Monthly Archives: July 2017

What Is Infertility - Arizona Gynecology Consultants

What Is Infertility?

Medical professionals define infertility as the inability to conceive a child after at least one year of attempts. Every woman is unique and will conceive best under different circumstances, but getting pregnant is much easier for some women than others.

A diagnosis of infertility can also apply to women who can successfully become pregnant but then miscarry. Overcoming infertility is sometimes possible with various treatments and modern fertility technology.

What Is Infertility: The Fertilization Process

It’s quite difficult to become pregnant, considering the exact chain of events that must occur for conception to happen:

  • First, the woman must release a mature egg from one of her ovaries (called ovulation).
  • Next, the egg must travel through the fallopian tube into the uterus.
  • During this journey, a sperm cell from a male partner must come into contact with the egg and fertilize it.
  • Finally, the fertilized egg must implant itself on the inner wall of the uterus.

Anything that interferes with any step of this process can cause infertility. Different medical conditions can interfere with ovulation, fertilization and implantation.

If the male partner is the root of the couple’s inability to conceive, methods including artificial insemination and embryo cultivation may prove effective. If the infertility is due to an issue with the female partner, there are many possible explanations.

Problems with Ovulation

Some medical conditions such as ovarian cysts can interfere with a woman’s ovulation cycle. If a woman’s ovaries cannot mature and release an egg during ovulation, cysts can form and block the process. In other cases, inflammation in the ovaries or the fallopian tubes can prevent proper egg release.

Physical problems with the uterus can also prevent ovulation, such as uterine fibroids. One of the first signs of an ovulation problem is irregular periods or missed periods. Abnormal uterine bleeding and inconsistent menstrual cycles can make conception more difficult.

Lifestyle Factors

A woman’s lifestyle has a tremendous impact on her ability or inability to conceive. Diet, exercise, stress and medical conditions all impact fertility in different ways. For example, a woman with a poor diet, stressful job and inconsistent sleeping schedule will likely have a difficult time becoming pregnant. Or, her body may reject a fertilization due to the woman’s poor health.

Other lifestyle choices such as tobacco use and alcohol consumption can interfere with pregnancy as well. The medical community has heavily discouraged smoking and drug use among pregnant women for decades because of the serious harm these things can do to both mothers and unborn babies.

For example, a baby born to a mother who consumed alcohol while pregnant may have fetal alcohol syndrome. A baby born to a mother addicted to opioids will likely be born addicted to opioids as well.

Finally, sexual activity can have a big impact on fertility. Sexually transmitted diseases can cause a host of fertility problems and damage the reproductive system in different ways. Although some people have believed in the past that certain sexual positions increase or decrease the chances of conception, there is little scientific evidence to support these theories.

Testing for Infertility

When a couple is struggling to become and stay pregnant, their doctor will need to perform an extensive series of tests to uncover the root of the problem. This process can be stressful and emotional, and it’s important to be patient while the doctor performs the necessary tests to reach a definite answer for your infertility.

Typically, fertility testing will begin with the male partner. Male infertility issues are easily detectable and almost always revolve around problems with sperm. The first male fertility test is usually a semen analysis to determine the man’s sperm count, quality and shape.

If the male partner shows no clear evidence of being the cause of infertility, the doctor will then examine the female partner. The first step is to determine if and when the female is ovulating. There are many different methods a doctor may use to calculate a female patient’s ovulation cycle.

Female fertility tests often involve various imaging procedures such as X-rays and ultrasounds, but may also include hysterosalpingography, a process of injecting a special dye into the vagina that spreads throughout the reproductive system. This makes it easier for the doctor to spot blockages, blood clots or anatomical problems preventing pregnancy.

Some women may require a laparoscopic inspection. During such a procedure, the doctor will use a laparoscopic tool inserted into an abdominal incision to inspect the reproductive system from the inside.

Treating Infertility

Some couples who are experiencing fertility issues can find a solution with simple lifestyle changes, medication or other easy methods. Other couples will require a more robust form of treatment.

Medical science has progressed to an incredible degree, and various techniques can help modern couples conceive more easily. Artificial insemination and other assisted reproductive technologies are tremendously successful for many couples.

Arizona Gynecology Consultants works with a vast network of trusted medical providers who have experience in handling all types of infertility issues. If you’re curious about solutions for your fertility concerns, reach out to us and ask about the resources and options available in your area.

What Causes Abnormal Pap Tests - Arizona Gynecological Consultants

What Causes Abnormal Pap Tests?

All women will eventually undergo a Pap test, or Pap smear test, as a regular part of their routine medical examinations. Most women begin yearly Pap smear tests at age 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active. This procedure is one of the best methods for detecting signs of cervical cancer as early as possible, but it can detect other medical conditions as well.

During a Pap smear test, the gynecologist uses a special medical swab to remove a cell sample from the cervix, the lower opening of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Most women barely feel the test, but some experience mild cramping and discomfort as the gynecologist scrapes the cervix.

Reasons for Abnormal Pap Test Results

Some abnormal Pap smear test results happen because of relatively innocuous issues like yeast infections, bacterial infections or immune system irregularities. Smoking can cause abnormal cervical cell changes as well. Other times, an abnormal result can indicate a more serious infection.

Most abnormal Pap test results are the result of some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). This sexually transmitted disease can linger dormant in a woman’s system for years before manifesting noticeable symptoms.

A woman may have HPV for years without ever noticing anything is wrong. The cell changes that occur from some types of HPV will fade on their own over time. Although, other types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer.

Limiting Your Risk of Contracting HPV

Since HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, maintaining responsible sexual habits and practicing safe sex are two of the best ways of protecting yourself from the virus and other sexually transmitted infections.

Women who have sex with multiple partners, have sex without condoms, or have sex with one partner who also has other partners are at a higher risk of contracting HPV than women in monogamous sexual relationships.

Symptoms of Abnormal Pap Tests

A Pap smear test detects changes in cervical cells, but these changes do not entail symptoms on their own. Depending on the type of change occurring, a woman may experience a variety of possible symptoms.

Different sexually transmitted diseases cause their own set of symptoms, such as:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Lumps
  • Blisters
  • Sores
  • Warts on the genital area
  • A burning sensation or discomfort during urination or intercourse
  • Rashes

What Do My Test Results Mean?

Gynecologists deliver Pap smear test results with different classifications based on the doctor’s findings. A result of “normal” indicates that the sample cells are healthy, and that there are no irregularities in the patient’s cervix.

An “unsatisfactory” result indicates a problem with the test sample. If the lab technician cannot properly read a sample, the patient will have to retake the examination.

Another possible outcome is “benign changes,” or a relatively normal result with some minor irregularities. These benign changes can include inflammation of the cervical cells, and the gynecologist will likely recommend further tests or treatment for the cause of the inflammation.

Finally, some Pap smear tests will lead to “ASCUS” results, or “atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance.” These results break down further into more specific categories.

Possible Results and Follow-Up Tests

After an ASCUS reading, the gynecologist will sometimes recommend another Pap test later or send the patient for additional screenings. Women under the age of 24 who receive abnormal Pap test results typically receive one of the following diagnoses:

ASC-H

Women who receive this diagnosis have cervical cells that display signs of HPV. The doctor will recommend a colposcopy as a follow-up exam. A colposcopy is a more in-depth inspection of the vulva, vagina, cervix and uterus using cameras and illumination devices to spot signs of infection and other abnormalities.

Low-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion (LSIL)

This result indicates infection with HPV. The gynecologist will assess the patient’s condition, and if she appears healthy, she may not require further action aside from another Pap test the following year. If the next Pap test has the same result, the doctor will send the patient for a colposcopy.

High-Grade Intraepithelial Lesion

This result is a more advanced version of a LSIL result and indicates the patient is at a high risk of developing cervical cancer.

Atypical Glandular Cells

This result indicates changes in the glandular cells of the cervix, and the patient will need a colposcopy for further examination.

Cancer

This is rare, but some women unfortunately develop cervical cancer at a young age. The doctor will refer the patient to an oncologist to begin cancer treatment. This is one of the most important reasons for women to undergo yearly Pap smear tests.

Receiving abnormal results can be alarming, but it’s important for women to understand that an abnormal result does not necessarily indicate cervical cancer. An abnormal result simply means that the cells fall outside the normal range and require closer examination. The chance of receiving a cancer diagnosis from an abnormal Pap test result is quite small.

Ask Questions and Take Charge of Your Health

Patients at Arizona Gynecological Consultants can rest assured that the providers we work with are committed to patient health and safety. Be sure to ask all questions you may have about your Pap smear test or results at your next appointment.