This article was previously published on Atrium Health's Daily Dose
Michelle Foster didn't want to wait any longer to have a baby, so she did her research on infertility help and found the Atrium Health Women's Institute and a new OB-GYN with Women's Care.
Michelle Foster had an OB-GYN for several years. When she had trouble conceiving, her doctor recommended she wait another six months before seeking fertility help.
"My previous doctor said they generally give it a year to get pregnant before sounding the alarms, but I didn't want to wait because of my age," Michelle says. "So, I left that practice and found care with Dr. Paul Marshburn at Atrium Health CMC Women's Institute."
Michelle was over the moon when she conceived, with the help of the infertility and reproductive team at Atrium Health CMC Women's Institute. She underwent treatment that included three ovulation induced intrauterine inseminations (IUIs) and two separate embryo transfers after invitro fertilizations (IVF). As her pregnancy successfully progressed, Michelle was released from the Women's Institute and was told to continue receiving care from her OB-GYN. But she didn't have one, so Marshburn, now retired, referred her to Atrium Health Women's Care Eastover OB-GYN and the search was on.
"I knew I wanted to stay in the Atrium Health network and find a doctor that was fully invested in getting us through a successful pregnancy given our fertility challenges," Michelle says.
Finding your person
After seeing numerous doctors throughout the pregnancy, she says she found her "person" in Dr. Joshua Counihan. "I was nervous about the high-risk pregnancy, but he put me at ease and was very informative throughout the entire pregnancy. I'm comfortable talking with him and more importantly, his care and compassion made it easier to trust him with my health care."
"Approximately 75% of couples are able to achieve pregnancy after six months, 90% after a year, and 95% after two years," Counihan says. "It's reasonable to wait and continue trying to conceive during this time period but it's also reasonable to talk to your doctor about any concerns regarding that, especially since there are many individual factors that can affect someone's ability to conceive."
Counihan agrees that the doctor–patient relationship is considered essential to deliver premium health care to his patients.
"It's always nice to have a new patient," said Counihan. "I enjoy getting to know people for the first time and helping them walk through the things that they are excited or nervous about. I do my best to help them feel calm about next steps and any procedures that we may need to do. My goal is definitely to have my patients enjoy their appointments with me so that they feel comfortable and confident about what to expect."
Post Birth Care
Michelle delivered Marit, a healthy baby girl, through a scheduled cesarean section performed by Counihan on June 8, 2018. Michelle was convinced that he was the best fit to continue her post pregnancy care and for her OB-GYN needs.
Michelle said, "Even after having my first child at 41, I was undecided as to whether I was done. Dr. Counihan talked me through options and risks which helped inform my decision on whether to further grow our family."
After several months, Michelle met with Counihan and decided she was ready to move forward with birth control options. She knew right away she didn't want to go back on birth control pills. "I still had bad cycles, painful cramping and monthly migraines," said Michelle. "I was seriously leaning towards a hysterectomy because I felt this was my best option to minimize my symptoms; I mean I don't need my uterus. It's my choice, I thought," and Dr. Counihan agreed. "I'm so glad he helped me land on this decision because it has changed my quality of life. He knows me and my history and I just trust him."
Gynecologic surgery, like a hysterectomy, is minimally invasive surgery and is performed at an Atrium Health One Day Surgerylocation, a facility of Carolinas Medical Center. The procedure is done by your OB-GYN and there is no need to get a referral to another doctor.
"I perform a number of one-day surgeries for my patients, including hysterectomies and ovarian cyst, endometriosis and fibroid removal. It is usually laparoscopic, meaning a few tiny incisions."
Many patients can go home the same day.
The Importance of Preventive Exams
Preventive gynecological examinations are important in identifying a number of pathologies, the study of the causes and effects of disease, with enough time to provide adequate treatment. And establishing a relationship with someone who specializes in women's care is vital.
"You really should start seeing an OB-GYN no later than age 21," Counihan says. "You can start to build a relationship and we will know your history and can help you if pregnancy is in your future. We can help you with everything from periods and bone health to birth control and sexual and breast health."
It has been nearly seven years since Michelle and her husband started trying to have a baby. Then there was the C-section and hysterectomy, and now her current annual visits. "A lot happened during those years, but it seems like an eternity," Michelle says. "In the end, I just wanted to find that one person who met all of my women's medical needs."
Counihan is that person for Michelle and continues to provide the care and support she needs as her journey continues.