Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

December 1, 2009

Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines Updated

Somewhat lost in the recent debate over mammography recommendations were the updated cervical cancer screening guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Although the Practice Bulletin itself is limited to subscription access, ACOG issued a press release that outlines two important changes:

  • Cervical cancer screening should begin at age 21 years (regardless of sexual history). Screening before age 21 should be avoided because women less than 21 years old are at very low risk of cancer. Screening these women may lead to unnecessary and harmful evaluation and treatment.
  • Cervical cytology screening is recommended every 2 years for women between the ages of 21 years and 29 years. Evidence shows that screening women every year has little benefit over screening every other year.

Older guidelines from ACOG and other groups varied but tended to suggest that women start screening at age 18 or 21, or at the onset or within 3 years of the onset of sexual activity, whichever came first, and often recommended yearly screening.

The new guidelines also suggest that women women 30 and older should be screened for cervical cancer whether by conventional or liquid PAP test once every 2 years, instead of annually, and after 3 consecutive negative tests be screened once every 3 years. Women with certain risk factors such as a history of cervical dysplasia or cancer, HIV, other causes of immunosuppression, or exposure to the drug DES may need more frequent screening.

Unchanged in the guideline is that women who have undergone total hysterectomy no longer need a Pap test, and that women ages 65 and older can discontinue cervical cancer screening if they have three consecutive negative Pap tests and no abnormal tests in the previous 10 years.

The American Cancer Society issued a statement that the revised ACOG guidelines “aren’t very different than the guidelines currently outlined by ACS, which were last updated in 2002;” they’re also very similar to the recommendations issued in 2003 by the USPSTF. Medical News Today provides a freely available summary of the guideline.

October 19, 2009

Probably Not the Kind of “Healing” Marvin Gaye was Referring To

An article in the current issue of The Nation, Sexual Healing, comments on the history of the medicalization of sex, from vibrating devices used by physicians in the 1800s to “treat” (ahem) women for what ailed them to more modern incarnations of medical sexual fixes in the form of drug prescriptions and genital surgery.

The first paragraph succinctly describes the progression:

In the beginning there was sex. And sex begat skill, and skill (or its absence) begat judgment, and judgment begat insecurity, and insecurity begat doctors’ visits, which begat treatments, which have flourished into a multibillion-dollar industry, so that sex between men and women is today almost inconceivable without the shadow of disorder, dysfunction, the “little blue pill” or myriad other medical interventions designed to bring sex back to some longed-for beginning: a state of certified healthfulness, the illusion of normal.

One sex therapist interviewed for the piece argues that sexual concerns should not necessarily be medical concerns, that sex is “…more like dancing or cooking. Yes, you do it with your body. You dance with your body, too. That doesn’t mean there’s a department of dance in the medical school. You don’t go to the doctor to learn to dance.”

The author refers to a couple of resources on the topic for further exploration, including the new documentary “Orgasm, Inc.” by Liz Canner, which examines the role of pharmaceutical companies in creating a market for drugs for “female sexual dysfunction.” Also mentioned is the book “The Technology of Orgasm: ‘Hysteria,’ the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction” by Rachel Maines, which further details the history of physician approaches to “hysteria” and women’s sexuality. Readers may also want to check out “Passion and Power: the Technology of Orgasm,” a film inspired by Maines’s work.

One line in The Nation piece I couldn’t let pass without sharing: “Sears marketed a home vibrator with attachments for beating eggs, churning butter, operating a fan.” Now that’s a multi-purpose tool!

May 12, 2009

New Report Released on Prison Nurseries

The Women’s Prison Association, an organization working to address issues faced by women with criminal justice histories, has released a new report on prison nurseries: “Mothers, Infants and Imprisonment: A National Look at Prison Nurseries and Community-Based Alternatives.”

The report examines U.S. prison nursery programs, which allow incarcerated women to keep their newborns with them in prison for a finite period of time, and community-based residential parenting programs, which allow women to serve criminal justice sentences with their infants in a non-prison setting. Both types of programs are intended to promote bonding and parenting skills, and potentially reduce recidivism.

The report describes the scope of the problem of parenting for incarcerated women thusly:

Between 1977 and 2007, the number of women in prison in the United States increased by 832 percent. According to data released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2004 four percent of women in state prisons and three percent of women in federal prisons were pregnant at the time of admittance. In 1999, BJS reported that six percent of women in local jails were pregnant at the time of admittance. As the number of women in prison has skyrocketed over the past 30 years, states have had to consider what it means to lock up women, many of whom are pregnant or parenting.

Among the findings regarding prison nurseries:

  • Nine states – California, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia – currently have or will soon open prison nurseries.
  • The amount of time infants are allowed to remain in prison nurseries ranges from 30 days to 18 months.
  • The largest prison nursery program in the country has capacity for up to 29 mother/child pairs. Some programs have much smaller capacities, such as the Decatur Correctional Facility in Illinois, which has room for just 5 pairs.
  • All of the prison-based programs provide educational programming in child development and parenting skills.
  • All states with prison nursery programs only allow this arrangement when the child is born in state custody.
  • In general, only women who committed crimes and who do not have a past history of child abuse or neglect are accepted into the programs.
  • Mothers are often required to sign waivers releasing the facility from any responsibility if their children become sick or injured.

The authors also describe community-based facilities, in which women serve their sentences in a residential setting. The women are usually allowed to leave to attend doctor and social service appointments and other community programs, and often receive drug or alcohol abuse treatment. Children in this program are usually not infants born in custody, but small children brought by their mothers into the programs.

The authors also note – in addition to the overall lack of programs to deal with pregnancy, motherhood, and incarceration – a lack of standards for the treatment of pregnant women under criminal justice supervision and for the health care or housing needs of the  infants.

Finally, the organization makes three recommendations:

  • 1) Increase use of community corrections and reduce reliance on incarceration;
  • 2) Enhance program features that promote overall family well-being in prison nurseries and community-based residential parenting programs;
  • 3) Fund scientific research, participatory action research, and program evaluations of prison nurseries and community-based residential parenting programs to reveal best practices and the potential benefits of system reforms.

March 31, 2009

Non-Profits Join Forces on Chronic Conditions

This week, we learned of the Overlapping Conditions Alliance, a group of nonprofit organizations “seeking to advance the scientific, medical and policy needs of individuals affected by medical conditions that frequently overlap.”

The conditions – chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), and vulvodynia – disproportionately or solely affect women.  All are poorly understood, and many who suffer from these conditions are misdiagnosed and receive inappropriate treatment.

While the OCA website does not yet have a lot of detail, the partnered organizations are:

The Overlapping Conditions Alliance will advocate for funding to research the common underlying mechanisms and risk factors for these conditions, so that preventive strategies and more effective treatments can be developed.

October 20, 2008

Law Passed to Address Support for Prenatal Diagnoses

Earlier this month, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act, a bill “to amend the Public Health Service Act to increase the provision of scientifically sound information and support services to patients receiving a positive test diagnosis for Down syndrome or other prenatally and postnatally diagnosed conditions.”

The act focuses on increasing knowledge and resources, articulating the following purposes:

  • increase patient referrals to providers of key support services for women who have received a positive diagnosis for Down syndrome, or other prenatally or postnatally diagnosed conditions, as well as to provide up-to-date information on the range of outcomes for individuals living with the diagnosed condition, including physical, developmental, educational, and psychosocial outcomes;
  • strengthen existing networks of support through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and other patient and provider outreach programs; and
  • ensure that patients receive up-to-date, evidence-based information about the accuracy of the test.

Services authorized by the act may include a telephone hotline for those seeking support with regards to diagnoses, creation of a registry of those willing to adopt children with diagnoses such as Down syndrome, further education of health care providers on the issues, and expansion of other support programs.

A joint response issued by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Generations Ahead, National Women’s Health Network, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, and World Institute on Disability called the law “a positive step toward providing better information and support to pregnant women and new mothers whose fetus or newborn is diagnosed with a disability.”

The organizations also note that “With Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy as an original co-sponsor, the Act does not include anti-choice language nor restrict the ability to obtain an abortion, even though it was authored by Kansas Republican Senator Brownback, a staunch opponent of abortion.”

For further reading on this issue, our OBOS web content provides additional discussion of the politics of prenatal testing and disability rights.

October 19, 2008

Double Dose: U.S. Infant Mortality Improves, Slightly; PETA’s Defense of Sexist Ads; Disability Blog Carnival; Love Your Body Reminder; Proposed Wellness Trust for Preventative Health Services

U.S. Infant Mortality Rate Still High: Infant deaths in the United States declined 2 percent in 2006, according to the latest government statistics, reports The New York Times, but we’re still ranked pretty darn low. Gardiner Harris writes:

Infant mortality has long been considered one of the most important indicators of the health of a nation and the quality of its medical system. In 1960, the United States ranked 12th lowest in the world, but by 2004, the latest year for which comparisons were issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that ranking had dropped to 29th lowest.

This international gap has widened even though the United States devotes a far greater share of its national wealth to health care than other countries. In 2006, Americans spent $6,714 per capita on health — more than twice the average of other industrialized countries.

Some blame cultural issues like obesity and drug use. Others say that the nation’s decentralized health care system is failing, and some researchers point to troubling trends in preterm births and Caesarean deliveries.

Many agree, however, that the data are a major national concern. More than 28,000 infants under the age of 1 die each year in the United States.

“Words of Choice”: Check out the list of upcoming dates in Colorado, part of the Go-Vote Tour for reproductive freedom.

PETA’s Options: Ann Friedman dissects PETA President Ingrid Newkirk’s rationale for using sexist advertising, which Newkirk discussed in a recent Q&A with Mother Jones.

Disability Blog #47: This carnival, with the theme of “Policy,” is up at Day in Washington. It kicks off with issues affecting women with disabilities around the world, including this post at Hoyden About Town about an Australian report (PDF) on barriers to justice when rapists attack women with disabilities.

On the Sexual Exploitation of Women: Ann Bartow connects the film “Trade,” which is about sex trafficking, to a discussion about the law and proposed legal remedies:

It won’t even begin to solve everything, but one step that will offer help rather than arrest to trafficked women, and will increase resources to combat trafficking of all varieties, is passage of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3887).

It is being opposed by the Bush Justice Department, which has a particularized objection to “wasting money” on the adult victims of sex trafficking, who are seen as less worthy of help than victims forced to work in other industries, due to the sexualized nature of their servitude.

Trust Wellness: “New legislation dropped in the final days of a Congressional session obviously isn’t going anywhere. But it does signal what that legislator thinks is important and plans to push next year. And when that legislator is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and the bill involves health care, it merits close attention,” writes Merrill Goozner, who offers a good analysis of the bill, S. 3674.

The proposed legislation, explains Goozner, would “channel existing payments by both public and private insurers for preventive health services into a new Wellness Trust, which would then pay for all preventive services in this society. You can think of it as Medicare Part ‘P,’ except that it isn’t just for the nation’s elderly.”

Love Your Body (Every) Day: The annual reminder to love who you are was Oct. 15. Hijas Americana has posted a very cool pledge to be your own body champion (via Viva La Feminista, which has more good links).

Women’s Health Research Journalism Award: The Society for Women’s Health Research this week honored the work of five journalists with its annual Excellence in Women’s Health Research Journalism Award. The winning entries are from Vogue magazine, KCET-TV, CURE, The Courier-Journal, and radio.

Stopping a Killer: Cervical Cancer in India,” from The Courier-Journal, was a special report written by Laura Ungar and photographed by Kylene Lloyd. Their impressive coverage is available in full online.

Health Care & Long Term Care Policy: Alina Salganicoff, Ph.D., vice president and director of women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, provides an overview of health care coverage and cost challenges for women over age 65. The narrated slide tutorial addresses the role of Medicare and Medicaid as sources of coverage for older women and presents the health and socioeconomic factors that predispose older women to comprise the majority of the long-term care population. Long-term care financing and older women’s out-of-pocket health spending are also addressed.

So I’m Not as Effective as I Think I Am?: I thought this report from NPR on multitasking was interesting. According to scientists, “New research shows that we humans aren’t as good as we think we are at doing several things at once. But it also highlights a human skill that gave us an evolutionary edge.”

Somehow I’m comforted knowing there’s an “executive system” section in my brain, even if it’s getting smaller …

In other news, all this web surfing may be good for me.

August 14, 2008

Win a Free Copy of OBOS: Pregnancy and Birth!

Mrs. Spock, a blogger who writes about infertility, motherhood, health care, writing, and everything in between, has just posted a review of Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth. Her review recognizes the challenges of writing a book on childbirth:

A healthy, happy mom and healthy, happy baby sounds like a plan on which women should easily reach consensus. However, birth choices, pain control in labor, and infant feeding are topics that can be as controversial nowadays as religion or politics.

The editors of Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth have the difficult task of presenting an unbiased view of the facts in a field where emotions can run high and where proponents of the two dominant models of care can be as disparate in views as Al Franken and Rush Limbaugh. Like the original Our Bodies, Ourselves, its premise is that knowledge is power, and women empowered with the knowledge of the latest evidence-based practices will be able to make choices that lead to better outcomes for themselves and their children.

Mrs. Spock is also holding a book giveaway: she’s asking readers to leave a comment telling her their thoughts on pregnancy and birth, promising that one of the commenters will win a free copy of the book. Head over now to leave your comment!

August 10, 2008

Double Dose: Women and the Olympics – the Good, the Bad and the Creepy; Connecting the Dots to a Crisis Pregnancy Center; Shackling Pregnant Inmates in Labor OK in Arkansas; Wait for Male Birth Control Continues; Cars and the Cure for Breast Cancer …

Back from a cross-country drive and catching up on lots of stories. Let the games begin …

Once Banned, Women Now Centerstage at Games: Writing in The New York Times, Jere Longman describes the debut of Mali’s women’s basketball team — each player received a house and prize money for winning the 2007 African championships and qualifying for Beijing — and the increasing popularity and respect for women athletes overall. Of the 11,427 athletes participating in this year’s Olympics, 4,845 are women.

“Everybody is proud of us, even the guys,” said Maiga-Ba, 30, a forward who played at Old Dominion and is an iconic female sports figure in Mali, a predominantly Muslim country where women are subject to traditional subservience, genital mutilation, inequitable access to education and household violence.

“Things are getting better,” she said. “Before, women in Senegal could have children and keep playing. In Mali, you stopped. Now women keep playing. It’s changing a lot.”

And not only in Africa. Women were not allowed to participate at the 1896 Summer Games in Athens, the first Olympics of the modern era.

They were expected to contribute applause, not athletic skill. Not until 1984 were women permitted to run the Olympic marathon, in reefer-madness fear that they might grow old too soon with such exertion; or worse, they might grow a mustache. Or their uterus would fall out, as if it were a transmission.

Meanwhile, Buzz Bissinger (author of the fabulous “Friday Night Lights”) details the creep factor.

American Pregnancy Association Hides Links to CPCs: After a young woman wrote to Heather Corrina at Scarleteen about visiting a crisis pregnancy center for resources and support, Corrina warned her that CPCs aren’t there to help women so much as they scare women away from abortion as an option.

“I explained how easy it can be to be fooled by CPCs, even when you’re savvy, aware of practices CPCs typically employ — even, I soon learned, when you’re writing an article in protest of them,” Corrina writes at RH Reality Check. “And then I offered Jessica a link to the American Pregnancy Helpline as an option for women looking for support sustaining a pregnancy and as an alternative to a CPC.”

In doing so, adds Corrina, “I proved my own point too well.”

American Pregnancy Helpline, as Corrina discovered, is affiliated with the American Pregnancy Association — and though pro-choice groups have routinely included APA in resource lists (and OBOB once linked to APA in a blog post) neither organization is all that interested in providing information to women about their full array of reproductive options.

In fact, the organizations both trace their origins to a crisis pregnancy center. I found misleading and medically incorrect information on both organization’s sites, including references to “partial-birth abortion” and the suggestion that future fertility or breast cancer has anything at all to do with having had an abortion. I learned that the Helpline is widely linked in CPC and anti-choice directories. And I soon noticed the strange absence of any information on contraception at the site for teens, while links to sites pushing ab-only proliferate.

Read the full story — and big kudos to Corrina.

Appalling News You Might Have Missed: “In a case out of Arkansas called Nelson v. Correctional Medical Services [PDF], 2008 WL 2777423 (8th Cir. 2008), the Eighth Circuit concluded that the shackling of a pregnant inmate laboring to deliver a baby did not constitute an Eighth Amendment violation,” writes Giovanna Shay at Feminist Law Professors.

For more on this issue, Shay links to Amnesty International’s 2006 report, “Abuse of Women in Custody: Sexual Misconduct and Shackling of Pregnant Women,” and this New York Times story by Adam Liptak, also from 2006, which states: “Despite sporadic complaints and occasional lawsuits, the practice of shackling prisoners in labor continues to be relatively common, state legislators and a human rights group said. Only two states, California and Illinois, have laws forbidding the practice.”

The Long Wait for Male Birth Control: According to Time, there’s no end in sight. Adam Goodman writes:

Just a few years ago, the new male contraceptive seemed like an inevitable reality. Major pharmaceutical companies like Wyeth, Schering and Organon were pumping millions into hormonal birth-control development programs for men, and researchers were breathlessly promising imminent production.

But in 2008, there’s still no birth control for men. What happened? In a word: money. With the cost of new-drug development hovering in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the pharmaceutical industry decided there wasn’t enough of a market to make male hormonal contraceptives worthwhile.

Not enough of a market?

Indeed, many men say they are open to trying new forms of birth control. In a 2005 global survey conducted by Schering of 9,000 men ages 18 to 50, 55% expressed an interest in a “new male fertility control,” and roughly 40% of the American respondents who said they would be interested in new male contraceptives further said they would be willing to use an implant or receive regular injections to control their fertility.

Monsanto to Sell Off Hormone Unit: Monsanto Co. is going to divest its Prosilac bovine growth hormone business. Also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST, Prosilac boosts an average cow’s milk production by 10 pounds per day. It has been linked to various health effects — in humans and cows.

“The company failed in an attempt last year to stop dairy processors such as Dean Foods Co. from labeling milk as free of Posilac,” reports Bloomberg News.

But spokeswoman Danielle Jany insists that wasn’t a factor. “We are focusing on our core seeds and traits business,” she said.

According to Scientific American, “At one point, more than 22 percent of U.S. cows were on the hormone. As of 2007, only 17 percent still were, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In recent years, major companies including Kraft Foods, Starbucks and Wal-Mart have announced decisions to sell only milk products from untreated cows.”

“Monsanto has recognized that consumers have made a choice to avoid milk made with genetically engineered growth hormones,” said Andrew Kimbrell, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Food Safety in a statement. “They have clearly judged the time right to get out of the failing artificial growth hormone business.”

Pesticide Drift: Rebecca Claren has an article in The Orion about the effect air poisoned by pesticides is having on poor communities in California’s Central Valley.

Todos los días, every day, [Teresa] Aviña says, she smells pesticides. She blames them for her headaches and dizziness, her nausea, for the cancer and miscarriages that have afflicted her neighbors. Like all of Huron’s seven thousand residents, he lives near el campo, the fields of tomatoes, cotton, lettuce, and melons that ring this cramped town in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the country’s most productive agricultural area. In 2006 Huron’s Fresno County, one of the valley’s eight counties, produced $4.85 billion worth of vegetables, fruit, and cotton. To foster such incredible fertility, growers sprayed nearly 32 million pounds of pesticides using planes, tractors, and irrigation pipe — enough to fill nearly six Olympic swimming pools.

Note to Auto Manufacturers – Cars Are a Cause, not a Cure: That’s the message Feminist Peace Network put out last week after viewing “a BMW ad that invites you to fight breast cancer by test-driving the Beemer of ‘your dreams’ (seriously, isn’t this just what every gal dreams of ??) in return for which BMW will donate  –wait for it – $1 to – wait for it again – Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The car shown in the ad is even an odd, call it dark Pepto color.”

Breast Cancer Action explains the link between auto emissions and breast cancer.

Women Not Fully Informed of Breast Cancer Treatment Options: “Nearly half of women treated for breast cancer did not know that their odds of being alive after five years are roughly the same whether they undergo mastectomy or breast conserving surgery. Minority women were even less likely to be aware of this important factor of their treatment decision, according to a study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center,” reads this release from University of Michigan. The study appears in the August issue of Health Services Research.

“Minority women were also less likely to know about relative survival rates even when researchers considered factors such as the surgeon’s experience, the type of hospital, and whether patients reported talking to their surgeon about treatment options.”

“These factors traditionally associated with quality care were not associated with informed decision-making or with our knowledge measures. Surgeon volume or treatment setting did not affect whether women had good knowledge of their treatment options after they had been through the process, nor did it really mediate the racial and ethnic differences we found,” says study author Sarah Hawley, Ph.D., a research investigator at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Violence Linked to Rapid Rise of AIDS in Women: “Worldwide the rate of HIV infection is rising faster among women than men, and the link between AIDS rates and violence against women is becoming even clearer, said health advocates and officials gathered here this week for the XVII International AIDS Conference,” reports Theresa Braine from the global AIDS conference in Mexico City.

“The U.N. General Assembly is set to vote in September on the creation of a unified women’s agency to streamline its fragmented approach to women’s issues and programs. Many activists say the new agency would strengthen the world body’s response to issues affecting women, including violence and AIDS.”

Plus: The New York Times reports on the discussion at the conference concerning the reversal of laws that criminalize and stigmatize groups at risk for HIV.

“Criminalization is a poor tool for regulating H.I.V. infection and transmission,” Edwin Cameron, a justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals in South Africa, said in a plenary session.

Citing cases in Texas, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Bermuda and Switzerland to illustrate the “folly of criminalization,” the judge said, “There is no public health rationale for invoking criminal law sanctions against those who unintentionally transmit H.I.V. or expose others to it.” [...]

Justice Cameron described a law in Sierra Leone that requires a woman to take reasonable measures and precautions to prevent transmitting H.I.V. to her fetus. But testing for the virus and treatment for an infected mother are not widely available, health officials have said. At least a dozen African countries have adopted similar laws, many poorly drafted, said the judge, who called them poor substitutes for measures that protected those at risk.

July 11, 2008

Challenging VBAC Bans

We’ve covered the issue of women being denied the option to have a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) several times in the past few months. Childbirth activists and advocacy groups are using to different strategies to challenge VBAC bans, and in an effort to gather more information, a lawyer with the Northwest Women’s Law Center in Seattle asked us to post the following:

“I’m a lawyer with the Northwest Women’s Law Center in Seattle. I’m investigating possible legal responses to bans on vaginal birth after cesarean at hospitals in the northwest states Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon. If you are currently pregnant and want to have a VBAC, but are facing a hospital policy that would require you to have a c-section regardless of whether you want it and regardless of whether it is actually medically necessary, and you are willing to consider working with a lawyer on this, we’d like to talk with you. Please respond to”

Interested in learning more? Birth activist Barbara Stratton’s excellent guide, 50 Ways to Protest a VBAC Denial, provides plenty of tips for challenging such bans.

June 13, 2008

See a Great Film and Support OBOS Too!

am3dflying.jpgWhile struggling to understand her own life and issues, filmmaker Jennifer Fox traveled around the world to see how other women defined and understood their lives.

The result is Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman, a nearly 6-hour documentary that provides an intimate look into the lives of women from many countries, from South Africa to Russia to India to Pakistan.

The film is currently available on DVD, and now (for a limited time only!), if you buy a copy through this link, the filmmakers will donate $3 to OBOS for every DVD purchased.

Happy viewing!

May 19, 2008

Arizona Hospital Banning VBAC?

The Flagstaff Birth Network is reporting that Flagstaff Medical Center (the only hospital in the city) has banned vaginal births after cesarean. According to Barbara Stratton, however, a successful protest rally that drew local NPR and tv news coverage was recently held at the hospital, and the hospital administration has indicated that they are trying to take steps to reverse the ban. FBN is also asking individuals to send letters to the hospital board, with more information on how to do so at their site. Barbara informs us that if the ban is not reversed, women in Flagstaff would need to travel up to 3 hours to reach a VBAC-friendly hospital.

Stratton has previously published an excellent quick guide for women in similar situations, 50 Ways to Protest a VBAC Denial. Our Bodies Ourselves also has an excerpt from Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth on VBAC versus repeat cesarean.

April 30, 2008

New Study Examines Depression in Women, Including Effects of Abortion and Partner Violence

A new study in BMJ Public Health examines depression in women and the relationship of past abortions to the condition. This new report is particularly interesting because it attempts to control for the effects of sociodemographic factors and considers the women’s experiences of intimate partner violence, recognizing that multiple factors may impact a woman’s mental health.

Although the study focuses on Australian women, it may be of interest to readers in other countries as well due to recent attempts by anti-choice groups to promote the existence of a so-called “post-abortion syndrome,” or causal link between abortion and depression, which has thus far been unsupported by the medical evidence. Similar to unsupported and debunked claims of an abortion/breast cancer link, this tactic frames the pro-choice position as anti-women’s health, despite the lack of evidence to support that framing. (For background reading, try this commentary in Ms. Magazine and a lengthy discussion of the issue in the New York Times.)

In the new study, researchers surveyed Australian women ages 18-23, collecting data on sociodemographic variables, reproductive history, and intimate partner violence. The women also completed depression scales and questions about past diagnosis of depression, with a follow-up survey conducted four years later.

Before controlling for other variables, a previous pregnancy termination or having two or more children was associated with an increased risk of depression. However, when the researchers controlled for those other factors, there was no longer an association between abortion and depression, and the increased odds of depression for those with two or more children dropped to be almost insignificant.

Further, the authors found that, even after controlling for sociodemographic factors, experiencing intimate partner violence had a significant effect on the odds of depression, suggesting that is violence a more important factor than either abortion or childbearing with regards to women’s mental health.

Meanwhile, anti-choice advocate Michaelene Fredenburg has started the “Abortion Changes You” website, inviting people to submit their stories of regret and shame. takes a different approach, offering an alternative story-sharing site for women who need a space to say that they are not ashamed of their choices.

October 30, 2007

NIH Launches Vulvodynia Awarness Campaign

The National Institutes of Health has launched a campaign to raise awareness of vulvodynia (chronic vulva pain), a little understood and even less discussed aspect of women’s health. According to an NIH press release:

The NIH Office of Research on Women Health (ORWH) hopes by combining forces with partners such as advocacy groups, health care practitioners, research organizations, and federal and non-federal entities, there will be increased awareness and understanding of this important medical condition for women.

While greater awareness of the condition, for which there is no known cause and no definitive treatment, is likely needed among both women and their healthcare providers, the campaign appears to be awareness-only, with no major research funding component. A search of the CRISP database of federally funded research reveals only about 9 distinct awarded grants on the topic in the past ten years.

I also cringed a bit to find the campaign materials introducing vulvodynia as “also referred to as ‘the pain down there’ or ‘feminine pain,’ before providing a real definition of the condition. If we’re going to begin to openly discuss this issue, we’re going to have to move beyond “down there” language.

Some resources on the topic:

June 11, 2007

On the Road …

I’m traveling this week so the blog will be a little lighter than usual … Why not browse the sidebar and visit a new site? Or leave a comment here letting us know about a great feminist/health blog that isn’t listed and I’ll check ‘em out when I get back — Thanks!

May 15, 2007

Good-Bye Gilmore Girls

Sigh. It seems like only yesterday that Rory Gilmore was just getting her geek on. Now she’s a Yale grad who has already turned down one marriage proposal (thank you!) and now must figure out what she’s going to do with the rest of her life.

Welcome to the real world.

The “Gilmore Girls” always existed on the periphery of reality, of course, set as it was in the dreamlike New England town of Stars Hollow with the quirkiest residents this side of “Roswell.”

It takes a certain dose of Hollywood magic to create the mother-daughter bond shared by Lorelai and Rory for seven seasons, but their rapport will be missed — along with the quick-fire pop-culture infused dialogue that few shows have been able to match.

Expect a good time to be had by all at Rory’s graduation bash tonight. With room to squeeze in one more strong female guest, Rory will get to meet CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Read more about the end of the series at the Washington Post and the Hartford Courant (the closest thing to a local paper for the Connecticut-based show). Maureen Ryan lists seven things she’ll miss about “Gilmore Girls.”

Plus: Thoughts on the new “Bionic Woman”? Ryan has clips.

(cross-posted from