May 2016

Advanced Women’s Care of the Lowcountry: It’s Not Just About Your Pap Smear Any More

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: John Brackett

Human life…. At birth we are set on the path that will be ours and ours alone. No two paths are identical, mirroring the individual nature of our finger print or the composition of our DNA. Scientists, medical and mental health professionals, and certainly parents, make predictions about behavior or growth by placing their charges and subjects in general categories. Viewing life as a series of stages, scientists can more accurately predict outcomes, parents can anticipate that, yes, this trying phase will eventually come to an end (only to be replaced by the next test, naturally), and medical professionals are better able to focus care and treatment utilizing a stage of life approach.

Dr. Tracy Blusewicz and Dr. Katherine Coley of Advanced Women’s Care of the Lowcountry, appreciate the nuances of their patients’ life stages, tailoring their gynecology, obstetric, and infertility care to the individual’s unique needs along their singular path.

Blusewicz and Coley want to declare that a visit to the OBGYN is no longer just about getting an annual pap smear. “We’re here to help,” Blusewicz said. “There are lots of things that people experience that they don’t know they can get help for, or don’t feel comfortable talking about with their internist or friends.”

“For every stage of life there are reasons to come in other than just a pap smear,” Coley said. “The newest recommendations for pap smears, is to not do them before age 21, however, plenty of people come in before age 21 for a lot of reasons.” A visit to the OBGYN in the tweens and teens phase of life is often simply an opportunity for a conversation with the doctor. “Lots of times we don’t actually do a physical exam, we just talk,” Coley said. “We don’t have to do a pelvic exam because there is not a need for a pap smear.”

“There’s a lot of prepping that can be very impactful on teens,” Blusewicz said. “Sometimes it can be very confusing when a girl’s period starts, which may be very different than when her mom started. Why is the period so irregular? Why is it so heavy? Why am I so moody? Why am I having such cramps? There are things we can do to help.”

Some of the other topics typically covered during a visit at this stage include STD testing, birth control, acne, how body changes and periods are impacting everyday life, and the HPV vaccine and the ways it may prevent cervical cancer. “The HPV vaccine now targets nine strains of HPV,” Blusewicz said. “There’s a lot of confusion surrounding it, so it’s nice to have a consult to go over when it’s indicated and what it can help prevent.”

The next stage is frequently identified as the child-bearing years. “We have women who don’t want to get pregnant, some who are trying to get pregnant, those who are pregnant, or are finished being pregnant but are still menstruating,” Coley said. “We do initial work-ups for people dealing with infertility. If they are not ovulating on a regular schedule we can give them medication; we talk about the right timing for getting pregnant in terms of ovulation, and sometimes set up a referral for their husband to get a semen analysis.” A variety of potential issues may be addressed in the office or through minimally invasive procedures to assist with fertility issues. “Then we do obstetrical care once they are pregnant”

Dr. Tracy Blusewicz (right) and Dr. Katherine Coley (Left)

“In addition to the people wanting to get pregnant, we also offer a gamut of options for people who don’t want to be pregnant,” Coley said. Most recent advances in birth control include smaller IUDs and the implantable rod.

“There has been a real push by the American College of OBGYN toward longer acting contraception,” Blusewicz said. “There are also newer, lower-dose birth control pills—particularly good for someone who may have previously had side effects.”

Both board certified physicians, Blusewicz and Coley bring the most recent advances in their specialty to their practice by pursuing continuing education through the American College of OBGYN, by attending training conferences, and by gaining certifications offered by labs and drug companies. The team has completed advanced training in order to offer laparoscopic hysterectomies, and was recently certified to prescribe ADDYI, the new female libido medication.

Perimenopause and menopause are stages that may trigger confusion and sometimes concern. Hormone fluctuations can change a woman’s period or symptoms from month to month. “All women go through perimenopause and menopause differently,” Coley said. “Sometimes it’s kind of hard when she has a group of friends and none of them are experiencing what she’s experiencing. When these ladies come in, we understand what they’re telling us, and it makes sense.”

A discussion with the doctor during these phases of life can answer questions concerning the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy, as well as the benefits of birth control pills for reasons other than avoiding pregnancy. “We can treat the symptoms without hormones, or we can treat the symptoms with hormones,” Blusewicz said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all for hormones.”

The topic of BMI (body mass index) and encouraging patients in all stages of life to maintain a healthy weight is not a topic these doctors shy away from. “It’s a part of your health, and we need to help get patients down to their ideal body weight for their blood pressure, diabetic risk, joint pain, or just general health,” Coley said.

Having kept 80 pounds of baby weight on for nine years, and losing it over the course of one year, the topic of weight loss is near and dear to Blusewicz’s heart. “I try to be really supportive, because it really is a daily battle and is something that takes a lot of focus— focus on yourself and on your health,” she said. “Everyone is worth it, and everyone can do it. It’s a day by day thing. It doesn’t get fixed overnight.”

Visiting your OBGYN isn’t just about your annual pap smear any longer. The physicians at Advanced Women’s Care of the Lowcountry offer exceptional medical care, words of wisdom and insight, and a true commitment to caring for women of all ages, in all the many stages of life.

Advanced Women’s Care of the Lowcountry has two offices. Hilton Head Island – 8 Hospital Center Drive, Suite 150 – Hours 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours on Thursday evenings. Bluffton – 29 Plantation Park Drive, Suite 401 – Hours 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday. For more information or to make an appointment, please call (843) 341-9700 or

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