Perimenopause: What You Need to Know in Your 30s And Beyond

Many women are well aware of the signs and symptoms of menopause, but are far less knowledgeable about perimenopause. In fact, many don’t even know what perimenopause is at all. But don’t feel bad if you’re in that boat—we’re here to fill you in on everything you need to know about this life stage. Perimenopause is a transitional time period before menopause where the female body starts to produce less estrogen. It typically lasts somewhere between four and eight years, and often begins when a woman is in her 40’s, though in some cases, perimenopause may begin in the 30’s or even earlier.

Perimenopause photo

Some women experience nothing other than irregular or missed menstrual periods during perimenopause, whereas others experience far more changes in the body. If you suspect you may be going through perimenopause, here are some signature signs to look out for:

Night Sweats and Hot Flashes: A hot flash is basically a wave of increased body heat that comes on suddenly, lasts a few minutes, and may be experienced along with a rapid heartbeat, sweating, and reddening skin. Hot flashes become more common for many women as hormone levels change approaching menopause, and can also manifest in the form of night sweats, which can sometimes disturb sleep, especially when they’re frequent.

Irregular periods: It’s not at all uncommon for periods to become irregular as you enter perimenopause, whether this means going a longer or shorter amount of time between periods, or even skipping them altogether. If you notice your menstrual cycle changes by seven days or longer over a consistent period of time, this can be a sign of early perimenopause. Meanwhile, going 60 days or longer between periods could indicate that you’re in late perimenopause. Some women also experience increased bleeding and cramps during this time period.

Decreased fertility: As you would expect, as you start to ovulate less frequently, you are also less likely to conceive. It is important to keep in mind that it is still possible to get pregnant during this time period though.

Mood changes: Your hormone levels will fluctuate during perimenopause, and so will your mood. Many women experience mood swings, irritability, depression, and anxiety.

Dryness during sex and other vaginal issues: Lower levels of estrogen are a given during perimenopause. As these estrogen levels become lower, you may experience dryness and discomfort such as pain, soreness, and burning sensations during intercourse. You may also experience a higher than normal amount of vaginal infections and urinary tract infections. Some women take low-doses of estrogen to deal with these problems.

Decreased Libido: Interest in sex and arousal may decrease during perimenopause, but for many people this doesn’t change during and after perimenopause.

Decreased bone mass: As estrogen decreases, so might calcium levels and bone mass. This puts many women at risk of osteoporosis, which can leave you with weak and brittle bones that are prone to breaks. Make sure to keep an eye on your bone mass as you go through perimenopause so that you’re able to actively address any issues that arise.

Cholesterol Problems: Blood cholesterol levels may become problematic during perimenopause. Some women see an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is often known as ‘bad cholesterol’ and a decrease in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, often known as ‘good cholesterol.’ Both of these changes can increase your risk for heart disease. Similar to bone mass, you’ll want to keep an eye on your cholesterol during perimenopause.

What you can do if symptoms are severe: If you feel that your perimenopause symptoms are causing serious discomfort or are too much to handle, there are some treatments that can help. As we mentioned earlier, taking low-doses of estrogen is helpful in certain situations, as are estrogen injections and low-hormone birth control pills. Some also take medications or make dietary changes as a way of combating cholesterol and bone mass issues. And some people find therapy helpful for dealing with a decreased sex drive. Other habits and lifestyle changes known to be helpful during perimenopause include maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and exercising.

If you’re concerned about perimenopause or still have questions, you may find it helpful to speak to a doctor. Call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Seven Surprising Facts About Your Fertility

On the pathway toward conception, it turns out there are a lot of misconceptions floating around. When the time comes to add to a family, it’s important to know about all of the different factors that play a role in a woman’s ability to become pregnant. Here we’ve rounded up a series of significant and sometimes surprising facts for you to keep in mind when you’re ready to conceive, from staying on top of your overall health to getting timing just right.

Health and Lifestyle

It turns out there’s a pretty big connection between overall health and reproductive health. A number of lifestyle factors—like exercise, drug and alcohol use, weight, sleeping patterns, stress, eating habits, and more—all play a role in your ability to conceive, and this is applies to both men and women.

For women, maintaining a healthy body weight is often an important step in increasing fertility, as being underweight or overweight can lead to irregular or missed periods. Your best chances of conception are when you stay within the recommended BMI range.  And keep in mind that while exercise is healthy, excessive amounts of vigorous exercise can decrease fertility among women and sperm count among men.

Men and women alike will also want to keep stress levels down, avoid smoking and drug use, and keep alcohol intake to a minimum.

Age

When it comes to fertility, age matters. Around age 35, fertility starts to decrease and the chance of miscarriage increases. Most women reach a fertility peak in their late 20’s. But don’t be discouraged if you’re older—women at age 35 still have more than 50% odds of conceiving naturally within the first year of trying.

Body Signs

The best time to conceive is usually one or two days prior to ovulation. Of course, many people who are trying to become pregnant use a calendar to track ovulation, but the body gives off some other helpful signs during and around ovulation as well. Here are two to keep in mind:

  • Body temperature: Basal body temperature, or your body’s temperature when you’re fully at rest (such as immediately after waking in the morning), is a good indicator of ovulation. You’ve probably ovulated if your basal body temperature rises .6 degrees or more for 10 days or longer. Ovulation occurs before this rise in temperature, so tracking your basal body temperature each morning over the course of a few months may allow you to see patterns and help figure out when you’re most likely to conceive.
  • Discharge: As you approach ovulation, your cervical mucus will probably become thin, clear, and stretchy, with a consistency close to that of egg whites.

Sperm Count and Testicular Temperature

Many people think of fertility issues as more of a woman-centric problem and fail to realize that men’s health plays a huge role in the fertility equation. It turns out that around 35% of fertility issues are related to problems with the male reproductive system, with low sperm count being the most common issue.

Sperm production tends to fare better when the scrotum (including the testicles) remains cooler than the rest of the body by around two degrees Fahrenheit. So keep in mind that jumping in the hot tub or sauna after a workout could have negative impacts on sperm production and make it harder to conceive. Even resting a laptop on the lap can have negative consequences here, especially if the computer runs particularly hot.

Sex Position

Sex position doesn’t matter when you’re trying to conceive. Stick with what you like and what works for you, because the position isn’t going to increase (or decrease) your chances of conceiving.

Timing

The path to getting pregnant can take a long time, and timing won’t be the same for everyone. Couples often feel despair or seek medical advice in the first year of not being able to conceive, but sometimes the process just takes time. Somewhere around 80% of couples who are in good health and having regular sex without birth control can expect to conceive within their first year of attempting to get pregnant, but many couples are able to conceive during their second year of trying without help or treatment.

The Pill

Many women expect to have trouble becoming pregnant if they’ve been on hormonal birth control (the pill) for many years. But in most cases, this is actually a myth. Some women are able to conceive immediately after stopping the pill, whereas others need a month or even a bit longer for their bodies to adjust to regular ovulation without the pill.

If you have further questions or concerns about your fertility, speaking to a doctor is always a good idea. Call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

The 8 Most Common Symptoms of Endometriosis

Most women experience cramps and menstrual pain from time to time. But how do you know if the pain is just caused by your period or Endometriosis? An estimated 1 out of 10 women suffer from Endometriosis in the United States, however many remain undiagnosed.

Endometriosis image

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis affects women and it is a painful disorder. It’s caused when tissue which usually lines the inside of your uterus starts to build up outside the uterus around the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. The buildup of tissue can lead to cysts, pain and sometimes fertility problems.

Endometriosis can occur anytime after a woman’s first period, but mostly affects women aged between 25-35. The cause of endometriosis is unknown.

What are the symptoms of endometriosis?

  1. Severe Cramps

Many women suffer from cramps during their period, so it can be hard to judge what is ‘normal’ and what is abnormal pain. This is one of the reasons endometriosis often goes undiagnosed. Cramps may be a sign of endometriosis when they prevent you from working or going about your day and when they are not improved by over the counter medicine. Particularly when combined with other symptoms.

  1. Long periods

Most women have a period that lasts between two and seven days and occurs every 21 to 35 days. If you regularly have your period at shorter intervals or experience prolonged periods, this may be a symptom of endometriosis.

  1. Heavy menstrual flow

Heavy bleeding, known as menorrhagia, is usually defined as menstrual bleeding that lasts more than 7 days. It can also be bleeding that is very heavy. If you are changing your pad or tampon at intervals of less than 2 hours or have large visible blood clots the size of a quarter then you may have Menorrhagia.

  1. Bowel and urinary disorders

Painful bowel movements or urination, gassiness or diarrhea during your period may all be signs of endometriosis.

  1. Nausea and/or vomiting

If you experience vomiting, nausea, headaches, or migraines with your period this may be a sign of endometriosis.

  1. Pain during sexual activities

Pain during sex can be a sign of endometriosis and may be more severe in different positions. The pain is caused inflammation and fibrosis fusing the front wall of the rectum to the back wall of the vagina. This can be a difficult symptom to discuss with your doctor and partner, but it is important to voice this symptom to get an accurate diagnosis.

  1. Infertility

If you are struggling to conceive, endometriosis could be the cause. Endometriosis can also impact pregnancy and it impacts the ability to carry a pregnancy to full term, with women often suffering miscarriages.

  1. Chronic Fatigue

If you find yourself sleeping or napping more than usual, lacking energy, or feeling dizzy this may be a sign of Chronic Fatigue. Fatigue alone without other symptoms is not necessarily a sign of endometriosis and could be due to many other causes including anemia, thyroid issues or low blood sugar. If you suffer from fatigue, with or without other symptoms, you should speak to your doctor to identify the cause.

Track your symptoms

If you’re unsure how severe of frequent your symptoms are you may find it helpful to use a period app to track your period over the course of a few months. Noting the length of periods, the severity of cramps on different days of your cycle, and the frequency of other symptoms, such as nausea or diarrhea, will help you assess your symptoms. There are many free apps that will help you do this, or you can make detailed notes in a diary.

Treatment options for endometriosis

Treatment options for endometriosis are unfortunately limited, the most common is minimally invasive laparoscopic excision surgery.

However, there are many options for endometriosis relief, but these forms of treatment do not treat the endometriosis itself. Treatment options include acupuncture, changes in diet, the contraceptive pill, a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), painkillers, or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH ) therapy.

Unfortunately, many endometriosis patients are misdiagnosed or may suffer from symptoms for a long time before establishing the cause. Tracking your symptoms over a few months and being honest when speaking to your doctor, even about uncomfortable topics such as pain during sex, can help you get the right diagnosis.

More sources:

Speak to your doctor if you are suffering from a combination of these symptoms. Call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

How Does IUD Birth Control Work?

Women have been taking birth control for decades, but often with very little knowledge of the science behind how birth control works, and the effects on your body.

While there is plenty of education on how a condom works, other birth control methods, such as the IUD, are more complicated to understand.

When choosing birth control, it’s important to know both the benefits and side effects of the options available. Read on to learn more about the IUD.

Holding an IUD birth control device in hand

What Is an IUD?

An IUD (Intrauterine Device) is a long-term contraception option and one of the most effective birth control methods out there. It is a tiny device that’s put into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. Although long-term, it is also easily reversible.

The FDA has approved 5 types of IUD in the United States including ParaGard, Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla.

IUDs use copper or hormones to prevent pregnancy. Each type of IUD will work for a slightly different length, ranging from 3-6 years, unless removed early.

How Does an IUD Work?

Some IUD’s, such as the ParaGard IUD, are made using a small amount of copper, which is released into the uterus and works as a spermicide. Copper is toxic to sperm.

The other IUD types including Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla, release a form of the hormone progestin into the uterus. Progestin thickens the cervical mucus so that sperm can’t reach the egg. In some women, progestin may also prevent ovulation.

Both copper and hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by changing the way sperm cells move so the sperm can’t get to an egg and fertilize it, which would otherwise result in pregnancy.

How Is an IUD Inserted?

The IUD must be inserted into the uterus, and the thought of this procedure can be off-putting, however, it is a simple and quick procedure done by a nurse or doctor.

First, you will have your vagina, cervix, and uterus checked. You may also be checked for STIs or pregnancy.

Some women may need medication to numb their cervix before the procedure so it’s easier to open. The IUD will then be inserted into the vagina in a procedure that usually takes less than five minutes.

Many women feel fine after having an IUD inserted. However, if you experience cramps or dizziness, you should rest after the procedure. Intermittent cramping or spotting can last up to 3-6 months.

Is an IUD Safe?

Copper IUDs are safe as copper is a mineral found throughout your body. Although you should not choose this option if you have a copper allergy, Wilson’s Disease, or a bleeding disorder that makes it hard for your blood to clot.

Hormonal IUDs are also safe for most women, although you shouldn’t get a hormonal IUD if you have had breast cancer.

You should not choose either IUD as your contraception method if you:

  • Have cancer of the uterus or cervix
  • Have an STI
  • Have a pelvic infection
  • Have had a pelvic infection after either childbirth or an abortion in the past 3 months

What Are the Side Effects?

An IUD is very effective with annual failure rates well under one percent. However, like all birth control, it can fail on rare occasions. If you get pregnant with an IUD in place, there’s an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and other serious health problems. If you think you are pregnant, have the IUD removed by your nurse or doctor right away.

It’s rare but possible to get an infection if bacteria get into the uterus when the IUD is inserted. You should seek medical help if you think you have an infection as it may impact long-term fertility if left untreated.

IUDs can move after placement, which would impact effectiveness. On rare occasions, an IUD may push through the wall of the uterus and may need surgery to remove the IUD.

Signs that your IUD has moved include being able to feel the IUD coming out through your cervix, heavy bleeding, cramping, pain, or soreness, pain or bleeding during sex, vaginal bleeding or discharge that is unusual.

Additional resources when considering using an IUD:

Call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com to talk about the IUD or other birth control options.

5 Ways Your Vagina Is Unique – And When It Should Worry You

Every woman is unique, with her individual thoughts, personality, body shape, and vagina.

While we encourage women to embrace their uniqueness, it’s important to know when something isn’t quite right down there.

Woman with Hands Holding her Crotch Isolated

Your vagina is an elastic, muscular canal with a soft, flexible lining that provides lubrication and sensation. The vagina connects the uterus to the outside world. The vulva and labia form the entrance, and the cervix of the uterus protrudes into the vagina, forming the interior end.

Here are the five main ways vagina, vulva, and labia may differ, and when it might be a cause for concern.

5 Ways Your Vagina Is Unique

  1. Smell

It’s perfectly normal for a vagina to have an aroma, this will likely change throughout your menstrual cycle and may smell metallic at certain times of the month. Your vagina may smell different for a short period after intercourse or exercise. Odor can also be affected by wearing tight-fitting underwear in a fabric that doesn’t breathe. Wearing 100% cotton underwear is recommended.

All women will experience changes in odor, but a strong or unusual odor, such as a ‘fishy’ smell may be a sign of an infection. You should not attempt to mask this with douches or sprays. Your vagina cleanses itself naturally and keeps a healthy pH balance while keeping unhealthy bacteria at bay.

To keep your vaginal odor healthy be sure to practice good hygiene and wash with a mild soap and water, including before and after intercourse and exercise.

If your vaginal odor doesn’t go away or is combined with discharge or other unusual symptoms, make an appointment with your healthcare provider and get it checked out.

  1. Appearance

Women come in all shapes and sizes and the vagina is no different. Every woman looks and feels different on the outside and inside, starting with the vaginal entrance, the vulva, and labia. It is normal to have different sized clitoris and labia – it’s also common and normal to look unsymmetrical.

  1. Color

Like your skin tone, vaginal color is different from one woman to the next and can range from pink to brown. It is not unusual for your vaginal area to be a different color than the rest of your skin. If your vaginal color changes, it could be due to pregnancy.

  1. Size

When talking about your vagina size, you may be referring to vaginal length. Vaginal length will vary slightly between women, but is around 3-4 inches long and can expand when aroused.

The vagina is surrounded by muscle and ‘tightness’ may be affected by decreased muscle tone caused by increased age or childbirth.  If you are noticing a difference in tightness that is causing incontinence, or want to prevent it, you can try Kegel exercises. Regular general exercise, including working your core will also help maintain muscle tightness.

  1. Texture

Changes in vaginal texture is often a sign that something isn’t quite right. If you remove your pubic hair by waxing or shaving, it is not unusual to get bumpy ingrown hairs or razor burn. However, you should see your doctor about any unusual bumps or blisters which do not go away to ensure that they are not caused by herpes or genital warts.

Vaginal dryness, which often causes itchiness, can be a symptom of menopause and there are treatments available to relieve this. If you experience prolonged vaginal dryness and are not nearing menopause, you should see your doctor.

Additional resources on vaginal health:

Speak to your doctor about any unusual vaginal changes. Call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

6 Parenting Resolutions to Make for The New Year

The New Year is a great time to make positive changes in your life and for your own and your family’s health.

Many parents know the importance of good health and habits for their children, but with our busy modern lifestyles, our own habits often slip. It’s important for the whole family to practice healthy living and for parents to set a positive example.

  1. Eat a Healthy Breakfast Every Day

Breakfast time can be hectic for families, especially when both parents are working and rushing to get out the door. It’s important for everyone in the family to eat a healthy breakfast. This could be a bowl of oatmeal, a smoothie, eggs or fresh fruit. It’s tempting to give yourself and your children a quick fix breakfast, but try to avoid high sugar cereals, pastries, or fast food breakfasts. Prepping food in advance – such as containers of fresh fruit – or using packets of quick-prep oatmeal can help.

  1. Get Everyone on a Bedtime Schedule

Disruptions in your sleep patterns can affect you for days, and children are no different. Over the festive season bedtimes are often disrupted as both children and adults stay up for social gatherings, so routines may need to be reinforced come January. Regular bedtimes help children thrive and give you some ‘me’ time so you are less stressed. Set bedtimes for both your children and yourself to ensure everyone is getting a decent and regular amount of sleep.

  1. Exercise as a Family

It can be hard for parents to fit in regular exercise, but exercise is important for both children and adults. Combine exercise with quality time by going for walks as a family, taking a ball or frisbee to a local park or put on a family aerobic video.

  1. Take Deep Breaths

The pressures of everyday life take their toll on all of us from time to time, and parents are often under a lot of stress to balance parenting with other commitments. When children are throwing tantrums, it can be easy to snap at them out of frustration. Before reacting, try and take a deep breath. Deep breathing will help you relax and in turn impacts the calmness of your children. It also sets a positive example of how to deal with a difficult situation calmly, instead of reacting with more yelling.

  1. Take Some ‘Me’ Time

Making sure you take some for yourself will help you be a more relaxed parent. As your children get a little older you can take a step back from managing everything for them and it will allow you more time to yourself, and give them the opportunity to build their own problem-solving skills.

  1. Get Everyone Washing Their Hands

We all know we should wash our hands after using the restroom, but it’s also important to wash your hands regularly throughout the day and before eating. Germs spread quickly within families and school-aged children are especially susceptible to picking up bugs. Instilling good hand washing habits will help reduce bugs for the whole family.

More information on parenting tips:

https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/how-to-be-a-parent/parenting/

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/10-commandments-good-parenting

https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/ways-to-be-fantastic-parent/

With any goal setting remember to set realistic goals that are achievable, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t manage to fulfill all your resolutions all the time.

To learn more about women’s health services call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Choosing A Contraception Method That’s Right for You

Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned and it’s easy to become overwhelmed when choosing contraception. Understanding the options available is the first step in choosing a contraception method that’s right for you.

Contraception options can fall into two key categories, contraception for birth control, or contraception that aims to prevent both pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).  Both parties in a sexual relationship should be aware and in agreement about the method of contraception you decide to use.

Contraception

Short-Term Contraception Options:

Abstinence:
Abstinence is a decision to refrain from sexual intercourse for a period, or completely.

Pros: A natural, free method and the only contraception method that is 100% effective.
Cons: Abstinence needs to be practiced consistently to be effective, which can be a difficult decision for individuals or couples to maintain. You should be prepared to use other contraception should you decide to end a period of abstinence.

Condoms:
Male condoms are a well-known contraception option which also help prevent against STIs, they act as a barrier to stop sperm during sex.

Pros: Condoms protect against pregnancy and STIs most of the time, although they are not 100% effective, and should always be used in-date and checked for any rips. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to apply.
Cons: Some men and women may have an allergic reaction to common latex condoms and may need to use non-latex versions. You need to have a condom handy in moments of spontaneity, so you should keep well-stocked.

Female Condoms:
Female condoms are plastic pouches that are inserted into the vagina to prevent sperm entering, similar to the male condom.

Pros: These are widely available and can be inserted up to 8 hours before having intercourse.
Cons: These do not protect completely from STIs and are less effective than male condoms. Like male condoms, female condoms can’t be re-used.

If you are confident that both yourself and sexual partner have undergone STI checks and are clear of any infections, then you may wish to use one of the following contraception only options:

Natural Family Planning:
Natural family planning, or fertility awareness, involves monitoring a women’s natural fertility cycle and abstaining from sex at the times she is fertile.  

Pros: A free and natural option which may suit women who are opposed to taking drugs, have previously suffered from side effects of other options, or for women who are taking other medication which might interfere with contraceptive drugs.
Cons: Successfully monitoring your cycle can be difficult and WebMD reports around 25% of women still get pregnant. Speak to your doctor to gain more information on managing your fertility cycle.

Spermicide:
Spermicide is a gel or foam that is inserted into the vagina before sex.

Pros: An easy to use option which is relatively inexpensive.
Cons: Regular use can cause irritation or tissue damage, which can increase your risks of contracting an STI if not used alongside a condom.

Diaphragm or Cervical Cap:
Diaphragms and cervical caps are fitted into the vagina and used alongside spermicide to prevent sperm reaching the cervix. The cervical cap is slightly smaller and has a higher failure rate for women who have previously had children.

Pros: Can be reused and are cost effective over time.
Cons: Both options need to be fitted by a doctor and they do not offer STI protection. They can’t be used during your period as it may increase your risk of toxic shock syndrome. Both the diaphragm and cervical cap have failure rates of 15% or more, and a higher likelihood of failure if you have previously had children.

Birth Control Pills:
This is a medication taken daily to prevent pregnancy. There are many different options on the market, with varying side effects or benefits. The side effects and benefits of birth control can differ between individuals.

Pros: Many women find birth control helps to regulate periods and diminishes period flow, period pain, cramps or acne. Some women can stop their periods completely while using birth control pills.
Cons: Birth control pills can be more expensive than other contraception, depending on the type of pill you’re using and how often you are having sex. Some women experience side effects of the medication, including weight gain, breast tenderness, blood clotting or increased blood pressure.

You should always speak to your doctor about taking birth control pills, as some women may be pre-disposed to increased side effects. Women over 35 who smoke are often advised to avoid contraceptive pills.

Withdrawal/Pulling Out:
Withdrawal is a technique where the man withdraws or ‘pulls out’ from intercourse before ejaculating.

Pros: This is a natural and free birth control option.
Cons: Withdrawal can be difficult to time properly and is often ineffective, especially if practiced incorrectly.

Long Term Birth Control Options:
If you are looking for long term birth control then there are several options available, however these do not protect against STIs.

  • Vaginal Ring: lasts one month
  • Birth Control Shot: lasts three months
  • Birth Control Implant:  lasts three years
  • IUD: lasts four to 10 years

Permanent Birth Control:
If you never want to have children, or have decided not to expand your family, then you may consider permanent birth control options such as:

  • Tubal Ligation
  • Tubal Implants
  • Vasectomy (Male)

Emergency Contraception:
Emergency contraception pills can be taken up to 5 days after intercourse. Over the counter pills usually need to be taken within 72 hours. Prescription varieties can be taken up to 5 days after intercourse. Both options are more effective if taken as soon as possible. Emergency contraception is not as effective as condoms or birth control pills. They should not be taken as your regular contraceptive, but are back-up when other methods have failed, for example if a condom breaks.

Read more:

To learn more about women’s health services and family planning options, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia and Your Period: 5 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Do you frequently feel tired and weak? Are your periods heavier than normal? Keep reading to find out more about iron-deficiency anemia and how this common condition is treated.

Iron Deficiency Anemia and Your Period

Question #1: What is iron-deficiency anemia?

Answer: Anemia is a condition characterized by a lack of healthy red blood cells. Iron-deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia caused by a lack of iron in the body. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough hemoglobin, the substance found in the red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen to the tissues throughout your body. If you have anemia, chances are you often feel sleepy, weak and moody.

Question #2: What causes iron-deficiency anemia?

Answer: Iron-deficiency anemia is often caused by blood loss from the following: heavy menstrual periods, gastrointestinal bleeding, peptic ulcers, hiatal hernias or colon cancer. Also, you may develop iron-deficiency anemia if you lack a sufficient amount of iron in your diet or stop absorbing iron. Pregnancy can also cause this condition.

Question #3: How does your period impact iron-deficiency anemia?

Answer: If you have a heavy blood flow during your menstrual cycle, you have a greater risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia. Why? Because a heavy flow can cause excessive blood loss, depleting your body’s iron stores.

So how do you know if your period is too heavy? A heavy flow can cause you to soak a pad or tampon every hour for several hours. You may also experience menstrual bleeding that lasts longer than a week. This bleeding may be accompanied by severe menstrual cramps and/or large blood clots that are passed through the menstrual blood.

Question #4: How is iron-deficiency anemia diagnosed?

Answer: If you think you’re getting fatigued or foggy, visit your doctor to be screened for anemia and tested for an iron deficiency. Your doctor will likely order a blood test to check the amount of red blood cells, hemoglobin and iron in your blood.

Question #5: How is iron-deficiency anemia treated?

Answer: To treat iron-deficiency anemia, your doctor may recommend an iron supplement and/or dietary changes.

Foods rich in iron include the following:

  • Meat (e.g., poultry, beef and lamb)
  • Seafood (e.g., clams, sardines, shrimp and oysters)
  • Beans, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Dark molasses and green leafy vegetables
  • Cereals, grains and breads that are fortified with iron

You should consume iron-rich foods along with a source of vitamin C (e.g., citrus fruit/juice or tomatoes) to enhance absorption. Remember that dairy products, coffee and tea are known to decrease the body’s absorption of iron.

It’s important to remember that iron supplements and food changes won’t affect an underlying cause of excess bleeding. If heavy periods are behind your iron-deficiency anemia, your doctor may prescribe a birth control pill to help control your heavy flow.

Read more:

If heavy bleeding is causing anemia or other issues that are affecting your lifestyle, contact your AOA provider for many options to help improve your life and health: call 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.   

5 Reasons Why Americans Are Having Less Sex

Few would argue that the U.S. is characterized by a sexually-charged culture. Thanks to technology, sex is abundantly available via digital entertainment. Dating apps make it easier than ever for people to “hook up” for casual sexual encounters. Birth control and accepting attitudes toward sexual behavior are also plentiful.

5 Reasons Why Americans Are Having Less Sex

In spite of the amount of sex we are surrounded by, Americans are actually having less sex than they did 20 years ago. According to research published by the Archives of Sexual Behavior, American adults had sex about nine fewer times per year in the early 2010s compared with the late 1990s. Surprisingly, the publication concluded that the decrease in sexual frequency was not caused by an increased use of pornography or longer working hours. So, you may wonder, why are we getting it on less than previous generations?

Reasons Why We’re Having Less Sex

Here are some possible reasons behind the decrease in sexual frequency:

  1. Singles: Fewer people have a steady or marital partner. If you don’t have a committed partner, you may have to work harder to have a sexual encounter.
  2. Couples: There’s a decline in sexual frequency among couples—living together or married.
  3. Parents: Today’s parents are busy and highly involved in the lives of their children. Plus, people are having children later in life, which naturally leaves them less energy for sexual activities.
  4. Technology: In the bedroom, couples are spending more time looking at their devices than each other.
  5. Health: Many medications and chronic health problems have sexual side effects. Some cancer survivors, in particular, have to cope with the sexual side effects caused by cancer treatment.

Finding the Magic Number

If you’re wondering what’s normal for sexual frequency, you’re not alone. But the truth is that this number varies from couple to couple. In fact, sexual needs vary from person to person. It’s even difficult for researchers to determine if happy couples have sex more often or if having sex more often increases their level of happiness. CNN published an article in 2016 that explained how having sex more than once a week didn’t generate more happiness in the relationship. Thus, once a week is probably a good starting point for most couples looking to improve their sex life in terms of quantity.

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To learn more about women’s sexual health, call AOA at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.   

Don’t Rely on Your Pap Smear Schedule for Chlamydia Screening

If you’re sexually active, you’ve probably heard about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). That’s why you faithfully follow your doctor’s recommendations for regular checkups and Pap smears. But a recent change in testing frequency has decreased the amount of diagnoses of the most common bacterial STD—chlamydia. And doctors are worried.

Undiagnosed Chlamydia

Reduction in Pap Smear Frequency

Back in 2012, the United States Preventive Services Task Force changed its guidelines for cervical cancer screenings (using Pap smears) from every year to every three years. The organization made this change to help reduce the number of false positive test results and unnecessary biopsies. Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) is still recommending annual well-woman exams despite the Pap testing change.

The problem with the reduction in Pap smear frequency is that the test was also used to detect chlamydia. Therefore, since 2012, women have been screened much less frequently for this dangerous disease.

How Screening Frequency Impacts Diagnosis Rate

To determine how the decrease in Pap smears had impacted chlamydia diagnoses, medical researchers studied the health records of several women in Ontario, Canada from 2012 to 2014. Here’s what they found when comparing 2014 data with 2012 data:

Age

Chlamydia Screenings (2014)

Chlamydia Diagnoses (2014)

15 to 19

26% fewer

17% fewer

20 to 24

18% fewer

14% fewer

The results of this study were recently published by the Annals of Family Medicine. According to Dr. Michelle Naimer, a physician who co-led the study, “It’s not that the actual incidence has gone down, it’s just you’re not identifying them.” The long-term impact? “The risk… is that down the road, it will just spread more and you will have more cases in the future,” she explained.

The Dangers of Chlamydia

Why is chlamydia so dangerous? For one thing, it often doesn’t cause symptoms, so you might not even know that you have it. Plus, if left untreated, it can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes, causing lasting damage to your reproductive system.

Untreated chlamydia can lead to:

  • Difficulties getting pregnant
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause ectopic pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain
  • Pregnancy-related complications
  • An increased risk of developing HIV

Recommendations for Screening

Besides practicing safe sex, one of the best ways to protect yourself from the dangers of chlamydia is to increase your screening frequency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual screenings for chlamydia.

Pap smears aren’t the only way to screen for chlamydia. You can also take a simple urine test.

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To learn more about women’s health screening, call AOA at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.