Complications following termination of pregnancy

25 Mar 2022Paid-up subscribers

Serious complications during or after termination of pregnancy are rare. However, they can be associated with significant morbidity and mortality, and occasionally can complicate future pregnancies. The risk of pelvic infection is around 10% and this is usually due to exacerbation of a pre-existing infection. The most common causes of bleeding include: retained products of conception; infection and trauma to the cervix or uterus, especially at > 10 weeks’ gestation. 

GPs have key role in identifying women at risk of pre-eclampsia

25 Mar 2022Paid-up subscribers

Pre-eclampsia is an important cause of maternal morbidity and mortality. It is a multisystem disorder of pregnancy characterised by new onset hypertension after 20 weeks’ gestation, usually accompanied by proteinuria. If a urine dipstick is positive for protein, the amount should be quantified: a protein: creatinine ratio ≥ 30 mg/mmol is abnormal. There should be a high index of suspicion for pre-eclampsia if there is biochemical disturbance consistent with the diagnosis or evidence of fetal growth restriction when plotted on a customised growth chart.

GPs have a key role in the management of miscarriage

22 Mar 2021Registered users

First trimester miscarriage affects up to one in four pregnancies. While some women will experience bleeding and pain, others have no symptoms and are given the diagnosis at their 12-13 week booking scan. In 50-85% of cases the cause is due to a spontaneous chromosomal abnormality, most commonly trisomy. Many women suffer from psychological sequelae including PTSD, anxiety and depression. GPs should offer a follow-up appointment to all women who have had a miscarriage to: discuss any questions the woman has regarding her miscarriage; assess the woman’s psychological wellbeing and offer counselling if appropriate.

Optimising the assessment and management of osteoporosis

22 Mar 2021Registered users

Osteoporosis affects around 40% of women and 13% of men at some point in their lives. While almost any bone can fracture as the result of osteoporosis, the most common sites are the wrist, spine, hip and humerus. The presence of one or more clinical risk factors in individuals aged 50 and over is an indication for a fracture risk assessment. There is a strong evidence base for drug treatment in DXA proven osteoporosis and those with low trauma vertebral fractures.

Tailor treatment to the patient in polycystic ovary syndrome

24 Mar 2020Registered users

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition characterised by hyperandrogenism, multifollicular ovaries and ovulatory dysfunction. It affects 8-13% of women of reproductive age and is associated with insulin resistance, hyperlipidaemia and obesity. Baseline measurements should include blood pressure and BMI. Clinical signs of hyperandrogenism including hirsutism, acne and androgenic alopecia should be assessed. A hormone profile should be done during days 1-5 of the menstrual cycle or as a random sample when there is amenorrhoea.

Have a high index of suspicion for ectopic pregnancy

24 Mar 2020Registered users

Ectopic pregnancy is estimated to occur in 1-2% of all pregnancies and continues to be the leading cause of maternal mortality in early pregnancy. Most ectopic pregnancies are located within the fallopian tube and carry a risk of tubal rupture and intra-abdominal bleeding. Women with ectopic pregnancy can present in a wide variety of ways, from acute collapse following rupture to asymptomatic and unaware that they are pregnant. Symptoms may include vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain. There may also be non-specific symptoms such as Gl and urinary symptoms, rectal pressure, dizziness, shoulder tip pain, fainting or syncope. 

Investigating the cause of heavy menstrual bleeding

25 Mar 2019Registered users

Heavy menstrual bleeding has been defined as ‘excessive menstrual blood loss which interferes with a woman’s physical, social, emotional, and/or material quality of life’. Heavy menstrual bleeding affects 25% of women of reproductive age and is estimated to be the fourth most common reason for gynaecological referrals. Women should be asked about pelvic pain which might suggest endometriosis and pressure symptoms which might suggest significant fibroids. Examination is appropriate if there is intermenstrual or postcoital bleeding and, if the woman is actively bleeding, may identify the source of the bleeding.

Diagnosis and management of premenstrual syndrome

25 Mar 2019Paid-up subscribers

The term premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to a constellation of mood and physical symptoms that occur during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome suggests that: ‘If PMS symptoms affect personal and/or social and/or professional quality of life then this should be regarded as being clinically significant PMS.’ Some women give a clear history of onset during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, with improvement taking place within a few days after the onset of menses. However, other women present with fluctuating symptoms without making a connection with their menstrual cycle. There are no diagnostic tests for PMS; diagnosis is dependent on the history. 

Symptom recognition key to diagnosing endometriosis

22 Mar 2018Registered users

Endometriosis affects around one in ten women of reproductive age in the UK. NICE guidance highlights the importance of symptoms in its diagnosis. A normal abdominal or pelvic examination, ultrasound, or MRI should not exclude the diagnosis. Endometriosis should be suspected in women and adolescents who present with one or more of: chronic pelvic pain, significant dysmenorrhoea, deep dyspareunia, period-related or cyclical GI or urinary symptoms, or infertility. If endometriosis is suspected or symptoms persist, patients should be referred for further assessment.

Managing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women

22 Mar 2018Paid-up subscribers

Most patients with osteoporosis are asymptomatic unless they suffer a fragility fracture. A fragility fracture is a type of pathological fracture that occurs as a result of normal activities, such as lifting, bending, or a fall from standing height or less. There are three fracture sites said to be typical of fragility fractures: vertebral fractures; fractures of the neck of the femur; and Colles' fracture of the wrist. Following fracture risk assessment a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan may be recommended.

Tailor management to the patient with fibroids

22 Mar 2017Paid-up subscribers

Fibroids are benign, hormone-dependent tumours of uterine smooth muscle and connective tissue. They are commonly asymptomatic, but can cause symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pressure symptoms. Around 20 to 30% of women with heavy menstrual bleeding have fibroids. Fibroids are most prevalent in women aged 30-50 years and there may be a genetic predisposition. They are more common in black women than white women. Other risk factors include obesity and nulliparity. Asymptomatic women should only be referred if their uterus is palpable abdominally, if fibroids distort the uterine cavity or the uterus is larger than 12 cm in length.

Preventing stroke and assessing risk in women

22 Mar 2017Paid-up subscribers

Ischaemic stroke is rare in premenopausal women but risk increases with advancing age and doubles in the ten years following the menopause. Up to the age of 75 years men have a 25% higher risk of suffering a stroke compared with women. However, the increased life expectancy of women ultimately results in a higher overall incidence. Twice as many women die from stroke compared with breast cancer. Women with cerebrovascular disease are more likely to present with atypical symptoms than men. Atrial fibrillation and hypertension, although less common than in men, are more potent risk factors for stroke in women.

Underestimating risk in women delays diagnosis of CVD

21 Mar 2016Paid-up subscribers

CVD remains the most common cause of mortality in women. There has been an increase in the prevalence of MI in women aged 35 to 54, while a decline in prevalence was observed in age-matched men. Although men and women share classic cardiovascular risk factors the relative importance of each risk factor may be gender specific. The impact of smoking is greater in women than men, especially in those under 50. Diabetes is a more potent risk factor for fatal CHD in women than men.

Managing debilitating menopausal symptoms

21 Mar 2016Paid-up subscribers

Severity and duration of menopausal symptoms varies markedly. Eight out of ten women experience symptoms and on average these last four years, with one in ten women experiencing symptoms for up to 12 years. Menopausal symptoms can begin years before menstruation ceases. A recent study found that women whose vasomotor symptoms started before the menopause suffered longest, median 11.8 years. Women whose hot flushes and night sweats started after the menopause had symptoms for a median of 3.4 years.

Be vigilant for perinatal mental health problems

23 Mar 2015Paid-up subscribers

The postnatal period appears to be associated with higher rates of adjustment disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, and depression. Women who have a history of serious mental illness are at higher risk of developing a postpartum relapse, even if they have been well during pregnancy. Postnatal depression is more severe than baby blues, follows a chronic course and may relapse outside the perinatal period. Bipolar disorder may present as a first depressive episode in pregnancy or the postnatal period. In the postpartum period women have a high risk of severe relapse.

GPs have key role in early diagnosis of endometriosis

23 Mar 2015Registered users

Risk factors for endometriosis include early menarche, late menopause, delayed childbearing, vaginal outflow obstruction and a first-degree relative affected. Women commonly present to their GP with pelvic pain, painful intercourse or subfertility. Referral should be considered if pain is not controlled with simple analgesia or the diagnosis is suspected in a woman who is actively trying to conceive. Early referral should be considered in women with abnormal examination findings, or an abnormal ultrasound result.

Improving the management of urinary incontinence

20 Mar 2014Paid-up subscribers

Urinary incontinence is a common condition that is likely to be under-reported. Its frequency increases with age, parity, high BMI, and associated comorbidities. The history should include the circumstances in which the incontinence occurs, the duration and how it affects the patient’s quality of life. The initial assessment should include enquiring for symptoms of urinary tract infection and carrying out a urine dipstick test. [With external links to the current evidence base]

Detecting ovarian disorders in primary care

20 Mar 2014Paid-up subscribers

Ovarian cysts occur more often in premenopausal than postmenopausal women. Most of these cysts will be benign, with the risk of malignancy increasing with age. Symptoms which may be suggestive of a malignant ovarian cyst, particularly in the over 50 age group, include: weight loss, persistent abdominal distension or bloating, early satiety, pelvic or abdominal pain and increased urinary urgency and frequency. [With external links to the current evidence base]

Diagnosis and treatment of ectopic pregnancy

21 Mar 2013

The most common symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are pelvic or abdominal pain, amenorrhoea, missed period or abnormal period and vaginal bleeding. Women who are haemodynamically unstable, or in whom there is significant concern about the degree of pain or bleeding, should be referred directly to A&E, irrespective of the result of the pregnancy test. Stable patients with bleeding who have pain or a pregnancy of six weeks gestation or more or a pregnancy of uncertain gestation should be referred immediately to an early pregnancy assessment (EPA) service, or out-of-hours gynaecology service if the EPA service is not available. [With external links to the current evidence base]

Optimising the management of patients with infertility

21 Mar 2013Paid-up subscribers

Infertility affects around one in seven couples of reproductive age. The main causes of infertility are female factor (anovulation, tubal damage, endometriosis and ovarian failure), male factor (low or absent numbers of motile sperm in the ejaculate, and erectile dysfunction), or unexplained infertility. A woman of reproductive age who has not conceived after a year of regular sexual intercourse, and has no known cause of infertility, should be offered referral for further clinical assessment and investigation with her partner. [With external links to the current evidence base]

Postmenopausal bleeding should be referred urgently

21 Mar 2012

All women with postmenopausal bleeding should be referred urgently. Endometrial cancer is present in approximately 10% of cases. First-line investigation is a transvaginal ultrasound scan. A normal TVUS is reassuring, and if examination is normal further investigation is not required, providing the bleeding has stopped. There is no evidence to indicate whether different patterns of postmenopausal bleeding such as one-off bleeding or more frequent bleeds are more likely to be associated with malignancy. [With external links to current evidence and summaries]

Which patients should be offered caesarean section?

21 Mar 2012Paid-up subscribers

Rates of delivery by caesarean section (CS) have steadily risen from 10% of all deliveries in the 1980s to a current figure of around 23.8%. Approximately 75% of CS are emergency procedures and only 25% are elective planned deliveries. When deciding whether to offer CS, it is important to consider the psychological implications for the patient as well as the physical and mental sequelae in future pregnancies. The updated NICE guideline helps clinicians to be consistent in the management of patients requesting and having a CS. [With external links to the current evidence base]

GPs should be vigilant for pelvic inflammatory disease

23 Mar 2011Paid-up subscribers

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) typically results from ascending infection through the endocervix, from the lower to the upper genital tract. This leads to inflammation of the endometrium, uterus, fallopian tubes, adnexal structures or pelvic peritoneum. It is extremely common and accounts for one in 60 GP consultations by women under the age of 45 years. PID may cause significant short- and long-term morbidity. Whereas most patients are asymptomatic, others may present acutely unwell with pelvic peritonitis and septicaemia. The long-term effects of PID include chronic pelvic pain, subfertility and ectopic pregnancy. However, there may also be substantial psychological morbidity in the form of guilt, isolation, and stigma associated with the diagnosis.  Although PID may occur following pelvic surgery, after instrumentation of the uterus and even in the puerperium, the most common cause is sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Management of fibroids should be tailored to the patient

22 Mar 2011Paid-up subscribers

At least one in four women will develop one or more fibroids during their lifetime. They are most common in women aged 30-50 years and can run in families. Patients often have multiple fibroids, although some women have just one. Fibroids are three times more common in women of Afro-Caribbean descent than Caucasian women. Risk factors for the development of fibroids are:age; nulliparity; race; family history; obesity. There appears to be a decreased risk in smokers. Fibroids may be found during a routine examination or by chance during a scan for some other reason. On bimanual examination the uterus appears irregular in outline. An ultrasound scan can confirm the diagnosis. Women with menorrhagia and fibroids >12 cm and/or a palpable uterus should be referred to a specialist for further opinion. [With external links to current evidence and summaries]

Premature menopause linked to CVD and osteoporosis

22 Mar 2010Paid-up subscribers

Premature menopause can mean the end of fertility. The condition affects 1% of women under the age of 40, one in 1,000 under the age of 30 and one in 10,000 under the age of 20. In the UK, each year, 110,000 women will experience premature menopause between the ages of 12 and 40. [With external links to current evidence and summaries]

Urinary incontinence in women: diagnosis and management

21 Mar 2010Registered users

Urinary incontinence can affect women of all ages. Incontinence may seriously influence the physical, psychological and social wellbeing of affected individuals, and the impact on the families and carers may also be profound. There are more than 3.5 million sufferers in the UK. [With external links to the current evidence base]

GPs have a vital role in managing pelvic pain

29 Mar 2009Paid-up subscribers

Pelvic pain is a common symptom that accounts for a large proportion of consultations in primary care. There is a steady monthly incidence and prevalence of 1.58/1,000 and 21.5/1,000 respectively.Chronic pelvic pain presents as frequently as migraine or low back pain and needs to be managed appropriately and effectively.

Investigating infertility in primary care

29 Mar 2009Paid-up subscribers

Approximately 1 in 4 couples will see their GP for infertility problems. Infertility is thus a very common condition with around 1 in 7 couples of reproductive age being diagnosed as infertile.