A Collection of Our Best Women’s Health Advice

March 02, 2023
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Women’s health issues are varied, complex, and impact every stage of a woman’s life. It can be stressful and overwhelming to keep track of it all, and to understand your own risks. Doctors from across Baystate Health have provided advice and tips for women’s health issues such as breast cancer, heart disease, pregnancy, menopause, and more. We’ve gathered our best resources on these topics to help you navigate the conditions that concern you.

Women and Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., and heart attack symptoms in women can vary from those of men. Understanding your risk factors for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke can help you make lifestyle changes to keep your heart healthy. Cardiologists, dieticians, and other experts across Baystate Health share six ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. 

Dr. Sabeen Chaudry, cardiologist, Baystate Heart & Vascular Program, details the risk factors for heart disease in women, and the heart attack symptoms in women that differ from men. Learning to recognize these symptoms – and calling 911 or visiting the emergency department – can protect your heart.

Worried about your heart? Dr. Chaudry shares ways to know if your heart is healthy, including portable EKG devices, checking your heart rate, and checking your blood pressure.

Learn more about women and heart disease in our recorded virtual event with Dr. Chaudry where she discusses racial disparities in heart disease, blood pressure management, non-traditional risk factors, and more.

Incontinence in Women

No one wants to talk about incontinence, so women often don’t know how common it is. The issue can feel isolating and embarrassing, but 25-50% of women report having a leak, dribble, or accident in the past year.

Dr. Katelyn Kopcsay, urogynecologist at Baystate Urogynecology details the different types of incontinence, treatments for the condition, and even exercises you can do at home to strengthen your pelvic floor and prevent leaks. Women of all ages can experience incontinence for a wide variety of reasons. Share your concerns with your doctor—it’s far more common than you think, and there are treatments that can help.

Sexual Health in Women

Another health topic that some women may get self-conscious about is sexual and reproductive health. However, it’s really important to discuss these topics with your doctor—they can help you navigate any concerns you have.

While there are conditions that can make sex uncomfortable, painful, or just unfun, sex is good for your health. Carly Detterman, a certified nurse midwife at Baystate Midwifery and Women’s Health – Springfield shares the healthy benefits of sex, including reduced blood pressure, a boost to the immune system, and even better sleep! Detterman also discusses many of the common conditions she and her team treat related to sexual health. If you’re experiencing these issues—like vaginal dryness, pain during sex, or low libido – schedule an appointment with your doctor and leave the self-consciousness behind.

Your doctor may also recommend that you get the HPV vaccine, depending on your age, sexual activity, and other risk factors. HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most commonly-transmitted sexual infection in the United States. The HPV vaccine provides protection against the strains that most commonly cause cervical cancer and oral-pharyngeal HPV cancer and cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, mouth, and throat.

Breast Cancer

During their lifetimes, regardless of breast size or family history, 1 in 8 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis. But early detection makes breast cancer easier to treat. While most women know that they should perform breast self-exams and go for mammograms when they turn 40, the risk factors, prevention methods, treatments, and even what a breast lump feels like can be a mystery.

There are no lifestyle changes or medications to truly prevent breast cancer, but there are many things women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer. Dr. Grace Makari-Judson, Chief, Division of Hematology/Oncology at Baystate Hematology Oncology, shares 10 breast cancer risk reduction tips, including not smoking, knowing your risk level, and more.

What does a breast lump even feel like? How do you know when to worry about it? Dr. Jesse Casaubon, a Breast Surgical Oncologist at Baystate Health explains, “The one consistent thing about breast lumps is they feel different than normal breast tissue. Anything that feels out of the ordinary—firm, hard, or just solid—is noteworthy.” Dr. Casaubon goes on to provide a detailed list of information to share with your doctor, and stresses that if you feel something not right, don’t second-guess yourself—make an appointment with your doctor.

It can be scary, overwhelming, and even frustrating to receive a breast cancer diagnosis. Your breast cancer surgeon will be a critical part of your care team, along with nurse navigators, social workers, and your primary care doctor. Dr. Holly Mason, Section Chief for Breast Surgery at Baystate Health shares a list of questions to ask your oncologist and what to expect at your first appointment. We’ve also compiled the questions in a printable cheat sheet for you to take with you to your appointment.


One of the first questions people will ask when they hear that you’re pregnant is, “when are you due?” Due date calculation can be tricky, but it’s vital to help doctors track your baby’s progress and order the right tests at the right time, according to Kimberly Congden, program manager of Lactation Services and Parent Education at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

Once you have that estimated due date, you’ll want to spend some time creating a birth plan. What’s a birth plan? It’s a detailed list of all the little details so you can decide and communicate what you want during the delivery. From who cuts the cord to the use of hydrotherapy to any religious concerns, your birth plan is unique to the needs of you, your baby, and your family. Shirley Hamill, nurse manager of The Birthplace at Baystate Franklin Medical Center provides a list of prompt questions to help you get started writing a birth plan.

Does your birth plan include water birth? Are you curious about how it works? Sarit Shatken-Stern, Certified Nurse Midwife, Baystate Medical Practices Pioneer Women’s Health walks through what it is, the options for labor, and how to prepare for a healthy baby in our water birth webinar recording.

During your pregnancy, you’ll need to stay alert to the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia, a disease that only occurs during pregnancy, and occurs in as many as one in ten women. Dr. Katie Barker, an OB/GYN at Baystate Women's Health, shares the risk factors, the symptoms, and treatment options in our guide to preeclampsia. Dr. Barker reminds women to call your doctor if anything doesn’t feel right, even if it’s not a specific symptom. She says, “Some of the scariest phone calls I get are from expectant moms saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong, but something isn’t right.’ If you have that feeling, trust your mother’s intuition and call your doctor.”

The Mysteries of Menopause

When you hit puberty, someone likely sat you down to give you the birds & the bees talk and explain your changing body. But as women, it’s so rare to receive a similar changing-body talk on what to expect from menopause.

Rebekah Perks, WHNP, ANP, Nurse Practitioner Baystate Ob/Gyn Group and Certified Menopause Practitioner, North American Menopause Society, is here to help. In her recorded webinar on menopause, she answers your questions—what is menopause, what is perimenopause, when does menopause happen, and what are my menopause management options. It’s like your own private menopause questions fairy godmother.

For additional details on what to expect during menopause, Dr. James Wang, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Baystate Medical Center and Dr. Sabeen Chaudry, a cardiologist with Baystate Cardiology, share the four changes you need to know about menopause and your body to protect your long-term physical and emotional health.

Dr. Chaudry goes on to provide a detailed explanation of the relationship between menopause and heart disease in our recorded webinar.

You can stay up to date with women’s health issues by subscribing to Baystate Health’s Every Woman newsletter. In it we share important women’s health news, inspiring patient stories, and invites to our doctor-led webinars.

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