HARLINGEN — Women in the Rio Grande Valley can take many steps to prevent miscarriages, including starting prenatal vitamins and a folic acid supplement, and improving their health and nutrition — even before they become pregnant.
That will be the message of Dr. Susan Redmond, Obstetrician / Gynecologist and Partner-In-Care to Harlingen Medical Center, who will speak on the topic of “Repeat Miscarriages: What You Need to Know”, tomorrow morning (Friday, May 13) at 10:30 a.m. at Harlingen Medical Center, 5501 S. Expressway (in the HMC Administration Classroom on the first floor of the hospital).
Dr. Redmond’s talk, which will include the opportunity to ask questions to the doctor, is being held as part of the free “Harlingen Medical Center Annual Ladies Day Out Health Fair.” The Health Fair will include free medical screenings from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. tomorrow morning in the main lobby of the hospital, as well as tours of the hospital’s Women’s Center, health and wellness information for women, refreshments and door prizes.
Dr. Redmond recommends that women start taking prenatal vitamins with extra folic acid three months before they become pregnant. Dr. Redmond said this is especially essential in the Valley, to help prevent early miscarriages and other serious problems, such as anencephaly (a birth defect in which part of the baby’s brain is not formed).
“A lot of these babies are lost to miscarriage very early in pregnancy, before major problems are diagnosed,” Dr. Redmond added. “The most important point to remember is that prenatal care needs to start before a woman is even pregnant.”
Dr. Redmond said it’s important for women to also get other health problems under control before they become pregnant, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and hormonal problems. Eating healthy, with a good, balanced nutritional diet, and beginning an exercise routine can help women manage many of these conditions and improve their health before the pregnancy, she added.
Another very important step is for women to meet with their doctor before they are pregnant and let the physician know about other health problems they may have noticed — as well as follow-up with the doctor about their prior medical history. For example, if a woman had a previous miscarriage, physicians may want to make sure there is no type of tumor present — or a chronic infection which could be easily cleared up with antibiotics, Dr. Redmond said.
Another example might be a woman who has an abnormal cervix, which could be corrected by surgery, to increase her chance of carrying a baby throughout pregnancy, she added.
Dr. Redmond – who has delivered thousands of babies since coming to Harlingen 29 years ago – said that unfortunately she has seen many patients who have had multiple miscarriages – including one patient who had seven pregnancy losses. It turns out that the patient tested positive for lupus, and after treatment with medications, she was finally able to carry a baby to term.
Another of Dr. Redmond’s patients had suffered two stillbirths because she had rheumatoid arthritis, which causes the body’s immune system to “attack itself”. This resulted in small clots being formed in the placenta, a crucial organ which provides oxygen and nutrients to the baby growing in the uterus.
Once this disease was detected by a blood test in Dr. Redmond’s office and treated with medication, the woman was able to have a healthy, full-term baby.
“By doing blood tests, we can detect and treat many of these conditions before symptoms appear and before the woman becomes pregnant – and greatly increase the patient’s odds of successfully carrying a pregnancy,” Dr. Redmond added.
She added that most health insurance policies will cover blood tests and other “workup” tests for women who have had multiple miscarriages.
Dr. Redmond said genetic background can also contribute to miscarriages in the Rio Grande Valley. Studies have shown that many women of Mexican background, as well as those from families that originated in Ireland and Scotland, don’t metabolize folic acid as well, she said.
“If you have a woman who doesn’t metabolize folic acid, and a father who does not metabolize folic acid, most of those babies are going to miscarry — unless a woman takes a lot of folic acid,” she added.
Since miscarriages and stillbirths often run in families, Dr. Redmond says women who are thinking about becoming pregnant may want to see if they can find out anything about their family history, as far as any problems with prior pregnancies. This may require approaching other female family members, such as their sisters, in a very discreet and confidential way.
“Most women don’t like to talk about miscarriages that they’ve had; it’s a very personal thing,” she noted.
Dr. Redmond, who is originally from Monmouth, Illinois, completed three years of residency training at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in East Lansing, Michigan. She also did a one-year residency at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut, after graduating from medical school at Southern Illinois University.
For more information on Dr. Susan Redmond’s “Doc Talk Lecture” or the “Annual Ladies Day Out Health Fair” at Harlingen Medical Center, please call the Business Development and Marketing Department at (956) 365-1848.