Staying on Top of Your Sexual Health at Every Age

Staying healthy isn’t only about exercising, eating right, and getting your annual physical exam. Staying on top of your sexual and reproductive health is equally important. We understand that for some women, this can get confusing as the recommendations aren’t necessarily the same for young, middle-aged and older adults.

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To help steer you along, we’ve created a guide to managing your sexual and reproductive health, incorporating tips from womenshealth.gov and other top sources. And we’ve organized it by decade, so it can serve as a helpful resource now and in the years to come, no matter what your age.

In your twenties

  • Start taking between 400 and 800 micrograms of folic acid each day. This is particularly important if you plan to or may get pregnant important, because it provides protection to unborn babies from serious birth defects.
  • Schedule a yearly appointment with a physician or gynecologist who is knowledgeable about sexual and reproductive health.
  • Speak to your physician about birth control options each year.
  • Let your physician know if you plan to get pregnant within the next year.
  • Discuss your family health history with your physician.
  • Get the HPV vaccine if you haven’t yet done so.
  • Make sure you receive Pap tests and HPV tests at the recommended intervals.
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections and speak with your doctor about ways you can protect yourself against them.

In your thirties

  • Continue to take between 400 and 800 micrograms of folic acid each day.
  • See your gynecologist or primary care physician for a yearly appointment to discuss your sexual and reproductive health, being sure to discuss your family health history.
  • Each year, have a conversation with your physician about whether you plan to get pregnant that year or about your birth control options.
  • Ask your physician if you need to be tested for sexually transmitted infections, HPV, or get a Pap test.
  • Get the HPV vaccine if you haven’t yet done so.
  • Speak with your doctor about ways to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections.

In your forties

  • If you haven’t gone through menopause, continue to take between 400 and 800 micrograms of folic acid each day.
  • See your gynecologist or physician for a yearly appointment.
  • Speak to your physician about your family health history, including your cancer risk.
  • If you haven’t gone through menopause, speak with your doctor about birth control options or if you plan to get pregnant within the year.
  • Have a conversation with your gynecologist about perimenopause symptoms and what to expect.
  • Ask your gynecologist about whether you need a mammogram. For women ages 45 to 54, these are recommended yearly by the American Cancer Society.
  • Ask your physician if you need a Pap test, STI testing, and/or HPV testing. Make sure you are getting tested at the recommended intervals.
  • Speak with your doctor about ways you can prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • If you are 45 or younger, get the HPV vaccine if you haven’t yet done so.

In your fifties

  • See your gynecologist or other physician for a yearly appointment and be sure to discuss your family health history.
  • Speak to your doctor about menopause and menopause symptoms.
  • If you still get a menstrual period, talk with your physician about birth control options.
  • Ask your doctor if you need STI testing, and speak with them about ways you can prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Continue to get necessary Pap and HPV tests at the recommended intervals.
  • See your doctor for a mammogram every year through age 54, and every other year from that point on (or continue on a yearly schedule).

In your sixties

  • See your gynecologist or physician for a yearly appointment.
  • Make sure you have a mammogram done every other year.
  • When you’re 65 and younger, make sure you’re getting necessary Pap and HPV tests.
  • For women over the age of 65, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health recommends Pap tests only if you’ve never been tested, or if you haven’t been tested at any point since reaching age 60.
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections, if necessary, and talk with your physician about ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Speak to your physician about cancer risk.

In your seventies

  • Get necessary mammograms if you are 74 or younger.
  • Get testing for sexually transmitted infections, if necessary, and talk with your physician about ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Speak to your physician about your cancer risk.

In your eighties and nineties

  • Speak to your doctor about your cancer risk.
  • Get testing for sexually transmitted infections, if necessary.

If you have any concerns about your sexual and reproductive health and want to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, contact Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Important Yet Overlooked: Placenta Health

Though the placenta plays an extremely important role in human development, it isn’t talked about all that much. The placenta is an organ that develops within the uterus during pregnancy, and is delivered vaginally following child birth. Some say a healthy placenta is the most important component of developing a healthy baby—this is because it plays a few key roles. One is that it brings oxygen and nutrients to the developing baby through the umbilical cord. Another is that it takes away waste away from the baby’s blood. Third, the placenta plays a role in providing immune protection to developing babies.

Placenta Health

A healthy placenta is crucial to a healthy pregnancy, but the health of your placenta can be affected by numerous factors such as blood pressure, blood clotting disorders, maternal age (for example, problems with the placenta are more common in women who are older than 40), trauma to the abdomen, substance misuse, and a history of uterine surgery. Women with placenta problems may experience signs and symptoms like abdominal pain, heavy vaginal bleeding, uterine contractions, and back pain.

Some of the most common placenta-related medical conditions include:

  • Placental abruption, where the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery and can deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients. This condition may also cause heavy bleeding in the mother.
  • Placenta previa, in which the placenta sits very low in the uterus and partially or fully covers the cervix. This condition is common in the earlier parts of pregnancy and can involve very heavy bleeding.
  • Placenta accreta, where parts of the placenta grow deeply into the uterine wall, often leading the placenta to remain attached to the uterine wall after childbirth.

It can be difficult to prevent placenta problems, but there are a few things you can do to minimize your risk and work towards a healthy pregnancy. One of the most important things you can do is to see your healthcare provider regularly to maintain your overall health and to manage any existing conditions that may potentially affect the health of your placenta.

The placenta is the least studied of all human organs, but in recent years there’s been an abundance of new research. Here are a few noteworthy projects related to placenta health that may lay the groundwork for gathering new information about the role of the placenta in human health and development:

  • Researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) have been working on the the Human Placenta Project, which aims to understand more about the role that the placenta plays in the health of mothers and children, as well as in the development of disease throughout each stage of pregnancy. You can read more about the project
  • Scientists have been developing miniature, lab-grown placentas to learn more about conditions like stillbirth, pre-eclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, and miscarriage. These lab-grown placentas are also being used in other interesting and important ways such as studying how infections like Zika impact unborn babies. In the future, they may be even be used to check the safety of drugs taken during pregnancy and to see how hormones may indicate if a placenta isn’t functioning properly and is at risk for complications.

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com to schedule an appointment.

8 Interesting Facts About Your Nipples

Despite the fact that nearly all of us have nipples, talking about them isn’t all that common. This leaves people with a lot of questions about everything from their nipple health to whether the look and feel of their nipples is normal. Keep reading to find out eight interesting facts about your nipples.

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Sore nipples are normal
Your nipples and breasts may become sore and swollen during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and the days preceding your menstrual period—this is common among many women and in most cases is nothing to worry about.

Serious nipple pain signals something could be wrong
It’s a good idea to get in touch with your doctor if you experience nipple pain that’s intense, as this indicates a possible infection. Besides pain, other common signs to look out for with an infection include chills, a fever of higher than 101, breast swelling, and warmth and redness of the breasts.

Your nipples can bleed as a result of poorly fitting clothing
It’s not all that uncommon for nipples to start bleeding as a result of chafing under poorly fitting clothing—especially after a long workout. If this is happening to you a lot and a clothing swap doesn’t fix the problem, try placing bandages over your nipples for protection. Persistent bleeding from your nipple warrants evaluation from a gynecologist or your primary care physician.

Nipple discharge doesn’t always mean something is wrong
Discharge from the nipples isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, especially if the discharge comes from both nipples and is released when you compress your breasts.

But it’s important to know key signs that signal something abnormal may be going on. If you experience bloody discharge, you’ll want to see your physician for further testing to figure out what’s going on. Another sign that something may be wrong is if the discharge only comes from one breast and occurs even when you haven’t touched or irritated your breast in any way.

In most situations, nipple discharge occurs due to a benign condition or is completely normal, but in a small number of cases it could be a symptom of breast cancer.

Many women experience itchy nipples
Your nipples can become itchy for a number of reasons including irritation, breastfeeding, pregnancy, menopause, cold weather,  and eczema. Over-the-counter medicines often do the trick to resolve the itching, but if the irritation persists, you’ll want to see your doctor.

Inverted nipples are usually not a problem
Many women have inverted nipples that have always been that way or that inverted around the time of puberty. These are completely normal and work the same way as protracted nipples—many women can even breastfeed with inverted nipples. But if one of your nipples suddenly becomes inverted, this could be a sign of cancer and warrants a visit to your doctor.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of hair on your nipples
A lot of women have a few hairs on their nipples, and this is nothing to worry about. Often the amount of nipple hair comes down to genetics—some women simply have hairier nipples than others, and it’s not a problem. Extra hair during and after pregnancy is common, too. But if you notice more hair on your nipples than usual, or hairiness developing between the breasts, you’ll want to see your doctor so they can test for a possible hormonal imbalance.

One of your nipples might look different from another
One of your nipples may be a different size or in a different position than the other, and this is perfectly normal. Nipples that have always looked a bit different are typically no big deal, but if you notice a change to one of your nipples that makes it appear different than the other, it may be a good idea to be in touch with your doctor.

Nipples vary from person to person and many of the issues you may think are problematic are actually nothing to worry about. If you have further questions or concerns about your nipples, speaking with a knowledgeable doctor is recommended. To set up an appointment, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

How to Know if You’re Experiencing Kidney Stones

You’ve probably heard of kidney stones, but unless you’ve gone through the painful experience of passing one, you may not really know what they are. Simply put, kidney stones are hard deposits of salts and minerals that form within your kidneys and then dislodge and make their way to other parts of your urinary tract. Usually this happens when an excess of certain minerals (such as phosphorus, oxalate, and calcium) concentrate in your urine, often when you’re not well hydrated.

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Though kidney stones are painful, they usually don’t cause long-term damage if they’re dealt with right away. Here are a number of things to look for so you know if you may be suffering from kidney stones:

  • Severe pain in your groin, back, lower abdomen, or side. This pain may come in waves or vary in its intensity.
  • Blood in your urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Producing small amounts of urine
  • Pressure on the bladder or a frequent urge to urinate
  • Pain while urinating
  • Urine that’s cloudy or smells bad
  • Fever and chills (in cases where an infection is present)

It’s a good idea to get in touch with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. In particular, it’s important to see a doctor if you’re experiencing blood in your urine, pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting or fever and chills, trouble passing urine, or pain that’s so strong you have trouble finding a comfortable position.

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Fortunately, kidney stones can be prevented. Here are a few recommendations to keep in mind, whether or not you’ve suffered from kidney stones in the past:

Stay hydrated
Drinking enough water is one of the best ways to prevent kidney stones. This works because it helps dilute the waste in your urine and makes it more difficult for kidney stones to form.  Hydration is even more important to think about this during the hotter times of year when you’re sweating and losing more water than usual.

Keep sodium intake to a minimum
Consuming a high sodium diet can increase the amount of calcium in your urine, which can make you more likely to develop kidney stones. Try keeping your daily intake below the recommended limit of 2,300 per day, or even lower if you’ve had trouble with kidney stones in the past.

Watch what you eat
When consumed in high amounts, animal proteins can raise your uric acid levels and contribute to kidney stone formation. And high-oxalate foods like spinach, cashews, almonds, and beets can lead to kidney stones, too. One way to counter problems with high-oxalate foods is to consume foods rich in calcium alongside them. For example, if you’ve had issues with kidney stones in the past, try mixing nuts into yogurt rather than eating them on their own.

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

Staying in the Know About Cervical Cancer

If you haven’t had a pap smear or human papillomavirus (HPV) test recently, there’s no better time than now, given that January is cervical cancer awareness month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all women get yearly screenings to help prevent cervical cancer starting at age 21. This is mainly accomplished through pap smears and HPV tests, since nearly all instances of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.

Cervical cancer month

What is Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is a slow-growing, highly preventable and curable form of cancer that occurs when cells from the cervix grow abnormally within other tissues and organs outside of the cervix. It’s diagnosed among 13,000 women in the United States each year, but can be prevented through early detection or vaccination against HPV.

How can you get Cervical Cancer?
Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, which is sexually transmitted. The most common ways that HPV is transmitted are vaginal and anal sex.

How do doctors check for cervical cancer?
Doctors commonly use two different tests to find and prevent cervical cancer—the Pap smear and the HPV test. Your first pap smear should be at age 21, according to the CDC. If the test results come back normal, you won’t need to be tested again for another three years. If you’re older than 30, you can continue to get a pap smear every three years as long as the results come back normal. Alternatively, you can get an HPV test—if results from that test come back clear, you can wait five years before your next HPV test. Your last option is to get an HPV test and a pap smear—if the results come back normal, you won’t need another test for five years. Typically, these tests are given to women through age 65.

Pap and HPV screening are sometimes different based upon the discretion of your AOA provider.  Please communicate with them about your personal screening plan to keep you safe.  However, a pelvic exam (visual and internal) is still recommended annually to screen for vaginal, vulvar and ovarian cancer.

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What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Sometimes cervical cancer doesn’t have any symptoms at all, especially during the disease’s early stages. Later, it can cause abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, such as bleeding after sex, and pelvic pain. If you notice anything seems off, it’s always a good idea to see your gynecologist.

How is cervical cancer treated?
Treatment for cervical cancer will depend on the type of cancer and the extent to which it has spread, but may include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.

Are there any risk factors for cervical cancer?
Aside from HPV, a few other factors increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer. According to the CDC, these include cigarette smoking, using birth control for five or more years, having HIV, having numerous sexual partners, and having given birth to three or more kids.

Is there a vaccine for cervical cancer?
You can’t get a vaccine specifically for cervical cancer, but most people can get the highly successful HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. The vaccine is given in a series of two or three shots and recommended for both males and females age nine through 26. Recently, the FDA approved use of the vaccine for adult men and women up to age 45.

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

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.

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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.