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

  • It's time to fight traditions that harm women's health-WHO

    By Magdalena Mis

    LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Some of the major health problems faced by women in developing countries are caused by "terrible" traditions that must be stopped, said the head of public health at the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Traditions such as child marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM), widely practiced in some communities, contribute to high maternal mortality rates in some poor countries where girls as young as 13 get married and give birth.

    Tackling traditions that can be detrimental to health and backing those changes by legislation are essential to protecting women and girls, Maria Neira told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    "A tradition that forces a girl to get married at 13 is a bad tradition," Neira said on the sidelines of a London event on maternal mortality and access to water and sanitation. "It's time to fight all of those traditions."

    Customs like child marriage mean that teenage girls get pregnant and give birth, often before their bodies are ready, and often in clinics without basic facilities like clean water or toilets.

    Nearly 16 million adolescent girls give birth every year and at least 70,000 girls die each year due to pregnancy and childbirth complications, according to UNICEF.

    Although maternal mortality worldwide has dropped by 50 percent in the last two decades, 289,000 women died from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth in 2013, the majority of them in developing countries, according to WHO.

    Education is key to giving women a voice and empowering them to speak up for their rights, said Neira. "As soon as (women) get a minimum of education, their voice is stronger," she said.

    It's also the role of global institutions, including WHO, to help women fight for their rights, she said.

    "We need to focus on women because they don't have yet the power to fight for themselves. We need to empower them."

  • Federal judge rebuffs NCAA concussion settlement

    By Reuters Staff

    (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday rebuffed a $75-million NCAA settlement that aimed to end a massive class-action lawsuit over head injuries suffered by student athletes, court records show.

    U.S. District Judge John Lee wrote in a 21-page opinion that while the proposed agreement was a step in the right direction, the $70 million devoted to fund concussion testing and diagnosis for players might not cover potential costs, among other issues.

    "Although these concerns may prove surmountable, the Court cannot grant preliminary approval of the settlement as currently proposed," Lee wrote.

    There was no immediate reply to a request for comment from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which had previously welcomed the agreement as a way to improve sports safety.

    The lawsuit was first filed in 2011 on behalf of former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington, who said he suffered headaches and seizures as a result of five documented concussions. The proposed settlement covers other cases.

    The deal also addressed some guidelines, such as barring a student with a concussion from returning to play or practice on the same day and requiring a doctor's clearance.

    It would have also set aside $5 million for concussion research, although research done by member schools can be credited toward that amount.

    The opinion highlighted that not all plaintiffs in the case were happy with the settlement, with some taking issue over the provision barring players from bringing bodily injury claims as a class.

    The proposed NCAA settlement came a few weeks after a federal judge's preliminary approval of an open-ended settlement between the National Football League and thousands of former players in June.

    The NFL settlement money was intended to resolve all the personal injury claims for the plaintiffs' out of pocket damages.

    The danger of concussions and other head injuries has received increased attention in college and professional sports in recent years, with much of the focus on football.

    More than 450,000 NCAA student athletes compete in 23 sports. The NCAA makes revenue of about $740 million each year, court documents show.

  • Obesity can be deemed a disability at work -EU court

    By Julia Fioretti

    BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's top court ruled on Thursday that obese people can be considered as disabled, but stopped short of saying that obesity was a condition that needed specific protection under European anti-discrimination laws.

    The landmark decision will be closely read by European employers and means that companies might have to provide greater support to obese staff.

    The case was instigated by a Danish court, which wanted guidance over a complaint of unfair dismissal brought by a child-minder who was sacked by a local authority.

    Karsten Kaltoft, who never weighed less than 160 kilograms (352 pounds) during his employment, argued that his obesity was one of the reasons he lost his job and that this amounted to unlawful discrimination - an allegation the council denied.

    The Court of Justice of the European Union (EJC) ruled that EU employment law did not specifically prohibit discrimination on the grounds of obesity, and said the law should not be extended to make it a protected category.

    However, the Luxembourg-based court said that if an employee's obesity hindered "full and effective participation of that person in professional life on an equal basis with other workers" then it could be considered a disability. This, in turn, is covered by anti-discrimination legislation.

    Classifying obesity as a protected characteristic - such as sex, race or age - would have required employers to take measures to ensure obese workers could perform their duties on an equal footing with others.

    "It would have opened a can of worms," said Crowley Woodford, employment partner at law firm Ashurst.

    However, Friday's nuanced ruling still leaves companies open to potential discrimination suits.

    "If you consider the obese disabled, all of a sudden it triggers certain protections for employees," said Jacob Sand, a partner at Danish law firm Gorrissen Federspiel which represented Kaltoft.

    Considering obesity a disability also reverses the burden of proof in workplace disputes over discrimination, Sand added, meaning it will be easier for employees to argue they had been discriminated against on the basis of their disability.

    "That makes it a whole lot easier for employees in that it is easier to win the case," Sand said.

    However it does not mean that employers cannot fire someone whose size means that they are unable to do their job, rather that they must consider whether any adjustments need to be made to help the employee perform their role first, said Stefan Martin, employment partner at law firm Mayer Brown.

    According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), based on 2008 estimates, roughly 23 percent of European women and 20 percent of European men were obese.

    The issue of whether obesity is a disability has also been dealt with in U.S. courts, where almost one in three adults is obese, according to WHO data. Some states, such as Michigan, have enacted legislation that explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person's weight.

    The Danish court must now decide whether Kaltoft's obesity represented a disability. It is expected to reach a decision before the end of next year. Kaltoft had asked for compensation equivalent to 15 months' salary for his dismissal, Sand said.

  • Heart experts warn of air pollution dangers

    By Janice Neumann

    (Reuters Health) - Air pollution should be one of the avoidable heart risk factors - just like smoking and excess fat - that doctors warn patients to steer clear of, according to a new statement from 20 heart experts.

    Citing pollution's heavy toll on cardiovascular health, the panel urges people to take steps to protect themselves from breathing heavy traffic fumes or industrial air pollution whenever possible, and public officials to pass laws to reduce air pollution.

    "Cardiovascular disease is a huge global problem, causing immense suffering and premature death, as well as placing severe strain on national healthcare budgets and/or family finances," said Dr. Robert Storey, a professor of cardiology at the University of Sheffield in the UK and senior author of the new position paper.

    Air pollution causes more than 3 million deaths worldwide each year and causes 3.1 percent of all cases of disability, Storey and his coauthors write in the European Heart Journal.

    Air pollution is also ninth most important on a list of modifiable heart-disease risk factors - ranking above low physical activity, high-salt diet, high cholesterol and drug use, the authors point out.

    Although gaseous air pollutants can be dangerous too, Storey said, airborne particles are the biggest contributor to cardiovascular disease because they cause inflammation of the lungs and enter the circulation, inflaming blood vessels, provoking clots and causing heart rhythm disturbances.

    Particulate matter includes coarse particles from road dust, construction work and industrial emissions and fine particles from traffic, power plants and industrial and residential burning of oil, coal or wood for heating.

    The bulk of particulate air pollution is made up of these fine particles, known as PM2.5, that are less than 2.5 micrometers - about one fifth the size of visible dust.

    The World Health Organization sets the safe outdoor exposure limit for PM2.5 at an average of 25 micrograms, or 25 millionths of a gram, per cubic meter of air over a 24-hour period, or average annual levels of 10 micrograms per cubic meter. In 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lowered the 24-hour exposure limit to an average of 12 micrograms.

    European studies have found that PM2.5 levels are often markedly higher near heavy traffic zones compared to elsewhere in the same city, and that the levels can more than double during rush hours, according to the position statement.

    Some of the authors' advice for people to protect themselves is as simple as walking, cycling and using public transportation instead of driving cars, and exercising in parks or gardens, rather than near busy roads.

    And everyone should avoid being outside when pollution is highest, though this is especially important for infants, elderly and people with heart problems, the authors say.

    People who live in heavily polluted areas should also consider ventilation systems with filtration in their homes, since a large portion of outdoor pollution can penetrate buildings.

    The use of fossil fuels for heating and energy should also be decreased, according to the statement.

    "Many countries have made good progress towards reducing risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure but much less effort has been extended on reducing exposure to air pollution," Storey said in an email to Reuters Health.

    Studies have shown even short-term exposure to high PM2.5 levels increases deaths from heart disease and respiratory disease, and that people living in places with high PM2.5 have an 11 percent greater risk of dying from heart attacks, strokes and heart failure than those who live in cleaner areas.

    Dr. Robert Brook, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan Health System and another author of the policy statement, said many people don't realize the dangerous effects of air pollution on the heart.

    "While most people can readily observe and believe that air pollution may cause lung diseases, it is in fact cardiovascular diseases that are the largest adverse health effect of fine particulate matter exposure," Brook said in an email.

    Dr. Alan Abelsohn of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto in Canada, called the statement an important reminder. Too few cardiologists and primary care doctors advise their patients of pollution's risks, he said.

    "It's a very important and neglected area of prevention," he said.

    Abelsohn, who was not involved in the position statement, noted that national-level guidelines on allowable amounts of pollution can only do so much. He said individuals should always pay attention to the local Air Quality Index, which rates the level of air pollution according to health risk, and reduce their exposure accordingly.

    Brook said that while the U.S. has made great strides reducing air pollution since the 1970s or even 2000, the efforts should continue.

    "What we should not do is lessen our regulations and pose a threat to the cardiovascular health of the nation in the name of expediency or supposed economic growth or stimulus," Brook said.

    SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1zt1Iw6 European Heart Journal, online December 9, 2014.

  • Autism risk linked to particulate air pollution

    By Reuters Staff

    (Reuters) - Children whose mothers were exposed to high levels of fine particulate pollution in late pregnancy have up to twice the risk of developing autism as children of mothers breathing cleaner air, scientists at Harvard School of Public Health reported on Thursday.

    The greater the exposure to fine particulates emitted by fires, vehicles and industrial smokestacks, the greater the risk, according to the study published online in Environmental Health Perspectives.

    Earlier research also found an autism-pollution connection, including a 2010 study that found the risk of autism doubled if a mother, during her third trimester, lived near a freeway, a proxy for exposure to particulates. But this is the first to examine the link across the United States, and "provides additional support" to a possible link, said Heather Volk of the University of Southern California Children's Hospital, who led earlier studies.

    U.S. diagnoses of autism soared to one in 68 children in 2010 (the most recent data) from one in 150 in 2000, government scientists reported in March. Experts are divided on how much of the increase reflects greater awareness and how much truly greater incidence.

    Although the disorder has a strong genetic basis, the increasing incidence has spurred scientists to investigate environmental causes, too, since genes do not change quickly enough to explain the rise.

    The Harvard study included children of the 116,430 women in the Nurses' Health Study II, which began in 1989. The researchers collected data on where the women lived while pregnant and levels of particulate pollution. They then compared the prenatal histories of 245 children with autism spectrum disorder to 1,522 normally-developing children, all born from 1990 to 2002.

    There was no association between autism and fine particulate pollution exposure before or early in pregnancy, or after the child was born. But high levels of exposure during the third trimester doubled the risk of autism.

    Evidence that a mother-to-be's exposure to air pollution affects her child's risk of autism "is becoming quite strong," said Harvard epidemiologist Marc Weisskopf, who led the study, suggesting a way to reduce the risk.

    It is not clear how tiny particles might cause autism, but they are covered with myriad contaminants and penetrate cells, which can disrupt brain development.

    Last year the Environmental Protection Agency, citing the link to asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, tightened air quality standards for fine particulate pollution. States have until 2020 to meet the new standards.

    SOURCE: http://1.usa.gov/1w2lTep Environmental Health Perspectives, online December 18, 2014.