valley what concerns she has for her patients during this outbreak. She says her main worry is for women who already have respiratory illness who may come in contact with the virus.

Dr. Switzer is encouraging pregnant women who suffer with asthma not to ignore worsening asthma symptoms but to see their midwife or doctor if they are exposed to the virus.

“If you have asthma and you come down with the enterovirus you need to come in right away and get your asthma under control,” Dr. Switzer says.

Children and adults with chronic respiratory conditions are at greater risk for more severe symptoms and hospitalization due to Enterovirus D68, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus is spread through respiratory secretions and travels from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches contaminated surfaces.

Enterovirus D68 is a rare strain of a common summer illness that is usually mild in nature. If you’ve had a summer cold there’s a good chance that it was caused by an enterovirus. Most pregnant women are likely to be exposed to the illness but won’t contract the disease if they are already immune. Women who have previously had the virus will be immune to it.

So what if a woman has never had enterovirus D68 and is exposed during pregnancy. What then?

If women do become infected they typically do not get sick or only have mild symptoms such as runny nose, cough or sneezing, and can have fever and body and muscle aches. This particular strain occurs less commonly and has been reported to cause mild to severe respiratory illness, especially in children.

The good news is that there is no evidence that pregnant women who are infected with enterovirus are at greater risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth defects.

If a woman is infected shortly before she gives birth she can pass the virus to her baby. However, newborns usually have mild illness, and only rarely is severe illness seen in these babies. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce infection with enterovirus in infants mostly through maternal antibodies found in breast milk.

To protect yourself from the spread of enterovirus:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands.
  • Avoid hugging and kissing others who have symptoms or who are sick.
  • Don’t share drinks, utensils, or food with people who are ill.
  • Regularly disinfect toys, doorknobs, and all frequently touched surfaces, especially if someone in the household is ill.

To boost your immune system try these healthy living tips:

  • Increase nutrition including lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Get enough sleep
  • Don’t smoke
  • Exercise most days

Should pregnant women be concerned about enterovirus D68?

News about Enterovirus D68 is spreading like the virus – quickly and with increasing coverage. And all this talk of children being hospitalized for respiratory illness is scaring people. Moms are calling me because they’re concerned and are wondering how this affects them. They want to know the best way to protect themselves and their children from this once rare virus that is on the upswing.

To find out more about how this virus affects pregnant women I asked Dr. Michella Switzer, OBGYN with MomDoc Midwives what concerns she has for her patients during this outbreak. Her main concern is for women who already have respiratory illness who may come in contact with the virus.

Dr. Switzer is encouraging pregnant women who suffer with asthma not to ignore worsening asthma symptoms but to see their midwife or doctor if they are exposed to the virus.

“If you have asthma and you come down with the enterovirus you need to come in right away and get your asthma under control,” Dr. Switzer says.

Children and adults with chronic respiratory conditions are at greater risk for more severe symptoms and hospitalization due to Enterovirus D68, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The virus is spread through respiratory secretions and travels from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches contaminated surfaces.

Keep in mind that enterovirus D68 is a rare strain of a common summer illness that is usually mild in nature. If you’ve had a summer cold there’s a good chance that it was caused by an enterovirus. Most pregnant women are likely to be exposed to the illness but won’t contract the disease if they are already immune. Women who have previously had the virus will be immune to it.

So what if a woman has never had enterovirus D68 and is exposed during pregnancy. What then?

If women do become infected they typically do not get sick or only have mild symptoms such as runny nose, cough or sneezing, and can have fever and body and muscle aches. This particular strain occurs less commonly and has been reported to cause mild to severe respiratory illness, especially in children.

The good news is that there is no evidence that pregnant women who are infected with enterovirus are at greater risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth defects.

If a woman is infected shortly before she gives birth she can pass the virus to her baby. However, newborns usually have mild illness, and only rarely is severe illness seen in these babies. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce infection with enterovirus in infants mostly through maternal antibodies found in breast milk.

To protect yourself from the spread of enterovirus:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands.
  • Avoid hugging and kissing others who have symptoms or who are sick.
  • Don’t share drinks, utensils, or food with people who are ill.
  • Regularly disinfect toys, doorknobs, and all frequently touched surfaces, especially if someone in the household is ill.

To boost your immune system try these healthy living tips:

  • Increase nutrition including lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Get enough sleep
  • Don’t smoke
  • Exercise most days