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Pregnant? Don’t Forget Your Teeth!

Pregnancy is an exciting and busy time in your life. You’re probably feeling a variety of emotions and working hard to keep you and your baby healthy. Despite this busy time, it is important for you to keep up with your oral hygiene practices for the health of you and your baby. Studies suggest that there may be a link between preterm, low-birth weight babies and gum disease.

An increase in hormones during pregnancy causes a build-up in plaque, a sticky film containing millions of bacteria, which can lead to gum disease or other oral health complications. Treating these complications can require anesthesia, medications, x-rays, extensive medical procedures or making eating difficult – all of which could complicate or cause discomfort during your pregnancy.

There are two major concerns for pregnant women and oral health:

–          To avoid dental health emergencies and/or treatment in the last trimester

–          To prevent periodontal (gum) disease

If you are pregnant, or plan on becoming pregnant soon, it is important to schedule an appointment with your dentist. It is recommended by health professionals that you receive any dental work, including a cleaning, during the first or second trimester of your pregnancy.


Pregnancy Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissues. Symptoms of gingivitis include redness, swelling, tenderness, and bleeding of the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can be extremely uncomfortable for the individual, and ultimately lead to bone loss around the teeth.

Pregnancy Gingivitis is a type of gum disease that appears in pregnant women, usually becoming evident in the second trimester. An increased level of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone correlate with an increase in dental plaque. This build-up of plaque is what causes pregnancy gingivitis.

To help combat and prevent pregnancy gingivitis, follow the guidelines listed in the How to Maintain Good Oral Health section below.


“Pregnancy Tumors”

“Pregnancy Tumors” are benign growths that arise out of swollen gums of pregnant women. These red lumps usually form on inflamed gum tissues near the upper gum line, can bleed or crust over, and make eating and speaking difficult and painful. Although these pregnancy tumors can occur at any time during pregnancy, like pregnancy gingivitis, they most often develop during the second trimester.

Most dentists leave pregnancy tumors alone until they break on their own. However, if they interfere with oral hygiene and proper eating, they may have to be surgically removed. This would require taking additional medications and possibly receiving low levels of anesthesia, both of which are not recommended during pregnancy.


Frequent Vomiting and Nausea

Morning sickness is a condition that affects many pregnant women. Women experiencing morning sickness feel nauseous and often vomit, which can be detrimental to your oral health. When you vomit, gastric acid from your stomach enters your mouth and can erode your tooth enamel. Worn tooth enamel can cause tooth decay and brittleness, and increased sensitivity to hot and cold food and liquids.

If you are experiencing frequent nausea and vomiting follow these steps to prevent enamel erosion. Thoroughly rinse your mouth with water after vomiting. If you can, rinse your mouth with a mixture of water and baking soda; baking soda will help to neutralize the stomach acid. Try to wait an hour before brushing your teeth after vomiting to minimalize the erosion caused by the stomach acid exposure. Eat small portions throughout the day, and make sure you are using fluoride toothpaste to further protect your teeth.


How to Maintain Good Oral Health

Maintaining good oral health is beneficial to you and your baby and is not difficult to do. To maintain good oral health and reduce the build-up of plaque, make sure you:

–          Brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, paying close attention to the gum line

–          Floss your teeth once a day and use a antimicrobial mouth rinse

–          Get a professional cleaning in the first or second trimester of your pregnancy

–          Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of C and B12 vitamins

–          Refrain from smoking


Oral health is important for you and your baby. The consequences and risks of not treating an oral health condition during pregnancy far exceed the risks of receiving dental care to treat the conditions. Everyone’s body reacts differently to pregnancy, so if you feel that you are experiencing any of these conditions make sure you contact your oral healthcare provider for the health of you and your baby. For more information on oral health during pregnancy, see Pregnancy & oral health.

Mental Health Reads

MagazinesTaking care of your mental health is just as important as ensuring your physical health; together, along with emotional health, these categories make up your overall health, and ultimately your happiness. The state of your mental health can influence the ways in which you look at yourself, your life and others around you.

Find a quiet, breezy spot this summer and take some time to read.  Following are some must-read mental health books:


Happy reading!

For more recommendations, please visit: PsychCentral.

Water Safety Tips

Summer is certainly here!  Spending some time in the lake or the pool is a great way to beat the heat.  But before you get too excited, here are some water safety tips to make sure you have fun around the water!devils lake

  • Learning to swim is the best way to make sure you know what you’re doing and being safe!  Summer swimming lessons are often available through local pools and recreational centers.
  • Swim with a friend and make sure a lifeguard is present.  Even good swimmers can have accidents and need help.
  • Know the area where you’re swimming.  Check for depth changes, possible currents and potential hazards.
  • Enter headfirst only when the area is designated for diving.  If it’s too shallow, feet first!

For more water safety tips, check out The American Red Cross.


Sizzling Summer Reads

Curling up with a good book is one of the best ways to relax, and it can be good for your health.  Reading stimulates your brain, can improve your memory, better your analytical thinking skills, and reduce stress.  So whether you’re looking for a good read to bring on vacation with you this summer or one to share with them, check out the list below for some buzzed about new summer releases.

A Hundred Summers
By: Beatriz Williams

This buzzed about novel is an “elegant, if somewhat old-fashioned, delayed-gratification seaside romance” set in the 1930’s that is sure to pull any reader in.
The Women Upstairs
By: Claire Messud

This novel, based on a 37-year-old teacher living alone in Cambridge, Mass and her interaction with a new family in town, is “a story of obsession and artistic fulfillment [that] explores the thrill – and devastating cost – of giving into one’s passions.”
The World Belongs to You
By: Riccardo Bozzi

This book is beautifully written and illustrated, and introduces children to the timeless message about our freedom to make choices in what we do and how we feel.
A Funny Little Bird
By: Jennifer Yerkes

A story about a bird that blends in and his journey in learning that it is more rewarding to be a good friend than to show off.

For more books, or for family-friendly activities to do with your children this summer, click here to find an public library and its event calendar in a location near you!

See What’s Up at WWHF!

EveryWoman’s Journal
EveryWoman’s Journal is an education outreach program that teaches women how to use proactive health journaling techniques to increase individual awareness of their mental, physical, and emotional health, and guide them towards positive, effective action to improve their health and sense of personal well-being. In 2013 (thru June 30), WWHF held 12 workshops for 93 women in 7 Wisconsin counties. Since the program began we have conducted over 400 workshops reaching almost 3500 women in 44 Wisconsin counties.

First Breath
First Breath improves maternal and child health in Wisconsin through perinatal tobacco cessation programming and has gone through some exciting changes over the past year!  We have updated tools for measuring the programs impact, as well as the repackaging of our training program to ensure our providers are better equipped to discuss tobacco use with their clients and patients.  We are currently in the process of doing additional qualitative evaluation with our First Breath participants in order to capture the bigger picture of how these women experience First Breath.  WWHF is excited to see the impact that the Striving to Quit program has with some of the First Breath participants during the postpartum period.

GrapeVine Project
The GrapeVine Project is a free health education program for women presented by Faith Community/Parish Nurses (FCNs) right in your own community! The Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation partners with FCNs throughout the state by providing them with the most up-to-date tools and educational information about various health topics; and then the nurses share the information with women in their communities by holding free one-hour educational sessions. In 2013 (thru June 30) 40 educational sessions were conducted in 12 counties reaching 303 women. Since the program began there have been a total of 542 educational sessions in 40 counties reaching 5,619 women!

Kohl’s Southeast WI Breast Health Assistance Fund
The Kohl’s Breast Health Assistance Fund is administered by the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation. It provides financial assistance to low income, uninsured and underinsured individuals in Southeast Wisconsin who are in need of services or have incurred expenses related to breast health screening, diagnostic testing, access to treatment services and financial assistance for those with a breast cancer diagnosis. Our April 1, 2012 – March 31, 2013 grant period just ended. Through looking at the statistics, WWHF’s impact is clear. This year 789 contacts were made, of which 231 were approved for access to treatment, 410 were approved for screenings, and 128 were referred to the Well Woman Program. Not only did we make contact with more providers, allowing us to offer screenings at 23 locations, but we were able to provide 238 screening mammograms and clinical breast exams and 263 diagnostic services.

My Baby & Me
My Baby & Me is a program that works to spread awareness about the effects of alcohol-use during pregnancy and supports pregnant women who choose to abstain from alcohol. My Baby & Me is in the process of going through similar changes as the First Breath Program.  We are currently working on repackaging the overall look and feel of the program to ensure it is effective in reaching its goals.  We will be piloting our updated program with some of our current My Baby & Me providers in the coming months, and hope to re-launch the program to the entire state this fall.

Striving to Quit
Striving to Quit is a special study for BadgerCare Plus members who want to stop smoking. It offers free help to individuals who smoke and want to quit. It may also pay for time spent in activities that are part of the study. Since fall 2012, over 200 women have enrolled in Striving to Quit. These women work with 10 Health Educators and receive intensive smoking cessation and relapse prevention counseling from delivery to 1 year postpartum. One participant recently expressed her gratitude to her Health Educator, “Thanks for not giving up on me.”

Quit Project
The focus of the Wisconsin Women’s Quit Project is twofold:

  1. Provide technical assistance and training to sites based on the Clinical Practice Guidelines for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence, in order to implement tobacco cessation treatment into their practices
  2. Provide phone mentoring to moms after delivery as an added support in their efforts to quit or remain smoke-free

The Quit Project is nearing the end of its two year grant period, during which time 2 new First Breath sites were trained along with 13 new Frist Breath providersTen women will receive 3 postpartum mentoring phone calls each month for the next two months; while interviews are being conducted with the First Breath providers at each of the eight participating Quit Project sites.  We are excited to share the Quit Project findings with project funders, the Department of Health Services – Office on Women’s Health.  We know the work being done to help pregnant and postpartum women in Wisconsin quit and reduce their smoking can be replicated around the country!


Sue Ann Says: A Healthy County Equals Healthy Women

Women’s mortality rates in almost 43 percent of American counties actually got worse during the 15 years ending in 2006.  This data was recently released in March, 2013 from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.  This disquieting fact should make us all realize that a healthy woman does not just mean that she has access to health care.  It is about socioeconomic and behavioral factors that surround our lives every day and impact our health as women.

I started Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation over fifteen years ago.  I did this with the intention of helping women and families live healthy productive, happy lives.  This report certainly points out that we still have lots of work to do to fulfill our mission.  I have seen the impact that education can have on our health.  We now have to work harder to implement the programs and practices we know work in communities across Wisconsin.

One of the benefits of working with women in Wisconsin is that I get to travel to various communities: each has their own unique personality.  I have the opportunity to appreciate the magnificence of hills and lakes, the quiet solitude of forests and streams and the liveliness of diverse cultures.  Of course, health is always at the forefront of my thoughts when I travel, especially the health of women in our state.  In March, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released the Wisconsin County Health Rankings and Roadmaps.  The Rankings offer us a snapshot into the health of Wisconsin communities, and provide us the opportunity to improve on these health issues to make Wisconsin an ideal place to live.  I was able to discuss the Rankings and Roadmaps with Karen Timberlake from the UW Population Health Institute.  She pointed out that, “Where we live, work and play matters to our health!”

Reviewing the Rankings, I realize that certain Wisconsin communities that provide more accessible health care for women are making a difference.  Smoking, obesity and excessive drinking are issues that we have yet to adequately address.  The Rankings shows that people who live in counties where there are smoke-free laws have a lower percentage of people that smoke.  When fewer people are smoking it reduces cases of emphysema and lung cancer in the county and in turn prevents premature death.  Where families have access to gym facilities, walking paths and healthy food in grocery stores, their obesity rate is much lower than other places that do not.  So how can you use these Rankings to learn about your own county?

Using the Rankings

The Wisconsin County Health Rankings and Roadmaps website can be found here.  Click on the map on the state of Wisconsin and you can locate your specific county to find the rankings, or view the rankings of other counties.  The rankings are divided into two main areas, Health Outcomes and Health Factors.  If you click on the tab called Additional Measures, you can locate the population demographics of that county.

What Can You Personally Do to Improve the Health of Your County?

The Rankings and Roadmaps are an opportunity for conversations to begin in our own communities–between citizens, government, health care providers, churches, educational institutions and businesses.  Challenges can be met head on and incremental steps can be selected to improve the health of the county.  Leaders in your community may confer with leaders of counties that ranked higher and learn what positive practices a specific county has implemented to improve their Health Outcomes and Health Factors.

This is your call to action!  It is not just up to the government or business officials to improve the health of county residents.  The website highlights counties nationwide that have already taken precise measures to improve the health of their residents.  For example, the city of Minneapolis and over 40 community organizations are implementing a comprehensive obesity and tobacco prevention initiative to increase physical activity, healthy eating and smoke-free living.  Projects that Minneapolis has carried out include smoke free multi-unit housing, corner stores that sell healthy produce, and a culture of biking and walking.

Are these plans that you can implement in your own community?  I challenge you to seek out opportunities to share what you learn from reading the Ranking and Roadmaps with friends, colleagues and church members.  Meet with community leaders to develop creative ideas on how to overcome health obstacles facing your county.  As mothers and caretakers, I encourage you to strive to make healthy lifestyle choices not only for yourself but for your family.  Karen Timberlake acknowledged, “It will take engagement by all sectors of society, working together, to make progress on these hard problems.”  The Wisconsin County Health Ranking and Roadmaps is just the place to start this journey.  Working together we can build a healthier Wisconsin for everyone.

Yours in good health,

Sue Ann Thompson

Because it all begins with a healthy woman.

Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit our website or call 1-800-448-5148.

Mosquitos and Ticks. Oh My!

With a wet winter and spring, experts are predicting strong mosquito and tick populations in Wisconsin this summer, which we can attest too.  While there are plenty of preventative suggestions to avoid a bite, it’s likely that you’ll come across these pests sometime this summer.  If you or a loved one is suffering from a bite, here are some tips and home remedies to try this summer.

Mosquito Bites
Mosquito bites are tempting to scratch, but it’s the worst thing you can do for your bite.  Scratching can break the skin, increasing the risk of infection, and create more inflammation and swelling, which only “fuels the fire” of the itching sensation.  Instead, try some of these natural home remedies to reduce itching and swelling.

Ice/Cold Compress
Placing ice or a cold compress on the bite will numb the nerves around the bite that are fueling the itching sensation.  The cooler temperature will also help reduce and control the swelling.

Cooled Tea Bags
Just like cooled tea bags are good for puffy eyes, they’re good for mosquito bites too.  Take a used tea bag and let it cool for 5-10 minutes.  Then place the tea bag directly on the mosquito bite to relieve itching and swelling.

Baking Soda
Mix baking soda with water to create a paste.  Apply the baking soda paste directly on the bite.  Baking soda helps neutralize the PH balance of your skin, which will reduce inflammation.

Lemon or Lime
These citrus fruits are anti-itch and anti-bacterial.  Apply a little bit of lime or lemon juice to the bite or rub a peel over the bite.  However, because citrus oils can react with the sun, only use this technique indoors.

Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is one of the most underused home remedies according to some experts.  Its acidity helps fight any itching sensation.  To use, place a few drops on a cotton swab and rub directly on the bite.


Tick Bites
The tick population is also out in full force this summer.  Most tick bites result in little to no symptoms, but some ticks do transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease.  Keep in mind the tips below to protect you and your family safe from ticks this summer.

Stay away from long grasses/shrubs
Ticks like to climb long grasses and/or shrubs to come into contact with humans or animals.  Avoid these areas during the summer.  If you or your pet are in long grasses or wooded areas make sure to thoroughly check yourself and your pet for ticks before returning indoors.  Wear light clothes to make the presence of a tick easier to spot.

Check pets regularly
We often use special product to protect our pets from ticks.  However, our pets can still transport ticks, bringing them in closer contact with humans.  Make sure you check your pet regularly for ticks so they are not bringing them into the home.


Use a tweezers to remove a tick.

Remove tick with a tweezers
If you discover a tick on your body, use a tweezers to remove it.  Flip the tick onto its back and grip the tick as close to the skin as possible.  Pull gently until the tick comes free.  Do not twist or turn the tick when pulling; this could cause the tick to break in half, increasing the risk of infection due to left behind body parts.  Once removed, rinse the tick down the sink or flush down the toilet, or put it into a sealed jar.  Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water.

If you or a loved one develops symptoms such as fever, nausea, pain and swelling of joints, numbness or rash (specifically in the shape of a bull’s eye around the bite) seek medical attention.

We’d love to hear about any other tips or tricks that have worked for you or your family.  If you have any further suggestions to help fight the itch, leave them in the comments below!

4th of July Safety Tips


Happy 4th of July!


Many of us celebrate America’s birthday with delicious cookouts and dazzling fireworks.  However you celebrate the 4th of July, here are safety tips for some popular holiday activities to make sure it’s safe for everyone!

Firework Safety Tips:

  • Before setting off any fireworks, make sure they are legal in your area.
  • Don’t allow young children to play with fireworks.  Even sparklers burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing.  Older children should be permitted to use fireworks only under adult supervision.
  • Fireworks should be set off outdoors in a clear area.  Be sure to ignite them way from houses, dry leaves, or grass and other materials that are flammable.
  • Keeping a bucket of water nearby is great for emergencies and pouring on fireworks that explode or fail to ignite.
  • Always check that other people are at a safe distance before lighting fireworks.

Boating Safety Tips:

  • Have a life jacket readily available for each individual on board.
    • Children under the age of 13 are required to wear life jackets while onboard a boat.
  • Only use special children-size life jackets for children, not adult-size.  Life jackets need to fit children snugly and not allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through.
  • Whether you’re the driver or passenger, drink responsibly while boating.  Being under the influence of alcohol will lead to physical impairments such as balance and reaction time, making the risk of an accident and/or drowning increase.
  • Maintain a safe speed, especially around regulated “No Wake” and “Slow Speed” areas.

Campfire Safety:

  • Always check burning conditions and restrictions before starting a campfire.  Wisconsin burning restrictions by county can be found at the Wisconsin DNR website.
  • Be sure to build campfires away from: power lines, overhanging limbs, buildings, automobiles and equipment.
  • Keep your campfire to a manageable size with a bucket of water close for emergencies.
  • Glass is not a burnable material.  Glass will only heat up and shatter, which is hazardous.


Support Our Mission!

Happy Sweet 16!licenseplate

The Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation is celebrating our sweet 16! Sixteen years ago WWHF’s founder and president, Sue Ann Thompson, established our organization with a mission of helping Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. Celebrate our 16th anniversary and help us reach our goals and improve the health and well-being of women and families in Wisconsin by purchasing a Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation license plate! The license plate is only $40, $25 of which is a donation to WWHF that will be re-invested in communities all over Wisconsin through support of WWHF outreach and education programs. Remember: License plates can be purchased any time throughout the year, regardless of when your annual registration fees are due.

For more information about WWHF license plates, call 1-800-448-5148 or visit our website.

Today is National HIV Testing Day

Take the Test, Take Control. National HIV Testing Day – 6/27/2010In the United States, nearly 1.2 million people are living with HIV.  Fifteen percent of women who are HIV-positive are unaware of their status.  It is important to be tested since HIV often does not show early signs.  Knowing your status when it comes to HIV can help you take the next step in maintaining your health or receiving necessary treatment. National HIV Testing Day is a great time to take action when it comes to your reproductive health.  Your personal healthcare provider is a great resource for HIV testing options.

For more information about HIV and testing options throughout Wisconsin, visit The Wisconsin HIV/STD/Hepatitis C Information & Referral Center for HIV testing questions.
Quick Facts:

  • In Wisconsin, 241 cases of HIV were diagnosed in 2012
  • Only one-third of Wisconsin adults have ever been tested for HIV
  • Early treatment of infected individuals with HIV medications can dramatically lower the level of virus in the body and lower the chance of passing HIV to others