Mothers helping mothers: Janie & Charlotte

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Janie Bigelow comes from a family of caregivers and nurses. Her grandmother, Charlotte Schloeder, worked as a nurse in the OB department at Tri-County Health Care before retiring. Her mother is also a nurse. Their dedication to health inspired Jani to care for others, leading her to a career as a nurse in obstetrics, much like her grandmother. Janie’s story is about mothers helping mothers.

Janie and Charlotte

Nurses are known for providing support in all aspects of medical treatment but even nurses need help sometimes. Janie gave birth to Charlotte Lucille Bigelow in December 2019. After her birth, Charlotte was admitted to intensive care due to respiratory stress. Charlotte couldn’t breathe without the use of oxygen. Additionally, Jani had a difficult time producing milk for her newborn daughter. Charlotte needed milk to thrive, leaving Janie in a difficult spot.

Janie and her family needed milk donations after Charlotte was born. She donated milk so other mothers could have the same support she received.

Fortunately, fellow mothers had stepped up and soon Janie received steady donations of milk. “We relied on others for the nutrition she needed to grow and remain healthy during our stay in the NICU,” said Janie. “Now I know how much blood, sweat, and tears go into pumping and I will forever be grateful for what we received for our baby Charlotte,” said Janie.

Janie didn’t give up. She was determined to produce milk for Charlotte. With encouragement from her family and friends, she went on to produce enough milk. She produced so much that she had a surplus. This milk couldn’t go to waste, especially after she received so much help from others. Janie has been donating her milk in the hopes that she can extend her care as others had done. At this time, Janie has donated 1,200 ounces and she hopes to donate even more after she gives birth to her second child in November 2021.

“I am just so happy to be able to donate back to other families. It makes my heart happy knowing there are babies who are thriving because they received donated breast milk. I had other moms help me out when I struggled and now I can help too!” – Janie Bigelow

Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies

Labor and Delivery Supervisor Sarah Riedel manages milk donations in partnership with Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies. The Golden Valley-based organization provides donated milk to mothers in need. Tri-County Health Care is a donation site and Sarah is an Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. Since the start of the milk depot, Riedel has overseen donations from all over Minnesota.

How to donate

If you find that you’re producing excess milk, please consult a doctor before donating. Then contact a donation site like Tri-County Health Care. After filling out the paperwork, a representative from the milk bank will contact you for a phone screen. From there, you will provide health history information and go through testing. After approval from the milk bank, you will be given a donor number. This donor number needs to be placed on the milk container. The last step is to schedule a date with a drop-off site.

To learn more or donate milk at Tri-County Health Care, please visit our Milk Depot page or contact Sarah Riedel at 218-632-8741.


Caring for children from the very start

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Establishing a primary care provider is beneficial for people of all ages. Providers develop relationships with their patients to aid preventative care and treatment. For many providers, their passion lies in caring for children from the very start.

Dr. Julie Meyer, Julie Meyer M.D., Tri-County Health Care, caring for patients, caring for children, obstetrics, pregnancy, pregnant, birth, delivery, doctor, Wadena

The importance of prenatal care

For Julie Meyer, M.D., caring for expecting mothers and their children was her passion and the reason for pursuing a career in medicine. She has been practicing family medicine and delivering babies for 20 years. Having an extensive background in obstetrics has allowed her to provide expert care for her patients throughout their entire pregnancy.

Dr. Meyer works with her patients as early as possible. That often means before they conceive. She discussed the importance of taking prenatal vitamins and having a conversation about things to avoid while attempting to get pregnant. “We want the baby to have the safest environment possible,” said Dr. Meyer.

That care continues after conception to make sure there are no complications during pregnancy. This care includes:

  • Watching for signs of gestational diabetes
  • Monitoring weight gain
  • Observing blood pressure to prevent preeclampsia or other metabolic problems

For Dr. Meyer, it’s important to develop a special bond with the mother. She takes pride in being a support system for the family as they embark on their pregnancy journey.

“One of my favorite parts of prenatal care is developing that special relationship and bond with the mother,” Dr. Meyer said. “Once the baby comes, there will be a lot of questions. I want them to be comfortable with me so they can call me and get their questions answered. No question is a stupid question when it comes to pregnancy or a newborn baby.”

At Tri-County Health Care, primary care providers plan to be there for their obstetric patients through every milestone. These include the planning stage, pregnancy, delivery, postnatal care, and beyond. When it’s time to deliver the baby, Dr. Meyer jumps into action. She puts a high value in being there for every moment. It’s very rare for her to miss a delivery.

The importance of well-child visits

One part of caring for newborns and children is monitoring their progress as they grow up. There are certain milestones providers are looking for to make sure proper development is occurring. The first year is detailed and frequent. There are 5 key milestones over the baby’s first 12 months.

“We want to make sure these babies are developing their muscles and coordination,” Dr. Meyer said. “We look to make sure they’re meeting their milestones like rolling over, sitting up, crawling and pulling to a stand along furniture. Then, ultimately walking, running, climbing and driving parents crazy because they’re so busy!”

Providers then monitor fine motor development. It involves making sure their coordination is working with their fingers so they can grasp food and feed themselves. Eating their food is followed by holding a pencil or crayon. Additionally, they focus on the child’s speech to make sure they’re starting to babble, make noises and ultimately begin talking.

Pre-teen and teen development milestones

The initial years of a child’s life involves several meetings with a provider to monitor growth. While appointments typically become less frequent as the child grows older, they are still essential. Part of ongoing well-child exams includes making sure the child is up to date on immunizations. It is also a good time to discuss with families if there are any other concerns.

These appointments also look for any developmental delay issues. It’s important to diagnose these problems early so those children can function better at school and more easily with adult life.

Dr. Meyer also monitors the child’s growth to determine if they are falling behind. That includes caring for children by checking their height and weight. It is a good indicator of any red flags like growth hormone deficiencies. Checking height and weight at these well-child exams can help prevent things like diabetes or pre-diabetes in their pre-teen and teenage years.

In addition to monitoring their progress, it’s exciting to develop relationships with these families. One thing Dr. Meyer enjoys is seeing children out in the community.

“It’s fun to watch them at sports activities and see them become leaders in the community,” she said. “It’s gratifying when I’m at the county fair or in the grocery store and have these kids come up and greet me.”

Primary Care at Tri-County Health Care

Dr. Meyer joined the team of primary care providers at Tri-County Health Care in January of 2020. She was named a Top-5 Finalist for the 2020 Family Physician of the Year by the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians. To learn more about Dr. Meyer and the primary care team at Tri-County Health Care, view their videos at TCHC.org/primarycare.

Dr. Julie Meyer, Julie Meyer M.D., Tri-County Health Care, caring for patients, caring for children, obstetrics, pregnancy, pregnant, birth, delivery, doctor, WadenaAbout Dr. Meyer:

Julie Meyer, M.D. graduated from Perham High School and completed medical school at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Meyer has always been interested in biology and even strongly considered veterinary medicine because of her love for animals. She ultimately chose family medicine because she enjoys talking to her patients and developing a strong connection. This is important to providing high-quality patient care.

Dr. Meyer and her husband, Mark, have three sons and live on a hobby farm with 40 rabbits, 15 sheep, 3 cats, and 2 dogs. The farm helps fulfill her passion of caring for animals. She enjoys volunteering in 4-H and helping her youngest son compete at various rabbit shows around the state. Other interests include singing in the church choir, accompanying various groups on the piano and flute, playing volleyball, working in her flower gardens, and traveling to state parks.


What’s your risk of ovarian cancer?

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By Jennifer Arnhold, M.D.

As the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths in women, ovarian cancer is an aggressive disease, and because of a lack of reliable screening, it often isn’t caught until later stages. This is why September is recognized as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Digital medical illustration: Perspective x-ray view of human ovum with tumor. Anatomically correct. Isolated on black.According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, about 22,440 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017, and about 14,080 will die from it.

Your lifetime risk of ovarian cancer without a gene mutation is about 1 in 75, and your lifetime chance of dying from it is about 1 in 100. Women with certain genetic mutations and a strong family history of breast and reproductive cancer are most at risk.

There is hope, however. Over the past 20 years, the diagnosis rate in women has been gradually declining. Prevention is the key to continuing this trend.

The exam

When a woman comes in for her annual physical or with ovarian concerns, her provider would take a thorough family history and possibly a pap smear (note that pap smears are not needed every year). A speculum exam to look at the vagina and cervix and a pelvic exam to feel the ovaries and uterus are also conducted.

If abnormal lumps on the ovaries are found, we order imaging such as a pelvic ultrasound or CT scan. A blood test that measures CA 125 might also be needed. CA 125 is a protein that collects in high concentration in tumor cells, especially ovarian cancer cells.

The blood test doesn’t provide a diagnosis, but if the numbers are elevated to a certain point, combined with abnormal imaging, it might lead us to believe that a tumor is cancerous.

Most of the time, tumors are benign, and that can be address and monitored. But if cancer is suspected, then patients are referred to a GYN oncologist.

If a woman who is done with childbearing undergoes a hysterectomy or other gynecological surgery, the recommendation is to remove the fallopian tubes at the same time. Fallopian tubes carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus.

It is thought that the origin of ovarian cancer could be in the Fallopian tubes. Removing the tubes can significantly reduce your risk of ovarian cancer over your lifetime, and it doesn’t add any increased risk or complexity to the surgery.

Why is it so hard to detect?

Ovarian cancer begins as tiny fluid- or air-filled sacs on the ovary that can’t be picked up with imaging, and they’re impossible for a doctor to feel during a pelvic exam. The cancer also doesn’t show up in blood tests and doesn’t have obvious symptoms.Woman with menstrual pain is holding her aching belly - body pain concept.

These symptoms might include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • A feeling of early fullness
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Generalized pain
  • Pelvic discomfort
  • Fatigue

Prevention is key.

Because there isn’t a reliable screening test for ovarian cancer, annual physicals with pelvic exams are extremely important.

You should also be aware of your body, paying attention to how you feel and noting any symptoms you might exhibit.

If you experience symptoms or have concerns, don’t wait to seek a professional assessment, and don’t be afraid to come in. It’s easy to rationalize pain as no big deal. The best way to know for sure is to see your doctor.

For more about ovarian cancer, click here.

 

photo of doctor Jennifer Arnhold

Dr. Jennifer Arnhold

About the Author: Jennifer Arnhold, M.D., lives in the Brainerd Lakes Area and enjoys spoiling her son, Ty, and poodle, Andy. She graduated from medical school in 2000 and performs gynecology and gynecological surgery at Tri-County Health Care in Wadena. You can also see her for outpatient appointments at Embrace Women’s Health Clinic in Baxter.