Q&A with Dr. Jessica Ritch, Minimally Invasive Gynecologist
- Minimally invasive gynecology takes into account the whole patient and their goals for their life rather than just treating a symptom
- Dr. Ritch's treatment goal is for her patients to not be defined by their diagnosis, but what they can achieve and how they can live their lives without these often debilitating symptoms
- When it comes to herbal medicine, it's important to know what you're taking and look for high quality ingredients with science-backed efficacy, which is why she is excited about Elix
We sat down with our advisor, Dr. Jessica Ritch, a board-certified and fellowship-trained minimally invasive gynecologist, to ask her a few questions about her specialty and how it might best serve you.
Dr. Ritch helps to treat patients and get them back to their lives faster through behavioral modifications, physical therapy, medical treatment and surgical treatment including robotic surgery, advanced laparoscopy, hysteroscopy and vaginal procedures. Dr. Ritch specializes in the management of benign gynecologic conditions such as abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain, fibroids, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
What is minimally invasive gynecology? What is the philosophy behind it?
Minimally invasive gynecology is a subspecialty of obstetrics and gynecology. After the typical training of 4 years of medical school and 4 years of residency in obstetrics and gynecology, minimally invasive gynecologists undergo an additional 2 years of focused fellowship training. This additional training addresses both common and complex gynecologic problems like abnormalities in the menstrual cycle, pelvic pain, fibroids and endometriosis. The philosophy of minimally invasive gynecology is to treat these problems in ways that get women back to their regular lives with minimal pain, downtime and risk of complications. We listen to patients carefully, getting a detailed history and evaluating with targeted exams, labs and imaging to identify the problem or problems and offer treatment options that fit with a woman’s preferences and needs. Treatment approaches range from dietary modifications to medical treatments, physical therapy, and surgical treatment done through natural orifices or small incisions.
Why does this philosophy matter to you? To your patients?
This philosophy is important to me because I know that women do not want to be defined by the issues that afflict them, but by what they can achieve and how they can live their lives without these often debilitating symptoms. Imagine what women can achieve without the monthly worry of pain, heavy bleeding and associated symptoms. As a woman who has dealt with many of these issues myself, I know the importance of having solutions that allow me to get back to my life with minimal disruption and without adding new problems. I know this is important to my patients, too.
Do you think this method of treatment could impact healthcare in general?
Minimally invasive gynecology takes into account the whole patient and their goals for their life rather than just treating a problem. It is important for healthcare in general to move in this direction. Elix fits into the approach of minimally invasive gynecology by offering women treatment that is personalized and uses both time-honored traditions and modern research. This is especially helpful for women who have had side effects from typical hormonal treatments and those who would like to become pregnant, as well as, for women who prefer a more natural, herbal approach to healthcare.
Are there one or two pieces of advice you find yourself often repeating in your clinic? Something all menstruators can do to benefit their cycle?
It’s always important for women to track their cycles and symptoms. I usually recommend an App or calendar method. Sometimes women think their cycle is irregular if the menses do not fall on the same date each month, but your body doesn’t know the calendar and each month has a different number of days. If you have a shorter, 25 day cycle, it may seem like you’re having 2 menses per month or if you have a longer, 35 day cycle, it may seem like you miss a month, but both of these are actually normal. It’s also helpful to know when symptoms are occuring, whether it’s around ovulation, leading up to or during menses. Tracking cycles and symptoms helps to narrow down the diagnosis and treatment options. It’s also important to pay attention to general health around menses. Poor diet, lack of sleep and too much caffeine or alcohol can all exacerbate menstrual symptoms.
If someone believes they have endometriosis, PCOS, fibroids, etc, and they are having trouble convincing their doctors or getting the appropriate tests, what advice would you give them?
It’s important for women to realize that there is no one test to diagnose many of these conditions. It usually takes an expert putting together a woman’s symptoms, exam findings and laboratory and imaging findings. If you feel like your doctor is not taking your concerns seriously or doing the appropriate evaluation, then it’s time to get a 2nd opinion. Seeking out a minimally invasive gynecologist is a good place to start.
How could they find a qualified minimally invasive gynecologist?
MISforwomen.com is a good place to start. They have a world-wide physician directory that can be searched by location for physicians that belong to the AAGL, an organization for minimally invasive gynecologists. It is always important to check a selected physicians background, training and reviews as there is a wide range of physicians that belong to the organization. Additionally, one can check local support groups, blogs, Facebook pages, etc for the condition they believe they may have or specific symptoms. Group members can often recommend local physicians whom they have had positive experiences with.
How would you recommend patients speak with their doctors about the use of herbal treatments?
It’s important that patients know what they are taking. Often patients come to me saying they are taking something herbal, but they don’t know what they are taking, where it’s sourced from or how it may interact with their other medications and medical problems. There are a wide range of herbal treatments on the market and minimal regulation of these products. Not all herbal treatments are safe or effective. What I love about Elix is the care taken to source high quality, effective and consistent products that are backed by both time-honored tradition and modern research.
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