Women’s services

Specializing Institutions

Women’s health services are dedicated to treating women’s unique biological and physiological needs. Obstetrics, gynecology and family planning are areas of focus in women’s health. Women’s services cover a wide range of services, from annual procedures like PAP tests, to mammograms, urinary tract care, menopause, birth plans and delivery. The leading causes of death in women are heart disease, cancer and stroke. Other major health conditions women suffer from are diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating healthy and physical activity, reduce women’s health risks.

Women can find a full continuum of mother and baby care at the South Texas Medical Center. Our institutions offer state-of-the-art labor and delivery rooms designed with women and children in mind. Additional women’s services available at our institutions include breast cancer diagnoses and treatment, pregnancy testing, mammograms and all the non-invasive procedures performed using daVinci Gynecologic Surgery systems. Robotically assisted gynecologic surgeries include, but are not limited to, the treatment for cervical and uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, uterine prolapse and menorrhaiga or excessive bleeding.

Institutions at the South Texas Medical Center offering women services take a family-centered approach to maternity care and offer a comprehensive range of obstetrical and gynecological services. Our institutions are also equipped with neonatal intensive care units to care for mothers experiencing special or high-risk deliveries.

Women’s Health Articles

  • Grants help level the playing field for young moms in science

    By Randi Belisomo

    (Reuters Health) - Thanks to a generous benefactor, young mothers doing laboratory research at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston can receive major grants to keep them from falling behind while they raise their children.

    Since 1993, the Claflin Distinguished Scholar Awards at MGH have helped junior female faculty with young children keep pace with their male peers, who don't face the same challenges to research productivity that women do during their child-rearing years.

    Every year, five women are awarded $100,000 Claflin grants - named for benefactor Jane D. Claflin - to fund a research assistant for two years. The women are expected to leverage the funds for larger grants to accelerate their advancement.

    Women entering science and medicine don't advance as quickly as their male colleagues. Earlier this month, a 28-member panel published a seven-point plan in the journal Cell Stem Cell for achieving gender equity in so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math); the plan calls for expansion of "extra-hands awards" like the Claflin. (See Reuters Health story of March 16, here: http://reut.rs/1Ft5MiQ.)

    Close to three-quarters of Claflin winners have remained at MGH, including infectious disease specialist Elizabeth Hohmann, who was among the first winners. "It allowed me to get on my feet to keep things rolling while . . . feeding babies," she said. "It's so easy to say 'oh screw it' and just give up."

    For endocrinologist Elaine Yu, a 2014 winner, the award makes time with her sons, ages 2 and 5, less stressful. "Raising kids is not easy, and this is one of the most stressful times in a research career because you are trying to establish yourself," Yu said.

    The University of Massachusetts Medical School also funds two to four researchers yearly, male or female, with $30,000 during a "finite period of increased family care responsibilities." Now in its fifth year, the Faculty Scholar Award committee receives three times as many applicants as it can fund.

    "We wish we had double or triple the amount of money," said Luanne Thorndyke, the university's vice provost for faculty affairs.

    University of Massachusetts neurologist Susanne Muehlschlengel won a grant in 2011 when she was expecting her second child. Without the grant, she would have shut down her research during maternity leave. But even with it, she recognized that her pace of progress still could not match that of peers when she prioritized family and patient care obligations first.

    "Having kids certainly slowed down my career," Muehlschlengel said. "When I look at male colleagues I did my fellowship with, even those one or two years behind me, they are two years ahead of me."

    Because the Faculty Scholar Award recognizes caregiving responsibilities beyond those involving children, biochemist Sean Ryder received funding in 2013 when his father was hospitalized with leukemia for five months before he died. Ryder was also juggling responsibilities to his wife and two sons at home, near Worcester. His father received treatment in New Hampshire, where Ryder spent two days a week.

    "I would have spent time with him regardless," Ryder said. "But research in my lab would have slipped."

    The Working Group's paper also cited a German foundation providing "extra hands" in the form of childcare, but American awardees say the approach is misguided.

    "You don't want to replace time with your kids, you want to replace time doing non-essential work," said Catherine Chu, a Claflin-winning neurologist.

    Sharon Dekel, a psychologist and mother of three, said her Claflin Award brought the intangible benefit of increased recognition from her colleagues. "The Claflin is how people can really perceive you," Dekel said.

    While president of the American Association of Immunologists, Laurie Glimcher launched a similar award program at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. "Reproductive years coincide with the critical years in your career," Glimcher said, noting that among too many young mothers, laboratory science suffers.

    Now the dean of Weill Cornell Medical College, Glimcher recently announced ten new $50,000 grants for female faculty with young children, to be awarded this spring.

    "I think it's money very well spent," Glimcher said. "We can't afford to lose 50 percent of the population" - that is, women - "in science."

  • Moms' excess pregnancy weight linked to kids' obesity

    By Madeline Kennedy

    (Reuters Health) - Mothers who are overweight before pregnancy and those who gain too much while pregnant are more likely to have obese seven-year-olds, researchers say.

    Their study, conducted from 1998 to 2013, focused on African-American and Dominican mothers from low-income neighborhoods in New York City.

    "Because there is limited evidence of the long-term effects of pregnancy weight gain on childhood health outcomes in low-income urban populations, we sought to evaluate how pregnancy weight gain was related to childhood body size and obesity," said lead author Elizabeth Widen at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University.

    Andrea Deierlein of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital noted in an email that there are "many risks associated with childhood obesity - obese children are more likely to be obese throughout adolescence and adulthood."

    Deierlein, who was not involved in the study, noted that in adulthood, the risks associated with obesity include type 2 diabetes, hypertension and sleep disturbances.

    Past research has also shown that overweight mothers are more likely to give birth to larger than normal babies, and those babies are at high risk of growing up to be obese.

    The U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) advises normal-weight women to gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy, while overweight women should gain 15-25 lbs and obese women should gain just 11-20 lbs.

    Widen and her colleagues studied 727 women in the third trimester of pregnancy. The mothers reported their own pre-pregnancy weight, education, receipt of public assistance and ability to afford food during pregnancy.

    The researchers also had data on the mothers' final pregnancy weight.

    Widen noted in an email that relying on mothers to report their own pre-pregnancy weight is a possible limitation, because they might not remember correctly.

    The families involved in the study returned for a follow-up when the children were seven years old.

    At that point, 22 percent of children were obese - and children whose mothers had been more overweight before becoming pregnant were more likely to be overweight themselves.

    Greater weight gain during pregnancy was also linked to a higher percentage of body fat in children, and the children of mothers with excessive weight gain were almost three times more likely to be obese at age seven than other children, the researchers reported in Maternal and Child Nutrition.

    So-called observational studies like this one can't prove that mothers' weight in pregnancy caused these effects in their children. The results only show a link - they don't prove cause-and-effect.

    Still, the authors say, their study is the first to look for a link between pregnancy weight gain and kids' outcomes in a low-income, multi-ethnic urban group. They say this group is important to study because it has an overall high risk of obesity.

    Deierlein noted, however, that this study's findings are similar to those of previous ones that examined a wide range of ethnic and sociodemographic populations.

    "Pregnant women and women planning pregnancy should talk to their health care provider about strategies to gain within the IOM guidelines," Widen said. An interactive website hosted by IOM (bit.ly/1Gh4zta) offers tips and resources to help women avoid gaining too much weight while pregnant, Widen said.

    SOURCE: bit.ly/1BLDWM5 Maternal and Child Nutrition, online March 5, 2015.

  • Widows may have fewer social and financial problems than in the past

    By Shereen Lehman

    (Reuters Health) - A new Swiss study says that widows and widowers still mourn their spouses as much as ever, but compared to 35 years ago, everyday life is easier, especially for women.

    Widows, at least in Switzerland, have fewer financial troubles and more social connections than their counterparts in 1979, but widowers still complain of loneliness, researchers found.

    The authors wanted to see if the negative effects of widowhood on psychological and physical health had changed over time.

    "Public knowledge about spousal loss in old age has in general a negative connotation -- bereavement is usually seen as an individual issue," Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello told Reuters Health by email.

    "However bereaved individuals vary considerably in their reactions to loss, and little is known on how the historical context contributes to adaptation to spousal loss," said Perrig-Chiello of the University of Bern who led the study.

    Past research has shown that men and women react differently to the loss of a spouse. Widowers tend to be vulnerable to loneliness, whereas widows tend to be more distressed by economic issues, especially if their husband took care of family finances.

    For their study, published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Perrig-Chiello and colleagues examined health and depression information from two separate Swiss studies involving adults aged 65 years and older, most of them women.

    The studies took place in 1979 and 2011 and included a total of 753 widows and widowers, as well as 1,517 married people to act as a comparison group.

    In both studies, the participants were asked to rate their own physical and mental health and to describe any difficulties related to the loss of a spouse, such as losing a sense of purpose in life, needing to do everything alone, feelings of loneliness and dealing with social and financial problems.

    The researchers found that subjective reports of health improved over time for both married and widowed participants but widowed people fared worse than marrieds in both time periods.

    Widowed people in 2011, especially women, reported fewer social and financial difficulties than their counterparts in 1979, however. Rates of depression among widows did not differ over time.

    "Men reported more complaints about loneliness than women at both time points, whereas widows in 2011 reported significantly less loneliness than their counterparts in 1979," Perrig-Chiello said.

    She thinks that women seem to take greater advantage of new and enhanced social service programs that began in Switzerland between the two time points.

    These programs provide educational, recreational and psychological services for older people, she said.

    Perrig-Chiello said most bereaved people adapt well to the new situation, "however the adaptation to the new situation needs time for finding a new daily routine, but also a personal, deliberate effort for defining a new identity, investment for keeping or redefining social contacts."

    She added that family members, friends and also social groups can help provide support.

    Perrig-Chiello noted that only a minority of widows and widowers exhibit chronic or complicated grief and require professional help from psychologists, psychiatrists or pastoral counselors.

    "But also the help of a social worker in case of precarious financial situations can be a help, since - as our results show - sufficient financial resources may help to relieve secondary stressors," she said.

    Karen Holden said she thinks that today there's much more support for women, socially and in the form of information, which helps in times of financial stress.

    "I think with the increase in divorce, singlehood through marital dissolution is more common, so you get much more information - so there's also much more information for widows," Holden told Reuters Health.

    "Also, marriages are much more shared financially, so you don't get the disorientation of suddenly having to manage on your own," said Holden, who studies poverty and aging at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and was not involved in the study.

    She added that today men are much less likely to shield their wealth from their wives compared to the past.

    Holden said the study findings may show that we're managing financial distress better now, not only after widowhood but also during the process of the husbands' death so that women are less stressed when they actually are widowed.

    SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1BGqN3p The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, online March 1, 2015.

  • Renee Richards still amazed she broke transgender taboo

    By Steve Ginsburg

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than three decades after putting down her tennis racquet, Renee Richards is still astonished she had the moxie to join the women's professional tour after living the first 34 years of her life as a man.

    For all the frenzy around Olympian Bruce Jenner's reported decision to transition to a woman, the transgender pioneer Richards, born Richard Raskind, believes nothing could be tougher than what she endured in the 1970s.

    "How could I have actually gone out there in front of thousands of people as this notorious transsexual and compete against young women?" Richards, 80, told Reuters by phone from New York state.

    "I didn't know whether I was going to be shot at, or whether I was just going to be yelled at."

    Jenner, 65, was once considered the world's greatest athlete after winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics. That same year Richards says she was "outed" for her sex change, a revelation that reverberated, and not just through the sports world.

    Richards laughs about reports she is counseling Jenner. "It's not true," she said. "That's insane. It would be preposterous for me to say anything to him."

    Jenner's transition would make him the most high-profile American to come out as transgender, a boon to the community's increasingly visible fight for equality and acceptance. A reality star via the Kardashian family's TV series, he has not publicly commented on his plans.

    But Richards believes that, with no chance to begin his new life privately, Jenner will have a challenging time.

    Still practicing ophthalmology, Richards doesn't like being called a trailblazer or role model, saying she was "only one of a lot of pioneers."

    "I was certainly the one in the world of sports," she said. "But there have been others. There have been great strides made by other courageous people."


    Richards, captain of the Yale tennis team as a man, was denied the right to play in the 1976 U.S. Open at age 42 after transitioning the year before.

    When the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1977 allowing her to join the women's tour, Richards got death threats, needed bodyguards, and saw scores of women rivals drop out of events she entered.

    Billie Jean King, who founded the Women's Tennis Association in 1973, after discussions with doctors, went to Richards' Manhattan home to hear her story.

    "I just listened," recalled King. "I didn't know anything about transgender. I went back to the players and said, 'We have to let her play.' Everyone was up in arms. It was tumultuous."

    But King said she told women: "'All of you who are upset right now are going to end up thinking she's your best friend.' And many of them did."

    A 6-foot-2 left-hander, Richards played four years on the tour and in grand slams, reaching No. 19 in the world.

    "I never thought of her having been a man because she was so feminine, other than maybe her voice," said Hall of Famer Nancy Richey.

    Richards, the author of several books, including her latest, "Spy Night and Other Memories: A Collection of Stories from Dick and Renee," nevertheless wonders if playing tennis as a woman was the way to go.

    "If I had it to do over, I would have my sex change because that's what I was destined to do," she said. "But would I have tried to play professional women's tennis? Maybe not.

    "But as it turns out I've had so many wonderful experiences, I guess that was my destiny."

  • TV documentary probes mysteries, treatments, advances in cancer

    By Patricia Reaney

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - For documentary maker Ken Burns the film "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies" has a special significance because the multiple Emmy award-winner's mother died of the disease when he was a boy.

    Burns was 11 years old when she lost her battle with cancer, an event he said robbed him of his childhood.

    "It was the defining moment of my life," the 61-year-old filmmaker said in an interview. "I wouldn't be who I am had that not happened, as tragic as that is."

    Burns, whose many films range from "The Civil War" to "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," is the executive producer and creative consultant of the three-part, six-hour TV film that delves into the disease that kills about 8 million people globally each year.

    Directed by Barak Goodman ("Scottsboro: An American Tragedy") and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" by Indian-born American scientist Siddhartha Mukherjee, the documentary will begin airing on PBS on Monday.

    Part scientific and investigative report, the series chronicles the history of cancer, early misconceptions, discoveries into its causes, the development of chemotherapy and targeted therapies and the latest advances in immunotherapy.

    "It is a very complex, multidimensional, multilevel presentation," Burns said of the documentary, which also has a deep emotional component.

    The series includes archival film, commentary by medical experts and modern case studies showing the trauma, tragedy and triumphs of children and adults coping with cancer.

    Toddler Olivia Blair undergoes treatment for leukemia, diagnosed when she was just 14 months old. Surgical oncologist Dr. Lori Wilson reverses roles to become a patient after learning she has invasive breast cancer. Six-year-old Emily Whitehead becomes one of the first patients to benefit from new immunotherapy treatments.

    Burns said the series acknowledges that scientists are on an important cusp of discovery thanks to the mapping of the human genome, advances in immunotherapy and targeted treatments and refinements in chemotherapy and radiation that could tip many types of cancer from being terminal or life-threatening into chronic treatable diseases.

    "We want people to be armed with the facts, just so they know, so they can ask smart questions," he said. "Maybe it isn't just the proverbial little girl or little boy who becomes a scientist, but maybe it is the patients who get the diagnosis and suck in their breath and start asking some tough questions. That would be good."