What to Know About Sex and Yeast Infections

Simply put, yeast infections are not very fun. When you’re suffering from one, it’s usually a pretty uncomfortable experience with all sorts of symptoms including burning, itching, vaginal pain, a thick discharge, and pain during sex and urination. Yeast infections are fairly common, affecting 75% of women at some point in their lifetimes, and are caused by a fungus (or yeast) called Candida. Candida is common in the body and usually doesn’t cause any problems, but it can multiply and lead to an infection in cases where the vaginal environment is altered.

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With treatment, yeast infections typically clear up within a week. In the meantime, you may find yourself wondering whether it’s okay to have sex, and the short answer is no. You should hold off until your yeast infection is gone. Here are a few reasons why:

Discomfort
When you have a yeast infection, you’re usually not feeling well in the vaginal area, and sex isn’t going to make things any better. Seriously. In fact, having sex when you’re already suffering from itching, burning, and other symptoms can make you feel even worse.

Prolonging your yeast infection
In some cases, engaging in sexual activity can even make your yeast infection stick around longer, or lead to the reappearance of symptoms that recently went away. One reason for this is because many yeast infection medications are taken vaginally and sex can interfere with your medication and push it out from the vagina.

You may pass it on to your partner
It’s not the most common occurrence, but it is possible to pass along a yeast infection to a male or female partner when engaging in sexual activity. Among men, transmission is more likely in certain situations, such as when he’s uncircumcised, has recently been taking antibiotics for a prolonged period of time, is overweight, has poor hygiene, or has an impaired immune system. Fortunately, yeast infections can usually be cleared up pretty easily among both men and women with an over-the-counter antifungal.

What to do if you or your partner is infected with a yeast infection
When you have a yeast infection, it’s important to take medication. It’s a good idea to start with an over-the-counter antifungal medication found at the drugstore. These are available in different varieties—some only require one dose, while others are taken over the course of a few days or a week. If over-the-counter antifungals don’t work, get in touch with your gynecologist who will be able to write you a prescription for something different, such as an oral antifungal or one that’s taken over a longer period of time.

If you and your partner are both suffering from a yeast infection, make sure you both receive treatment before resuming sexual activity. You may think you’re in the clear if your symptoms have gone by the wayside, but if your partner is still suffering, your symptoms may reappear after resuming sexual activity, too. For the best health in the long run, you’ll both want to be feeling better before having sex.

If you have any concerns about a yeast infection and want an appointment with an experienced doctor, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit us at www.aoafamily.com.

STD Rates Are on the Rise

STD rates in the United States have experienced a sharp rise over the past four years and recently reached an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2017 alone, more than 2.3 million cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis were diagnosed, which was 200,000 cases more than in the year prior.

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When you look at the statistics closely, they’re pretty alarming. Primary and secondary syphilis rates rose a staggering 76%, while gonorrhea saw a 67% increase, and chlamydia rose to a total of more than 1.7 million cases. Somewhere around 45% of these chlamydia diagnoses were in young women between the ages of 15 and 24.

What happens when these illnesses are left untreated?
Despite the alarming number of diagnoses, the truth is that many cases go undiagnosed. Without treatment, sexually transmitted diseases continue to spread and can lead to a host of health problems like ectopic pregnancy, infertility, stillbirth, and increased risk of HIV. Chlamydia can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which is a harmful illness that can permanently damage the reproductive system. Early diagnosis and treatment are important in protecting your health.

Preventing a continued rise in STD rates
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can all be cured with antibiotics, but many cases go undiagnosed and untreated. This lack of treatment is a big contributor to why the illnesses continue to spread at such high rates.

In a CDC press briefing this fall, Edward Hook, a physician and director of the CDC funded STD Prevention Training Center, urged the importance of routine testing in preventing the spread of disease. Due to the high rates of chlamydia detected in young women, he recommends that all sexually active women who are under the age of 26 are tested for chlamydia each year. Education is also important here, and though budgets for STD-prevention public health programs have been cut in recent years, maintaining an open dialogue about STDs with your doctor can help keep you informed.

To prevent against the harmful effects of STDs, it’s important to take an active role in your health. This can be done through communicating with your doctor, asking them any questions you may have, making sure you get tested regularly if it’s suggested by your doctor, and following treatment plans if and when any STDs are diagnosed. Remember, the earlier the treatment, the better.

If you have any concerns about STDs, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a medical professional. To make an appointment, call us at 602-343-6174 or visit us at www.aoafamily.com.

Enlarged Ovaries: Should You Be Concerned?

Your ovaries can become enlarged for many reasons. Some of these conditions are completely harmless and others are a cause for concern. Typically, an enlarged ovary is more concerning in a woman who has already reached menopause and is no longer ovulating, compared with someone who’s still menstruating.  Follow along to learn about the various conditions can trigger the appearance of enlarged or swollen ovaries:

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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a fairly common illness in which a woman has higher than normal levels of sex hormones known as androgens. Women with PCOS experience a range of symptoms including pelvic pain, facial hair, missed periods, heavy periods, and more. In many cases, the hormone imbalance leads to the development of cysts in the ovaries, which can then cause swelling. Typically, PCOS can be treated but not cured.

Ovulation
Sometimes enlarged ovaries aren’t anything to worry about and are simply due to ovulation. Typically, a woman’s ovaries will swell just before ovulation, which takes place about 14 days into the cycle.  This swelling is temporary and will subside after an egg is released.

Ovarian Cancer
Swollen ovaries can also be due to ovarian cancer. In this case, the swelling  accompanies other symptoms like bloating, abdominal and pelvic pain, a frequent need to urinate, quickly feeling full, weight loss, and more. Ovarian cancer can strike at any age, but it’s most common in women who are between 50- and 60-years-old. If you have any symptoms you’re concerned about, it’s important to see a doctor, as outcomes are best when ovarian cancer is caught early.

Endometriosis
Endometriosis is an illness that occurs when the uterine lining grows outside the uterus on other areas of the body where it doesn’t belong, such as the ovaries. In some cases, this can contribute to ovarian swelling and inflammation. This painful illness is fairly common, affecting more than 10% of women who fall between the ages of 15 and 44.

Endometriosis is treated in a number of ways, including pain medication, birth control pills, medications called gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, and a few different types of surgery.

Benign ovarian cysts
Benign ovarian cysts are non-cancerous fluid-filled sacs that form on or within the ovaries. A few different types may form, and they’re most common during a woman’s menstruating years. Most of the time, benign ovarian cysts resolve on their own and are nothing to worry about.

Ovarian Tumors
Ovarian tumors can be cancerous or noncancerous and are usually accompanied by symptoms like bloating, indigestion, loss of appetite, diarrhea, or constipation. Depending on the type of tumor, treatment options might be surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this piece or have any concerns about potential ovarian swelling, it’s important to visit a doctor. To make an appointment, call us at 602-343-6174 or visit us at www.aoafamily.com.

When Your Period Is Missing, But All the Other Signs Are There

Ever had one of those months where all the signs and symptoms of your period are there—the bloating, cramping, breast tenderness, overall achiness, and more—but there’s no bleeding? If so, you’re definitely not alone. This is pretty common and can happen for a number of different reasons, from pregnancy to hormonal birth control to stress. Keep reading to learn about a few different situations where you might experience period symptoms even without your monthly flow.

Asian woman stomachache, feel pain for period conceptAsian woman stomachache, feel pain for period concept

You could be pregnant
In some cases, your period symptoms may not be period symptoms at all. You might actually be pregnant. A lot of the early symptoms of pregnancy are similar to those you experience when you have your period—things like breast tenderness, cramping, fatigue, headaches, and fluctuating mood. You may want to take a birth control test, especially if you’ve had unprotected sex within the last month. But don’t freak out, there are also a whole bunch of other reasons why you may not be experiencing your monthly flow.

You’re experiencing something common called anovulation.
The term anovulation isn’t very well known considering how common the condition is. Women typically ovulate each month, but when anovulation occurs, the ovaries do not release an egg. Despite an egg not being released, the body still  experiences many of the standard changes that come along with a typical monthly period. Meaning, you’ll still feel like you have your period, but you won’t actually be ovulating or experience bleeding. And in some cases that make this matter even more tricky to understand, women may still bleed even when they’re experiencing anovulation.

Your birth control method may be interfering.
If you have an IUD or take birth control pills, these can interfere with your monthly period in a way that makes your period disappear despite other symptoms sticking around. For women taking hormonal birth control, a month or two of missed periods typically isn’t a cause for concern—often the missed period can be attributed to the hormones in the pill. And sometimes the period is still there, it’s just so light you don’t really notice it.

Likewise, IUDs can also contribute to missed periods. Your experience will depend on exactly which type of IUD you have, but hormonal IUDs often contribute to skipped or missed periods.

Your stress levels have been through the roof.
If you’ve been experiencing high levels of stress lately, this could definitely be the reason behind your missed period. When you’re stressed, your body often releases cortisol, which can subsequently affect your menstrual cycle . Stress can cause all sorts of changes, from a longer or shorter period than usual to no period at all.

You’ve recently changed your diet.
Changes in diet can play a big role in affecting your menstrual cycle as well. All sorts of dietary changes can contribute to a missed period, from a recent shift toward consuming less calories to changes in the type of food you eat. Nutrition has a big impact on hormone levels in the body, so to experience changes to ones period after a dietary shift shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

You’re approaching menopause.
As you move closer to menopause, your period becomes more irregular and may even be skipped. At the same time, hormone imbalances are common and can contribute to cramping and other symptoms that feel similar to those you experience when you have your period.

If you have any concerns about missed periods and period symptoms, speaking with a knowledgeable doctor is a great idea. Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) has physicians on staff who are here to help you. To make an appointment,, call  602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Checking Your IUD Strings 101

Some of the most common IUD-related concerns relate to IUD strings, so we’re here to fill you in on the most important information. Read on for some of the common questions women have about their IUD strings.

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Do I need to check on my IUD strings?

Your IUD strings (usually one or two) hang from your cervix into your vagina. While it’s not necessarily required, doctors recommend checking that they’re still in place every so often, mainly to make sure the IUD is where it should be. Luckily, it’s not too hard to make sure your strings are in place.

You’ll want to wash your hands. Then make your way into a sitting or squatting position and gently insert a finger into your vagina. You should feel strings hanging down sometime before your finger reaches your cervix. If you feel the strings, this indicates your IUD is most likely in the right place and functioning properly.

My IUD strings aren’t where they should be. What’s wrong?

When checking for IUD strings, some women are unsuccessful. If your IUD strings aren’t hanging into the vagina from the cervix, this could be for a few different reasons. Here are some of the most common:

  • Expulsion: In rare cases your IUD can actually fall out of your uterus. When this happens, it’s usually within the first year or so after insertion.
  • Short strings: In some cases, the IUD strings are cut very short and may not hang low enough for you to feel them. The strings could also be bunched or curled up in the cervix or along the side of the vagina.
  • Perforation: In a very tiny number of cases, the IUD can break through the wall of the uterus or cervix. This is a bit more common among women who are breastfeeding or have recently given birth. Pain, cramping, and spotting are all signs of a possible perforation.

What should I do if I can’t feel my IUD strings?
If your IUD strings are missing, there’s a chance your IUD is either no longer present or not working properly. The best way to determine what’s going on is to see a doctor. In the meantime, you’ll want to be sure to use backup contraceptives until you figure out the source of your missing strings—just in case your IUD has moved out of position and is no longer effective. You’ll want to seek medical attention rather than taking the matter into your own hands.

If you have questions or concerns about an IUD or checking your IUD strings, you can speak with a knowledgeable doctor by calling Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visiting www.aoafamily.com.

Six Things You Didn’t Know About Your Clitoris

When it comes to knowing your own body, the clitoris is the land of mystery for many women. But that’s understandable when you come to learn that the clitoris is a small yet complex organ containing numerous parts and more than 8,000 nerve endings. Keep reading to learn some interesting facts about the clitoris you may be unaware of:

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Your clitoris can become erect

Somewhat similar to the penis, the clitoris is extremely sensitive and can become erect when stimulated. As blood flow to the area increases and stimulation occurs, the clitoral hood retracts. For those unsure what the clitoral hood is, this is the flap of skin that sits inside the labia and covers the clitoris, protecting its thousands of nerve endings from stimulation most of the time. Clitoral hoods vary in size and they don’t all retract the same amount.

Your clitoris plays an important role in reaching climax

Somewhere between 50 and 75% of women cannot achieve climax through vaginal intercourse alone and instead need stimulation to the clitoris in order to reach orgasm. If you never orgasm during intercourse, you’re not alone and you can stop worrying that something is wrong with you. Clitoral orgasms are far more common and easier to achieve than vaginal, G-Spot, and cervical orgasms, and bring pleasure to many women.

No two are the same

Clitorises vary in shape, size, and sensitivity, and can be very different from woman to woman. Reaching climax through clitoral stimulation isn’t a “one approach fits all” situation, instead it varies from person to person. Sometimes, all you need is a bit of experimentation to figure out what works and feels best.

Much of the clitoris is inside the body

The average clitoris is somewhere between 1.5 and 2 centimeters in length, and interestingly contains far more than what meets the eye. Only about a quarter of the clitoris is visible outside the body, while the rest of it is tucked away inside. Some researchers speculate that a larger clitoris makes it easier for a woman to orgasm.

The older you are, the bigger your clitoris

Starting at birth, the clitoris grows throughout the lifespan, and experiences the most rapid growth around puberty. Many women find it surprising to learn that their clitoris will be larger when she’s in her 60’s than when she was in her teens. However, this growth is not noticeable.

The clitoris can be susceptible to problems

Like any other part of the body, the clitoris can encounter problems. Whether you’re dealing with pain during intercourse or throughout the day, itchiness, or any other discomfort, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor. Many problems are simple and can be treated easily with antibiotics, creams, and other medications.

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

How Perimenopause Affects Your Period

We hear a lot about menopause and the way it impacts the female body, but there’s less talk about what happens beforehand—menopause doesn’t just come out of nowhere, after all. There’s a name for the gradual road towards menopause, and it’s called perimenopause. Perimenopause is essentially a transition into menopause during which the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen. It usually sets in when a women is in her mid-forties, but can start as early as the thirties or even twenties in some cases.

Cropped shot of beautiful smiling middle aged woman sitting outdoor and relaxing in the garden.

Most of the time, perimenopause tends to last around three or four years, but it’s duration can be shorter or longer depending on the individual. One of the most notable symptoms you can expect to experience during this time is a changing menstrual period. For that reason, we’re going to fill you in on all the period-related changes you might encounter during this transitional life phase. To learn more about other changes during this time, we have another blog post on perimenopause has helpful information. Read it here.

Due to changing hormone levels and unpredictable ovulation, you can expect to experience some period irregularity during perimenopause. These changes run the gamut—you might skip a few periods, see spotting between periods, experience menstrual flows that are heavier or lighter than usual, or even those that last longer or shorter than you’re used to. Most of the time, you don’t need to be alarmed by these changes, as they’re common even among women who have experienced extremely regular periods for their whole lives. If two months or more pass by and you haven’t had a period at all, you’re probably in the later phases of perimenopause.

One thing to understand about how menopause affects the menstrual cycle is that it’s rarely the same from woman to woman. Some women don’t experience any intense symptoms, while others are greatly affected by things like heavy bleeding. Some women will experience inconsistent periods for months or years, whereas others see their menstruation end more suddenly.

During this time of period irregularity, your fertility will likely decrease, but it’s important to remember that as long as you’re still having your period, you can still get pregnant. If you’re using birth control to prevent pregnancy, you’ll want to keep doing so until you haven’t had your period for 12 months in a row. Once you hit this 12 month mark without a period, you’ve likely moved from perimenopause into menopause.

On a similar note, the irregularity of the menstrual cycle during perimenopause can bring changes like extreme hormonal shifts that can be hard to deal with. To regulate the menstrual flow, some women take low-dose hormonal birth control pills up until menopause. It’s smart to keep communication open with your doctor and fill them in on any atypical changes that arise during perimenopause. Things like heavy bleeding and spotting can be normal in perimenopause, but they can also happen when something else is going on in your body, so it’s always a good idea to tell your doctor what’s going on with your body.

If you have any concerns about perimenopause and the changes that happen to your body during that time, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 to set up an appointment with a knowledgeable doctor, or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Why Vaginal PH Matters: Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve been noticing some mysterious odors coming from your vaginal area and can’t seem to determine the cause, a vaginal PH imbalance might be the culprit. To help you better understand vaginal PH, let’s start by breaking things down: your vaginal PH refers to the acidity of the vagina and can be affected by common factors like unprotected sex, pregnancy, your menstrual period, improper vaginal care, and menopause.

Experiencing a vaginal PH imbalance is common, but since this health issue isn’t discussed all that much. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about vaginal PH levels gone awry.

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Healthy or not? Understanding vaginal PH levels

Most of the time, a healthy vaginal PH falls somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5.  Slight variations are normal, but when the PH falls above or below that range, this signals that the balance between good and bad bacteria in your vagina may be out of whack. Typically, when your PH balance is off, you’ll have elevated levels of bad bacteria and yeast in the body. When this happens, you might experience irritation, odors, and even conditions like bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your doctor. Your vaginal PH levels might be off if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • An abnormal burning sensation during sex or other forms of irritation.
  • Unpleasant and strong smells.
  • Sensations and discomfort that are out of the ordinary.
  • Grayish, green, or white discharge. Or if you’re experiencing different amount of discharge than usual.

Testing and treatment

Some pharmacies sell at-home tests you can use to test your vaginal PH levels, but remember that if you suspect something is off, the best thing you can do is see a doctor. The specific treatment for your vaginal PH imbalance will vary depending on how the imbalance manifests. For both hormonal imbalances and yeast overgrowth your doctor may treat you with an oral medication or a cream that gets applied to the skin.

Staying healthy

You can take active steps to maintain a healthy vaginal PH. For example, you’ll want to stay away from vaginal douching and the use of heavily scented soaps. These have potential to increase bacteria to unhealthy levels and are generally a bad idea and unnecessary. Other helpful practices for maintaining optimal PH levels include eating yogurt and taking probiotics regularly, using a condom during sex, and seeing your gynecologist yearly or whenever something seems wrong.

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

Clinical Depression: Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

It’s only human to feel sad, alone, and detached from time to time, but if these feelings seem to stick around longer than usual or you start to feel like they’re significantly interfering with your life, you could be suffering from clinical depression.

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Clinical depression (also known as major depressive disorder) is a mood disorder that manifests emotionally and physically and is known to cause persistent feelings of sadness and apathy. If you’re suffering from depression, you’re likely to feel alone, emotional, and uninterested in many of the activities that you used to enjoy. For example, maybe you used to go to a yoga class followed by dinner with friends every Wednesday night, but recently have been feeling withdrawn and haven’t had much interest in attending.

If it feels like you hear about depression a lot, this is probably because it’s one of the most common illnesses out there. In the United States, clinical depression affects about 7% of the adult population, and about a quarter of all adults will experience it at some point in their lives.

Clinical depression can strike suddenly and seemingly for no reason, but it’s often brought on by significant life events such as the death of a loved one, relationship troubles (including friendship, family, or a partner), the end of a relationship, moving, loss of a job or changing jobs, social isolation, graduation, abuse, and more. One notable factor about clinical depression is that it affects women at nearly twice the rate as men. This is due to a number of factors, but many are tied to hormonal changes that occur throughout the lifespan alongside menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and miscarriage. Should you notice changes in your mood surrounding any of these situations, or even seemingly out of the blue, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

Here are some common signs and symptoms to look out for if you suspect that you’re suffering from clinical depression:

  • Trouble concentrating and focusing
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in sleep patterns, whether sleeping more or less than usual, or suffering from insomnia
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Withdrawal from close friends and family
  • Having a short temper
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling more emotional than usual
  • Feeling apathetic
  • A diminished sex drive
  • Significant change in body weight, whether weight loss or weight gain

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

What is Lupus? Everything you Need to Know

If you’ve been experiencing fatigue, a face rash, sensitivity to sunlight, and other conditions that hint that something may be off, it might be time to see a doctor. While many of these symptoms may be nothing to worry about, they could also be signs of Lupus.

Woman lying on sofa having headache. Stressed girl suffering of fatigue, migraine, trying to cope with nervous tension, worries because of problems, unwanted pregnancy, negative thoughts and emotions

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. It’s chronic, meaning it lasts at least three months and often longer, and is known to cause major problems with skin, joints, and organs. Lupus can show up at any age but is most common among women who are between the ages of 15 and 44. Frequently, lupus goes untreated for quite some time because its symptoms are often similar to those of other ailments.  If you suspect you may be suffering from lupus, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Face rash: One of the most common signs of lupus is a facial rash that forms a butterfly-like shape across the nose and cheeks. This rash isn’t present in all cases of lupus but appears in many of them.
  • Fatigue: Another common sign of lupus is fatigue. Though it’s hard to measure scientifically, this sign is present within 50-90% of people suffering from lupus and is often strong enough to impact quality of life.
  • Sensitivity to sunlight: Nearly two out of every three individuals with lupus become sensitive to sunlight, and many of them develop a rash after spending time in the sun. More formally, this condition is known as photosensitivity.
  • Shortness of Breath: In some cases, lupus can cause lung inflammation that may contribute to difficulty breathing.
  • Headaches, Confusion, and Memory Loss: Lupus is known to cause headaches and various forms of cognitive impairment. Typically, these issues are worse during flare ups of the illness.
  • Joint Pain: Joint pain, swelling, and inflammation are common among individuals with lupus. This is so common that around 95% of people with lupus will experience arthritis or joint pain at some point.

You should consider seeing a doctor if you’re concerned about any of these symptoms, but especially if you’re experiencing persistent fatigue and fevers or a rash that can’t be explained. It’s important to see a doctor rather than brushing the symptoms aside, because sometimes the inflammation that’s triggered by lupus can cause other serious problems throughout the body, such as kidney damage, issues with the brain and central nervous system, blood issues like anemia, heart issues, and even pregnancy complications such as higher risk of preterm birth and preeclampsia.

While lupus is certainly a serious condition, it’s also treatable and can be managed to allow you to live a full and relatively normal life.  Lupus typically ranges from a mild condition to one that’s more life threatening, so it’s important to stay on top of your medical care to manage the illness. If you’re concerned you may be suffering from lupus and want to speak with a knowledgeable physician, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.