PCOS: Erasing the Stigma

two womenUntil I encountered health-related issues of my very own, I had never heard of PCOS. There are no PSAs, no health class curricula, and it is not uncommon for many physicians to be unfamiliar with the seemingly unrelated symptoms that can be a detriment to the life of a woman who is affected.

Irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, sluggishness, thinning hair, depression, acne, infertility, and sometimes (but not always) cysts on the ovaries are what a woman with PCOS may have to battle on a daily basis. Not only must a woman endure the physical effects of this disorder, but also the psychological effects that come with these changes. To be clear, that is by no means a comprehensive list of symptoms.

This is polycystic ovarian syndrome, and it affects more than 5 million women in the United States alone. Continue reading

It’s August: A Time to Be Aware of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Image: Kona Gallagher

There are many simple things we can do to protect our children. Image: Kona Gallagher

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. The importance of vaccination is becoming a bigger issue every year, as 2014 has seen the highest number of measles cases reported since 2000. That is scary.

Too many people think that diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough, and chickenpox are “normal childhood illnesses,” and that their kid’s immune system is strong enough to fight off these diseases. Too many people have forgotten what it was like before vaccines were commonplace. Too many people don’t stop to think about the long-term consequences of not vaccinating. Not just for them, but for those around them. Even for people they have never met.


When people tell me measles isn’t a big deal, I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach.


I am one of those people you have never met.

My story starts before I was even born. My older brother was given the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine. He was one of the small percentage of recipients that had a bad reaction. So when I was born, they skipped giving it to me. Not to worry, herd immunity would protect me — at least that’s what my doctor said.  Continue reading

Women’s Health Week: Making Time for You and Your Health!

yogaThe following guest post comes to us via Stasee McKeny, Planned Parenthood Arizona’s community engagement intern.

Mother’s Day kicks off National Women’s Health Week (May 11 to 17), a week dedicated to empowering women to make health a priority in their lives.


After celebrating Mother’s Day, make health a priority throughout Women’s Health Week!


Making health a priority isn’t always easy for women. Women are more likely than men to avoid getting necessary health care because of the cost — 30 percent of insured women didn’t fill a prescription, 21 percent didn’t see a specialist, 24 percent skipped medical test treatment or follow-up, and 27 percent had a medical problem but didn’t see a health care provider. Affording health care is significantly more difficult for women who not only make less money than their male counterparts, but also use more health care services, like 12 months of birth control. Luckily, with health care reform, these disparities are slowly changing. Close to 27 million women with private health insurance gained expanded access to preventive health care services with no cost-sharing.

More women than ever now have access to affordable health care services and there is no better time to take advantage of this. During National Women’s Health Week, women are encouraged to do a number of things — whether it is making an appointment with a health care provider for a well-woman exam or deciding to eat healthy and exercise. Continue reading

National Infant Immunization Week: A Timely Reminder to Protect Your Child

babyVaccinations, or immunizations, are important for the health of your baby. National Infant Immunization Week, in its 20th year, continues to educate and inform parents of this important information. In the first two years of your infant’s life, vaccines can protect against 14 diseases.


How wonderful that science enables us to protect our little ones from serious diseases like polio, tetanus, and diphtheria!


Under five years of age, a child’s immune system is not developed enough to defend against some infections that can cause disability and even death. Vaccination schedules for infants are designed to protect them at times when they are most vulnerable to potentially serious diseases — diseases that are easily transmitted and quickly overwhelm an immature defense system. Vaccines contain “germs,” such as inactivated or weakened bacteria or viruses, that can stimulate an immune response. The amount and type of “germs” in vaccines are designed to help infants’ immune systems develop protection from the serious consequences of getting that disease.

Watching your baby undergo painful injections that may give them some uncomfortable reactions like fever and aches can make any parent worry, but these short-term effects are much less serious than getting the disease. For example, mothers — who may not even know they have hepatitis B because they do not show symptoms — can transmit the disease to their baby during childbirth. Years later, that child may develop serious liver disease. By routinely receiving a hepatitis B vaccine at birth, babies are protected from this life-threatening disease. Continue reading

Giving Thanks to Obamacare

thanksgivingThe following guest post comes to us via Morganne Rosenhaus, community engagement coordinator for Planned Parenthood Arizona.

This year, as a 20-something woman, I have a whole lot to be thankful for and I want to take a moment to share, because I know it’s not just me the universe is smiling down on.


Those of us celebrating Thanksgiving have so much to be thankful for this year.


I am thankful for the Affordable Care Act — a bill that has and will continue to change the lives of so many people in the United States. I should also say I am equally thankful that the 40-plus attempts to stop the Affordable Care Act from being enacted didn’t pass either (whew!).

I want to take a moment to share what it is about the ACA that makes it so amazing — especially for young women.

Inclusion on your parents’ health insurance until you turn 26. Let’s face it, these days it is not a given that you graduate and immediately start working a full-time job with benefits. Finding a job takes time and sometimes you have to take the part-time waitressing gig, the retail job, or an unpaid internship on the way to landing that dream job. And, newsflash, internships and part-time jobs usually don’t include benefits like health insurance (unless things have changed in the last few years…).

Free birth control. The rumors are true. Birth control is FREE. Just wait until you have that moment where you pick up your pills and don’t pay anything — it is pretty darn exciting.

Tons of other preventive health care benefits that will make your head spin. Free birth control is awesome, but not every woman needs or wants birth control. Other women might be pretty excited for the free breastfeeding supplies and counseling, or interpersonal and domestic violence screening, which are also available at no cost through the ACA.

Affordable health insurance. With cost-sharing and tax premiums available to people who need them most, health insurance is affordable for more people. Plus, if you are a woman, you don’t have to worry about how being a woman might impact your coverage. Can you believe that insurance companies could, at one point in time, charge women more just because being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition?!

Although the Affordable Care Act has been slowly coming together over the past few years, this year had some of the more important, hallmark ACA pieces come to fruition. With the exchanges opening (well, sort of…) in October and coverage starting as early as January 1, 2014 for millions (yes, I said millions) of people, 2013 was sort of a big deal. Plus, starting January 1, 2014, your health insurance really does have to let you get your birth control for free. No more games.

So tomorrow, I am giving thanks to something that has not only changed my life, but also the lives of so many other young women just like me — and it will continue to do so in the coming years!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 18: Cholesterol Testing

vegetablesWelcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.


It’s National Cholesterol Education Month.


Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death in our country, and high cholesterol is a major risk factor for both of these conditions. Most people with high cholesterol don’t have it under control, even though it is both preventable and treatable. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, adults 20 years of age and older should have their cholesterol checked every five years. And, with two out of three adults suffering from high cholesterol, keeping track of your cholesterol is important.

What is cholesterol?

plaqueCholesterol is a waxy substance, sort of like fat, that can coat the walls of your arteries, forming a “plaque.” This is also referred to as “hardening of the arteries” or atherosclerosis. You’ll often hear comments like, “Those fast-food cheeseburgers will clog your arteries” — regularly eating food that is high in saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol that circulates in your bloodstream, increasing your risk for health problems. When arteries have too much plaque, they narrow, and your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body.

Our bodies need cholesterol to function, but they’re able to synthesize it themselves — unlike many vitamins and minerals, we can make our own cholesterol and don’t need to get it from food. Cholesterol comes in two types: “good” cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein (HDL); and “bad” cholesterol, or low density lipoprotein (LDL). “High cholesterol” refers to high levels of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL is what forms plaque in the arteries, while HDL prevents plaque buildup, likely by carrying the LDL to the liver, which processes it before it’s excreted from the body. Continue reading

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 17: Primary Care Services

doctorWelcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.


The following guest post comes to us via Morganne Rosenhaus, community engagement coordinator for Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Feeling a little under the weather with a sore throat, aches, and stuffy nose? In need of a medical professional to tell you what the rash all over your arms might be or help you make a plan to stop smoking? These are the moments when you visit a primary care physician, right?


Planned Parenthood Arizona now provides primary care, a necessary service for the community.


Well, what happens when you can’t find a primary care physician in your area or you find one but he or she isn’t taking any new patients? What happens if you don’t have insurance to cover the visit in the first place? You might get some over-the-counter medication to help with the stuffy nose, you might go to the hospital because that rash is not looking any better, but emergency department visits can be expensive. Or maybe you don’t do anything at all.

Starting this month, you have another option. Planned Parenthood Arizona will be offering primary care services at our Central Phoenix location. Continue reading