11-8-19 Five things everyone with a vagina should know
There are many false myths on social media about vaginas, and one woman has made it her mission to correct them. Dr Jen Gunter has been a practising obstetrician-gynaecologist in the US and Canada for 25 years. She is a fierce advocate for women's health and has been described as Twitter's resident gynaecologist. Recently she took up arms against claims that putting jade eggs into vaginas supported "hormonal balance, menstrual regulation, and bladder control". Gunter showed that they were not part of any ancient Chinese tradition nor did they have any scientific backing. The claims were taken down. Gunter's latest book, The Vagina Bible, is a best-seller in several countries. It's full of practical advice, designed to empower women and help them to look after their health. Here are some facts she feels everyone with a vagina should know.
- It's important to know your vagina from your vulva: The vagina is inside the body - it's the muscular canal which connects the uterus to the outside world. What you can see from the outside, the part that touches your clothes, is the vulva.
- The vagina cleans itself: Gunter has noticed a real shift in women's attitudes over the last 10 years, with many believing they need to use products to modify the smell of their vagina. In North America, up to 57% of women have cleaned vaginally in the past year, with many reporting that they are encouraged to do so by their sexual partner. But Gunter says there is no need to use anything to clean inside the vagina.
- Your vagina is like a garden: The vagina contains an army of "good" bacteria which help to keep it healthy. "The vaginal microbiome is like a garden of all different kinds of bacteria that function together to keep the vaginal ecosystem healthy," says Gunter.
- Pubic hair is there for a reason: Gunter has noticed a growing trend for women to remove all of their pubic hair. This is helping to make pubic lice homeless, but there are also risks to genital depilation. "When you wax or shave or sugar, you are causing microscopic trauma to the skin," says Gunter. "We see cuts, abrasions, infections from pubic hair removal as well."
- Getting older can affect the vagina: After years of having periods and maybe children, the ovaries stop producing eggs and menstruation stops. The amount of hormones in the body which keep women fertile drops dramatically - and low levels of oestrogen, in particular, affect the vagina and vulva. These tissues, which were once kept moist with mucus, can atrophy, and the resulting dryness can cause pain during sex because of a lack of lubrication.
11-6-19 Would you use a patch of 100 tiny needles over the contraceptive pill?
A patch filled with tiny needles can inject up to 60 days’ worth of hormonal contraceptives. Women could apply the patch at home, making it a potentially hassle and pain-free alternative to injections or implants. Mark Prausnitz at the Georgia Institute of Technology and his colleagues created the patch, which contains 100 microneedles, each around half a millimetre long and 0.01 millimetres wide at the tip. When the patch is applied, the needles come off the patch, break the skin and sit under the surface. Each needle contains a small dose of the hormonal contraceptive levonorgestrel, which is slowly released as the microneedle degrades over a period of up to 60 days. Normally, long-acting contraceptives need to be administered by professionals, but this could be self-administered, says Prausnitz. The patch could be used once a month, rather than every day like with the pill. The team tested the patch on rats and found that more than 90 per cent of the microneedles detached after 50 seconds on average. To see how well the patch would work with people, the team tested it on 10 women using a placebo patch that didn’t contain any levonorgestrel. The microneedles detached from the patch to enter the body just as well as they did in rats. All the women said they would opt for the patch over a monthly injection of hormones, while only one would stick with a daily pill. Chenjie Xu at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, says the next step should be to test a version of the patch with a hormonal contraceptive in people. It is important to know if the work in rats translates to humans, he says.
10-31-19 Ending stigma and shame over sanitary pads
What's the link between patriarchy, illegal drugs and periods? As Diane Shaibu of Prince George's County, Maryland, was heading to her bathroom to deal with her menstrual needs, she felt she was back in middle school with a sense of shame over the sanitary pads she was holding in her hands. She took to Twitter expecting her friends would appreciate her thought that "smuggling pads to the bathroom like it's some sort of illegal drug gotta be the worst adaptation to patriarchy". Not only did her friends agree, the thought resonated so much that women and transgender people all over the world shared their experiences of "pad shame". And with about 60,000 retweets and more than 200,000 likes so far, it's fair to say Shaibu's shower thoughts are now viral. The 24-year-old, who has been menstruating for a decade, told the BBC she was astonished by the reaction. "As the feelings of shame came through me, I was wondering why I still felt those emotions. Having a period is normal but yet I feel this way every single month." She said that even at home she would keep her sanitary pads in her bedroom and away from communal places so her family wouldn't have to be exposed to it. She said it felt as though she was doing something illegal and was part of an underground club and it felt strange to acknowledge that. "You learn all these manoeuvres to hide what you are doing - I'd stuff my pads in my pocket or I'd do this secret move where I'd stick it under my armpit as I walked over to the bathroom." It turned out she wasn't alone. Reetah Boyce, from Denver, was among those who also had to come up with innovative ways to hide the fact that she was menstruating. She responded to Shaibu's tweet saying how awkward she would feel buying pads - especially when the person at the till was male. She would buy additional items so as to draw away attention from the fact she was on her period.
10-30-19 Sorry, having sex won't start labour – but rubbing your nipples might
Sex got you into this – can it get you out? Many heavily pregnant women turn to a number of methods in an attempt to start labour, including having sex. The bad news is that it doesn’t work. Almost half of pregnant women take it upon themselves to hasten labour. The most common thing to try is a long walk, followed by having sex, ingesting spicy food and nipple stimulation. There is good reason to assume that sex might get things going: sperm contains prostaglandins – chemicals that doctors use to induce labour. Orgasms are also associated with uterus contractions, and nipple stimulation is thought to increase oxytocin, a key hormone involved in the onset of labour. But results from trials have been mixed: one study suggested that sex reduces the need for an induction, while others have found it has no effect. Another study showed that women who had sex at term were actually less likely to go into spontaneous labour before their scheduled induction. The only independent review of the subject included just 28 women and did’nt draw any conclusions. To get a more definitive answer, Luigi Carbone at the University of Naples Federico II, Italy, and his colleagues analysed all relevant randomised, controlled trials published before June 2019. Only three were high enough quality to include in their final analysis. Overall, the trials included about 1500 healthy women having a single baby. Two of the trials asked women at term to have sex as many times as possible, while those in the control group were neither encouraged nor discouraged to have sex. Women in the third trial were asked to have sex at least two times a week after term, or to abstain completely. The results showed that having sex made no difference to whether the women went into spontaneous labour or ended up with an artificial induction. On the other hand, the analysis showed no detrimental effect of having sex at term. One limitation of all three studies is that they involved self-reporting, so no one checked up on whether the women had sex or not.
10-18-19 Battling coastline pollution with plastic-free periods
Four million period products are put down the toilet every day in the UK with some of that ending up on the coastline - but how can it be stopped? One environmental group, Bristol-based City to Sea, has started a campaign to persuade women to swap "conventional" menstrual products for plastic-free or reusable. This follows the results of a new study into how much plastic is in menstrual pads which revealed a single pack contains the same amount of plastic as five carrier bags. They challenged three women to swap - we found out how they got on.
10-14-19 High levels of air pollution seem to be linked to early miscarriages
High levels of air pollution may increase the chance of a missed miscarriage, according to data from pregnant women living and working in Beijing, China. “We have clear evidence and accumulating knowledge that there is a true association [between air pollution and miscarriage],” says Tim Nawrot at Hasselt University in Belgium, who wasn’t involved in the study. A missed or silent miscarriage is when a fetus dies or stops developing during pregnancy, usually without any symptoms. Such miscarriages tend to happen in the first trimester, and can be picked up on 12-week scans. Little is known about what causes them. Growing evidence suggests that exposure to air pollution could affect the development of a fetus. To find out if air pollution levels might be linked to missed miscarriages, Liqiang Zhang at Beijing Normal University and his colleagues assessed the health records of around 255,000 pregnant women in Beijing. The team also collected data on the levels of four air pollutants recorded by air monitoring stations close to where each woman lived and worked. As well as tracking levels of tiny particles, such as soot, the researchers noted the amount of sulphur dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide. Just under 7 per cent of the women – about 17,500 individuals – experienced a missed miscarriage during their first trimester. Women who were older than 39 and those who worked as farmers or in blue-collar jobs seemed to be at greater risk. The researchers found that those exposed to higher levels of air pollution had an increased risk of experiencing a missed miscarriage, although they didn’t directly test if pollution causes miscarriage. The finding builds on a recent study of women in the US, which also found a link between air pollution exposure and miscarriage risk.
9-30-19 Female orgasm may have evolved from a trigger for ovulation
What’s the evolutionary origin of the female orgasm? A study that involved giving antidepressants to rabbits has lent support to the idea that the female orgasm may have originated from a reflex that makes some female mammals ovulate during intercourse. DThere are multiple theories regarding the function of female orgasms. Some studies have found that contractions of the uterus experienced during orgasm help transport sperm towards the egg. However, many women don’t orgasm during intercourse, and it is also common for women to conceive without climaxing. There are also simpler explanations, including that sexual pleasure encourages women to have more sex, making them more likely to conceive, or motivates them to form committed relationships, which may be beneficial for raising children. But how did the female orgasm evolve? Mihaela Pavlicev, currently at the University of Vienna in Austria, and her colleagues think that animals that ovulate during intercourse may hint at the answer. While women release an egg roughly every month, ovulation in some other mammals such as rabbits is triggered by copulation. Pavlicev and her team think the hormones and brain circuitry involved in such reflex ovulation could also be involved in generating a pleasurable climax. In 2016, they analysed 41 species of mammal. Of these, 15 species, including cats, koalas and camels, have reflex ovulation. The way these species are related across the mammal family tree suggests that this system is likely to have been present in the earliest mammal ancestors. In their latest study, the team exploited the finding that the antidepressant fluoxetine, which is sold as Prozac, reduces people’s ability to orgasm. They found that, after giving rabbits fluoxetine for two weeks, the rate of ovulation during copulation fell by a third.
9-27-19 Air pollution and unborn children
For the first time, scientists have found evidence that soot-like particles breathed in by a pregnant woman can penetrate the placenta and potentially reach a fetus in the womb. Exposure to black carbon, which is emitted from vehicle exhausts and factory smokestacks, has long been associated with increased premature births, miscarriages, and low birth weights. Scientists were unsure exactly why, and some speculated that particles lodged in a mother’s lung might trigger an inflammatory response. But the new study suggests a more direct link. Belgian researchers collected the placentas of 25 nonsmoking women after they had given birth. In all cases, they found black carbon particles on the fetal side of the placenta, which funnels oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s blood supply to the fetus and filters out damaging substances. Particle levels were twice as high in the placentas of mothers who lived near busy roads than in those who did not. The study didn’t examine whether black carbon entered the fetuses, or the negative health effects those particles might cause—something researchers are now looking at. Still, study leader Tim Nawrot, from Hasselt University, tells TheGuardian.com that pregnant women should “avoid busy roads as much as possible.”
9-24-19 Indonesia protests over sex before marriage bill
Police have fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters demonstrating outside the Indonesian parliament over a proposed new criminal code that would ban sex before marriage. Protests against the bill also took place in other cities in the country. The bill would outlaw most abortions and make insulting the president illegal. The bill has been delayed, but protesters are concerned it could still eventually pass through parliament. The proposed new criminal code includes the following: 1. Sex before marriage would be criminalised and could result in a one-year prison term. 2. Living together outside marriage could lead to a six-month prison sentence. 3. Insulting the president, vice president, religion, state institutions and symbols such as the flag and national anthem would be illegal. 4. Abortion would carry a maximum four-year prison term if there were no circumstances of a medical emergency or rape. The bill was initially scheduled for a vote on Tuesday - however, President Joko Widodo postponed the vote on Friday, stating that that new laws needed more consideration. Despite the delay, many Indonesians are concerned that the bill could still be pushed through parliament. There is also anger over the passing of a new law that has weakened the Corruption Eradication Commission, an important arm in rooting out corruption. Thousands of protesters, many of which were students, took to the streets in cities across Indonesia. The main clashes took place in the capital Jakarta as demonstrators demanded to meet parliament speaker Bambang Soesatyo. Protesters pelted police with rocks, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. One placard held by a woman said: "My crotch does not belong to the government". Protests in other areas, including Yogyakarta and Makassar on Sulawesi island, continued for a second day.
9-20-19 First sexual experience
About 6.5 percent of American women, or 3.3 million, say that their first sexual experience was rape, according to a new study. The average victim was 15 years old.
9-18-19 C-section babies have a different microbiome - but not for long
Babies born by caesarean section have different gut bacteria to those born vaginally – but the differences largely disappear by the time the babies are between 6 and 9 months old. That’s according to the largest study into the effects of birth mode on the microbiome. Previous research has suggested that babies born by C-section are more likely to collect hospital-acquired bacteria when they are born, while those born vaginally collect microbes from their mother. Because the gut microbiome is thought to be intricately linked to health, these differences have been suggested to make C-section babies more likely to develop obesity, asthma and eczema. “The hypothesis is that the moment of birth might be a sort of thermostatic moment for the immune system… that sets the immune system for future life,” says Nigel Field at University College London. To investigate the phenomenon, Field and his colleagues collected faecal samples from 596 babies born in UK hospitals. The samples were collected by the babies’ parents over the first few weeks of life, and when the babies were between 6 and 9 months old. “We did quite a bit of experimenting to show that baby poo is pretty stable in the post for a couple of days,” says co-author Peter Brocklehurst at the University of Birmingham, UK. The team found that about 80 per cent of C-section-born babies had hospital-acquired bacteria in their guts when they were born, compared with 50 per cent of vaginally born babies. And the bacteria made up around 30 per cent of the total bacteria in C-section babies, compared with just 10 per cent in babies born vaginally. But by the time the babies were weaned at the age of around 6 to 9 months, these differences had largely disappeared. And all the babies were healthy, so the researchers can’t tell if there are any implications for health. “We don’t know the long-term consequences of these findings,” says Field.
9-18-19 Giving birth two million years ago was 'relatively easy'
Human childbirth can be a long, painful, drawn-out process, needing assistance and sometimes taking days. So why do close living relatives like chimps have an easier labour, giving birth in hours and on their own? In an attempt to answer this evolutionary question, scientists have been looking at how ancient members of the human family tree gave birth. Human-like relatives two million years ago had it "pretty easy", according to birth reconstruction in a fossil. For Australopithecus sediba, which lived 1.95 million years ago in South Africa, we see "a relatively easy birth process", says study researcher Dr Natalie Laudicina. "The foetal head and shoulder breadth have ample space to pass through even the tightest dimensions of the maternal birth canal," she says. It's a different story today, where the size and shape of the modern pelvis (a trade-off needed for walking upright), and the large size of a baby's head, make for a tight fit. Human infants have to make several rotations through the birth canal during labour, rather than popping straight out. By studying the few female pelvises we have of our ancient human-like relatives - only six spanning more than three million years of evolution - researchers can get an idea of what birth might have been like further back in the human family tree. It's not the case, though, that birth became progressively more difficult during the course of human evolution. As the University of Boston anthropologist explains, the fossil "Lucy" (Australopithecus afarensis) had a more difficult birth process than A. sediba, in terms of a tighter fit between the foetus and the birth canal, but lived about a million years earlier. "There is a tendency to think about the evolution of human birth as a transition from an 'easy', ape-like birth to a 'difficult', modern birth," says Dr Laudicina, who reports the team's findings in the journal, Plos One. "Instead, what we are seeing is that is not the case."
9-18-19 Air pollution can reach the placenta around a developing baby
A study of women in Belgium found black carbon particles, or soot, within the organ. Breathing in polluted air may send soot far beyond a pregnant woman’s lungs, all the way to the womb surrounding her developing baby. Samples of placenta collected after women in Belgium gave birth revealed soot, or black carbon, embedded within the tissue on the side that faces the baby, researchers report online September 17 in Nature Communications. The amount of black carbon in the placenta correlated with a woman’s air pollution exposure, estimated based on emissions of black carbon near her home. “There’s no doubt that air pollution harms a developing baby,” says Amy Kalkbrenner, an environmental epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee who was not involved in the new work. Mothers who encounter air pollution regularly may have babies born prematurely or with low birth weight (SN: 5/13/15). These developmental problems have been tied to an inflammatory response to air pollution in a mother’s body, including inflammation within the uterus. But the new study, Kalkbrenner says, suggests that “air pollution itself is getting into the developing baby.” The study looked particularly at black carbon, a pollutant emitted in the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel and coal. Researchers in Belgium at Hasselt University in Diepenbeek and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven used femtosecond pulsed laser illumination to test the tissue for soot. The technique involves using extremely fast laser bursts — each one-quadrillionth of a second — to excite electrons within the tissue, which then emits light. Different tissues are known to generate certain colors, such as red for collagen and green for placental cells. The black carbon was distinct and released white light.
9-18-19 Menstrual blood ad complaints dismissed in Australia
Adverts which were the first to depict menstrual blood on Australian television did not breach viewing standards, regulators say. The ads were run by sanitary pad brand Libra last month and showed stained underwear and blood on a woman's legs. Viewers made over 600 complaints that the commercials were inappropriate - the highest number for any ads in 2019. But Australia's industry regulator dismissed the complaints and praised the message of what had been depicted. Ad Standards said the campaign was seen to be "promoting equality and the de-mystification of menstruation". Libra's parent company, Asaleo Care, said the adverts had tackled a taboo and feelings of shame experienced by many women and girls when having their period. It also showed text such as: "Periods are normal. Showing them should be too". Viewers who made official complaints argued the depictions were "offensive and inappropriate" and "disgusting". In their response, regulators acknowledged that some viewers "would prefer not to see bodily fluids displayed on television" but said the adverts did not breach the industry's ethics code. They also dismissed complaints that the ads were inappropriate for prime-time slots or to be viewed by children. "There is no negative language or imagery in the advertisement that implies that... [women] should be embarrassed about menstruation or that a woman who is menstruating is a lesser person," they wrote in their case report. Asaleo Care said the adverts were based on the #BloodNormal campaign by its sister company Essity. The campaign featured sanitary pads stained with red liquid, rather than blue. It was launched in 2017, beginning in the UK, and has since been rolled out across Europe, the Americas and South Africa. Six years earlier, feminine hygiene company Always became the first company to feature an advert with a red dot on a maxi pad.
9-14-19 Boosting circadian rhythms can help relieve perinatal depression
Women with perinatal depression appear to have altered circadian rhythms. Using light to reset the body clock may improve symptoms. Our bodies run on internal clocks that, in concert with light, wake us up in the morning and leave us sleepy by night time. This circadian rhythm is partly regulated by a suite of genes. These control not only the sleep-wake cycle but also a host of other functions, including metabolism, hormone secretions and body temperature – all of which cycle throughout the day. Something seems to go awry in depression. People with severe depression tend to experience disruptions to their circadian rhythms. Depression can give people daytime sleepiness and night-time insomnia, and research has found higher activity of some circadian genes in people with the condition. Perinatal depression – which occurs during and after pregnancy – seems to be similar. Women tend to get less sleep when they are pregnant, particularly if they have perinatal depression. To find out if circadian genes might play a role, Massimiliano Buoli, Cecilia Maria Esposito and their colleagues at the University of Milan, Italy, looked at seven such genes in 44 women in the third trimester of pregnancy. Thirty of the women had been diagnosed with perinatal depression. By looking at whether epigenetic tags called methyl groups were attached to the genes, the researchers could tell how active these genes were. They found that three circadian genes were more active and one circadian gene was less active in the women who had been diagnosed with depression than those who didn’t have the condition. The team also found that the more methyl groups there were, the more severe a woman’s symptoms were likely to be. This suggests that the greater the difference in circadian gene activity, the more likely a woman is to experience symptoms of depression, say Buoli and Esposito, who presented the findings at the annual meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Copenhagen, Denmark, last week.
9-11-19 Vaginal fluid transplants may soon be available in US
US doctors are hoping to start offering women vaginal fluid transplants and have set up a programme to screen potential donors. They believe some women could benefit from a dose of healthy vaginal microbes to protect against an infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV). The Johns Hopkins University team say they were inspired by the success of faecal or poo transplants. Although antibiotics can treat BV, it often comes back. BV is not a sexually transmitted disease, despite being an infection. It's quite common and women who have it may notice that they have an unusual discharge that has a strong fishy smell. The condition is not usually serious, but should be treated because having BV makes women more vulnerable to catching sexually transmitted infections and getting urinary infections. If the woman is pregnant, it increases the risk of her having the baby early. BV can happen when there is a change in the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina. The vagina, like the gut, is home to lots of different microorganisms. Our diets, lifestyles and some types of medication that we may take can upset this finely balanced ecosystem. While there has been a large amount of work into the gut microbiome, less is known about the vagina. Experts known that healthy microorganisms in the vagina prefer an acidic environment, and when the pH becomes too alkaline other bacteria - including those that cause BV - can thrive. A number of factors can raise vaginal pH and make BV more likely, including having sex (semen and saliva are slightly alkaline) and using douches or vaginal washes, as well as hormonal changes at particular times of the month during a woman's menstrual cycle.
9-7-19 Women have a daily hormone cycle as well as a monthly one
Female reproductive hormones cycle daily as well as monthly, a small study suggests. The finding may help explain why some women experience daily mood fluctuations.. It is well-established that women’s reproductive hormones like oestrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) follow monthly cycles to help prepare their uteruses for pregnancy. Steven Lockley at Harvard University and his colleagues wondered if these reproductive hormones might follow daily cycles as well, based on similar findings in mice and rats. To find out, they measured hormone levels in 17 women every 2 hours for nine days. They discovered that the women’s oestrogen, progesterone, FSH and LH levels followed regular cyclical patterns each day in the first part of their menstrual cycle leading up to ovulation, while only FSH continued to do so after ovulation. This suggests that daily hormone rhythms are responsible for controlling the time of day of ovulation, the researchers write. Female rodents also have a daily hormone cycle, which is thought to optimise their chance of getting pregnant by making sure the time of day they ovulate coincides with when they feel most motivated to have sex. The reason why women have a daily hormone cycle may also be to encourage sex at the time of day they are most fertile, but this needs further investigation, says Beverley Vollenhoven at Monash University in Australia. This was only a small study, conducted over a short period of time, so further research is needed to confirm the team’s findings.But if their discovery holds up, it may explain why female shift-workers tend to have more problems conceiving than other women, says Vollenhoven. Working at night is known to disrupt circadian rhythms, which could in turn deregulate daily hormone patterns and mess with the timing of ovulation and sexual arousal, or suppress ovulation altogether, she says.
8-30-19 The Vagina Bible adverts blocked by social media
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram blocked adverts promoting a doctor's book about vaginal health, according to US publisher Kensington. Numerous social media posts using the words 'vaginal' or 'vagina', advertising Dr Jennifer Gunter's The Vagina Bible, were rejected. Content without these words was approved. "We did not take action on Promoted Tweets from this account because of references to sexual organs, as those are permitted within our rules," a Twitter spokesperson told BBC News. "The rejection of some of the promoted content was due to a combination of human error and violations, including the use of profanity and adult products." Facebook told BBC News it is investigating the claims. Blocked tweets were later re-instated and Facebook posts using the words vagina and vaginal health were permitted. "Vagina is an anatomical term and not a "dirty" word" wrote Dr Jennifer Gunter in a tweet shared thousands of times, and many social media users criticised the platforms' decisions. The UK-based Vagina Museum also revealed that just one of seven submitted Facebook posts advertising its organisation has been approved. Kensington Books claimed that Twitter said its sponsored tweets were "promoting adult sexual products and services" or used "inappropriate language". One advert reading: "Dr Jen Gunter stopped by Teen Vogue to answer important questions about vaginal health" was rejected by Facebook on the basis that the publisher "should not assume readers have health-related questions", according to Kensington. It was rejected again after being edited to read "all the things you should know about your vaginal health", but was accepted once the word 'vaginal' was removed. Another advert that included the book title was flagged for using 'inappropriate language' but an advert with the same wording but no mention of 'The Vagina Bible' was approved.
8-27-19 Bangladesh: Court removes 'virgin' word from marriage form
Women in Bangladesh are no longer required to declare if they are virgins on marriage registration forms, the country's top court has ruled. The high court ordered that "virgin" be replaced with "unmarried". The other two options on the form - "widow" and "divorced" - remain unchanged. Women's rights groups - who had argued the word "virgin" was humiliating - welcomed Sunday's verdict. Separately, the court said grooms now also must declare their marital status. Marriage laws in the Muslim-majority Bangladesh have been criticised by women's rights groups as restrictive and discriminatory. Many girls in the country are forced into arranged marriages at a very young age. The court said the Bengali word "kumari" must be removed from marriage registration forms. The word is used to describe unmarried women, but it can also mean "virgin". Lawyers for the groups who filed the case in 2014 had successfully argued that the marriage forms were humiliating and breached women's privacy. On Sunday, the court said the Bengali word "obibahita", which unambiguously means "an unmarried woman" - must be used from now on instead of "kumari". In a separate ruling, the court required grooms to state whether they are unmarried, divorced or widowed. The changes are expected to come into force in a few months when the full court verdict is officially published.
8-21-19 The Vagina Bible: Beating bad science on women's sexual health
Top Twitter gynaecologist Jennifer Gunter's new book, The Vagina Bible, attacks the bad science and downright ignorance she believes bedevil women's sexual health. FOR more than 10 years, Jennifer Gunter has been fact-checking claims about women’s bodies and writing about it all – sometimes humorously, at other times using expletives. She has been called Twitter’s resident gynaecologist and her Twitter fans (she has over 200,000 followers) describe those she has admonished for their ignorance as having been “guntered”. Now, she is poised to reach out to many more when her book The Vagina Bible is published this month. The book offers scientific information on everything from reproductive health to vaginal steaming. At a time when women’s sexual health seems to have been taken over by zealots and jade egg sellers, the book is filled with answers to questions that women feel far too embarrassed to ask their gynaecologists. Gunter is also wielding her “lasso of truth”, as she likes to describe it, in a column for The New York Times and in a forthcoming TV show called Jensplaining with Canada’s public broadcaster CBC. We caught up with Gunter and asked her about her motivation, what she really thinks about the term pro-choice – and why there is a big need for her book. What made you write The Vagina Bible? I wanted to give women a manual for their sexual health. There isn’t much accurate information out there, from the mechanics of how women enjoy sex to the medical consequences of pubic hair removal to why yeast infections occur. The medical community is hopelessly patriarchal. There aren’t a lot of good studies, but there is a lot of gossip. Take the still commonly read 1970 classic Our Bodies, Ourselves. It was written by women trying to do their best because doctors were ignoring them, but it is full of misinformation. Meanwhile, companies sell products based on false tropes about the vagina being dirty or impure. If the vagina is this filth-ridden space, how on earth do we use it to reproduce? Wouldn’t it just kill the sperm?
8-16-19 Postponing menopause
British scientists say they have developed a surgical procedure that can delay menopause for up to 20 years, a potentially life-changing breakthrough for millions of women. Menopause can trigger symptoms including anxiety, hot flashes, a reduced sex drive, and in extreme cases, heart disease and bone-weakening osteoporosis. The procedure—offered only to women under 40—starts with a 30-minute operation in which tissue is removed from the patient’s ovaries. The sample is then frozen at minus 238 degrees Fahrenheit. When the patient begins menopause, the tissue is thawed and grafted back into the body—triggering the release of hormones that put menopause on hold. Ten women in the U.K. have undergone the initial procedure; one had the regraft immediately because she was having a hysterectomy and wanted to avoid premature menopause. “Being able to delay menopause has been life-changing,” Dixie-Louise Dexter, 33, tells The Times (U.K.). How long the procedure holds off menopause depends on a patient’s age when the tissue is extracted: Tissue from a 25-year-old could postpone menopause by 20 years, while a sample from a 40-year-old might delay its onset by five years. A similar procedure has been used to preserve fertility in girls and women who are receiving treatment for cancer.
8-16-19 Bushnell’s sexual hindsight
Candace Bushnell has second thoughts on Sex and the City, said Laura Pullman in The Times (U.K.). Not the HBO series itself, a “game-changing cultural phenomenon” based on Bushnell’s 1997 novel of the same name, but rather the lifestyle it championed. The book and show, which were inspired by her sex advice newspaper column, broke down stigmas about single women having carefree flings. She’s now 60, single, and childless. “I don’t want to be shot down,” Bushnell says, “but I do see that people with children have an anchor in a way that people who have no kids don’t.” After getting divorced in 2012, she spent five years in rural Connecticut writing, riding horses, and dating little. “I felt a burden,” she admits, “maybe of disappointment or shame.” When a woman is single in her 50s, she says, people act as though “you didn’t do something right.” She still wants to look sexy, getting regular Botox (“though it stops working so well as you get older”) and fillers (“though you try not to get too much”). She’s also back dating in Manhattan, but doesn’t regret her years of celibacy. “Did I miss some pure good sex? Of course,” she says. But “finding the person to have the sex with—I couldn’t deal with it.”
8-8-19 Warnings after woman is burned by 'vagina steaming'
Gynaecologists are warning of the potential risks of vaginal steaming after it emerged a Canadian woman burned herself attempting one. A case study, involving a 62-year-old, was published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. The woman had been suffering from a prolapsed vagina and believed the treatment could help avoid surgery. Vaginal steaming, which involves sitting over a hot water and herb mix, has seen a growth in popularity. It and other treatments for intimate areas, including vulva facials, are now available at some salons and spas. The LA Times first reported on the steaming trend in 2010, and it later gained widespread attention when Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop brand recommended it. Last year, US model Chrissy Teigen also shared a photograph of herself undergoing the treatment. Spas advertising "v-steaming" claim it has been used throughout history in countries in Asia and Africa. They say the practice, which is sometimes called Yoni steaming, acts to "detox" the vagina. Experts, however, warn it can be dangerous and say there is no proven medical evidence for the health claims being made, including that steaming can ease period pains or help with fertility. Dr Vanessa Mackay, a consultant and spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says it is a "myth" that the vagina requires extensive cleaning or treatment. She recommends using plain, unperfumed soaps on the external vulva area only. "The vagina contains good bacteria, which are there to protect it," she said in a statement. "Steaming the vagina could affect this healthy balance of bacteria and pH levels and cause irritation, infection (such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush) and inflammation. It could also burn the delicate skin around the vagina (the vulva)."
8-5-19 'If you want unsolicited advice, get pregnant'
Six months into her pregnancy, Jaclene Paolucci has had enough of strangers offering unsolicited advice and thinking it's fine to touch her without permission. The last straw was a stranger interrupting her as she ordered her regular latte at a Starbucks in New York - to suggest she switched to decaf. Jaclene, 36, took to Twitter to tell her more than 3,000 followers what had happened and that her response - telling the woman: "I'm not pregnant," - had led to a spluttered apology. So far, her tweet has received nearly 5,000 responses, 78,000 retweets and close to 700,000 "likes". "I've discovered that if you want unsolicited advice, then you should get pregnant," Jaclene told BBC News. "It feels like the moment you do get pregnant, then you lose your body's autonomy. "People start touching you and everybody has an opinion on how you should act, what you should wear - everything. "The only people who should be able to do that should be you and your doctor." Jaclene said she limited herself to one coffee a day and had taken medical advice about it. She said: "What if I hadn't been pregnant? "And there are many postpartum women who find it hard to get rid of their bellies. "Comments like this can be hurtful so unless someone is having a baby in front of you, you shouldn't get involved. She added: "People feel entitled and your body becomes a community body. "We're in an exciting but scary time and there's so much information out there which can often be contradictory. However, I trust my body and I will make the best decisions for it. "What I did find interesting, though, was after I tweeted, many of those who disagreed with my stance were men." (Webmaster's comment: That's because many, if not most, men believe they "own" women.)
7-17-19 Menstrual cups are as safe and leakproof as tampons and pads
Menstrual cups stop leaks as well as other options such as tampons and sanitary napkins and are just as safe, according to a review of research that has looked into how women and girls use the various types of menstrual cups on the market. Anna Maria van Eijk at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK and her colleagues analysed data from 43 studies and conference reports that included more than 3300 participants from 15 low and middle-income countries and 28 high-income countries. Menstrual cups collect blood, rather than absorbing it like pads or tampons, and must be emptied every four to 12 hours. Van Eijk and her team found that four studies compared leakage with disposable menstrual products. In three of these, leakage was found to be similar regardless of which sanitary product was used. In the fourth study, menstrual cups were found to leak significantly less. Among women and girls from Africa, Europe and North America, there was no increased risk of infection due to using menstrual cups, and in four studies involving 507 women, there was no association between their use and adverse effects on the microbiome of the vagina. A study in Kenya detected lower levels of disrupted vaginal bacteria in users of a menstrual cup than in those who used sanitary pads. Menstrual cups come in two types: a bell-shaped vaginal cup and a cervical cup that sits in a similar place to a contraceptive diaphragm. In studies that examined the vagina and cervix, no tissue damage was identified as resulting from the use of a menstrual cup.
7-15-19 Sexual images are just as arousing for women as they are for men
Women’s brains react to pornography just as much as men’s, challenging the widespread belief that men get more turned on by visual stimuli. The finding comes from a review of 61 brain scanning studies that showed men and women pornographic pictures or films as they lay in a brain scanner. Although there is wide variation in behaviour among both sexes, men are usually seen as being more interested in sex. In questionnaire-based research, the responses suggest that men find erotic images more appealing than women do. This is often interpreted as women requiring more of an emotional connection before they become aroused. This difference was seemingly confirmed with the advent of brain-scanning studies, with some finding that men’s brains are more responsive to pornography. But the field of brain scanning has been criticised in recent years for being prone to using methods that can lead to spurious results, such as drawing conclusions from small differences that could have arisen by chance. So Hamid Noori at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, and colleagues analysed the results from all the brain-scanning studies that have tried to answer this question, looking at the whole brain and covering nearly 2000 people. Overall it found no difference between men and women. “There are differences in behaviour – the number of men going to porn sites is roughly 80 per cent of the consumers,” says Noori. “But men and women respond the same way at the brain level to visual sexual stimuli. What we do with it afterwards is what brings the difference.” Women may watch less pornography because it is more stigmatised, says David Ley, a writer and sex therapist at outpatient centre New Mexico Solutions. He says the study shows “women can be just as visual as men, if they are allowed to be”.
7-10-19 Survey reveals students’ hopes and fears about sex
Young women are most concerned with the quality of their sexual experiences while young men focus on the quantity of their encounters, according to a survey. The study also found that sexual expectations and fears differ between adults who attend university and those who don’t. Kristin Anders at Kansas State University and her colleagues ran an online survey of 400 university students and 400 adults not at university to determine the differences between their expectations and experiences of sex. All the respondents were between the ages of 18 and 25. In both groups, about half said they were in an exclusive romantic relationship. They were asked questions about their sexual experience, their strategies for seeking or avoiding sex, and their sexual expectations and fears. Overall, the most frequently reported category that elicited fear was sexual health, with 47 per cent of respondents saying they were concerned about things like having safe sex or avoiding pregnancy. The biggest difference across genders was their sexual goals – 45 per cent of men said they were focused on the quantity of their sexual experiences, while only 28 per cent of women said that this was part of their concerns. Conversely, 28 per cent of women said they were concerned with the quality of their sexual experiences, while only 16 per cent of men did. The authors write that the men’s focus on quantity “may be indicative of placing more importance on attaining a specific sexual goal for their sexual identity”. In contrast, women may place more emphasis on quality or intimate experiences for their sexual identity, they suggest. The respondents attending university reported more expectations for sexuality within romantic relationships than those outside of university. “College students may have access to more potential partners in the college environment, and may be afforded more time for focusing on entering romantic relationships and navigating sexuality in romantic relationships than their non-college peers,” said Anders and her colleagues. Casual sex has previously been found to be more prevalent among non-students in this age group, and this study found that men who don’t attend university reported being in more non-exclusive romantic relationships than their student peers.
7-10-19 Lack of protective vaginal bacteria linked to high ovarian cancer risk
Women who have a mutation in their BRCA1 gene – and are therefore at high risk for ovarian cancer – have been found to have lower levels of a type of vaginal bacteria, similar to the levels seen in women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Within both groups, reductions in these bacteria were most apparent in younger women. “It’s the first time that we have been able to demonstrate that women with gene mutations have a change in their vaginal microbiome,” said Martin Widschwendter at University College London in a statement. He and his colleagues studied samples taken from the cervix and vagina of 580 women from Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Norway and the UK. They were all aged 18 to 87 and fell into three groups: those who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, those who had inherited the BRCA1 gene mutation and were at high risk of developing the disease over their lifetime, and women without the mutation or cancer.Of the women with ovarian cancer, 60 per cent had less than half of their vaginal microbiome populated by Lactobacillus – a group of bacteria that usefully lower pH levels and help control lactic acid production – while the low risk women had a vaginal microbiome dominated by this helpful bacteria. Compared to these women, young women with the BRCA1 mutation had nearly three times less Lactobacilli. Over 25 per cent of women under 30 with the mutation had low Lactobacilli numbers, while similarly aged women without the mutation showed no reduction in this bacteria. Though these findings suggest a link between vaginal bacteria and ovarian cancer risk, we don’t know yet how they interact. If further research suggests that Lactobacilli really can protect against ovarian cancer, it may be possible to develop ways to alter women’s vaginal microbiomes to lower their cancer risk.
7-9-19 Social stress linked to bone density loss in postmenopausal women
Social stress may release hormones that affect bone loss, a finding that might be linked to the higher incidence of bone fractures after the menopause. In a study of more than 8000 women aged 50 to 79, researchers found that those who reported higher levels of social stress – defined as strained relationships or stress related to social ties – were also at higher risk of bone fractures. The team, led by Shawna Follis at the University of Arizona in Tucson, used data from the Women’s Health Initiative that collected survey responses from clinical trials and observational studies of postmenopausal women in the US between 1993 and 1998. Using standard psychological measures, the women were asked about their social support and psychological strain. The participants also had their bone density measured in their lower spine and hip at the beginning of the studies and six years later. Women who reported high social strain and poorer quality relationships – and therefore, higher levels of stress – were found to have a larger decline in their bone density measurements over these years. After adjusting for age, race, education, and other life style effects such as smoking and hormone therapy use, the team found that for each point of higher social strain as measured by the questionnaires, there was an associated increase of about 0.08 per cent loss of bone mineral density at the femoral neck – a portion of the hip. They also saw about 0.1 per cent greater loss across the whole hip, and about 0.7 per cent greater loss at the lower spine. Previous research found that higher levels of stress hormones such as cortisol were associated with lower bone mineral density in the spine, and the team suggests that social stress may increase fracture risk by altering bone-regulating hormones. Postmenopausal women may be more likely to experience social stress than their male peers. “There is research showing that social stress is higher in aging women than in men and this may be attributed to women being more likely to be caregivers in older age,” says Follis.
7-5-19 Is the American strip club dying out?
Faced with changing attitudes, tightening regulations and a booming online pornography industry, strip clubs are closing across the US. Sex may still sell in magazines and movies, but are American strip clubs a dying institution, asks Jonathan Berr. "Can you imagine a boss telling a secretary to make an appointment at a strip club?" These days, few executives would be willing to risk possibly losing their jobs and the resulting personal humiliation by seeking reimbursement from their employers for an outing at a strip club. But strip club operator Alan Markovitz said such calls were typical in the late 1980s and 1990s. Mr Markovitz, a Michigan entrepreneur who has strip club operations in four states, told the BBC he would routinely get notified that a powerful executive was arriving to make sure that they got good seats. "That was the norm back then," he said. During the industry's heyday, customers weren't so timid. Strip club operators would even play along, using innocuous-sounding names on their credit card slips to avoid suspicion. Indeed, strip club outings were tolerated on Wall Street and in other industries for years until female employees filed suit against their employers earlier in the decade and won tens of millions in lawsuits. In addition, the industry is facing some punishing economic trends including a declining customer base, an abundance of free internet pornography and rising employee costs. At live adult entertainment venues, selling sex it isn't nearly as profitable as it used to be. Data from market research group IBISWorld estimates profit slumped more than 12% to $1.4bn (£1.2bn) in 2018, down from $1.6bn in 2012. Sales during that same time period plunged about 7% to $6.9bn from $7.4bn. Annual revenue growth at US strip clubs was 4.9% between 2012 and 2017, slowing to 1.9% from 2013 to 2018 and is projected to fall to 1.7% by 2023, according to IBISWorld. The number of strip clubs has also declined in recent years in major US cities and their surrounding suburbs.
7-5-19 Why are menstruating women in India removing their wombs?
Two pieces of very disturbing news involving working women and menstruation have emerged in India in recent months. Periods have long been a taboo in the country, menstruating women are believed to be impure and are still excluded from social and religious events. In recent years, these archaic ideas have been increasingly challenged, especially by urban educated women. But two recent reports show that India's very problematic relationship with menstruation continues. A vast majority of women, especially those from poor families, with no agency and no education, are forced to make choices that have long-term and irreversible impacts on their health and their lives. The first comes from the western state of Maharashtra where it has been revealed by Indian media that thousands of young women have undergone surgical procedures to remove their wombs in the past three years. In a substantial number of cases they have done this so they can get work as sugarcane harvesters. Every year, tens of thousands of poor families from Beed, Osmanabad, Sangli and Solapur districts migrate to more affluent western districts of the state - known as "the sugar belt" - to work for six months as "cutters" in sugarcane fields. Once there, they are at the mercy of greedy contractors who use every opportunity to exploit them. To begin with, they are reluctant to hire women because cane-cutting is hard work and women may miss a day or two of work during their periods. If they do miss a day's work, they have to pay a penalty. The living conditions at their work-place are far from ideal - the families have to live in huts or tents close to the fields, there are no toilets, and as harvesting is sometimes done even at night, there is no fixed time for sleeping or waking. And when women get their periods, it just becomes that much more tough for them. Because of the poor hygienic conditions, many women catch infections and, activists working in the region say, unscrupulous doctors encourage them to undergo unnecessary surgery even if they visit for a minor gynaecological problem which can be treated with medicine.
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.