Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa answers our most uncomfortable questions–including these queries from women readers regarding hair loss, urinary trouble, and yoga during your period.
Q: My hair is thinning. Is there anything I can do?
A: For nearly half of women who experience some hair loss, its caused by a hereditary condition known as alopecia. One solution: Womens Rogaine, the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved treatment for hereditary hair loss in women. But if your hairs coming out in clumps or patches, it could be a sign of a thyroid disorder (diagnosed with a blood test) or a result of stress, illness, damage from blow-drying and styling, and even crash-dieting. Make sure you get plenty of protein and iron in your diet: Try adding a little extra lean red meat or an occasional boiled egg. Certain medications that meddle with hormones, like some antidepressants, antiarthritis meds, and even birth control pills, can cause thinning, too. If youre taking one of these, your doc might be able to change your prescription or dosage.
Finally, a new-mom alert: Postpregnancy hormone shifts often cause some hair loss, but that should end after a few months.
Q: Sometimes when I laugh or exercise, a little pee squirts out. Am I doomed to wear diapers?
A: Sounds like youre experiencing mild urinary incontinence (UI), one of those bummers of being a woman. It affects women twice as often as men. And it can show up after childbirth or during menopause, thanks to a weakening of the pelvic-floor muscles that help with bladder control. Some women lose just a few drops when they exercise, cough, sneeze, or belt out a hearty laugh. Others may feel an urgent need to gofollowed by a heavy, uncontrollable release of urine. Being overweight can make things worse because extra pounds put extra pressure on those struggling pelvic muscles.
One way to tone your pelvic floor is by doing Kegel exercises, which many women do before and after pregnancy. Tense the muscles around your vagina and anus several times (sort of the opposite of bearing down), while avoiding tightening your stomach, legs or buttocks; hold for three seconds, release, and repeat, building up to 10 to 15 repetitions three times a day. Also, try wearing a panty liner or thin pad to catch any leaks, and avoid coffee and tea for about an hour before you hit the gym. Ask your doctor about other options, like medication or biofeedback.
Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is an assistant professor of medicine at NYU Medical Center.