Author: Kaeleigh Damico

All about abortion doulas

Like a birth doula, an abortion doula is someone who is trained to provide nonjudgmental emotional, informational, and physical support to a pregnant person. Depending on the needs of a patient, as well as the needs of a medical clinic, an abortion doula may be present before, during, and after a procedure or only for certain windows of time during a patient’s visit such as during the procedure itself. Examples of an abortion doulas role may include sitting with a patient in a waiting room to calm any nerves, holding a patients hand during a procedure, and spending time with them post-procedure to make sure all of their needs are being addressed. The overarching role of an abortion doula is to hold space for a person and give them unconditional support for the brief time they are together.

Current research has shown that abortion doulas don’t make a significant difference in patient pain levels, satisfaction rates, or procedure duration, but that women who have the support of an abortion doula are less likely to need additional clinic support. This suggests, that much like a birth doula, the most important thing an abortion doula does is provide peer and psychological support throughout the process.

Abortion doulas are still significantly less common than birth doulas. However, students at UNC are working to address this unmet need. This fall, 2019, two graduate students at UNC will be piloting an abortion doula collective at UNC Chapel Hill. This organization will be under the direction of Dr. Amy Bryant, who is a licensed abortion care provider and professor in the UNC School of Medicine as well as in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Volunteers in this organization will undergo training and will regularly volunteer at local medical clinics. For more information please email

By: Lily Evans

What does a doula do?

Doulas provide support to expecting mothers throughout all stages of the pregnancy. Labor doulas are the most common type of doula, but there are also antepartum doulas, postpartum doulas, and abortion doulas. Today we are going to talk about labor doulas.

Labor doulas help mothers create a birth plan, address fears and concerns they have about birth, and provide emotional support throughout the birthing process. Most doulas are not medical professionals, but are instead women who are experts in the birthing process.

Having a doula is associated with significant positive outcomes. Women who use doulas report less pain in the birthing process and are less likely to need a c-section. They also help decrease the length of labor by up to 25 percent!

Pregnant women in the Chapel Hill area can take advantage of UNC’s volunteer doula program. This program, Birth Partners, provides women giving birth at UNC hospitals with a professionally trained doula, free of charge!

Women in other parts of the US and abroad can search DONA International to find a birth or postpartum doula to assist them through the birthing process.

Which celebrities are using doulas?

Doulas are having a moment. While they’ve been around for centuries, their use decreased with advent of modern medicine and hospital birthing. Recently, though, as the benefits of peer-support and non-medical birthing professionals become more well known, doulas are again becoming popular in the delivery room. There are many types of doulas, and this week’s posts will explore the different types and what they do. First, though, let’s take a look at some familiar faces that you might not have known used a doula!


Jessica Biel.

Kristen Bell.

Mayim Bialik

Kelly Ripa.

Kimberly Van Der Beek.

January Jones.

Erykah Badu.

Nicole Kidman.

Idina Menzel.

Tia and Tamera Mowry.

Alanis Morissette.

Alyson Hannigan.

Heidi Klum.

Mila Kunis.

Meghan Markle?

The Duchess of Sussex is set to give birth any day now and rumors have been swirling that she has hired a doula to assist her with the birth.

Do you know of any other celebrities who have used doulas? Have you used one yourself?

Check in tomorrow for information on what, exactly, a doula does.

5 Ways to Be an Advocate for Lesbians and other WSW in South Africa

In South Africa we are free. But in the communities that we are living in, we are not free”, Valisa Jara claims, referring to the targeted violence against lesbians, bisexual and women who have sex with women (WSW) in South Africa. Since 1998, at least thirty-one lesbians have been killed in attacks, many of which began with “corrective rape”- an assault in which a man rapes a lesbian, bisexual or WSW in an attempt to “cure” her sexual orientation.

According to research done by the Johannesburg based Forum for the Empowerment of Women, black lesbians who live in isolated townships, are particularly vulnerable. In addition, alarming rates of rape and sexual violence have resulted in high rates of HIV among lesbians and bisexual women in South Africa.

Despite the stigma and discrimination lesbian and other WSW experience in South Africa, they are still fighting for their human rights to be acknowledged and protected. So, with these challenges on the ground, what can we do to combat this violence and advocate for Lesbian and other WSW in South Africa?

1. Recognize South Africa’s homophobia is a colonial export. Same- sex relationships were historically prohibited in South Africa because of the sodomy laws inherited from the Dutch colonists. These laws impacted same-sex relations among various South African groups. We need to recognize the colonial underpinnings of homophobia and have honest discussions on human sexuality in the African context before, during and after the colonial period.

2. Be an Advocate and Act. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently said, “The LGBTI community in South Africa, as much we all have rights, is a community that still needs to be properly supported, properly positioned”. We can be engaged and empowered in the fight against WSW /lesbian stigma by joining advocacy and victim empowerment organizations like OUT, Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), and others.

3. Educate children on sexual diversity through online platforms. According to a report by The Other Foundation, there is modest support for more education about the human rights and social inclusion of lesbian people in South Africa, both for learners in school as well as community based education. Mila, a website and app, which hosts a large series of videos that feature South Africans, tackling South African-centric issues, can be used to teach children about sexual diversity.

4. Support Reform Initiatives. In recent years, gruesome stories of murder and rape have grabbed South African headlines, but little has been done to improve the mechanisms to monitor hate crimes incidents. We can support multi-sectoral coalitions like the Hate Crimes Working Group which can act to prevent and to combat hate crimes by improving the policing of, and judicial responses to hate crimes; and assist in the development of effective mechanisms to monitor hate crimes incidents.

5. Be an Ally. Many Lesbian and other WSW feel confined by the complexity of intersecting injustices: lack of education, joblessness, powerlessness in family or community, and poverty. Donating to non-profit organization like Micro Rainbow International can help Lesbians and other WSW boost their income and economic opportunities through crowd-sourcing platforms.


Marie Guiraud


For information, check out:



New Technology: Consenting Condoms

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 30% of women will experience physical or sexual violence by either a partner or stranger. Organizations like the WHO, the United Nations, and Equality Now have all declared sexual violence as a global epidemic that needs to be addressed.

An Argentinian company, Tulipan, has attempted to answer this call. Tulipan developed a new condom to emphasize the importance of consent.  The innovative condom requires four hands to open; ideally this translates to two people working together to open the condom. Tulipan promoted their new product on social media with ads what quickly went viral.

While some are praising the company for considering consent when developing condoms, others are critiquing the product. One of the issues people have identified is the four handed approach itself, noting that not everyone has two hands or have the mobility to move their hands in the motions required by the packaging. Another common criticism is the idea of one-time consent versus ongoing consent. The act of consenting and opening the condom together could give the illusion that consent cannot be withdrawn, which is not only false, but a dangerous misunderstanding about what consent means.

Beyond consent, making condoms more difficult to use could result in decreased usage. If this were to happen, then rates of sexually transmitted diseases could increase. Regardless, Tulipan is helping start the conversation about consent and ending sexual violence. We are excited to see more from this company in the future!

By: Abbey Schneider

For more information, check out:

Sweet Savings: The Impact of Added Sugar Labels

In 2016, The FDA announced that manufacturers were going to be required to share the amount of added sugar on nutrition labels. A new report from Tufts University indicates that the health related savings of this new regulation will be significant. Researchers used mathematical modeling to predict how much the labels would reduce sugar intake—and consequently, how much of a decrease in diabetes and heart disease the U.S would see.

Over the next 20 years, they predict that it will prevent more than 350,000 cases of heart disease and more than 600,000 cases of type-2 diabetes. The health impact is significant, but the economic impact is staggering. Following the implementation of these new nutrition labels, we can expect to see more than THIRTY ONE BILLION dollars in healthcare savings.

Further, this estimate is conservative. If, like when the FDA ruled that trans fats had to be better labeled, companies respond to the rule by reducing the added sugar content of their products, the impact will be even greater.

Sometimes, small changes can make a big impact. Health communication for the win!

What do you think about the change in nutrition labels? Should the government be doing more to limit the sugar intake of Americans? Leave us a comment!

It’s Just a Pill

Addressing the opioid crisis requires organizations to get creative. With It’s Just a Pill, the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, North Carolina uses theater to educate school aged children about the dangers associated with opioid and substance misuse. In North Carolina, four people die from an overdose every day. Some estimates suggest that one in two high school students have tried an illegal drug before they graduate. Thus, it’s important to address opioid misuse not just with adults, but with children as well.

It’s Just a Pill does this through a children’s musical that features giant, dancing and singing pill bottles in addition to a cast of human characters. The musical was professionally directed and scored and lasts an hour. The play was written by Melody Hays, a healthcare education planner at MAHEC. The first run of the play included school performances in rural areas across North Carolina, and reached over 4,000 students, teachers, and parents.

If you are interested in learning more about the play or using it for your own work, then you’re in luck! MAHEC plans to make It’s Just a Pill available for use by anyone who wants to use this play as a prevention and awareness resource.

Disclaimer: The author of this article has working relationship with MAHEC. She was not compensated for or encouraged to write this article by MAHEC.

Opioid Policy

Continuing this week’s focus on opioids, we discuss some of the policies that have been attempted to stem the tide of the opioid epidemic. Check them out below!

Local and non-Governmental.

Lock-in Programs. Insurance companies, hoping to limit the staggering financial burden the opioid crisis has placed on them, have implemented several strategies to prevent the overuse of opioid medications. One such strategy is called patient review and restriction or Lock-in. This strategy requires that patients suspected of misusing opioids and other controlled substances use a single prescriber or pharmacy to obtain their controlled substance prescriptions. These programs look to have significant cost savings and may be more widely implement in the future.

Take-back Events.­­ Many municipalities have introduced drug take-back events that encourage patients to properly dispose of unused medication. States have sponsored messaging campaigns about the safe storage and disposal of opioids. These interventions are designed to educate patients on the dangers of keeping unused opioids and to make it easier to dispose of them. Evidence on their effectiveness is mixed.

Education.  Other interventions have been aimed at changing knowledge and attitudes related to SUD. These interventions range from handing out pamphlets to intensive counseling programs. While many of these programs appear to be effective, they are by nature small in scope and resource intensive to scale up.

Safe Injection Facilities. Safe injection facilities are places where individuals can inject drugs in a safe location, typically with treatment services located nearby and with medical personnel available to treat any issues. These facilities reduce drug related mortality and needle-borne infections. They currently face zoning restrictions, legal challenges, and community disapprobation. However, because of their effectiveness, some states are creating policies that support their creation.

State and Federal.

Naloxone. One change that has proven successful at decreasing deaths from opioid- induced respiratory depression (OIRD) is making naloxone, a medication that reverses OIRD, more easily available. Current recommendations suggest that naloxone be co-prescribed with opioids, especially when patients have a history of opioid misuse. As of 2016, forty-seven states had passed legislation designed to increase lay-person access to this life saving drug. These laws take on three forms. First, they may provide naloxone prescribers, dispensers, and administrators with protection from criminal and civil lawsuits related to the drug. Second, allowing naloxone to be prescribed by providers to individuals outside of their practice. This may mean that providers can prescribe to third parties or that there are standing orders making the drug available without a prescription. Third, Good Samaritan laws provide protection to individuals who seek emergency help for some experiencing overdose. Because many people who witness an overdose may be engaging in illegal behavior themselves, they may be hesitant to contact emergency responders in the case of an overdose. These laws provide limited immunity from prosecution for minor drug-related offenses.

MAT. Medication assisted treatment—MAT—is the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder. MAT combines traditional counseling approaches with the use of certain opioids—methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Despite its effectiveness, MAAT faces stigma, legal limitations, and a lack of prescribers. Patients who can find providers willing and able to treat OUD may be unable to afford the treatment. Historically, very few insurance plans have provided coverage for MAT, especially those for lower income individuals. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) attempted to address these issues, but treatment is still limited and the ACA’s future is unsure.

PDMPs. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) are one solution that states are using to try and monitor who is providing opioids and who is receiving them. These programs are designed to both prevent physicians from over-prescribing and to prevent patients from doctor shopping. Currently, 49 states, Washington D.C. and Guam have operational PDMPs. Data on PDMP effectiveness varies, but suggests that they are effective at reducing controlled substance prescribing. After implementation of PDMPs, doctor shopping has decreased by at least 41%, prescribing either leveled off or decreased, and overdoses, overall, have dropped.

ESOOS. In addition to monitoring prescriptions, many states are implementing enhanced monitoring of drug overdoses. Starting in 2016, the CDC funded 32 states to participate in the Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS) program. The ESOOS collects hospital billing data to determine overdose visits. While the data gathered thus far shows mixed results in state efforts to decrease opioid overdose, the ESOOS has created a national database of information and encourages state accountability.

Outside the U.S.

The opioid epidemic extends beyond national borders. Many western countries are dealing with the new proliferation of opioids and the associated increase in OUD. There are two major policies that have been enacted by countries outside of the United States in order to stem the increase in opioid misuse.

Marketing Limits. In Western European countries, marketing of drugs is strongly regulated compared to the United States. Specifically, pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to offer any kinds of benefits to physicians or the organizations that govern them. This is a broad regulation that prohibits not only the direst transfer of funds or presents, but also things like the all-expense paid conferences that were an important part of marketing in the U.S. This policy is enforced by both governments and medical associations, and has resulted in significantly less heavy marketing of prescription drugs.

Decriminalization. Many of the harms associated with drug addiction come not from the addiction itself, but from the stigma attached to it. This stigma has been codified through laws that punish addicts. Changing the law—or its enforcement—to decriminalize the use of opioids is one policy that attempts to address this problem. Various forms of decriminalization have been enacted throughout the globe, including Australia, Portugal, the UK, Canada, and the U.S. When these changes have been made, there has been no increase in the use of controlled substances, but significant drops in the rates of overdose and overdose death.

Have you seen other policies implemented to address opioids? Which ones do you support?

For more information, check out these sources:

  1. Haegerich TM, Paulozzi LJ, Manns BJ, Jones CM. What we know, and don’t know, about the impact of state policy and systems-level interventions on prescription drug overdose. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2014;145:34-47. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.10.001.
  2. Gostin LO, Hodge JG, Gulinson CL. Supervised Injection Facilities. Jama. 2019;321(8):745. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.0095.
  3. Davis CS, Carr DH. The Law and Policy of Opioids for Pain Management, Addiction Treatment, and Overdose Reversal. Indiana Health Law Review. 2017;14(1). doi:10.18060/3911.0027.
  4. Questions and Answers. State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs. Accessed April 16, 2019.
  5. Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Center of Excellence at Brandeis. Briefing on PDMP Effectiveness. on PDMP Effectiveness 3rd revision.pdf. Published September 2014. Accessed April 16, 2019.
  6. CDC’s Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS) Program, 32 states and the District of Columbia reporting, April 2018.
  7. Vokinger KN. Opioid Crisis in the US – Lessons from Western Europe. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 2018;46(1):189-190. doi:10.1177/1073110518766033.


The (not so) Sweet Truth: Sugar Doesn’t Improve Your Mood

There’s a secret the sugar-sweetened beverage industry doesn’t want you to know: sugar doesn’t actually improve your mood. That pint of Ben and Jerry’s might be calling your name (it is mine!), but you won’t actually feel any better after eating it. New research, published on April 3rd, showed the results of 31 major studies conducted over the last 35 years and the results were overwhelming. Sugar consumption was not shown to increase: alertness, calmness, or contentedness. It was not shown to decrease: anger, confusion, tension, or depression. In fact, sugar consumption was related to decreased levels of alertness and higher levels of fatigue within the first hour after ingesting it.

The only time sugar consumption actually improved a person’s mood? After periods of exercise.

So go ahead, drink your Mountain Dew. Just go for a run first or be prepared to face the negative emotional effects from all of that sugar.

Or you can try one of these other things to improve your mood:

  • Spend some time in nature.
  • Listen to happy music.
  • Do something awe inspiring like watching the sunrise.
  • Find something to laugh about.
  • Exercise.
  • Give someone a hug.
  • Eat a healthy snack.
  • Spend time in the sun.
  • Think about something positive.
  • Spend some time with the people who make you happy.

Your body will thank you.

For more information, check out:

Science Expo: Saturday April 6 from 11:00 to 4:00

What are you doing this Saturday?

If you are still looking for something that will be:

Free ☑

Outdoors ☑

Educational ☑

Fun ☑

Then come join us at the UNC 2019 Science Expo!

The science expo is this Saturday, April 6 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Cameron Avenue.

There are over 100 hands on activities, including making your own ice cream, looking at insects under a microscope, a “cold water” challenge, and making your own neuron model.

And this year, for the first time ever, there’s an outdoor classroom to engage your whole family. Figure out the cause of a mystery illness, build catapults, take a potato to space, or create some slimy oobleck! It’s up to you – but make sure to register at:

This is your chance to get up close and personal with all the cutting edge science UNC has to offer. Speak with students, researchers, and professors about their research, grab some food from one of the food trucks on site, or just wander around.

We hope we’ll see you there!