Dr. Amanda Herrin McPherson had only been working for St. Francis' OB/GYN Associates for about a week when we first met in June. She and her family have lived in Columbus for about five years and she was previously employed at Fort Benning's Martin Army Community Hospital.
The 40-year-old gynecologist/obstetrician recently answered some questions for her magazine about women's health and OB/GYN services. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How long have you been an obstetrician/gynecologist? I completed my residency in obstetrics and gynecology in June of 2003. I have been practicing OB/GYN since then.
As an OB/GYN, you exclusively treat women. Are a majority of your patients in for general check-ups or do you see mostly expecting moms? I see annual check-ups, low-risk and high-risk pregnancies, gynecological problems visits, incontinence/osteoporosis/menopause visits, as well as pre- and post-op visits for surgeries (which I do in the hospital). I also perform minor procedures, such as colposcopies (a procedure used to detect abnormal cells and tissues of the cervix, vagina, and vulva. It is done with a colposcope), LEEPs (loop electrosurgical excision procedures) and IUD insertions, in the office. So it really is a nice mixture of everything. I really enjoy seeing woman of all ages and their medical needs change over the years.
At what age should women start seeing an ob/gyn? Should moms start bringing their daughters to their own appointments to get them used to the idea? It is never a bad idea to expose your daughter to the idea of talking to a gynecologist about her health. Although cervical cancer screening with pap smears generally does not start until age 21, there are many reasons that an adolescent or young woman may need to see an OB/GYN. She may have puberty or menstrual cycle problems, need birth control pills for contraception or cycle control, or require sexually transmitted disease screening. We also recommend that girls between the ages of 9-26 receive the HPV vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer.
What are the most important screenings/tests for women to get regularly? The most important screening tests are yearly pelvic and breast exams, pap smears at recommended intervals depending on your age, and mammograms starting at age 40 or sooner if indicated. Screening for colon cancer and osteoporosis is also important as a woman ages.
What is an important, but perhaps little know factor affecting women's health?
Weight issues, in particular obesity, can cause problems for women starting at a young age. Polycystic ovarian syndrome may result in hormonal problems, irregular periods, difficulties getting pregnant, and an increased risk for diabetes. It may be present in an adolescent even before her first period! On the other hand, anorexia and/or bulimia are serious medical problems as well. You should ask your doctor about your BMI (body mass index) and strive for your own, individual ideal body weight.
Are there any detrimental health myths that many women believe and follow, but may actually be harming them?
Even though you may not need a pap smear every year, you still need to see your OB/GYN annually for a breast and pelvic exam!
OB/GYN Associates offers the services of both obstetricians and midwives. What is the difference between the two and what should expecting parents consider when deciding who to see?
Physicians attend four years of medical school after college and then complete a four year residency in obstetrics and gynecology. They are trained to manage low risk pregnancies/deliveries as well as high-risk pregnancy problems and surgery. Regardless of who is involved in your delivery, you need an OB/GYN physician available for emergencies, which can sometimes be unpredictable and can happen in the most routine deliveries.
Midwives can have different backgrounds and credentials. Our midwives have a masters of science in nursing and are board certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives, which is an important distinction. You may prefer to choose a midwife if you are considering a delivery without pain medication or a water birth. We have a great group of midwives who are committed to patient support and education, as well as providing good medical care.
What is the most difficult part of your job? The most rewarding?
Ninety-nine percent of what I do is happy. I generally help healthy women with pregnancies/deliveries, routine gynecological problems and surgeries. There is nothing more rewarding than handing a beautiful new baby to his/her mother. I still get tearful every time! However, that one-percent of bad outcomes, which as I said before can be very unpredictable, weighs heavily with me for a very long time.