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.

What to Expect If You Stop Taking Birth Control Pills

Women decide to stop taking birth control pills for many reasons—some are trying to get pregnant; others have a medical reason such as experiencing adverse side effects, and some simply want a change after taking the same pill for years. Regardless of why you decide to stop taking your birth control pill, you should be aware of some changes to your body that may occur. Here are some of the most common:

Birth Control Pills

It may take a while for your menstrual period to get on a normal schedule
Some women experience irregular periods or no periods at all for a few months after going off of their birth control pills. This is normal, as it can take your body a while to adjust. If you don’t have your period for a few months after you stop taking birth control pills and you’re not pregnant, you should see a doctor to learn more about what’s going on in your body.

You might experience breakouts
Hormonal birth control pills can suppress your natural hormones, so it’s common to experience hormonal acne or more oily skin after you stop taking the pill. The duration of these changes will vary from woman to woman, but these breakouts typically only last a few months. In the meantime, you can care for you skin by sticking to a healthy diet, staying hydrated, minimizing your stress levels, and maintaining a regular skincare routine.

You may experience hair loss
Hair loss is a rare side effect that can be brought about due to hormonal shifts that can occur after women stop taking birth control pills. Meanwhile, some women experience the opposite—an increase in hair growth, typically on the chin, back, and face.

Your menstrual period may be different
If you stop taking birth control pills, you may notice that your menstrual period is different than it was while on the pill. The pill often makes women’s periods shorter and lighter, so it’s common to experience more bleeding or heavier bleeding after stopping birth control pills. You may also experience a return of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms like bloating,  tender breasts, heavy cramps, headaches, and mood swings.

You may see an increase in your sex drive
Some women experience a low sex drive and vaginal dryness while taking birth control pills, so it makes sense that you may experience an increase in your sex drive and more pleasurable sex after you stop taking the pill. Alternatively, some women experience a lower sex drive after they stop taking the pill.

You could get pregnant
After taking birth control pills for a long period of time, it’s easy to forget that you can easily become pregnant after stopping. It’s possible to get pregnant soon after you stop taking birth control pills, so make sure to use alternative methods of birth control if you’re not trying to get pregnant.

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.

When Your Period Is Missing, But All the Other Signs Are There

Ever had one of those months where all the signs and symptoms of your period are there—the bloating, cramping, breast tenderness, overall achiness, and more—but there’s no bleeding? If so, you’re definitely not alone. This is pretty common and can happen for a number of different reasons, from pregnancy to hormonal birth control to stress. Keep reading to learn about a few different situations where you might experience period symptoms even without your monthly flow.

Asian woman stomachache, feel pain for period conceptAsian woman stomachache, feel pain for period concept

You could be pregnant
In some cases, your period symptoms may not be period symptoms at all. You might actually be pregnant. A lot of the early symptoms of pregnancy are similar to those you experience when you have your period—things like breast tenderness, cramping, fatigue, headaches, and fluctuating mood. You may want to take a birth control test, especially if you’ve had unprotected sex within the last month. But don’t freak out, there are also a whole bunch of other reasons why you may not be experiencing your monthly flow.

You’re experiencing something common called anovulation.
The term anovulation isn’t very well known considering how common the condition is. Women typically ovulate each month, but when anovulation occurs, the ovaries do not release an egg. Despite an egg not being released, the body still  experiences many of the standard changes that come along with a typical monthly period. Meaning, you’ll still feel like you have your period, but you won’t actually be ovulating or experience bleeding. And in some cases that make this matter even more tricky to understand, women may still bleed even when they’re experiencing anovulation.

Your birth control method may be interfering.
If you have an IUD or take birth control pills, these can interfere with your monthly period in a way that makes your period disappear despite other symptoms sticking around. For women taking hormonal birth control, a month or two of missed periods typically isn’t a cause for concern—often the missed period can be attributed to the hormones in the pill. And sometimes the period is still there, it’s just so light you don’t really notice it.

Likewise, IUDs can also contribute to missed periods. Your experience will depend on exactly which type of IUD you have, but hormonal IUDs often contribute to skipped or missed periods.

Your stress levels have been through the roof.
If you’ve been experiencing high levels of stress lately, this could definitely be the reason behind your missed period. When you’re stressed, your body often releases cortisol, which can subsequently affect your menstrual cycle . Stress can cause all sorts of changes, from a longer or shorter period than usual to no period at all.

You’ve recently changed your diet.
Changes in diet can play a big role in affecting your menstrual cycle as well. All sorts of dietary changes can contribute to a missed period, from a recent shift toward consuming less calories to changes in the type of food you eat. Nutrition has a big impact on hormone levels in the body, so to experience changes to ones period after a dietary shift shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

You’re approaching menopause.
As you move closer to menopause, your period becomes more irregular and may even be skipped. At the same time, hormone imbalances are common and can contribute to cramping and other symptoms that feel similar to those you experience when you have your period.

If you have any concerns about missed periods and period symptoms, speaking with a knowledgeable doctor is a great idea. Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) has physicians on staff who are here to help you. To make an appointment,, call  602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Checking Your IUD Strings 101

Some of the most common IUD-related concerns relate to IUD strings, so we’re here to fill you in on the most important information. Read on for some of the common questions women have about their IUD strings.

IUD stock image

Do I need to check on my IUD strings?

Your IUD strings (usually one or two) hang from your cervix into your vagina. While it’s not necessarily required, doctors recommend checking that they’re still in place every so often, mainly to make sure the IUD is where it should be. Luckily, it’s not too hard to make sure your strings are in place.

You’ll want to wash your hands. Then make your way into a sitting or squatting position and gently insert a finger into your vagina. You should feel strings hanging down sometime before your finger reaches your cervix. If you feel the strings, this indicates your IUD is most likely in the right place and functioning properly.

My IUD strings aren’t where they should be. What’s wrong?

When checking for IUD strings, some women are unsuccessful. If your IUD strings aren’t hanging into the vagina from the cervix, this could be for a few different reasons. Here are some of the most common:

  • Expulsion: In rare cases your IUD can actually fall out of your uterus. When this happens, it’s usually within the first year or so after insertion.
  • Short strings: In some cases, the IUD strings are cut very short and may not hang low enough for you to feel them. The strings could also be bunched or curled up in the cervix or along the side of the vagina.
  • Perforation: In a very tiny number of cases, the IUD can break through the wall of the uterus or cervix. This is a bit more common among women who are breastfeeding or have recently given birth. Pain, cramping, and spotting are all signs of a possible perforation.

What should I do if I can’t feel my IUD strings?
If your IUD strings are missing, there’s a chance your IUD is either no longer present or not working properly. The best way to determine what’s going on is to see a doctor. In the meantime, you’ll want to be sure to use backup contraceptives until you figure out the source of your missing strings—just in case your IUD has moved out of position and is no longer effective. You’ll want to seek medical attention rather than taking the matter into your own hands.

If you have questions or concerns about an IUD or checking your IUD strings, you can speak with a knowledgeable doctor by calling Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visiting www.aoafamily.com.

Young Patients and STD’s

Your first visit to the OBGYN can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you have certain concerns about STD’s. We were all teenager’s once, and your AOA physicians are sensitive that the fact that these discussions might not be the most comfortable. However, being able to talk about STD’s with your AOA provider is extremely important. Whether you are or are not sexually active, it is best to know the signs of certain STD’s and how to avoid them.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually Transmitted Diseases, or STD’s, spread from person to person through intimate contact, can affect anyone, and need to be dealt with immediately. Many teenagers cringe just at the word ‘STD,’ but while it might not be fun to talk about and more fun to gawk about, the reality is that STD’s are a serious health threat. Throughout the years in conversations with our younger patients, we’ve put together a list of some important aspects to remember about STD’s.

STD’s include just some of the following:

  • Chlamydia – One of the most common STD’s, Chlamydia is hard to detect without testing. Chlamydia can cause an infection of the urethra in both guys and girls, and can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in girls.
  • Genital Herpes – There are many versions of genital herpes, some as harmless as HSV-1 that creates cold sores around the mouth, others more dangerous such as HSV-2 which creates sores in uncomfortable areas.
  • Genital Warts – Caused by the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, Genital Warts can be extremely uncomfortable.
  • Gonorrhea – Symptoms of Gonorrhea include burning during urination in both men and women, and discharge. This STD can be dangerous if left untreated, so talk to your AOA provider for more information.

Sexual Activity

Even if you’re not sexually active, you can still obtain a sexually transmitted disease. This seems to be a major sticking point for many young patients. Skin-to-skin contact with someone who has herpes or genital warts can transfer the disease. And while sexual activity might never take place, though it is rare, some STD’s can be transferred.

Signs of an STD

Many of our younger patients believe that the signs of an STD are obvious. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. You cannot always tell whether someone has an STD. Many times the person with the STD doesn’t even realize they are infected.

The only way to be sure that you, or anyone else, does not have an STD is to get tested.

Birth Control

Birth control cannot protect you from STD’s.

Stay Safe

When you come in to talk to your AOA provider about sexually transmitted diseases, do not be ashamed or embarrassed. It’s important that you are comfortable talking about these issues with your provider, so that if a situation does arise you can handle it together.

Contraceptives: The Controversy and The Facts

Contraceptives, also known as birth control, are a very hot topic right now not only in Arizona but around the nation. From politicians talking about pending bills to moms sitting at play dates, contraceptives and their uses are being discussed at length right now. But let’s take a look at the facts. Why are women using contraceptives? Are contraceptives just for birth control? What are the medical reasons for using contraceptives?

Why are Women Using Contraceptives?

Women use ‘the pill’ for many reasons; to lower cancer risk, help clear up blemishes in the skin, ease painful periods, ease PMS, ease endometriosis, and control unwanted pregnancies. OB GYN’s prescribe contraceptives to women of all ages, for all of the mentioned reasons.contraception

Are Contraceptives Just for Birth Control?

While the debate rages on regarding pregnancy, birth control and ‘the pill,’ the reality of the situation is that contraceptives are prescribed every day for many other medical reasons. Nearly 11.5 million women use The Pill, and according to NPR over 1.5 million women use birth control for anything but birth control and 762,000 of those women have never had sex.

In a study conducted by the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, using information from a federal survey the ‘National Survey of Family Growth,’ the Institute found that less than half of all women using birth control, approximately 42 percent, ‘used it exclusively for contraception.’ (See the NPR Article here).

What are the Medical Reasons for Using Contraceptives?

  • Acne: Contraceptives are often prescribed to teenage girls for extreme acne situations. According to WebMD, estrogen helps to clear your skin ‘by decreasing levels of testosterone.’
  • Manage Painful Periods: Many women spend one week out of every single month in a great deal of pain due to painful periods. OB GYN’s will often prescribe The Pill to help these women manage these painful periods. The Pill also facilitates a smoother transition into the second half of a women’s cycle when hormonal shifts can cause dramatic PMS symptoms.
  • Endometriosis: The Pill is often prescribed to reduce the hormones that cause uterine-lining tissue to grow in other areas of the pelvis, which can lead to endometriosis.
  • Migraines: As the hormones change within a woman’s body and estrogen levels drop, those hormonal changes can trigger painful migraines. The Pill can decrease these hormone migraines.
  • Polycycstic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): According to EveryDayHealth.com, Around five million women have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a serious condition that can lead to infertility, irregular periods, multiple ovarian cysts, and pelvic pain. For many, treatment will include the pill, which helps correct the hormonal imbalance and relieve some of the symptoms like an irregular period.
  • Cancer: Taking oral contraceptives (OCs) can slash your risk for both endometrial and ovarian cancer by more than 70 percent after 12 years; even just one to five years may lower your risk by 40 percent, according to WebMD. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that “30,000 cases of ovarian cancer worldwide could be prevented each year” through contraception use.

As contraception remains in the spotlight, we want your opinion of the controversy. Let us know on our Facebook Page. And, as always, if you have questions regarding birth control contact us today.