6-26-19 Several IVF attempts can signal higher risk for any eventual pregnancy
Women who attempt IVF several times before they get pregnant are at higher risk of having pregnancy complications involving their placenta. This might be because the woman’s uterus had an undiagnosed health problem all along that caused the failed attempts, or it could be because some of the extra IVF interventions harm the uterus in some way, says Caitlin Sacha of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Pregnancies achieved through IVF were already known to have a slightly higher risk of several health problems, including complications involving the placenta, the organ that supplies nutrients to the baby in the womb. But we don’t know why these arise. Sacha’s team examined the placentas of 477 women who had given birth after IVF, noting whether they had got pregnant with their first treatment cycle, their second, or if they took more attempts than that. Those who needed more treatment cycles had a higher chance of two different problems with their placenta: inflammation and abnormal umbilical cord blood vessels. For instance, 9 per cent of those who took three or more attempts to get pregnant had an inflamed placenta, compared with 5 per cent for those who took two tries, and 1 per cent among those who got pregnant first time. Such inflammation can cause premature birth. When a first attempt at IVF fails, women are more likely to be recommended interventions, such as having growths known as polyps removed from their womb or taking higher doses of medicines to make them produce more eggs, says Sacha. “As patients fail, they often undergo more aggressive protocols.” But Michael Feichtinger of the Medical University of Vienna, says the inflammation could be causing the repeated IVF failures. “The question is what’s the chicken and what’s the egg.”
6-25-19 Exposure to air pollution seems to negatively affect women's fertility
Air pollution seems to negatively affect an important measure of female fertility. Though the biggest contributing factor was a woman’s age, daily exposure to high levels of pollution was also associated with a decline in potential fertility. The findings are based on hormone measurements taken from 1318 women in Modena, Italy. The study focused on anti-Mullerian hormone or AMH, which is released by cells in the ovary and is thought to represent the number of viable eggs a woman has – known as ovarian reserve. The hormone measurements were compared with the amount of exposure each person had to air pollution on a daily basis, such as to particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide gas, which is produced from burning fuel. The most significant factor on AMH levels was a woman’s age, with levels declining after the age of 25. However, AMH levels were inversely related to air pollution too. “Living in an area associated with high levels of air pollutants in our study increased the risk of severely reduced ovarian reserve by a factor of two or three,” says Antonio La Marca at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, who presented the finding at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Vienna. The results have not yet been peer-reviewed. The study did not measure the individual women’s exposure to pollution, says Richard Anderson at the University of Edinburgh. “While this does not suggest a short-term problem for women trying to fall pregnant, it might indicate that women exposed to high levels of pollution might have a shorter opportunity to achieve a family, and even an earlier menopause,” he says. “However this sort of study cannot clearly show cause and effect, and it might be another aspect of the women’s lifestyle or environment that is the key factor.”
6-24-19 Storing sperm in a freezer for a decade hardly affects birth rates
Long-term sperm freezing makes little difference to live birth rates. Despite a time limit imposed in many countries on storing frozen sperm, a large sperm bank study has found this may not be necessary. The findings are based on a retrospective analysis of 119,558 semen samples from donors at the Hunan Sperm Bank in China. The samples were arranged in three groups: those kept in cryostorage for between six months and five years, those stored for between six and 10 years, and those stored for between 11 and 15 years. The study found that the frozen sperm’s survival rate after thawing did decline over the 15-year study period – from 85 per cent to 74 per cent survival. However, this decline made little difference to the pregnancy and live birth rate in women using these samples for donor insemination, with cumulative live birth rates of 82.2 per cent, 80.2 per cent and 80.0 per cent in the three storage groups respectively. Success rates were similarly comparable when the frozen sperm samples were used in IVF, with live birth rates of 81.6 per cent, 79.1 per cent and 73.9 per cent in the three groups. Results of the study are being presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Vienna.
6-24-19 Freezing embryos doesn't boost IVF success rate despite common use
A commonly used fertility medicine technique of freezing embryos and waiting several weeks before using them is ineffective at boosting pregnancy rates, a trial has shown. The approach is growing in popularity, and in the US about a quarter of IVF cycles now use this “freeze-all” strategy, although this includes women who need it for health reasons. During standard IVF, women take medicines to encourage their ovaries to produce several eggs, which are then collected and fertilised with sperm in a dish. Any embryos are allowed to grow for a few days before one or two are transferred into the uterus in the hope one will implant and lead to pregnancy. Any spare embryos are frozen for future attempts. But fertility clinics are increasingly recommending that women freeze all their embryos and wait several weeks before implanting the first ones. The thinking is that this may raise the chances of pregnancy, because if an embryo is transferred straight away, the lining of the uterus may be less receptive due to the medicines women take to produce multiple eggs. Now a trial has put this idea to the test by randomising 460 women at clinics in Denmark, Sweden and Spain to either the freeze-all approach or the standard method of transferring one unfrozen embryo straight away. Freezing all the embryos led to a 26 per cent pregnancy rate compared with 29 per cent for the standard method. This was such a small difference it could have arisen due to chance – but it does suggest freezing offers no advantage. The research was presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Vienna today. There have been three previous trials looking at this question, only one of which found any benefit.
6-19-19 The pioneering podcast that's breaking the silence on women's health
From IVF to miscarriage, the podcast She Says She's Fine wants women to share their intimate secrets and get informed about sexual and reproductive health. BECOMING a mother is often portrayed as a magical experience where you instantly form a bond with your child. But author and journalist Meghna Pant, a guest on the motherhood episode of a new women’s sexual health podcast, explains that it took her a month to fall in love with her child. “Initially, it’s like an alien creature,” she says. Breastfeeding, too, doesn’t always come naturally. It can also be painful due to cracked nipples and inflamed or infected breast tissue, for example. “Nobody tells you what happens when your milk comes in,” says Kiran Manral, another author and guest on the show. “Suddenly you have stones on your chest, like boulders.” Even in 2019, people still feel shame when talking about certain aspects of women’s reproductive health. But host Munjaal Kapadia, a gynaecologist at Namaha Healthcare in Mumbai, India, is aiming to change that in a podcast called She Says She’s Fine. With 10 episodes so far, the show has tackled topics ranging from abusive relationships, using IVF, being gay and experiencing miscarriage. Guests share their experiences and struggles in an informal and conversational style, and myths are busted. Although the show addresses issues in the context of India, it is relevant globally. Miscarriage, for example, is common around the world, but speaking about it remains taboo. The process is typically beyond a woman’s control because it is often the result of chromosomal abnormalities. An episode on the topic highlights the feelings of guilt often experienced by women, who wonder whether stress, for example, could be the cause. The podcast brings men into the conversation, too. A couple talk about their experience with IVF, providing insight into details of the process, emotions they each went through and ways of dealing with an unsuccessful outcome. The role of male partners is explored, in particular what their involvement should be given that a woman bears most of the physical brunt of the procedure. The message is that men need support as well.
6-17-19 Against commercial surrogacy
Why this conservative Catholic agrees with Gloria Steinem. As a conservative Catholic, I rarely find myself standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Gloria Steinem. Strange times make for strange bedfellows however, and Steinem won my admiration last week when she wrote an open letter opposing legislation that would legalize commercial surrogacy in the state of New York. The bill has already passed New York's State Senate, but it encountered opposition in the Assembly, where some members have ethical concerns about the practice of paying women to be pregnant. "I find that commodification of women troubling," said Deborah Glick, who in 1991 became the first openly gay member of New York's legislature. She's right. It is troubling. Commercial surrogacy exploits women, and treats children as market commodities. It shouldn't be legal in the state of New York, or anywhere else. Here in the United States, New York is an outlier, as one of only three states that still bans commercial surrogacy outright. This irritates celebrities like Andy Cohen, who think it's "ridiculous" that they should be forced to travel to find an available womb. In Cohen's mind, gay men deserve the right to hire gestational carriers, without whom they may never experience the joy of cuddling their genetic offspring. That inconvenience may seem preposterous to Cohen, but in fact, fertility tourism has been around for some time. With infertility and same-sex coupling both on the rise, so-called "intended parents" now regularly travel to Asia, Eastern Europe, or Mexico in search of legal and affordable gestational carriers. The ethical complications are obvious, and some nations that have experimented with commercial surrogacy eventually decided that it wasn't worth the money. Quite recently, India shut down its $400-million-per-year commercial surrogacy industry, which once gave rise to the famed Akanksha Infertility Clinic, where desperately poor Indian women bore children for affluent Westerners. As a business venture, this effort was wildly successful, but the Indians eventually decided that the practice was simply too exploitative. The French, British, Germans, Italians, Irish, Spanish, and Australians evidently agree. Most Western countries have in fact already banned commercial surrogacy. The United States now keeps company with Mexico, Nepal, and many former Soviet states, as countries where the wealthy can pay to have their children gestated in foreign wombs. (Webmaster's comment: Sorry, but a woman's body is hers to use as she wishes! We have no right to block her right to get pregnant for whatever her reasons.)
6-12-19 Maren Morris: Country music has a problem with sexuality
Women in country music are offered two potential paths, says Maren Morris. "The stereotype is you've either got to be this religious, virginal conservative, or the wronged woman burning the house down." But Morris, who grew up listening to Chaka Khan and Beyoncé as much as Shania Twain and Dolly Parton, is having none of it. "People in pop and R&B are confident and sexy and sexual, and they're celebrating it - so why don't we, in country, write these songs?" Instead of just posing the question, she provides the answer - on a new album full of come-hither moments inspired by her marriage to fellow musician Ryan Hurd. It's there in RSVP, a slinky R&B-tinged track that's heavily indebted to TLC, and it's there in the lovelorn ballad Make Out With Me, which was inspired by the "drunk voicemails" she'd leave her husband when he was out on tour. "It's just a really fun, sexy song about wanting to jump someone's bones," she laughs. "Real life stuff!" For anyone used to the carnal abandon of Rihanna or Janet Jackson, it's pretty tame stuff. But Morris stands out in a genre that's been strangely (some might say predictably) resistant to progressive, feminist lyrics. Or just women in general. According to one study, female artists accounted for just 11.3% of the music played on US country radio last year, down from 33.3% in 2000. Even Kacey Musgraves, whose trippy, mellifluous Golden Hour won album of the year at the Grammys, has been starved of radio play, apparently because her lyrics touch on topics like casual sex, drug use, toxic masculinity and queer acceptance. "As a woman in this industry, I wish that radio would come into this century and honour the the songs that are actually popular," says Morris - who deliberately called her second album GIRL to "push some buttons" in the notoriously conservative country establishment.
5-29-19 Clarence Thomas' anti-eugenics argument against abortion and birth control is outrageous
Why the Supreme Court justice's screed should concern all Americans The politics of abortion have become so heated that Tuesday's news about Missouri's intent to force the last abortion clinic in the state to shut down by the end of this week was only the second most important story of the day to touch on reproductive rights. First prize would have to go to the remarkable 20-page concurrence penned by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in an otherwise fairly low-stakes abortion case. The concurrence raised sweeping moral and legal objections to abortion — but it went far beyond that, taking aim squarely at birth control, the purchase of which has been constitutionally protected since 1965, when Griswold v. Connecticut established a right to privacy in matters of marriage and sex. With this concurrence, Thomas may well be attempting to set the legal and constitutional agenda for the next generation of social conservatives. That the arguments he deploys in doing so are extraordinarily weak should ease no one's mind at all. The case that served as the occasion for Thomas' moral musings was Box v. Planned Parenthood. The Box petitioners asked for review on two issues. The first involved the question of whether Indiana law may require health-care facilities to dispose of fetal remains in the same manner as other human remains (through burial or cremation). By a vote of 7-2, the Court ruled that it can. (For pro-lifers, this could potentially serve as one tiny step among hundreds in the direction of establishing fetal "personhood," which anti-abortion activists hope one day to use to get the procedure banned nationwide. But that day is still a ways off.) The second question raised by the Box petitioners dealt with whether a state may prohibit abortions motivated solely by the race, sex, or disability of the fetus. On this matter the Court denied review, claiming that the Courts of Appeals must weigh in before the high court takes a position. But that didn't stop Justice Thomas from writing a concurrence in which he made quite clear that he thinks such restrictions on abortion are not merely permitted by law but quite possibly demanded by morality itself. The concurrence sketches the history of eugenics in the United States, highlighting its ties to the movement for rights to birth control, especially in the writings of Margaret Sanger, the feminist icon and founder of Planned Parenthood. Sanger favored birth control as a means to eugenic ends, according to Thomas, including the elimination of undesirable traits from the human race through selective breeding, sterilization, and other forms of control over who gets to reproduce.
5-29-19 Birth Control Still Tops List of Morally Acceptable Issues
Using birth control, drinking alcohol and getting a divorce remain the most broadly accepted personal moral behaviors in the United States, out of a list of 21 measured in Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll. Conversely, extramarital affairs, cloning humans, suicide and polygamy are viewed most broadly by Americans as morally wrong behaviors.
- Birth control, drinking alcohol and divorce most widely acceptable
- Adultery, cloning humans, suicide, and polygamy largely viewed as wrong
- Declines in sentiment that wearing animal fur, pornography, animal cloning are OK
5-28-19 This invention from the 1930s is cutting period poverty
Some girls can't afford sanitary pads when they have their period, so they end up missing school. Now, girls in Malawi are being given menstrual cups, and it's made a huge difference.
5-26-19 The intimacy coordinator that helps choreograph sex scenes
Ita O'Brien is the BBC's first "intimacy director" and has worked on new BBC drama Gentleman Jack. She was brought in to ensure actors in the drama, including star Suranne Jones who plays Anne Lister, felt comfortable while filming steamy moments.
5-13-19 Georgios Papanikolaou: inventor of the Pap smear cervical cancer test
Few scientists can claim as big an impact as Georgios Papanikolaou, inventor of the Pap smear test – the first widely used screening test for cancer. It is estimated that Pap smear screening has prevented between 105,000 and 492,000 cases of cervical cancer in the US over the past three decades. The origins of Papanikolaou’s invention started with his work in the late 1910s on sex determination in guinea pigs at Cornell University, looking for evidence that the X and Y chromosomes determined the sex of the offspring. He needed to take eggs from the guinea pigs just before ovulation, but at the time there was no way to know when the animals were ovulating. To find out when the animals were ovulating, Papanikolaou bought a nasal speculum – a device used to widen the nostrils for inspection – from a surgical supplies store and used it to examine the vaginas of guinea pigs, collect secretions and spread them on microscope slides. “There were moments of real excitement when the examinations of the first slides revealed an impressive wealth of diverse cell forms and a sequence of distinctive cytologic patterns,” he wrote. That same evening, he performed the same procedure on his wife Andromache, who was working as his assistant, and saw similar patterns. Later, he published studies detailing the changes in vaginal smears related to sexual cycles in guinea pigs and in women. In 1925, while studying vaginal smears volunteered by workers at a local hospital, he saw cancer cells for the first time in a smear from a woman’s cervix. It was “one of the most thrilling experiences of my scientific career,” he wrote. He recruited other women with cancer and presented his data at a conference in 1928. “Although Dr Papanikolaou is not willing to predict how useful the new diagnostic method will be in the actual treatment of malignancy itself, it seems probable that it will prove valuable in determining cancer in the early stages of its growth when it can be more easily fought and treated,” New York World newspaper reported. However, the test received little attention for the next ten years. In 1939, a clinical trial was finally begun in which women admitted to New York Hospital had a vaginal smear interpreted by Papanikolaou. The test detected a considerable number of early cancers that could not have otherwise been diagnosed. Papanikolaou spent the next decade proving the value of the tests and training others to interpret the slides.
5-8-19 Hormone treatment may help prevent miscarriages in some pregnancies
The hormone progesterone may help prevent women from having a second miscarriage, according to a study involving more than 4100 pregnant women. The study tested the hormone as a treatment for women who were experiencing bleeding during early pregnancy. Around half the women were given progesterone as a vaginal pessary twice a day, while the rest were given a placebo instead. The treatment didn’t appear to help all the women, but it did seem to have an effect in those who had previously had a miscarriage. In women who’d had one or two miscarriages, 76 per cent of those given progesterone went on to have a live birth, compared with 72 per cent of the placebo group. Among women who’d had three or more miscarriages, 72 per cent of those given progesterone went on to have a live birth, compared with 52 per cent of the placebo group. “Our finding that women who are at risk of a miscarriage because of current pregnancy bleeding and a history of a previous miscarriage could benefit from progesterone treatment has huge implications,” says Arri Coomarasamy at the University of Birmingham, UK. “We hope that this evidence will be used to update national guidelines for women at risk of miscarriage.”
4-16-19 There's a reason this court is run by women
Sex workers who come before this all-female court in New York City are being treated differently from workers in other parts of the US. The Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court offers an intervention programme that clears the defendant of her charges. It's the subject of a new documentary called Blowin' Up.
4-12-19 Debating prostitution
The Netherlands is famous for its permissive attitude toward prostitution—and for Amsterdam’s red-light district—but that may change. A youth movement has collected 42,000 signatures on a petition to force the national legislature to debate whether to penalize men who seek the services of sex workers, as is done in Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. In the Netherlands, it’s legal for “consenting adults” to buy and sell sex. The anti-prostitution Exxpose movement, which includes Christians and feminists, says that the Nordic model cuts down on human trafficking and the exploitation of vulnerable girls. But one sex worker, who goes by the name of Foxxy, told the BBC, “If this happens, sex workers will work illegally. Then we’re more likely to be victims of violence.” The legislature will hear the issue in coming weeks. (Webmaster's comment: If adult women want to sell sex and adult men want to buy sex it's none of our business!)
4-12-19 Leggings: Too revealing?
The stretchy, formfitting tights now regularly worn by millions of American women have again made “the leap from garment to cultural lightning rod,” said Vanessa Friedman in The New York Times. This time, a self-described “Catholic mother of four sons” named Maryann White triggered the furor by writing a letter to the University of Notre Dame’s school newspaper complaining about sitting with her four sons at Mass behind a row of snugly swaddled women’s derrieres. “Leggings are so naked, so formfitting, so exposing,” White wrote. “Could you think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping?” Predictably, a “firestorm of protest” followed, with more than 1,000 Notre Dame students wearing leggings to class. Supporters as far away as France posted leggings selfies to Twitter in solidarity with the oppressed. This debate has erupted periodically for decades, said Kaitlyn Tiffany in Vox.com. But as leggings have become a standard in young women’s wardrobes, worn to work, school, and nearly everywhere, the backlash has become more intense. Some high schools have banned them, with one North Dakota assistant principal citing Pretty Woman as proof that “leggings are a common uniform for sex workers.” A Montana state representative lobbied to make “yoga pants,” as leggings are sometimes called, illegal in public. In 2017, two leggings-clad teens were booted from a United Airlines flight for indecency. The backlash is all about men—and prudish women—“policing women’s bodies,” said Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian. How ironic that the West bemoans the repression of Muslim women who wear the veil by relying on the same misogynistic argument: Why should men be forced to reckon with the sexual desire engendered by seeing the female form? “As a former teenage boy myself,” said David Von Drehle in The Washington Post, I’d like to point out that they’ll think about sex no matter what women wear. Perhaps my daughter put it best: “If some boy can’t handle my clothing choices, that’s his problem.” Yes, but men are very visual and easily aroused creatures, said Suzanne Venker in WashingtonExaminer.com. Women are entitled to display their buttocks and nether regions in formfitting spandex, but they shouldn’t act offended when men notice. “If women don’t want to be sexualized, they need to stop sexualizing themselves.”
4-5-19 A better breast cancer scan
An innovative 3D mammogram technique could halve the number of women who have to undergo potentially painful biopsies to check for breast cancer, new research suggests. Unlike a conventional breast scan—which captures two X-ray images from top to bottom and side to side—digital breast tomosynthesis takes multiple scans from different angles, which are used to build a 3D image of the tissues where cancer is suspected. In a trial at Leeds Teaching Hospital in England, nearly 31,000 women underwent both a conventional breast scan and a 3D mammogram. Armed with only the conventional scans, doctors recommended that 571 women receive a biopsy; 75 percent of those showed the abnormality that prompted the biopsy was benign, reports ScienceDaily.com. With the 3D images, the doctors determined they would have sent only 298 of the women for biopsies. This method would still have identified the 142 cancers initially flagged by the traditional scan, but with a benign biopsy rate of only 52 percent. Study author Nisha Sharma says the technology can “reduce harm to women through fewer false-positive biopsies without any reduction in the cancer detection rate.”
4-5-19 Breast implants: France bans designs linked to rare cancer
France has become the first country to ban a type of breast implant that has been linked to a rare form of cancer. The ban covers several models of the implants with a textured surface, which are produced by six manufacturers. Those implants have been linked to a type of cancer that attacks the immune system. Some 70,000 women are believed to have received the implants, out of an estimated 400,000 women who have had breast implants in France. The ban was a "precautionary measure" taken in light of the "rare but serious danger" posed by the implants, the National Agency for Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) said in a statement (in French). It said it had recorded 59 cases of the cancer among French implant wearers, of whom three had died. "The more the implant is textured and rough the greater the risk of BIA-ALCL [anaplastic large-cell lymphoma]," it said. The ANSM said it had noted a "significant increase in cases of anaplastic large-cell lymphoma linked to the wearing of breast implants since 2011". "We have no scientific explanation for the development of ALCL, all we have are observations," Thierry Thomas, the agency's deputy director for health devices, told a press conference. The ANSM, however, did not recommend that the women who had received the implants undergo surgery to have them removed, because of the "rarity of the risk", it said. On Thursday, Canada also said it aimed to suspend the same type of implant. Health Canada said it was a "precautionary measure" following a safety review triggered by an increase in cases of BIA-ALCL. The agency has noted 28 cases in Canada - out of 457 cases of BIA-ALCL recorded in implant wearers worldwide, according to figures from the US Food and Drug Administration.
4-2-19 Health regulator takes step towards lifting vaginal mesh implant ban
The UK health regulator has taken the first step towards NHS England lifting a temporary ban on the use of vaginal mesh implants. The implants are used to treat incontinence and prolapse in women, often after childbirth. Their use was paused last year to allow for a safety review, after women reported severe pain and complications. Around one in 10 recipients have had complications within five years of surgery, according to one study. Now the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has said the ban could be lifted if certain conditions are met. These include establishing a national database to record procedures and complications, and that only specialist surgeons at specialist centres carry out the surgery. The guidelines also recommend that people are offered booklets, called “decision aids”, that clearly set out the possible risks of vaginal mesh implants. Women who opt for surgery over physical therapies should be warned that the implants may cause pain, including during sex. But campaigners say the new guidelines aren’t materially different from ones published 16 years ago. “They are so weak, they clear the way for the next generation of women to be harmed,” Kath Sansom of Sling The Mesh said in a statement.
3-26-19 Sperm with damaged DNA may cause some repeat miscarriages
Semen abnormalities suggest a dad’s health needs to be considered in these pregnancy losses. For couples who have suffered repeated miscarriages, it may be useful to scrutinize the man’s reproductive health as closely as the woman’s. Some miscarriages may be linked to abnormalities in semen, a study finds. Researchers analyzed semen from 49 men whose partners had lost three or more consecutive pregnancies before the 20-week mark. The men had sperm with more than twice as much DNA damage and more than four times the amount of certain harmful molecules called reactive oxygen species as samples from healthy men who had been screened for some fertility issues, researchers reported March 24 at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting. After repeated miscarriages, “historically clinicians have focused on the woman having some health problem,” says endocrinologist Bradley Anawalt of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle who was not involved in the study. The new research suggests that “perhaps the man is contributing something that is leading to early pregnancy loss on a regular basis,” he says. Recurrent pregnancy loss has traditionally been defined as the loss of three or more pregnancies in a row before the 20th week. Based on that definition, about 1 to 2 percent of couples experience this condition, although this estimate is based on epidemiological studies that are limited and decades old. Cases of recurrent pregnancy loss can be traced to chromosomal abnormalities or health issues in the mother such as hormone or blood-clotting disorders. But in up to 50 percent of cases, no explanation can be found. Initial evidence points to unhealthy sperm as possibly behind some unexplained cases.
3-26-19 TV's new brooding male anti-hero is the awkward teen girl
Towards the end of the first season of the wonderfully funny and heartfelt Pen15, we see a teen girl get her period for the first time. She cries tears of frustration and disgust when she sees the splash of red on her underwear. She doesn't tell anyone — not her best friend, who she just had a major fight with, or her mom, who earlier in the episode had responded to a temper tantrum by her to grow up. "When you said that I'm not your little girl anymore, did you mean that?" the girl asks her mom through tears. You'll always be my little girl," her mother says truthfully, even as we can see in her eyes that she also knows the girl she sings a lullaby to can't actually be her little girl forever. The landscape of young teen life that Pen15 traverses isn't precisely uncharted territory; after all, the world of first periods and early friendships and first sexual experiences has been a mainstay in American pop culture since the time of Judy Blume. And yet, something extraordinary has been happening over the last several years as the teen coming-of-age story has quietly become the most emotionally rich and nuanced subject matter explored onscreen. If 10 years ago, the lone male antihero was considered the pinnacle of man's search for meaning, today, the coming-of-age story is the place where younger and older viewers alike are invited to ask big important questions about friendship, loyalty, love, and what it means to be a person in the world, all while laughing at the awkwardness and embarrassment of a time when out-of-control hormones and peer pressure are the norm.
3-26-19 Indonesia theme park censors mermaid statues' breasts
An Indonesian theme park has covered the bare breasts on two statues to respect "Eastern values". Ancol Dreamland in the capital city Jakarta placed golden chest wraps on the mermaid figures, which have been at the park for the last 15 years. The move has confused many in the city and prompted questions about whether the park was forced into the decision. But the park dismissed the suggestion, saying they had made the choice to cover the statues last year. "This is purely an agreement from the management and there is no external pressure," park spokeswoman Rika Lestari told the BBC. "We are in the process of reshaping ourselves to be a family friendly amusement park." Members of the public seemed bemused by the decision to cover the mermaids. "The statues didn't disturb us," Nanda Julinda, who took her children to the park, told the BBC. "It's weird to see art pieces being covered like that." "It's located by the beach, and they are mermaids, and you wouldn't see mermaid covered with cloth like that," M Taufik Ficky said. (Webmaster's comment: Nuts!)
3-22-19 Women have a new weapon against postpartum depression, but it’s costly
The newly approved drug brexanolone simulates a natural steroid to alleviate symptoms. Approval of the first and only treatment in the United States specifically targeting postpartum depression offers hope for millions of women each year who suffer from the debilitating mental health disorder after giving birth. The new drug brexanolone — marketed under the name Zulresso and approved on March 19 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — is expected to become available to the public in late June. Developed by Sage Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, Mass., the drug is costly and treatment is intensive: It’s administered in the hospital as a 60-hour intravenous drip, and a treatment runs between $20,000 and $35,000. But researchers say that it could help many of the estimated 11.5 percent of U.S. new moms each year who experience postpartum depression, which can interfere with normal bonding between mothers and infants and lead to feeling hopeless, sad or overly anxious. Here’s a closer look at the drug, its benefits and some potential drawbacks. How exactly brexanolone works is not known. But because the drug’s chemical structure is nearly identical to the natural hormone allopregnanolone, it’s thought that brexanolone operates in a similar way. Allopregnanolone enhances the effects of a neurochemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which stops nerve cells in the brain from firing. Ultimately this action helps quell a person’s anxiety or stress. During pregnancy, the concentration of allopregnanolone in a woman’s brain spikes. This leads some neurons to compensate by temporarily tuning out GABA so that the nerve cells don’t become too inactive. Levels of the steroid typically return to normal quickly after a baby is born, and the neurons once again responding to GABA shortly thereafter. But for some women, this process can take longer, possibly resulting in postpartum depression.
3-19-19 The politics of getting pregnant in Trump's America
In the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, my best friend told me something deeply personal: "We're not sure if we're having another baby," she said. "We're going to wait and see what happens." Specifically, she was waiting anxiously to see if Donald Trump would win. Other friends shared similar sentiments during the vitriolic election season. "I hear you," I said, as footage of Trump and the words "grab 'em by the pussy" flashed across my TV screen. "These are scary times." The truth was, my partner and I were also thinking about having another baby. And while I shared my friends' trepidations, a voice inside of me whispered: "I am ready now. Do I really have to wait?" My biology concurred, as did my partner. A week after Election Day, I threw up in the toilet. I was pregnant. Anxiety is a normal part of parenthood. When you assume responsibility for a child's life, there comes a deep and relentless sense of vulnerability. Over the past few years, though, the emerging sociopolitical landscape — a climate of polarization and uncertainty — has heightened anxiety for both parents and non-parents across America. The American Psychological Association has recorded an increase in national anxiety among Republicans and Democrats alike; their surveys point to "election stress" and "current political climate" as significant factors. It is hardly a surprise, then, that in such conditions, people feel discouraged about starting or growing their families. Why bring children into a world that makes you despair? This sentiment isn't just anecdotal, it is quantifiable. A recent study found that demand for long-term birth control — like IUDs and implants — rose more than 20 percent in the month after the 2016 election. While the researchers suggest one reason for the rise could be a growing concern about accessibility to birth control, I would venture to guess that anxiety about what the future would be like for kids and parents may have also have played a role here.
3-18-19 Women with a twin brother are more likely to drop out of school
Women who have a non-identical twin brother are more likely to drop out of school or higher education than women who have a twin sister. These outcomes may be related to higher levels of testosterone in the uterus from their sibling. Animal studies have shown that testosterone can transfer between fetuses in the uterus and result in developmental changes. Male fetuses are already exposed to oestrogen from their mother, but female fetuses would experience high levels of testosterone only if they shared a uterus with a brother. Krzysztof Karbownik at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and his colleagues analysed data on births in Norway between 1967 and 1978, which included 13,800 twins out of a total of around 729,000 children born. They included long-term data on the twins’ education and earnings, and found that in each category women who had a male twin scored lower than those who had a female twin. They also had fewer children. The women had a 15.2 per cent higher probability of dropping out of school, a 3.9 per cent lower likelihood of graduating university and had 5.8 per cent fewer children, on average, compared with women who have a female twin. The results didn’t carry over to men – those with twin sisters had similar long-term outcomes as those with twin brothers. These results are consistent with a previous study of historical records in Finland that found similar reductions in fertility rates among women with twin brothers. “They were able to adjust for many other important confounding factors that we had no access to using historical records, such as birth weight and size difference at birth,” says Virpi Lummaa at the University of Turku in Finland, author of that study.
Fornicators, after the Utah state legislature this week belatedly voted to repeal the law criminalizing fornication, in which an unmarried person “voluntarily engages in sexual intercourse with another.”
3-9-19 Can acupuncture help menopause symptoms?
For some women, the menopause and the years leading up to it, can be a time of troubling emotional and physical symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) eases symptoms like hot flushes and sweats, but it's not suitable for all women. Now, a small study published in BMJ Open suggests acupuncture may be worth considering. The Danish study found that five weeks of acupuncture in women with menopausal symptoms reduced hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbances and emotional problems. Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark cautioned that they couldn't rule out that the results were down to the placebo effect. The placebo effect is where a treatment works because a patient believes it will, rather than as a result of the treatment itself. One of the study authors, Prof Frans Boch Waldorff, from the University of Southern Denmark, said: "We can't explain the underlying mechanism behind acupuncture, nor determine how much of the effect is caused by placebo. "But this was a safe, cost-effective and simple procedure, with very few side-effects reported by the women. "Women seeking acupuncture treatment for menopausal symptoms should be informed of the current evidence, and its limitations, so they can make a decision."
2-28-19 Quick pregnancy safe after stillbirth, study finds
There is no reason to delay having another baby after a stillbirth, research in the Lancet suggests. Although women are often told to wait for a year before getting pregnant again, there is little evidence to back up this advice. This international study of 14,000 births found no increased risk of problems if conception happened earlier. A UK stillbirth expert said the findings were important and reassuring. About one in every 225 births in the UK ends in stillbirth, which is defined as the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy in the UK. However, in this study, a stillbirth is defined as a baby's death after 22 weeks' pregnancy. Stillbirth rates have been gradually reducing in the UK since 2000, and more sharply since 2015, but compared with many other European countries, improvements in the UK have been slow. In many countries there is limited guidance available on planning future pregnancies after stillbirth, the study says. Manchester University's Prof Alex Heazell, spokesman for Tommy's stillbirth charity and the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said his message to women was "not to worry". "As long as they get all the information about why their baby died, then the choice of when to have another baby is down to when they are psychologically ready." He said there was no physiological reason to wait more than a year before trying for another baby. "Stress may exacerbate things and so waiting until that goes may be a reason for some to hold off," Prof Heazell said. The researchers looked at the birth records of 14,452 women who had previously had a stillbirth in Western Australia, Finland and Norway over 37 years. A total of 2% of those subsequent pregnancies ended in stillbirth, 18% were preterm births and 9% were babies born small for their age. The study found that those who conceived within 12 months of stillbirth were no more likely to have another stillbirth, or a preterm birth, than women who left two or more years between pregnancies.
2-7-19 In the third trimester, a pregnant woman’s sense of personal space grows
Expanding waists during pregnancy may bring expanding perceptions of personal space, a small study hints. Lots of changes come with pregnancy, but perhaps none is as obvious as the ever-growing midsection. Pregnant women’s bodies accommodate their babies in many ways — rib cages stretch, lungs bunch up around the throat and belly buttons pop out — as the fetus takes over every possible centimeter of available real estate. Along with that physical expansion comes an interesting mental one: Late in pregnancy, women’s sense of personal space grows too, a preliminary study finds. Pregnant women’s peripersonal space — the personal bubble defined as her own — expands during the third trimester, Flavia Cardini of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, and colleagues reported December 10 at bioRxiv.org. To define the boundaries of peripersonal space, the researchers asked blindfolded participants to push a button as soon as they felt a light tap on the abdomen. Their responses could be tweaked with another signal: a 3-second-long sound that seemed to start far away and then move closer. People are slower to respond to a tap given while the sound is far away. But like a Karate-Kid chopstick to a fly, people’s reaction times to the tap sped up when the sound seemed closer, earlier studies have found. By pinpointing the distance at which reaction times sped up, Cardini and her colleagues could draw the peripersonal space boundaries of women at three stages of pregnancy: At week 20, when many women are just beginning to grow larger; at week 34, when they’re quite large; and about 2 months after giving birth. For comparison, researchers also tested women who hadn’t been recently pregnant.
1-30-19 People are seeking sperm donors online, but are the risks worth it?
Meeting your sperm donor offers a more personal experience, but the medical and legal complications might outweigh the benefits. PRIVATE sperm donation, taking place outside a licensed fertility clinic, is on the rise. The chief appeal of the DIY approach is that it gives both recipients and donors complete control – but there is a dark side to this trend. Some donors lie about their intentions and the legal paternity of the resulting children can be unclear. Some men are having dozens of children this way, leading to a risk of incest in future. So should we be concerned? Fertility clinics today offer sperm donation for heterosexual couples where the man has too few or poor quality sperm, as well as increasingly for LGBTQ couples and single people. In the past, donors were anonymous and users tended to keep their child’s origins secret if possible, but these days parents are encouraged to be open. In the UK and many other countries, children now have the right to find out their genetic father’s identity when they turn 18, making the choice of donor even more pertinent. Clinics generally provide a few details about sperm donors, such as their appearance and profession. But for many would-be parents, that is nowhere near enough – they want to see his face, talk to him, get a feel for his personality, says Erika Tranfield, who hit this problem when seeking a sperm donor herself. “You get a lot more from meeting someone face-to-face than you do on paper.”
1-25-19 Teabag-like device lets women incubate IVF embryos in their uteruses
A woman’s own uterus could be used as an incubator for her IVF embryos before they are removed and chosen for pregnancy. There are early signs that the method could give higher pregnancy rates than standard IVF. The new approach, developed by Swiss company Anecova, involves placing early embryos inside the womb in a tiny porous chamber to let them get nutrients and signalling chemicals, like hormones, from their mother. After five days, the chamber is pulled out through the vagina by a cord so the best embryo can be selected in the lab for re-implanting. The device looks tube-shaped tea bag. The embryos have to be in a removable device, because with IVF the aim is to create multiple embryos but implant only one or two at a time, freezing the rest. Normally “test-tube babies” are made not in a test-tube but in a dish. Sperm are placed alongside eggs and any resulting embryos grow in the dish for five or six days. Then the best-developed one or two embryos are put into the woman’s uterus. But there are concerns that embryos may be harmed by growing in the lab for their first few days. Studies so far suggest that children born by IVF are healthy, but the unnatural environment of a dish could be part of the reason why so many implanted embryos fail to lead to pregnancy: the success rate is less than 30 per cent per IVF cycle, even for younger women. So Anecova is aiming to make the embryo’s first days mimic more closely what happens in nature. In a recent trial, 68 couples with fertility problems tried Anecova’s method, although used the device for just 18 hours to be cautious. Each woman had an average of 13 eggs retrieved for fertilisation.
1-22-19 2020 Olympics: Japanese chains scrap porn magazines
Two of Japan's biggest convenience store chains have said they will stop selling pornographic magazines ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year. 7-Eleven, which runs more than 20,000 shops in Japan, said it wanted "to create a proper shopping environment for all our customers". Its rival, Lawson Inc, with some 14,000 stores, made a similar announcement.Large numbers of tourists are set to visit Japan for both sporting events. Japan's popular 24-hour convenience stores sell everything from hot drinks to frozen meals, or spare work shirts for stressed businesspeople. Sex magazines are usually mixed in with other titles on racks near the front of the shop, sometimes on low shelves. The stores fear this could give a negative impression. "In the past, 7-Eleven was mostly used by male customers to buy beverages and fast food, and our product assortment was designed accordingly," the chain told Reuters. "However, as the role and usage of 7-Eleven stores has changed in recent years, 7-Eleven became an important shopping destination for families, children and elder people as well." The chain said pornography accounted for less than 1% of its sales, adding that other merchandise could be sold in the vacant space. The Rugby World Cup takes place in September, while the Tokyo Olympics will start in July 2020.
1-19-19 Tough times for Amsterdam sex business
Four young men in puffa jackets jostle, slapping their palms against the glass windows, waving at women posing in lacy lingerie. "It's all banter. Even they know about the banter," one tells me, gesturing towards a brothel. "They know about the English. They get enough money out of us." But many of the women who sell their bodies are increasingly struggling to attract paying clients because their shop windows are obscured by selfie-snapping tourists, interested in free photo-ops rather than paid sex. The Dutch capital's first female mayor is trying to find a solution. Femke Halsema is preparing to set out a range of measures to help the sex workers escape the cameras' glare. "It's the biggest free attraction park in the whole of Amsterdam," says Frits Rouvoet. As he guides me though the spider's web of cobbled alleyways, many of the prostitutes throw him a familiar wave. Frits runs a bookshop in the red light district and often invites the women in for coffee, a moment of respite from the abuse and intimidation they are subjected to in the street. "There's nowhere for them to run to," he explains. "If they want to make a living, they have to stand in the window but there are many, many men coming. From England, Scotland, Ireland. Drunk, screaming, trying to make pictures." Young women try to hide their faces, as tourists gawp and brandish their smartphones. For many this is a secret life. Having their photo placed on social media could see them ostracised by their families. Kristina opens her door, shivering as the icy air hits her exposed stomach. She stubs out a cigarette, turns down a video on her phone and leads me down a short corridor to a small, white, concrete room. It's warm and sparse: a mirror, black plastic mattress, antiseptic hygiene gel, alarm and fluffy slippers. "I don't like it (selling my body), but I have to." Kristina has been working in the red light district for a decade. She was persuaded to come by a Hungarian friend who had found her fortune in Amsterdam's seedy sex industry. She charges €100 (£88; $114) for half an hour, €150 for an hour. "I'm saving for my two kids. For their future. They're with my mother in Hungary. My kids don't know what I do." Kristina has no desire to move. She attracts good business here, despite the irritating sightseers. She speaks fluent Dutch and tells me she doesn't have a pimp - she sells her body because "it's easy money". And she feels safe here.
1-18-19 Contraceptive mandate stays in place
Federal courts in California and Pennsylvania this week blocked new rules that would have limited the free access to birth control required by Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration sought to expand the religious-objection exception to the ACA’s directive that insurers cover birth control with no copays. Under the new rules, any company could decline to provide contraception coverage as a matter of conscience or religious belief. New Jersey and Pennsylvania had sued, arguing that the planned changes would place too great a financial burden on the states. Philadelphia Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a nationwide injunction that keeps them from taking effect. She said the new rules are “inconsistent” with the law.
1-14-19 Judge blocks Trump's new birth control rules in 13 states and Washington
A California judge has blocked new Trump administration regulations on birth control from applying in 13 states and Washington DC. The rules allow employers and insurers to decline to provide birth control if doing so violates their "religious beliefs" or "moral convictions". The rules were to come into effect nationwide from Monday. But the judge granted an injunction stopping it applying in jurisdictions which are challenging the policy. Plaintiffs in 13 states and the nation's capital argued that the new regulation should not come into force while they moved forward with lawsuits against it. While Judge Haywood Gilliam did not make a final decision, he said the rules could mean a "substantial number" of women would lose birth control coverage, a "massive policy shift" which could breach federal law. California attorney general Xavier Becerra said in a statement: "It's 2019, yet the Trump administration is still trying to roll back women's rights. "The law couldn't be clearer - employers have no business interfering in women's healthcare decisions." But the US Department of Justice said in court documents that the new rules defended "a narrow class of sincere religious and moral objectors" and stopped them from conducting practices "that conflict with their beliefs".
1-11-19 Croatian women challenge brutal pregnancy 'care'
Croatia has been experiencing its own #MeToo moment, as women protest at being put through avoidable suffering and abuse during pregnancy and childbirth. Campaigners call it "obstetric violence" and complain it has been going on for decades. ut it was not until one opposition MP spoke out in parliament about her own ordeal that a national debate started on social media - under the hashtag #BreakTheSilence. Ivana Nincevic-Lesandric described the "medieval treatment" she had experienced at the hands of medical staff after a miscarriage. "They tied up my arms and legs and started the procedure of curettage without anaesthesia. That means scraping the cervix, the internal organ, without anaesthesia. Those were the most painful 30 minutes of my life," she told shocked MPs. Health Minister Milan Kujundzic suggested the story was a figment of her imagination: "This is not how it's done in Croatian hospitals. You can give me your medical records if you want and I'll take a look." But many Croatians leapt to her defence, especially women, calling her statement bold and unprecedented. Croatia is a predominantly Catholic country, and many are reticent about talking openly about female reproductive health in what is still a largely patriarchal society. Pressure group Parents in Action (Roda), which for years has tried to highlight the issue, followed up the MP's testimony with a #BreakTheSilence campaign. In one weekend alone they received testimonies from 400 women, says spokeswoman Daniela Drandic. They duly handed them to the health ministry. "We have reports of biopsies being done without anaesthetic, of medically-assisted fertility procedures without anaesthetic, sewing to repair tears after vaginal childbirth, episiotomy being done without anaesthetic," she says. Among the accounts were examples of abuse and women being talked to in a demeaning way during childbirth. "Things like: 'If you could have sex you should now be able to take it,' or 'it was nice before and now the pain comes later' - telling women that they are being sewn to make their husbands happy." One of the 400 women is Jasmina Furlanovic, who still gets tearful when she recalls the humiliation and pain she endured when she had to have her placenta removed a few years ago. "They started the procedure without any explanation. The nurse was restraining me," she said.
1-9-19 This protein may help explain why some women with endometriosis are infertile
Having a reduced amount of HDAC3 renders mice sterile. A missing protein may help explain why some women with endometriosis are infertile. In samples of lining from the uterus, infertile women with the disorder had lower amounts of a protein called histone dacetylase 3, or HDAC3, than fertile women without endometriosis, a study finds. When mice were engineered to have a decreased amount of HDAC3 in the uterus, the animals became sterile, researchers report online January 9 in Science Translational Medicine. The new work brings scientists a step closer to understanding what’s driving infertility in women with endometriosis, says Linda Giudice, a reproductive endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco who was not involved in the study. Such research could potentially offer ways to improve these women’s ability to become pregnant, she says. Endometriosis — a disorder in which tissue from the lining of the uterus invades other parts of the body, such as the ovaries, lining of the pelvis and bowels — can cause severe pain and infertility. Researchers don’t know why endometriosis strikes. Women whose menstruation began before age 10, were of low birth weight or were exposed to a synthetic estrogen called diethylstilbestrol, or DES, in the womb are at an increased risk for the disorder. Having family members with the disease also puts one at risk. The disorder is estimated to affect up to 10 percent of women of childbearing age. Among women with infertility, the prevalence of the condition may be as high as 50 percent. Reproductive biologist Jae-Wook Jeong at Michigan State University in Grand Rapids and colleagues wanted to study why fertility may be reduced during endometriosis.
1-9-19 CES 2019: 'Award-winning' sex toy for women withdrawn from show
A sex toy designed for women has been banned from the technology show CES. Lorna DiCarlo said it had been invited to display its robotic Ose vibrator at CES, after winning an innovation award. CES organiser the Consumer Technology Association, which granted the award, said it had included the device by mistake and could withdraw any immoral or obscene entry at any time. Lorna DiCarlo chief executive Lora Haddock said the CES and CTA had a history of gender bias. In a statement to The Next Web, the CTA said: "The product does not fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted. "We have apologised to the company for our mistake." But, in a statement on the Lora DiCarlo website, Ms Haddock cites several examples of other female-oriented products included in the award category the vibrator was in. "Two robotic vacuum cleaners, one robotic skateboard, four children's toys, one shopping companion robot - looks like all of women's interests are covered, right?" she said. "Ose clearly fits the robotics and drone category - and CTA's own expert judges agree." The product had designed in partnership with a robotics laboratory at Oregon State University and had eight patents pending for "robotics, biomimicry, and engineering feats", Ms Haddock said. "We firmly believe that women, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and LGBTQI folks should be vocally claiming our space in pleasure and tech," she said. Ms Haddock said there was a double-standard at CES when it came to sexual health products targeted at men versus women.