Author: Dr. Jimmy Sparks

Shingles and the New Vaccine–Preventive Health Info from Your Ob/Gyn

The shingles vaccine has been well-accepted by older adults—most likely because so many people are familiar with the misery that the itching, burning rash causes. Now there is a new vaccine against shingles, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending it for most healthy adults over age 50.  As Ob/Gyns we also focus on women’s preventive health. We welcome your questions about this and other preventive health issues. Here is a list of common FAQs about protecting yourself against shingles.

What is Shingles (herpes zoster)?

Shingles is a painful rash that most often…

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What I learned in the NICU

In 1978 I had just completed medical school and moved from Birmingham to Washington DC to begin my OB/GYN residency training. Within a few weeks, I felt fairly confident on labor and delivery. I had already accomplished several dozen deliveries as a medical student. But my training program required each OB resident to spend a month in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. We were expected to learn basic newborn emergency care to support an infant in the delivery room until a pediatrician arrived. The NICU is an overwhelming place, certainly for parents, and even for a young doctor. Back…

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New Information from your Obstetrician–the Flu Shot and Pregnancy

From the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)

“Influenza is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from influenza as well as hospitalizations and even death. Pregnant women with influenza also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn babies, including premature labor and delivery…

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Ask Your Ob-Gyn: “What’s New in Hormone Replacement Therapy? (HRT)”

In the early 1990s, 40% of American women who had reached menopause used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat disagreeable symptoms like hot flashes, sleep problems, and discomfort during intercourse. At one time, Premarin® (brand name for oral estrogen) was the most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S.

In 1993 the U.S. government invested over $600 million to study whether hormone replacement protected women from heart disease. That study, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), changed women’s lives for sure. But was this a change for the better…

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Episiotomy—A Birmingham Obstetrician’s View

Episiotomy—the small surgical incision made to enlarge the vaginal opening shortly before a baby is delivered—was not a commonly accepted birth procedure until the twentieth century.  But by mid-century, over half of vaginal deliveries included an episiotomy. The idea was that making a small incision would reduce the risk of a large spontaneous tear in the tissues surrounding the vagina (the perineum), as the infant’s head delivered.

As physicians, we want to offer our patients only medical interventions that—based on solid evidence—actually benefit them. By the 1980s, we began to realize that the medical…

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Gynecologic Cancers–Recognize What’s Not Normal for You

Research tells us that Americans fear cancer more than any other health event, even though heart disease is the leading cause of death. Much of this fear comes from the belief that cancer or cancer death is just a matter of random chance, something we are powerless to prevent. But let’s look at the actual facts about gynecologic cancers.

We refer to any cancer that begins in a woman’s reproductive organs as a gynecologic cancer. About 100,000 women are newly diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer each year, and these cancers cause nearly 40,000 deaths annually.  A…

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The Thin, Fuzzy Line between Medical Science and “Alternative” or “Complementary” Medicine

As physicians we try to draw a clear line when we make recommendations to our patients. Is the treatment choice based on strict, evidence-based medical science, is it based on the doctor’s years of experience, or is there really nothing factual to support a recommendation? Is it just an opinion, or worse, part of the darker side of health care, a profit-driven option?  By explaining these differences, we help our patients to make informed choices. Recently one of the U.S.’s most prestigious medical research and teaching hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic, promised disciplinary action against the…

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A Brief “Thank You” from Dr. Sparks

Now and then, most of us think about the people to whom we wish we said “thank you” much more often.  For the physicians at Sparks & Favor, it’s a long list, but the RNs who care for our patients during labor and delivery surely rank near the top.

Our nurses make an important difference for our patients every day. Sometimes they anticipate a mom’s rising need for comfort measures and offer suggestions early, allowing mom to remain in control of her labor. There are also difficult moments when a nurse’s timely recognition of a true obstetric…

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Pelvic Organ Prolapse–a common women’s health problem

Actress Kate Winslett’s recent public disclosure of a very personal problem with bladder control was, in my view, an extraordinary gesture of kindness and support for millions of women around the world who suffer with a similar condition. Past generations of women have been reluctant to discuss such problems, even with their physicians—many believing they alone endured the discomfort and embarrassment. Such openness from a celebrity like Ms. Winslett is helpful; at least, I hope that my patients find encouragement from her message.

In reality, the condition affects millions of women who usually begin to notice symptoms around…

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Weight Loss: Counting Calories and Nutrients, or Is There Another Way?

Earlier this year, a group of scientists and physicians reported the results of a weight-loss study in the Annals of Internal Medicine (a peer review journal publishing high-quality research). Participants in the study were overweight adults with at least one symptom of metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar). Individuals with these symptoms have higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes…

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