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148 Women's Sexuality News Articles
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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.
6-29-18 Biggest study of vaginas shows there’s no such thing as ‘normal’
A study measuring labia and clitoris size in hundreds of women has found they vary widely, potentially helping to curb rising cosmetic surgery rates. Vaginas come in all shapes and sizes, a study of hundreds of women has revealed. The findings should reassure women who are worried about whether they are “normal”. Recent years have seen a surge in cosmetic surgeries in external female genitalia. Collectively called the vulva, these are often colloquially known as the vagina. In the UK, for example, the number of women undergoing labia reductions has increased fivefold in the last 10 years. This has partly been driven by body image pressures and partly by lack of information about genital diversity, says Emma Barnard at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Even medical textbooks tend to depict only one type of vulva: small, neat and symmetrical, she says. “They’re often highly stylised drawings that don’t accurately represent real life.” To better understand the typical dimensions of vulvas, Anne Kreklau at Lucerne Cantonal Hospital in Switzerland and her colleagues performed measurements on over 650 healthy Caucasian women aged 15 to 84. They measured the size of each participant’s inner and outer labia, clitoris, vaginal opening and perineum. The results revealed a large amount of variation. For example, the length of the inner labia was 43 millimetres on average, but ranged from 5 to 100 millimetres. And while the clitoris was 5 millimetres wide on average, it ranged from 1 to 22 millimetres. These dimensions were found to vary with age, BMI and childbirth history. The inner labia and perineum tended to be shorter in older women, for instance, while the outer labia tended to be longer in women with higher BMIs. Women who had given birth vaginally had larger vaginal openings than non-childbearing women and those who had had caesareans.
6-29-18 Polycystic ovary syndrome linked to mother’s health in pregnancy
Women who are overweight or smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have daughters who develop polycystic ovary syndrome, a nationwide study has found. Women who are overweight or smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have daughters who develop polycystic ovary syndrome, a nationwide study has found. Polycystic ovary syndrome affects about one in ten women and is the most common cause of female infertility. It is typically characterised by ovarian cysts, irregular menstrual cycles and high testosterone levels. The exact causes of the syndrome are unknown, but growing evidence suggests it can be triggered by environmental factors in the womb. To explore this idea, Heiddis Valgeirsdottir at Uppsala University in Sweden and her colleagues studied the pregnancy records of all women who gave birth to daughters in Sweden between 1982 and 1995. They matched these with the current health records of their daughters, who are now in their twenties and thirties. The researchers found that daughters of women who were overweight or obese during pregnancy were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome than those whose mothers had been within the healthy weight range during pregnancy. Being overweight during pregnancy is known to raise testosterone levels, which may interact with the fetus and lead to polycystic ovary syndrome, says Paolo Giacobini at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, who was not involved in the study. His team is currently studying whether this mechanism occurs in mice. The study also found that daughters of mothers who smoked 1 to 9 cigarettes per day during pregnancy were 1.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with the syndrome than those whose mothers were non-smokers. This may be because cigarette smoke can damage the ovaries in the developing fetus, says Valgeirsdottir.
6-14-18 The number of teens who report having sex is down
But so is condom use among high school students who are sexually active. Fewer teens are having sex than at any point since 1991, a national survey of U.S. high school students finds. But among those students who are sexually active, fewer are using condoms, raising the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. About 40 percent of teens surveyed in 2017 reported having ever had sex. That’s down from about 54 percent in 1991, the first year the survey was conducted. Of the roughly 29 percent of students who are currently sexually active — defined as having had sexual intercourse with at least one person in the three months before the survey — nearly 54 percent reported that either they or their partner used a condom the last time they had had sex. Ten years ago, about 61 percent of teens reported condom use. Cora Breuner, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, says that pediatricians have been doing a better job educating teens about sex. “The more kids know about it, the less mystique there is about it,” she says, and “the more they want to wait.” “I’m actually more concerned about the lack of condom use,” says Breuner, who also chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Adolescence. She sees two reasons for the drop: Less fear of HIV with the advent of antiretroviral drugs and wider availability of long acting contraceptives, which are very effective at preventing pregnancy. “We are not doing a good job informing kids about protecting themselves from getting sick with infections that can last the rest of their lives and have significant negative outcomes, including infertility and even death.”
6-14-18 Russian MP: Avoid sex with foreign men during World Cup
A prominent Russian MP has been heavily criticised after urging women not to have sex with foreign men during the World Cup. Communist Party MP Tamara Pletnyova told a Moscow Radio station that she was "not a nationalist" but believed Russian women should avoid sex with people "of a different race" because "their children suffer". She was responding to a question about the "kids of the Olympics" - referencing the claim that there was a spike in births of mixed-race children in Russia after the 1980 Summer Olympics. Ms Pletnyova said that these children were "abandoned" by their foreign fathers. "It's not so bad if the fathers are of the same race," she said. "But if they are of a different race, then that's it. "[The children] are abandoned, and they stay here with their mother. We should be giving birth to our children." Ms Pletnyova has been widely condemned online, with some people drawing parallels between her comments and Fifa's Say No to Racism campaign. Recalling how a former ice skater defended a racist tweet by claiming her Twitter account had been hacked, radio presenter Tayana Felgengauer wondered if Ms Pletnyova might claim something similar had happened to her. "I wonder what Pletnyova will say when they remind her of Say No to Racism," she tweeted. Further critics of Ms Pletnyova have included one who called for her to be "thrown out of the Duma" (Russian parliament). One Twitter user wondered if the Russian MP intended to "monitor the behaviour of female Russians of reproductive age", while another pointed out the irony in the fact Ms Pletnyova had previously been "the head of the Committee for Nationalities".
6-11-18 Catalan village women vote for topless bathing after row at pool
The women in a village near Barcelona have voted to go topless in public swimming pools, scrapping a local ban. The vote in L'Ametlla del Vallès went 61% for topless bathing, 39% against. The Catalan local authority organised the vote - whose result is legally binding - for women aged 16 and above, and 379 took part. Women pressed for the vote after police turned up at one of the pools last summer and ordered two women to put on their bikini tops. A lifeguard had reported them to the police. The case prompted an original protest by villagers supporting the women: bathers - women and men - went to the pool wearing bikini tops on which they had drawn nipples. (Webmaster's comment: As long as clothing is still optional there is nothing wrong with nude swimming.)
6-7-18 Storm over India film on women who 'smoke, drink and have sex'
A Bollywood summer film that shows female bonding among four hard drinking, foul-mouthed friends has sparked a social media storm. Set in south Delhi, one of India's poshest neighbourhoods, Veere Di Wedding is about a group of school friends who are now grown up independent women. The film is about four BFFs (best friends forever) and a wedding gone wrong. The four friends swear freely, drink and throw up with equal speed, and have flings. They deal with familiar Indian social tropes like the distaste for arranged marriages, weight issues, being judged by friends and relatives, putting up with the pressures of a big fat over-the-top wedding, and balancing parental approval and those of husbands' families. Their open and casual swearing and discussion of their sexual needs seems a breath of fresh air for an Indian film. The four women are unapologetic about wanting sex or their flippant display of wealth. Veere Di Wedding began trending on Twitter soon after a successful release, as a group of viewers attacked the actor Swara Bhaskar, who plays one of the female leads, for a scene which shows her masturbating. One of them said he was "embarrassed" about the scene as he had taken his granny along to watch the film. Indian politician and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah couldn't help his sarcasm. There were also jokes galore on taking grandparents to films containing taboo subjects. The film shows Bhaskar's character's marriage unravelling after her husband finds her in bed "flying solo". She tells her friend she had "half-cheated" on her spouse. She says her husband, who saw her with a sex toy, had begun to "blackmail her" and she takes to the bottle to overcome her shame before her parents and relatives.
6-6-18 Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has no respect for Stormy Daniels
A lawyer for US President Donald Trump has said a porn actress who claims she had an affair with Mr Trump does not deserve "respect" due to her sex work. "I respect women - beautiful women and women with value - but a woman who sells her body for sexual exploitation I don't respect," said Rudy Giuliani. "Someone who sells his or her body for money has no good name," he added. A lawyer for actress Stormy Daniels, who is suing Mr Trump for defamation, called Mr Giuliani "an absolute pig". (Webmaster's comment: That's insulting to pigs!) Speaking at an investment conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, Mr Giuliani told a panellist: "I'm sorry I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who... isn't going to sell her body for sexual exploitation." "I mean, she has no reputation. If you're going to sell your body for money, you just don't have a reputation. I may be old fashioned." he continued. In response, Ms Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, called the former New York mayor a "misogynist". He added: "His client Mr Trump didn't seem to have any 'moral' issues with her and others back in 2006."
6-6-18 There are benefits to prenatal yoga, but lingering questions remain
Studies have found prenatal yoga can offer intriguing benefits. But the body of evidence needs more rigorous research added to it, scientists say. Pregnant women are on the receiving end of a long to-do list when it comes to maintaining their own health and that of their fetus. Don’t lift too much, eat this, drink that, lie or sit this way for too long. Exercise is on that list of orders, too. Pregnant women without certain complications are encouraged to exercise, but anyone watching their midsection slowly obscure their toes will tell you that the types of exercise you can and want to do winnow as pregnancy progresses. During my first pregnancy, I got tired of just walking. Without a gym membership, I wasn’t keen on water aerobics. Lifting weights was never my thing. So midway through I found myself attending a prenatal yoga class. Immediately I felt I was on to something good: My brain and body felt better after the breathing exercises, meditation and stretches that are tailored for pregnant women. I had some reservations about a few of the poses: Was it OK to lie on my back or do a downward-facing dog? There’s still some debate over whether it’s safe for pregnant women to do these things, and, at the time — in 2015 — studies on prenatal yoga were just starting to emerge in some number. A little digging into the research shows that most pregnant women would be wise to consider prenatal yoga. The studies find numerous and varied benefits. But researchers caution that more studies that meet more rigorous standards need to be conducted.
6-6-18 Why we're still into Sex and the City - 20 years on
It's been exactly 20 years since Sex and the City, with its infuriatingly catchy theme tune and THAT tutu in the opening credits, burst onto TV screens. At the time, it was seen as revolutionary - four women talking openly about their love (and sex) lives with a lot of NSFW scenes shown on screen. Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha became as real as our own friends, from their first appearance on 6 June 1998 to the final episode (countless dates, several husbands and a baby or two later) in 2004. Its stars - Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall - are now household names, and in a real-life plot twist, one of them could now become governor of New York, the city where the show was set. A lot has changed since the show, based on the book by Candace Bushell, first aired in 1998, with some of the lines in the show now seeming hugely outdated. But there's still a lot of love for SATC. Here's how it's still making an impact.
6-4-18 Woman survives metastatic breast cancer thanks to new treatment
A therapy that targets the immune system has had dramatic results in people with four types of cancer in advanced stages that were previously untreatable. A woman with advanced breast cancer has made a dramatic recovery after receiving a personalised therapy using her own immune cells. It’s the first time this type of therapy has worked in breast cancer, suggesting that it may be able to help many more people with common types of cancer, even after they’ve spread to other parts of the body. Judy Perkins, from Florida, had breast cancer that had spread to other organs, despite trying seven other cancer treatments. “She had tennis ball-sized lesions throughout her liver, says Steven Rosenberg at the National Institutes of Health, Maryland. “It probably would have killed her in the next two to three months.” But Rosenberg and colleagues tried a new method for boosting the immune system to treat her cancer, and six weeks later, Perkin’s tumours had halved in size. A year later, they had disappeared. Two and a half years on from treatment, she remains healthy. Perkins said she was “planning on dying” before she enrolled in the trial. Since having the treatment, she has resumed a normal life, including long hikes and kayaking expeditions. The treatment works by targeting genetic mutations that are acquired by cancer cells as they grow and multiply. These mutations are different in each patient, and some cause changes in the proteins that sit on the surface of cells. These surface proteins can be recognised by the immune system, prompting it to attack the cancer cells, but this immune reaction is usually not powerful enough to fight the cancer on its own.
6-4-18 New Zealand sex work activist Catherine Healy made a dame
A former sex worker who led a successful campaign to decriminalise prostitution in New Zealand has been made a dame in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. Catherine Healy, 62, was recognised with an Order of Merit for services to the rights of sex workers on Monday. She was instrumental in bringing about a new law in 2003, which gave full employment rights to sex workers. "I was startled when this was offered," she told the BBC. "I'm in shock." "I think even a few weeks ago I wouldn't have thought this was possible. It's indicative of a shift in people's attitudes and it's lovely to feel supported." Ms Healy worked as a primary school teacher before becoming a sex worker in the 1980s. She says she was shocked at the lack of protections in place, especially after coming from the unionised profession of teaching. "We were spoken about as young sex workers in a disrespectful way," she said. "We needed to find our voice and we needed to be understood." In 1987, Ms Healy formed the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC), which advocates for sex workers' rights. The group was at the forefront of a long campaign to decriminalise sex work in the country and argued that doing so would make the profession safer. It helped draft the Prostitution Reform Act, which was passed in 2003 and allowed brothels to operate as legitimate businesses. The law also meant sex workers were subject to ordinary employment and health-and-safety rules. "There is still a stigma around sex work," she says." I think other countries should look at New Zealand. We should have a vision, it's about not ostracising and making [sex work] more dangerous."
6-3-18 Mammograms under the microscope
For some women, the screenings for breast cancer can do more harm than good.
- What’s the debate over mammograms? Major cancer organizations and women’s health groups have disagreed for years about whether widespread breast cancer screenings are helpful, as well as the best age for women to begin receiving them and how frequently.
- How effective are the screenings? The sensitivity of mammograms is about 87 percent, meaning the tests correctly identify 87 percent of women who truly have breast cancer.
- Why would overdiagnosis be harmful? Mammograms can result in false positives or detect benign cancers that won’t ever become health threats during a woman’s lifetime.
- What do guidelines recommend? The American Cancer Society suggests women undergo annual tests from 45 until 55—it had earlier recommended beginning at age 40—and then switch to every other year.
- What advice are doctors following? A recent study found that a full 81 percent of surveyed doctors continue to offer mammograms for women beginning at age 40.
- The risks and benefits of prostate screenings: Prostate cancer will kill more than 29,000 American men this year, making it the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. men.
6-3-18 Birth rates: Why aren’t Americans having babies?
“Americans are less inclined than ever, it seems, to be fruitful and multiply,” said Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe. The U.S. fertility rate hit a record low in 2017, according to alarming new data, with 60.2 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. We’ve dropped below the “replacement” fertility rate of 2.1 births for each woman of childbearing age to 1.7 births. “That should trouble anyone who hopes that America’s best days are yet to come.” In Japan and other countries, plummeting birth rates have led to economic stagnation and social malaise, with fewer workers to replenish a shrinking labor force and care for the elderly. “This slump began, somewhat predictably, during the Great Recession,” said Christine Emba in The Washington Post. Birth rates usually decline during recessions and rebound once things improve, but so far that hasn’t happened. So, “what is holding up the stork?” The answer seems obvious to me, said Amy Westervelt in The Guardian. “The U.S. is a remarkably harsh place for families, and particularly for mothers.” It’s one of the few countries in the world without government-subsidized maternity leave, and only 56 percent of private com panies provide maternity leave. Mothers who want or need to work can also “look forward to an increasingly large pay gap for every child they have, plus fewer promotions,” as well as painful child-care costs. In 33 states and Washington, D.C., average child-care costs now exceed the price of in-state college tuition. Want more babies? Make it easier to be a parent.
6-2-18 Better orgasms and no leaks: Tips for a strong pelvic floor
"I had had three kids and was a bit leaky," says Elaine Miller. Her experience is very common, so now she teaches others how to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. Squeeze along as she shares some exercises with a group of mums.
5-31-18 Guidelines call for limits to whole genome testing for fetuses
While still growing in the womb, a fetus’s full genome can be tested, but the approach should be limited to special cases, three medical groups say. Decades ago, pregnant women had to wait about 40 weeks before knowing much about their baby. But swiftly moving technology offers increasingly detailed peeks into the womb. Beyond generating adorable 3-D ultrasounds of scrunched-up faces, researchers can now analyze a fetus’s full genome from a simple blood draw from mom. But these genome-wide prenatal tests are not ready for prime time, three medical organizations argued in a position paper in the January Prenatal Diagnosis. The method is undoubtedly powerful. Scanning the entire genome can reveal DNA abnormalities that more limited genetic tests might miss. But scientists don’t know enough about the performance of these tests, or their pitfalls, to recommend routine use, wrote representatives from the International Society for Prenatal Diagnosis, the Perinatal Quality Foundation and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. How to interpret the information these tests provide is not always obvious. Many genetic quirks have little or no influence on human health, and sifting through a mountain of genetic data to identify the important signals isn’t easy. So far, large studies that could reveal the utility of these tests simply haven’t been done.
5-30-18 Women aren’t being told real risks of cervical cancer screening
Efforts to prevent cervical cancer seem so straightforward that few women question them, but unnecessary treatment can cause miscarriages and premature births. FOR most women, smear or Pap tests are an uncomfortable but necessary chore. More properly known as cervical cancer screening tests, they usually involve lying down with your legs apart while a doctor or nurse swabs some cells from the top of your vagina. No one likes it, but it is not usually painful and quickly over with. If anything is wrong, a simple surgical procedure can remove the affected tissue before it develops into something more sinister. In the UK, most women between 25 and 64 are regularly offered tests and usually accept, however grudgingly, as cervical screening is seen as a no-brainer. And yet, perhaps we should be putting a bit more thought into the whole approach. For those whose tests find abnormal cells, there are downsides to the follow-up procedure that removes part of the cervix: it can cause miscarriages and premature births, and a few say it has hurt their sex lives. To make matters worse, some women who don’t want the tests at all are getting pressured into having them, with this going far beyond the normal bounds of ethical practice. “We are increasingly discovering that health screening can lead to overtreatment” The prevailing view is that any negatives are worth it if it saves your life. But abnormalities that show up on the screening tests usually go away by themselves. This fact is already leading UK doctors to debate whether some women would be better off with “watchful waiting”: not performing surgery, and repeating the test at a later date. Later this year they look set to restrict who is offered surgery.
5-30-18 Finally, a plan on how to include pregnant women in clinical trials
Pregnant women looking for information about drug safety mostly come up short, since these women have been largely excluded from trials that study drugs. Among the stark changes for a woman during pregnancy is what she sees when she opens the medicine cabinet. The medications she wouldn’t have given a second thought to months earlier may now prompt worry and doubt. With any drug on the shelf, she may wonder: Is this medicine safe? Do I need to adjust the dose? Avoid it altogether? An expectant mom with just a cold or a headache will find drug labels suggesting she ask a health professional before use. Turns out, those health professionals are in the same boat as their pregnant patients: There is very little, if any, information about whether many drugs are safe to give to expectant mothers. And that can lead to situations that put fear of harm to the fetus over the health of the mother. Case in point: As a medical resident, bioethicist and obstetrician/gynecologist Anne Lyerly got a call from a friend and fellow resident working at a different hospital. The chief resident there was trying to resuscitate a dying woman who was pregnant, and instructed Lyerly’s friend to find out what drugs were safe to use. “I said, ‘you need to tell your chief resident that he needs to go save his patient’s life,’” Lyerly recalls, and not worry about possible harms from the drugs required to do so. The widespread reluctance to provide medication to pregnant women stems from a dearth of data on treating illnesses with drugs during pregnancy. But because pregnant women have been generally excluded from clinical trials that study drugs, there isn’t much data to be had.
5-30-18 Canada politician seeks to decriminalise payment for surrogacy
A Canadian MP is proposing that the country decriminalise payment for women who choose to become surrogates. As global demand for Canadian surrogates grows, is commercialising the practice the answer? Leia Swanberg is the only person ever to be prosecuted under a Canadian law that prevents payment for surrogacy and limits the activities of surrogacy agencies. A two-time surrogate herself, the fertility agency owner and her company walked away with a combined C$60,000 ($46,000; £35,000) fine in 2014. "My office being raided, my house being raided - you know it was a little unnecessary, it was a little overkill," she says. The fines received by Ms Swanberg - who pleaded guilty to purchasing eggs, paying surrogates, and taking money to arrange surrogacies - could have been worse. Breaking the federal law could mean jail time, a fine of up to $500,000, or both. Surrogacy is legal in Canada but paying a surrogate is not. Canadian women who offer to carry someone else's child are "altruistic" surrogates and can only be compensated for related out-of-pocket expenses. Egg and sperm donors also are not compensated, and Canada currently imports 95% of sperm used by fertility clinics. Agencies can't match surrogates with prospective parents but can offer assistance and referrals. This week, a federal Liberal MP introduced a private member's bill that could change that. Anthony Housefather's proposed legislation would decriminalise payment for surrogacy, as well as for egg and sperm donations. "There is no right in Canada to have a child," the politician told journalists on Tuesday. "But there is a right to liberty." Critics of the current law say surrogacy should be considered a health - not a criminal - matter.
5-24-18 Making new citizens
The number of babies born to American women dropped to a 30-year low in 2016, with 3.85 million births, according to new federal statistics. With growing numbers of women delaying childbirth into their 30s or forgoing it altogether, the general fertility rate for women ages 15 to 44 was 60.2 births per 1,000 women—the lowest rate since the government began tracking more than a century ago.
5-17-18 Fast food and infertility
Women trying to get pregnant should steer clear of fast foods and eat more fresh fruit instead. That’s the conclusion of a new study that followed the diets of nearly 5,600 women in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the U.K. Researchers found that participants who ate meals at fast-food restaurants at least four times a week took nearly a month longer to conceive than those who rarely ate fast food. And while women who rarely or never ate fast food had an 8 percent risk of infertility—defined as not being able to get pregnant after a year of trying—the risk was 16 percent among regular fast-food eaters. Meanwhile, women who ate fruit at least three times a day got pregnant two weeks faster on average than women who ate fruit less than once a month. “It shows that healthier foods support conception,” study leader Jessica Grieger tells NBCNews.com. Researchers note that a high-fat diet has been shown to have a toxic effect on the ovaries of mice, and that fast food could have a similar effect on human-egg cells.
5-11-18 Sex and dating when you live with your parents
There are more young adults living with their parents than ever before - but what does that mean if you're single? Singing teacher Miri Gellert is nearly 30, has lived at home for the past nine years and has had her share of awkward encounters.
5-17-18 US birth rates drop to lowest since 1987
Births in the US have dropped to their lowest rate in 30 years, marking a cultural shift as women delay motherhood, experts say. Some 3.85 million babies were born in the US in 2017, the fewest since 1987, as births among women in their teens and 20s decreased. Both the birth rate - the number of births per thousand - and fertility - a lifetime average forecast - fell. Declining birth rates are common as countries become more developed. The US fertility rate is lower than the UK's but the US still has a higher fertility rate than many other countries. While births decreased among younger women in the US last year, it rose in women aged between 40 and 44. How do birth and fertility rates differ? They are similar terms that mean slightly different things. The birth rate is the number of live births per 1,000 people per year. The total fertility rate, on the other hand, looks at the average number of children women will have over their lifetimes - how many children a 19-year-old will have, rather than how many she had this year. Why have they both dropped? Donna Strobino of Johns Hopkins University put the change down to women choosing to delay motherhood in favour of work. She told AFP news agency: "Women are becoming more educated, they are in the workforce, they are pursuing their careers. "And in the absence of policies that really help women who are working to really take some time off post-partum you are probably going to see a continuation of this delay."
5-13-18 BDSM and consent: How to stop rough sex crossing the line into abuse
When allegations of assault were made against New York's top prosecutor Eric Schneiderman this week, he denied them, saying engaging in non-consensual sex was a line he would not cross. "In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone," he told The New Yorker magazine, which broke the story. Four women say he repeatedly slapped them and one said he insisted she call him "master" in non-consensual situations. One former girlfriend, Michelle Manning Barish, said: "This was under no circumstances a sex game gone wrong... I did not consent to physical assault." New York prosecutors are investigating the allegations. This is not the first time a man accused of assault has claimed he was consensually engaging in rough sex (in Mr Schneiderman's case, he was in a sexual relationship with three of his four accusers; a fourth woman said he hit her after she rebuffed him). In 2014, Canadian musician and former radio host Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of multiple sexual assault charges after several women claimed he had choked, slapped and bitten them without warning or consent. And in 2015, nine women accused adult film star James Deen of assaulting them and not respecting their sexual boundaries or safe words. He denied the accusations and no charges were ever brought. In recent days, Mr Schneiderman's case has come under close scrutiny in the BDSM community, an overlapping acronym for bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism. The BBC spoke with sex experts and prominent members of the community who said full and free consent was a vital element of the practice, in which partners consent to inflicting or enduring pain or physical abuse. They said they were keen to explain what does, in fact, make a consensual BDSM relationship.
5-10-18 Doing it yourself
Doing it yourself, after a Tennessee woman, relying on YouTube how-to videos for guidance, delivered her own baby in a hotel room. “I did a mighty fine job, if I do say so myself,” said Tia Freeman, 22.
5-10-18 Our perilous sexual moment
Everyone seems furious. And most everyone is wrong. all need more freedom to openly discuss — and engage in — sex. Instead, we all too often pounce on provocative opinions and hem in what is deemed "acceptable" bounds of debate. This is a shame. Consider the rhetorical maelstrom created when George Mason University economist Robin Hanson recently suggested that the Toronto attack — in which a self-described incel (an involuntary celibate) mowed down 10 pedestrians — shows that we should worry not just about income inequality, but also the sexual inequality that is leaving too many men sexually frustrated. Hanson, whose blog Overcoming Bias is dedicated to raising uncomfortable questions that cut against ingrained thinking, mused that "cultural elites" might consider "redistribution" schemes that could help incels get a fair share of the action. This was a provocative suggestion, no doubt. But Hanson wasn't really serious about it. He is a libertarian, after all, so talk of "redistribution" was more in the vein of a thought experiment. Still, many people were understandably offended by even the hint of a suggestion that men are "owed" sex, or that this particular man was somehow justified in his violence because of some societal failure to keep his sexual drive satiated. This was, after all, the second instance of incel violence in four years. But almost everyone reacted poorly. Liberals roundly pilloried Hanson. Slate's Jordan Weissman called him "America's creepiest economist," before doing an entirely tendentious interview with him with the aim of exposing Hanson as a nutjob. Wonkette's Robyn Pennacchia accused Hanson of "singing the songs of horny men." Motherboard's Samantha Cole declared that Hanson really wants "women to f--k violent men." (Webmaster's comment: No man is ever owed sex! He must earn it from a willing partner!)
5-1-18 A male pill will be a breakthrough for science but not for women
Research is closing in on the elusive male contraceptive pill. But will it really lead to men taking more responsibility for birth control, wonders Lara Williams. A new wave of optimism about the prospect of a male contraceptive pill is with us. Cue hopes of a more equitable sharing of the birth control burden by men. Recent grounds for excitement include the work of researchers in North Carolina who say they have successfully tested a male contraceptive pill on rhesus macaque monkeys. It contains a compound known as EP055 that can inhibit sperm motility, with no apparent side effects. “Simply put, the compound turns off the sperm’s ability to swim, significantly limiting fertilisation capabilities,” said Michael O’Rand, president of Eppin Pharma, the company developing the pill. “This makes EP055 an ideal candidate for non-hormonal male contraception.” The drug has yet to be tested in men, however. Closer to routine use by men is a hormonal gel containing synthetic forms of testosterone and progestin, applied to the arms and shoulders daily. The gel lowers sperm production by limiting testosterone production in the testes. It has been ten years in the making, with key clinical trials due later this year. The plan is to recruit up to 420 couples in six countries, including the UK and US. Not far behind is a daily hormonal pill that recently completed a safety trial in US men. Such news stokes interest because the hunt for a male pill has become the birth control movement’s white whale: elusive and seemingly impossible to corner when spotted. But as hope of a breakthrough rises, let’s not forget the growing debate and discontent among women over hormonal contraceptives, and the lamentable record of men on sharing responsibility for birth control.
5-1-18 The people fighting pollution with plastic-free periods
Talking about periods openly can be difficult, and discussing menstrual waste can be even harder. While the fight against single-use plastics like straws and shopping bags has become a mainstream issue, activists and environmental groups say disposable menstrual products are part of the problem too. How many women actually know their tampons and pads may have plastic in them? Unlike food products, there is no legal compulsion to list ingredients on their packaging, although most of this information is available online. Pads, the product favoured around the world, can in some cases be made up of about 90% plastic - containing as much as four supermarket bags. Tampons are predominantly cotton and rayon but have components made up of polyester materials. Many come individually wrapped with plastic applicators. The average woman is estimated to use, and throw away, in excess of 10,000 of these in her menstrual lifetime. During its annual clean-up weekend in 2017, the Marine Conservation Society found a large increase in sewage-related debris on British beaches - including hundreds of menstrual pads, tampons and applicators. The problem inspired City to Sea, a group fighting ocean pollution, to start a #PlasticFreePeriod campaign. Despite warnings on packaging that products like wipes and tampons aren't flushable, women continue to dispose of them this way, forcing water companies to spend huge amounts of money clearing blockages. In countries without stringent disposal systems in place, these products can be found in the streets or on rubbish dumps being hand-sorted, leaving poor workers at huge health risk. But through woman-to-woman advocacy and word of mouth, reusable products like cups, sponges and absorbable pants are growing in popularity around the world. Once a fringe choice, these environmentally friendlier options are being popularised by the internet.
4-30-18 Women who eat more pasta tend to get menopause earlier
Eating more white pasta and rice has been linked to reaching menopause a year or so earlier than average, while eating oily fish is linked to later menopause. A study of more than 900 women in the UK has found that eating more white pasta and rice is linked to getting menopause earlier, while a diet rich in oily fish is linked to later menopause. However, it is not possible to tell if these diets directly affect the onset of menopause, or if they merely reflect some other, hidden factor. Janet Cade, at the University of Leeds, UK, and colleagues analysed data from 900 women who experienced menopause between the ages of 40 and 65. They found that the average age of menopause was 51, but that certain foods were associated with when menopause begun. Women who ate an additional daily portion of refined white pasta or rice tended to reach menopause around one-and-a-half years earlier than average, while an extra daily serving of oily fish was associated with a delay of more than three years. Diets high in fresh legumes – such as peas and beans – were linked with women reaching the menopause around a year later. Higher intake of vitamin B6 and zinc were also associated with later menopause. “The age at which menopause begins can have serious health implications for some women,” says Cade. Women who go through menopause early can have an increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, while those who do so later can be more likely to develop breast, womb and ovarian cancers.
4-26-18 Antidepressants and pregnancy
Taking commonly prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy could affect the development of the baby’s brain, reports Reuters.com. Scientists at Columbia University scanned the brains of 98 newborns. The mothers of 16 infants had taken selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—such as Zoloft, Celexa, and Prozac—during pregnancy, while 21 had suffered untreated depression. The others did not suffer from depression. The MRIs showed that the babies who were exposed to an SSRI in utero showed greater volume in the amygdala and the insular cortex, areas of the brain involved in mood regulation and the processing of intense emotions. They also had more connections between these brain regions than the other infants did. Study co-author Jiook Cha says it’s now clear that “SSRI medications have an influence on fetal brain development.” But she cautions that untreated depression is also risky during pregnancy, and that further research is needed.
4-25-18 G-spot surgery given to three women to boost sexual pleasure
The “G-spotplasty” is intended to improve G-spot sensitivity, but some worry it will make women who don’t orgasm vaginally think they have a medical problem. Three women have received a surgery intended to improve G-spot sensitivity and increase sexual satisfaction. The procedure tightens tissue in the vaginal wall around the so-called G spot, an area of the vagina reputed to produce intense orgasms when stimulated, although experts still argue over whether this really exists. The surgery – dubbed a “G-spotplasty” – has been performed on three women who said they lost the ability to orgasm through vaginal stimulation alone following the birth of a child. It was performed by Adam Ostrzenski, a gynaecological surgeon in Florida, who in 2012 claimed to have identified the G spot as a well-defined sac within the front vaginal wall, a few centimetres from the opening of the vagina. For each woman, Ostrzenski removed a small, diamond-shaped piece of tissue from the supposed location of the G spot. He then stitched the vaginal wall back together again, causing it to tighten. The procedures were carried out in 2013, using a local anaesthetic and a sedative, and the women’s experiences were then recorded in the years that followed. Following the procedure, all three women went on to say that they had regained the ability to reach vaginal orgasm – without stimulation of the clitoris – and now had intercourse more frequently. However, there was no placebo in the study, and it is unclear if these women would have seen the same improvements over time without the surgery.
4-24-18 Though often forgotten, the placenta has a huge role in baby’s health
Research in mice draws attention to the importance of the often-overlooked organ. This vital organ, which is fully formed by about 12 weeks, nurtures a growing fetus throughout pregnancy, offering oxygen, nutrients and antibodies and eliminating waste. The placental cells forge a deep connection between mom and baby, a symbolic early step in a lifelong bond. Recent research suggests a placenta that works properly might be even more important than previously thought. Myriam Hemberger of the Babraham Institute and the University of Cambridge, along with colleagues in England and Austria, looked at more than 100 genes in mice that are known to be necessary for an embryo to survive. More than two-thirds of those mouse genes were linked to problems with the placenta. And death of the embryo around days 10 to 15 —when, in mice, the placenta takes over from the yolk sac to supply nutrients — was almost always tied to these placental problems. The study makes you wonder: How many birth defects in humans might have their roots in the placenta? “You cannot just look at the embryo,” says Susan Fisher of the University of California, San Francisco, who studies how placental cells invade the uterus early in pregnancy. “You should work backward from the placenta.”
4-23-18 Finger-prick test reveals fetus’s sex in the first trimester
Women can now find out whether they are having a boy or a girl using a single drop of blood as soon as they are eight weeks pregnant. Boy or girl? Pregnant women can now find out the sex of their fetus with a simple finger-prick test. Until recently, expectant mothers usually had to wait until a mid-pregnancy ultrasound to find out their future child’s sex. But in the last few years, increasing numbers of people have been finding out from a first-trimester blood test – called the non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) – that also detects Down’s Syndrome. The test works by analysing fragments of the fetus’s DNA that have leaked into the mother’s bloodstream. It involves collecting about 20 millilitres of blood from the mother’s arm with a needle and syringe. Now, Gustavo Barra at Sabin Laboratory, a medical diagnostics company in Brazil, has made the test even simpler. His team has shown that a single drop of blood from a pregnant woman’s fingertip is enough to determine her fetus’s sex. In a study of 100 pregnant women, they found that fingertip blood could be used to predict fetal sex with 100 per cent accuracy from 8 weeks’ gestation onwards. The procedure was simple: they wiped each woman’s fingertip with dilute bleach to get rid of any foreign DNA that might contaminate the sample. A single drop of blood was collected by pricking her finger. Each blood sample was then scanned for Y chromosome DNA. Only males carry the Y chromosome, so if it turned up in the mother’s blood, it must have come from her male fetus. If no Y chromosome was detected, the fetus had to be female.
4-19-18 Band-Aids over her “distracting” nipples
A Florida teenager says high school officials pulled her into the nurse’s office and told her to put Band-Aids over her “distracting” nipples. Lizzy Martinez, 17, says multiple staff members humiliated her by saying her breasts were bothering other students. Her outraged mom said, “We should not treat a girl like this because of where her fat cells decided to distribute genetically.”
4-11-18 Ovarian cancer vaccine improves women’s survival rates
A personalised cancer vaccine that trains the immune system to attack tumours has had encouraging results in women with ovarian cancer. A personalised cancer vaccine that trains the immune system to attack tumours has had encouraging results in women with ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women – around 7,300 women in the UK are diagnosed with it each year. The disease often isn’t recognised until it has already spread, and even after successful treatment, there is a high risk of the cancer returning. Only half of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer survive for five years or more. Cancer vaccines have been showing promise in clinical trials, but few worldwide have made it into the clinic for routine use. Many of these vaccines are designed to train immune cells to recognise particular molecules that are often present in cancer cells, but this can fail because tumours vary between different people. To get around this problem, Lana Kandalaft from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and her team have created personalised vaccines that are tailored to each individual tumour. To do this, they take samples from a woman’s tumour and kill the cells with acid, which exposes molecules that are normally hidden. These dead cells are then mixed with immune cells from the woman’s blood, and grown in the lab for a few days before being injected back into her.
4-10-18 Guinea's pregnancy trickster jailed
A woman in Guinea who sold herbs and potions to sterile women, telling them they would become pregnant, has been jailed for five years. N'na Fanta Camara made concoctions that made their bellies swell. The traditional healer is said to have tricked more than 700 women, charging them large sums for the treatment. The BBC's Alhassan Sillah in the capital, Conakry, says her victims at the court were upset she did not get a harsher sentence. The use of traditional medicine is common in Guinea and other parts of Africa. Camara, who was found guilty of fraud and impersonating a doctor by giving the women harmful substances and endangering their lives, was also ordered to pay $165,000 (£116,000) in compensation. Two other accomplices were convicted of similar charges, and were sentenced to three years and four years in prison.
4-9-18 Infections during pregnancy affect a child’s brain function
Contracting infections like flu during pregnancy seems to lead to changes in a child’s brain that affects their cognitive abilities. Studies that followed the health of pregnant women and their babies suggest that inflammation caused by infections like flu can lead to changes in the child’s brain, and that these may affect their cognitive abilities later on. The findings make it all the more important that pregnant women try to avoid infections, such as by getting vaccinated against flu and practising basic hygiene measures like hand-washing, says Bradley Peterson of the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Some microbes can directly infect a fetus during pregnancy, and cause developmental problems – Zika virus, for example, appears to be able to infect brain cells in the womb. But there’s some evidence that maternal infections might also affect fetuses indirectly, by putting the woman into a state of heightened immune system activity. For instance, there is evidence that there is a higher rate of schizophrenia among people who were born soon after the 1957 global flu epidemic. Some studies suggest flu may raise the likelihood of having a child who has schizophrenia from around 1 per cent up to as much as 7 per cent, and infections have also been linked to autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression. But these studies are not conclusive and there has been debate about whether infections in pregnant women really do affect the brains of their children.
4-8-18 Egypt's problem with sexy cinema
Director Hala Khalil says parts of her films have been removed as boundaries on filmmakers become tougher.
4-5-18 Step toward male ‘pill’
The decades-long quest for a male equivalent to the female contraceptive pill is one step closer to success, reports CNN.com. A small new study found that dimethandrolone undecanoate, a hormone pill, lowered men’s testosterone levels and suppressed two other hormones responsible for sperm production—without any significant side effects. The research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, involved 83 men between 18 and 50 years old. Each subject was randomly assigned to take one of three different daily doses of the drug, or a placebo, for 28 days. The researchers found that those on the highest dose (400 mg) had the most dramatic reductions in their testosterone levels. While the men who took the drug gained a few pounds, and their levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, fell slightly, none of them experienced mood swings, organ damage, or any other serious side effects. Their hormone levels also recovered within days of stopping the medication. Larger studies are needed to confirm these findings and to determine if the hormonal changes lower sperm counts enough to prevent pregnancy. But lead author Stephanie Page calls the findings “a major step forward in the development of a once-daily ‘male pill.’”
3-29-18 Kardashian’s surrogacy experience
Kim Kardashian had a good reason for using a surrogate mother to carry her third child, said Molly Young in Elle. Kardashian, 37, was desperate to have another baby with husband Kanye West, but knew the process could kill her: During the deliveries of her first two children, North, 4, and Saint, 2, she developed a dangerous condition called placenta accreta. “After giving birth, your placenta is supposed to come out. But mine was stuck. That’s what women usually die from in childbirth—you hemorrhage and bleed to death and they can’t stop it. To get it out—it’s so disgusting—the doctor had to stick his whole arm in me. It was the most painful.” So she and West used in vitro fertilization to create several embryos, and began interviewing surrogacy candidates. The reality TV star promised not to impose too many conditions on the surrogate mother. “I straight-up told her, ‘Look, I ate doughnuts every single day. If you want doughnuts and ice cream, go for it.’” The two attended doctor’s appointments together and kept in close touch. In January, the surrogate gave birth to West and Kardashian’s third child, a daughter they named Chicago. “I hated being pregnant. But as much as I hated it, I still wished I could have done it on my own.”
3-28-18 Walmart shelves 'hyper-sexualised' Cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan, one of the world's largest magazines, is being removed from view at thousands of checkouts by the US supermarket giant Walmart. The move has been celebrated as a victory by a conservative non-profit group that has lobbied against the magazine's "hyper-sexualised" content for years. The National Centre on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) said they had been in "collaborative dialogue" with Walmart for months. In a statement, Walmart said the change was "primarily a business decision" but "concerns raised were heard". They said that while it would be removed from checkouts, Cosmopolitan would still be available to purchase in designated magazine sections in store. Cosmopolitan, which has a print and online reach of tens of millions, has yet to comment publicly on the decision. Founded originally in the late 19th Century, the magazine underwent a feminist renaissance in the 1960s when it became known for pushing the envelope for sexual content, fashion and entertainment gossip. That reputation has continued today, with dozens of international editions, which Cosmopolitan says cater for the "fun, fearless female". Walmart's decision - celebrated by NCOSE as a #MeToo development - raises more questions than answers about where lines are drawn.
3-28-18 Why cancer strikes more women than men in India
For oncologists worldwide, India can look like a puzzling outlier when it comes to cancer. For one, despite reporting more than 1.5 million new cases every year, India's cancer rate remains lower than, say, the economically advanced US. That's about 100 cases per 100,000 people compared with 300 in the US. This may be easier to explain: Indians are a vastly younger people and as people get older, the chances of getting cancer get higher. But survival rates are poor - barely a third of patients survive beyond five years or more after being diagnosed with the disease. What is more difficult to explain is why more women in India are diagnosed with cancer than men, according to a new study published in The Lancet Oncology. Men report a 25% higher incidence of cancer than women all over the world, but India bucks this trend. Having said that, more men die of cancer in India than women. But that is because breast, cervical, ovarian and uterine cancer, that account for more than 70% of the cancers in women in India, allow higher chances of survival on treatment. Indian men suffer largely from lung or oral cancer - both related to smoking and ingesting tobacco - which are more virulent with lower survival rates. Breast cancer is now the most common cancer among women in India, accounting for 27% of all cancers among women. Oncologists say there has been a sharp uptick in cases in the last six years. At 45-50 years, the peak age of onset of breast - and ovarian cancer - in India appears to be a decade younger than the peak age (above 60 years) in high-income countries. This could be due to genetic and environmental factors.
3-28-18 Umbilical cord banking gets a lot of buzz. Why all the excitement?
When you’re pregnant, especially for the first time, you have to make a lot of decisions. Will coffee remain a part of your life? Where are you going to give birth? What are you going to name the baby? What values will you teach him? Do you really need a baby spa bathtub? Before my first daughter arrived, an instructor at a birth class threw me a curveball: Was I planning on banking my baby’s umbilical cord blood? For much of pregnancy, the umbilical cord is the lifeline of a fetus, tethering it to the placenta. Snaking through the nearly 2-feet-long cord, there’s a vein ferrying nutrients and oxygen from mom’s blood (via the placenta), plus two arteries carrying oxygen- and nutrient-depleted blood from the fetus back to mom. Because mother’s blood and fetal blood don’t actually mix much, the blood in the placenta and umbilical cord at birth belongs mainly to the fetus. That fetal blood holds all sorts of interesting — and potentially therapeutic — cells and molecules. This realization has, in some cases, changed the way the umbilical cord and placenta are handled during birth. Instead of tossing it aside, some doctors, scientists and parents are choosing to bank this fetal blood — harvesting it from the baby’s umbilical cord and placenta, freezing it and storing it away for later. Proponents of cord blood banking are convinced that instead of being medical waste, the fetal cells within are biological gold. In this post, and the two that follow, I’ll take a look at the evidence for those claims, and sort through some of the questions that arise as parents consider whether to bank their baby’s cord blood.
3-21-18 Dad power: The surprising new science of fatherhood
When Anna Machin realised science was skewed towards mums, she set out to change that - and discovered fatherhood comes with a raft of changes to the mind and body. THE birth of Anna Machin’s first child didn’t go to plan. “Unfortunately, I suffered a haemorrhage, and it was a bit touch and go for a time,” she recalls. Her newborn daughter was shuttled off for specialist care, while Machin herself, who had passed out, received emergency attention. “I didn’t really see anything, whereas my poor husband, who was in the room, saw everything – blood flowing everywhere, about 30 members of staff rushing around, alarms going off… it was very, very dramatic.” Afterwards, Machin was offered support and counselling. But no such offer was extended to her shaken husband. “And, actually, he was the one who needed it,” she says. This was evident when, even a year later, he was unable to talk about the birth, or even think about it, without crying. Overlooking fathers in this way is harmful to these men and their families, says Machin, who is an anthropologist at the University of Oxford. “It struck me as unfair,” she says. Close relationships, between parents and children, lovers or friends, are Machin’s specialist subject. So back at work after her daughter’s birth, her thoughts turned to new fathers. Like any academic, she began by digging through the research. Yet while there was plenty to be found on mothers, Machin was amazed to find barely any research on fatherhood. The little there was seemed to focus on the negative impact of teenage or absent fathers. “There was nothing, absolutely nothing, about your average, standard dad who is around – divorced or not – who still sees his children and invests in them.”
3-21-18 Male birth control pill passes a safety test
Men didn’t have worrying side effects from the prototype contraceptive. A once-daily capsule safely suppressed reproductive hormones in men, making it an appealing candidate for a male birth control pill, according to a small study. After about a month of treatment, a new prototype pill called dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU, had reduced levels of hormones including testosterone that are necessary for sperm production. During that time, none of the 83 men who completed the treatment suffered troubling symptoms that can arise with a dramatic drop in testosterone, researchers reported May 18 at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting. “Scientists have been working on a male contraceptive for decades,” says Monica Laronda, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, who was not involved in the research. “DMAU shows great promise.” Surveys show that many men are interested in forms of contraception besides condoms and vasectomies, she says, and men “would prefer a pill.” Other methods, including topical gels, are also being developed. Hormonal contraception works for men much as it does for women — by manipulating levels of certain hormones so that the body backs off on making its own. In men, extra testosterone suppresses the brain’s release of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, which stops testicles from making testosterone as well as sperm (SN: 9/2/17, p. 20). Once the treatment ends, the body goes back to producing reproductive hormones and fertility returns.
3-19-18 Sex doll 'brothel': Paris council to decide on future of Xdolls games centre
Paris councillors are due to decide on the future of a business where clients are charged €89 ($109; £78) to spend an hour with a silicon sex doll, local media report. Communist councillors and feminist groups have been calling for the closure of Xdolls. Currently, Xdolls is registered as a games centre, but opponents argue it is effectively a brothel. Owning or operating a brothel is illegal in France. Xdolls is located in an anonymous-looking flat in the French capital and opened last month. Clients are mainly men, though some couples also visit, owner Joachim Lousquy, who formerly managed e-cigarette shops, told Le Parisien newspaper. Xdolls has three rooms, each containing a silicone sex doll measuring about 1m45 (4ft 7in) and worth several thousand euros. Customers make their booking and payment online, and the exact address is kept secret. Not even the neighbours are aware of the nature of the business, Mr Lousquy says. Lorraine Questiaux, lawyer and spokesperson for a Paris feminist association, says "that in France, every year, there are 86,000 women raped".
3-15-18 Exercising during pregnancy can make your labour shorter
Exercise is linked to a 10 per cent decrease in labour time, suggesting that regular aerobic activity plus strengthening exercises, make it easier to push. Regular exercise throughout pregnancy can shorten the duration of labour, according to the first clinical trial to test the effectiveness of prenatal physical activity. Women who undertook regular aerobic, strengthening, and pelvic floor exercises spent an average of 50 minutes less time in labour. Ruben Barakat at the Technical University of Madrid, in Spain, and his colleagues randomly assigned 508 women who were between 9 and 11 weeks’ pregnant to receive either general antenatal health counselling or a regular exercise class. Women in the exercise group took part in three weekly, hour-long classes, which included aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, coordination and balance exercises, stretching and pelvic floor strengthening, as well as relaxation. Those in the counselling group were advised of the health benefits of exercise, but did not attend the same classes. Of these women, 325 went on to give birth vaginally. Labour lasted an average of nearly 8 and a half hours in the women who only received counselling, which dropped to 7 and a half hours in the women who’d exercised.
3-15-18 Fertility failures
Two fertility clinics in Cleveland and San Francisco experienced simultaneous refrigeration failures on the same day last week, potentially damaging thousands of frozen eggs and embryos and prompting worried phone calls from hundreds of patients. The mysterious equipment malfunctions began at University Hospitals in suburban Cleveland, where an unexplained rise in temperature at a storage tank jeopardized as many as 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos. Hours later, an embryologist at the Pacific Fertility Center noticed that the liquid nitrogen level in one tank was low and hurriedly transferred the embryos to another facility. At least one couple is suing the Ohio clinic after being told their embryos are no longer viable. Dr. Kevin Doody, former president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, said the simultaneous failures appeared to be “just a bad, bad, bad coincidence.”
3-14-18 'I want to explain arranged marriage to white people'
When Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala produced a board game about arranged marriage, most news reports about her wrongly assumed she was dead against it. Actually her position is far more nuanced. And one goal is to explain to people in the UK and elsewhere how it works. "People in the West often confuse arranged marriages with forced marriages," Nashra Balagamwala says, on the phone from Islamabad. "They go by a lot of what they see in the press. The acid attacks. The so-called honour killings. The complete absence of choice. My game was not meant to be part of that dialogue." Balagamwala's board game, Arranged!, is far from an advert for arranged marriage. Its central character is a matchmaker "auntie" eagerly trying to chase down three girls while they attempt and outwit her and delay marriage. Players create distance from the auntie, and impending marriage, by drawing cards with commands like "You were seen at the mall with boys. The auntie moves three spaces away from you." Other cards that put auntie off include "Your older sister married a white man", or "The auntie finds out you used tampons before marriage." (Many in South Asia believe that a tampon is an indication of sexual activity.) Balagamwala says the game has a dual purpose. One is to start a dialogue among South-Asian families on what is expected of women. "I wanted to create an innocent platform where families could talk about some of the silly aspects of my culture, in a non-confrontational way. Like how a 'good girl' knows how to make a good cup of chai and doesn't have male friends. "Secondly, I wanted to explain arranged marriage to white people, so they could better understand the nuance of South Asian traditions."
3-13-18 Malfunctioning fertility clinic tanks may put eggs at risk
Thousands of frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged after temperatures rose in two malfunctioning tanks at fertility clinics in California and Ohio. Thousands of frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged following the malfunctioning of a fertility clinic storage tank. When the tank at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco stopped working properly on 4 March, temperatures inside rose. A spokesperson told the Washington Post that “several thousand” eggs and embryos were affected – around 15 per cent of the total stored there. Reportedly, 400 people had all their stored eggs and embryos in the malfunctioning tank, while a further 100 had at least some tissue affected. Over the same weekend, a similar incident occurred at University Hospitals Fertility Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where around 2000 eggs and embryos are thought to be affected. It is currently unclear to what extent the tissue involved in these incidents may have been damaged or if it is still fit for use in treatments. A couple with embryos stored at the Cleveland clinic filed a class action lawsuit on 11 March.
3-7-18 Allow lesbians to use ‘three-parent’ baby IVF to have children
Mitochondrial replacement techniques should be used to help same-sex female couples have children genetically-related to both partners, says Alex Pearlman. Advances in assisted reproduction technology are never without controversy. Questions of ethics and policy plague each innovation, along with concerns about safety and efficacy. But once a technology is available to the public, finding new uses for it is never far behind. Mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRTs) are the latest example. These involve combining genetic material from the nucleus of one woman’s egg, DNA from the mitochondria of another woman’s egg and a sperm. After a long wait, doctors at Newcastle University in the UK have been licensed to use this to produce somewhat misleadingly named “three-parent babies”. At least two such babies are expected to be born this year. In these cases, the technique was chosen because mothers risked passing on serious diseases from the mitochondria in their eggs. Now discussion has inevitably turned to other potential applications. Perhaps most prominent is the idea of helping same-sex female couples produce genetically related children. In the absence of other means to share genes between two eggs, and despite the low level of genetic relatedness between the mitochondrial donor and the child (about 0.2 per cent), MRTs seem an obvious way to fulfil this need. For same-sex female couples, other options have ranged from not having their own children at all, to only one parent being related to the child, such as where one donates the egg and the other carries the fetus.
3-1-18 India breastfeeding magazine cover ignites debate
An Indian magazine that published a picture of a model breastfeeding a baby as its cover photo has sharply divided opinion on social media. The cover of Grihalakshmi, which is published in Kerala state, depicts model Gilu Joseph staring straight into the camera with a baby at her chest. The text above reads "Moms tell Kerala - don't stare, we want to breastfeed". This is thought to be the first time an Indian magazine has published a cover image of a woman breastfeeding. But the fact that the model is not herself a mother has caused some discomfort and generated debate. Grihalakshmi's editor said the magazine wanted to raise awareness about the need for mothers to be able to breastfeed in public. "A month ago, a man shared a picture of his wife breastfeeding on Facebook to start a conversation about letting mothers feed in public spaces. But the result was that the woman was subjected to cyber-bullying from both men and women," Moncy Joseph told the BBC's Ashraf Padanna. "That is why we decided to dedicate our latest issue to breastfeeding mothers." Many women in India who wear the traditional sari breastfeed in public, using the garment as a means of covering themselves. But this option is not available to women who do not want to wear the sari. Many people posted on social media in support of both the magazine and the model.
2-14-18 Valentine’s Day seems to cause a mini baby-boom 9 months later
National Health Service data reveals that around Valentine’s Day there is a 5 per cent rise in the number of babies conceived in England. It’s only a small bump, but data from NHS England has shown that there is a rise in conceptions around 14 February. An analysis of data from 2015 found that, in an average week in England, 15,427 babies are conceived. But in the week around Valentine’s Day, this figure rose by 5 per cent, to 16,263. Love seems to linger in the air for a little longer too – the following week, more than 16,300 babies were conceived. (Webmaster's comment: Love? It's the desire to breed. Pure and simple.)
2-13-18 In search of surrogates, foreign couples descend on Ukraine
Ukraine, one of Europe's poorest nations, is fast becoming the place to go for people desperate to find a surrogate to have their baby. The money on offer is drawing in many young women, but there are fears they could be exploited. Ana* was 18 years old when she found out about surrogacy from a television news report. She had just finished secondary school and had plans to work in a hotel in her small western Ukrainian town, where tourists come to see a medieval castle. That job pays $200 a month, but for carrying someone else's baby, she learned, she could earn up to $20,000 (£14,000). Ana's family is not poor by local standards. Her mother is an accountant and has always supported her. But she says she was drawn to surrogacy because she "wanted to have something more", to be able to afford "expensive things" - house renovations, a car, appliances. Ana stirs her latte nervously as she talks. Although hundreds of women are doing it, surrogacy is still not talked about openly in Ukraine. Foreign couples have been coming to this corner of Europe in droves since 2015, when surrogacy hotspots in Asia began closing their industries one-by-one, amid reports of exploitation. Barred from India, Nepal and Thailand, they turned to Ukraine, one of the few places left where surrogacy can still be arranged at a fraction of what it costs in the US. "We have so many childless couples coming to our country - it's like a conveyor belt," says Ana, who asked for her identity to be protected. (Webmaster's comment: 45 years ago I knew a young woman who loved being pregnant. She sold her womb for a lot of money to couples who needed a surrogate. She was very liberated. I hope life has treated her well.)
2-12-18 'I couldn't mourn my grandmother because I had my period'
Although still a sensitive subject in many Indian families, menstruation had never been taboo in mine - until an emotional reunion revealed a generational divide. "Does anyone have a tampon?" I asked as I left the bathroom. Several members of my family, who had been chatting animatedly over mugs of hot sweet tea, were abruptly silent. We were all packed in a modest hotel room in Rameswaram, an island off the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The unnatural moment of stillness was instantly noticeable for two reasons - the sudden peal of rain beating against the windows, and the fact that there is rarely silence when my family, who live on three continents and talk every day on WhatsApp, get to be together. My aunt, who had been lying casually on her hotel bed, stood up to reach for her handbag. She pulled out a sanitary towel and handed it over to me. "This will tide you over until we can stop by a pharmacy," she said. And looking rather sadly at me, she added: "You know what this means, don't you?" I didn't. "You won't be able to come to the temple." I would have to wait with the driver outside the temple. "There are certain times when human beings are considered ritually impure, as upon contact with a dead body, or excreta and so on. Women are considered so during periods," he says,
2-12-18 Cambodia deports seven tourists accused of producing pornography
Cambodia has deported seven of the ten foreign tourists charged with producing pornography. The group was arrested in January after images emerged of people appearing to imitate sex acts at a party in Siem Reap in the country's north-west. Seven of them, from the UK, New Zealand and Canada, were granted bail last week and have now left the country. Three others - from the UK, Norway and the Netherlands - will face trial for allegedly organising the party. All 10 deny the allegations against them, saying they had not been nude and did not produce any pornographic material. The seven people that have been deported were ordered to leave Cambodia as part of the bail decision and not return, although the charges against them have not been dropped, reports said. Images of the event posted on an expat-run website showed several couples clothed or in swim wear on the floor of a villa, apparently acting out sexual positions.
2-9-18 100 Women: I want to break the stigma of painful sex
One woman's story of a decade of wrongly diagnosed sexual pain has inspired a play - and with it, the hope that other women with sexual dysfunction can be helped. It was on a cold winter's day just over a year ago that actress Emily Francis heard an item on the radio that moved her to tears. "I felt desperately sad listening to Callista's story. This problem with her vagina had destroyed her life. She'd lost her relationship, become depressed... it felt tragic," she says. Callista, a fashion stylist in San Francisco, had been speaking to BBC 100 Women about her long journey to finding a cure for unbearably painful sex. When Callista first tried to use a tampon aged 12, she experienced a searing pain at the opening of her vulva. For years after that, even while she was sitting down or going about her day she would experience a burning sensation between her legs. When she touched her vulva, she says the pain was much more intense and it felt like she was being cut. Callista finally worked up the courage to talk to a doctor about it when she was in her 20s. They did an examination and said she looked perfectly normal and that the pain must be psychological. So she went to see a counsellor, who told her the same thing. Eight years later and after seeing 20 different doctors, Callista finally found herself in front of a specialist who told her she had congenital neuroproliferative vestibulodynia. It meant she was born with 30 times the normal amount of nerve endings in the opening of her vagina - and she was able to have surgery to cure it. "I felt so angry that she was told the problem was all in her head for so long," she says. "Why was this girl's life allowed to be so marred by something so simple in an era of modern medicine?"
2-7-18 Training parents to work in hospitals benefits premature babies
When the parents of premature babies in intensive care units are trained in basic nursing care and put to work, their infants put on weight more quickly. Parents of premature babies in intensive care units can be put to work providing basic nursing care – not to save hospitals money, but because it may help the babies get better. Newborns who get parental care seem to put on about 8 per cent more weight over a three-week period. While most hospitals let parents stay with their babies in intensive care, they are often treated as visitors, says Karel O’Brien of Sinai Health System in Toronto. Her team has investigated offering training to parents of premature babies, so they can take on some of their child’s care while in hospital. This included feeding, giving oral medicines, taking their temperature, and completing charts. However some care, including giving injections, was reserved for medical staff only. In a study of about 1800 babies born seven weeks early or more, the team found that after three weeks, babies whose parents underwent this training gained on average an extra 2 grams of weight a day when compared with similar babies at other hospitals. To provide such care, participating parents had to be at the hospital for at least six hours per day, five days a week, and hospitals had to be able to give them somewhere to sleep. It’s possible that parents are more likely to opt for this if they’re more attentive or committed in other ways, so the training and care itself may not be the cause of the babies’ improved weight-gain.
2-5-18 Breastfeeding mother sells milk to fund hospital bills
A young mother in China is selling her breast milk on the street to raise money for her sick daughter's medical bills. In a video posted by Pear Video on the Miaopai video website, the mother and her husband explain they need to raise at least 100,000 yuan (roughly £11,250) for one of their children, who is in an intensive care unit. It's been viewed more than 2.4 million times and has had more than 5,000 comments since it was shared on China's social media platform Sina Weibo. The video was filmed in Shenzhen's Children's Park - situated centrally in Shenzhen, a major city in the Guangdong province of China. The mother says she is selling her breast milk to raise money quickly, because one of her twin daughters is in the intensive care unit at the Bao'an District People's Hospital in Shenzhen. Her husband explains that the couple owe the hospital "hundreds of thousands of yuan" and "the doctor said that once she's cured, we should prepare to pay at least 100,000 yuan (roughly £11,250)". But one person criticised the negative comments, saying: "This is the love of the most helpless parents… those who are saying nasty things online should think that if this was your child, would you care about maintaining face, or your child's life?" (Webmaster's comment: Remarkable courage and support for her child given the world's taboo regardling breast feeding!)
2-2-18 Pregnant women have to navigate a minefield of painkiller advice
I'm pregnant and sick of confusing advice about whether painkillers can harm developing fetuses - what should women like me do? Pregnancy isn’t the most comfortable time of a woman’s life. I’m halfway through mine, and have already experienced plenty of headaches, stabbing pains and cramps. So it is worrying that research is continually finding that mild painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, could pose risks to developing fetuses. The latest study suggests that ibuprofen seems to pass through the placenta with ease, and wreaks irreversible damage on a female fetus’s developing ovaries. A girl is born with all the eggs she will ever have, according to prevailing wisdom, so any impact on her egg reserve will last a lifetime, potentially affecting her future fertility and the age at which she experiences menopause. The study tested the effects of ibuprofen on ovarian tissue from aborted fetuses, so it is far from an exact replica of real pregnancy. But it’s not the only research pointing out the danger of everyday painkillers. It is already well known that ibuprofen can interfere with a fetus’s blood supply during the late stages of pregnancy, and has been linked to miscarriage in early pregnancy. As a result, doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid taking ibuprofen. But how many pregnant women know this? The drug is cheaply, easily available and many people probably think little of taking a tablet or two for mild pains. A 2013 study of new mothers in the US and Canada found that around 28 per cent had taken ibuprofen at some point in their pregnancy.
2-2-18 Brain genes hint at why Zika doesn’t always cause microcephaly
One in 10 babies exposed to the Zika virus during pregnancy develop abnormally small heads. A study of twins in Brazil suggests gene activity may decide which. Just one in 10 babies exposed to the Zika virus during pregnancy get the brain damage that causes microcephaly – abnormally small heads. Now there’s a first clue about what stops this from happening in the rest – their gene activity. Blood samples were taken from three pairs of non-identical twins in Brazil. In each of these pairs, one baby had brain damage and the other didn’t. Stem cells were then made from their blood cells, and matured into brain cells, allowing researchers to see how the brain cells naturally differ between the twins. They found that, in the babies that developed microcephaly, the brain cells seem to innately make less of three particular proteins. The genes that encode these proteins are all known to be involved in normal neural development. When the team exposed these brain cells to Zika virus, they were also more susceptible to infection than ones made from the blood of their twins. It may be possible to use this finding to develop a test for pregnant women that will tell them if their fetuses are particularly susceptible to Zika infection and microcephaly, says Mayana Zatz of the University of São Paulo in Brazil.
2-2-18 First UK three-parent babies could be born this year
Two cases have been approved in the UK for using a three-parent baby technique to make healthy babies. The technique has already been used in China and Ukraine. Three-parent babies could be born in the UK this year. Two cases have been approved by the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to take place at Newcastle’s Fertility Centre at Life. The births will not be the first using this technique – that milestone was reached by John Zhang and his colleagues in New York, as revealed by New Scientist in 2016. Since then, other pregnancies and births have been reported in Ukraine. However, the UK is the only country so far to have officially approved the use of a mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) technique, and only to prevent children from inheriting severe mitochondrial disorders. Following this approval, the Newcastle team were granted a license to perform the procedure in 2016, and it has now been revealed that the HFEA has since approved two specific cases. Since the approvals were granted in August and October last year, the procedures may have already taken place. A spokesperson for Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the Trust cannot confirm whether this is the case, in the interest of protecting patient confidentiality.
2-1-18 The fight to ban a 'humiliating' virginity test for newlyweds
A movement to stop newly-wed brides from a nomadic tribal community having to take a virginity test has begun in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, and campaigners are determined to put an end to the "humiliating" practice, reports BBC Marathi's Prajakta Dhulap. Anita*, 22, says the ordeal of her wedding two years ago still reduces her to tears every time she thinks about it. Like the other women in the Kanjarbhat community - made up of around 200,000 people and mostly found in Maharashtra - Anita was forced to undergo a "virginity test" on her wedding night in order to ascertain whether or not she was "virtuous". The test is seen as an integral part of any wedding conducted within the community and is enforced by the highly influential panchayat (local village council). The couple are given a white sheet and taken to a hotel room rented by the village council or one of the families. They are expected to consummate the marriage while the two families and council members wait outside. If the bride bleeds during intercourse she is seen as a virgin, and if she does not, the consequences can be severe. Grooms are allowed to annul their marriages if their wives have not "proven" their purity, and the women in question are publicly humiliated and even beaten by family members because of the "shame" they have caused. This continues despite many experts having debunked the theory that a woman always bleeds the first time she has intercourse. "There can be many reasons a woman will not bleed the first time she has sex," Dr Sonia Naik, a Delhi-based gynaecologist, told the BBC. "If the woman in question has done a lot of sports or has masturbated there is a chance she will not bleed. Also a gentle partner can help prevent bleeding even if it is the first time the woman is having penetrative sex."
1-31-18 Zika may not be the only virus of its kind that can damage a fetus
Tests on pregnant mice show two other flaviviruses also cause deadly harm in the womb. Zika virus may not be the black sheep of the family. Infections with either of two related viruses also cause fetal defects in mice, researchers find. Some scientists have speculated that Zika’s capacity to harm a fetus might be unique among its kind, perhaps due to a recent change in the virus’s genetic material (SN: 10/28/17, p. 9). Others have argued that perhaps this dangerous ability was always there. It just wasn’t until the 2015–2016 epidemic in the Western Hemisphere that enough pregnant women were affected for public health researchers to identify the association with fetal defects (SN: 12/24/16, p. 19). But new work suggests this capacity is not Zika’s alone. Pregnant mice infected with West Nile or Powassan virus — both flaviviruses, like Zika — also showed fetal harm. Over 40 percent of these infected fetuses died. But among pregnant mice infected with one of two other mosquito-borne viruses unrelated to Zika, all of the fetuses survived, scientists report online January 31 in Science Translational Medicine. The research underscores that “many viruses, including some similar to Zika, can infect the placenta and the cells of the baby,” says George Saade, an obstetrician-gynecologist and cell biologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. “This list keeps growing and highlights the risks from viruses that we are not very familiar with.”
1-31-18 Time for the UK to stop dithering and add folic acid to bread
With yet more evidence in favour of fortifying flour with folic acid to help avoid serious birth defects, it's time the government acted, says Geoffrey Webb. It sounds simple. Taking supplements of folic acid before conception and in early pregnancy can massively reduce the risk of a fetus developing a neural tube defect (NTD) – when the spinal cord or brain doesn’t develop properly – that can result in spina bifida or anencephaly. And yet, advising women who might become pregnant to do this hasn’t been effective at reducing NTDs in the UK and Europe; supplements probably need to be taken before conception to be effective and not all pregnancies are planned. Fortunately, there is another approach that works. Most flour, and hence bread, in the US and Canada has been fortified with folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, since 1998. This was followed by an immediate fall in NTD cases; for example, in Canada rates halved between 1996 and 2000, from 1.69 to 0.86 cases per 1000 live births. Over 80 countries, but none in Europe, now fortify in this way. Some, such as Australia, have opted for even higher levels of fortification than the US. This backdrop is why groups like the UK’s Food Standards Agency, Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the British Medical Association have been recommending mandatory flour fortification in the country for two decades. The devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also recently urged the UK government to take that advice. If the UK had brought in fortified flour at the same time and level as the US, this would have prevented more than 2000 pregnancies affected by NTDs, which resulted in stillbirths, miscarriages, terminations, or the births of babies with disablities.
1-30-18 Babies’ kicks in the womb are good for their bones
A computational analysis of fetal kicks brings scientists closer to understanding how the jabs are important for skeletal growth. One of the strangest things about growing a human being inside your body is the alien sensation of his movements. It’s wild to realize that these internal jabs and pushes are the work of someone else’s nervous system, skeleton and muscles. Someone with his own distinct, mysterious agenda that often includes taekwondoing your uterus as you try to sleep. Around the 10-week mark, babies start to bend their heads and necks, followed by full-body wiggles, limb movement and breathing around 15 weeks. These earliest movements are usually undetectable by pregnant women, particularly first-timers who may not recognize the flutters until 16 to 25 weeks of pregnancy. These movements can be exciting and bizarre, not to mention uncomfortable. But for the developing baby, these kicks are really important, helping to sculpt muscles, bones and joints. While pregnant women can certainly sense a jab, scientists have largely been left in the dark about how normal fetuses move. “It’s extremely difficult to investigate fetal movements in detail in humans,” says Stefaan Verbruggen, a bioengineer formerly at Imperial College London who recently moved to Columbia University in New York. Now, using relatively new MRI measurements of entire fetuses wiggling in utero, researchers have tracked these kicks across women’s pregnancies. The results, published January 24 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, offer the clearest look yet at fetal kicking and provide hints about why these moves are so important.
1-30-18 Mediterranean diet linked to higher chance of successful IVF
A study of nearly 250 women in Greece suggests that a Mediterranean diet might increase the chances of successfully having a baby via IVF fertility treatment. A study of nearly 250 women in Greece suggests that eating a Mediterranean diet might increase the chances of successfully having a baby via IVF fertility treatment. Nikos Yiannakouris, at Harokopion University of Athens, and his team analysed the diet of 244 women for the six months before each of them underwent IVF for the first time. They found that those in the group who ate the most Mediterranean diets were around 66 per cent more likely to get pregnant and give birth to a live baby than those in the group whose diets were relatively less Mediterranean. A typical Mediterranean diet contains a high amount of vegetables, fruits, olive oil, beans and cereal grains, moderate amounts of fish, dairy products, and wine, and only a small amount of red meat and poultry. Yiannakouris suggests that a healthy diet and lifestyle is just as important for men as it is for women when looking to conceive. “Previous work from our research group among the male partners of our study has suggested that adherence to the Mediterranean diet may also help improve semen quality.”
1-26-18 The female price of male pleasure
The world is disturbingly comfortable with the fact that women sometimes leave a sexual encounter in tears. When Babe.net published a pseudonymous woman's account of a difficult encounter with Aziz Ansari that made her cry, the internet exploded with "takes" arguing that the #MeToo movement had finally gone too far. "Grace," the 23-year-old woman, was not an employee of Ansari's, meaning there were no workplace dynamics. Her repeated objections and pleas that they "slow down" were all well and good, but they did not square with the fact that she eventually gave Ansari oral sex. Finally, crucially, she was free to leave. Why didn't she just get out of there as soon as she felt uncomfortable? many people explicitly or implicitly asked. It's a rich question, and there are plenty of possible answers. But if you're asking in good faith, if you really want to think through why someone might have acted as she did, the most important one is this: Women are enculturated to be uncomfortable most of the time. And to ignore their discomfort. This is so baked into our society I feel like we forget it's there. To steal from David Foster Wallace, this is the water we swim in. The Aziz Ansari case hit a nerve because, as I've long feared, we're only comfortable with movements like #MeToo so long as the men in question are absolute monsters we can easily separate from the pack. Once we move past the "few bad apples" argument and start to suspect that this is more a trend than a blip, our instinct is to normalize. To insist that this is is just how men are, and how sex is. This is what Andrew Sullivan basically proposed in his latest, startlingly unscientific column. #MeToo has gone too far, he argues, by refusing to confront the biological realities of maleness. Feminism, he says, has refused to give men their due and denied the role "nature" must play in these discussions. Ladies, he writes, if you keep denying biology, you'll watch men get defensive, react, and "fight back." (Webmaster's comment: In others words just accept the fact that many men (40% or so) are brutes and live with it - OR ELSE!)
1-23-18 Drug that fools the womb could help stop painful periods
A drug tested in mice tricks the womb into thinking there is low oxygen, which promotes healing and prevents excessive bleeding during menstruation. Heavy periods may soon be a thing of the past. A drug that tricks the womb lining into repairing itself during menstruation could help people who suffer from excessive bleeding. Each month, in the absence of pregnancy, the lining of the womb breaks down. This causes bleeding, which persists until the lining is repaired by a delicate balance of hormones and chemical processes. However, some women experience heavy periods, or menorrhagia, with prolonged bleeding that can be accompanied by painful cramps and anaemia. This can be treated with surgery and hormonal drugs, but often results in unwanted side effects. Now, an alternative solution might be on the horizon. Recently it was discovered that women with heavy bleeding have lower levels of a protein called HIF1. HIF1 activates specific genes when oxygen levels drop – something that happens in the womb during a period. This process appears to promote healing of the lining. Jackie Maybin at the University of Edinburgh, and her colleagues have shown in mice that a drug called DMOG tricks the womb lining into thinking that oxygen levels are low, which increases HIF1 activity. This promotes repair of the lining and reduces bleeding.
1-22-18 Twitter users share tips on escaping unwanted male attention
You are happily alone in a bar, but someone will not leave you alone. Your polite rejections do not work. The pestering goes on until you leave or someone intervenes. It is not an unusual scene - many women will tell you this has happened to them. So when British journalist Amna Saleem tweeted about a stranger posing as her friend to help her escape unwanted male attention in a London bar on Saturday, it sparked an international conversation, much of which focussed on how other men can step in. More than 430,000 people liked the tweet and almost a thousand people commented with their experiences. The conversation reflects ongoing concerns about women being pestered while on a night out, highlighted in the 'Ask for Angela' campaign in 2016 advising women to ask venue staff for help using the codeword 'Angela' if they feel unsafe on a date. Last week it was announced an inquiry will take place into sexual harassment of women and girls in public spaces in the UK. In reply to Saleem's tweet, @TheOmegaGeek shared a story of pretending to know a woman whose boyfriend was "screaming at her," and giving her money for a taxi home. Another user, Jamiel Pridgen in New York, US wrote, "Some dude was bothering this lady once on the train and she was alone so my brother pretended to be her husband and the guy left. 10 years later he is her husband". When separated from friends in a club in Florence, Italy, a man grabbed tweeter @marissad415 to dance. "All I had to do was look at a random girl to save me, and she came over and excitedly screamed like we were long lost besties, and got me out of a bad situation," she commented. "Women know." One man, from Dublin, Ireland, wrote that he sometimes intervenes directly, but suggested it can cause a backlash. "My go-to is a 'dude, back off - you have been told she's not interested,' but it can cause people to get aggro, which could be a problem later in the night," he tweeted. French student @SariaSayan advised people to divert conversations away from the woman being harassed. "You can distract the guy with a very genuine question. Like 'scuse me, could you tell me what time it is?'" she suggested. But some women shared experiences of being followed after rejecting male attention, or being hassled on public transport, or of having to seek protection from other couples. Nathan Moore, in the US, lays the blame at society teaching men to be "persistent".
1-22-18 'No' is not enough
On our reductive understanding of female desire. "Men who are constantly trying to move things forward are exhausting in a way I find hard to articulate," a friend once wrote to me. "Like you never get to fall in love on your own." She wasn't referring to the #MeToo movement, or the gruesomely described date between "Grace" and Aziz Ansari, but her words have stuck with me, because she put her finger on one of the many costs our sexual mores impose on women: Desire. #MeToo isn't anyone's first hashtag rodeo. Well, I suppose actually it must be somebody's, since new people continue, frighteningly, to be born, to log online, and to share their lives there. But that aside, like #YesAllWomen before it, #MeToo is borne of a collective optimism that male violence against women is a problem stemming from male ignorance, to be solved through a collective baring of scars. And like #YesAllWomen, or for that matter, SlutWalk or Take Back the Night or any number of mass initiatives, #MeToo has also produced its own women's counter-reaction, amply represented by writers like Bari Weiss and Daphne Merkin (in The New York Times), Caitlin Flanagan (in The Atlantic), and (eventually, and already somewhat notoriously) Katie Roiphe in Harper's. For Weiss, Merkin, and Flanagan, the looming danger of #MeToo is that it emphasizes a woman's vulnerability over her agency, and importantly, her sexual freedom. And being free means accepting consequences, such as a bad date in which a man's sexual behavior crosses a line. The freedom women can exercise in these situations is saying no, and "[taking] the risk that comes with it," as Merkin puts it. "If [a date] pressures you to do something you don't want to do," writes Weiss, "use a four-letter word, stand up on your two legs, and walk out his door." And Flanagan looks toward the women's magazines of her youth, which emphasized that women always had the right to decline an unwanted advance.
1-17-18 America's broken childbirth system
How can we allow giving birth to bankrupt new families? Now that the Republicans have shaken the dust from their feet following all 497 of their failed attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act, we are probably due for one of those long spells where we pretend that all the issues that were so urgent last year until the GOP lighted upon "tax reform" are worth ignoring for a while. This would be a mistake. It is the perennial folly of columnists to allow politicians to decide what is and is not worthy of our readers' attention, to whip ourselves into fits of spasmodic rage whenever they propose something bad and sink back into indifference as soon as it looks as if they have changed their minds. The provision of medical care in this country was an important issue in 2017 and it is an important issue now. Just how far we have to go before we can think of ourselves as a civilized people is made clear by two recent pieces in The Guardian's excellent parenting section, "The Mother Load." Few issues demonstrate the callousness and absurdity of our current public-private system as the way we "finance" the birth of children. The cost of the average birth in the United States is more than $32,000 for a standard delivery with no complications. This is higher than any other country in the world, and it has nothing to do with the quality of care we provide to mothers and children. Parents such as Stella Apo Osae-Cwum and her husband who find themselves in difficult and unpredictable circumstances end up footing the bill for amounts that are even more unimaginable — $877,000 for the premature birth of their triplets. (Webmaster's comment: $32,000, a year's salary for many, for what used to be done at home without assistance except from a midwife. THAT'S NUTS!)
1-16-18 Evidence grows that normal childbirth takes longer than we thought
The insight could lead to fewer unnecessary C-sections being performed. A long-standing “rule” for women in labor has been challenged again. During labor, the cervix – the narrow, lower part of the uterus – dilates, or opens, to allow for a baby’s birth. For decades, the guidance has been that the cervix should dilate by at least 1 centimeter per hour. But a study in two African countries found a slower rate of dilation for many women who went on to have healthy, vaginal births, researchers report online January 16 in PLOS Medicine. The new study reinforces findings from recent research on pregnant women in the United States, Japan and other countries. Nevertheless, some doctors still wrongly classify slower labor as abnormal, researchers say, leading to unnecessary, potentially risky interventions such as cesarean delivery.
1-15-18 Sora Aoi: Japan's porn star who taught a Chinese generation about sex
When Japanese actress and former porn star Sora Aoi announced her marriage online, it set off a frenzy on Chinese social media. That's because she has played a surprisingly significant role in the lives of a generation of young Chinese internet users. On New Year's day, Ms Aoi posted a picture of her engagement ring on social media and announced the happy news to her fans around the world. Within 48 hours, the post got more than 170,000 comments and 830,000 likes on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. "We grew up with your movies and will support you as always," said one fan. Another Weibo user said: "You will always be my goddess… I wish you happiness." Ms Aoi started her career in pornography in the early 2000s. It is estimated that she had starred in more than 90 adult films, with new work being published every month between 2003 and 2005. Pornography is illegal in China, but that didn't stop Chinese men going crazy for her. "To many Chinese men who couldn't get proper sexual education in their adolescence, Sora Aoi became our teacher," 27-year-old "Liu Qiang" (not his real name) told the BBC.
1-10-18 Hormone replacement therapy may prevent depression in menopause
A study of 172 women suggests that HRT treatment is more effective than a placebo at preventing symptoms of depression from emerging during early menopause. Hormone replacement therapy seems to prevent depression in women going through the menopause. A study of 172 women without depression and aged between 45 and 60 has found that a year of HRT treatment can help stop symptoms of depression emerging in women who are entering the menopause or who are in the early stages of post-menopause. The team found that HRT was more effective at this than a placebo, and seemed to have the most effect in women in the early stages of menopause, and those experiencing other life stresses. “HRT reduced the proportion of women who experienced significant mood symptoms from about one in three to about one in six,” says Tony Cleare, of King’s College London, who was not involved in the study. “HRT is already recommended in the UK to treat symptoms of low mood during the menopause, so this research adds to the evidence by showing HRT can also prevent mood symptoms,” he says.
1-10-18 Venezuela pill shortage triggers rise in teenage pregnancies
In downtown Barquisimeto, Margaret Khawan's pharmacy is looking a bit empty these days. What products she does have she has spaced out along the shelves to make them look a bit fuller. Ms Khawan has not had any deliveries of contraceptive pills for a year. Every day people come looking for them and every day she has to turn them away. People are having to adapt. "It used to be just men buying condoms but women are buying them too now because there's nothing else," she says. "The price of condoms has gone up 200%." Across town, Darnellys Rodríguez is living the consequences of these shortages. She had her first baby when she was 15 years old. Then she had a second baby, and hoped that would be it, but then she got pregnant with her third. "My first reaction was to cry," she says. "Getting contraceptive pills is really hard. There's nothing and when you can get hold of them, the cost is beyond my reach." Financially it is a struggle. She lives with her children and partner in a corrugated iron shack in a poor neighbourhood of Barquisimeto. Now she is pregnant, she says her older boys have to go without clothes and shoes so she can pay for some of her medical tests. "I'm making plans to get sterilised," she says. "The idea of having another baby is too much."
1-9-18 Hormone replacement makes sense for some menopausal women
A reanalysis says hormones are worth a second look for younger women dealing with hot flashes and night sweats. Internist Gail Povar has many female patients making their way through menopause, some having a tougher time than others. Several women with similar stories stand out in her mind. Each came to Povar’s Silver Spring, Md., office within a year or two of stopping her period, complaining of frequent hot flashes and poor sleep at night. “They just felt exhausted all the time,” Povar says. “The joy had kind of gone out.” And all of them “were just absolutely certain that they were not going to take hormone replacement,” she says. But the women had no risk factors that would rule out treating their symptoms with hormones. So Povar suggested the women try hormone therapy for a few months. “If you feel really better and it makes a big difference in your life, then you and I can decide how long we continue it,” Povar told them. “And if it doesn’t make any difference to you, stop it.” At the follow-up appointments, all of these women reacted the same way, Povar recalls. “They walked in beaming, absolutely beaming, saying, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t do this a year ago. My life! I’ve got my life back.’ ”
1-9-18 Chinese dating apps closed after women revealed to be robots
A number of Chinese mobile applications have been shut down after it was revealed women on their platforms were actually automated robots, it's reported. According to the Modern Express newspaper, police have closed down mobile apps associated with 21 companies and arrested more than 600 suspects operating across 13 provinces, after discovering that messages from some women were being automatically generated by computer programmes. Police in southern Guangdong province began investigating in August 2017, after suspecting one app of fraudulently charging visitors to view pornographic videos which did not exist. Further investigation found that technical personnel from at least one company had created fake "sexy girl" accounts. They wrote computer programmes which generated greeting messages and compliments from fake accounts, and targeted these at newly registered users. "They solicited gifts and posted other messages to lure the user into spending money, and thus illegally generating profit," the police report reads. It says that tens of thousands of people are believed to have been conned out of a total sum of one billion yuan ($154m; £113m). The case has shocked but also amused social media users on the Sina Weibo microblog. "It looks like AI has finally overtaken human intelligence," says one user. Many say that they are surprised at the abilities of the people running the bots. "With skills like these, why bother engaging in fraud?" one asks.
1-8-18 Sex tweets help track spread of sexually transmitted infections
Twitter provided a more sensitive warning signal for syphilis rates in US counties than the previous year’s disease levels. A lot of sexual tweets in your area? Local syphilis rates could be on the rise. Oversharing on social media may be annoying, but it could predict the next outbreak of sexually transmitted disease. Sean Young at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues analysed tweets posted in 2012. They narrowed down millions of posts to 8538 tweets that could be geolocated to US counties and included keywords such as “sex” or “suck” used in a sexual context. Areas where sexual tweets were posted saw a 2.7 per cent increase in syphilis rates the following year. One way to predict an increase in syphilis rates is to look at the current number of cases – for example, each county that had a higher than average number of cases in 2012 saw a 0.6 per cent increase the following year. Tweets corresponded to a bigger change in syphilis rates, so they could provide a more effective way of planning where best to allocate resources. “There’s potentially as much or more information in what people say online as there is in where people live, what education they have, or how much they earn,” says Young. Even though using social media to predict sexually transmitted disease will never be perfect, if the analysis is carefully carried out it “can provide a lot of information,” says Alessandro Vespignani at Northeastern University, Boston, who was one of the authors of a prominent paper on Google Flu Trends, which used a similar method in an attempt to predict flu outbreaks.
1-5-18 A key virus fighter is implicated in pregnancy woes
Fetal mice whose immune system revved up in response to their mom’s Zika infection died or grew poorly. An immune system mainstay in the fight against viruses may harm rather than help a pregnancy. In Zika-infected mice, this betrayal appears to contribute to fetal abnormalities linked to the virus, researchers report online January 5 in Science Immunology. And it could explain pregnancy complications that arise from infections with other pathogens and from autoimmune disorders. In pregnant mice infected with Zika virus, those fetuses with a docking station, or receptor, for immune system proteins called type I interferons either died or grew more poorly compared with fetuses lacking the receptor. “The type I interferon system is one of the key mechanisms for stopping viral infections,” says Helen Lazear, a virologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who coauthored an editorial accompanying the study. “That same [immune] process is actually causing fetal damage, and that’s unexpected.” Cells infected by viruses begin the fight against the intruder by producing type I interferons. These proteins latch onto their receptor on the surfaces of neighboring cells and kick-start the production of hundreds of other antiviral proteins.
1-3-18 How will gender equality change dating?
This is what the heterosexual dating scene might look like in 100 years. On their first date, Mia and Josh talked as if they'd known each other for years. Josh loved Mia's wit; Mia delighted in Josh's warmth and ready smile. Their relationship blossomed, but doubts crept up on both of them now and again. Josh was the primary caregiver for a child from a previous marriage, and his financial prospects were dim. That didn't really bother Mia, since Josh's personality more than made up for it. Still, he wasn't her usual "type" — the type that was much younger than her, plus athletic and handsome to boot. Josh, meanwhile, had been dreaming of a cashed-up woman with high ambitions, status, and education, ideally with a PhD (or two). Mia's mere MA was a bit of a sticking point. It was the norm, after all, for men to be the ones to "marry up." This scenario probably sounds strange, and it should: I've invented an anecdote about how the heterosexual dating scene might look 100 years in the future. Currently, the desire for a young, attractive partner of the opposite sex tends to be more prevalent in men than in women. Women, meanwhile, are more likely to prioritize money and status over youth and beauty. Why? Many evolutionary psychologists put this trend down to the power of innate biological drives. Their argument is that women have a primeval urge to hang on to wealthy men to provide for their children during the long period of pregnancy and childrearing. Men, meanwhile, are mostly concerned about a woman's fertility, for which beauty and youth serve as helpful cues. In the distant past, this behavior was adaptive, and so evolution selected and encoded it in our genes, forever. Sure, the rituals of modern mating look very different to those of our ancestors. "Nevertheless, the same sexual strategies used by our ancestors operate today with unbridled force," as the psychologist David Buss put it in The Evolution of Desire (2003). "Our evolved psychology of mating, after all, plays out in the modern world because it is the only mating psychology we mortals possess." (There's little historical or intercultural research on LGBT mate preferences; such questions are clearly important, but sadly there isn't yet sufficient data to examine them properly.)
1-3-18 Blood test spots ovarian cancer years before it is usually found
A blood test that detects ovarian cancer up to two years earlier than is presently the case could help reduce the deadliness of the disease. A blood test that detects ovarian cancer in its early stages may reduce the deadliness of the disease. Ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer” because most patients don’t know they have it until it spreads to other organs and causes symptoms, at which point it is usually too late to treat. Now, Martin Widschwendter at University College London and his colleagues have shown that the disease can be detected years earlier by looking for tell-tale DNA fragments that ovarian tumours leak into the bloodstream. By analysing DNA fragments in 648 blood samples from healthy women and ovarian cancer patients, they were able to pinpoint 3 fragments that marked the presence of the disease. In a follow-up study of 250 women, they showed they could identify those with ovarian cancer with 91 per cent accuracy by measuring these 3 DNA fragments in their blood. Finally, they showed that the new blood test could detect ovarian cancer 1 to 2 years before it is usually diagnosed in 88 per cent of cases. They did this by retrospectively analysing blood samples collected from over 100,000 women in a previous study, 43 of whom were diagnosed with ovarian cancer over the next 2 years.