12 Important Facts About Breastfeeding

Deciding whether or not to breastfeed is highly personal choice that depends on many social, cultural, personal, and environmental factors. That said, breastfeeding is one of the most effective things a mother can do to protect the health of her baby and herself. Given that it’s national breastfeeding month, we wanted to present you with 12 important facts about breastfeeding.

Mother breastfeeding baby son in bedroom, they enjoy in this moment together

  1. To help your baby achieve optimal development, growth, and health in the months after birth, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives.
  2. Breast milk contains many important nutrients that are crucial to helping an infant grow and fight illness. Breast milk also protects the infant against type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as being overweight or obese during childhood. Additionally, the skin-to-skin contact helps you and your infant bond.
  3. Breastfeeding carries many health benefits for the mother, including reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, quicker loss of pregnancy weight, and a possible reduction in uterine bleeding following birth.
  4. Problems with breastfeeding are not uncommon. A few signs of potential issues include: breastfeeding sessions that are shorter than 10 minutes or longer than 50 minutes, severe pain that interferes with breastfeeding, the infant appearing hungry after a majority of feedings, and the infant being under their birth weight by two weeks of age. It’s important to consult with your physician if you experience these or any other problems related to breastfeeding.
  5. Breastfeeding rates vary geographically. Infants in urban areas, for example, are more likely to be breastfed than those living in rural areas. And infants who live in the southeast are less likely to be breastfed at six months of age compared to infants who live in other parts of the United States.
  6. Mothers older than 30 are more likely to breastfeed than mothers between the ages of 20 and 29. One study found that younger women were just as likely to start breastfeeding as older women, but were twice as likely to no longer breastfeed by the time the infant reached six months of age.
  7. Somewhere around 84 percent of new mothers start out breastfeeding, but by the time their infant is six months old, the number of mothers exclusively breastfeeding drops to 25%, despite various recommendations from top health organizations to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of an infant’s life. Likewise, statistics from the Office of the Surgeon General show that more than 66 percent of breastfeeding mothers begin to use formula by the time their infant is three months old.
  8. Women stop breastfeeding for a number of reasons. Some of the most common include: concerns about the baby’s weight and/or nutrition, problems with latching and lactation, embarrassment and cultural constraints, lack of family support, unsupportive workplace policies, lack of parental leave after the baby is born, unsupportive hospital policies and practices, lack of education, and concerns about taking medication while breastfeeding.
  9. Non-Hispanic black infants are less likely to be breastfed than Hispanic infants and non-Hispanic white infants, according to the CDC. Statistics show that 58 percent of African-American babies breastfeed upon birth, but only 28 percent breastfeed at all at six months, and only eight percent exclusively breastfeed at six months.
  10. 68 percent of respondents in a survey of public opinions toward breastfeeding said they believe women should have the right to breastfeed in public spaces, and 66 percent believe that public buildings should have a room where women can breastfeed and pump milk.
  11. Breast milk stays fresh for up to four days in the refrigerator, and for up to four hours at room temperature (following pumping).
  12. Breast milk may be easier for your infant to digest than formula (which is commonly made from cow’s milk). This is particularly true for babies who are born prematurely,

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.

Cord Blood: What You Need to Know

July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to learn more about cord blood. Umbilical cord blood, commonly referred to as cord blood, is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord after a baby has been delivered. In the past, cord blood was frequently discarded, but parents now often choose to have it collected soon after delivery so that it can either be saved and stored for future use within their family or donated to a public cord blood bank where it might be used by others in need, or for research.

Cord Blood Awareness

If you’re not familiar with cord blood, at this point you’re probably wondering why a new parent would want to save or donate it. The answer is that cord blood is rich in stem cells and can be used at a later date in a stem cell transplant to help someone who is sick with a blood cancer or some other form of malignancy. Essentially, a stem cell transplant can be used to replenish the sick person’s blood with healthy cells, in many cases saving their life. Most frequently, cord blood is used in stem cell transplants for sick babies and children. To date, thousands of lives have been saved with cord blood that’s been used in stem cell transplants after being donated to public cord blood banks.

How should someone consider when deciding what to do with their cord blood?
Many people choose to donate their cord blood. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that people donate cord blood to public cord blood banks in most situations.

“Most parents will never need cord blood for their own family’s use, but they can donate this precious life-saving gift to benefit others,” they said in a statement.

Donating cord blood is free at participating facilities and it has immense potential to help sick people in the future. Even if you choose to donate your cord blood, there’s still a chance you can use it in the future should a need arise, though the chances of it being available decrease over time.

Of course, parents can also choose to store cord blood in a private cord blood bank so that it can be saved for their family’s personal use in the future. However, there are a few considerations here. The first consideration is cost, as the charges for collection and private storage of the cord blood can be quite expensive. In addition to the initial fees, you will continue to be charged annually over time. The next factor you’ll want to consider is that there is no guarantee that the cord blood you store privately will be suitable for use in a transplant if the need arises. Lastly, there’s only a slim chance you will ever use the banked blood.

Can a family decide what to do with cord blood at the time of delivery?
It’s important that a family to decides in advance if they want to save their cord blood. You’ll need to register ahead of time so that the supplies needed for storing cord blood are present at the time of delivery, otherwise, it won’t be an option. Because of this, it’s really important to speak with a physician about cord blood donation or storage well in advance of delivery.

Is it safe to save cord blood?
Saving cord blood, whether for donation or potential personal use, is safe and won’t interfere with the delivery of your baby in any way, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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.

The Top 5 Female Bladder Problems

Bladder issues are extremely common among women, but for some reason they’re not talked about all that much. Some women find it embarrassing to talk about bladder conditions, and thus shy away from talking about what they’re experiencing with their physician or among other women.

Bladder Problems

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, many bladder problems are associated with all sorts of problematic issues, like a decrease in physical activity, social isolation, falls, fractures, poor adherence to blood pressure medications, and more. Because bladder problems are so common yet infrequently talked about, we’re rounding up some common conditions to help you learn more, realize you’re not alone, and encourage you to seek treatment. Here are the top bladder conditions you may experience:

Urinary incontinence
Have you ever accidentally leaked urine? If so, you may be experiencing urinary incontinence. This is a condition that leads you to lose control of your bladder. It can be provoked by something as simple as a sneeze or cough, and can also come on suddenly with a strong and intense urge. Urinary incontinence is more common as people age, but certainly not inevitable, and can often be treated with medication or small lifestyle changes. If you experience urinary incontinence, you’ll want to see a doctor to address the condition and also to make sure you’re not dealing with another serious, underlying condition that’s contributing to your incontinence.

Frequent Urination
Frequent urination is a condition in which you urinate more than normal. It’s extremely common and impacts somewhere around 33 million Americans. The specific number of times per day that defines frequent urination can be hard to define, but may be somewhere around eight or more times per day, or more than once per night. Typically, you will want to speak with your doctor about frequent urination if it feels like it’s interfering with your life or causing you anxiety when you’re not nearby a restroom.

Urinary Urgency
If you experience instances where you suddenly develop a strong and overwhelming need to urinate, possibly alongside pain or general discomfort in your urinary tract or bladder, you may be dealing with urinary urgency. This condition often occurs alongside frequent urination.

The most common cause of urinary urgency is a urinary tract infection, but it can also be caused by consuming caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, drinking too much liquid over a short period of time, pregnancy, anxiety, diabetes, chronic bladder infection, vaginal infection, and more. Other less common causes include tumor, nervous system disorders, and bladder cancer. If you’re having issues with urinary urgency where it’s interfering with your life (such as not being able to make it to the bathroom in time), you’ll want to see your doctor.

Nocturia
Do you feel like you’re constantly getting up at night to use the bathroom? If you need to urinate multiple times each night, you could be suffering from nocturia. This is a condition that leads you to wake up in the night to urinate. It can happen at any age, but is more common in adults who are over 60. The cause can be simple—simply consuming too many liquids, or it can occur for more complex reasons, including diabetes, sleep disorders, congestive heart failure, bladder obstruction, bladder inflammation, or as a side effect of a medication you’re taking.

Urinary Tract Infection
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that occurs when bacteria enters the urinary tract through the urethra and then multiplies within the bladder. The infection can exist in any part of the urinary system, which includes your bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra. UTIs are very common, so much so that if you haven’t had one yourself, you likely know someone who has. In fact, statistics show that one in three women will have a UTI by age 24, and around half of women will have one at some point in their lifetime. When contained to the bladder, UTIs can be very painful, irritating, and uncomfortable. But when left untreated, the infection can travel to the kidneys, which carries more serious health risks and consequences.

Some common UTI symptoms include burning and irritation while urinating, an intense need to urinate, feelings of lethargy or shakiness, fever and chills, pressure and pain in the back or lower portion of the abdomen, passing only small amounts of urine despite feeling an urgent need to use the bathroom, and cloudy, bloody, dark-colored, or strange-smelling urine. If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor to treat the infection before it has the chance to spread.

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.

How Gut Health Affects Your Entire Body

Contrary to what you may believe, the health of your gut impacts the body in ways that extend far beyond the gut itself. Wondering how that’s possible? To start, you’ll need to understand that the human gut (or digestive tract) contains trillions of bacteria that are commonly referred to as gut flora or gut microbiota. They’re also part of something called the gut microbiome, which has tremendous impacts on the health of our entire body. These gut microbes are important for so many reasons—they help us digest and obtain energy from food, but they also help out in many other ways, impacting our brains, hearts, immune systems, and more.

Gut Health

Here are some ways your gut bacteria can impact your health:

Digestive Health
Many of the microbes in your gut are forms of good bacteria that help with digestion, nutrient absorption, and more. But when the gut’s bacteria fall out of balance, you can experience various gastrointestinal problems, including irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.

Obesity, Weight Gain, and Diabetes
Gut bacteria plays a role in the body’s metabolism, and researchers believe there could be an increased risk of diabetes and obesity when gut bacteria levels become imbalanced. They’re also looking into how signals from the gut might affect metabolism and eventually contribute to problematic health conditions like Type 2 diabetes.

Brain Health
The brain and the gut have a strong connection, which is probably obvious to anyone who’s ever felt sick to their stomach in a stressful situation or upon hearing bad news. In fact, the brain and the gut send signals to one another all the time. For this reason, problems with your gut or gut bacteria can contribute to anxiety, depression, or stress. But at the same time, these sorts of conditions can also cause problems in the gut. Some researchers believe that the gut also may have an impact on chronic pain and possibly even mood and behavior.

Heart Health
Researchers have found that when we consume foods like eggs and red meat, certain types of gut bacteria convert a nutrient called choline that’s found in these products into a problematic substance called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO, for short). Unfortunately, elevated levels of TMAO can contribute to a higher risk of stroke, blood clots, and other conditions.

Another study on lab mice found that gut microbes may play a role in helping repair damage from heart attacks by regenerating tissues, but this needs further research before we have a better understanding of whether this may be consistent in humans.

The Immune System
The gut helps build and boost the body’s immune system and even helps protect against infection by communicating with the cells of the immune system. A study from 2018 found that a baby’s gut bacteria varies depending on whether they are breast or formula fed, and that these bacteria can then impact their immunity. Babies who were breastfed tend to have healthy gut microbiota and may be more resistant to some adverse health conditions. Researchers believe there may even be a connection between a healthy infant gut microbiota and the ability to protect against health conditions like obesity and diabetes later in life.

There are many ways to improve your gut microbiome, including eating a wide variety of vegetables, high-fiber foods, and fermented foods. Taking probiotics and limiting antibiotics can also be beneficial.

A lot of research is happening in this area and much more remains before definitive conclusions can be made on many of these topics. Although, the connection between gut health and human health is clear, and researchers are constantly learning new ways how gut health is influencing the health of other parts of our bodies.

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 During Each Stage of Menopause

Many women think of menopause as a change that sets in quickly when a woman reaches her late forties or fifties. But the truth is, there’s actually a long transitional phase leading up to menopause called perimenopause, and another phase that follows called post menopause. Some women also experience early menopause if they experience certain health conditions and procedures. In this piece you’ll learn all about what differentiates these important stages, and what you can expect in each.

Menopause

Perimenopause
Perimenopause is essentially a transition into menopause when a woman’s body starts to produce less estrogen. This phase usually begins when a woman is in her mid-forties, though it can begin when a woman is in her thirties or even earlier.

During perimenopause, your menstrual cycle will become irregular, but you can still get pregnant. You may experience spotting, skip a few periods, notice that your period is longer or shorter than usual, or experience bleeding that’s heavier or lighter than your normal. Other common signs of perimenopause include night sweats and hot flashes, mood changes, dryness during sex, decreased libido, decreased bone mass, and changes in cholesterol levels.

Typically, perimenopause lasts three or four years, but the duration will vary from person to person, which is the case with most aspects of perimenopause. Overall, this phase and the other stages of menopause are highly variable from one woman to another. If you’re curious about perimenopause and want to learn more about how it affects your body and your period, you might find these blog posts interesting.

Early Menopause
For many women, menopause occurs naturally as part of the aging process. But it can also set in earlier than usual for women who’ve experienced certain medical procedures and situations including chemotherapy, hysterectomy, and oophorectomy. Women who have their uterus removed in a hysterectomy will experience early menopause that comes on gradually, whereas women who have their ovaries removed in an oophorectomy will experience an immediate onset of menopause.

Menopause
During menopause, you’ll continue to experience some of the symptoms that you may have dealt with during perimenopause (hot flashes, insomnia, mood changes, and more) but the notable difference about this stage is that it’s when you’ll have your last menstrual period and can no longer become pregnant.

Most women experience menopause somewhere between the age of 45 and 58, with the average being at age 52. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, menopause can happen earlier among women who never had children and among those who smoke.

Post Menopause
The phase known as post menopause begins a year after a woman’s last menstrual cycle. During this phase, you may continue to experience symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia and other sleep problems, mood changes such as depression and anxiety, increased heart rate, night sweats, and discomfort during intercourse due to vaginal dryness. Bleeding shouldn’t occur after you’ve had your last menstrual period,, so you’ll need to see a doctor if you experience any vaginal bleeding during post menopause.

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.

Bacterial Vaginosis: What You Need to Know

Bacterial vaginosis is a fairly common condition that can affect women of any age. Read on to learn the answers to frequently asked questions.

Bacterial Vaginosis

What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is a health condition occurs when there’s an abundance of a certain type of bacteria in the vagina. This abundance throws off the normally healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina and can lead to symptoms like:

  • Vaginal itching
  • A white or gray vaginal discharge
  • A strong vaginal odor that is likely fishy-smelling
  • Itching, pain, or burning in the vagina
  • Itching on the outside of the vagina
  • Burning sensations during urination

What causes bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is most common among women who are of reproductive age, typically between the ages of 15 and 44. The condition develops when the number of ‘bad’ bacteria (also known as anaerobic bacteria) in the vagina outnumbers the ‘good’ bacteria (more specifically known as lactobacilli).

According to the Mayo Clinic and The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, risk factors for developing bacterial vaginosis include:

  • Being sexually active
  • Douching, which can upset the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Having a new sex partner
  • A vaginal environment that doesn’t produce enough lactobacilli bacteria
  • Pregnancy—somewhere around 25% of pregnant women get bacterial vaginosis due to hormonal changes
  • Being African American—Bacterial vaginosis is twice as common among African-American women as it is in white women.

Is bacterial vaginosis preventable?
Your best bet for preventing bacterial vaginosis is to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your vagina. To do so, you’ll want to avoid douching and stick to non-scented soaps, tampons, and pads. Limiting your number of sexual partners may be another way to lower your risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Do any other health risks accompany bacterial vaginosis?
You may have heard that bacterial vaginosis can increase your risk of getting STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HIV, and this is true. Additionally, if you have bacterial vaginosis and are HIV positive, there’s also an increased risk of passing HIV to your sexual partner.

Among pregnant women, bacterial vaginosis carries additional risks such as increasing the likelihood that you will deliver your baby early or deliver a low-birth-weight baby.

Do I need to see a doctor if I think I have bacterial vaginosis?
It’s a good idea to see a doctor if you begin to experience abnormal vaginal discharge that’s accompanied by an odor or a fever. Another reason to see a doctor is if you’ve tried to take over-the-counter yeast infection medications (the two conditions can present similarly) that prove ineffective.

Seeing a doctor or nurse is important because they can prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition. If you are a woman with a female sex partner, she may need treatment as well.

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 You Need to Know About Having a Healthy Sex Life

In a world where everyone seems to be making frequent comparisons, people are often left to wonder whether their own habits are normal. And this is certainly the case when it comes to sexual activity. Many women often wonder if they’re having a healthy amount of sex, but the thing is—there really is no healthy or normal amount.

Healthy Sex Life

While researchers may be able to figure out the average amount of times people tend to have sex each week or year, it’s important to remember that the specific number is often different from person to person. One study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior says that American adults tend to have sex about once a week, but the number varies widely based on age. Those in their twenties had sex 80 times each year, on average, whereas those in their 60s had sex just 20 times per year, on average. And that’s quite a difference.

While there isn’t really a standard amount of sex you should be aiming for or aspiring to, having sex at least one time each week has been correlated with increased happiness, according to a study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science that surveyed more than 30,000 people over the course of 40 years. That said, couples who had sex more than once a week weren’t necessarily any happier than those who had sex once each week, according to that same study.

If health is your primary motivation, you’ll be pleased to know that in other studies, sex has been linked to  physical and mental health benefits including a slimmer waistline and hips, lower rates of depression, and improved cardiovascular function.

But aside from being driven by the physical and mental benefits of sex, you also want to make sure your sex life is leaving you and your partner feeling both comfortable and fulfilled. The Mayo Clinic points out that developing a fulfilling sex life doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. Instead, this is something you need to actively work on through communicating with your partner and reflecting on your own needs. To have these conversations with your partner, you’ll want to consider discussing topics like how you experience pleasure and desire, your schedules, whether your sex life has become too routine or predictable, your needs, how you can achieve increased intimacy, or anything else you’re concerned about.

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 Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a health condition that develops during pregnancy and is characterized by the presence of high blood pressure. The condition typically appears somewhere around 20 weeks into pregnancy or later and exists in between 5% and 8% of all pregnancies.

Preeclampsia image

This serious condition doesn’t only affect pregnant women, but also their unborn babies, and can lead to fatal complications for both when left untreated. In fact, preeclampsia is a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death throughout the world.

What are the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia?

Elevated blood pressure that rises gradually or suddenly is the main symptom of preeclampsia. The Mayo Clinic explains that if your blood pressure exceeds 140/90 on two separate occasions that are at least four hours apart, this is an indication that your blood pressure is abnormally high.

In addition to high blood pressure, a woman with preeclampsia will also often have the presence of excess protein in her urine and signs of damage to another organ system such as the kidneys and liver. Other signs and symptoms include swelling in the hands or face (edema), severe headaches, sudden weight gain, pain in the upper abdomen, a decrease in urine output, shortness of breath, and changes to vision including blurred vision, light sensitivity, and temporary vision loss.

Is preeclampsia treatable?

Some women suffering from preeclampsia are treated with antihypertensive medications that can lower their blood pressure or medication that’s used to prevent seizures. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, giving birth is the most effective way to treat the condition, though it can still take a while for a woman’s condition to improve even after delivery.

It’s important to monitor your blood pressure during pregnancy and be in touch with your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned. Prenatal care that involves regularly testing your blood pressure, testing your urine for protein, and checking your weight is extremely important, as for many women, preeclampsia may not present any obvious symptoms.

The Preeclampsia Foundation also recommends a balanced and healthy prenatal diet with reduced consumption of refined sugars, caffeine, and processed foods. They also stress the importance of letting your prenatal care provider know about all medications and supplements prescribed by other physicians.

What happens after pregnancy?

Some women develop a condition called postpartum preeclampsia, which is when the preeclampsia sets in somewhere between two days and six weeks after a baby has been delivered. It’s most common in the first week after delivery and can occur both in women who maintain normal blood pressure during pregnancy and those who experience preeclampsia during their pregnancy.

In addition to high blood pressure, women who are suffering from postpartum preeclampsia may experience symptoms including severe headaches, nausea or vomiting, changes in vision such as seeing spots, shortness of breath, swelling in the face or hands, and pain in the upper abdomen. This is a very serious condition that puts women at risk of seizure, stroke, organ damage, and even death, so it’s very important to be in touch with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Proper prenatal care is very important in order to detect and manage preeclampsia. If you have any questions or concerns about preeclampsia and want to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, contact Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

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.

Four female teachers sitting on steps at entrance of school

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.