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67 Women's Sexuality News Articles
from 2018 2nd Half
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12-13-18 US recall after women say tampons 'unravel' during use
A US tampon manufacturer has announced a recall of some products after complaints of tampons unravelling and becoming stuck inside women's bodies. Kimberly-Clark said they had received reports of Kotex Sleek tampons "coming apart", causing some users to require medical help removing the pieces. The press release on Tuesday said any women with vaginal pain, bleeding or irritation should see a doctor at once. Toxic shock can sometimes occur if tampons are left inside for too long. According to a statement from Kimberly Clark, there have been "a small number of reports of infections, vaginal irritation, localised vaginal injury and other symptoms" due to the "quality-related defect". The specific products under recall are only regular absorbency U by Kotex Sleek tampons manufactured between 7 October, 2016 and 16 October 2018, distributed between 17 October, 2016 and 23 October, 2018. Kimberly-Clark also urged any women experiencing hot flashes, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting after using the tampons to seek medical attention immediately. The company statement includes product codes consumers can look for to ensure they do not use any recalled tampons. Retailers are pulling the faulty tampons from shelves and including notices in stores. In a FAQ on the U by Kotex website, the company said they "are putting systems in place to prevent the occurrence of similar issues in the future". The recall sparked concerns about toxic shock syndrome (TSS) - a condition largely attributed to faulty tampons that affected hundreds and killed dozens of US women in the early 1980s. The highly absorbent tampon materials used at the time led to women developing a serious bacterial infection. According to Mayo Clinic, TSS can cause high fevers, rashes, liver and kidney problems, difficulty breathing, and even death.
12-12-18 Babies born in opioid withdrawal have unusually small heads
A new study suggests the drugs may impair brain growth. Babies born dependent on opioids have smaller heads than babies not exposed to the drugs in the womb. The finding, published online December 10 in Pediatrics, raises concerns that the drugs are impairing brain growth during development. And it highlights questions about the safest approach to managing opioid addiction during pregnancy, researchers say. Pregnant women who use opioids — or the drugs methadone or buprenorphine, opioids taken to treat addiction — pass the drugs through the bloodstream to babies. Infants can become dependent on the drugs in the womb, and experience withdrawal symptoms after birth. The disorder, marked by excessive crying, tremors or difficulty sleeping or feeding, is called neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS (SN: 6/10/17, p. 16). In the new study, researchers compared the head sizes of close to 860 babies born from 2014 to 2016, half with NAS and half from mothers who had not taken opioids while pregnant. Newborns with NAS had a head circumference nearly 1 centimeter smaller, on average, than babies not exposed to the drugs, the team found. And of the NAS babies, 30 percent had especially small heads. That was true for only 12 percent of babies without the condition. A smaller head is a possible sign of a smaller brain. The new work suggests that for those NAS babies who later have learning and behavioral problems, a contributing factor may be the effect of opioids on brain growth and development, says neonatologist Jonathan Davis.
12-9-18 Why our Western biases about arranged marriages are wrong
We must not be quick to judge how other people experience love. In his book In Praise of Love (2009), the French communist philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the notion of "risk-free love," which he sees written in the commercial language of dating services that promise their customers "love, without falling in love." For Badiou, the search for "perfect love without suffering" signifies a "modern" variant of "traditional" arranged-marriage practices — a risk-averse, calculated approach to love that aims to diminish our exposure to differences: "Their idea is you calculate who has the same tastes, the same fantasies, the same holidays, wants the same number of children. [They try] to go back to arranged marriages," writes Badiou. The philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj ?i?ek subscribes to similar ideas about arranged marriages, referring to them as a "pre-modern procedure." When it comes to the view of arranged marriage in the West, Badiou and ?i?ek offer relatively genteel criticisms. Popular and learned representations of the practice almost always associate it with honor killings, acid attacks, and child marriages. It's often presumed to be the same thing as a forced marriage; coerced, dutiful, predictable — the very opposite of individual agency and romantic love. Due to the growth of international migration, the question of how Western states treat arranged marriages bears very serious consequences in terms of how we perceive the emotional lives of migrants and diasporic community members. The prevalent Western perception of illegitimacy is unwarranted, based both on ignorance of arranged marriage and on a lack of insight into Western norms. (Webmaster's comment: Love has nothing to do with marriage. Marriage is an partnership arrangement to provide for successful breeding and raising of the results.)
12-6-18 Cambodia releases surrogate mothers who agree to keep children
Thirty-two surrogate mothers charged with human trafficking in Cambodia for carrying babies for Chinese clients have been released after agreeing to keep the children, officials say. The women were arrested in June in a raid as part of a crackdown on the country's commercial surrogacy trade. Surrogacy was banned in Cambodia in 2016, a year after neighbouring Thailand imposed limits on the service. Demand has risen in recent years since China's easing of its one-child policy. A further five people, including a Chinese national, have been arrested and charged with human trafficking in connection with the case. The release of the Cambodian surrogate mothers this week was agreed on "humanitarian grounds", a police official working with the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) said. The official, who asked not to be named, said that while the women had committed a crime, their babies were innocent, and for that reason the NCCT had requested their freedom on condition. "They have agreed not to sell the babies and will raise them," he confirmed, stating that if the women break the agreement they could face human trafficking charges, which could result in up to 15 years in prison, AFP news agency reports. In contrast, acting as an intermediary between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman is punishable by up to six months in prison.
12-4-18 Surrogate mothers: 'I gave birth but it’s not my baby'
Canada has become a hot destination for parents-to-be looking for "altruistic surrogates" - women who give birth to babies they are not genetically related to and only charge pregnancy-related expenses in return. Marissa Muzzell spent 16 hours in labour to deliver a baby girl. She suffered from acute morning sickness during her pregnancy and had to be hospitalised twice. She underwent months of daily hormone injections and previously endured four failed embryo transfers. She did all of this for a baby that is not hers. Marissa, 32, is a surrogate in Canada, where hundreds of women like her volunteer to give birth to children that will then go home with somebody else. "I've just created [a] family… someone else's family," says Marissa laughing, still recovering in the delivery room after handing over the newborn to the baby's parents - a same-sex couple from Spain. There is a steady surge in demand for surrogacy globally. Canada has experienced dramatic growth in the practice, with some estimates suggesting an increase of more than 400% in the past decade. Surrogacy here is "altruistic" - meaning the women who carry the babies cannot make a financial gain out of it. Canada is not the only country where this type of surrogacy is the norm - this is also the case in the UK, for example. But the legislation in most Canadian provinces makes it easier for intended parents to obtain legal parenthood of a surrogate baby. Also, unlike some other countries, Canada opens this practice to same-sex couples and single parents. Altruistic surrogacy is more ethically acceptable for some and also a lot cheaper, compared to countries where surrogacy is commercial, such as the US.
12-3-18 Is visiting a robot brothel ok? Most people say yes, if you are single
Are we ready for sex robot brothels? People tend to be OK with the idea of a single person paying for sex with a robot, but less so for those in committed relationships, according to new surveys. Mika Koverola at the University of Helsinki in Finland ran two surveys of 172 and 260 people, who answered questions that measured their moral code, their sexual and emotional relationships, and their experience with science fiction as a proxy for their familiarity with the idea of sex robots. Then, the respondents were asked to judge the moral character and the actions of people in a scenario. The story was set in the year 2035, in which the main character, who was either male or female and single or married, was on a business trip to a western European city when they decided to visit a brothel. Depending on which scenario was presented, there was a sign that read either “You cannot tell our robots from real humans” or “All our workers are real humans.” The main character paid in cash for the services they received, though no details of the sexual acts were included in the study. Overall, participants condemned a married person who visited the brothel most harshly, and a single person who did so least harshly. People who had more sexual experience were more permissive towards the idea of visiting a brothel, regardless of the nature of the sex worker. And women more harshly condemned the characters than men did. Koverola and his team will present this research in December at the International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots in Montana. “Relationships seem to drive how people morally judge the use of sex robots,” says Thomas Arnold at Tufts University, who has done his own research on people’s views of this topic. “The more you start thinking about it as something that could compete against or interfere with your relationships, that seems to be what people morally object to.”
11-30-18 'People find anything about the vagina hard to talk about'
For decades there has been relatively little technical innovation in women's health products, but the rise of connected devices and a lifting of health taboos around the world is giving rise to a global "femtech" industry worth many billions. Women make up 51% of the world's population, but many of the issues they have to deal with, from menstruation to menopause, have often been taboo subjects. As a result, women have been underserved when it comes to new products. But things are changing - female-focused technology, or femtech for short, is booming, with research consultancy Frost & Sullivan saying the market could be worth $50bn (£39bn) by 2025. Moody founder Amy Thomson was motivated by personal experience to move into femtech. She was running a communications agency when she was diagnosed with issues related to the stress hormone cortisol. "My periods had stopped and I realised there wasn't anything out there for me. The technology that was there was basic," she says. Moody asks for your age and the date of your last period. From there, users can keep track of how their hormones are changing, to help themselves understand their bodies and work with them. "We are creating and using technology to support women in a way that is safe for them," she says. That includes not selling users' data on to corporations, says Ms Thomson. Moody aims to introduce a wellness marketplace where users can buy items based on their stated preferences around topics like diet and exercise. "Women are now in positions of greater responsibility and power, and we can see that these problems can be solved by technology," she says. "The space is booming because people are realising they are being underserved in these areas."
11-29-18 Sabarimala: India activist held for 'explicit' thigh photo
An Indian woman who made an unsuccessful attempt last month to enter one of Hinduism's holiest temples has been arrested and charges against her include "exposing her thigh" in a photograph she posted on Facebook while dressed as a pilgrim. Rehana Fathima, 32-year-old telecom technician, activist and model, was stopped by protesters from entering the Sabarimala shrine which has historically been closed to all women of "menstruating age". Hinduism regards menstruating women as unclean and bars them from participating in religious rituals. The shrine management says the ban on women is also because the temple deity Lord Ayyappa was a bachelor. In September, India's Supreme Court overturned the ban, allowing women of all ages to visit the temple. In October, Ms Fathima and a female journalist, protected by more than 100 policemen, had trekked to the hilltop shrine and managed to reach the main temple premises. But they had to return after a stand-off with devotees metres from the temple sanctum. And two months after the court order, a woman has yet to enter the shrine. Ms Fathima was arrested at her office in the city of Cochin on Tuesday, her friend and feminist activist Arathy SA told the BBC. A magistrate sent her to prison for 14 days to allow police to investigate the charges against her, she added. Ms Fathima is also accused of hurting religious sentiments. Her employer, the government-run telecom company BSNL, has suspended her until investigations are complete. In October, Ms Fathima posted a selfie on Facebook which showed her dressed in black (the colour most Lord Ayyappa devotees wear), her forehead smeared with sandalwood paste in the Hindu tradition, and her knees pulled up in front to mimic the classic Ayyappa pose.
11-29-18 Starbucks to block porn on free wi-fi in US
Starbucks has announced it will block access to pornography on its free wi-fi in all its US outlets from 2019. While watching explicit content in store was always banned, the coffee giant will now actively block such content. The company has been under pressure from a Virginia-based non-profit, Enough is Enough, to filter pornography in its stores. McDonald's changed its wi-fi policies in 2016 after pressure from the group. "While it rarely occurs, the use of Starbucks public Wi-Fi to view illegal or egregious content is not, nor has it ever been permitted," Starbucks said in a statement reported by BuzzFeed News. The coffee company said it had "identified a solution" to stop access to pornography in all in US locations by 2019, but did not specify what this solution was. People reacted with confusion and humour on social media after the company made its announcement. Enough is Enough issued a statement earlier in the week condemning the company for breaking a promise to block such content in 2016. "Starbucks continues to serve up free, unrestricted WiFi to its customers, opening the door for patrons to view graphic or obscene pornography, view or distribute child pornography (an illegal crime) or engage in sexual predation activity," the statement read. The group encouraged people to sign a petition demanding Starbucks introduce such a filter.
11-29-18 India outrage as mall shames woman for breastfeeding
There has been outrage in India after the management of a shopping centre in the eastern city of Kolkata told a mum wanting to breastfeed her baby not to do such "home chores" in the centre. The comments were made on Facebook after the woman wrote a post on South City Mall's page complaining that there was no designated feeding area. The response angered many who said it amounted to shaming the new mother. Women breastfeeding in public is a common sight in India. South City Mall has since blamed a social media agency for the "rude" post. Abhilasha Arup DasAdhikari first shared her experience on Tuesday. She wrote on the Facebook page of the South City Mall that there was no place to breastfeed and that the staff at the mall had suggested that she feed her baby in the toilet. She described the idea as "disgusting" and gave the mall a poor rating. The manager of the page responded by saying that breastfeeding was not allowed in shops and that Ms DasAdhikari should have planned her day better as her baby did not need to be breastfed "at any moment". The post and the comments have since been deleted but a screenshot has been shared widely. The management of South City Mall has since apologised, saying that they do have a feeding and changing room for babies on every floor.
11-28-18 He Jiankui defends 'world's first gene-edited babies'
A Chinese scientist who claims to have created the world's first genetically edited babies has defended his work. Speaking at a genome summit in Hong Kong, He Jiankui said he was "proud" of altering the genes of twin girls so they cannot contract HIV. His work, which he announced earlier this week, has not been verified. Many scientists have condemned his announcement. Such gene-editing work is banned in most countries, including China. Prof He's university - the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen - said it was unaware of the research project and would launch an investigation. It said Mr He had been on unpaid leave since February. Prof He confirmed the university was not aware, adding he had funded the experiment by himself. Prof He announced earlier this week that he had altered the DNA of embryos - twin girls - to prevent them from contracting HIV. On Wednesday, Prof He spoke at the Human Genome Editing Summit at the University of Hong Kong for the first time about his work since the uproar. He revealed that the twin girls - known as "Lulu" and "Nana" - were "born normal and healthy", adding that there were plans to monitor the twins over the next 18 years. He explained that eight couples - comprised of HIV-positive fathers and HIV-negative mothers - had signed up voluntarily for the experiment; one couple later dropped out. Prof He also said that the study had been submitted to a scientific journal for review, though he did not name the journal. He also said that "another potential pregnancy" of a gene-edited embryo was in its early stages. But he apologised that his research "was leaked unexpectedly", and added: "The clinical trial was paused due to the current situation." (Webmaster's comment: A brave new world thanks to a brave CHINESE scientist!)
11-28-18 CRISPR scientist says another woman is pregnant with an edited embryo
He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who claims to have created the world’s first genetically-edited babies, says another may be on the way. Speaking at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong today, He said that “there is another potential pregnancy”, but that it is still at an early stage. The Associated Press news agency revealed on Monday that He claims to have edited a number of human embryos using the gene-editing technique CRISPR to make them resistant to HIV. Two were then implanted into a woman’s womb, and she allegedly gave birth to the resulting twin girls this month. He told the packed audience that he was “proud” of his achievement. He said that the father of the girls – who is HIV positive – had lost hope for life before enrolling in the trial. “[Now the father is] saying ‘I will work hard, earn money and take care of these two daughters’,” He said. After his talk, He was questioned by summit delegates about why he had conducted the trial in secret without consulting his global peers or authorities in China. He responded that he had run the idea for the trial past at least four experts, including one professor from the US and one from China, but did not name them. He also said that the university where he works – the Southern University of Science and Technology – was unaware that he had used the research money allocated to him to fund his HIV CRISPR trial. He is currently on unpaid leave at the university. Speaking at the summit after He, David Baltimore from the California Institute of Technology said: “I think there has been a failure of self-regulation by the scientific community because of a lack of transparency.”
11-27-18 Chinese scientists raise ethical questions with first gene-edited babies
Researchers used CRISPR/Cas9 to alter a gene involved in HIV entry into cells. A Chinese scientist’s surprise announcement on the eve of an international human gene-editing summit that he has already created the world’s first gene-edited babies has led to swift condemnation. Jiankui He is expected to discuss his work November 28 in Hong Kong at the second International Summit on Human Genome Editing. But in an interview with the Associated Press, and in a video posted November 25, He announced that twin girls with an edited gene that reduces the risk of contracting HIV “came crying into this world as healthy as any other babies a few weeks ago.” That announcement sparked outrage from many researchers and ethicists who say implanting edited embryos to create babies is premature and exposes the children to unnecessary health risks. Opponents also fear the creation of “designer babies,” children edited to enhance their intelligence, athleticism or other traits. He, on unpaid leave from the Southern University of Science and Technology of China in Shenzhen since February, objects to the term designer baby. “Call them ‘gene surgery babies’ if one must or better yet ordinary people who have had surgery to save their life or prevent a disease,” He and colleagues wrote in a perspective published online November 26 in the CRISPR Journal. But in the video, He said that he realizes his work will be controversial, and he’s willing to take the criticism. Some families need the technology to have healthy children, He said, adding that enhancing intelligence or changing hair or eye color are “not things loving parents do” and should be banned.
11-21-18 Are disposable nappies really so terrible for the environment?
Disposable nappies have been named as the latest plastic good we should ban, but there are problems with compostable and reusable alternatives too. A FRESH stink is being kicked up over the use of nappies. Last month, UK environment secretary Michael Gove ignited controversy by hinting at a crackdown on disposable nappies. Environmentalists welcomed the idea, but time-poor parents baulked at the prospect of having to wash piles of cloth substitutes. Despite feeling soft, the surface layer of disposable nappies is just one of many plastic components. These nappies generate 4 million tonnes of waste a year in the US alone, with each child typically getting through 4000 to 6000 of them. So it is no surprise that they have become the latest in a list of items being targeted for environmental reasons. Governments around the world are already phasing out single-use plastic items such as bags, straws and utensils in an attempt to cut waste. But some parents argue that, when you look at the data, cloth nappies are no better than the standard, disposable variety. Reusable cloth nappies carry a cost to the environment because of the water and energy used during repeated laundering. There are also dozens of new “eco-disposable” products, which their makers claim combine the convenience of disposable nappies with environmental sustainability. But these come with their own flaws. How do the options stack up? To compare different nappies, researchers conduct life-cycle assessments that consider their environmental impact from production to disposal. The first of these was commissioned in the early 2000s by the UK Environment Agency, after prime minister Tony Blair was quizzed about what kind of nappies he would use on his fourth child.
11-20-18 What's gone wrong at Victoria's Secret?
The owner of Victoria's Secret has named a new chief executive of the lingerie chain in its latest attempt to revive the company's fortunes. John Mehas, president of luxury fashion house Tory Burch, will take over in early 2019, replacing Jan Singer. His appointment comes at a difficult time for Victoria's Secret. The company is facing declining sales, a rising number of competitors and suggestions that the brand - long a byword for mass-market lingerie in the US - is out of step with fashion. On Monday, shares in Victoria's Secret's parent company L Brands fell 5% in after-hours trade following its latest results, which showed another decline in sales at the lingerie chain. The share price has fallen more than 40% over the past 12 months. Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of L Brands, recently provoked intense criticism following comments he made to Vogue magazine about transgender and plus-sized models. And this weekend, the New York Times declared Victoria's Secret a name in "steady decline", while the Wall Street Journal said the vision of sexiness defined by the Ohio-based retailer - known for its busty "Angel" models - had "lost its appeal". L Brands boss Leslie H Wexner said the new executives would be looking at "everything" as they focused on improving performance. "I am confident that, under John's leadership, Victoria's Secret Lingerie, the world's leading lingerie brand, will continue to be a powerhouse and will deliver products and experiences that resonate with women around the globe," he said. Still, with Victoria's Secret sales online and at comparable stores sliding another 2% in the most recent quarter, the obituaries being written for the retailer, which started in the 1970s, are unlikely to stop. "They definitely need some change in their brand positioning moving forward," said Diana Smith, associate director of retail and apparel at market research firm Mintel. "I think they're in a little bit of limbo at the moment."
11-19-18 Silencing a gene may prevent deadly pre-eclampsia in pregnancy
High blood pressure in pregnancy, one of the leading risks to women and babies, could be stopped in its tracks by turning off genes in the placenta. The technique, known as RNA silencing, has worked in a small trial in monkeys, bringing their blood pressure down to normal. The condition, called pre-eclampsia, affects up to 10 per cent of pregnancies. Affected women can suffer kidney and liver damage, seizures and strokes. When it gets severe the only treatment is to deliver the baby, no matter how early in the pregnancy, so women face choosing between their own health and their baby’s. “It’s very scary,” says Melissa Moore of the University of Massachusetts, who is developing the treatment and has had the condition herself. Pre-eclampsia occurs when, for some reason, the placenta isn’t effective enough. To compensate, it releases proteins into a woman’s blood to raise her blood pressure, boosting the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. But these proteins can push the woman’s blood pressure to dangerously high levels. Progress in developing treatments has been slow, partly because pharmaceutical firms are nervous about the risk of causing birth defects. A new approach that targets gene activity may be less likely to cause unexpected side-effects because it’s a highly specific treatment. The technique destroys short-strands of DNA-like molecules that are the blueprints for making proteins – called RNA. For pre-eclampsia, it targets the blueprint for one particular placenta protein, called FLT.
11-16-18 Swedes debate period-proofed workplaces
People in Sweden are debating a new government-funded initiative to provide a supportive environment for women during their periods. The new Gender Equality Agency has given a grant of 530,000 kronor ($58,400; £44,900) to an organisation called MENSEN (Menses) to "break the taboo around menstruation", with period-friendly workplaces receiving a certificate. MENSEN calls for toilets, sanitary bins and hand-washing facilities to be available in all working environments, including for professionals outside the office space, like construction workers, plumbers and bus drivers. "We risk treating menstruation as an illness rather than a normal bodily function," Josefin Persdotter, a sociology researcher at Gothenburg University told the Arbetet labour movement weekly. "Sometimes you are hungry, sometimes thirsty, and sometimes you have hormone fluctuations affecting your work," she said. Other advocates want employers to supply sanitary products at work just as they provide toilet roll. Around the world, women struggle to have a dignified menstrual experience. Some women are excluded from social life during that time of the month. Others lack adequate hygiene products due to poverty. The issues are all part of the same core problem, Swedish period advocates believe. Sweden is known for its gender equality programmes - the government has even launched an instruction manual for feminist foreign policies. Menstrual rights feature not only in the media, but also on stage and in public spaces. There has been "Period - The Musical" for schools, a stage play, comic books, exhibitions and a podcast, not to mention artwork on the Stockholm metro by prominent graphic novelist Liv Strömquist. The latest campaign has divided public commentators. "Why should my boss know when I'm having my period?" asks a columnist in the leading daily Svenska Dagbladet, in response to a suggestion that staff should log their periods in Excel sheets.
11-15-18 Catching up on sleep at weekends may aggravate period pain
Sleeping in on weekends may cause period pain by disrupting normal reproductive cycles, a study in female university students suggests. We already know that female shift-workers are more prone to irregular menstrual cycles, difficulties falling pregnant and miscarriages, possibly because their irregular schedules affect the circadian rhythms that control their hormone cycles. Yoko Komada at Meiji Pharmaceutical University in Japan and her colleagues wondered if social jetlag – a pattern of sleeping in on weekends to make up for early starts during the week – may have similar effects. To find out, they surveyed 150 female Japanese university students about their sleep habits and menstrual patterns. The students were defined as having social jetlag if the midpoint of their sleep was an hour or more later on their days off than on their university days. Those with social jetlag reported significantly more pain, bloating and behavioural changes during their periods. Moreover, the greater the social jet lag they had, the worse their symptoms were. These adverse health effects could not be explained by late-night drinking or smoking at the end of the university week, since almost none of the students drank alcohol and none smoked. Getting up later on days off may throw out the body’s circadian rhythms, which are reset daily by light exposure upon waking, says Jonathan Cedernaes at Uppsala University in Sweden. “In either social jet lag or shift work, you mistime when your body is expecting to sleep and be exposed to light,” he says.
11-15-18 Is the sex recession only for straight people?
When a trend makes the cover of The Atlantic, you know it's really arrived. That's surely the case with the "sex recession," the term Kate Julian coined in a blockbuster article to describe a phenomenon that social scientists have been tracking and puzzling over for years now. Americans — and not just Americans — are having less sex than they used to. A lot less sex. They're starting later and engaging with less frequency, with fewer people over a lifetime, and with less satisfaction. We may seem to the casual observer to be a sex-obsessed society, but it appears that impression is as accurate as someone's Instagram feed. And while there's some data to cheer about — a decline in teen pregnancy is surely a positive development, for example, as is the dramatic decline in new HIV infections — the overall picture is a depressing one, given how strongly correlated a positive sex life is with personal well-being. What is the explanation for this sustained decline? Cultural conservatives will predictably indict the continuing echoes of the now-50-years-old sexual revolution that cheapened intimacy and disrupted the purportedly natural order of family-formation. Feminists need only gesture at any given week's headlines to bring their own indictment of violent male entitlement as the root cause. In both cases, the blame falls on changes in the culture. The narrative satisfactions of such cultural explanations are obvious, which is why I'm instinctively inclined to look first for material explanations. And there are plenty on offer. Perhaps environmental pollutants are to blame for a drop in libido as they are plausibly to blame for a global drop in sperm count? Or perhaps it's the opposite, and the removal of lead from gasoline explains the drop in teen pregnancy as well as it explains the drop in teen criminality? Economic explanations are also ready to hand. Partly as a consequence of the Great Recession, a whole cohort of young adults have lived with their parents at much higher rates and for much longer into their 20s (and even 30s) than previous generations. It's hard to build a stable relationship under such conditions. Meanwhile, those fortunate enough to have good-paying jobs increasingly feel married to them, leaving little time to explore the depths of human companionship. Then there's technology, changing our habits and thereby our minds and brains. Are ubiquitous screens making us more distractible and depriving us of high-quality sleep? Has pornography-facilitated masturbation acted like a drug, blunting our drive to seek fulfilling erotic relationships? Is the sex recession a side effect of our widely-attested plague of anxiety and depression, or of the libido-dampening drugs prescribed to treat those conditions?
11-15-18 Exclusive: A new test can predict IVF embryos’ risk of having a low IQ
A new genetic test that enables people having IVF to screen out embryos likely to have a low IQ or high disease risk could soon become available in the US. THE prospect of creating intelligent designer babies has been the subject of ethical debate for decades, but we have lacked the ability to actually do it. That may now change, thanks to a new method of testing an embryo’s genes that could soon be available in some IVF clinics in the US, New Scientist can reveal. The firm Genomic Prediction says it has developed genetic screening tests that can assess complex traits, such as the risk of some diseases and low intelligence, in IVF embryos. The tests haven’t been used yet, but the firm began talks last month with several IVF clinics to provide them to customers. For intelligence, Genomic Prediction says that it will only offer the option of screening out embryos deemed likely to have “mental disability”. However, the same approach could in future be used to identify embryos with genes that make them more likely to have a high IQ. “I think people are going to demand that. If we don’t do it, some other company will,” says the firm’s co-founder Stephen Hsu. For many years, it has been possible to do simpler genetic tests on embryos as part of IVF. For example, parents at risk of having a child with cystic fibrosis have the option to undergo IVF and select an embryo that doesn’t carry the gene behind the condition. It is also possible to screen for several other conditions caused by a single gene, as well as those caused by chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down’s syndrome. However, most medical conditions are influenced by hundreds of genes, which has made it impossible to screen out embryos with a high risk of heart disease, for example, or select embryos with a low likelihood of experiencing depression. This is true for traits like intelligence too.
11-15-18 New techniques may soon make designer babies a reality – are we ready?
IT IS hard to think of an area of science more controversial than the genetics of intelligence. Now it is about to get exponentially more contentious. For a long time, DNA testing couldn’t tell us anything useful about someone’s IQ or any other traits affected by multiple genes, such as diabetes or cancer risk. But new “polygenic” techniques for analysing many genetic regions at once have begun to make this possible. This week, we report on the first company offering fertility clinics a test for screening IVF embryos for disease risk and low intelligence (see “Exclusive: A new test can predict IVF embryos’ risk of having a low IQ”). With this news, it is unlikely to be long before some clinic, somewhere, starts using a similar approach to offer prospective parents the ability to pick out embryos that look most genetically promising for a high IQ. As if this isn’t controversial enough, it may only be the beginning. As our understanding of traits governed by multiple genes grows, it may also become possible to screen for embryos that are more or less likely to have a range of other features, be it sexuality, autism or susceptibility to depression. We already live in a world where wealthy individuals are willing to cross borders to pay for procedures at the sharpest edge of fertility research. The first baby created using a particular three-parent technique was born two years ago to Jordanian parents helped by US scientists working in Mexico, for example. While many prospective parents won’t want to genetically fine-tune their children this way, the idea of a near-designer baby will undoubtedly appeal to some. The desire to maximise a future child’s intelligence, mental health or physical attractiveness could be enough to prompt couples with no fertility problems to seek IVF, just to have this opportunity.
11-9-18 A ban on ‘sexual health’
The State Department is considering a proposal that would bar U.S. diplomats from using the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “comprehensive sexual education,” reported Politico.com. Those terms have been used for years in domestic and international government communications but would be replaced under this proposal by phrases such as “reproduction and the related health services.” Several social conservatives at State and other agencies are reportedly pushing the change. The ban could impair relations with the U.N. and complicate funding requests from groups focused on women’s reproductive rights. The State Department has already removed mentions of access to contraception and abortion from human rights reports.
11-9-18 Phthalates and language delays
Prenatal exposure to a type of chemical found in floor tiles, food packaging, shampoos, and cosmetics could cause language delays in young children, new research suggests. Scientists have long been concerned that phthalates, which make plastics more flexible and long-lasting, can affect the development of children’s brains. The new study—a collaboration between teams in Sweden and the U.S.—looked specifically at their impact on early speech development, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. Researchers tested urine samples from about 1,365 pregnant women, all in their first trimester, for phthalates. When the women’s children were between 30 and 37 months old, the researchers asked the mothers how many words their offspring used. They found that the children of women who had higher phthalate levels during pregnancy were more likely to suffer from a language delay, knowing fewer than 50 words. One of the study’s authors, Shanna Swan from the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, advises pregnant women to try to reduce their exposure to phthalates by using scent-free personal-care products and phthalate-free nail polish. But she acknowledges that the chemicals are “hard to avoid,” because they are “hidden in many household products, like vinyl floor covering and upholstery.”
10-26-18 Having more partners
Blissful ignorance, with a new study that found that marital happiness correlates strongly with lack of sexual experience prior to marriage. One theory, said researcher Bradford Wilcox, is that “having more partners prior to marriage makes you critically evaluate your spouse in light of previous partners, sexually and otherwise.”
10-24-18 Data suggests 60 per cent of babies aren’t breastfed after 6 weeks
Guidelines recommend breastfeeding for 6 months, but data suggests that less than half of mothers in England choose or are able to breastfeed beyond six weeks. As few as four in ten mothers still breastfeed their babies after they are 6 weeks old, according to new figures from Public Health England. This is in contrast to the the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that mothers should exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life. Rates for breastfeeding babies between 6 and 8 weeks old has stayed relatively stable in England for the last four years only varying by a couple of percent each year, according to data from NHS England. However, the rates vary significantly by region. Eight in 10 babies were being breastfed between 6 and 8 weeks old in Tower Hamlets, London compared to less than two in 10 in Knowsley, Merseyside. In many cases women are unable to continue breastfeeding even if they want to, and that so few are able to meet the guidelines suggests that in their current state they may be unrealistic for many women. The NHS Start for Life website says that there are many advantages of breastfeeding, including health benefits for both babies and mothers. Breast milk protects babies from infections and provides a “perfect balance” of vitamins and nutrition for infants, according to the website. Breastfed babies have a lower chance of cot death and childhood leukaemia, they also have a lower risk of allergies and are less likely to develop diabetes or become overweight when they are older. Benefits for women include reducing their risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
10-23-18 New clues to unravelling link between pregnancy and breast cancer risk
Women are less likely to get breast cancer if they give birth before the age of 30. Now we know the effect kicks in specifically after 33 weeks of pregnancy. We’ve known for some time that a woman’s risk of breast cancer is reduced by both the number of children she has and at what age she gives birth to them – although exactly why is a mystery. A new study of the populations of Denmark and Norway offers clues. It suggests that the duration of pregnancy may be key, with a woman’s relative risk of breast cancer dropping sharply between 33 and 34 weeks of pregnancy. Mads Melbye at the Statens Serum Institute in Denmark and his colleagues used national registries on childbirth and cancer that included 2.3 million Danish women and 1.6 million Norwegian women. They looked at long-term effects, tracking the cases of breast cancer 10 years or more after pregnancy. The researchers found that women who had pregnancies lasting 33 weeks or less saw a reduction in their breast cancer risk of 2.4 per cent on average. However, if their pregnancy lasted 34 weeks or more, their relative risk was reduced by 13.6 per cent on average. If a woman’s second pregnancy reached this 34-week point her risk was reduced by 16.9 per cent, and if it was her third pregnancy, her relative risk of breast cancer after a pregnancy that reached 34 weeks was reduced by 37.7 per cent. Melbye and his team found that the link between reduced cancer risk and a pregnancy that reaches 34 weeks occurred whether or not the pregnancy resulted in a live or a stillbirth. Though breastfeeding has been shown to reduce cancer risk following pregnancy, this new finding suggests it is not the only thing at work.
10-18-18 Pregnancy changes how hundreds of genes work in a woman’s body
Genes that alter their expression during healthy pregnancies have been identified for the first time, potentially helping us to predict at-risk pregnancies. It’s no secret that women’s bodies go through radical changes during pregnancy, but we’re finally starting to understand what happens at the gene level. Alicia Smith at Emory University in the US and her colleagues took blood samples from 63 women early and late in pregnancy to see if they could detect any changes in their gene expression. Of the 16,000 genes they looked at, they found that 439 altered their activity between the first and third trimester of pregnancy. Many of these changes occurred in genes involved in the immune and circulatory systems, both of which are known to undergo major transformations during pregnancy. For instance, the researchers observed increased expression of several genes from the alpha-defensin family, which help to fight disease-causing bacteria, fungi and viruses. This is probably to protect the fetus from microbes like listeria that can cause spontaneous abortion and pre-term birth, says Smith. Changes were also seen in genes that protect the fetus from the mother’s own immune system. “Your immune system is designed to identify foreign cells and fight them, which makes carrying a fetus very complicated,” says Smith. “That’s why pregnancy is associated with a number of immune changes that stop your body from rejecting the foreign fetus.”
10-17-18 Special coating gives condoms self-lubricating powers
A polymer coating turns condoms slippery once it comes in contact with body fluids – and it doesn’t dry out. The next generation of condom can lubricate itself. It comes with a polymer coating that turns slippery once it comes into contact with body fluids – and that doesn’t dry out. Condoms are not the most comfortable things to wear, so most store-sold condoms are coated with silicone oil as a lubricant. But silicone oil – as well as other water-, oil- and silicone-based lubricants – are easily absorbed by the skin, so the lubrication doesn’t work for extended periods. Mark Grinstaff at Boston University and his colleagues have addressed the problem. They coated latex condoms with a new “water-loving” coating called HEA/BP/PVP. This becomes slippery once it encounters water and body fluids. The coating also bonds strongly with the latex in condoms so it won’t come off during use. The team measured the friction produced when rubbing the polymer-coated latex against a skin-like surface for 16 minutes. The polymer-coated latex generated 53 per cent less fiction than non-coated latex that was simply lubricated by water. Grinstaff’s team found that non-coated latex covered in a commercially available lubricant generated less friction than their polymer-coated latex – but only inside the first five minutes of use. By the end of the 16 minute test period, the friction from latex with personal lubricant was 10 per cent greater than that from the polymer-coated latex.
10-12-18 C-section births surge to 'alarming' rates worldwide - study
Doctors' use of Caesarean section to deliver babies has nearly doubled in 15 years to reach "alarming" proportions in some countries, a study says. Rates surged from about 16 million births (12%) in 2000 to an estimated 29.7 million (21%) in 2015, the report in the medical journal The Lancet said. The nation with the highest rate for using the surgery to assist childbirth is the Dominican Republic with 58.1%. Doctors say in many cases the use of the medical procedure is unjustified. Until recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that Caesarean section - or C-section - rates of more than 15% were excessive. The study analysed data from 169 countries using statistics from 2015 - the most recent year for which the information is available. It says there is an over-reliance on Caesarean section procedures - when surgery is used to help with a difficult birth - in more than half of the world's nations. Researchers reported a rate of more than 50% in the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Egypt and Turkey, though Brazil implemented a policy in 2015 to reduce the number of Caesarean sections performed by doctors. They also found huge disparities in the use of the technique between rich and poor nations. In some circumstances, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the surgery is unavailable when it is genuinely required. Use in 2015 was up to 10 times more frequent in the Latin America and Caribbean region, at 44% of births, than in the west and central Africa region, where it was used in just 4% of cases. The study urges healthcare professionals, women and their families to only choose a Caesarean when it is needed for medical reasons - and for more education and training to be offered to dispel some of the concerns surrounding childbirth. (Webmaster's comment: 1/3 of births in the US are C-section. We are de-evolving our ability to have children in the normal way.)
10-10-18 We need to get better at supporting people who lose a pregnancy
This week is Baby Loss Awareness Week, but more must be done to help those who, like me, have suffered a loss, says Petra Boynton. Anyone who has experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or other pregnancy loss will understand the pain, distress and uncertainty that can follow. Because these experiences are common, you might hope that the way we help people during and after the event would be uniformly good. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Back in 2016, The Lancet noted that half of the world’s 2.6 million annual stillbirths are preventable. There are also marked inequalities globally, because 98 per cent of stillbirths happen in low-income countries. Variations in facilities, access to services, and public awareness all make a difference to pregnancy and birth outcomes. The quality of training for healthcare workers is also patchy, with staff often struggling to stay up to date with the latest evidence, or to provide effective care in overstretched services. Where training is provided, it tends to focus primarily on physical – preventing accidents and dealing with pregnancy or birth problems – rather than emotional needs. Providing compassionate care also requires we do better at recording stillbirths. In September, The Lancet reported that the prevalence of stillbirth is currently underestimated by a third. The World Health Organization uses an international cut-off point of fetal loss after 28 weeks for recording stillbirth. Researchers and practitioners are asking for stillbirths to be recognised and recorded from 22 weeks, allowing for more investigations into its potential causes. Parents simply want better opportunities to recognise their losses and remember their babies.
10-7-18 The woman who fought for the right to be a prostitute
On 1 May 1958, a young woman was an unusual cynosure of all eyes in a courtroom in the north Indian city of Allahabad. Husna Bai, a 24-year-old woman, told Judge Jagdish Sahai that she was a prostitute. Invoking the constitution, she had filed a petition challenging the validity of a new law to ban trafficking in human bodies. By striking at her means of livelihood, Bai argued, the new law had "frustrated the purpose of the welfare state established by the Constitution in the country". It was an act of radical public defiance by a poor Muslim prostitute. She had forced the judges to look at women on the street at a time when life in India had excluded prostitutes from civil society. Their numbers - 28,000 in 1951, down from 54,000, according to official records - had dwindled, as had public support for them. When prostitutes offered donations to the Congress party, Mahatma Gandhi refused and told them to take up spinning instead. All this despite the fact that they were among the few groups of people who were allowed to vote because they earned money, paid taxes and owned property. Not much is known about Husna Bai's personal life - and a search of the archives turned up no photographs - apart from the fact that she lived with her female cousin and two younger brothers who were dependent on her earnings. But the largely forgotten story of her struggle for the right to ply her trade is part of an engrossing new book by Yale University historian Rohit De. A People's Constitution: Law and Everyday Life in The Indian Republic explores how the Indian constitution, despite its "elite authorship and alien antecedents, came to permeate everyday life and imagination in India during its transition from a colonial state to a democratic republic". The lack of any archival material meant that De had to depend on court records to piece together Husna Bai's story as part of a larger movement by women across the country. Bai's petition sparked a lot of interest and anxiety.
10-5-18 Syphilis in newborns
The number of children born with congenital syphilis—passed on to them during pregnancy or labor—rocketed by more than 150 percent from 2013 to 2017. There were 362 cases in 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, and 918 last year; most cases were in the South and West. Syphilis can be cured easily with penicillin. But eight out of 10 pregnant women who leave the bacterial infection untreated pass it on to their unborn babies—with often fatal consequences. The disease caused at least 77 stillbirths or newborn deaths last year, reports USA Today. Infected babies who survive can develop health problems such as deformed bones, severe anemia, and meningitis. “To protect every baby, we have to start by protecting every mother,” says Gail Bolan, head of the CDC’s STD prevention division. “Early testing and prompt treatment to cure any infections are critical first steps, but too many women are falling through the cracks of the system.”
10-5-18 Adultery law overturned
India’s Supreme Court has scrapped a British colonial-era law that criminalized adultery, in a ruling that activists are praising as a victory for human rights. Under the 158-year-old law, a man could be sentenced to five years in prison if he had sex with another man’s wife without the consent of her husband. Women could not prosecute their cheating husbands, though, or sue their mistresses. The Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi had supported the law, saying it protected marriage. But the court disagreed. “Husband is not the master of wife,” said Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who retired this week. “Women should be treated with equality along with men.”
10-5-18 IVF success boosted by drug that helps embryos implant in the womb
Women given a drug that increases blood flow to the womb have a significantly higher chance of giving birth through IVF. People undergoing IVF could soon have a better chance of having a baby thanks to a drug that helps embryos implant in the womb. A recent trial involving almost 800 women attending 41 fertility clinics across Europe found that the drug – called nolasiban – significantly increased the success rate of IVF. Each participant took a nolasiban pill or a placebo 4 hours before they had an embryo transferred to their womb. Almost 45 per cent of those in the nolasiban group went on to have a baby, compared to 33 per cent in the placebo group. The results, which will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Denver next week, potentially mark the biggest advance in IVF in 25 years, according to Ernest Loumaye at ObsEva, the company that is developing nolasiban and that funded the research. The drug works by blocking the hormone oxytocin. This increases blood flow to the womb and reduces contractions that can occur during embryo transfer, thereby making it easier for the embryo to implant, says Loumaye. The initial results are promising but more trials are needed “before we can start getting too excited”, says Peter Illingworth at IVF Australia. “I’d also advise caution until the full experimental details of the latest trial are released,” he says. Loumaye and his colleagues are planning to launch another trial of nolasiban in 1000 women undergoing IVF later this year. If it’s successful, the drug could be available by the end of 2020, he says.
9-28-18 Stormy Daniels
Stormy Daniels offers an X-rated portrait of Donald Trump in her new tell-all memoir, Full Disclosure. The adult-film performer describes her alleged 2006 one-night stand with Trump in explicit detail and says she kept the affair a secret for years, including from the man she married in 2010. Daniels also says that the night after she had sex with Trump, the two went to a nightclub, where he encouraged her to talk to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, then 23 and fresh off a Super Bowl win. At Trump’s urging, Roethlisberger walked Daniels to her hotel room, where he stood outside her door and pleaded to come in. “I was terrified,” Daniels writes.
9-28-18 Supporting Trump’s manhood
Russian state television ran a prime-time segment this week defending President Trump against porn star Stormy Daniels’ accusation that the president’s private parts are “smaller than average.” The description appears in Daniels’ new memoir, Full Disclosure, in which she details an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. Pro-Kremlin pundit Dmitry Kiselyov said on Russia 1 that since Daniels had worked in porn, she was exposed to many male co-stars selected for their “unnaturally grotesque dimensions,” so her perception of average was skewed. “Let’s support Trump,” he said, “purely as men.” Kiselyov said Daniels’ claims were deeply unfair to Trump because the president, for the sake of decency, can’t respond. “Is he supposed to pull down his zipper and whip out his goods?” asked Kiselyov.
9-28-18 Rise of sex robots
Legal sex workers in Nevada are warning about the rise of sex robots, calling the mechanical lovers “unhealthy and dangerous.” A number of sex-doll brothels have sprung up around the world, and the owner of Nevada’s Bunny Ranch said he intends to offer sexbots by 2020. But workers at Sheri’s Ranch outside Las Vegas resent the idea of robots cutting in on their turf. The bots are “dehumanizing,” said licensed sex worker Allissa. “A man who becomes comfortable with a sex doll is alienating himself from healthy sexual experiences with real women.”
9-27-18 Adultery no longer a criminal offence in India
India's top court has ruled adultery is no longer a crime, striking down a 158-year-old colonial-era law which it said treated women as male property. Previously any man who had sex with a married woman, without the permission of her husband, had committed a crime. A petitioner had challenged the law saying it was arbitrary and discriminated against men and women. It is not clear how many men have been prosecuted under the law - there is no data available. This is the second colonial-era law struck down by India's Supreme Court this month - it also overturned a 157-year-old law which effectively criminalised gay sex in India. While reading out the judgement on adultery, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that while it could be grounds for civil issues like divorce, "it cannot be a criminal offence".
9-24-18 How motherhood changes the brain
Pregnancy and childbirth set off some of the starkest biological alterations a woman's brain undergoes. So how come no one tells you about them? In the weeks after my first son was born, I squandered hours of precious sleep leaning over his bassinet to check that he was still breathing. I researched potential dangers that seemed to grow into monstrous reality by the blue light of my smartphone. Among them: The lead paint my husband and I had discovered, a real but manageable risk, had turned our new home into a hazard zone. I cleaned our floors incessantly but still imagined a cloud of poison dust following us as I carried the baby, so tiny and fragile, from room to room. When the doctor screened for postpartum depression during my six-week checkup, she noted that my responses to the questionnaire were somewhat mixed though my score was within the normal range. She asked whether I had thoughts about harming myself or my child, and when I said no, she moved on. But I was struggling. Before baby, I had managed a tendency toward low-level worry. Now it was as if the volume had been turned up. Among the biggest worries I faced was worry itself. The way I saw it, motherhood made me feel this way, and I would be a mother forevermore. Would I always be this anxious? And would my baby suffer for it? I feared that something deep within me — my disposition, my way of seeing the world, myself — had been altered. In truth, something very foundational had changed: my brain. What I didn't know then — what I wish I had known then — was that I was in the midst of the most rapid and dramatic neurobiological change of my adult life. The unmooring I felt, and that so many new mothers feel, likely was at least in part a manifestation of structural and functional brain changes, handed down through the millennia by mothers past and intended to mold me into a fiercely protective, motivated caregiver, focused on my baby's survival and long-term well-being.
9-17-18 Last call for Nevada’s brothels?
There have been brothels in Nevada since the days of the Gold Rush, but in one of the state's 16 counties that could be about to change. Voters in Lyon County have a chance to put an end to legal prostitution in November, in a ballot coinciding with the country's mid-term elections. Lucy Ash met a veteran Nevada sex worker and heard the arguments for and against. Air Force Amy totters around the kidney-shaped swimming pool in her high heels to show me the gym where women can work out between clients. She points out the barbecue patio and the Jacuzzi before flinging open a garage door to reveal some dusty quad bikes. "We've got everything we need right here, even ponies in the stable out the back," she says. "I don't ride them because it's too risky - I need my body to work," she adds with a throaty laugh. We escape the blinding desert sun for the dimly lit parlour where a pink neon Bunny Ranch sign flickers over the bar. A few girls in lingerie or skimpy dresses are sitting on the crushed velvet sofas hunched over laptops and phones. This is the most famous of the 21 legal brothels scattered across rural Nevada. Behind the bar there's a corridor, which leads to dozens of bedrooms, each occupied by a sex worker in return for a daily rent. The Bunny Ranch is set in a scrubby landscape punctuated by gas stations, casinos and gun shops. It lies just the inside Lyon County line. Prostitution is outlawed in nearby Carson City, Nevada's state capital, and other urban areas. Road signs on the driveway show copulating rabbits and warn that the speed limit is 69mph - just kidding, it says underneath. When a customer rings the buzzer on the gate, an internal bell summons the sex workers into the parlour for a "line-up". Once he has chosen a woman, she takes him to her room to negotiate a price. The overwhelming majority of clients are men although occasionally couples make an appearance. Air Force Amy is still, at 53, one of the top earners at the ranch and she says she is pulling in about half a million dollars a year. Airbrushed photos of her in her youth decorate the walls.
9-14-18 STDs on the rise, again
Rates of sexually transmitted diseases climbed for the fourth consecutive year in the U.S. in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced. A record high of 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were diagnosed last year—some 200,000 more than in 2016, itself a record-breaking year. Scientists say there is no single reason for the years-long uptick, reports The New York Times. Possible factors include the proliferation of dating apps, the opioid epidemic, and reduced funding for public sexual health clinics. “Most people with these STDs do not know they are infected,” says Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s division of sexually transmitted disease prevention. “They don’t realize that these diseases are spreading silently through the country.” The CDC warns that chlamydia and gonorrhea—which is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics—can lurk in the body without symptoms and lead to serious health issues if left untreated. The agency recommends that all women under 25, as well as men who have sex with men, undergo annual screenings for both diseases.
9-14-18 Gandhi wanted women to 'resist' sex for pleasure
In December 1935, Margaret Sanger, the American birth control activist and sex educator, visited Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi and had an absorbing conversation with him. Sanger was on an 18-city trip to India, speaking with doctors and activists about birth control and the liberation of women. Her fascinating exchange with Gandhi at his ashram in the western state of Maharashtra is part of a new biography of India's "father of the nation" by historian Ramachandra Guha. Drawing on never-before-seen sources from 60 different collections around the world, the 1,129-page book tells the dramatic story of the life of the world's most famous pacifist from the time he returned to India from South Africa in 1915, to his assassination in 1948. The biography also provides a glimpse into Gandhi's views on women's rights, sex and celibacy. In his ashram, Gandhi's efficient secretary, Mahadev Desai, took copious notes of the meeting between the leader and the activist. "Both seem to be agreed that women should be emancipated, that a woman should be the arbiter of her destiny," he wrote. But differences quickly arose between the two. Mrs Sanger, who had opened the first US family planning centre in New York in 1916, believed that contraceptives were the safest route to emancipation. Gandhi demurred, saying women should resist their husbands, while men should try to curb "animal passion". He told his visitor that sex should be only for procreation. Mrs Sanger soldiered on spiritedly. She told Gandhi that "women have feelings as deep as and as amorous as men. There are times when wives desire physical union as much as their husbands". "Do you think that it is possible for two people who are in love, who are happy together, to regulate their sex act only once in two years, so that their relationship would only take place when they wanted a child?" she asked. This is where contraception came in handy, she insisted, and helped women prevent unwanted pregnancies and gain control over their bodies. Gandhi remained stubborn in his opposition. (Webmaster's comment: Even today many, if not most men, believe sex is for a man's pleasure. Women's pleasure is incidental. Many men see them as only for breeding.)
9-11-18 Marijuana use among pregnant women is rising, and so are concerns
Solid data on the dangers of the drug to pregnant women and babies are hard to come by. I’m relatively new to Oregon, but one of the ways I know I’m starting to settle in is my ability to recognize marijuana shops. Some are easy. But others, with names like The Agrestic and Mr. Nice Guy, are a little trickier to identify for someone who hasn’t spent much time in a state that has legalized marijuana. A growing number of states have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana. At the same time, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are using the drug in increasing numbers. A 2017 JAMA study described both survey results and urine tests of nearly 280,000 pregnant women in Northern California, where medical marijuana was legalized in 1996. The study showed that in 2009, about 4 percent of the women tested used marijuana. In 2016, about 7 percent of women did. Those California numbers may be even higher now, since recreational marijuana became legal there this year. Some of those numbers may be due in part to women using marijuana to treat their morning sickness, a more recent study by some of the same researchers suggests. Their report, published August 20 in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that pregnant women with severe nausea and vomiting were 3.8 times more likely to use marijuana than pregnant women without morning sickness. So some pregnant women are definitely using the drug, and exposing their fetuses to it, too. Ingredients in marijuana are known to make their way to fetuses by crossing the placenta during pregnancy (and by entering breast milk after the baby is born). But what actually happens when those marijuana compounds arrive?
9-10-18 The sextech inventor ‘closing the orgasm gap’
Be warned – this film is all about sex. And business. Straight women have a third fewer orgasms than straight men during sex – and 28-year-old Stephanie Alys is determined to change that. The inventor co-founded a multi-million pound business and she now sells luxury vibrators in 57 countries. But working in sexuality can be an uphill struggle, especially when trying to fund a business idea that pushes the boundaries of pleasure.
9-7-18 Breastfeeding and marijuana
Now that marijuana has become legal for recreational use in eight states, and for medical use in 30, a growing number of people consider the drug largely harmless. But the American Academy of Pediatrics has a simple message for nursing mothers: Don’t touch the stuff. The AAP examined 50 mothers who used marijuana, with children ranging from newborns to toddlers more than a year old, reports CNN.com. The researchers found that tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in weed known as THC, could be detected in breast milk up to six days after use of the drug. While previous research has suggested that THC can cross to the fetus via the placenta, potentially affecting brain development, the AAP’s study didn’t look into how or whether the milk’s recipient could be affected. But the researchers concluded that until more is known, taking the drug while breastfeeding simply isn’t worth the risk. Study author Christina Chambers, from the University of California, San Diego said the findings should be a “call to action” for long-term research.
9-5-18 ‘The pain was instant’: The devastating impact of vaginal mesh surgery
Kath Sansom used to enjoy boxing and high-board diving, but after having a vaginal mesh implant, her life took a dramatic turn for the worse. Millions of women over the last two decades have undergone vaginal mesh surgery, but it has recently become clear just how many have experienced severe complications. In our main interview this week, we hear from Sohier Elneil, one of the few surgeons in the UK qualified to remove mesh. Here, Kath Sansom shares her story of what it’s like to undergo the treatment and the impact it had on her life. She had a mesh sling implanted in March 2015 to treat mild stress urinary incontinence. It was removed seven months later. She now runs the Sling the Mesh campaign to raise awareness of mesh complications and support mesh-injured women in the UK. How did you feel after the mesh was implanted? The pain was instant. I struggled to walk. The pain down the backs of my legs felt like really deep, heavy toothache. It hurt me to walk, sit, lie. I couldn’t get any relief. I had cheese-wiring pains in my vagina, burning pain so bad I couldn’t even use a tampon. In the weeks before, I did a boxing class, high-board diving and mountain biking. I went from that to excruciating pain. How did the pain evolve? You’re supposed to be better within a week, but it gradually got worse and worse. Did you know about the possible side effects before the operation? If you were told: “You can have this little operation but you might lose your sex life”, you wouldn’t see anyone for dust. Or if your doctor said: “You can have this little operation and you might not be able to walk – but at least you won’t wee your pants.” You’d run out the door!
9-5-18 The inside story of the vaginal mesh scandal, from top removal surgeon
Mesh implants have injured thousands of women. Surgeon Sohier Elneil explains how the crisis happened and why women turned to her for treatment. IN THE late 1980s, the medical industry was looking for new ways to treat women experiencing urinary incontinence and vaginal prolapse, both relatively common conditions following childbirth. At the time, doctors suggested physiotherapy, weight loss and other non-surgical interventions, with complex surgery as a last resort. When mesh implants came along, they seemed like a simple and convenient alternative: a flexible plastic scaffold that took less than an hour to implant and allowed women to leave hospital quickly and get on with their lives. Permanent mesh implants became standard treatment for millions of women with these conditions. They have proved effective in many cases. But some women have experienced complications, including mesh eroding through the vaginal wall or piercing the bladder, nerve damage and infection. The implant can cause chronic pain, sometimes so severe women are barely able to walk. Tens of thousands of women around the world have brought lawsuits. The US Food and Drug Administration reclassified mesh as a “high-risk” device in 2016. More recently, Australia and New Zealand have banned its use in some circumstances. And in July the UK’s National Health Service suspended the use of mesh in England for stress incontinence. The mesh was designed to allow bodily tissue to grow through it, so it is very hard to remove. Sohier Elneil at University College Hospital in London is one of fewer than 10 surgeons in the UK able to carry out the procedure. She performed her first mesh removal in 2005 and, since then, has been at the forefront of the campaign to raise awareness of mesh complications.
9-5-18 Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop pays $145,000 in vaginal egg lawsuit
The lifestyle website founded by actress Gwyneth Paltrow has agreed to pay $145,000 (£112,000) for making unscientific claims about vaginal eggs. The settlement also applies to a "flower essence", which Goop said could cure depression. Goop claimed its jade and rose quartz eggs, which are inserted vaginally, could balance hormones and regulate menstrual cycles, among other things. The lawsuit was brought by California's consumer protection office. "The health and money of Santa Clara County residents should never be put at risk by misleading advertising," District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a written statement. "We will vigilantly protect consumers against companies that promise health benefits without the support of good science…or any science." Goop said in a statement that while it "believes there is an honest disagreement about these claims, the company wanted to settle this matter quickly and amicably. This settlement does not indicate any liability on Goop's part". Both the jade and rose quartz eggs, which are sold for $66 and $55 respectively, are still for sale, but Goop is prohibited from making further health claims that are not backed up by science. Goop also will be banned from selling medical devices that are falsely advertised or unapproved. The company agreed to pay $145,000 in civil penalties, and is also offering a refund for customers who purchased the eggs or the flower essence under false claims.
9-5-18 Teens born from assisted pregnancies may have higher blood pressure
Reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization may put kids at risk of hypertension. Assisted pregnancies give infertile couples the chance at a child. But kids conceived with reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, or IVF, were more likely to develop high blood pressure as adolescents than their naturally conceived counterparts, a new study finds. Of 52 teens conceived with technological help, eight had hypertension, defined as blood pressure greater than 130/80 millimeters of mercury. Only one teen of 43 conceived naturally had the same high blood pressure, researchers report online September 3 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. High blood pressure raises the risk of later stroke and heart attack, among other health problems. The estimated prevalence of hypertension among U.S. adolescents is about 3.5 percent. Among the teens from assisted conceptions in the study, it was 15 percent. “This is a small study, and this is not terrible blood pressure, but it’s blood pressure that should alert somebody that we need to be checking it routinely,” says Larry Weinrauch, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School who wrote an editorial accompanying the article. As of 2014, more than 8 million babies worldwide had been born as a result of assisted pregnancies, according to preliminary data released in July by the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies in Palo Alto, Calif.
9-3-18 It's Freezing Out There is the web series about egg freezing you didn't know you needed
When you think of egg freezing, you probably think of the quintessential career woman. "I have a glossy image in my head of a professional woman in a nice silk shirt striding into a fertility clinic with a pile of binders and a four-year plan," writes Eva Wiseman for The Guardian. It's an archetype as much rooted in cultural debates about career-driven women as pop culture. Back in 2012, Anne-Marie Slaughter — of "Why women still can't have it all" fame — preached the gospel of egg freezing to young women just entering the workplace, arguing it would let them focus on their professional development before a family gets in the way. That same year, the TV show New Girl made much the same point. Yet today, with democratic socialism is on the rise, something feels amiss about this perspective. Is a career really the only reason why a woman should freeze her eggs? The answer to this question is what makes It's Freezing Out There, a new web series out today, so refreshing. Its creator, Pepper Binkley, smartly upends the trope of a professional woman freezing her eggs to "get ahead," instead emphasizing why even those of us still figuring thing out ought to be thinking about biological clocks.
8-30-18 The woman who founded the 'incel' movement
When Alana started a website for lonely people struggling to find love, she had no idea it would become linked to a community of hate and anger directed at women, which would ultimately lead to the deaths of several innocent people in her home city. "It definitely wasn't a bunch of guys blaming women for their problems. That's a pretty sad version of this phenomenon that's happening today. Things have changed in the last 20 years." Alana abbreviated "involuntarily celibate" to "invcel", until someone suggested that "incel" was easier to say. "The word [incel] used to mean anybody of any gender who was lonely, had never had sex or who hadn't had a relationship in a long time. But we can't call it that anymore." By 2000, Alana was moving away from the community, satisfied that it would continue without her. "I didn't notice what was going on because I wasn't paying attention. My dating life was going OK. I didn't want to think about my history as a late bloomer." Nearly 15 years later, Alana was in a bookshop reading a feminist magazine when she saw a small story about a man named Elliot Rodger. The 22-year-old had killed six people in a shooting and stabbing spree in Isla Vista, California, before turning a gun on himself. Before his death, he had distributed a 141-page document exploring his deep-rooted loathing of women, fuelled by an intense frustration over his virginity. Now Elliot Rodger was being seen as a hero by some in the incel community. There was worse to come. In April 2018, a man from Toronto called Alek Minassian posted on Facebook: "The Incel Rebellion has already begun… All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!" Shortly afterwards, he drove a van down a crowded street, killing 10 people. (Webmaster's comment: No forgiveness and no redemption!)
8-28-18 Endometriosis: The pair who helped change Australia's conversation
Australia recently launched its first "national action plan" targeting endometriosis. It followed the advocacy of many - not least a mother and daughter who used viral success to fuel a wider conversation, writes Gary Nunn in Sydney. Earlier this year, Sylvia Freedman received a message from a woman she'd never met disclosing something she found "bizarre, but lovely!" The woman had decided to name her baby Sylvia, because without Sylvia's advocacy, she'd never have got pregnant. Syl suffers from endometriosis. Endometriosis (endo) currently has no known cause and no cure. It can cause severe pelvic pain and infertility. Back in 2013, Syl's university tutor, who also had endo, offered to mentor her through an honours thesis on coverage of endometriosis in the media. Their web search for media mentions of endometriosis returned zero mentions of the disease in any major Australian media outlets over 10 years. The tutor withdrew her offer, saying Syl couldn't do a literature review with nothing to review. It was a fresh blow after a decade of confusion, debilitating pain, missed classes, losing jobs and endless hours on the couch hugging a hot water bottle, wishing she lived inside a different body. Today, Sylvia, 27, is having a good day. She's able to sit upright on a chair opposite me and her mum, Lesley at their home in Sydney. In the past, endo often left her unable to sit up, walk or even do up her jeans. Syl feels much better now partly thanks to effective excision surgery, daily self-management and Visanne - a drug designed to treat endo. This medication is now available in Australia because Lesley and Sylvia took on pharmaceutical giant Bayer - and won.
8-24-18 SEX AND THE SUGAR DADDY
In Kenya, more and more young women are using sugar daddies to fund a lifestyle worth posting on social media. Transactional sex was once driven by poverty, says film-maker Nyasha Kadandara. But now, increasingly, it's driven by vanity. Eva, a 19-year-old student at Nairobi Aviation College, was sitting in her tiny room in shared quarters in Kitengela feeling broke, hungry, and desperate. She used the remaining 100 Kenyan shillings she had in her wallet and took a bus to the city centre, where she looked for the first man who would pay to have sex with her. After 10 minutes in a dingy alley, Eva went back to Kitengela with 1,000 Kenyan shillings to feed herself for the rest of the month. Six years ago, when she was at university, Shiro met a married man nearly 40 years her senior. At first, she received just groceries. Then it was trips to the salon. Two years into their relationship, the man moved her into a new apartment because he wanted her to be more comfortable. Another two years down the line, he gave Shiro a plot of land in Nyeri county as a show of commitment. In exchange, he gets to sleep with Shiro whenever he feels like it. Eva's experience is transactional sex in its most unvarnished form - a hurried one-off encounter, driven by desperation. Shiro's story illustrates an altogether more complex phenomenon - the exchange of youth and beauty for long-term financial gain, motivated not by hunger but by aspiration, glamorised by social media stars, and often wrapped in the trappings of a relationship. Older men have always used gifts, status, and influence to buy access to young women. The sugar daddy has probably been around, in every society, for as long as the prostitute. So you might ask: "Why even have a conversation about transactional sex in Africa?" The answer is that in Kenya, and in some other African countries, "sugar" relationships seem to have become both more common and more visible: what once was hidden is now out in the open - on campuses, in bars, and all over Instagram.
8-21-18 There’s a new cervical cancer screening option
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends HPV testing alone every five years. For cervical cancer screening, there’s a new option in town. Women ages 30 to 65 can opt to have human papillomavirus, or HPV, testing alone every five years, according to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. HPV testing alone joins two other alternatives that are still endorsed: an HPV test plus a Pap test every five years, or a Pap test alone every three years. The guidelines, published online August 21 in JAMA, are the first update to the group’s cervical cancer screening recommendations since 2012. Recent research has shown that HPV testing, which checks for the presence of the sexually transmitted virus in a sample of cervical cells, is better at catching precancerous lesions early than the traditional Pap test, which looks for those lesions in a cervical cell sample. Globally, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women. HPV causes nearly all cervical cancers.
8-15-18 Don’t restrict women’s contraception rights through moral panic
Failures of the contraception app Natural Cycles have been linked to abortions in Sweden. But critics should remember all contraception fails sometimes. IT IS tempting to think that people who entrust their family planning to an app that uses body temperature to work out when they are fertile deserve all they have coming. Certainly the app Natural Cycles, recently approved as a form of contraception in the European Union and the US, has been controversial, especially after it was linked to several abortions in Sweden last year (see “No contraceptive is perfect, but can you trust apps to stop pregnancy?”). Women may fail to heed the app’s warnings on fertile days, or the app itself may sometimes get it wrong. But all contraceptive methods fail: pills get forgotten, injections missed and condoms skipped. The average effectiveness of most contraceptive methods is usually considerably lower than “perfect use” effectiveness. What’s clear is that Natural Cycles works pretty well for at least some women. Hormonal contraception is still likely to be the best option for many, but those who have had side effects or who baulk at chemically altering their bodies have a right to seek alternatives. Abortion is a separate issue – it should not be used to generate a moral panic over a genuine advance for free choice.
8-15-18 No contraceptive is perfect, but can you trust apps to stop pregnancy?
Birth control app Natural Cycles has come under fire for unwanted pregnancies, but this just reveals how little we understand contraception. WOULD you trust your smartphone to stop you getting pregnant? That might sound ridiculous, but the US Food and Drug Administration has just approved an app called Natural Cycles as a form of contraception. This follows similar approval by the European Union last year, which saw the app garner an enthusiastic following of women eager to stop taking hormonal contraception, but also mounting controversy. It seems simple. You measure your temperature and tap it into the app, and its algorithm tells you if there is a risk of conceiving that day. Avoid sex or use a condom on those “red days” and you shouldn’t get pregnant. Of course, things are more complicated than that. The first signs of this were the abortions. In January, it was reported that Stockholm South General Hospital in Sweden had identified 37 unwanted pregnancies among women using the app. These accounted for 5.5 per cent of those seeking abortions there in the last four months of 2017. This prompted the Swedish Medical Products Agency to open an investigation into the app. Now its adverts are under fire. The UK Advertising Standards Authority announced last month that it is investigating the marketing by the Swedish firm behind the app after receiving three complaints about paid posts on Facebook. The complainants took issue with the app being described as a “clinically-tested alternative to birth control methods”. News headlines and regretful testimonials seem unlikely to deter other tech firms from following Natural Cycles into the contraception business. In May, Ava – a firm that makes a fertility-tracking bracelet and app – announced it had raised $30 million to expand into various aspects of female health. One of these is preventing pregnancy and the firm is in discussions with EU and US health agencies.
8-14-18 India rejects patent plea for 'immoral' sex toy
India's patent office has rejected a plea by a Canadian company to patent a vibrator because sex toys violate "public order and morality". Invoking India's obscenity law, the patent office said the law "has never engaged positively with the notion of sexual pleasure". The patent office said sex toys are considered to be obscene objects and are illegal in India. But a 2011 court ruling had said sex toys could not be considered obscene. An Ontario-based company called Standard Innovation Corporation had applied for a patent in India for a new vibrator, to prevent generic local copycats being sold in the market, according to Shamnad Basheer, a visiting professor of law at India's National Law School who is working on a book about public health law. In April, the patents office rejected the plea, saying that sex toys lead "to obscenity and moral deprivation of individuals". "These are toys that are not considered useful or productive. Mostly these are considered to be morally degrading by the law," the office said. "The law views sex toys negatively and has never engaged positively with the notion of sexual pleasure". The office also invoked the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a 155-year-old colonial-era law, which criminalises gay sex and unnatural intercourse, in refusing the patent.
8-13-18 Essure sterilisation device: Australian women to launch lawsuit
Women in Australia will pursue a class action lawsuit over a sterilisation device that has allegedly caused medical problems for women worldwide. The lawsuit against German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, maker of the Essure implant, will follow similar actions in the UK, US and Canada. Women with the implant have reported problems such as chronic pain and adverse reactions to nickel. Bayer has defended the Essure device as safe. The product was withdrawn from sale in the US in July. Bayer had already halted sales in all other nations, citing commercial reasons. "We continue to stand behind the product's safety and efficacy, which are demonstrated by an extensive body of research," the company said in July. Australian firm Slater and Gordon said the lawsuit would examine whether the device, sold in the country from 2010, was "inherently defective". The small coil implants, which are made of nickel and polyester (PET) fibres, were used as a sterilisation device to stop eggs reaching the womb. They were inserted into the fallopian tubes and designed to trigger inflammation, causing scar tissue to build up and eventually block the tubes, known as a hysteroscopic sterilisation. (Webmaster's comment: How insane can doctors get?) "For the women who have experienced complications it has been incredibly damaging," Slater and Gordon lawyer Ebony Birchall said. She said many women had been forced to have a hysterectomy to remove the coil.
8-9-18 Pregnant women’s use of opioids is on the rise
Early screening could prevent pregnancy complications and health problems for babies. Pregnant women aren’t immune to the escalating opioid epidemic. Data on hospital deliveries in 28 U.S. states shows the rate of opioid use among pregnant women has quadrupled, from 1.5 per 1,000 women in 1999 to 6.5 per 1,000 women in 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The highest increases in opioid use among pregnant women were in Maine, New Mexico, Vermont and West Virginia, according to the CDC study, published online August 9 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. “This analysis is a stark reminder that the U.S. opioid crisis is taking a tremendous toll on families,” says coauthor Jean Ko, a CDC epidemiologist in Atlanta. In this first look at opioid use during pregnancy by state, Washington, D.C. had the lowest rate in 2014, at 0.7 per 1,000 women, and Vermont had the highest, at 48.6 per 1,000. However, the data from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department represents only the 28 states that record opioid use at childbirth during the studied time frame. “We knew the incidence was increasing” as the number of babies going through opioid withdrawal has also gone up, says Matthew Grossman, a pediatrician at Yale University. Overall, the number of U.S. deaths attributed to opioids has also been steadily rising (SN: 3/31/18, p. 18). In 2014, there were 14.7 opioid deaths per 100,000 people, up from 6.2 per 100,000 in 2000, according to the CDC.
8-8-18 Inducing labour at 39 weeks leads to fewer emergency Caesareans
It has been thought that inducing labour leads to more C-sections, but a study of over 6,100 women suggests this isn’t the case when induced at 39 weeks. Choosing to induce labour at 39 weeks has been found to reduce the rates of emergency Caesarean deliveries, as well as lowering maternal and fetal complications. Inducing labour has been thought to increase the rate of C-sections, but a study of over 6,100 women from across the USA suggests that inducing at 39 weeks of pregnancy lowers the rate of emergency C-sections by 3 percentage points, down to 19 per cent of deliveries. Women in the study who had inductions also reported experiencing less pain in labour, and a greater sense of control over the labour process. “Safe avoidance of caesarean birth has both immediate and long-term benefits for a woman: women who deliver vaginally have fewer complications,” says William Grobman, at Northwestern University in Chicago, who led the study. The findings are reassuring, says Neena Modi, at Imperial College London. But about half of women start labour at 40 weeks or later. This study doesn’t shed any light on what to do about pregnancies that reach 41 weeks or more, she says. There is a danger that this study could lead to more elective inductions, and an increase in unnecessary medical interference in deliveries, says Modi.
8-8-18 ‘Hey’: short messages are the best dating site strategy, study says
An analysis of online dating has found most users hit on people who are 25 per cent more attractive than them, and that shorter messages have better reply rates. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man on a dating app will pursue a date with a single word: “hey.” And according to a new study, that may be the best strategy for attracting a partner who is out of your league. Elizabeth Bruch and Mark Newman at the University of Michigan, US, studied the messaging patterns of 94,478 men and 92,457 women on a free online dating website. The users were located in New York, Boston, Chicago and Seattle, all were seeking heterosexual relationships, and their genders were self-identified. They found that women receive more messages than men, and most of the messages sent on the service go to only a small fraction of users. The most popular person in the study was a 30-year-old woman in New York who received 1504 messages during the month-long study period. Bruch and Newman ranked each user’s desirability by the number of initial messages they received, which were themselves weighted by the desirability of the person sending them, using the same kind of maths that is used to rank web pages in a Google search. For men, desirability peaked at around 50 years old, while for women it peaked at 18 and dropped steadily with age. The more education a man had had, the more desirable he was. But with women, an undergraduate degree was the most desirable level of education, and graduate degrees were linked to decreased desirability.
8-8-18 Online dating: Aim high, keep it brief, and be patient
Scientists say the secrets to success in online dating are to aim high, keep your message brief, and be patient. Playing "out of your league" or dating people considered more attractive than you, is a winning strategy, according to a new analysis of internet daters in the US. Men had greater success when they approached women they believed were more desirable than themselves. The new study has been published in the journal, Science Advances. Internet dating has become the dominant form for those seeking romance - it's the third most popular means of meeting a long term partner and around half of all 18-34 year olds now use dating apps. In this new report, scientists used a Google-inspired algorithm to understand the desires of people wanting to match up. They analysed messaging and demographic patterns among heterosexual users in New York, Boston, Chicago and Seattle. They found that both men and women contact potential partners who are, on average, around 25% more desirable than themselves. Your "desirability", they found, is not just about the number of messages that you receive, but who you receive them from. If your messages come from people who have themselves received lots of messages, that makes make you more desirable, according to the study.
7-30-18 Women have more miscarriages than live births over their lifetime
A study that brings together many different findings concludes that miscarriages are even more common than we thought. Most fertilised eggs miscarry rather than develop into healthy babies. However, most miscarriages usually occur very early in pregnancy, without a woman even being aware she was pregnant. A few previous studies have suggested that miscarriages are the most common outcome of conception. Now a meta-analysis claims to have “unambiguously” confirmed it. For women in their 20s, conception is as likely to end in miscarriage as it is in a live birth, says William Rice, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It is not an abnormality,” he says. “It’s the norm.” The rate shoots up as women age, with women in their late 40s having more than 30 miscarriages per newborn. “It starts high and it gets extremely high,” says Rice. He combined data from a number of disparate sources to work out the frequency of all miscarriages, including the very early miscarriages that women are not usually aware of. For instance, IVF records reveal how many live births result per embryo implanted. Other studies have looked at how the rate of lethal chromosomal abnormalities in eggs rises as women age. Rice gives two examples. Women in Denmark, who have free access to birth control and elective abortions up to 12 weeks, have 1.7 children on average. These women have 2.1 miscarriages in their lifetime on average, Rice calculates, along with 0.4 elective abortions. By contrast, frontier Mormon women in the US in the 19th century, who had no birth control and an average of eight children each, had an average of 16.8 miscarriages in their lifetime, he calculates.
7-28-18 Midwife training centre attacked in Afghanistan's Jalalabad
An Afghan midwife training centre has come under attack by militants, with at least three people injured. The attackers set off explosives and fired gunshots at the centre in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province. Most students and midwives have been rescued, but others are missing, with fears they could be trapped inside. No group has yet said it is behind the attack, although Islamic State militants have claimed several recent attacks in the eastern province. The Taliban have denied any involvement. The attack began at around 11:30 local time (07:00 GMT) on Saturday, provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said. "The Afghan security forces have cordoned off the area and [have] launched an operation to gun down the attackers," he added. Local officials told the BBC's Afghan service that about 70 employees and students were in the compound when the attack began. At least 57 have been evacuated, but others are still unaccounted for, the authorities say. An eyewitness told AFP that the attackers appeared to have placed explosive devices in the street near the complex. It is not clear why the midwife training centre was targeted. However, militants often choose official buildings and medical facilities for their attacks, and many Afghans are opposed to unmarried women working outside their homes. More than 50% of births in Afghanistan take place without a trained midwife. The country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world - 396 deaths per 100,000 live births - well above the global average of 216 deaths. (Webmaster's comment: The rate in the EU is 8 deaths per 100,000. The rate in the US is 28 deaths per 100,000 - the highest in the developed world.)
7-28-18 The plight of India's surrogate mothers
Once a world leader for commercial surrogacy, the country is now tightening controls. Outside of a maternity ward, a young man and woman are bent over a phone. A few minutes ago, a nurse beckoned them over and ushered them in through a closed door. They came back out smiling. On the phone is the photo of a newborn baby girl. She's in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; these are her parents in the waiting area, and her birth mother, or gestational carrier, is in the ward, getting some much-needed sleep. Since the '90s, couples and single people, gay and straight, have been coming to India to hire surrogates to have their babies. And here, at the Akanksha Hospital in Anand, Gujarat, founder Dr. Nayana Patel has assisted in the birth of nearly 13,000 babies via surrogacy. Surrogacy is reported to bring $400 million every year to the Indian economy. Doctors in even the smallest towns assist in it, but a few towns like Anand have turned it into big business. Here, fertility clinics not only assist in surrogacy — they also keep a rotating roster of surrogates in all stages of pregnancy, right on the premises. Women come from all over the country, and for nine months, they live in a dorm away from their families and carry a stranger's child to term. "It was always my dream to practice infertility and make from patients to parents," Patel says. She started IVF training in the '90s, when it was still a nascent field and set up a fertility center in 1999. "But I never thought of doing surrogacy because even I felt that how can somebody carry somebody's child and just hand it over," Patel says. "Is it correct?" Then, she got a letter from an Indian woman in the U.K. who was born without a uterus. The woman and her husband sought surrogacy. They tried in the U.K. and couldn't find a surrogate. So they turned to Patel, who said she'd help them if they found their own surrogate. After a futile search that lasted for months, the girl's mother agreed to carry her daughter's baby. As Asia's first grandmother surrogacy, the media attention brought an outpouring of letters to Patel. In India, perhaps even more than other parts of the world, having a child — and particularly a male child — is a big part of marriage. For many people who have an arranged marriage, having a male heir is the main reason they tie the knot. Patel started to hear from couples who couldn't conceive and was moved by their stories. "It made me think, 'What could happen to their marriages?'" Patel says. "Either they live a childless life or there is a divorce or a second wife sometimes. Or she's totally depressed and tries a suicide attempt." So, she started Akanksha, which translates to "desire." The clinic has now grown into a full hospital.
7-27-18 Drug to treat endometriosis pain first to be approved in over a decade
A new drug relieves pelvic pain in women with endometriosis, but is expensive and can cause side-effects like hot flushes, headaches and nausea. A pill for treating endometriosis-related pain will soon become available after being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Endometriosis occurs when tissue from the uterus spreads to other parts of the body, usually within the pelvis. It can cause severe pelvic pain during menstruation, sex, or all the time, and affects up to one in ten young women. At the moment, endometriosis-related pain is normally managed with common painkillers, contraceptives that shorten or suppress menstruation, or injectable hormone treatments. For many women with endometriosis, these treatments either don’t work, trigger side-effects like weight gain or moodiness, or can only be taken for short periods due to their effect on bone density. The newly-approved drug – elagolix – can be taken for longer, but it does have several side-effects. In a placebo-controlled clinical trial involving almost 900 women with moderate to severe endometriosis pain, elagolix reduced menstrual pain in over 40 per cent of patients and non-menstrual pelvic pain in over 50 per cent when taken as a once-daily pill. It also reduced average pain ratings during sex. The drug works by reducing oestrogen – the hormone that drives endometriosis. Because it only lowers oestrogen slightly, it can be taken for up to two years. In contrast, injectable hormone treatments can only be taken for 6 months because they lower oestrogen more powerfully and cause bone loss.
7-5-18 Slight Preference for Having Boy Children Persists in U.S.
Americans' long-standing tilt toward preferring a boy over a girl if they could have only one child continues. Thirty-six percent of Americans say they would want a boy and 28% a girl, with the rest -- 36% -- volunteering that it wouldn't matter or that they don't have an opinion. Gallup has asked this question 11 times since 1941, with an average 11-percentage-point gap in preferences for boys over girls -- ranging from a 15-point gap in 1947 and 2000 to four points in 1990. The current eight-point preference for a boy, from a June 1-13 poll, is slightly lower than the 12-point gap in Gallup's last measure, from 2011. The 77-year-long tendency for American adults to express overall preferences for a boy over a girl is driven by the marked preference among men for a baby boy and the more closely divided preferences among women. Men, over the years of Gallup's trend, have preferred a boy over a girl by an average of 25 points, while women have averaged a slight three-point preference for a girl.
- Preference for boys over girls has averaged 11-point margin since 1941
- Men are strong in their preference for a male child, 43% to 24%
- Women have divided preferences: 31% want a girl; 30%, a boy