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.

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.

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.

8 Interesting Facts About Your Nipples stock photo

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.

Kidney Stones stock photo image

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.

Kidney stones image

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.