Category Archives: Contraception
I have menstruated almost 1,680 days in my life. That is four years, seven months, and one week.
I was newly twelve years old when I experienced menarche (the beginning of menstruation). I had already been experiencing the throes of puberty in other ways: I had been unable to sleep on my stomach for almost two years due to the painful budding of breasts on my chest, my bony and childish hips were softening into an hourglass, I was growing taller, and I had finally started shaving under my arms, where I had needed to apply deodorant for at least a year.
I had devoured the booklets we were given in health class, the way that bookworms often do, and I had expected a flood of bright red liquid. I remember being confused at the thick reddish brown stains in my underwear, changing them quickly, and approaching my mom with ashamed tears threatening to spill. She hugged me close and explained that I was experiencing my first period. I was provided with menstrual pads that reminded me of my little brother’s diapers. I was acutely aware of the crinkle of plastic in my pants as I walked through the halls of my new middle school.
I learned to palm the pads from my purse to my pocket as though I’d studied legerdemain, always terrified that a boy would see the plastic packaging and suddenly know that I was on my period. It was a secret to be guarded at all costs, and I felt a vague sense of shame about such a natural bodily function.
It wasn’t until a year or so later that I first started experiencing menstrual cramps. These pangs would radiate from my pelvis around to my lower back and shoot down my legs. I learned that if I took ibuprofen as soon as I saw the telltale blood, I could stave off the worst of the pain. Once I entered high school, I no longer felt shame around menstruation, and it became an annoyance. I had a textbook 28 day cycle, and my periods would generally last for seven days. Sometimes they were longer, sometimes shorter, but the average was seven days.
Once I became sexually active, each month’s menstruation was greeted with jubilation. I was very lucky during this time that I never became pregnant, especially as we were relying solely on condoms at the time. A few months before I married my ex husband, I bought my first and only set of pregnancy tests. I had been using hormonal birth control, in addition to condoms, but for the first time in my life, my period did not visit like clockwork.
My sweaty hands fumbled with the plastic wrappers in the public bathroom of the store in which we had purchased them, and I tried to cry quietly as I turned the purple stick face down on the tile floor while I waited the two minutes for the results. The tests were negative. One week later, my period visited again, though this time it seemed heavier and more painful than previously. I rejoiced through the pain.
At this point in time, I was adamant that I never wanted to have children, and I convinced my gynecologist to give me an IUD. The insertion was painful, and I had perpetual cramps for three consecutive months, but I never wanted to sob alone in a bathroom stall ever again.
Throughout my early to mid-twenties, my period was again a mild annoyance. A fact of life to be endured, and nothing more. I stopped keeping track of the dates I expected to menstruate, knowing that my chosen method of birth control was practically as good as getting a hysterectomy.
Somewhere around age twenty-six, my attitude towards being a mother shifted. It no longer seemed like such a terrifying prospect. By the age of twenty-seven, my criteria for long-term dating partners had changed significantly: I was looking for someone that was interested in marriage and children. I still have my IUD, and have no intention of changing that until I and my boyfriend are fully ready: mentally, emotionally, and financially.
My social media is filled with friends who are pregnant, friends who have infants, and friends who have gorgeous and precocious toddlers and preschoolers. Each photo, each ultrasound, each announcement fills me with joy for my friends’ happiness, and I feel ashamed of my brief twinges of envy.
I am no longer ambivalent or annoyed about my menstruation. I worry each month that I am losing something precious, a finite resource within me. I am scared that when I and my boyfriend are finally ready, I will have bled too often, I will have lost my chance. I have a tiny moment of mourning, a tiny moment of terror, a tiny moment of wondering what might have been, each month.
I am almost thirty-two now.
I have been menstruating for nearly twenty years.
I started my period today.
There is a lot of misinformation about Plan B, also known as the Morning After pill. I’ve found that a lot of this is spewed by the same people who fail at basic chemistry (I’m looking at you, people who believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old!), and this video does a pretty fantastic job at explaining exactly how Plan B works. Contrary to what those protesting Planned Parenthood would have you believe, Plan B is not an abortifacient, in fact, if the fertilized egg has already implanted, it cannot harm the zygote. I know so many people who actually believe that Plan B is the same as RU486, the abortion pill. This is patently untrue. Plan B prevents unintended pregnancies, and RU486 aborts unintended pregnancies.
Another cool video from AsapSCIENCE explains some of the biological responses that men and women experience during orgasm. I’m sure that little in that video will be surprising to readers of this blog (savvy smart people that you are). I did find it both interesting and slightly vindicating that there is actual research to prove what many men and women in the BDSM scene have been saying for ages: that pain and pleasure are linked.
I’m really looking forward to more videos explaining the science behind sex. What did you think of these videos?
It looks like medical professionals are getting on the sex-positive bandwagon, and it’s about time.
Yesterday, the American Association of Pediatrics recommended that pediatricians give their young female patients advance prescriptions for Plan B. For those of you outside the US, if you are under 18, you cannot get Plan B over the counter, and need a prescription. Plan B has been available over the counter for those 18 and over for about a year now.
The FDA originally decided that it should be available over the counter to everyone, regardless of age, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s decision because of her doubts that young women under 18 would use it properly. This is despite Plan B being safer to use than aspirin or ibuprofen, especially since it is impossible to overdose on Plan B.
This comes one week after the American College of OB/GYNs has recommended that hormonal birth control pills be available for everyone over the counter, just like condoms. I can’t tell you how excited this makes me. It is so important that young women have access to things like this, so they can engage in healthy sexual activity without fear of parental judgement, pregnancy, or the heartbreaking choice of abortion.
With studies showing that teenagers in the US have less sex than teenagers in other first world countries, but are getting pregnant more often, access to emergency birth control in conjunction with comprehensive sex education could help that pregnancy rate continue to decline.
While engaging on twitter regarding my post on Tuesday, one of the awesome people I follow re-tweeted some very disturbing images. The original poster’s brother came home from school with a classmate’s paper. This paper is supposed to be a debate piece, and it argues about rape and pregnancy by citing Todd Akin and 12th century British texts. This kid is apparently 15 years old.
I took debate for 3 years in high school. Let’s go point for point here.
Ladies and gentlemen: the topic for today’s speech is that: women who get pregnant after rape were not really raped.
I firmly agree that women who get pregnant after rape were not really raped.
Firstly, this is stated in the book of Fleta published in circa 1290.
In addition, this is a long lived legal argument and is also contained in Samuel Farr’s Elements of Medical Jurisprudence, published in 1814.
In this case, young sir, you are correct. Farr did indeed make this argument, and the Fleta did discuss this very topic. However, Farr also believed that the normal signs of puberty in a young girl were sufficient evidence that she could not be raped (because if she was undergoing puberty, then she probably was having sex), and he also believed that an imbalance of “humours” were the way that someone became sick.
Moreover, this valid medical point is supported by many reputable, well-educated and informed people such as Todd Akin, Senator Steve King, Dr. Fred Mecklenburg and GP John C Wilke to my first argument.
I’m sorry, what? For starters, politicians are never a good source for a medical argument, so we are striking those two right off the bat, especially since they both cite your third and fourth examples of “reputable, well-educated and informed people” for their poorly informed arguments.
This is stated in the book of Fleta, which was the standard legal handbook of Britain in the 13th century.
“For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place. So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, she would not become pregnant.”
This paragraph is from book one volume two, although this is an old point, it makes it no less valid and is stated in many other medical journals.
This clearly demonstrates both the value of the book of Fleeta and even in the 13th century that people and Doctors knew the truth about rape and pregnancy.
Yes, the Fleta was the standard legal handbook during the time of Edward IV. You have that correct. But that is most definitely not from the Fleta. In fact, that quote comes directly from your second source. Not the Fleta. Doctors in the 13th centry also believed in trepanning, bloodletting, and that birthmarks were a sign that a child was conceived via witchcraft. 13th century physicians are not reputable sources for your arguments here.
And now to my second point,
Sir Samuel Farr, who was a reputable doctor and medical researcher with over seven published medical journals, stated that:
“If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.”
Although this was published in 1814, this was a time of many medical breakthroughs and is still constantly being proven by doctors and medical researchers and has the full support of many people.
Oh! There’s the quotation from the Fleta! Really, young sir, this was poor debating strategy on your part, and indicates that you were not paying much attention to your paper.
I believe that there is an underlying point to both of the original arguments that you are missing. At both of these points in history, doctors actually believed that a woman could not conceive if she did not orgasm during intercourse. In fact, both of these treatises drew from the ideas that a woman’s sexual organs were simply the inverse of a man’s. The vagina was an inverted penis, the ovaries were actually testes, the uterus was a scrotum, etc. I’m sorry, was that too much for your still-developing brain to handle? Of course, “many medical breakthroughs” that are “still constantly being proven by doctors and medical researchers” have shown this to be patently false.
This has the support of many reputable people such as:
- Todd Akin, who is a reputable politician and Republican, he is also a strong Christian and family man.
- Senator Steve king, who is a congressman for Iowa and scored a 100% rating with the National Right to Life Committee
Ohhhhh. I see where you’re going with this. I’m sure that much like these men, you believe that if a woman was raped, she was “asking for it”. Or, conversely, that those sluts who dare to have sex before they are ready to care for a child should just keep their legs closed or suffer the damned consequences, right?
- Doctor Fred Mecklenburg, who has four published medical journals on the subject.
- And GP John C Willke who has a distinguished career as a physician.
Once again, your failure to delve deeper into the subject at hand has failed you, young sir. Mecklenburg and Willke used the one test performed by the Nazis on the very same prisoners who they were starving, beating, raping, and putting to death by the millions to inform their opinions regarding rape and pregnancy.
The Nazis chose women who they believed were ovulating, and put them in a gas chamber, but didn’t turn on the gas. Because, as the Nazi researchers claimed, these women didn’t ovulate, Mecklenburg and Willke then extrapolated that data and spun it to assume that when under extreme stress, like, oh, during rape, that women were incapable of ovulating. Never mind that most of these women were literally starving! Did you know that women who are malnourished won’t ovulate? Of course you didn’t. And I bet that you didn’t know where Mecklenburg and Willke got their information.
In fact, according to research done by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (a peer-reviewed journal, unlike the publications that your illustrious doctors have published) in 1996, at least 5% of women who are raped annually become pregnant. That’s over 30,000 unwanted pregnancies due to rape. A separate study in 2001 showed that the number was closer to 6.5%.
You forgot one other politician in your list of crazies, young scholar. Former Pennsylvania state Rep. Stephen Freind claimed that women have some special secretion that will kill a rapist’s sperm even before it reaches the uterus. I can only imagine that when he was asked how this occurs, he just threw up his hands and said “I dunno, MAGIC!”
You see, your examples have been proven wrong, time and time again. [Hold onto your seats, dear readers, you’re not going to believe the next part!]
The bulk of people opposed to this argument are feminists and people wanting to cash in on child support.
Evidence of this is that the mother of a child can receive 10% of the father’s income, which can amount to large amounts of money.
You’ve got to be kidding me. 10% is a large amount of money? According to the US Census Bureau, in 2006, the average wage for a man in the US is $39,403. Do the math, kid. 10% is $3,940.30. The average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 is currently estimated to be $295,560. No, that piddly 10% figure that you have quoted does not mean “large amounts of money” to the average person.
[Here’s where we veer into the territory of the truly crazy.]
With the issue of Feminists, these people are women, usually with poorly paid jobs with no skill or training who wish to receive more money than men doing the same job and are more often than not balding.
I laughed so hard at this point that I had tears streaming down my face. No, young sir, we are not. More often than not, we are college educated, have high paying jobs, we just want to be paid the same amount as a man doing the exact same job, and we have hair in all colors and styles. Yes, some feminists are bald, but I imagine that’s only because they choose to shave their heads.
I suppose that, being all of 15 years old, you have embraced the popular culture’s idea of what a woman should look like, right? Thin, gorgeous, impeccably dressed, perfectly shaped big breasts, long hair, makeup (but not too much, or she looks like a whore). Well, kid, you’re in for a rude awakening when you learn that not everyone lives up to your impossible standards. I’m a feminist, but I have long hair. I’m a little overweight, and I prefer to wear jeans in my everyday life. Your idea of what a real woman (and a feminist!) looks like is skewed so far that I feel sorry for you, and any girl you date.
So look at the facts, would you trust a balding woman attempting to cash in on child support or many reputable people, including doctors.
I’ll take the bald feminist any day of the week over the men you cited. At least they will research their positions thoroughly, and have credible sources to back up their viewpoints.
I hope your teacher is a feminist.
With reports from North Korea showing that the general populace has a hard time finding any sort of contraception, a group of South Korean activists have launched several balloons, hoping they will drift across the border and find their way into the hands of North Koreans.
Among other essential items like sanitary napkins, toothpaste, underwear, socks, anti Pyongyang information, and flashlights, over 5,000 condoms were airlifted to drift north. According to this article, the groups who normally send balloons like these are North Korean defectors, Christian groups, and the South Korean right wing party.
Does anyone else find it somewhat incongruous to see that list? I did a double take.
[I would like to give thanks to someone on the Jezebel fan page for the title of today’s post. I’m unsure if I should thank them by name, due to Google searches, but thanks anyway. It made me giggle. If you don’t know the reference, what, have you been living under a rock this whole time? Treat yourself to the magic that is the Gangnam Style video. Heck, do it even if you’ve seen it before.]
Today, the Director of the CIA, David Petraeus has resigned his post, citing an extramarital affair as the reason for his resignation. While I know that within the military there are laws against adultery, and his affair could have had the potential for blackmail and a subsequent security breach, I am outright disgusted at the way the media is treating this entire situation.
I have seen no less than 10 news stories questioning who he had the affair with, and, sure enough, someone has dug it up. Why are we, as a nation, delighting in what has to be an incredibly painful situation for General Petraeus, his family and friends, and his alleged mistress? He has resigned his position, and is effectively bowing out of the public life, and has done so with dignity and grace. To be quite honest, I am looking forward to my imagined utopian-esque future when non-monogamy is no longer a Big Deal for the media. Give the man some peace. He’s done the right thing here, and no one should be getting blasted by the media.
San Francisco has decided to no longer prohibit gender reassignment surgeries from the list of covered medical treatment under the city’s Healthy San Francisco program, a sliding scale health care coverage system that can be used by everyone in San Francisco. Though the city currently does not have the capacity or surgeons who are skilled in this particular type of surgery, so this is a mostly symbolic move for the city. Transgender patients currently are able to receive hormone therapy, counseling, and regular medical care under Healthy SF.
While I am glad that the city takes these concerns seriously, gender reassignment surgeries are extremely expensive, and can go into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the specific services provided. As someone who is cisgender, I can’t imagine the mental anguish of someone who doesn’t feel that their body matches their identity and mentality. I am glad that there may be a solution for the transgender in my community in the next few years.
But to be honest, as someone who is currently covered under this program, I’d like to see Healthy SF start providing some other services first, specifically preventative and non-emergency dental care. So many other medical problems can be circumvented with regular cleanings and filling of cavities that seems rather odd to me that there hasn’t been a big push for this sort of service.
In other news, I am considering offering a weekly podcast compilation of each week’s posts. Do me a favor, and cast a vote below to let me know if you’d like to hear my dulcet tones reading my posts each week!
There’s been so much in the news in the past few months about abortion, contraception, and a woman’s right to choose that as I said in a previous post, I’ve been overwhelmed. I’d like to take a moment to get a little idealistic.
When I was in high school, I took a class about early human development. We learned about the stages of pregnancy, and the different stages children go through in their first two years of life. At one point in my class, we were given the task of brainstorming the ideal situation to have a child. We already knew that adoptive parents had to fulfill certain criteria in order to be able to have a child, so we were told to imagine a “test” of sorts that a woman (or a set of parents) would have to pass in order to have a child.
If I remember correctly, we came up with the following points:
- Financially stable, with at least six months worth of income in accessible savings.
We came up with this because pregnancy and raising a child are both expensive. There’s also the risk of complications with the pregnancy or child’s health leaving one or both parents unable to work for a period of time. We thought that at least six months of income in the bank would help ease that potential burden.
- Emotionally stable, with a supportive network of friends and family.
Just like the financial cost, pregnancy and raising a child can be unexpectedly difficult, emotionally. We learned about postpartum depression, and how the woman’s emotional state can affect the child’s development in the womb. Having a supportive network of friends and family, especially people who are geographically close, is important to making sure that the parents can have a break occasionally.
- Good health, and good health insurance.
Making sure that the woman is already in good health when she gets pregnant, and maintains her health during the pregnancy were also stressed during my class. Proper nutrition and regular exercise, as well as the ability to see a doctor when necessary, were things that we deemed of highest importance to the development of the child.
- A stable and safe place to live.
Being teenagers in the suburbs, we were imagining owning a house with a large backyard. While I no longer think that is necessary, I do think that living in a relatively safe neighborhood, and taking the proper precautions to baby-proof your house are incredibly important.
- Ease of access to hospitals, schools, and other important services.
I think this one is self-explanatory.
I am close to many women who have had children without checking any of these boxes. Their children are happy and healthy, and they are excellent mothers. I still think that all of these are important things to have in place before I consider having children, and that is why I chose to get an IUD. When I decide to have children, it will be because I am ready. This is not a criticism of any woman or her choices. I fully realize that this is an idealistic list.
I would posit that is also idealistic of the Republican Party to expect to reduce accessibility to contraception and abortion and to somehow still not have any unwanted pregnancies occur, or for parents to not need some sort of assistance to care for their children. Abstinence education just exacerbates these problems. People are going to have sex, and sometimes, despite precautions, pregnancies occur.
If you had to come up with a list like this, what would you put on it? Do you think that the list we came up with in high school was good? Have you formulated a similar list? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
There is so much talk going on right now regarding Todd Akin’s ridiculous comment about “legitimate rape” that it is actually making my head spin. Of course, that also could be the cold medicine I am taking too. But seriously, I tried opening all of the pages I bookmarked and I actually managed to crash my Google Chrome browser. Bear with me, there are a lot of links in this post. Oh, and the images are gifs. I’m not sure why they aren’t animating on my blog.
If you’ve been under a rock (or curled up in bed and sick like me) and haven’t seen the clip, here it is in all its facepalming stupidity:
So, Todd Akin actually has spoken to a “doctor” who believes that a woman can’t get pregnant due to rape. Here is a direct quote from Dr. Willke, via the New York Times,
“This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight,” Dr. Willke said of a woman being raped, adding, “She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”
Someone, please, take that man’s license to practice medicine from him. He clearly didn’t attend his anatomy or human reproduction classes. Spastic tubes? Really? Of course, every doctor with any sense is denouncing Dr. Willke.
As every politician who makes a controversial remark, Akin has attempted to backtrack, to “clarify” what he “misspoke”. First by saying that he didn’t mean “legitimate” rape, he meant “forcible” rape. Of course, this is the same language used by Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, in the legislation he co-sponsored with Akin! (Psst. Romney also was pretty proud when the quack Dr. Willke endorsed Romney as a presidential candidate!) When Romney and Ryan started distancing themselves from Akin, even denouncing his remarks, Akin “clarified” further, by saying he only meant “false” rape. Honestly, at this point, he’s just digging himself further and further into a hole.
Now, even though Romney and Ryan have denounced Akin’s remarks, when the GOP drafted their Party Platform earlier this week, they refused to add wording that would allow a woman to have an abortion in cases of rape and incest. Congratulations, Republicans. The official stance of your party now says that a woman should be forced to have any child she conceives. Do you include the mentally challenged 10 year old who was raped by her uncle in Kansas? Yep. According to GOP policymakers, that little slut had it coming.
Honestly, at this point, I’m ready to just throw my hands up in disgust. Just like this Jezebel writer.
Oh, and some pretty awful people at American Vision are comparing the backlash against Todd Akin to “political gang rape”. I just… I can’t even begin to describe how much that blows my mind.
Hey everyone, I am still very sick, so I apologize again for the short post.
I am very proud of California’s commitment to comprehensive sexual education in the school systems. A law passed in 2003 requires that sexual health education in California’s public schools be comprehensive, medically accurate, bias-free, and appropriate for students of all sexual orientations.
Unfortunately, the Clovis Unified School District is now being sued for their abstinence-only and heavily religious leaning sexual education curriculum. They are now being sued by two parents, the American Academy of Pediatrics California District IX, and the Gay-Straight Alliance network, with the ACLU providing free legal assistance.
Students were being taught that HIV could be spread through kissing, and that getting “lots of rest” was an effective way to prevent STIs. Both of these statements, of course, are ridiculously inaccurate. There were also passages in the textbook “Lifetime Health”, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, comparing a woman who is not a virgin to a dirty shoe, and states that men who are aroused are unable to control themselves. Oh, and there are no mentions of condoms. Anywhere. At all.
Congratulations, Clovis. You have now handed these young men the mental excuses they need to rape someone: “But I just couldn’t control myself! Besides, she’s not a virgin, so she’s dirty anyways. Condoms? Eh, those don’t work anyways.”
Fresno County has had one of the highest teen pregnancy and birth rates in California for over a decade now. The Central Valley area also has one of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Why, then, are the schools barring their students from medically accurate information? It almost seems like they are proud of these statistics.
You can read Part 2 here.
I had my follow-up appointment following my HPV diagnosis yesterday. I was scheduled for a culposcopy and possible biopsies if the gynecologist found any abnormal cells. Until yesterday morning, I had a pretty ambivalent attitude towards the appointment.
My thoughts went something alone these lines: I have an STI. Unfortunately, my STI is not one that I can just take an antibiotic and it will go away. HPV is a virus. I have no control over which strain I was exposed to. I was concentrating on being as healthy and stress-free as possible so that my body could fight the virus better. I thought that I had reached a point of acceptance.
Even though I had spent at least 8 hours researching HPV, reading about statistics, and learning as much as I possibly could about it, I woke up yesterday morning and was terrified. I know that several women on my mother’s side of the family have had complications due to cervical cancer. While I know that cervical cancer is caused by particular strains of HPV, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is a genetic component to the cancer as well, if there was some way to be more prone to HPV turning into cervical cancer.
I spent at least an hour crying in bed, with Fiance comforting me. He has really been amazing through all of this. I expected him to be just as stressed as me. After all, we haven’t used a barrier method in a long time, and if I have HPV, it means that he does too. Instead, he took the diagnosis in stride, and focused his efforts on comforting me. My dear friends wrote uplifting and encouraging things when I confessed my anxiety. Thank you, girls, it really meant a lot to me.
The culposcopy was similar to a really long pap smear. Unlike with a pap, the gynecologist did not use any lubrication when inserting the speculum, and the speculum was opened a bit wider than normal, which was uncomfortable. The gynecologist cleaned my cervix with a saline solution, and then she placed a cotton ball soaked with vinegar against my cervix. The cotton ball was so cold!
The vinegar will apparently react with any abnormal cells, and make it easier for the gynecologist to see if the virus is creating warts, or, worse, cysts and pre-cancerous growths. She then used a culposcope, which is similar to a microscope, to examine my cervix.
I am sure you can imagine my relief when the gynecologist told me that she didn’t see any abnormal cells, and I didn’t need to have any biopsies performed. She was pretty surprised herself, and told me that this only happens about 1 in 20 times that she does a culposcopy. She did, however, take a sample of the cells inside my cervix, which will be tested. I’ll receive the results in about two weeks.
I want to reiterate that without Planned Parenthood, I wouldn’t have been able to receive this sort of screening without basically going hungry for a couple of weeks. Please, if you have the chance and the liquidity, consider donating to Planned Parenthood. Your donations help women and men receive vital sexual health care and information. It certainly helped me.
The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts has stripped Dr. Ann Neuhaus of her license to practice medicine following malpractice allegations. She didn’t maim anyone during surgery. She didn’t prescribe the wrong drugs. She didn’t misdiagnose someone.