What to Know for the 2020-2021 Flu Season

The flu season is upon us. The exact timing of flu season changes from year to year, but influenza tends to become more common starting in October and then ramp up from there, with the most virus activity occurring between December and February.

Here are some of the most common questions about influenza and the 2020-2021 flu season:

What is the flu?
More formally known as influenza, flu is a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. It’s contagious and can range from mild to severe, in some cases even leading to death.

What are some common flu symptoms?
Influenza affects the respiratory system, so you’ll notice many symptoms related to your throat, nose, and lungs. Some of the most common symptoms include a sore throat, stuffy nose, cough, fever, body and muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue. 

It’s important to seek medical care right away if you experience more severe symptoms and complications, such as chest pain or pressure, difficulty breathing, seizures, lack of urination, severe weakness or muscle pain, confusion, persistent dizziness.

Should I get a flu shot?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly everyone who is six months old or older should get a flu vaccine. Even though the flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective in preventing the flu, the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from getting it.

While the vaccine is safe and recommended for most people, there are some exceptions, including people with allergies to the flu vaccine or any of its ingredients and people who have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome in the past. If you have any questions about getting a flu shot, it’s a good idea to seek guidance from a healthcare provider.

When is the best time to get a flu shot?
After getting a flu shot it takes about two weeks for your body to develop flu antibodies (these help protect you from getting sick if you come in contact with the influenza virus), so it’s a good idea to get your flu shot before the virus starts spreading widely in your community. Early fall is a good time, but if you forget or are unable to get one then for some reason, flu shots are usually still available later into the flu season.

What flu vaccines are recommended this flu season?
This season’s flu vaccines were updated to better match viruses expected to be circulating in the United States. For the 2020-2021 flu season, providers may choose to administer any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine (IIV, RIV4, or LAIV4) with no preference for any one vaccine over another.

Can I have flu and COVID-19 simultaneously?
It’s possible to have both the flu and COVID-19 or another respiratory illness at the same time, though researchers aren’t sure how common this will be. With the possibility that the flu and coronavirus will both be spreading at the same time this winter, the CDC says getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever before. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with flu or COVID-19.

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.

Stress is Soaring During the Coronavirus Pandemic, So Are Divorce Rates

Tensions have been running high since the coronavirus pandemic swept the country earlier this year, and divorce rates in the United States have increased. In a recent survey by Legal Templates, 31% of couples say the quarantine has been damaging to their relationship. The company has also seen a 34% increase in sales of its divorce agreement template compared to this time last year.

For many couples, much of the conflict occurred early in the pandemic—survey results revealed that interest in separation was at its highest on April 13. Spending much more time at home with our loved ones can be tricky—especially when many people are also trying to work from home and care for children, too. Add in financial strain and a pandemic of unprecedented scale, and the soaring divorce rates make sense.

“It’s possible that divorces spiked as people entered what mental health and human service professionals refer to as the “disillusionment phase” of the Phases of Disaster— the time when optimism turns to discouragement, stress heightens, and negative reactions often occur,” Legal Templates commented in its survey results. 

The survey revealed a number of interesting trends—couples who got married within the past five years accounted for 58% of survey respondents who said they are pursuing a divorce during the coronavirus pandemic. Among this subset of people, this rate is 16% higher than it was last year. Meanwhile, 20% of users purchased a divorce agreement after being married for less than five months.

Another interesting finding from the survey is that couples in the South are purchasing divorce agreements at twice or even three-times the rate of couples in other geographical regions of the country.

It’s interesting to look at these findings and see how the pandemic is affecting us in many ways beyond the virus itself. A key takeaway here is that stress is much higher than usual for most people, and this impacts our lives in many ways, from our physical and mental health to our relationships with others. According to the Mayo Clinic, some common effects of stress include anxiety, headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, lack of motivation, feeling overwhelmed, feeling irritable or angry, and upset stomach. If any of those symptoms sound familiar, you’re not alone—especially these days.

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.

Hormone Replacement Therapy During Menopause: Is It Right for You?

Due to changing hormone levels, it’s not uncommon for women to experience a variety of symptoms during menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, chills, mood changes, and difficulty sleeping.

For some women these symptoms are mild, but for others, these symptoms really interfere with life. Hormone replacement therapy is a medication that can be used to replace the estrogen that your body stops producing in menopause. Hormone replacement therapy can be a helpful way to relieve hot flashes and other menopause symptoms, and may also protect against osteoporosis. That said, there are some drawbacks to this treatment, and some cases where it may not be a good fit.

Hormone replacement therapy comes in different forms.
Estrogen therapy is one type of hormone replacement therapy. Given in a low dose, estrogen therapy is available as a pill, a patch that’s placed on the abdomen, and as a topical gel, cream, or spray. If someone is suffering from vaginal burning, dryness, or itchiness, their physician may prescribe a vaginal estrogen that’s available as a tablet, vaginal ring, or cream.

Another option for hormone replacement therapy is typically called combination therapy. Like its name suggests, this medication combines estrogen and progestin, which is a synthetic form of progesterone. Combination therapy is frequently used as a type of birth control, but can also treat menopause symptoms.

Hormone replacement therapy isn’t for everyone.
Hormone replacement therapy isn’t advised if you have a history or family history of liver disease, blood clots, certain types of cancers, heart attack or stroke. It’s also not recommended if you have problems with vaginal bleeding or think you may be pregnant.


Here are the risks.
Hormone replacement therapy comes with some risks, though these often vary depending on a woman’s lifestyle and medical history. Additionally, the level of risk varies depending on the type of hormone replacement therapy that’s taken. It is believed that hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk of heart attacks, blood clots, strokes, breast cancer, and gallbladder disease in some women.

Another point to keep in mind is that the risks of hormone replacement therapy are higher among women over the age of 60 and among women who start hormone replacement therapy more than 10 years after the onset of 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.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk for Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a slow-growing disease that develops within the cells of the cervix and is known to be silent in its early stages. Most cervical cancer is caused by strains of a very common sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus, or HPV. Many times, the immune system will prevent HPV from causing harm, but sometimes it can damage cervical cells in a way that can lead to cancer.

There’s no sure way to prevent cervical cancer, but taking the following steps can play a substantial role in reducing your risk.

Don’t skip your screenings.
“The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests starting at age 21,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Screening can be accomplished in your doctor’s office in two ways:

  • A pap smear, which looks for cell changes to the cervix that may become cervical cancer in the future if left untreated.
  • An HPV test, which detects the virus itself that can cause the cellular changes that lead to cervical cancer.

Get vaccinated.
The HPV vaccine is important because it protects against the types of HPV that most frequently cause cervical cancer. The vaccine is administered in two-doses for people under the age of 15, and in three-doses for anyone 15 and older.

The vaccine is most effective when it’s given before someone has any exposure to HPV. It’s available for those aged 9 and older, but is recommended for 11- and 12-year-olds. It’s also recommended for everyone 26 and younger. Additionally, some unvaccinated people between the ages of 27 and 45 may choose to get the vaccine, depending on their risk for HPV infection. The vaccine is generally less beneficial for people who fall in this age range, because there’s a stronger likelihood of prior exposure to HPV.

If a pap smear is abnormal, be sure to follow-up on it.
If results of your pap smear are abnormal, your doctor may recommend a test called a colposcopy, which allows them to look at your cervix using a magnifying lens to detect abnormal cells. If your physician identifies abnormal cells, they’ll perform a biopsy for further testing. The colposcopy and biopsy are fairly painless, so don’t panic if you need to get one. Your physician will likely ask you to return for another pap smear at a later date. Don’t skip these tests, as they’re important in allowing your doctor to identify what’s going on in your body.

Practice safe sex.
The key takeaways here are to use condoms and limit your number of sexual partners. Using condoms is associated with lower rates of cervical cancer, according to the CDC, though there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding the effect of condoms in preventing HPV.

Limiting your number of sexual partners is also important because it may reduce your odds of being exposed to HPV infection. HPV can be passed among people through skin-to-skin contact with a part of the body that’s infected with HPV (including the vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, or anus). It’s important to understand that the virus can spread through this skin-to-skin contact even if you don’t have sex.

Keep in mind that limiting your number of sexual partners won’t put you in the clear in terms of getting HPV. The virus is very common, so you can still get HPV even if you only have one sexual partner.

Ditch smoking.
Smoking can double your risk of getting cervical cancer. Staying away from cigarettes is important in lowering your risk for cervical cancer, The American Cancer Society says. 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.

Depression Among Stay-At-Home Moms is Real

Being a stay-at-home mom is a tough job anytime, but especially these days when there are so many extra responsibilities and burdens added into the picture due to the coronavirus. In addition to parenting around the clock, many stay-at-home moms are now guiding their children through virtual learning and managing bustling homes that are far more busy than usual.

Being a stay-at-home mom comes with many rewards, but the job—yes, being a stay-at-home mom is definitely a job—can be challenging, lonely and isolating, and some women even feel a loss of identity. Sometimes, being a stay-at-home mom is even associated with depression. According to WebMD, studies show that depression is more common among stay-at-home moms than among moms who work outside the home.

What contributes to depression among stay-at-home moms?
Many stay-at-home moms are constantly burdened with feeling like they’re not getting everything right and that they should or could be doing more. Many also compare themselves to other moms and feel like they’re not good enough. It’s common for stay-at-home moms to worry that they should be cooking more and their house should be cleaner, they should be spending more time with the kids, they should be excelling in other areas, and the list goes on. It’s important to remember that no one is perfect, even if it appears that way from the outside—especially on social media.

Being a stay-at-home mom can be isolating.
Women who head to the office each day often have numerous opportunities for social contact. In contrast, being a stay-at-home mom can be far more isolating. Many stay-at-home moms have limited contact with other adults throughout the day, and this loneliness can contribute to depression. One way to deal  with isolation and loneliness is to take some time to let someone know you’re feeling isolated—they may be feeling the same way. Another suggestion is to do what you can to prioritize getting out once in a while so you can be around other adults in a way that feels good and fulfilling to you.

Some moms feel a lack of appreciation.
The to-do list is never-ending when you’re a stay-at-home mom. Many stay-at-home moms feel like they’re constantly busy, but find it hard to pinpoint exactly what they’ve accomplished. They also feel like others may not appreciate all that they do throughout the day. To feel more accomplished, try making a list of everything you do throughout the day—this will let you see how many important contributions you make to your family and may help you feel more important and appreciated.

Here’s what to do if you’re feeling depressed.
If depression is interfering in your day-to-day life or feels overwhelming, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider or a mental health professional. Trained professionals have many resources to help you out.

Some other ideas are to reach out to a friend to talk about your struggles, join an online support group, try to prioritize spending some time outside your home, and set a goal or find some type of activity or hobby that gives you a sense of purpose. Of course, if you miss getting outside the house to go to work, finding a full or part time job might be a good idea to consider, too.

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 Urinary Incontinence

If you feel as though you just don’t have control of your bladder or if you ever leak urine, you may be suffering from a condition called urinary incontinence. This loss of bladder control and urine leakage can happen when your bladder muscles tighten but your sphincter isn’t able to close off the urethra. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as laughing, sneezing, exercising, stress, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and problems with the nerves that control your urethra and bladder muscles.

Now that you understand the basics, here’s what you need to know about urinary incontinence and how it might impact your life:

Urinary incontinence is fairly common.
About one in two women and one in four men experience symptoms of urinary incontinence, according to the Urology Care Foundation. One reason urinary incontinence is more common among women is that childbirth, pregnancy, and menopause all might affect the urinary tract and potentially weaken the pelvic floor muscles. When the pelvic floor muscles are weak, the urinary tract muscles must work harder to keep urine in, and this added stress can lead to urinary leakage.

Another reason urinary incontinence is more common among women is that the urethra is shorter in the female body, leaving women more prone to urinary incontinence.

What causes urinary incontinence?
Most of the time, urinary continence is due to problems with the muscles and nerves that help you hold in urine and pass urine. Some common contributors to urinary incontinence include chronic constipation, being overweight, damage to the pelvic floor muscles during surgery on the reproductive organs, and nerve damage. Short-term urinary incontinence can occur due to urinary tract or bladder infections, as a medication side effect, or after caffeine intake.

Many women experience urinary incontinence during pregnancy.
Up to 40 percent of women experience urinary incontinence while pregnant. Why does this happen? As your baby grows during pregnancy, this puts pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles. This can lead to weakened pelvic floor muscles and you may leak urine. But there’s good news—typically, this problem doesn’t persist long after childbirth.

The pelvic floor muscles can also weaken during a vaginal childbirth, leading to short-term urinary incontinence. Usually this resolves within six weeks of childbirth.

Menopause can cause urinary incontinence, too.
Post-menopausal women produce less estrogen, which might weaken the urethra and lead to issues with urinary incontinence, researchers believe

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.

Tips for Shifting Your Baby from Two Naps to One

Most people would agree that caring for little ones throughout the pandemic has been challenging and not at all what most of us are used to. While focusing so intently on how to keep your family safe, it’s easy to let other important things fall to the back burner of your mind, like sleep schedules. If you have a toddler at home, you may have been wondering when to shift them from two naps a day to one.

Napping

Most toddlers transition from two naps a day to one when they’re between one- and two-years-old. Around this time, they’ll probably start sleeping through the night more solidly than when they were an infant, and they may not need quite as much sleep during the day.

As you look to make the transition, keep an eye out for some clear signs that let you know it’s time: your toddler may start to resist naps or become moody when you put them down for a nap, they might take longer to drift off when you put them down for a nap, they might wake up early from their naps, or they might make it through the day just fine even when something gets in the way of their second nap.

That said, even if the signs are all clear, it can still be a tricky transition. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Every child is different.
Just because your child is a certain age doesn’t mean you need to phase them into a one-nap-a-day schedule. If your toddler doesn’t seem to be adjusting into a new napping schedule with ease, consider holding off for a month or so before trying again.

This transition will take time.
Switching to one nap a day most likely isn’t going to happen overnight. Some days may be a one-nap day and some days may be a two-nap day. One tip is to keep the transition gradual by pushing the morning nap a bit later each day until you can completely remove it and replace it with just one nap in the afternoon.

The afternoon nap may be longer than it used to be.
After removing the morning nap, your toddler may be extra tired by the time nap time rolls around. This means they will probably take a longer afternoon nap than you’re used to. Many people also shift the afternoon nap a bit earlier, such as right after lunch.

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.

Date Night Ideas in the Time of Coronavirus

Times are a bit different these days and while you may not be comfortable having a baby-sitter in your home or dining at a local restaurant, this doesn’t mean you’re not in need of a date night. So, what exactly is one to do?

Date Night

Here are some ideas to consider:

Take a virtual cooking class together.
You can take a cooking class with a bit of help from YouTube, a cooking school, or an online cooking personality. Search around online for a virtual cooking class that looks like a good fit, make sure you have all the ingredients you need, and get cooking. This is a great way to “escape” without actually going anywhere—plus, you’ll have a delicious meal to eat when you’re finished.

Hold your own wine or beer tasting.
Just because you won’t be spending the afternoon at a local brewery or winery doesn’t mean you can’t bring the brewery or winery home to you. Order different varieties of beer or wine from a local retailer, pull out some flight glasses (any glasses will work as a substitute), and get tasting! Take your tasting up a notch by jotting down some notes—then you can compare styles and have an idea of what you like next time you’re looking to make a wine or beer purchase.

Bring your favorite restaurant home.
Throw on some of your finest clothes, buy a fancy bottle of wine, light some candles, and order takeout from a local restaurant you love.

Head to the spa without leaving the house.
At-home spa? Yes, please. Set up a home spa where you can give each other massages, do a foot soak together, and maybe even a little DIY face mask action. Search Google and Pinterest for some creative ideas.

Have a picnic.
Pull out that picnic blanket you’ve been itching to use for months, compile a dazzling spread of snacks, get your favorite beverages ready, and settle down in the backyard or on the living room floor for a picnic.

Plan a trip.
Grab your favorite drinks from the fridge and let the adventure wheels spin as you plan a trip or two you’d love to set out on once coronavirus restrictions lift. Take notes so you can think about putting those plans into action when we’re able to travel again.

We hope you’ll have fun with these date night ideas—we love to see you healthy and happy in your relationship.

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.

IUDs After Birth: Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’re considering birth control options after giving birth, an intrauterine device, more commonly known as an IUD, is a great option to consider. IUDs are safe to use while breastfeeding, and you don’t need to remember to take a pill at the same time each day as is required with a birth control pill—something many busy and tired new moms will appreciate. Here’s everything you need to know about IUDs as you consider your options.

IUD

What is an IUD?
An IUD is a small device (about the size of a quarter or a bit larger) shaped like a “T” that gets inserted into your uterus in a process that usually takes less than five minutes. You can typically have one put in right after you give birth, or you can have it inserted later at a postpartum appointment.

IUDs come in two varieties—hormonal and copper. A hormonal IUD prevents pregnancy by preventing your ovaries from releasing eggs and by thickening the mucus in your cervical canal so that sperm can’t get through to fertilize an egg. A copper IUD, on the other hand, is wrapped in copper wire that’s toxic to sperm, which prevents sperm from fertilizing the egg.

No matter which variety you choose, IUDs are one of the most effective forms of birth control out there, with an efficacy rate of more than 99%. Put simply, this means you’ll have a less than 1% chance of getting pregnant while using an IUD.

How long does an IUD last?
An IUD isn’t permanent, but it can stay in your body for years without any maintenance required. Some types are effective for up to ten years. If you decide you want to get pregnant again, a healthcare professional can remove the IUD for you and you’ll be able to get pregnant soon after, often right away.

Are there any side effects?
Most people experience a bit of cramping or pain as the IUD is inserted and even into the days or weeks afterwards. For some people, cramps, spotting, and irregular periods may be present for the first three to six months after insertion. With a copper IUD, you may also experience heavier or longer periods and increased cramping during your period. And with a hormonal IUD, you may notice symptoms similar to those present with other forms of hormonal birth control, like headaches and sore breasts—but often these don’t linger beyond the first few months.

In some cases, an IUD may not be a good idea.
IUDs aren’t recommended if you’re pregnant, have certain types of cancer including cervical and uterine, are experiencing vaginal bleeding, had a pelvic infection recently, or if you have an STD. It’s also important to keep in mind that while IUDs are an effective way of preventing pregnancy, they don’t protect you from STDs.

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.

7 Activities to Keep Your Kids Safe and Happy This Summer

School’s out for summer, but this summer break is shaping up to be very different from what you and your kids are used to because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many childcare centers, summer camps, and entertainment venues are closed, leaving a lot of parents feeling stressed over the idea of keeping their kids busy and happy all summer long.

Kid Friendly Summer

Every suggestion in our list below is designed to happen at home or at a local park (while social distancing, of course!). Here are some ideas:

Backyard Camping
Camping in the backyard has become a surprisingly popular activity since the start of the pandemic. Even if local campgrounds are closed because of the pandemic, you can still have fun setting up the tent in your backyard. No sleeping bags? Don’t worry about it—just bring out some blankets and pillows from the house. And of course, be sure not to forget the most important part: s’mores supplies!

Embark on a Summer Reading Challenge
Check with your local library or school district to see if they’re hosting a summer reading challenge. If not, start one yourself, or find one online. For a bit of friendly competition, invite your kids’ friends to participate, too.

Start a Garden
Planting a flower or vegetable garden with the kids is a great way to teach them about the life cycle and environmental sustainability. Plus, you may even help them develop a green thumb that they can use throughout life. One great thing about gardening is that it isn’t a single-day activity—this one will keep you all busy all summer long, as long as you get the kids involved in the whole process, from planning to planting, weeding, harvesting, and beyond.

Lay Out a Blanket for a Picnic
If you feel like you’ve been spending too much time indoors, head out into the backyard or to a local park for a picnic. Ask the kids to help pack supplies or maybe even prepare a snack for the picnic spread.

Hold a Movie Marathon
Set up a fort indoors, prepare some of your favorite snacks, and get cozy for a movie marathon. This one is great for hot afternoons or rainy weekends.

Head Out for a Scavenger Hunt
For a fairly simple activity that doesn’t take much prep work, kids love scavenger hunts. You can even add an educational twist by making the activity nature themed. Start by making a list of natural objects that can be found either in your backyard, your neighborhood, or at a local park or beach. Then print a list for everyone and head out to see what you can find.

Tip: For little kids, consider making your scavenger hunt color themed, where you ask your little ones to find an object to match each color of the rainbow.

Have a Dance Party
Most kids love dancing, especially when they see their parents getting involved. Whether you’re all dancing it out to an upbeat playlist or learning a dance routine that you’ve found online, this is an excellent way to get some exercise while having fun together. Don’t forget to film some of your best moves to share with friends.

Staying Safe
Safety is important all the time, but especially these days. If you’re heading to a public space for any of these activities, make sure to bring some hand sanitizer, wear masks, and follow social distancing guidelines. Find more safety recommendations from the CDC here.

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.