6-29-18 Biggest study of vaginas shows there’s no such thing as ‘normal’
A study measuring labia and clitoris size in hundreds of women has found they vary widely, potentially helping to curb rising cosmetic surgery rates. Vaginas come in all shapes and sizes, a study of hundreds of women has revealed. The findings should reassure women who are worried about whether they are “normal”. Recent years have seen a surge in cosmetic surgeries in external female genitalia. Collectively called the vulva, these are often colloquially known as the vagina. In the UK, for example, the number of women undergoing labia reductions has increased fivefold in the last 10 years. This has partly been driven by body image pressures and partly by lack of information about genital diversity, says Emma Barnard at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Even medical textbooks tend to depict only one type of vulva: small, neat and symmetrical, she says. “They’re often highly stylised drawings that don’t accurately represent real life.” To better understand the typical dimensions of vulvas, Anne Kreklau at Lucerne Cantonal Hospital in Switzerland and her colleagues performed measurements on over 650 healthy Caucasian women aged 15 to 84. They measured the size of each participant’s inner and outer labia, clitoris, vaginal opening and perineum. The results revealed a large amount of variation. For example, the length of the inner labia was 43 millimetres on average, but ranged from 5 to 100 millimetres. And while the clitoris was 5 millimetres wide on average, it ranged from 1 to 22 millimetres. These dimensions were found to vary with age, BMI and childbirth history. The inner labia and perineum tended to be shorter in older women, for instance, while the outer labia tended to be longer in women with higher BMIs. Women who had given birth vaginally had larger vaginal openings than non-childbearing women and those who had had caesareans.
6-29-18 Polycystic ovary syndrome linked to mother’s health in pregnancy
Women who are overweight or smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have daughters who develop polycystic ovary syndrome, a nationwide study has found. Women who are overweight or smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have daughters who develop polycystic ovary syndrome, a nationwide study has found. Polycystic ovary syndrome affects about one in ten women and is the most common cause of female infertility. It is typically characterised by ovarian cysts, irregular menstrual cycles and high testosterone levels. The exact causes of the syndrome are unknown, but growing evidence suggests it can be triggered by environmental factors in the womb. To explore this idea, Heiddis Valgeirsdottir at Uppsala University in Sweden and her colleagues studied the pregnancy records of all women who gave birth to daughters in Sweden between 1982 and 1995. They matched these with the current health records of their daughters, who are now in their twenties and thirties. The researchers found that daughters of women who were overweight or obese during pregnancy were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome than those whose mothers had been within the healthy weight range during pregnancy. Being overweight during pregnancy is known to raise testosterone levels, which may interact with the fetus and lead to polycystic ovary syndrome, says Paolo Giacobini at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, who was not involved in the study. His team is currently studying whether this mechanism occurs in mice. The study also found that daughters of mothers who smoked 1 to 9 cigarettes per day during pregnancy were 1.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with the syndrome than those whose mothers were non-smokers. This may be because cigarette smoke can damage the ovaries in the developing fetus, says Valgeirsdottir.
6-14-18 The number of teens who report having sex is down
But so is condom use among high school students who are sexually active. Fewer teens are having sex than at any point since 1991, a national survey of U.S. high school students finds. But among those students who are sexually active, fewer are using condoms, raising the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. About 40 percent of teens surveyed in 2017 reported having ever had sex. That’s down from about 54 percent in 1991, the first year the survey was conducted. Of the roughly 29 percent of students who are currently sexually active — defined as having had sexual intercourse with at least one person in the three months before the survey — nearly 54 percent reported that either they or their partner used a condom the last time they had had sex. Ten years ago, about 61 percent of teens reported condom use. Cora Breuner, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, says that pediatricians have been doing a better job educating teens about sex. “The more kids know about it, the less mystique there is about it,” she says, and “the more they want to wait.” “I’m actually more concerned about the lack of condom use,” says Breuner, who also chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Adolescence. She sees two reasons for the drop: Less fear of HIV with the advent of antiretroviral drugs and wider availability of long acting contraceptives, which are very effective at preventing pregnancy. “We are not doing a good job informing kids about protecting themselves from getting sick with infections that can last the rest of their lives and have significant negative outcomes, including infertility and even death.”
6-14-18 Russian MP: Avoid sex with foreign men during World Cup
A prominent Russian MP has been heavily criticised after urging women not to have sex with foreign men during the World Cup. Communist Party MP Tamara Pletnyova told a Moscow Radio station that she was "not a nationalist" but believed Russian women should avoid sex with people "of a different race" because "their children suffer". She was responding to a question about the "kids of the Olympics" - referencing the claim that there was a spike in births of mixed-race children in Russia after the 1980 Summer Olympics. Ms Pletnyova said that these children were "abandoned" by their foreign fathers. "It's not so bad if the fathers are of the same race," she said. "But if they are of a different race, then that's it. "[The children] are abandoned, and they stay here with their mother. We should be giving birth to our children." Ms Pletnyova has been widely condemned online, with some people drawing parallels between her comments and Fifa's Say No to Racism campaign. Recalling how a former ice skater defended a racist tweet by claiming her Twitter account had been hacked, radio presenter Tayana Felgengauer wondered if Ms Pletnyova might claim something similar had happened to her. "I wonder what Pletnyova will say when they remind her of Say No to Racism," she tweeted. Further critics of Ms Pletnyova have included one who called for her to be "thrown out of the Duma" (Russian parliament). One Twitter user wondered if the Russian MP intended to "monitor the behaviour of female Russians of reproductive age", while another pointed out the irony in the fact Ms Pletnyova had previously been "the head of the Committee for Nationalities".
6-11-18 Catalan village women vote for topless bathing after row at pool
The women in a village near Barcelona have voted to go topless in public swimming pools, scrapping a local ban. The vote in L'Ametlla del Vallès went 61% for topless bathing, 39% against. The Catalan local authority organised the vote - whose result is legally binding - for women aged 16 and above, and 379 took part. Women pressed for the vote after police turned up at one of the pools last summer and ordered two women to put on their bikini tops. A lifeguard had reported them to the police. The case prompted an original protest by villagers supporting the women: bathers - women and men - went to the pool wearing bikini tops on which they had drawn nipples. (Webmaster's comment: As long as clothing is still optional there is nothing wrong with nude swimming.)
6-7-18 Storm over India film on women who 'smoke, drink and have sex'
A Bollywood summer film that shows female bonding among four hard drinking, foul-mouthed friends has sparked a social media storm. Set in south Delhi, one of India's poshest neighbourhoods, Veere Di Wedding is about a group of school friends who are now grown up independent women. The film is about four BFFs (best friends forever) and a wedding gone wrong. The four friends swear freely, drink and throw up with equal speed, and have flings. They deal with familiar Indian social tropes like the distaste for arranged marriages, weight issues, being judged by friends and relatives, putting up with the pressures of a big fat over-the-top wedding, and balancing parental approval and those of husbands' families. Their open and casual swearing and discussion of their sexual needs seems a breath of fresh air for an Indian film. The four women are unapologetic about wanting sex or their flippant display of wealth. Veere Di Wedding began trending on Twitter soon after a successful release, as a group of viewers attacked the actor Swara Bhaskar, who plays one of the female leads, for a scene which shows her masturbating. One of them said he was "embarrassed" about the scene as he had taken his granny along to watch the film. Indian politician and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah couldn't help his sarcasm. There were also jokes galore on taking grandparents to films containing taboo subjects. The film shows Bhaskar's character's marriage unravelling after her husband finds her in bed "flying solo". She tells her friend she had "half-cheated" on her spouse. She says her husband, who saw her with a sex toy, had begun to "blackmail her" and she takes to the bottle to overcome her shame before her parents and relatives.
6-6-18 Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has no respect for Stormy Daniels
A lawyer for US President Donald Trump has said a porn actress who claims she had an affair with Mr Trump does not deserve "respect" due to her sex work. "I respect women - beautiful women and women with value - but a woman who sells her body for sexual exploitation I don't respect," said Rudy Giuliani. "Someone who sells his or her body for money has no good name," he added. A lawyer for actress Stormy Daniels, who is suing Mr Trump for defamation, called Mr Giuliani "an absolute pig". (Webmaster's comment: That's insulting to pigs!) Speaking at an investment conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, Mr Giuliani told a panellist: "I'm sorry I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who... isn't going to sell her body for sexual exploitation." "I mean, she has no reputation. If you're going to sell your body for money, you just don't have a reputation. I may be old fashioned." he continued. In response, Ms Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, called the former New York mayor a "misogynist". He added: "His client Mr Trump didn't seem to have any 'moral' issues with her and others back in 2006."
6-6-18 There are benefits to prenatal yoga, but lingering questions remain
Studies have found prenatal yoga can offer intriguing benefits. But the body of evidence needs more rigorous research added to it, scientists say. Pregnant women are on the receiving end of a long to-do list when it comes to maintaining their own health and that of their fetus. Don’t lift too much, eat this, drink that, lie or sit this way for too long. Exercise is on that list of orders, too. Pregnant women without certain complications are encouraged to exercise, but anyone watching their midsection slowly obscure their toes will tell you that the types of exercise you can and want to do winnow as pregnancy progresses. During my first pregnancy, I got tired of just walking. Without a gym membership, I wasn’t keen on water aerobics. Lifting weights was never my thing. So midway through I found myself attending a prenatal yoga class. Immediately I felt I was on to something good: My brain and body felt better after the breathing exercises, meditation and stretches that are tailored for pregnant women. I had some reservations about a few of the poses: Was it OK to lie on my back or do a downward-facing dog? There’s still some debate over whether it’s safe for pregnant women to do these things, and, at the time — in 2015 — studies on prenatal yoga were just starting to emerge in some number. A little digging into the research shows that most pregnant women would be wise to consider prenatal yoga. The studies find numerous and varied benefits. But researchers caution that more studies that meet more rigorous standards need to be conducted.
6-6-18 Why we're still into Sex and the City - 20 years on
It's been exactly 20 years since Sex and the City, with its infuriatingly catchy theme tune and THAT tutu in the opening credits, burst onto TV screens. At the time, it was seen as revolutionary - four women talking openly about their love (and sex) lives with a lot of NSFW scenes shown on screen. Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha became as real as our own friends, from their first appearance on 6 June 1998 to the final episode (countless dates, several husbands and a baby or two later) in 2004. Its stars - Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall - are now household names, and in a real-life plot twist, one of them could now become governor of New York, the city where the show was set. A lot has changed since the show, based on the book by Candace Bushell, first aired in 1998, with some of the lines in the show now seeming hugely outdated. But there's still a lot of love for SATC. Here's how it's still making an impact.
6-4-18 Woman survives metastatic breast cancer thanks to new treatment
A therapy that targets the immune system has had dramatic results in people with four types of cancer in advanced stages that were previously untreatable. A woman with advanced breast cancer has made a dramatic recovery after receiving a personalised therapy using her own immune cells. It’s the first time this type of therapy has worked in breast cancer, suggesting that it may be able to help many more people with common types of cancer, even after they’ve spread to other parts of the body. Judy Perkins, from Florida, had breast cancer that had spread to other organs, despite trying seven other cancer treatments. “She had tennis ball-sized lesions throughout her liver, says Steven Rosenberg at the National Institutes of Health, Maryland. “It probably would have killed her in the next two to three months.” But Rosenberg and colleagues tried a new method for boosting the immune system to treat her cancer, and six weeks later, Perkin’s tumours had halved in size. A year later, they had disappeared. Two and a half years on from treatment, she remains healthy. Perkins said she was “planning on dying” before she enrolled in the trial. Since having the treatment, she has resumed a normal life, including long hikes and kayaking expeditions. The treatment works by targeting genetic mutations that are acquired by cancer cells as they grow and multiply. These mutations are different in each patient, and some cause changes in the proteins that sit on the surface of cells. These surface proteins can be recognised by the immune system, prompting it to attack the cancer cells, but this immune reaction is usually not powerful enough to fight the cancer on its own.
6-4-18 New Zealand sex work activist Catherine Healy made a dame
A former sex worker who led a successful campaign to decriminalise prostitution in New Zealand has been made a dame in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. Catherine Healy, 62, was recognised with an Order of Merit for services to the rights of sex workers on Monday. She was instrumental in bringing about a new law in 2003, which gave full employment rights to sex workers. "I was startled when this was offered," she told the BBC. "I'm in shock." "I think even a few weeks ago I wouldn't have thought this was possible. It's indicative of a shift in people's attitudes and it's lovely to feel supported." Ms Healy worked as a primary school teacher before becoming a sex worker in the 1980s. She says she was shocked at the lack of protections in place, especially after coming from the unionised profession of teaching. "We were spoken about as young sex workers in a disrespectful way," she said. "We needed to find our voice and we needed to be understood." In 1987, Ms Healy formed the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC), which advocates for sex workers' rights. The group was at the forefront of a long campaign to decriminalise sex work in the country and argued that doing so would make the profession safer. It helped draft the Prostitution Reform Act, which was passed in 2003 and allowed brothels to operate as legitimate businesses. The law also meant sex workers were subject to ordinary employment and health-and-safety rules. "There is still a stigma around sex work," she says." I think other countries should look at New Zealand. We should have a vision, it's about not ostracising and making [sex work] more dangerous."
6-3-18 Mammograms under the microscope
For some women, the screenings for breast cancer can do more harm than good.
- What’s the debate over mammograms? Major cancer organizations and women’s health groups have disagreed for years about whether widespread breast cancer screenings are helpful, as well as the best age for women to begin receiving them and how frequently.
- How effective are the screenings? The sensitivity of mammograms is about 87 percent, meaning the tests correctly identify 87 percent of women who truly have breast cancer.
- Why would overdiagnosis be harmful? Mammograms can result in false positives or detect benign cancers that won’t ever become health threats during a woman’s lifetime.
- What do guidelines recommend? The American Cancer Society suggests women undergo annual tests from 45 until 55—it had earlier recommended beginning at age 40—and then switch to every other year.
- What advice are doctors following? A recent study found that a full 81 percent of surveyed doctors continue to offer mammograms for women beginning at age 40.
- The risks and benefits of prostate screenings: Prostate cancer will kill more than 29,000 American men this year, making it the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. men.
6-3-18 Birth rates: Why aren’t Americans having babies?
“Americans are less inclined than ever, it seems, to be fruitful and multiply,” said Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe. The U.S. fertility rate hit a record low in 2017, according to alarming new data, with 60.2 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. We’ve dropped below the “replacement” fertility rate of 2.1 births for each woman of childbearing age to 1.7 births. “That should trouble anyone who hopes that America’s best days are yet to come.” In Japan and other countries, plummeting birth rates have led to economic stagnation and social malaise, with fewer workers to replenish a shrinking labor force and care for the elderly. “This slump began, somewhat predictably, during the Great Recession,” said Christine Emba in The Washington Post. Birth rates usually decline during recessions and rebound once things improve, but so far that hasn’t happened. So, “what is holding up the stork?” The answer seems obvious to me, said Amy Westervelt in The Guardian. “The U.S. is a remarkably harsh place for families, and particularly for mothers.” It’s one of the few countries in the world without government-subsidized maternity leave, and only 56 percent of private com panies provide maternity leave. Mothers who want or need to work can also “look forward to an increasingly large pay gap for every child they have, plus fewer promotions,” as well as painful child-care costs. In 33 states and Washington, D.C., average child-care costs now exceed the price of in-state college tuition. Want more babies? Make it easier to be a parent.
6-2-18 Better orgasms and no leaks: Tips for a strong pelvic floor
"I had had three kids and was a bit leaky," says Elaine Miller. Her experience is very common, so now she teaches others how to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. Squeeze along as she shares some exercises with a group of mums.
5-31-18 Guidelines call for limits to whole genome testing for fetuses
While still growing in the womb, a fetus’s full genome can be tested, but the approach should be limited to special cases, three medical groups say. Decades ago, pregnant women had to wait about 40 weeks before knowing much about their baby. But swiftly moving technology offers increasingly detailed peeks into the womb. Beyond generating adorable 3-D ultrasounds of scrunched-up faces, researchers can now analyze a fetus’s full genome from a simple blood draw from mom. But these genome-wide prenatal tests are not ready for prime time, three medical organizations argued in a position paper in the January Prenatal Diagnosis. The method is undoubtedly powerful. Scanning the entire genome can reveal DNA abnormalities that more limited genetic tests might miss. But scientists don’t know enough about the performance of these tests, or their pitfalls, to recommend routine use, wrote representatives from the International Society for Prenatal Diagnosis, the Perinatal Quality Foundation and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. How to interpret the information these tests provide is not always obvious. Many genetic quirks have little or no influence on human health, and sifting through a mountain of genetic data to identify the important signals isn’t easy. So far, large studies that could reveal the utility of these tests simply haven’t been done.
5-30-18 Women aren’t being told real risks of cervical cancer screening
Efforts to prevent cervical cancer seem so straightforward that few women question them, but unnecessary treatment can cause miscarriages and premature births. FOR most women, smear or Pap tests are an uncomfortable but necessary chore. More properly known as cervical cancer screening tests, they usually involve lying down with your legs apart while a doctor or nurse swabs some cells from the top of your vagina. No one likes it, but it is not usually painful and quickly over with. If anything is wrong, a simple surgical procedure can remove the affected tissue before it develops into something more sinister. In the UK, most women between 25 and 64 are regularly offered tests and usually accept, however grudgingly, as cervical screening is seen as a no-brainer. And yet, perhaps we should be putting a bit more thought into the whole approach. For those whose tests find abnormal cells, there are downsides to the follow-up procedure that removes part of the cervix: it can cause miscarriages and premature births, and a few say it has hurt their sex lives. To make matters worse, some women who don’t want the tests at all are getting pressured into having them, with this going far beyond the normal bounds of ethical practice. “We are increasingly discovering that health screening can lead to overtreatment” The prevailing view is that any negatives are worth it if it saves your life. But abnormalities that show up on the screening tests usually go away by themselves. This fact is already leading UK doctors to debate whether some women would be better off with “watchful waiting”: not performing surgery, and repeating the test at a later date. Later this year they look set to restrict who is offered surgery.
5-30-18 Finally, a plan on how to include pregnant women in clinical trials
Pregnant women looking for information about drug safety mostly come up short, since these women have been largely excluded from trials that study drugs. Among the stark changes for a woman during pregnancy is what she sees when she opens the medicine cabinet. The medications she wouldn’t have given a second thought to months earlier may now prompt worry and doubt. With any drug on the shelf, she may wonder: Is this medicine safe? Do I need to adjust the dose? Avoid it altogether? An expectant mom with just a cold or a headache will find drug labels suggesting she ask a health professional before use. Turns out, those health professionals are in the same boat as their pregnant patients: There is very little, if any, information about whether many drugs are safe to give to expectant mothers. And that can lead to situations that put fear of harm to the fetus over the health of the mother. Case in point: As a medical resident, bioethicist and obstetrician/gynecologist Anne Lyerly got a call from a friend and fellow resident working at a different hospital. The chief resident there was trying to resuscitate a dying woman who was pregnant, and instructed Lyerly’s friend to find out what drugs were safe to use. “I said, ‘you need to tell your chief resident that he needs to go save his patient’s life,’” Lyerly recalls, and not worry about possible harms from the drugs required to do so. The widespread reluctance to provide medication to pregnant women stems from a dearth of data on treating illnesses with drugs during pregnancy. But because pregnant women have been generally excluded from clinical trials that study drugs, there isn’t much data to be had.
5-30-18 Canada politician seeks to decriminalise payment for surrogacy
A Canadian MP is proposing that the country decriminalise payment for women who choose to become surrogates. As global demand for Canadian surrogates grows, is commercialising the practice the answer? Leia Swanberg is the only person ever to be prosecuted under a Canadian law that prevents payment for surrogacy and limits the activities of surrogacy agencies. A two-time surrogate herself, the fertility agency owner and her company walked away with a combined C$60,000 ($46,000; £35,000) fine in 2014. "My office being raided, my house being raided - you know it was a little unnecessary, it was a little overkill," she says. The fines received by Ms Swanberg - who pleaded guilty to purchasing eggs, paying surrogates, and taking money to arrange surrogacies - could have been worse. Breaking the federal law could mean jail time, a fine of up to $500,000, or both. Surrogacy is legal in Canada but paying a surrogate is not. Canadian women who offer to carry someone else's child are "altruistic" surrogates and can only be compensated for related out-of-pocket expenses. Egg and sperm donors also are not compensated, and Canada currently imports 95% of sperm used by fertility clinics. Agencies can't match surrogates with prospective parents but can offer assistance and referrals. This week, a federal Liberal MP introduced a private member's bill that could change that. Anthony Housefather's proposed legislation would decriminalise payment for surrogacy, as well as for egg and sperm donations. "There is no right in Canada to have a child," the politician told journalists on Tuesday. "But there is a right to liberty." Critics of the current law say surrogacy should be considered a health - not a criminal - matter.
5-24-18 Making new citizens
The number of babies born to American women dropped to a 30-year low in 2016, with 3.85 million births, according to new federal statistics. With growing numbers of women delaying childbirth into their 30s or forgoing it altogether, the general fertility rate for women ages 15 to 44 was 60.2 births per 1,000 women—the lowest rate since the government began tracking more than a century ago.
5-17-18 Fast food and infertility
Women trying to get pregnant should steer clear of fast foods and eat more fresh fruit instead. That’s the conclusion of a new study that followed the diets of nearly 5,600 women in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the U.K. Researchers found that participants who ate meals at fast-food restaurants at least four times a week took nearly a month longer to conceive than those who rarely ate fast food. And while women who rarely or never ate fast food had an 8 percent risk of infertility—defined as not being able to get pregnant after a year of trying—the risk was 16 percent among regular fast-food eaters. Meanwhile, women who ate fruit at least three times a day got pregnant two weeks faster on average than women who ate fruit less than once a month. “It shows that healthier foods support conception,” study leader Jessica Grieger tells NBCNews.com. Researchers note that a high-fat diet has been shown to have a toxic effect on the ovaries of mice, and that fast food could have a similar effect on human-egg cells.
5-11-18 Sex and dating when you live with your parents
There are more young adults living with their parents than ever before - but what does that mean if you're single? Singing teacher Miri Gellert is nearly 30, has lived at home for the past nine years and has had her share of awkward encounters.
5-17-18 US birth rates drop to lowest since 1987
Births in the US have dropped to their lowest rate in 30 years, marking a cultural s