Author Archives: Dr. Kelly Roy, MD

About Dr. Kelly Roy, MD

Founder and Medical Director of ARIZONA GYNECOLOGY CONSULTANTS Dr. Kelly Roy is a specialist in surgical gynecology and advanced laparoscopy (and hysteroscopy). She is a long-time resident of Arizona and obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering at Arizona State University before finishing her Doctorate of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1997. Dr. Roy completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the then “Banner Good Samaritan Hospital” (now Banner University Medical Center), in Phoenix Arizona in 2001. Well known for her teaching and surgical ability, she is on the faculty at the residency program at both Banner University Medical Center and Saint Joseph’s Hospital in central Phoenix and is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix Campus. Dr. Roy has taught advanced surgical techniques to medical students, residents, fellows and colleagues for over 15 years. Dr. Roy is also a consultant to the medical device industry and has participated in the design and clinical testing of many instruments and surgical devices available on the world-wide market today. Read More About Dr. Kelly Roy, MD   |   WebMD Profile   |   Health.USNews.com ProfileCurrent Obstetrics and Gynecology Reports: TFA with the Sonata System

Let’s talk about periods

Breaking the Stigma: Let’s Talk About Periods

This entry was posted in Health FAQs and tagged on by .

A period is a normal and natural occurrence for the vast majority of women at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, even though such a large portion of the population will experience menstruation in their lifetimes, we still live in a time where people hesitate to talk about periods. The topic is still taboo, discussed in hushed tones, and almost never brought up in mixed company.

For example, many people purchasing period products like pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and even PMS supplements or medications experience shame or embarrassment when a non-menstruating person is at the checkout counter. Still others won’t consider asking a male partner or parent to pick up any period products they need. Even worse, some parents don’t discuss the ins and outs of menstruation with their menstruation-aged children, which can lead to confusion, fear, and mismanagement of period symptoms when they arrive. This can lead to teens and even adults who are not only unaware of what a normal period should look like but fearful or embarrassed to seek help when things aren’t normal – and then delays in getting help when symptoms of disorders and irregularities arise.

These are just a few of the many reasons it’s so important to talk about our periods and reduce the stigma surrounding the discussion. It’s a natural and healthy function of the body, not something we should be hiding in the dark.

Period Basics

Learning some period basics is a great way to ease into the period conversation and can help you be more knowledgeable about the topic if an opportunity arises.

What Is a Period?

A period, another word for menstruation, is a part of the human menstrual cycle, which usually lasts between 24 and 38 days. This time period describes a point in the cycle when the uterus sheds the lining it has been retaining for most of the rest of the cycle. The mechanism behind menstruation explains why period blood appears a little different than other blood: it’s made up of both blood and tissue.

Hormones (chemical compounds that serve as the body’s messengers) begin a period by sending a signal to the body to begin the process of menstruation. However, before this signaling takes place, the ovaries and the pituitary glands in the brain release hormones that tell the walls of the uterus to become thicker. This is preparation for a potential pregnancy and gives the egg a place to implant into as well as nutrition in the early stages of pregnancy. If fertilization doesn’t happen, the thickened lining eventually breaks down and is shed during a period.

Menstrual Cycle Phases Infographic

Menstrual Cycle Phases

There are four separate phases of the menstrual cycle, each triggered by natural changes in hormones.

Stage I: Menses

The first phase is called menses. During this phase, a person experiences their period, or the shedding of the uterine lining. This typically lasts from 3 to 5 days, but periods may last a week or more, depending on the individual.

Stage II: Follicular Phase

This phase actually overlaps with the menses phase, as it begins when you get your period and ends with ovulation. It is during this phase that the uterine walls begin to thicken as estrogen levels increase. Additionally, another hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone triggers the growth of follicles in the ovaries, one of which will grow and prepare the egg for ovulation. This typically happens between days 10 and 14 of the cycle.

Stage III: Ovulation

Ovulation occurs when the fully formed egg is released by the ovary. This happens due to another hormone, luteinizing hormone. You can expect ovulation immediately after the follicular phase ends, typically on day 14 of the menstrual cycle.

Stage IV: Luteal Phase

The luteal phase is the longest phase in the menstrual cycle and occurs as the egg travels through the fallopian tube to end up in the uterus. The hormone progesterone increases and the uterine lining prepares for pregnancy. If the egg is fertilized by sperm and a pregnancy occurs, the egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. If a pregnancy doesn’t happen, progesterone decreases, and then the body begins to shed the uterine lining. This starts the cycle over from the beginning.

When Do Periods Start?

While starting menstruation is often considered a hallmark of puberty, most people notice other signs of early puberty first, including breast development and pubic hair. On average, girls have their first period around 12 years old, with the typical range being 10 to 15 years old. However, a girl can begin having a period as young as eight years old. If she doesn’t start having periods by 15, a conversation with a gynecologist might be necessary.

Delayed onset of menstruation is often linked to family history. If multiple women in a family have historically started menstruation after age fifteen, the same may be true for others.

If this is not the case, and other signs of puberty are present, ask a gynecologist about other potential reasons, including:

  • Birth defects
  • Weight (underweight or overweight)
  • Eating disorders or poor nutrition
  • Chronic illness
  • Genetic disorders
  • Too much exercise
  • High stress
  • Medication issues
  • Hormonal imbalances, whether from a hypothalamus or pituitary issue, PCOS, or something else

Conditions Associated With Periods

Period conditions

Frank conversations about periods can help people develop an understanding of the menstrual cycle so they know what to expect and how to tell if things aren’t normal. Many people experience abnormal periods and other conditions that range from uncomfortable to downright debilitating. Talk about any concerns with your gynecologist and determine if you might be experiencing one of these period-adjacent conditions.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis affects as many as one in ten menstruating people worldwide. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it is so common, endometriosis is not talked about nearly enough. This leads to many people experiencing the symptoms of endometriosis without being diagnosed.

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that makes up the uterine lining grows in places other than the uterus. Just like the uterine lining, this tissue is also shed when hormone signals indicate it is time; however, there’s nowhere for the blood to go because it’s not in the right location to be expelled. This blood is then trapped in the body. Frequently, people experience incredibly painful periods, pain during sex, and even heavier than typical bleeding during menstruation. Those with endometriosis also frequently have difficulty becoming pregnant. Pain medication can help, but sometimes surgery is needed to reduce pain and assist with pregnancy issues.

PCOS

Another condition, PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, affects nearly six million people in the United States alone. Hormonal dysregulation causes the ovaries to be enlarged and develop small cysts – hence, the term polycystic ovary syndrome. Obesity, excessive hair growth, acne, and irregular periods are all symptoms of PCOS, as is reduced or absent ovulation. The symptoms of PCOS can be treated if identified, and those who want to become pregnant can still do so with the help of medication or surgery.

Adenomyosis and Fibroids

Adenomyosis occurs when tissue that typically grows in the uterine lining also grows in the uterus’s muscular wall. In turn, this enlarges the uterus, and it can mean very heavy bleeding during periods. People with adenomyosis can also experience painful intercourse, longer periods, and incredibly painful cramps. Fibroids grow in the uterus and are made of smooth muscle cells. While these tumors are never cancerous, they can increase the length of the period, cause heavier bleeding during periods, and pain in the pelvic region.

What Are Some Misconceptions About Periods?

Unfortunately, many myths and misconceptions about periods began and are perpetuated because we’re not having honest, factual discussions about menstruation. Some of the most common myths center around shame, making the subject even more taboo. Here are a few of the most common, as well as the associated facts to debunk them.

Myth: Period Blood Makes You Dirty

One of the most common myths relating to menstruation is about period blood being dirty. For many people, this myth is perpetuated due to religious and cultural views about women during menstruation and can result in the unnecessary use of harsh chemicals and douches in an attempt to “get clean.” Period blood is a combination of blood and tissue and is not inherently dirty – it’s simply blood that’s shed during menstruation. Practicing standard period hygiene like drinking plenty of water, regularly changing pads or tampons every four to eight hours, sticking to unscented products, and keeping the external genitals clean with warm water can help you feel clean during your period – just remember that you are not unclean simply because you’re menstruating.

Myth: Having Sex During Your Period Is Gross

It’s often suggested that sex on your period is dirty or bad for you. Just like period blood isn’t dirty, having sex on your period is no dirtier than having sex at any other time. While it can certainly be much more messy, there can also be a few benefits, like reduced cramps and increased mood. While many people aren’t in the mood for sex during their period, many others are – and either preference is fine.

Myth: Tampons Are Taboo

Another unfortunate myth involves the use of tampons. Some parts of society once believed that tampon use made women promiscuous, while others claimed women were no longer virgins after inserting tampons. These myths are, of course, incorrect. Virginity is a social construct that can be problematic for many reasons, but it refers only to voluntary sexual intercourse and not to any products that are used for a period.

Myth: PMS Makes Women Irrational

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a completely misunderstood concept. It’s been used as an insult, a way to explain away even the most warranted of mood changes, and even as a sneaky way to discuss a person’s period. While researchers believe PMS can be attributed to hormonal fluctuations, the reason some people experience severe PMS while others experience mild discomfort remains unclear. PMS symptoms can include irritability and mood changes, but it is more frequently associated with symptoms like fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and bloating.

Not every person who menstruates experiences PMS. In addition, a small percentage of people experience a more severe form of PMS called PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, that causes more extreme shifts in mood.

Myth: You Can’t Get Pregnant While Menstruating

The myth that you can’t become pregnant if you have sex on your period is a dangerous one that can lead to unintentional pregnancy. Regardless of the time of the month that intercourse occurs, pregnancy can be the result of any unprotected sex. While pregnancy must occur after ovulation, pregnancy can happen if ovulation occurs before menstruation has ceased and up to three days after ovulation. Alternatively, people often get pregnant after experiencing spotting that seems like menstruation but is not.

Myth: You Shouldn’t Get in the Water During Your Period

This myth was likely associated with the difficulty of wearing pads and other menstrual hygiene products while swimming. The advent of tampons and menstrual cups has helped many women feel more comfortable swimming during their periods. Swimming while on your period is totally fine, and your period blood will not contaminate pool water, which has been treated with chlorine and other chemicals to address other bodily fluids like sweat and urine.

Myth: Having a Period Once a Month Is the Only Normal Cycle

Many people don’t have a period every month because their cycle is naturally a bit longer than the typical 28 days. In addition, taking hormonal birth control can mean you will skip a period by preventing the buildup of the uterine lining altogether. Having your first period is important so that you know that your reproductive organs are functioning properly, but cycles can vary among people and even on an individual basis, especially when you’re stressed, taking birth control, experiencing an illness, weight fluctuations, and more. If you notice an abrupt change, speak with your gynecologist.

Myth: Period Pain Isn’t That Bad/Women Are Exaggerating

Finally, the idea that period pain isn’t “that bad” is a serious misconception. In recent years, devices have been developed that can simulate the period discomfort experienced by people with mild, moderate, and severe cramps. If you’ve ever seen a video of this device in action, you see that many people have a difficult time coping with the pain and are mind-boggled when they learn that people still have to work, parent, and go about their daily lives while experiencing painful cramps.

It’s important to note that while severe cramping isn’t necessarily a sign that there’s something wrong, you should discuss it with your gynecologist to rule out the possibility of hidden issues like endometriosis, PCOS, and more.

Talking About Your Period: End Period Shame

Period schedule

Talking about periods helps to demystify menstruation and create normalcy surrounding something over half the population experiences nearly 500 times in their lives – over 6.5 years of time in total. When we can talk about periods openly and without shame, more people – both with and without periods – will expand their knowledge base and compassion. This can mean more people can access the regular products and care they need or seek care when they’re experiencing irregularities. While the discussion might feel uncomfortable initially, being conscious about what’s going on with your body can improve your life or even save it.

It’s even more important to become comfortable talking to our young ones about their periods. All too often, girls don’t know what to expect and might seek information from unreliable sources or feel ashamed or even fearful when their period begins. Open, honest conversations about periods can help people feel more comfortable with changes in menstruation from puberty all the way to menopause.

As we reduce the shame and taboo surrounding periods, we can normalize seeking care for gynecological concerns. Start by talking about periods with the people you love the most. Then, continue the discussion by scheduling an appointment for gynecological services with Arizona Gynecology Consultants today. Together, we can help to break period stigma.


Sources :

  1. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Endometriosis. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/endometriosis
  2. Endocrine Society. (n.d.). PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). Retrieved January 23, 2024, from https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/pcos
  3. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Menstrual Cycle: What’s Normal, What’s Not. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10132-menstrual-cycle
  4. Medical News Today. (n.d.). Endometriosis vs. PCOS: What’s the difference? Retrieved January 23, 2024, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/endometriosis-vs-pcos
  5. Wellbeing of Women. (n.d.). Let’s Talk Periods. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from https://www.wellbeingofwomen.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigns/just-a-period/periods-information-hub/lets-talk-periods/
  6. NHS UK. (n.d.). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Retrieved January 23, 2024, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/
  7. UCLA Health. (n.d.). What are Fibroids? Retrieved January 23, 2024, from https://www.uclahealth.org/medical-services/fibroids/what-are-fibroids
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (n.d.). Uterine Fibroids. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470216/
  9. Medline Plus. (n.d.). Polycystic ovary syndrome. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001218.htm
Endometriosis

Navigating Endometriosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

As women, it is never easy to hear that our physical health is compromised, especially when it comes to our reproductive system. For those who have been diagnosed with endometriosis, uncertainty about what comes next can feel overwhelming. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis or you know someone who has, accurate information is key. The more informed you are on the topic, the more supported you will feel. In fact, understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options can provide you with a clear path forward.

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis Diagram

Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue very much like the tissue that creates the lining of your uterus, known as the endometrium, develops in areas other than the uterus. Tissue growth can occur in areas it should not, including reproductive organs like the fallopian tubes and ovaries, as well as other pelvic tissue. Though uncommon, this tissue can even be found in areas outside the pelvic organs.

During endometriosis, the endometrial-like tissue takes on the functions and characteristics of your true endometrial tissue. As a result, the tissue will thicken, break down, and bleed during the menstrual cycle. The problem this presents is that there is no way for the tissue to exit your body. Normal pelvic tissue surrounding this foreign, trapped tissue can get inflamed and create scar tissue. Adhesions, which are bands of fibrous tissue, can develop and cause endometrial tissue that develops on organs to stick together. In addition, if tissue grows on the ovaries, cysts can form called endometriomas. Women with endometriosis can also experience severe pain during their menstrual cycle and could develop fertility issues.

Women with endometriosis may not notice the condition for some time, especially if they are prone to painful menstrual cramps or other discomforts. Eventually, however, most women do notice a significant difference in the severity of their menstrual pain, usually leading to a visit to their gynecologist. The good news is that once endometriosis is diagnosed, there are effective treatments available.

Endometriosis: Symptoms and Causes

Endometriosis Symptoms
Unfortunately, many women hesitate to explore medical concerns until they start to impact daily life, especially as they pertain to the reproductive system. A primary reason endometriosis so often goes undiagnosed is due to a delay in reaching out for healthcare. Fortunately, regular visits with your gynecologist can help you feel more comfortable opening up to your doctor and seeking treatment for any minor or major concerns.

If you’re concerned about a potential issue with your reproductive health, knowing the symptoms and causes of endometriosis can help you make the decision to seek treatment, understand the condition, and explore your treatment options.

Symptoms

There are a variety of symptoms associated with endometriosis, the most common of which is pelvic pain that heightens during the menstrual cycle. The pain can be worse than usual and can also increase over time.

Other symptoms to look for include:

  • Excessive Bleeding – Occasional heavy menstrual periods could occur, as well as bleeding between periods.
  • Painful Periods – Also known as dysmenorrhea, pelvic pain and cramping could begin days before a menstrual cycle and continue to last for as long as 1-2 weeks. In addition to pelvic pain, you may also experience abdominal pain and lower back pain.
  • Urinary and Bowel Pain – If you experience unusual pain while urinating or having a bowel movement, especially during a menstrual period, this could be an indicator of endometriosis.
  • Pain with intercourse – A common symptom of endometriosis is pain during or after sex.
  • Infertility – Endometriosis-related infertility is often detected when a woman seeks infertility treatment.
  • Additional Symptoms – Endometriosis can also cause fatigue, nausea, constipation, bloating, or diarrhea.

It is beneficial to look for these additional symptoms beyond pelvic pain because while pelvic pain is often the reason many women discover their diagnosis, this symptom presents itself differently from case to case. Some women have mild endometriosis and experience severe pain, while others have advanced endometriosis with little to no pain. Everyone has a different pain tolerance, and the way endometriosis affects you can be drastically different compared to someone else.

Causes

There is still some uncertainty when it comes to the exact cause of endometriosis, and researchers have not identified a single cause that can trigger the condition. However, while the root cause is still uncertain, scientists have developed several theories.

Some possible explanations for endometriosis include:

  • Transformation of peritoneal cells. Also known as “induction theory,” experts believe that hormones or immune factors may support the transformation of peritoneal cells into endometrial-like cells.
  • Retrograde menstruation. In some cases, menstrual blood with endometrial tissue may continue on into the abdominal cavity via the fallopian tubes instead of being eliminated from the body. The cells may stick to the internal cavity walls and the associated organs, and with nowhere to go, this tissue could continue to build layers, thicken, and cause pain.
  • Transformation of embryonic cells. Estrogen and other hormones can transform embryonic cells into endometrial-type cells during puberty, which can then implant into the abdominal cavity.
  • Endometrial cell transport. Endometrial cells are transported to other parts of the body through blood vessels or tissue fluid and may wind up in the abdominal cavity.
  • Surgical scar implantation. Endometrial cells may attach to a surgical incision, especially after surgeries involving the pelvic organs.
  • Immune system issues. Immune disorders could also cause endometriosis. The body may be unable to identify and eliminate endometrial tissue developing in places it should not.
  • Genetics. Family history may also play a role in your likelihood of developing this condition. Women who have a close relative with this condition are more prone to having it themselves.

What Are the Four Stages of Endometriosis?

Endometriosis Symptoms

If you or a loved one have recently received an endometriosis diagnosis, it is important to understand the four stages of endometriosis: minimal, mild, moderate, and severe. Understanding these stages can help you understand what to expect as you and your physician discuss treatment. There are a variety of factors used to determine the stage, including the location, number, size, and depth of the endometrial implants. It is beneficial to keep in mind that the pain you may experience during your menstrual cycle does not determine your endometriosis stage.

Stage One: Minimal

When a person is diagnosed with stage one or minimal endometriosis, the lesions caused by endometriosis are small, and the implants are shallow. Individuals with stage one may experience inflammation in the area.

Stage Two: Mild

Individuals with stage two endometriosis have mild lesions and endometrial tissue is implanted fairly shallow. This stage is considered mild endometriosis.

Stage Three: Moderate

Individuals who are in the moderate stage may have more lesions than seen in the previous stages. The endometriosis implants are typically deeper within both the pelvic lining and the ovaries.

Stage Four: Severe

Individuals in this stage likely have deep implants on both the ovaries and the pelvic lining. In many cases, there are lesions that could extend to the fallopian tubes and portions of the bowel region. There could also be cysts on one or both of the ovaries due to repetitive cycles of the endometriosis cells thickening, shedding, and becoming trapped.

The Diagnosis Process

Endometriosis can have similar symptoms to other conditions, including ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, and even irritable bowel syndrome. This can prolong diagnosis and often requires a variety of tests to ensure accuracy. These delays can be significant; it can take some cases 4 to 11 years for a diagnosis from the onset of symptoms. Ongoing research and support are needed to ensure this timeframe can be significantly reduced so that accurate diagnosis can be given and the right treatment implemented. It can be frustrating, but patience and open communication with your healthcare team can help minimize the delay in proper diagnosis.

Things that are likely to occur during the diagnosis process include:

  • A detailed medical history. Your doctor will likely explore any personal or family history of endometriosis, as there is an increased risk of developing endometriosis if a close family member also has the condition. Your doctor will complete a general health assessment to ensure your signs and symptoms aren’t connected to a different long-term disorder.
  • A physical exam. Your doctor will complete a detailed pelvic examination to search for cysts or scars behind the uterus. A speculum and light will be used to see inside the vagina and cervix, helping the doctor determine the severity of your condition, as well as possibly rule out other conditions that may share other symptoms.
  • Ultrasound imaging. A transvaginal or abdominal ultrasound can be used to provide clear images of your reproductive organs. An ultrasound helps identify cysts and lesions.
  • Laparoscopic imaging. This is a minor surgical procedure that provides an opportunity to directly view endometriosis. Once a person is diagnosed with this condition, the same procedure can be used to remove the tissue.

Treatment Options

Female hormone therapy

The main goal of endometriosis treatment is to alleviate pain and help you learn to cope with the physical and emotional challenges that can be associated with this condition. Which treatment is best for you will depend on your age, the severity of your symptoms, the severity of the condition itself, and any plans for future pregnancies. There are medications, alternative therapies, and surgeries that can be considered.

Medications

Medications can help you control the symptoms of endometriosis.

Hormonal options and medications include:

  • Birth Control – Hormonal suppression can help reduce the symptoms associated with this condition, which can include using estrogen and progesterone birth control options such as oral birth control pills, patches, Nexplanon, IUD, a vaginal ring, or the birth control shot. These medications can help you experience less painful periods.
  • GnRH Medications – Gonadotropin-releasing hormone medications stop the hormones associated with your menstrual cycle. This essentially puts your reproductive system on hold to help relieve pain.
  • Danazol – Also known as Danocrine, this medication stops the production of hormones that cause a period. Individuals on this medication may have an occasional menstrual period, or they may stop entirely.

It is important to note that these medications are not recommended for those who are trying to get pregnant. In addition, if the medication is stopped in an attempt to become pregnant, endometriosis symptoms can come back. Your medical professional will discuss the details of these options with you. For pain relief, doctors commonly prescribe over-the-counter pain relief and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Surgery

Endometriosis Surgery

Surgery can be an effective way to help relieve endometriosis pain and improve your ability to become pregnant. There are always risks associated with any form of surgery, so it is beneficial to discuss this treatment option with your provider. Endometriosis is a chronic disease, so surgery is not often the final solution. Symptoms may return within a few years, or they may not.

Surgical treatments include:

  • Laparoscopy – This procedure can be used to diagnose and treat endometriosis. A surgeon makes a small cut into the abdomen and inserts a thin tube-like tool called a laparoscope into your body, which uses a high-definition camera to identify lesions so they can be accurately removed through the tube.
  • Hysterectomy – In severe cases, removing the uterus may be suggested due to scar tissue and the extent of endometriosis in the pelvic area.

Alternative Therapies

Not everyone wants to turn to medications or surgery to experience relief. Some patients may experience symptom relief through holistic treatments and delay surgical procedures for a time.

These treatments may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal medication
  • Dietary changes
  • Pelvic floor muscle therapy
  • Heat therapy

Endometriosis FAQs

Whether you have just received an endometriosis diagnosis or believe you may be experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, the answers to these common questions could shed some light on what to expect.

Can I Get Pregnant if I Have Endometriosis?

Endometriosis can make it more difficult to become pregnant, but pregnancy is not impossible. Your chances of becoming pregnant largely depend on the severity of your condition, as well as your treatment options. It may be recommended to try to conceive sooner than later, as this condition often worsens over time.

What Are the Risk Factors Associated with Endometriosis?

Common risk factors include a family history of endometriosis, when you started having your period, the length of your menstrual cycle, and any defects in your uterus or fallopian tubes. Having a close family member with the condition or menstruating before the age of 11 can increase your chances of developing endometriosis. Long menstrual cycles and uterine or fallopian tube defects can increase the chances that excess tissue will develop in the abdominal cavity.

Can Endometriosis Go Away on its Own?

Yes, in some cases. Lesions can get smaller, and you may only have a few of them. Menopause can also help alleviate or eliminate endometriosis since the body no longer produces estrogen. However, for most, this condition needs ongoing treatment to relieve pain and prevent the condition from worsening.

Let Us Support You

Endometriosis awareness can help individuals and their families better prepare and face this diagnosis. Currently, it can take years for an accurate endometriosis diagnosis, which can mean years of pain and discomfort that can only worsen over time. At Arizona Gynecology Consultants, women’s health is our top priority. We continue to strive for advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. View our Arizona gynecology services and book an appointment.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published April 12, 2020 and was updated October 2, 2023.


References :

  1. Agarwal, S. K., Chapron, C., Giudice, L. C., Laufer, M. R., Leyland, N., Missmer, S. A., Singh, S. S., & Taylor, H. S. (2019). Clinical diagnosis of endometriosis: A call to action. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 220(4), 354.e1–354.e12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2018.12.039
  2. ?Mayo Clinic. (2018, July 24). Endometriosis – Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic; Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656
  3. Wadood, A. (2019, July 2). Endometriosis. Healthline; Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/endometriosis
  4. ?What are the symptoms of endometriosis? (n.d.). Https://Www.nichd.nih.gov/. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/endometri/conditioninfo/symptoms
  5. ?Heitmann, R. J., Langan, K. L., Huang, R. R., Chow, G. E., & Burney, R. O. (2014). Premenstrual spotting of ?2 days is strongly associated with histologically confirmed endometriosis in women with infertility. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 211(4), 358.e1–358.e6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2014.04.041
  6. ?Surrey, E. S., Soliman, A. M., Johnson, S. J., Davis, M., Castelli-Haley, J., & Snabes, M. C. (2018). Risk of Developing Comorbidities Among Women with Endometriosis: A Retrospective Matched Cohort Study. Journal of Women’s Health, 27(9), 1114–1123. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2017.6432
Dealing With the Emotional Side of Infertility

Dealing With the Emotional Side of Infertility

This entry was posted in Health FAQs and tagged , on by .

Infertility can be a long and lonely road that doesn’t seem to have any end in sight. Additionally, it’s not something exclusive to those women who have never successfully become pregnant; infertility can affect anyone at any point in their childbearing years. For example, some women who became pregnant with ease earlier in life may later find that pregnancy seems impossible to achieve.

Regardless of how long infertility has lasted when attempt after attempt is unsuccessful, it can be an upsetting experience. For some women, it can seem as if they are destined to continue living the same experience over and over. Science tells us, though, that no matter how many failed attempts you experience, there’s still a chance of conception.

Let’s explore the emotional side of infertility and learn how hope and optimism can prevail.

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Infertility

Amidst all the ups and downs of hopeful optimism and feelings of defeat, women who experience infertility can find themselves at their lowest point. The repeated disappointment alone is enough to affect anyone’s mood, but when you add irrational feelings of failure, guilt, and shame, infertility can start to weigh heavy on your overall well-being. Furthermore, these are just the feelings we impart on ourselves.

Consider the external pressures from partners, parents, friends, news and entertainment media, and even social media; just going to the grocery store can be upsetting when it seems like everyone can reproduce but you. In this way, infertility can affect a woman’s mental health, confidence level, and self-worth.

Unfortunately, this is not an ideal environment for conception. While these feelings are common and are likely temporary, they can be detrimental to both your physical and mental well-being. Staying healthy and positive is optimal for anyone trying to conceive, but the time after an unsuccessful attempt can leave you exasperated and forlorn, awaiting the next window for conception to open.

Then there’s the two-week wait before you can take a pregnancy test. These two weeks can seem like an eternity, especially if you are hyper-obsessed with conceiving and worrying about every possible sign your body is giving you that might indicate you are pregnant. The anticipation and worry over failing again can easily lead to sadness or even anxiety and depression.

Suggested Reading: How to Treat Infertility

Techniques for Dealing with Infertility

If you feel that the emotional rollercoaster of infertility is causing or contributing to anxiety, depression, or both, it is recommended you speak with a professional counselor about how you are feeling. In addition, there are strategies for coping with the emotional stress of infertility that can help you deal with the emotional ups and downs of infertility. There are several recommended techniques that can help ease the emotional impact, alongside scheduling an appointment with Arizona Gynecology Consultants to provide a fresh perspective and insight into your infertility. In the meantime, try some of the following suggested practices.

Identify Feelings and Fears and Acknowledge Them

Keep a journal of your feelings and be honest with yourself. If you’re angry or sad, find a way to express your aggression in a healthy manner. It’s okay to cry; just don’t allow the sadness to consume you. Your feelings are legitimate, and you should not suppress them. Rather, you should release them when you need to and then move on about your day.

Put another way, after you’ve recorded your thoughts and feelings regarding your infertility in a journal, make a point of addressing them briefly and then leaving them there. Constantly rethinking your infertility is not healthy, so set aside a 20-minute time period each day to discuss how you feel with your partner or a friend. When you’re finished, try not to overthink it for the rest of the day.

Explore Healthy Hobbies and Pastimes

Physical activity and enjoyable hobbies

One way to keep your mind off your infertility and improve your mental health is to find active ways to spend your time and make it a point to do things you enjoy. Physical activity and enjoyable hobbies can improve your mood and morale. Physical activity can also be a great way to improve your physical health, expend energy during the day and help you sleep better at night, all of which can help improve your chances of conception. Finding ways to help others can also promote positive feelings and generate happiness within.

Create More Intimacy

If your relationship with your partner has been narrowed down to scheduled sex when it’s time to ovulate, consider the value of creating intimacy. Maintaining intimacy with your partner throughout the month can involve focusing on pleasure, not just conception. Work on maintaining closeness before, during, and after sex, as scheduled sex that is based only on ovulation can lead to feelings of abandonment by both partners. What’s more, intimacy doesn’t have to end with sex. Make a point to spend time being close both in and out of the bedroom to stay connected within your relationship.

Know Infertility Is Not Your Fault

Sometimes, it seems like everyone else can get pregnant without even knowing what luteinizing hormones are, let alone needing to take them to trigger ovulation. It can seem like your body is failing you, and it can be easy to blame yourself for your unsuccessful attempts to conceive. Remember: you didn’t do anything wrong. Allowing negative self-talk to take over and tank your self-esteem is not conducive to conception. The best way to expend your energy is by educating yourself on the facts about infertility and practicing new ways to cope with unsuccessful attempts.

Self-Care Is Essential

Taking time to relax, eat properly, exercise, and sleep well are all ways you can optimize your chances of getting pregnant. A worn-out body that is depleted of energy, vitamins, and nutrients does not create an ideal environment for conception. Take prenatal vitamins and make sure you are getting plenty of folic acid, then participate in activities for health, relaxation, and enjoyment, however that looks for you.

Stay Optimistic But Realistic

It is important to maintain a sense of optimism despite the challenges and setbacks of infertility. Set realistic goals that can provide you with a sense of achievement and also improve your chances of conception, such as eating better or getting more sleep. Achieving these short-term goals can make you feel accomplished and improve your outlook on your situation.

Find Your Flock

Joining a support group

One of the most effective ways to cope with any hardship is to find others who are experiencing the same issues. Joining a support group with other women experiencing infertility can minimize the loneliness and desperation many women feel when trying to conceive for long periods of time. Hearing that others are feeling the same things you are feeling can help you confront the stigma, self-guilt, and shame so often associated with infertility. You can also exchange ideas and learn new things about treatments and methods that can increase fertility. Plus, the ability to relate to another individual is a powerful mood booster.

Explore Your Options – Because You Do Have Options

If you’ve been struggling with infertility on your own, schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable gynecology practice like Arizona Gynecology Consultants. Your doctor can hone in on specific circumstances that may explain why you have not been able to get pregnant. Identifying and addressing an underlying issue may be all it takes to get on the path to optimizing your efforts to get pregnant.

Extenuating Infertility Stressors

While the above tips are great ways to adjust the way you approach thinking about infertility, there are a number of external factors you have much less control over that may create stress. These involve social stressors, financial stressors, and relationship stressors.

Social Stressors

Social stressors include a variety of ways people can make you feel when attending social events at which they are faced with a number of reminders about their infertility. For example, your parents or your partner’s parents may point out how long you’ve been trying to get pregnant in front of others or place pressure on you to have a child soon. Other family members may comment on how everyone else in the family has had a child except you. Social stressors could also involve facing friends, family members, and even strangers who have successfully carried a child while you are still waiting to get pregnant.

If you have discussed your infertility experience with others and have not established your boundaries, they may ask you for updates when you least expect it. In many cases, women aren’t prepared to talk about infertility in casual or public conversations and often would rather not address the subject.

Talking with friend

While it’s important to talk about your experiences and how you’re feeling, and you certainly have nothing to be ashamed of, if you don’t feel comfortable talking about infertility, set boundaries and don’t discuss it. Whether it’s your family, your in-laws, other friends, or strangers, politely change the subject or honestly let them know you would prefer to talk about it at a different time. Depending on your comfort level, you might suggest they call you later to discuss it in private.

Talking to your partner about how you both will respond to friends and family mentioning your infertility will make sure you’re both on the same page. Furthermore, talking about it beforehand and having a plan can allow your partner to save you from those moments when the conversation gets uncomfortable. Just remember to set a firm, clear boundary and stick to it.

Financial Stressors

Depending on your insurance, the root cause of your infertility, and the treatments you choose, infertility can certainly add a medical expense. Of course, the cost is worth it, but that doesn’t eliminate the extra expenses infertility can incur. Whether you realized ahead of time the financial changes fertility treatment would create for your budget or had no idea the potential cost of treatment, infertility almost always means you’ll need to reconsider your budgeting tactics.

If left undiscussed or unaddressed, the financial burden of infertility can weigh heavily on a relationship. Financial changes are normal with any change in your health, but it’s important not to let them come between you and your partner. Talk about ways you can offset the cost of infertility treatments and be practical about budgeting for medical bills. It is also important to maintain sight of the financial costs of infertility and keep in mind the potential expenses related to the multiple-birth pregnancies that are common with treatments like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) may end up costing you more for delivery down the road.

First and foremost, be sure to begin your infertility journey with some clarity regarding the cost of fertility treatments. The average cost of IVF is about $12,000, but depending on the geographical region, it can be significantly higher or lower than these averages. Also, this does not include testing or diagnosis costs. Spending this much money out of your household budget can understandably create stress and problems for couples dealing with infertility. It is important to keep an open line of communication and talk to a professional counselor if it seems to be a problem too big for the two of you to handle.

Relationship Stressors

Pressure from the outside world and from each other can bring about a great deal of stress in a relationship. Make sure you set aside time to nurture your relationship with your partner outside of infertility in order to maintain a loving and intimate relationship throughout your infertility experience. Remember that your partner might be feeling some of the same feelings you are feeling. However, they may not share your exact feelings, and that’s okay.

Relationship Stressors

The important thing is to acknowledge your partner’s feelings are valid and don’t get upset if they don’t have the same reaction you do when attempts fail or new treatments become available. Tell your partner how you feel and be honest about it. If you find you’re having trouble communicating with your partner about your infertility experience, you may want to talk to a mental healthcare provider to obtain marital counseling to get through this difficult time in your relationship.

Fertility Resources

There are so many great resources for women and couples going through infertility. These resources can provide information, support, and help in a variety of ways and cover many facets of the infertility journey. They can also be a great way to educate yourself, your partner, and your friends and family about infertility and what you’re going through personally.

Here are our favorite resources for those experiencing infertility:

Arizona Gynecology Services

maintain hope and positivity through

Above all, make sure you are constantly checking on your mental health, both for yourself and your partner. If you feel overwhelmed, depressed, constantly anxious, or unsafe, speak to a professional immediately. If you’re looking to gain a new perspective on your infertility journey, seek an appointment for Arizona gynecology services. Our approach to infertility and treatment options can help you maintain hope and positivity through one of life’s most daunting journeys.


References :

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3043157/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/baby/glossary-of-fertility-terms
How Stress Can Result in Infertility

The Connection Between Stress and Infertility

This entry was posted in Health FAQs and tagged , on by .

It’s common for women to become stressed as their attempts to conceive continue, but many women are unaware that stress may directly influence their ability to become pregnant. In theory, becoming pregnant is a remarkably simple process. However, for the more than one in five women in the US who continue to experience infertility after a year of trying to conceive, pregnancy can become a complex issue.

Your friends and family may have offered advice with good intentions, and you may even have tried their suggestions to no avail, causing you to become more and more stressed as pregnancy does not occur. What you might not know is that this stress may be contributing to issues with your reproductive health.

Understanding Stress

Stress is defined as our natural physical and mental response to a worrying situation or event. Of course, everyone experiences stress at some level, and we all react to it differently. In any situation you find difficult or uncomfortable, you should expect to feel some amount of stress. Stress isn’t always bad, but chronic stress can cause physical and mental health issues and may even prevent you from participating in activities you enjoy.

When you add the stress of not being able to conceive to the regular stresses in your daily life, it’s easy to see how stress and infertility can be a vicious cycle. These issues can cause women to experience negative mental health symptoms like depression or anxiety or even isolate themselves from friends and family. When dealing with stress and infertility, it’s important to find healthy ways to manage stress and address the root cause of your infertility.

It’s important to note that you are not alone. Nearly 12 percent of married women have problems conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy. The same study notes that women should have a strong support system throughout their treatment for infertility. While difficulty conceiving can be stressful, with proper counseling and support, you can improve your overall mental and physical health and boost your chances of achieving pregnancy.

How Stress Impacts a Woman’s Reproductive System

It is important to note that while stress itself isn’t the sole cause of infertility, it can significantly affect your overall health, including your reproductive system. For example, you must be ovulating to become pregnant; however, when you become stressed, stress hormones are released and begin to disrupt the signal between the brain and ovaries. This can interfere with ovulation, preventing you from being able to conceive.

Stress can also disrupt or halt your periods, and this irregularity can make it difficult to time your attempts to conceive. In addition, you may experience stress-related conditions that affect the pH balance in the vaginal area, leading to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and more. These conditions may not directly cause infertility, but if left untreated, they can seriously affect your reproductive health.

There are several other aspects of your reproductive health that may be affected by stress over infertility.

Sex

Sex can be a great source of stress relief, and for couples not using in vitro fertilization (IVF), it is essential for conception. However, work, infertility, and other life matters can prevent you from having the time or energy to have sex, increasing your stress.

planning sex around your ovulation

One solution to consider is to stop planning sex around your ovulation with the goal of becoming pregnant and go back to having sex for mutual pleasure, connection, and fun. Reducing the pressure surrounding sex can help you get back to enjoying this time spent with your partner and reduce the stress it causes. Another idea is to change up the timing of when you’re having sex with your partner to keep things fun and allow yourself to have sex when you want it versus when you believe you should have it.

Sleep

Lack of sleep can impact anyone’s mental, emotional, and physical health. As mentioned, stress and lack of sleep can cause irregularities in your menstrual cycle, which can cause difficulty conceiving. Not sleeping enough can also make you more tired throughout the day and can cause depression and anxiety, leading to decreased libido.

If you’re struggling to sleep enough due to stress, there are a few strategies to consider:

  • Avoid using your phone or computer right before sleeping
  • Drink herbal tea before bed and avoid caffeine
  • Use your bed strictly for sleeping and sex
  • Don’t include a TV or workstation in your bedroom

By improving your sleep, you’ll feel more energized throughout the day, and your menstrual cycles may become more normal.

Diet

It’s incredibly common for stressed individuals to eat more favorite foods in an attempt to cope. However, gaining weight as a result of increased stress and poor diet may affect your fertility. While the cause is still not fully understood, overweight women are less likely to conceive. Weight also impacts male fertility, as being overweight can cause a male’s sperm count to drop.

Eating Healthy

On the other hand, being underweight can also impact your reproductive system. If you’re significantly underweight, you could suffer from amenorrhea, which means you lack a menstrual cycle. Without a menstrual cycle, you won’t ovulate, meaning you can’t become pregnant.

To combat the excessive weight gain or excessive weight loss that can prevent pregnancy, consider addressing stress and eating a balanced diet. Look for whole foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Exercise

Exercise is known to promote a healthy weight while also functioning to reduce your stress. If you can exercise for at least two and a half hours every week, you’re doing enough to stay healthy. If you’re overweight, diet and exercise are great strategies to keep your weight in a good range to improve your fertility. It’s equally important not to overdo your exercise routine, as too much can make you tired and sore, both of which can affect your ability to conceive.

Exercise can provide several benefits even outside of improved reproductive health, including:

  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces your odds of suffering from heart disease
  • Improves your energy throughout the day
  • Releases stress

What to Avoid When You Want to Conceive

While humans have created many ways of reducing stress, not all of them are healthy, particularly if you’re looking to become pregnant. Avoid these common ways of combating stress if you’re trying to conceive.

Alcohol

Alcohol should be avoided when trying to conceive. It may be natural to want a drink when you’re stressed, but alcohol can increase women’s risk for miscarriage. For men, alcohol can negatively influence sperm count. Both you and your partner should refrain from alcohol while trying to conceive.

Smoking

Smoking is another common way people relieve stress, though it is much less prevalent than it was in the past. However, smoking and exposure to your partner’s smoke can negatively impact the vital hormones essential for reproduction and can actively damage components of the reproductive system. In addition, nicotine can damage the DNA in your partner’s sperm.

Caffeine

While you don’t need to avoid caffeine entirely, you should avoid drinking a large amount daily. High caffeine intake may cause you to take longer to become pregnant and can also increase your risk of miscarriage. In addition, pregnant women are advised to abstain from high doses of caffeine because it may lead to low birth weight. If you drink more than one or two cups of coffee per day, cutting back may help.

Suggested Reading: Infertility Q&A

Reducing Stress to Increase Chance of Pregnancy

Infertility can be a daunting situation for any woman, and it’s normal to have questions or concerns regarding how you’re approaching it. As mentioned, when you feel stressed while experiencing infertility, it’s important to make lifestyle changes to decrease stress and increase your odds of getting pregnant. Fortunately, there are several other things you can do to manage your stress and improve your fertility.

Speak With a Counselor or Therapist

The last thing you want to do when you’re stressed is to bottle it up and let it get worse. If you need to speak with a professional about your emotional and mental state, consider meeting with a counselor or therapist. This gives you the freedom to fully express how you’re feeling about your infertility and what’s causing you to stress and begin to address ways to tackle both.

Yoga

Yoga

Many women choose to participate in yoga to release stress and improve physical health. Performing certain yoga postures releases tension in the body and encourages you to focus on your breathing, both excellent methods of reducing stress. Yoga also teaches you to take care of your body, which is easy to forget in your typical daily life.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present moment, not prior mistakes or potential situations. By focusing on something in the present moment, you spend less time worrying about what may happen in the future. Pregnancy and infertility can both become stressful for women, and it’s easy to ruminate over thousands of possibilities but focusing on what’s truly important right now can provide you with perspective and reduce stress.

Write Down Your Thoughts

Write Down Your Thoughts

It’s natural to want to bottle up your emotions and thoughts pertaining to infertility, and you may not be processing these thoughts rationally. By writing them down, you’re able to see what you’re thinking from a different angle. If you’re meeting with a therapist, you can bring in your writing for the therapist to better understand how you think.

Writing daily can help you process what you’re going through and identify negative thought patterns as well as ways you’re exacerbating your stress. Keeping your thoughts contained within can only increase your stress, and if you’re not quite ready to talk about them with others, write them down in a personal journal.

Suggested Reading: What Can You Do About Low Estrogen Levels?

Schedule a Wellness Exam to Learn More

A wellness exam can illuminate factors that may be affecting your conception journey. Arizona Gynecology Consultants are proud to assist women with various women’s health problems, including infertility. We’ve seen the effects stress can have on reproductive health, which is why we’re committed to helping women manage their stress levels, identify the root causes of infertility, and manage both.

There’s no shame in infertility, feeling stressed about conceiving, or anything else related to women’s health. Having trouble conceiving is common and doesn’t mean you’re less than anyone else. For women who have spent years trying to become pregnant, stress may be among the underlying reasons for your struggle. Stress and infertility are challenging to address, but we can help.

We’ll assess your situation and work diligently to provide the resources and education you need to stay healthy and pursue pregnancy, however that looks for you. If you’d like to schedule a wellness exam, contact our team today.


References :

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6016043/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/baby/features/infertility-stress
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4456969/
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/index.htm
  5. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2019/08/stress-anxiety
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1743609515301442?via%3Dihub
Dispelling Birth Control Myths

Dispelling Birth Control Myths

This entry was posted in Birth Control and tagged on by .

Unfortunately, birth control myths circulate throughout the web. But, with the right information, you can make informed choices regarding contraceptive care.

Myth: There Are Few Methods of Birth Control, and Women Are Severely Restricted in Their Choices

While the responsibility to use birth control rests almost exclusively on women, we are fortunate in that there are many methods of birth control from which to choose. Each option works in different ways, and the method that works best for your lifestyle should be strongly factored into your choice.

Consider these popular options, all readily available from a healthcare provider:

  • Permanent Birth Control – There are surgical procedures available that will prevent a person who can ovulate from becoming pregnant, including tubal ligation or removal of the fallopian tubes.
  • Implant – A small rod is placed underneath the skin in your upper arm by a healthcare provider, where it dispenses hormones that prevent pregnancy.
  • Intrauterine Device (IUD) – A small, t-shaped device is placed into your uterus by a healthcare provider. Some dispense hormones, and some act as a physical deterrent to pregnancy.
  • The Shot – This is an injection of the hormone progestin that must be given by a medical professional.
  • Vaginal Ring – A flexible ring containing hormones is inserted into the vagina for three weeks at a time each month.
  • The Patch – A sticker-like patch is applied almost anywhere on the skin every week. It releases hormones via the skin.
  • The Pill – This is an oral medication taken at the same time each day that releases progesterone and estrogen to prevent pregnancy.
  • Emergency Contraception – This is an oral medication (sometimes a copper IUD) that can be administered up to five days following unprotected sex to prevent implantation.
  • Condom – Either polyurethane or latex, condoms are a physical barrier between the two partners.
  • Spermicide – These sperm-killing chemicals can come in the form of foams, film, or suppositories and can be placed in the vagina or used with a condom
  • Fertility Awareness – Also termed natural family planning, this occurs when a woman tracks her cycle and avoids sex during the period when she is most likely to conceive.
  • Pull-Out Method – This often-ineffective method involves removing the penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation.

Choosing the birth control method or methods that will most easily fit into your routine requires research and a discussion with a healthcare provider.

Myth: Birth Control Will Cause Cancer

Though there is some truth behind this myth, the statement itself is misleading. Some studies suggest there is a potential link between birth control pills, specifically the triphasic pill, and an increased risk of cervical cancer and breast cancer. A 2017 study found a mild increase in the rates of breast cancer in women using oral contraceptives; however, this study could not control all other risk factors because it was a prospective study. The overall risk of breast cancer remains low. There is also evidence that hormonal birth control can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Dispelling Birth Control Myths

Myth: IUDs Are Unsafe to Use

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small plastic or copper t-shaped object that is inserted by a healthcare professional into the uterus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg and to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. IUDs that contain hormones may also prevent ovulation. Either form is a safe and effective method of birth control that has a 99% success rate of preventing pregnancy. That means that for every 100 women that use an IUD, less than 1 of them will get pregnant each year.

This myth likely arises from several high-profile cases of pelvic infection and subsequent infertility that resulted from the strings of one type of IUD. These issues occurred 30 years ago. Fortunately, in response, modern devices were created to eliminate the risk of infection, and this myth is no longer true.

Myth: Birth Control Pills Cause Birth Defects in Babies

Birth control pills are highly effective at preventing pregnancy when taken as directed. However, they are not 100% effective. This means that pregnancy may occur for teen girls and women even if the pill’s instructions are followed. If a pregnancy does occur, the birth control pill will not harm the growing fetus.

There was previously some concern about other medications that used progesterone, but these claims have never been substantiated by scientific studies. Taking birth control while pregnant is not recommended, but no harm will come to the fetus if you continue taking the pills. Even if it takes weeks or months for you to notice a pregnancy while taking birth control pills, the fetus will not be affected.

Myth: Birth Control Means Using a Hormonal Method

People frequently assume that birth control means hormonal forms of pregnancy prevention. There are many hormonal methods of birth control, including pills, implants, patches, and the hormonal IUD. Still, for some people, hormonal birth control methods are not possible because they will not or cannot use them. Fortunately, these are not the only methods available.

Though many of the commonly known methods are hormonal, there are multiple options to choose from if you are attempting to avoid a hormonal route. Some of these routes are equally as successful at preventing pregnancy as hormonal birth control. The copper IUD contains no hormones but remains 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, a rate even more effective than the hormonal birth control pill. Condoms are non-hormonal and aid in STD prevention.

Fertility planning is another method of non-hormonal birth control. The woman keeps track of their menstrual cycle and avoids sex during her most fertile days to prevent pregnancy. If you have recently given birth and choose to breastfeed, this can be a viable option for birth control as it has a high success rate under some circumstances.

Myth: Birth Control Pills Are Unsafe Because They Cause Blood Clots

A serious side effect associated with birth control pills is an increased risk of thrombotic complications like myocardial infarction, stroke, and venous thromboembolism (VTE). This side effect is more commonly known as a blood clot in the heart, limbs, brain, and groin. The potential risk factor increases for women that are in midlife, those who smoke, and those who have a risk of heart disease.

These side effects can be life-altering or even deadly. However, the risk of blood clots with birth control is low. It is true that the risk can be higher for women that take the pill, but the increase is only marginal. To fully understand the increase, consider that the risk of a blood clot while taking the pill is lower than the risk during pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum—just one in 3,000.

Myth: You Should Not Consider an IUD if You Have Not Already Had Children

IUDs are extremely successful at preventing pregnancy, with over a 99% success rate. Better yet, they offer long-term pregnancy prevention. For these reasons, IUDs should be included in any birth control conversation that you have with your gynecologist. This myth arose because a woman’s cervix and uterus will be slightly larger after giving birth, so IUD implantation and use may be more comfortable after childbirth. This is an old myth, IUDs are safe and effective even if you have not had any children.

Myth: All Birth Control Pills Work the Same

Myth: All Birth Control Pills Work the Same

There are two distinct types of birth control pills: progesterone-only pills and combination estrogen and progesterone pills.

Progesterone-only pills are known as the mini pill. Progesterone alters the lining of the uterus, so it is less favorable for embryo implantation and changes the cervical mucus so sperm cannot move as easily to the egg. These are most frequently prescribed to breastfeeding mothers because they are at a higher risk for stroke but can be given to almost any woman. This type of pill may simply be a personal preference for some women.

Combination estrogen and progesterone pills contain both hormones. This difference in the amount of progesterone is what can cause the various side effects, so a doctor may need to adjust the dose to ensure a positive experience with the medication. Estrogen results in the suppression of luteinizing hormone (LH), which signals the ovaries to release eggs. Therefore, a reduction in LH will prevent eggs from progressing to the uterus, where they would be fertilized. The effects of progesterone on the cervical mucus, endometrium, and motility are also included with the combination pill. Recent alterations to the pills have also included shorter placebo intervals and longer periods of hormones so the woman can experience fewer menstrual periods.

Myth: Birth Control Increases the Risk of Stroke

There are some risks involved with taking hormonal birth control, but they are not blanket risks and will not apply to everyone. There are specific risk factors that can make a stroke more likely to develop from birth control use.

These risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Certain types of migraines
  • Smoking over the age of 35
  • A history of cardiovascular disease

There are avenues that can be taken to mitigate these risks, like using non-hormonal birth control or birth control that does not contain estrogen. Choosing the best birth control method for you should involve your own research and a conversation with a medical professional. However, it is important to note that the risks associated with pregnancy could be higher than the risks associated with birth control. The United States’ maternal mortality rate is increasing, making it one of the few countries where it is currently more dangerous to go through a pregnancy and childbirth than it was generations ago.

Myth: Birth Control Can Affect Your Fertility Even After You Stop Using It

Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after one year of having sex without a contraceptive or barrier. The timeline might be shortened to six months if the woman is 35 years or older. Birth control does not cause infertility, but when the birth control method is stopped, the effects may stop immediately or diminish over time as the hormones leave your system. The exact timeline of your fertility return will depend on the individual and the type of birth control used. Fertility can return immediately, but it could take a few months for fertility to return as the body removes the birth control hormones.

This myth arose because of birth control’s questionable history. Studies were fraught with both a lack of consent and a lack of full disclosure. The hushed side effects and lack of informed consent made women wary of birth control, even more so in 1974 after the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device did cause infertility. Fortunately, contraception has become much safer and no longer has permanent effects on fertility.

Even if you chose a permanent form of birth control, like tubal ligation, you could still become pregnant. The uterus and ovaries are left intact, but the route an egg travels from the ovary to the uterus is broken. Therefore, IVF is a remaining option for you to carry a child that is biologically yours.

Myth: The Only Purpose of Birth Control Is Pregnancy Prevention

The primary purpose of birth control is to prevent pregnancy, but there are other uses. Women with heavy or painful periods can take hormonal birth control to help prevent excessive or long-term bleeding. Birth control methods like the pill, shot, patch, implant, and hormonal IUD can all cause shorter, lighter periods. They can also regulate menstrual cycles or even eliminate bleeding altogether, depending on the individual and type of birth control.

In this way, birth control can also improve some symptoms related to:

  • Ovarian cysts
  • Menstrual migraines
  • Hormonal acne
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

Myth: Your Body Needs to Take a Break From Birth Control

Almost all types of birth control are safe to use continuously for as long as you choose. Birth control is essentially putting your menstrual cycle on a temporary pause. Choosing to begin pregnancy attempts is the only reason to take a break from birth control.

The only exception to this rule is the Depo-Provera injection. Because it has been linked to bone mineral loss, it is only recommended to be used continuously for two years. However, if you have concerns about the length of time that you will be or have been on birth control, you should have a conversation with a healthcare professional about more permanent forms of birth control, like tubal ligation.

Understanding Birth Control Myth vs Fact

Understanding Birth Control

Birth control has existed for decades, and many untrue myths have been in existence ever since. Though there may have been some truth to these myths when birth control was first developed, multiple advancements have been made that make birth control a safe and effective way to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Hormonal or non-hormonal, pills or implants, temporary or permanent—with a variety of options, there is a choice that is best for you and your lifestyle.

Using the latest methods and techniques, we establish a specialized plan for patients. With extensive knowledge of women’s health care, our doctors, surgeons and clinical specialists are ready to discuss any questions related to our gynecology services in Phoenix.


Sources:

What Causes Heavy Periods?

What Causes Heavy Periods?

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged on by .

From your first period, you’ll need to find a means of controlling heavy menstrual bleeding that meets your preferences, potentially including a pad, a tampon, or a menstrual cup. You’ll need to keep it accessible when your period is getting close, as well as some extra pants readily available in the event of a surprisingly heavy flow. Some women may also need to keep some pain relief medication on hand to reduce cramps and other uncomfortable symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is a population of women that will experience a consistently heavy flow beyond that experienced by most women, diagnosed as menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding. An abnormally heavy flow should be evaluated by a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause. Potential causes include polyps, fibroids, hormone imbalance, adenomyosis, and von Willebrand’s disease.

Is Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Serious?

Heavy menstrual bleeding can affect your daily life, hindering you from accomplishing the tasks you have for the day. As mentioned, severe blood loss can also cause symptoms of anemia, a medical condition that develops when you have too little iron in your body. This depletion of iron can be life-threatening without corrective treatment.

Even if you do not develop anemia, it is still important to see a healthcare professional about menorrhagia. Some of the underlying causes of heavy bleeding, including cancer, require early medical intervention. So, although heavy bleeding may affect anywhere from 27% to 54% of people who menstruate, its common nature should not override the severity.

What is Menorrhagia?

Menorrhagia

There is a significant difference between normal menstrual bleeding and menorrhagia, or heavy menstrual bleeding. Though any large amount of bleeding is a concern, most women will not experience heavy enough or prolonged enough bleeding to be considered menorrhagia. The bleeding must be severe enough that you cannot maintain your usual activities during your period due to blood loss and cramping.

Signs and symptoms of menorrhagia include:

  • A flow heavy enough to soak through one or more sanitary pads or tampons every hour for three or more consecutive hours.
  • The need to use double sanitary protection to contain your menstrual flow.
  • Waking up in the middle of the night to change your sanitary protection.
  • Periods lasting for a week or longer.
  • Passing blood clots that are a quarter size or bigger. The blood may be pink, red, brown, or rust-like in color.
  • Losing more than 80 milliliters of blood during your period, compared to the typical 35-40 milliliters lost by most women.
  • Restricting your daily activities because of the heavy menstrual flow.
  • Anemia symptoms like fatigue, tiredness, or shortness of breath.

Along with anemia, you could also notice symptoms of a condition called pica. These symptoms include pale skin, hair loss, and the urge to eat non-food items (hair, paper, dirt, and more). Contacting your provider is important if you experience any of these symptoms.

How Do I Know If I Have Menorrhagia?

Unfortunately, many people that experience heavy menstrual bleeding do not get medical help because they assume their periods are supposed to be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Their concerns may have been dismissed by family members that experience similar symptoms or even healthcare providers that did not take their concerns seriously. However, your flow should never require you to accept inconvenience or restrict activities long-term.

During your period, you should be able to:

  • Wear a standard absorbency pad or tampon for three to four hours without changing it for a new one.
  • Wear a single sanitary product without needing to double up (two pads or two tampons at the same time) at any point.
  • Leave your home for a few hours without planning to bring extra bags of pads or clothing changes.
  • Live your life as you normally do, without avoiding public places or missing work.

If your period is disrupting your life, it is time to visit your healthcare provider and start working on a plan to find and treat the cause.

What is the Cause of a Heavy Menstrual Bleeding?

What is the Cause of a Heavy Period?

Heavy menstrual bleeding can be caused by many different conditions, ranging from hormone imbalances to medical conditions and even stress.

Hormone Imbalance

Hormones like estrogen and progesterone are produced by your body and regulate your menstrual cycle. If these hormones are not produced in the right amounts at the right time, heavy periods can result. There are medical conditions that will affect your hormones and can cause imbalances that result in heavy menstrual bleeding. These include:

Thyroid Disease

The thyroid gland is wrapped around the trachea in the front of the neck. It makes and stores hormones essential for the function of every cell in the body. Along with the menstrual cycle, these hormones help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and how food is converted to energy. Thyroid disease is a general term used when the thyroid fails to make the proper level of hormones, whether it is too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism). The cause of the disease will dictate treatment, but it can include medication, surgery, and radioactive iodine.

Anovulation

Anovulation occurs when an ovum, or egg, fails to release from your ovary during your menstrual cycle. It is a common cause of infertility, as an egg is required for pregnancy. A build-up of the uterine lining and insufficient levels of progesterone from anovulation can cause heavy bleeding. Treatment for this condition depends on your specific hormone imbalance but can include managing your stress, medication, and hormone injections.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that is common among women of reproductive age. It is caused by the ovarian overproduction of androgens; male sex hormones typically present in women in small amounts. This disorder is normally characterized by fluid-filled sacs that form on the ovaries if the ovary fails to release an egg.

Treatment depends on whether you want to become pregnant or not. If you do want to become pregnant, treatment options include medication to induce ovulation and surgery. Birth control is a common treatment for those that do not want to become pregnant.

Infection

Some infections, including sexually transmitted infections (STI), can result in heavy menstrual bleeding.

Chlamydia

Caused by an infection of a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis, chlamydia is an STI that can cause heavy menstrual cycles. It can also cause inflammation of the cervix, which results in spotting between periods. Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is caused by an infection of the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae and is commonly a co-infection with chlamydia. Like chlamydia, it can also cause irritation of the cervix that results in bleeding in between cycles. Gonorrhea is also treated with antibiotics.

Chronic Endometriosis

Though the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, it is believed to be retrograde menstruation, where menstruation blood flows from the uterus back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity. This condition can cause very heavy or very light menstrual flow. Endometriosis is treated with hormone therapy, surgical treatments, and pain medications.

Noncancerous Growths in the Uterus

Even though these growths are benign and noncancerous, they can still cause cells to grow improperly in your uterus, which can result in heavy menstrual bleeding.

Polyps

Uterine polyps, or endometrial polyps, are growths in the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium). The polyps are caused by an overgrowth of endometrial tissue, may be round or oval, and can range from a few millimeters to a few centimeters. Polyps can cause your menstrual cycle to become irregular or heavy. Treatment for polyps depends on their location and size, but they are frequently surgically removed.

Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids, also termed leiomyomas, are growths composed of connective and muscle tissue from the wall of the uterus. They are rounded growths that can grow as a single nodule or in a cluster. They can cause painful and excessive menstrual bleeding. There are many treatments for fibroids, including medication and surgical removal, but they can also be left in place if they are nonsymptomatic.

Adenomyosis

Adenomyosis occurs when tissue from the endometrium grows and pushes into the uterine wall, enlarging the uterus. The uterus can grow to double or triple the normal size because of the extra tissue. The enlarged uterus will then cause abnormally high blood volume during your period. Pain medication, hormonal birth control, and a hysterectomy are treatment options for adenomyosis.

Uterine Cancer

Heavy menstrual bleeding can be caused by cancers of the reproductive system. Uterine cancer is a general term that covers all cancers of the uterus, including endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. About 3% of cisgender women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer, and of these, most will develop endometrial cancer. Treatment for uterine cancer is typically a hysterectomy to remove all the cancerous tissue.

Heavy Menstrual Bleeding and Other Medical Conditions

Heavy menstrual bleeding can be a symptom of various medical conditions, including non-bleeding disorders and bleeding disorders.

Von Willebrand Disease

This common blood disorder is genetically inherited and prevents your blood from clotting properly. It is like hemophilia, but it usually causes less severe symptoms. The condition may be treated with medication, specifically birth control, to help reduce the blood loss during your period.

Liver Disease

Liver disease refers to any condition that can affect or damage your liver. Because your liver filters out mutated hormones, an improperly functioning liver can cause heavy or clotted menses. Treatment for liver disease depends on the underlying reason for the liver disease and how far it has progressed, but the options include medication, lifestyle changes, and a liver transplant.

How Is the Cause of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Diagnosed?

The first step to getting a diagnosis is scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider. You can prepare for this appointment by gathering this information and ensuring the information is thorough.

Questions they may ask during this appointment include:

  • What age did you first get your period?
  • How long do your periods normally last?
  • Do you have family members with a history of heavy menstrual bleeding?
  • What birth control are you currently taking, and what is your pregnancy history?
  • What other symptoms are you experiencing?
  • How are you managing your periods?

Once your provider has gathered your history, they will run a series of tests depending on which conditions are determined to be most likely from your answers.

The possible tests include:

  • Blood test
  • Pap smear
  • Sonohysterogram
  • Hysteroscopy
  • Endometrial biopsy
  • Ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Menorrhagia FAQs

So, should you speak with your gynecologist about your heavy periods? How can you tell your period is heavy enough to be classified as menorrhagia? Learn more about menorrhagia with these FAQs.

Q: What Does a Normal Period Look Like?

A: There are no strict guidelines for how a period should look because everyone is different. However, while a “normal” period is hard to define, there are general parameters for a typical period. Most cycles last for 28 days, with four to five days of bleeding. The total blood loss should be 35 mL to 40 mL, and the blood clots should be occasional and smaller than a quarter.

Q: What Is Considered a Heavy Menstrual Bleeding?

A: A standard volume of blood loss for a heavy period is 80 milliliters of blood during the period with a duration of seven or more days. If you soak through one or more tampons or pads per hour for several hours or need to wear more than one menstrual product at a time to control the bleeding, you likely have a heavy period.

Q: Should Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Affect My Daily Life?

A: While all people with a period must make a few small accommodations if they want to avoid bleeding on their clothing, your period should not consistently affect your daily life. What’s more, you should not need to schedule your day around your period. If the volume of the bleeding that occurs during your menstrual cycle interferes with your social plans, daily activities, or work life, it is time to see a doctor and find the cause of the bleeding.

Q: What Usually Causes Chronic Heavy Menstrual Bleeding?

A: There is an extensive list of potential causes of excessive uterine bleeding, and a conversation with a healthcare provider may be required to discover the cause of your heavy bleeding. They will be able to administer diagnostic tests and hopefully find answers.

Common culprits are:

  • Hormone imbalance
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Noncancerous growths
  • Platelet disorders
  • Sexually transmitted infections

You Don’t Have to Settle For the Inconvenience of Heavy Periods

Talking to doctor about Heavy menstrual bleeding

Just because you have lived your life up until now, accepting that heavy periods are normal does not mean you have to continue to do so. Even if your family has convinced you that they are to be endured or previous medical professionals have dismissed your concerns, speaking with trustworthy healthcare providers can result in a diagnosis and treatment plan that completely changes your quality of life.


Sources

  1. Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
  2. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (Menorrhagia): Causes & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)
  3. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) | Johns Hopkins Medicine
  4. Anovulation: Signs, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)
  5. Uterine Polyps: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6500811/
Side Effects of Untreated Uterine Fibroids

Side Effects of Untreated Uterine Fibroids

This entry was posted in Health FAQs and tagged , on by .

Having a uterus can be a naturally stressful situation. Between menstruation, potential childbearing, and the various complications that can occur, it can be difficult to determine what is a normal burden of having a uterus and what is a complication that should be addressed. Uterine fibroids are one such example. Though fibroids are often harmless, they sometimes need to be addressed to keep you safe and comfortable.

What Are Uterine Fibroids?

Simply put, uterine fibroids are growths that occur in and around the uterus. Some people experience fibroids inside the uterine walls, while other times they appear on the outside of the uterus. They can even occur in the muscle tissue of the uterus. The cause of uterine fibroids is generally unknown, though experts believe that there is likely a genetic aspect involved. High levels of estrogen can also contribute to uterine fibroids.

Untreated Uterine Fibroids

Many individuals do not know that they have uterine fibroids, and therefore they go untreated for a long period of time. Others learn that they have fibroids but opt to leave them alone rather than try to eliminate them.

For the most part, people with uterine fibroids do not have severe symptoms. It is entirely possible to have fibroids and continue with life as usual, at your regularly-scheduled pace. However, this is not always the case.

Untreated Uterine Fibroids

What Is the Sonata® Treatment?While some patients may not experience any symptoms of uterine fibroids, others may experience heavy bleeding and pelvic pain. This pain can range in intensity, and is often chronic, as a painful fibroid will continue to cause pain until it is treated. Thus, for many people, leaving fibroids untreated means handling ongoing uterine or pelvic pain.

In some situations, untreated uterine fibroids may lead to difficulty conceiving a child. Some people suffer miscarriages at least partially due to uterine fibroids, as well. If you are having trouble conceiving or carrying a child, consult your gynecologist or OB GYN and ask if you may have uterine fibroids. Since fibroids often cause very few symptoms, they may be silently contributing to your difficulty conceiving or carrying a fetus to term.

Sonata Treatment is a minimally invasive option for treating symptomatic uterine fibroids. It has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), making it a viable and effective option for fibroid treatment in the United States.

Other symptoms of untreated uterine fibroids include:

  • Constipation
  • Pain or soreness in the lower back
  • A feeling of abdominal fullness
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain during intercourse

Because uterine fibroids tend to have these fairly generic symptoms—if any at all—it is best to go to your doctor if you notice any changes in your reproductive health. Pain, abnormal bleeding, and new discomfort are all reasons to see a doctor to rule out fibroids and other medical conditions.

What Happens if Fibroids Go Untreated?

You usually do not need to worry about what happens if fibroids are not treated. If you don’t suffer significant symptoms that interfere with your daily life because of your uterine fibroids, you may opt to leave them untreated. In many cases, patients live with uterine fibroids without realizing it. Uterine fibroids are generally not dangerous, and do not require treatment unless the patient is in pain or experiencing difficulty conceiving.

risk of anemia

The most significant risk of leaving uterine fibroids untreated is the risk of anemia. Because many fibroids cause significant bleeding, it is easy for your red blood cell count to drop below safe levels. Anemia is a serious condition that can affect your overall health. If you choose to leave your fibroids untreated, monitor your iron levels with your doctor to be sure that you do not become anemic.

Uterine fibroids are also associated with high estrogen levels. If your estrogen levels drop, your fibroids may shrink or go away entirely. Many people experience this phenomenon during perimenopause and menopause. If you are taking medications that increase your estrogen level, your doctor may make a switch to help the fibroids disappear.

Overall, it is safe to leave uterine fibroids untreated if they aren’t causing you pain and are not causing unwanted effects on your reproductive health.

Reducing Your Risk of Developing Uterine Fibroids

Unfortunately, not much is known about the cause of uterine fibroids. Though there seems to be a genetic component, it is difficult for doctors to predict when someone is at risk for uterine fibroids. However, there are some situations that seem to increase a person’s chance of developing uterine fibroids, and addressing them may help lower your risk.

Address Your Weight

Obesity and being overweight can contribute to uterine fibroids. If your doctor believes that your weight is causing these issues, they should work with you to develop a care plan that makes you comfortable and addresses the issue.

Balance Your Diet

Balance Your Diet

Your diet may also contribute to fibroid development. Consuming significant amounts of red meat, alcohol, or caffeine may increase your risk of developing uterine fibroids. If you consume high levels of these substances, you can reduce your risk of fibroids by cutting back on these foods and opting for alternatives.

Check For Infections

Can untreated infections cause fibroids? Yes, if you have a UTI or other reproductive system infection, be sure to treat it quickly. Always work with your care provider before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle. Because uterine fibroids are so unpredictable, making changes may not immediately affect your condition. Your doctor will be able to help you create a plan that is right for you.

Avoid Side Effects of Untreated Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids have very few symptoms. Many individuals learn that they have fibroids after they test positively for anemia. Others experience heavy bleeding, uterine pain, or discomfort. In fact, there is no singular, telltale indication that fibroids are present, but your doctor may test for anemia as a way to determine if fibroids are a possibility. Historically, uterine fibroids have been removed using procedures such as hysterectomies and myomectomies. More recently, non-surgical solutions to uterine fibroids have been developing.

What Is Advanced Minimally Invasive Surgery for Women?

What Is Advanced Minimally Invasive Surgery for Women?

This entry was posted in Procedures and tagged on by .

Minimally invasive surgery is gaining popularity in gynecologic practices across the country. When performing a minimally invasive surgery, surgeons will first look for natural access points, such as through the vagina, in order to decrease incision sizes. When an incision is needed, the incision will be no greater than the size of a dime.[1]Mori, K. M., & Neubauer, N. L. (2013). Minimally invasive surgery in gynecologic oncology. International Scholarly Research Notices, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/312982 This enables minimally invasive gynecological surgery patients to experience a more comfortable and less painful procedure, a shorter recovery time, a decrease in bleeding and scarring, and increased affordability.

What Can a Minimally Invasive Procedure Treat?

Minimally invasive procedures are becoming more common for treating a variety of gynecological issues. Procedures that once required large incisions and extensive recovery times are now being achieved through minimally invasive means, leading to a better experience for the patient. Depending on the issue you are experiencing, you may want to discuss minimally invasive options with your doctor and determine together if a minimally invasive gynecological surgery is right for you.

These are some of the most common gynecological issues that can be treated with minimally invasive procedures.

Ovarian Cysts

Developed in the ovaries, ovarian cysts can occur when abnormal ovarian pockets fill with fluid. Small cysts typically go away on their own, but larger cysts can cause irregular periods, pain during intercourse, chronic abdominal and back pain, and bloating. Larger ovarian cysts will often need to be surgically removed—potentially using a minimally invasive procedure.

Uterine Fibroids

Often found in women during their prime conception years, fibroids are noncancerous growths on the outside of the uterus. On some occasions, fibroids can cause heavy bleeding, causing the patient to become anemic. If you are considering having your fibroids removed, it is worth noting that uterine fibroid removal commonly utilizes robotic surgery.[2]Holloway, R. W., Patel, S. D., & Ahmad, S. (2009). Robotic Surgery in Gynecology. Scandinavian Journal of Surgery, 96–109. https://doi.org/10.1177/145749690909800205

Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is a non-reversible sterilization surgery in which your doctor will remove part or all of the uterus. Often this surgery is performed to treat uterine conditions that have not responded to other types of treatment. A laparoscopic surgery is a common minimally invasive procedure used to perform a hysterectomy.

Vaginal Prolapse

A “prolapse” occurs in a woman’s body when their pelvic organs slip out of place. This can cause discomfort, pressure, a bulge in the vagina, or bladder incontinence. Both laparoscopic surgery and robotic surgery can be used as treatment.

Vaginal Reconstruction

As the vagina endures the effects of childbirth and menopause, skin tissue can loosen, causing changes in vaginal appearance, lowering libido, and creating bladder incontinence. If you have recently given birth or are experiencing a lack of confidence in your sexuality due to the appearance of your vagina, talk to your doctor about vaginal reconstruction. These types of surgeries can address both medical and aesthetic issues, leading to better quality of life and even increased self-confidence.[3]Karcher, C., & Sadick, N. (2016). Vaginal rejuvenation using energy-based devices [Review of Vaginal rejuvenation using energy-based devices]. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, … Continue reading

Cervical Dysplasia

Cervical dysplasia is caused by the growth of precancerous cells on the surface of the cervix that are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). There are no symptoms for cervical dysplasia, but if left untreated, precancerous cells can spread and multiply, leading to cervical cancer.[4]Klobucar, A., Hrgovic, Z., Bukovic, D., Caric, V., Grgurevic-Batinica, A., & Hrgovic, I. (2004). The treatment of cervical dysplasia with laser. Medicinski Arhiv, 58(6), 355-357. … Continue reading Multiple minimally invasive treatments are available to treat cervical dysplasia. Talk to your doctor to determine which one is right for you.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a very painful condition in which tissue is formed on the outside of the uterus instead of the inside. Most commonly, endometriosis can be treated with a non-invasive laparoscopic surgery. Your doctor will determine which non-invasive surgery is right for your needs.

What Are the Most Common Gynecological Surgeries?

Common Gynecological Surgeries

If you have a qualifying gynecological issue, you and your doctor will discuss your options and decide which treatment plan is best suited for your needs. If a gynecological surgery is necessary, your doctor will likely suggest a minimally invasive procedure to improve your recovery time and your outcome. However, there are a variety of technologies and techniques your doctor may recommend when formulating your treatment plan.

These are some of the most common gynecological surgeries.

Hysteroscopy

In this minimally invasive procedure, doctors are able to see inside your uterus by inserting a scope for visualization into your vagina, through your cervix, and into your uterus. This procedure does not require any incisions and can be performed for both diagnostic and treatment purposes, including the treatment of polyps, female genital abnormalities, scarring or other abrasions, issues relating to contraception or following a miscarriage, and abnormal bleeding.[5]Centini, G., Troia, L., Lazzeri, L., Petraglia, F., & Luisi, S. (2016). Modern operative hysteroscopy. Minerva Ginecologica, 68(2), 126-132. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26930389/

In many cases, only local anesthesia is needed for this procedure, if any is needed at all. However, in some rare cases, general anesthesia may be needed. Patients are typically able to leave shortly after the procedure with only minimal side effects, such as cramping or light bleeding.

Vaginal Surgery

Vaginal surgery is the least invasive form of minimally invasive surgery. It is typically used for woman who have experienced damage to the vaginal area after giving birth or women who are going through menopause and are looking to restore elasticity. This type of surgery utilizes the vaginal opening to repair or reconstruct the vagina. Results from this surgery could include an improved vaginal appearance, a reduction of pain, or increased functionality. With this method of surgical procedure, doctors will not need to make any incisions and there is an overall lower risk of surgical complications.

What Is Advanced Minimally Invasive Surgery?

Advanced minimally invasive surgery is a specialized form of surgery that requires the use of advanced equipment and technology. These devices often require additional specialization and training on the part of the surgeon and are only available at select surgical centers. These are the most common advanced minimally invasive surgeries.

Robotic Surgery

This advanced form of minimally invasive treatment allows your surgeon to operate with greater precision and accuracy. In a robotic-assisted surgery, your doctor will use a control console to control a human-like robotic hand, which is able to perform more precise movements with a much greater range of motion than an actual human hand. While the procedure is in progress, the doctor will be able to see your anatomy on a 3D screen, allowing for much greater visibility.

Laparoscopic Surgery

Most often performed during the removal of the uterus or during a hysterectomy, a laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure in which your doctor will make a few very small incisions into your abdominal region. Through these incisions, your doctor will then insert tubes, which will be used as tools during the procedure. These tubes have cameras attached to them, providing your doctor a full view of your internal organs, leading to better accuracy and less opportunity for error. Once the doctor is completed with the operation, the small incisions can easily be sutured and treated for a seamless recovery.

In comparison to a typical hysterectomy, laparoscopic surgery is much quicker and requires less recovery time and a decreased hospital stay. On average, a patient will only need to spend one day in the hospital after the procedure and will be almost fully recovered two weeks after surgery compared with the eight weeks that is typical of a conventional hysterectomy. Patients will also experience much less pain and lose less blood, decreasing the risk of complications and increasing patient satisfaction. A shorter recovery time and quicker hospital stay also allows patients to get back to their daily routines much more quickly. In addition, due to the smaller incisions, patients will notice less scarring afterward.[6]Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER) (2022). Minimally invasive gynecologic surgery – Overview. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 27, 2022, from … Continue reading

Is Minimally Invasive Surgery the Best Choice for You?

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgery

Deciding if minimally invasive surgery is the right decision for your gynecological care can be a difficult, but ultimately rewarding, decision. Choosing to undergo a minimally invasive gynecological procedure can lead to multiple benefits to both your health and your self-esteem. We’ve listed the most commonly cited advantages.

Shorter Recovery Time

Undergoing an invasive surgery takes time, and an extensive amount of time is usually needed to recover. Typically, patients who undergo an invasive procedure have a fairly long hospital stay of three to eight days on average. Minimally invasive surgeries, on the other hand, are typically same-day procedures, meaning you can go home the same day as the procedure. Because a minimally invasive surgery produces a smaller wound, the skin will also be able to heal much faster, making recovery time as quick as two weeks. With a quicker recovery time, your life and independence can safely return to normal, without the interruption on your life or daily routine.[7]Mori, K. M., & Neubauer, N. L. (2013). Minimally invasive surgery in gynecologic oncology. International Scholarly Research Notices, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/312982

Less Risk for Infection

Since the wound is smaller and heals faster, there is less risk of infection. A smaller wound is also easier to nurse and can help you avoid some of the precautions necessary with a larger or more exposed wound.

Decreased Scarring

As compared with large abdominal scars, the incisions made in minimally invasive procedures are no bigger than a dime. Only one or two stitches is needed to close them. Scarring is therefore minimized, and scars will often not be visible after healing is complete.

Less Prescription Medications

Patients who undergo invasive surgeries are often put on multiple medications that can cause unwanted side effects like constipation, slowed breathing, confusion, drowsiness, and even dependency. It is not uncommon for patients to have a hard time weaning off these medications after their recovery period is over. Fortunately, less invasive procedures typically require fewer pain relieving medications taken for a much shorter period of time.

Increased Confidence

After undergoing minimally invasive procedures, patients often notice increased confidence. Whether it be following a reconstructive vaginal surgery, birth, menopause, or a surgery to help a painful or potentially embarrassing sexual problem, minimally invasive surgery can leave patients feeling confident and better than ever about their sexuality and femininity.

Minimally invasive surgery is becoming popular among gynecologists nationwide. This less-invasive procedure is performed through a small incision or natural access points, such as the vagina, and typically leads to shorter recovery time, decreased bleeding, and decreased scarring.

Is Minimally Invasive Surgery Right for You?

Minimally Invasive Surgery Options

Based on your situation, your doctor will recommend the best treatment option or combination of options for your situation. Advanced and minimally invasive surgery options allow women with challenging gynecological issues to receive a customized surgical treatment plan to achieve their individual goals. Contact us if you would like to discuss your options with one of our providers.

References

References
1 Mori, K. M., & Neubauer, N. L. (2013). Minimally invasive surgery in gynecologic oncology. International Scholarly Research Notices, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/312982
2 Holloway, R. W., Patel, S. D., & Ahmad, S. (2009). Robotic Surgery in Gynecology. Scandinavian Journal of Surgery, 96–109. https://doi.org/10.1177/145749690909800205
3 Karcher, C., & Sadick, N. (2016). Vaginal rejuvenation using energy-based devices [Review of Vaginal rejuvenation using energy-based devices]. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, 2(3), 85–88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijwd.2016.05.003
4 Klobucar, A., Hrgovic, Z., Bukovic, D., Caric, V., Grgurevic-Batinica, A., & Hrgovic, I. (2004). The treatment of cervical dysplasia with laser. Medicinski Arhiv, 58(6), 355-357. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15648233/
5 Centini, G., Troia, L., Lazzeri, L., Petraglia, F., & Luisi, S. (2016). Modern operative hysteroscopy. Minerva Ginecologica, 68(2), 126-132. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26930389/
6 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER) (2022). Minimally invasive gynecologic surgery – Overview. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 27, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/departments-centers/minimally-invasive-gynecologic-surgery/overview/ovc-20424071
7 Mori, K. M., & Neubauer, N. L. (2013). Minimally invasive surgery in gynecologic oncology. International Scholarly Research Notices, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/312982
When Should an Ovarian Cyst Be Surgically Removed?

Should an Ovarian Cyst Be Surgically Removed?

Regardless of its size or level of severity, discovering an ovarian cyst can be a stressful and confusing experience for any woman—especially if the cyst is causing you severe discomfort in your day-to-day life. However, the way a cyst is treated or even if it needs to be treated varies from situation to situation.

Ovarian cysts are relatively common (occurring in between 8% and 18% of women) [1]Ross, E.K. (2013). Incidental Ovarian Cysts: When to Reassure, When to Reassess, When to Refer. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine; 80(8): 503–514. Retrieved from 2013 article., both pre- and post-menopausal. However, most of these cysts are benign, meaning that they’re non-cancerous. [2]Abduljabbar, H. S., Bukhari, Y. A., Al Hachim, E. G., Alshour, G. S., Amer, A. A., Shaikhoon, M. M., & Khojah, M. I. (2015). Review of 244 cases of ovarian cysts. Saudi medical journal, 36(7), … Continue reading In rare circumstances, though, it’s also possible for a cyst to become cancerous or to cause severe complications for the patient. Whenever a twisted ovary or rupture occurs, this can be extremely painful, and the patient must receive immediate medical care.

With so many possibilities, you might be unsure how to proceed after the discovery of an ovarian cyst. To start, take any recommendations by your doctor into serious consideration. They’ll be able to give you a clearer idea of your cyst’s condition and whether treatment is necessary.

When Should an Ovarian Cyst Be Surgically Removed?

Fortunately, in the case of most ovarian cysts, surgery isn’t a necessary treatment. [3]Imperial College London. (2019, February 5). Ovarian cysts should be ‘watched’ rather than removed, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 20, 2022 from … Continue reading The majority of these types of cysts can resolve on their own, often without symptoms or complications. However, there are a few situations where ovarian cyst removal may be the best course of action. For example, suppose the cyst is on the larger side, is actively growing, is non-functional, causes pain, or continues throughout more than two menstrual cycles. In that case, your gynecologist might suggest surgical removal.

In some cases, a cyst can be removed using a procedure known as an ovarian cystectomy. However, the ovary itself won’t be removed during this procedure. There are other times when removing the entire ovary may be the safest path to take. When just the affected ovary is removed, and the other remains intact, this is known as an oophorectomy.

Though rare, some cystic mass may be cancerous. [4]Jayson, Elise C Kohn, Henry C Kitchener, Jonathan A Ledermann, Ovarian cancer, The Lancet,Volume 384, Issue 9951,2014,Pages 1376-1388,ISSN 0140-6736,https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62146-7. You can expect to be referred to a gynecologic cancer specialist in these instances. The surgical treatment needed in these cases can differ. However, you may need to receive a total hysterectomy. In other words, the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes will all need to be removed. Other cancerous cysts are best treated with radiation or chemotherapy.

If the ovarian cyst develops after the start of menopause, your gynecologist will likely recommend surgical removal.

Functional Cysts Vs. Non-functional Ovarian Cysts

The distinction between functional and non-functional ovarian cysts is important to keep in mind, as it can dramatically influence the best course of treatment.

Functional Cysts (Follicular and Corpus Luteum)

Functional cysts come in two forms: follicular cysts and corpus luteum cysts. Both of these ovarian cysts form during someone’s menstrual cycle.

A follicular cyst may develop when an egg can’t be released from the follicular sac (where an egg grows). More often than not, follicular cysts will resolve on their own in no more than two menstrual cycles.

If the follicular sac releases an egg, but there’s a buildup of fluid, this is a corpus luteum cyst. Although these ovarian cysts often resolve on their own, they can be more painful than a typical follicular cyst. It’s even possible that they will result in bleeding.

As a whole, functional cysts are a benign type of growth. If the functional cyst is small and not causing any symptoms or pain, treatment likely won’t be needed. However, your gynecologist may prescribe birth control bills when menstrual problems or pain are involved, as this can stop new cysts from forming.

Periodic ultrasound studies can be used to monitor the cyst to ensure that it resolves on its own.

Non-Functional Cysts (Dermoid, Cystadenoma, Endometrioma, & Malignant)

When a woman develops a non-functional ovarian cyst, it isn’t a result of releasing an egg or her menstrual cycle. Although most non-functional cysts are non-cancerous, that isn’t always the case.[5]M A Pascual, L Hereter, F Tresserra, O Carreras, A Ubeda, S Dexeus, Transvaginal sonographic appearance of functional ovarian cysts., Human Reproduction, Volume 12, Issue 6, Jun 1997, Pages … Continue reading

Non-functional ovarian cysts also come with several potential complications, including a twisted ovary or rupture. Other times, the non-functional ovarian cyst may be large enough that this alone causes the patient pain or discomfort.

There are four types of non-functional ovarian cysts, and those are:

  • Dermoid
  • Cystadenoma
  • Endometrioma
  • Malignant

Non-Functional Ovarian Cysts

Dermoid cysts are typically benign, although they can rupture or twist the ovary. [6]Mobeen S, Apostol R. Ovarian Cyst. [Updated 2021 Jun 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: … Continue reading They’re also present from the patient’s birth rather than developing later in life. These cysts are composed of hair, skin, muscle, or organ tissue.

Cystadenomas are large cysts that develop on the outside of the ovaries. Despite their size and the discomfort they can cause, they are typically benign. Similarly, endometriomas are usually benign cysts, although they develop due to an excess of uterine lining tissue.

As a woman ages, her cysts may become cancerous or malignant. This is a rare situation, but a “watch and wait” strategy is the best way to catch the problem early. When a patient experiences persistent ovarian cysts (especially after menopause), her doctor must perform routine ultrasound screenings to check for tumors or signs of cancer.

How Big Does an Ovarian Cyst Have to Be to Get It Removed?

Most ovarian cysts are relatively small, often with little to no symptoms or pain. However, if one of these cysts grows to a larger size, this can cause complications and necessitate surgical removal. Surgery often isn’t necessary until an ovarian cyst has grown to 50 to 60 millimeters in size or approximately 2 to 2.4 inches.

Still, these measurements aren’t a rigid guide to when a cyst should be removed. For example, for a simple benign cyst, your doctor might prefer not to surgically remove it until it’s larger than 4 inches. On the opposite hand, if an ovarian cyst is cancerous, it will need to be removed even if it’s of a much smaller size.

Ovarian Cyst Removal Side Effects and Risks

Like any surgical procedure, there are potential risks or side effects to having an ovarian cyst surgically removed. [7]Henes, M., Engler, T., Taran, F. A., Brucker, S., Rall, K., Janz, B., & Lawrenz, B. (2018). Ovarian cyst removal influences ovarian reserve dependent on histology, size and type of operation. … Continue reading

Some of the most common risks of ovarian cyst removal surgery are that:

  • It may not control the pain, despite removal.
  • The ovarian cysts return (after cystectomy).
  • An infection develops.
  • Scar tissue builds up at the surgical site—on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or in the patient’s pelvis.
  • Damage is done to the bladder or bowel.

Ovarian Cyst Removal Recovery Time

The anticipated recovery time after ovarian cyst removal surgery depends on whether the patient had a laparoscopy or a laparotomy.

Laparoscopy involves a small incision and has a shorter recovery time. Usually, the patient can return to their day-to-day activities within a day. They should avoid strenuous exercise or activity for around a week, though.

If there’s any suspicion of cancer, a laparoscopy won’t be the most appropriate surgical option. So instead, some patients will have a laparotomy performed. This procedure gives an improved view of the female pelvic organs and abdominal muscles, involving a larger incision in the abdomen.

After receiving a laparotomy, the patient could remain in the hospital for approximately two to four days. It will also take around four to six weeks to return to their usual activities.

The Cost of Ovarian Cyst Removal Surgery

Like recovery time, the cost of ovarian cyst removal depends on the type of surgery the patient has received. In addition, whether or not the patient has health insurance coverage is also essential in determining cost.

If the patient has health insurance, the cost of their surgery usually consists of a copay and coinsurance rate of between 10% and 50% (sometimes more). However, if the cyst removal surgery is medically necessary, health insurance providers will generally cover it.

Alternatively, if the patient doesn’t have health insurance, it will typically cost between $7,000 and $15,000 to have ovarian cysts surgically removed. Depending on the patient’s location and the hospital used, the cost can vary.

Although some hospitals may charge as little as $6,500 for surgery, the figure can be several thousand dollars higher with a doctor’s fee.

If you’re an uninsured or cash-paying patient, many care providers will offer a discount of up to 30% (or more).

How Well Does Ovarian Cyst Removal Surgery Work?

How Well Does Ovarian Cyst Removal Surgery Work? 

 

If the patient receives an oophorectomy, the current cysts have been removed—so, there won’t be any risk of new ovarian cysts developing in the future.

However, a cystectomy preserves the ovary (and the patient’s fertility if this is a concern). This means that new cysts can develop in the future, whether they form on the same ovary or the opposite one.

Your doctor may prescribe birth control pills to reduce the chances of new ovarian cysts developing. [8]Grimes DA, Jones LB, Lopez LM, Schulz KF. Oral contraceptives for functional ovarian cysts. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD006134. DOI: … Continue reading

Ovarian Cyst Treatment & Removal by Arizona Gynecology Consultants

At Arizona Gynecology Consultants, we are a team of experienced gynecology professionals in the Phoenix and Mesa areas. If you’re currently struggling with ovarian cysts, we offer both general care and minimally invasive surgical procedures.

We treat many women’s health conditions, including primary care, menopause, abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain, hormone replacement, and more. AZGYN even offers several no-incision medical treatments, including for abnormal uterine bleeding or uterine fibroid treatments.

* Editor’s Note: This article was originally published Jun, 2017 and has been updated Feb, 2022.

References

References
1 Ross, E.K. (2013). Incidental Ovarian Cysts: When to Reassure, When to Reassess, When to Refer. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine; 80(8): 503–514. Retrieved from 2013 article.
2 Abduljabbar, H. S., Bukhari, Y. A., Al Hachim, E. G., Alshour, G. S., Amer, A. A., Shaikhoon, M. M., & Khojah, M. I. (2015). Review of 244 cases of ovarian cysts. Saudi medical journal, 36(7), 834–838. https://doi.org/10.15537/smj.2015.7.11690
3 Imperial College London. (2019, February 5). Ovarian cysts should be ‘watched’ rather than removed, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 20, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190205185156.htm
4 Jayson, Elise C Kohn, Henry C Kitchener, Jonathan A Ledermann, Ovarian cancer, The Lancet,Volume 384, Issue 9951,2014,Pages 1376-1388,ISSN 0140-6736,https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62146-7.
5 M A Pascual, L Hereter, F Tresserra, O Carreras, A Ubeda, S Dexeus, Transvaginal sonographic appearance of functional ovarian cysts., Human Reproduction, Volume 12, Issue 6, Jun 1997, Pages 1246–1249, https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/12.6.1246
6 Mobeen S, Apostol R. Ovarian Cyst. [Updated 2021 Jun 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560541/
7 Henes, M., Engler, T., Taran, F. A., Brucker, S., Rall, K., Janz, B., & Lawrenz, B. (2018). Ovarian cyst removal influences ovarian reserve dependent on histology, size and type of operation. Women’s health (London, England), 14, 1745506518778992. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745506518778992
8 Grimes DA, Jones LB, Lopez LM, Schulz KF. Oral contraceptives for functional ovarian cysts. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD006134. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006134.pub4. Accessed 21 February 2022.
Maintain Vaginal pH Through Diet

Keep It Balanced: Maintain Vaginal pH Through Diet

This entry was posted in Fitness and Nutrition and tagged on by .

Specific foods improve your vaginal pH and overall health. This will keep your most sensitive organ functioning well and makes the necessity for multiple gynecological visits at a minimum. Fighting infection and minimizing unpleasant odors are just a few of the benefits of a good diet in foods great for your vagina.

What Is pH and What Should Your Vagina Be?

First off, pH is simply the scientific measurement to determine how acidic or basic something is. It is annotated numerically from 0 to 14, where 0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most basic. To measure this, a litmus test is conducted where a special sheet of paper is exposed to a substance and, based on its coloring, you can determine its acidic or basic level.

For reference, water should be at a 7 (in the center). As far as vaginas are concerned, your levels should be anywhere from 3.8 to 4.5; however, your healthy pH level can vary depending on age reproductively (pre-menstruation, reproductive years, and post-menopause). Generally, you want the number to be on the more acidic side.

Why the pH Level Matters

A more acidic vagina is ideal for women because it helps prevent bacterial growth and infections such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or trichomoniasis (trich). It is important to note that a vagina that is too acidic can cause fertility problems because sperm survive better in a more basic (or alkaline) environment where their most optimal level is between 7 and 8.

Thankfully, modern science has studied and shown how different foods and natural remedies to restore pH balance to the vagina can be beneficial to overall health.

Foods That Help Balance pH

1. Cranberries

Cranberries

Cranberries have long been known to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections. There are two special ingredients found in cranberries: A-Type proanthocyanidins (PAC) and fructose (sugar). These ingredients concurrently prevent bacteria, which cause UTIs from clinging to the wall of the bladder.

The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology studied cranberry and its effects and found that the rate of UTIs after gynecological surgery had been cut by 50%. It is important to note that in this study, women were taking cranberry supplement pills which replaced the need to drink two servings of juice. The sugar found in cranberry juice can often raise your pH levels in your vagina, making them more basic and thereby create an environment for yeast infection.

2. Foods with Healthy Fats

Avocado, almonds and olive oil

When we go to the grocery store, we are assaulted with foods that claim to be “low in fat” or “fat free.” This might not always be helpful to your health, especially when it comes to your vagina. Nuts, olive oils, and avocado are just three of the foods available which can keep your cholesterol and estrogen levels balanced, which keeps your pH level in your vagina balanced, as well. Go nuts on nuts and definitely add avocado to your toast in the morning to reap the benefits of these foods.

3. Kimchi, Greek Yogurt, and Other Probiotics

Kimchi contains any variation of veggies, chili peppers, salt, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger and is then canned/jarred and fermented. It can either be purchased at a regular or international grocery store or, if you prefer, made right at home with all your preferred flavors and combinations. The point overall is that the dish is fermented, which creates more acidity in your pH levels of your vagina but not so much to cause a problem.

Greek yogurt, like kimchi, is also a probiotic, which can promote good intestinal/stomach health as well as keep away bad bacteria from your vaginal area. Probiotic foods are also foods that balance pH in the stomach.

If you cannot get probiotics naturally into your diet through foods like kimchi, cottage cheese, kombucha, miso, or Greek yogurt, try a simple supplement you can get over the counter at your local pharmacy.

4. Prebiotic Foods

Postbiotics-probiotics-food

Naturally, where probiotic foods exist, there are also prebiotic foods. To understand the difference, think of it this way: probiotics are living microorganisms that function as good bacteria, whereas prebiotics are carbohydrates that feed “good” bacteria in the gut.

When prebiotics travel to the colon, they are undigested despite having gone through the stomach. While in the colon, they ferment and feed naturally-occurring gut bacteria. While prebiotics exist largely in plant-based foods, not all plants function in this way. Prebiotics can be found in honey, bananas, soybeans, onions, and garlic.

As far as your vagina is concerned, prebiotics feed naturally-occurring “good” bacteria, and it is suggested by doctors to be consumed with probiotics. Like probiotics, prebiotics can be taken as a supplement, so when purchasing, make sure to pay attention to the prefix in front of “biotic.”

5. Water

Citrus infused water

It’s probably not a shock to many but water and basic hydration is the best way to create a hospitable environment in your body in general. Water, besides being necessary to maintain life, can keep your vagina functioning at maximum capacity. The vagina has its own cleansing system built-in, and proper hydration only aids in its ability to keep itself clean by increasing lubrication, allowing discharges to be released, and maintaining overall balance of the pH of the vagina.

To maintain proper hydration, the good rule is to drink at least nine cups (2 liters) of water every day. Instead of gulping down that much water, it is preferable to drink little by little throughout the day evenly; gulping too much water can cause nausea and vomiting, which dehydrates you.

If you are using sports drinks to achieve hydration while working out or doing heavy physical exercise, make sure your sugar intake in these drinks is at a minimum.

6. Vitamin C

Freshly blended fruit smoothies

While not exactly a food, this vitamin is important to consume for vaginal pH health and can be found in a variety of different fruits and vegetables. The foods found to have the highest amount of Vitamin C are citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, etc.), bell peppers (red, green, yellow – you can’t lose), and strawberries (yum!). Any food high in vitamin C can aid in fighting infections in your body in general, but especially in your vaginal area.

Vitamin C can help maintain healthy pH levels in your vagina, as well, and can be administered through a boric acid suppository alternative if you are sensitive to any of the foods high in vitamin C.

Foods That Throw Off Your pH

Your pH can be balanced by foods, so, naturally, there are certain foods that throw off your pH to either end of the acid/base scale and cause gynecological problems. Here is a short list of foods to stray away from to maintain good pH levels in your vagina:

1. Foods High in Sugar

As we mentioned before, foods higher in sugar can throw off your pH level tremendously. On top of being bad for your pH level, high sugar foods can cause excessive weight gain, lethargy, “sugar crash,” acne/skin problems, and can degrade teeth enamel over time (think cavities). While a slice of cake every once in a while certainly will not kill you, it is important to maintain that good balance.

2. Alcohol

There is a reason those who are recovering from alcoholism crave sugary foods – it processes the same in the body. Likewise, alcohol can be as detrimental to your pH of your vagina as sugar itself can – in the end, it’s all just unnecessary glucose.

Don’t worry, however – you can still enjoy a glass of your favorite alcohol to wind down, but again, moderation is key. Red wine has been shown to increase the blood flow to your vagina and increase libido in women. It is advised with red wine, however, to limit yourself to 2 glasses only.

3. Processed Foods

At the end of the day, it is difficult to “get into gear” and cook a healthy meal from scratch. For busy people, processed foods can be a quick and easy way to prepare food, but, as with most things, too much can be harmful to your body (especially your vagina). Processed foods are any foods that are not “whole” or naturally occurring. While it is very difficult to only consume whole foods, you can supplement processed foods for simply or minimally-processed foods, such as food grown and sold organically.

4. Any Meat or Dairy with Additive Hormones

Be a savvy consumer and make sure when you purchase meat or dairy products that the animals these products come from have not been injected with hormones. Products without hormones will be USDA-certified organic or marked specifically as “hormone-free.” These hormones are called xenoestrogens and mimic naturally-occurring estrogen in animals born purely for food purposes. These xenoestrogens then transfer to your own system when you consume hormonally-treated meat or dairy and can play havoc on your own hormones. Red meat and dairy products are not harmful but make sure you know how it was made ahead of time.

Good Life Practices for Vaginal Health

There are certain activities which women should be engaging in to maintain and promote good vaginal health.

If you are not doing these things and experiencing vaginal problems/infections, this list might help aid what ails you:

  • Cleanliness of your vagina – Cleaning and maintaining the vagina isn’t as difficult as one might imagine. Your vagina naturally cleans itself, but if you want to clean it further, rinsing the area with warm/lukewarm water will help keep it fresh. If you need to use soap, make sure it is free of fragrance. Though tempting, cleansing products are not advised (such as douching or washes). While on your period, try to avoid any scented tampons or sanitary pad products.
  • Quit smoking – Besides being harmful to lung and heart health, people who smoke tobacco are more prone to infections like BV. Non-smokers in a study conducted in 2018 were found to have more Lactobacillus in their vagina versus smokers. Lactobacillus is a probiotic bacteria that is important to the vagina to function properly. 
  • Stress-busting – A study in 2018 linked cortisol (the hormone produced during stressful events) and BV. While stress is impossible to abstain from completely, stress-busting activities such as meditation, exercise, and music/other hobbies can help maintain healthy stress levels.
  • Good underwear sense – Wearing a breathable but absorbent, soft fabric (such as cotton) on your vagina is incredibly helpful to keeping your pH levels regulated. Also, make sure you are cleaning your laundry with detergent, which is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic. If possible, go “commando” at night while you sleep to prevent moisture from building up in the vaginal area.
  • Condoms/barriers during sex – Semen, as we mentioned before, can alkalize the vaginal walls and increase risk of infection. Even digital penetration and oral sex have bacterial risks, so using a “dental dam” or “finger cot” is suggested for those activities. If you are trying to get pregnant or cannot use condoms, make sure to cleanse your vagina after sexual activity.

Times to Seek Medical Help

pregnant or cannot use condoms, make sure to cleanse your vagina after sexual activity. Times to Seek Medical Help

Even with preventative and good health practices, there are times where you might be faced with symptoms and discomfort in your vagina and need professional medical care and advice. Try not to “self-diagnose” on the internet and instead call your gynecologist to set up an appointment immediately. If you do not have a gynecologist, ask your primary care doctor for help with your symptoms or for help finding a gynecologist in your area.

Here are symptoms to never ignore:

  • Unusual discharge – anything that is not clear as vaginal discharge is something that should be examined.
  • Foul odor – don’t douche or use vaginal washes as the smell might be indicative of a larger issue.
  • Burning sensation – if the skin inside or outside your vagina feels like it is burning or irritated.
  • Itchiness – itching could be an indication of an infection or yeast infection and needs doctor-prescribed pharmaceuticals and care.

Come See the Experts in Vaginal Care

At Arizona Gynecology Consultants, we are experts in gynecological services and minimally invasive procedures for women in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. We also provide options for those unable to travel with telehealth appointments. Our welcoming, compassionate doctors, nurses, and staff are here to help you with your concerns. 

Schedule an appointment today.