Five Signs You May Be Ovulating

If you’re thinking of getting pregnant anytime soon, it’s important to understand how ovulation works. Ovulation is when one of your ovaries releases a mature egg. If this egg is fertilized by sperm, you can become pregnant.

Ovulation

Among women who are in their reproductive years, don’t have any fertility issues, and are not pregnant, ovulation typically happens every month. But the exact timing can vary widely. For most women, there are about six days during each menstrual cycle when you can get pregnant, but you’re most likely to get pregnant sometime in the three days leading up to ovulation.

That said, it can be tricky to know exactly when you’re ovulating or when you’re most fertile. One option is to use an ovulation tracker that can calculate the most fertile days of your cycle using information like the average length of your menstrual cycle and the day your period started.

You can also look for some signs and symptoms within your body that provide some insight into when you’re ovulating. Here are a few changes you may notice:

Your body temperature may rise
After ovulation, your basal body temperature (this is your body temperature right when you wake up in the morning) will rise slightly. In order to detect changes to your basal body temperature, you’ll need to take your basal body temperature every morning before you get out of bed.

Your vaginal mucus may change
You may have a change in vaginal mucus and discharge when you’re ovulating and in the days prior. This mucus may be more slippery, stretchy, and clearer than usual. Often the consistency is compared to raw egg whites. This mucus plays an important role in allowing sperm to move its way into your uterus and fallopian tubes where it can fertilize an egg.

You may feel some pain
You may feel a slight pain, twinge, or cramping in your ovaries or lower abdominal area about halfway through your menstrual cycle.

Certain hormone levels will be higher
Levels of luteinizing hormone (which helps signal to your body that it’s time to release an egg) rise somewhere around 36 hours before ovulation and hit their highest levels about 12 hours before ovulation. Sometimes doctors will check luteinizing hormone levels with blood or urine tests to determine how fertile a woman is on certain days.

Your saliva may be different
Increased estrogen levels prior to ovulation can change the consistency of saliva so that it forms a fern or crystal-shaped pattern when dry. You can look for these patterns using an at-home saliva test kit.

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.

Your Menstrual Cycle: An Overview

What is the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is a monthly hormonal cycle the body goes through as it prepares for the possibility of pregnancy. The average young woman typically starts menstruating about two years after her breasts begin to develop and pubic hair starts to grow, which is often around age 12, but can be a few years earlier or later.

Your Menstrual Cycle: An Overview

Understanding how the menstrual cycle works is important for women of all ages for a number of reasons, including helping you get pregnant, avoiding getting pregnant, understanding when something may be wrong, and managing menstrual symptoms.

How long does a menstrual cycle last?
Your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends the first day your next menstrual period arrives. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long, but the exact length will vary between women or even change from month to month for the same person. If your periods come somewhere between every 24 to 38 days, your cycle is considered regular, but if your cycle is longer or shorter, it’s a good idea to speak with your physician to find out what’s going on.

What is ovulation?
Ovulation is a process that occurs in the middle of your cycle, usually near the 14th day. At this time, one of the ovaries releases an egg so that it can be fertilized by sperm and lead to pregnancy. You’re most likely to get pregnant in the three days leading up to and including ovulation. If the egg isn’t fertilized, the uterine lining sheds and you’ll get your menstrual period. It’s not uncommon to experience a bit of discomfort during ovulation, such as pain in the lower abdomen and some spotting or bleeding, but some women don’t experience any symptoms.

What happens during menstruation?
Menstruation is the part of your menstrual cycle when the endometrium that lines the uterus is shed and you get your period. This happens when an egg from your previous cycle isn’t fertilized and levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop. The low hormone levels let your body know that it no longer needs a thick uterine lining to support pregnancy, and then sheds this blood, mucus, and tissue from the uterus through the vagina.

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.

10 Reasons Behind Female Pelvic Pain

Have you been experiencing sharp or nagging pelvic pain to the point where you’re starting to wonder what’s going on? Pelvic pain, occurring in the lower abdomen below the belly button, presents in many different ways and can be sharp, dull, aching, sudden, or recurrent.

Female Pelvic Pain

This pain can have many different causes, some of which are far more serious than others. If you have any concerns about pelvic pain, it’s important to see your healthcare provider.

Here are some of the most common reasons for female pelvic pain:

Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that’s similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. It’s most common in women who are in their thirties and forties, and may affect more than 10 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. This condition can be very uncomfortable and contribute to chronic pelvic pain.

Menstrual Cramps
Menstrual cramps are a common cause of pelvic pain, especially in the few days leading up to or during your menstrual period. While these cramps are fairly common, it’s a good idea to speak with your physician if they’re extremely painful or interfering with your quality of life.

Ovulation
Many women experience temporary pelvic pain when they ovulate each month. This happens during the middle of your menstrual cycle and the pain is usually localized to one side of your pelvis. The pain may last anywhere between a few minutes and a few hours, but doesn’t require treatment.

Ovarian Cysts
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on the ovary. Many ovarian cysts don’t cause any pain, but if the cyst becomes twisted or bursts, this condition can lead to a great deal of pelvic pain. If you experience sudden or severe pelvic pain, it’s important to see your doctor.

Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that form on the wall of the uterus. Like ovarian cysts, these are typically not painful, but can cause pelvic pain if they twist or are disrupted.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (also commonly referred to as IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that affects the large intestine. Researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes IBS, but its symptoms can be triggered by stress, food, and hormones, and the condition often leads to pelvic and abdominal pain.

Constipation
If your bowel movements become less regular and you have trouble passing stools, you may be suffering from constipation, which is another common cause of pelvic pain. Constipation frequently arises due to dietary changes, medication, irritable bowel syndrome, and more. If you’re experiencing any pain with your bowel movements, it’s important to see a doctor.

Sexually Transmitted Infections
Some sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, can contribute to pelvic pain. Additionally, some sexually transmitted infections that are left untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which is another cause of pelvic pain.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is a condition involving infection of the female reproductive organs (ovaries, cervix, fallopian tubes, and uterus). It often arises due to untreated sexually transmitted infections, but you can also get it for other reasons, such as having sex with more than one partner, or having sex with a partner who has other sex partners besides you. This condition is one of the leading causes of preventable infertility.

Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy is a serious medical condition where a fertilized egg attaches to the cervix, abdominal cavity, or fallopian tube rather than the uterus. Women who are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy may experience nausea, pelvic and abdominal pain, dizziness, rectal pressure, and other symptoms. This condition can be very dangerous to your health, so It’s important to see a doctor right away if you think you may have an ectopic pregnancy.

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.

Two Menstrual Periods in One Month

Getting your period twice in one month can be surprising, not to mention annoying and uncomfortable. And if you’ve never experienced this before, you also might find yourself worried that something concerning is going on in your body.

Two Periods in One Month

Getting two periods in one month isn’t always a cause for concern—your body may be following its normal menstrual cycle, which can range in length between 24 and 38 days. So, if your cycle is less than a month long and you have your period at the beginning of the month, you may see it appear again toward the end of the month.

But aside from the length of your cycle, there are many other reasons why you might experience bleeding twice in a month. In some cases, you may be experiencing bleeding tied to a health condition rather than actually getting your period twice. Here are some of the common causes:

You’re pregnant
Irregular bleeding during pregnancy occurs for some women, and it’s possible to mistake irregular bleeding for your period. If you get your period twice in one month and are sexually active, you may want to take a pregnancy test to see if you’re experiencing irregular bleeding as a result of being pregnant.

You have pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is a condition in which the female reproductive organs get infected after bacteria move into that area of the body from the vagina or cervix. One of the symptoms  of pelvic inflammatory disease is irregular uterine bleeding, in which you may experience bleeding between menstrual cycles.

You’re experiencing a thyroid disorder
Both hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) can cause your menstrual cycle to become shorter, meaning you may have two periods within one month. Both conditions can be diagnosed with a blood test and treated with medication.

You have uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are abnormal growths that develop in the uterus. They’re typically benign but may contribute to heavy bleeding between periods. If you mistake this bleeding for your menstrual cycle, it might appear as though you have two menstrual periods in one month.

You didn’t take your birth control on schedule
Forgetting to take your birth control on schedule can throw your hormones out of whack in a way that may lead you to experience irregular bleeding. Your cycle will typically return to normal after you resume taking your birth control medication according to schedule.

You’re under a lot of stress
Feeling really stressed recently? This could be the reason why your period came twice in a month, as stress can shorten your menstrual cycle. Stress can lead you to miss your period as well.

You have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition in which your reproductive hormones become imbalanced. Irregular bleeding is a common symptom of this condition.

Getting your period twice in one month usually isn’t anything to worry about if it happens just once or you know you have a shorter cycle. But if this is happening repeatedly each month and is different from your normal cycle, you’ll want to see your healthcare provider to find out what’s going on.

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 Happens When a Women Gets Wet?

Ever wonder why you get wet when you’re feeling aroused? Or maybe you’re curious why you sometimes notice a feeling of wetness during the normal course of your day-to-day life? The first thing to know is that while some people naturally produce more vaginal lubrication than others, this wetness is completely normal in most scenarios, especially when it’s not accompanied by any other signs or symptoms that seem out of the ordinary.

Vaginal Wetness

Vaginal wetness is common when you’re feeling aroused, but what you may not have realized is that it’s also present when you’re not aroused. It’s actually normal to produce somewhere between one and four milliliters of vaginal fluid every day. The exact amount of fluid you produce each day will vary. This wetness helps keep your vagina clean and also provides lubrication to protect against tearing and injury. Here’s what else you need to know:

What is vaginal wetness?
Most vaginal fluid is made primarily of water, along with some salts like phosphate and sodium chloride, organic compounds such as lipids and amino acids, antibodies that help the body reduce risk of infections, and old cells from the lining of the vagina, uterus, and cervix.

A thin layer of vaginal fluid typically lines the walls of your vagina and is important for a number of reasons—it provides lubrication that makes sex more comfortable, can minimize or prevent vaginal pain, and even supports fertility. Many different factors can contribute to vaginal wetness, including your age, hormone levels, medications, stress, level of arousal, infections, and perspiration. Here’s more information on how some of these factors contribute to vaginal wetness:

Arousal
As you become aroused, blood flow to your genitals increases, which triggers the release of fluid from the cervix and the Bartholin’s glands, which provides lubrication during sexual activity. Often, the more aroused you’re feeling, the more vaginal lubrication your body will produce.

Hormones and age
Hormones play a big role in vaginal wetness. Higher estrogen levels lead to increased vaginal wetness, but as your body starts to produce less estrogen during menopause and afterwards, your body may not produce as much vaginal fluid, making your vagina drier.

Meanwhile, as you move through your menstrual cycle and ovulation approaches, your cervix produces more vaginal fluid, which plays an important role in helping sperm travel to an egg during the process of fertilization.

Infection
Sometimes you will feel more wet than usual if you have an infection such as bacterial vaginosis. The vaginal fluid helps to remove bacteria from the vaginal canal. Infections may also lead you to produce other types of vaginal discharge, which will vary in appearance depending on the type of infection. But if you notice any discharge that’s an abnormal color or smell, you’ll want to get in touch with your physician.

Medication
Hormonal birth control can alter your vaginal fluid production, leaving you more wet or dry than you’re used to when not taking the medication.

How do I know if I need to see a doctor?
Vaginal wetness is perfectly normal. In fact, in many cases, it’s a sign that your vagina is healthy. But there are a few signs and symptoms that let you know a trip to the doctor may be in order. Here are a few:

  • You have vaginal discharge that smells bad or appears different than what you’re used to.
  • You’re experiencing burning, itching, sensitivity, and/or pain in the vaginal area.
  • Your vaginal area is swollen.
  • You’ve been experiencing vaginal dryness.
  • You’ve started taking a new medication and have noticed that you’re more or less wet than usual.

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 to Embrace Self-Care During Your Period

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding the Female Sexual Response Cycle

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

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

Woman playfully flirting with a man

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

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

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

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

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

How to Know If You’re Normal Down There

If you’ve been wondering if your vagina is “normal” in appearance, you’re definitely not alone—this is a common concern among numerous women. One reason behind this lingering question is that there isn’t much discussion of female sexual anatomy in general day to day life or in medical literature. But many women will find it reassuring to know that no two vaginas are the same and that many shapes, sizes, and variations are healthy. While a “normal” vagina doesn’t exist, there are some common similarities.

woman holding heart shape object in front of her vagina

But before we get into that, it’s important to make sure you understand the basic anatomy. To start, you should know that the vagina is defined as a muscular canal that extends from the cervix to the outside of the body, according to the U.S. government’s Office on Women’s Health. The vagina is technically part of the vulva, which is the part of your genitals that exist outside the body. Many people say vagina when they mean vulva, but the vulva also contains other parts of female sexual anatomy including the clitoris, labia, vaginal opening, and urethra opening.

So, what are some similarities and differences in women’s external sexual anatomy?

Shape
There’s a great amount of diversity when it comes to vaginal shape, and much of this is due to the shape of the labia. The outer lips are known as the labia majora, and the inner lips are the labia minora. Both vary widely in shape and size. Here are some of the different shapes that may describe your vagina or that of another woman:

  • In some cases, the inner lips (labia minora) are long and dangling, with part of them exposed and/or protruding past the outer lips.
  • For some women, the outer lips (labia majora) will completely cover the clitoris and inner lips (labia minora).
  • Sometimes one of the inner lips is longer than another, giving an uneven appearance to the labia.
  • The outer lips may be small and separated a bit, making the inner lips very visible.
  • In some cases, the inner and outer lips are a similar length.
  • For some women, the clitoral hood is visible. This is often the case if the inner and outer lips are on the smaller side.

Size
Vaginal size will vary from woman to woman, but the average depth is just under four inches. However, among some women, the vagina can be as short as two inches or up to seven inches deep. Clitoris size will also vary from one woman to another, ranging from .1 inches to 1.3 inches, and often swelling larger with arousal.

Color
Most women’s vulva appears to be some shade of red, pink, or burgundy, but this will vary from woman to woman depending on skin tone and other factors. The color will often change over time, such as after puberty, following sexual intercourse, or with arousal.

The important takeaway is that female sexual anatomy varies a great deal, and you’re not “supposed” to look any one particular way.

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.

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.

HPV Test image

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.