A Complete Practice Addressing Women’s Health Throughout Life’s Stages

Published On May 17, 2016 | May/June 2016

You’re in good hands with the care provided at Women Partners in Health

By: Nicole Carbon

For some, a visit to an OB/GYN office can provoke an uncomfortable and even anxious feeling. Having been a patient myself, I can vouch that when you walk through the doors of Women Partners in Health there’s a feeling you get – it’s a sense of calm, and that you are truly being cared for, and that you are cared about.

I had a chance to have a conversation with Dr. Natasya Ikbal with Women Partners in Health (WPIH) – an OB/GYN practice that has been serving the Austin community for over 25 years. It was started by Dr. Karen Swenson and Dr. Diana Weihs in 1985. We discussed care for women throughout the stages of life, touched upon “taboo” topics, and she offered tips on preventative health.

Dr.Ikbal has been with the practice for eight years and has two children. Being a mother herself, she explains the overall philosophy of the practice that lends an importance to work/life balance. It was one of the reasons she chose to join the practice, and both her sister and mother were already patients too. The practice is made up of eight doctors, most have two to four children, so being able to maintain a balance is key to the success of the practice. Being able to take care of themselves and their families allows them to take better care of their patients. How do they do this? They work collaboratively with one another. “It’s a collegial environment,” explains Dr. Ikbal. This is not to say this still isn’t a demanding profession – an obstetrician can be called at 3 a.m. and work until 4 p.m. or 5 p.m that same day – but having this mindset at work creates a better work/life balance.

Swenson and Weihs graduated from Baylor College of Medicine together and envisioned having a practice that provided healthcare to women of all ages, at all stages of their lives, and that’s exactly what they have accomplished. After having delivered babies for 30 years, Swenson and Weihs transitioned over to focus on gynecology and now use their expertise to educate other doctors. The doctors at WPIH provide a broad range of care for women who are of adolescent, child-bearing, and menopausal age, as well as of all demographics. It is part of the Seton network known to provide care to underserved women and WPIH carries out that same mission.

I asked Dr. Ikbal what major concerns should women be aware of regarding their health. She shared that the Zika virus is something to be aware of at the moment, especially for pregnant patients who may have air travel plans because of its potential impact on their pregnancy. We also touched upon healthcare focuses throughout the stages of women’s lives.

Adolescents and Young Adults
At this stage of life, women should consider having the HPV vaccination and have conversations with their healthcare provider about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and contraceptives.

Ages 20-40
Women who want to become pregnant should abstain from drug and alcohol use, begin, or maintain, an exercise program, take prenatal vitamins, become aware of breast health, and cervical health with regular Pap tests. Women who do not want to become pregnant should be aware of contraceptives, as well as breast and cervical health.

Ages 40-Menopause
At this age, women should focus on bone and cardiac health. Women are at a higher risk of osteoporosis during this stage, and cardiac-related causes are the number one killer in women of menopausal age. A loss of estrogen is a major cause in this. Women of this age should also have their cholesterol levels checked and focus on preventative care incorporating exercise into their lives, like walking, three to five times per week.
Some advancements and progress in women’s healthcare have taken shape. Because of the Affordable Care Act, more women have access to health services and contraceptives. Since women are living longer, there has been an emphasis on preventative healthcare to improve the overall quality of life. A whole new mind/body approach has also developed with a focus on postpartum depression and anxiety.

Now, women are being screened before, during, and after giving birth to their child. A number of causes are related to anxiety and depression in new and soon-to-be mothers that are often not discussed. These topics are sometimes considered “taboo,” or women simply do not wish to share with each other their vulnerabilities. Giving birth is a huge life-changing and transitional event, and problems with breastfeeding and the anxiety of what to do with a new baby, simply to keep it alive, are common concerns. Some women, perhaps more than you may know, have anxiety over if they will, or are able to, love their child. A mental-focused approach is being offered such as talk therapy, especially to women who are breastfeeding.

At WPIH all of the doctors share a similar approach of evidence-based practices. They are all consistently on the same page and simply do what’s best for the patient. They don’t rush to issue a surgical procedure and when it is necessary, it is as minimally-invasive as possible. They maintain close relationships with specialists in the field if an issue arises beyond their scope of care, offering seamless care to their patients. The doctors use each other as their own doctors, which speaks volumes. They are all Board Certified and are involved in the community. My initial feeling that first visit to the office was spot on, I was in good hands.

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