How to Embrace Self-Care During Your Period

It’s no secret that our bodies don’t always feel the greatest while we’re menstruating and during the days prior. From cramps to bloating, fatigue, mood swings, and more, this can be a tough period of time to get through. Even worse is that it happens each month, making it feel as though there’s no end in sight. The good news is —you may be able to minimize some of the discomfort you experience during your menstrual cycle and premenstrual period with a few self-care and wellness tactics.

Here are some of the best ways to treat yourself with a bit of extra care while on your menstrual period and in the days prior. While none of these are a cure-all, we hope a few of them will leave you feeling a whole lot better than usual when that dreaded time of month rolls around.
How to Embrace Self-Care During Your Period

Make a priority of eating right
It’s pretty common to crave carbs and sugary foods as your period nears, but these can cause your energy levels to crash while also contributing to mood swings, bloating, and water retention. Instead of reaching for cookies, bagels, and other empty carbohydrates, focus on protein and healthy fats to keep your blood sugar levels stable and decrease inflammation, fiber to encourage healthy digestion and reduce bloating, and plenty of water, which can help with digestion, hormone regulation, and hydration.

You also want to make sure to consume a varied diet that’s high in all recommended vitamins and minerals. Some vitamins, such as riboflavin and thiamine from whole food sources, may reduce your risk of PMS. Meanwhile, iron is important as some women experience iron deficiency during menstruation.

Make sure you’re well rested
Notice that you feel fatigued or have trouble sleeping when your period is present or near? You’re not alone. Getting enough sleep during your period and your premenstrual period may leave you feeling more energized and help stabilize your hormones. To create an environment that encourages you to stay well rested, make sure your room is a comfortable temperature, power down screens a few hours before you want to fall asleep, and try to set a schedule where you’re waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day.

Stay active
A little bit of exercise can go a long way to ease some of your PMS and period symptoms. A yoga class might ease stress, bloating, and cramps, while a walk or run may encourage your body to release mood-boosting endorphins. Keep an eye on your energy levels and choose a workout that feels good, keeping in mind that just because you have your period doesn’t mean you need to shy away from high intensity workouts at all times. In fact, at the start of your period you may have more energy and strength than usual, thanks to a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels. That said, if you’re feeling tired, be sure to listen to your body and do a workout that’s light or restorative.

Take a bath or use a heating pad
Heat, whether from a heating pad, warm bath, or hot shower, is one of the best ways to ease tension and reduce pain associated with cramps or muscle soreness. Plus, it may help you feel more relaxed and comfortable in general. Try adding some Epsom salt to your bath for an extra boost of pain relief.

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.

Understanding the Female Sexual Response Cycle

As you become sexually aroused and partake in sexually stimulating activities, your body responds by going through a series of changes known as the sexual response cycle. This cycle consists of four different phases: desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution. With each phase comes a bunch of physical and emotional changes, which are outlined below. Men also experience these phases of sexual response, but the timing and specific characteristics may be different.

You may feel like you already know everything you need to know about sexual response, but learning about these phases can be helpful for understanding what’s going on in your body, improving your sexual experiences, and reaching climax. It’s important to keep in mind that these phases aren’t the same for everyone—the amount of time spent in each phase can be different from woman to woman, the order can vary, and you may not experience all the phases. That said, here’s a bit more information on what changes are common during each phase:

Woman playfully flirting with a man

Desire
The desire phase can last anywhere between minutes and hours. You can expect that your heart and breathing rates may increase, your nipples may become hard, your clitoris and inner vaginal lips (the labia minora) may swell, your skin might become blotchy or flushed, your breasts may become more full, you may experience muscle tension, and your vagina will likely become lubricated.

Arousal
The arousal phase typically occurs just before the orgasm, and might occur as a result of desire or stimulation. During this time, you can expect a continuation of the bodily changes that started in the desire phase, along with some other physical and emotional changes. The vagina will continue to swell, the inner sections of the vagina may lengthen, dopamine levels increase, the clitoris will become very sensitive and may retract from the clitoral hood, muscle tension will increase, the vaginal opening may become smaller, muscle spasms may occur in various parts of the body including the hands and feet, and the vagina may turn a deep purple color.

Orgasm
Though the orgasm phase is typically the shortest phase in the female sexual response cycle, but that doesn’t mean it’s insignificant. It’s seen as the climax and tends to be the most pleasurable phase of the sexual response cycle. During this phase you may experience muscle spasms and contractions, contraction of the vaginal, pelvic, and uterus muscles, high blood pressure and heart rate, a sudden release of tension, and a release of feel-good endorphins. If you experience a rash or blotchy skin during this phase, you’re not alone—this is fairly common.

Resolution
The resolution phase is when the body returns to its baseline, unaroused state. This means that your heart rate and blood pressure will return to normal levels, swelling will diminish, and your muscles will return to their relaxed state. It’s common to feel tired, fatigued, and calm during this phase. You may find it easy to orgasm again from here, but this will vary from woman to woman. Even if you don’t experience an orgasm, the resolution phase will still occur as your body returns to baseline.

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.

What to Expect If You Stop Taking Birth Control Pills

Women decide to stop taking birth control pills for many reasons—some are trying to get pregnant; others have a medical reason such as experiencing adverse side effects, and some simply want a change after taking the same pill for years. Regardless of why you decide to stop taking your birth control pill, you should be aware of some changes to your body that may occur. Here are some of the most common:

Birth Control Pills

It may take a while for your menstrual period to get on a normal schedule
Some women experience irregular periods or no periods at all for a few months after going off of their birth control pills. This is normal, as it can take your body a while to adjust. If you don’t have your period for a few months after you stop taking birth control pills and you’re not pregnant, you should see a doctor to learn more about what’s going on in your body.

You might experience breakouts
Hormonal birth control pills can suppress your natural hormones, so it’s common to experience hormonal acne or more oily skin after you stop taking the pill. The duration of these changes will vary from woman to woman, but these breakouts typically only last a few months. In the meantime, you can care for you skin by sticking to a healthy diet, staying hydrated, minimizing your stress levels, and maintaining a regular skincare routine.

You may experience hair loss
Hair loss is a rare side effect that can be brought about due to hormonal shifts that can occur after women stop taking birth control pills. Meanwhile, some women experience the opposite—an increase in hair growth, typically on the chin, back, and face.

Your menstrual period may be different
If you stop taking birth control pills, you may notice that your menstrual period is different than it was while on the pill. The pill often makes women’s periods shorter and lighter, so it’s common to experience more bleeding or heavier bleeding after stopping birth control pills. You may also experience a return of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms like bloating,  tender breasts, heavy cramps, headaches, and mood swings.

You may see an increase in your sex drive
Some women experience a low sex drive and vaginal dryness while taking birth control pills, so it makes sense that you may experience an increase in your sex drive and more pleasurable sex after you stop taking the pill. Alternatively, some women experience a lower sex drive after they stop taking the pill.

You could get pregnant
After taking birth control pills for a long period of time, it’s easy to forget that you can easily become pregnant after stopping. It’s possible to get pregnant soon after you stop taking birth control pills, so make sure to use alternative methods of birth control if you’re not trying to get pregnant.

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Common Yet Misunderstood

Pelvic organ prolapse is a common yet frequently misunderstood health condition where one of the pelvic organs—the bladder, uterus, rectum, small intestine, or vagina—drops down from its usual position and pushes against the walls of the vagina. Up to one-third of women experience pelvic organ prolapse or a similar pelvic disorder at some point in their lives, and the experience can be embarrassing, uncomfortable, and painful.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse image

When pelvic organ prolapse isn’t present, the pelvic floor muscles hold the pelvic organs in place. But in some cases, such as after surgery or childbirth or simply with aging, these muscles weaken and fail to do their job. Instead of holding the pelvic organs in position above the pelvic opening, they allow the organs to drop and bulge into the vagina. Aside from what we’ve already mentioned, some other common causes and risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse are obesity, family history, constipation, a chronic cough, pelvic organ cancer, a past hysterectomy, or another situation where a lot of pressure is placed on the abdomen.

Types of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Here are a few types of pelvic organ prolapse, each of which corresponds to a different organ involved:

Cystocele: This is the most common form of pelvic organ prolapse and is when the bladder drops down and bulges into the vagina.

Uterine prolapse: Prolapse of the uterus.

Enterocele: Prolapse of the small intestine/small bowel.

Urethrocele: Prolapse of the urethra.

Rectocele: Prolapse of the front wall of the rectum into the vagina.

Vaginal vault prolapse: Prolapse of the upper section of the vagina into the vaginal canal or outside the vagina.

The Symptoms

The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse vary depending which organ has dropped. Here are some common symptoms you may notice:

  • Bulging at the opening of the vagina
  • Vaginal pressure
  • A constant urge to urinate
  • Leaking urine
  • Incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Pain during sex
  • Lower back pain or pressure
  • Pelvic pain, pressure, or fullness
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting

Treatment

Pelvic organ prolapse can be diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam by your gynecologist, or through other procedures including MRI, ultrasound, pelvic floor strength testing, X-ray, or CT scan. These are a few different ways it can be treated:

Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is a common early treatment used to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This usually involves kegel exercises.

A Pessary: A pessary is a removable device that’s inserted into the vagina and used to support organs and prevent them from dropping down. A pessary is usually fitted to the individual, and is may be used in conjunction with physical therapy or on its own if physical therapy is ineffective.

Surgery: If symptoms don’t let up after physical therapy or with use of a pessary, surgery to repair the organ or tissue may be recommended. The exact surgery will vary depending on the organ involved, with some being far more simple or complex than others. If the uterus is the organ involved, a hysterectomy is often recommended. Sometimes a procedure called a sacrocolpopexy is performed on women who are at high risk of experiencing repeated prolapse.

What to do if you suspect you’re experiencing pelvic organ prolapse?

It’s important to see a doctor if you think you’re dealing with pelvic organ prolapse. In most cases, the condition isn’t harmful, but may get worse over time. It can also result in urinary tract infections or other urinary problems when left untreated.

If you have any concerns about pelvic organ prolapse and want to speak with a knowledgeable doctor, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

One Family. Many Branches.

AOA is a family of OBGYN physicians that have joined together to care for women – and help them cultivate their own family trees. Its alliance of practices has helped create the kind of strength and authority that not only gives a voice to patients, but also establishes AOA as a major force in Arizona healthcare.
AOA provides:

  • Prenatal Care and Delivery
  • Family Planning
  • Fertility Services
  • Menopause Care
  • Menstrual Care
  • Annual and Breast Exams
  • Ultrasounds and 3D Ultrasounds
  • Lab Work
  • Clinical Trials
  • In-Office Procedures