Category: Women’s Health

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 UNCabdoulas@gmail.com

By: Lily Evans

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4275368/

Lack of Diversity in Fashion: impacts on mental health

Today, when one looks through the catalogues and social media accounts of many well-known fashion brands, homogeneity can be expected. When focusing specifically on women’s fashion, there is a major issue of lack of representation in diversity of models. This applies to many fronts: lack of diversity in race, body size, body type, etc. Trans-women and women who don’t conform to gender “norms” are often excluded, and brands rarely depict models with visible health conditions and/or disabilities.

This lack of representation can have seriously negative impacts on the mental health of many people of different ages. Most often, models are skinny, tall, and white. When these are the only women being depicted in the media as desirable – it can weigh heavily on the shoulders of those who do not and cannot conform to these standards.

The good news: the tides seem to be changing. Certain brands have begun to combat these patterns in fashion branding. This is not in an attempt to tear current models down, but rather to lift women of all shapes, sizes, colors and statuses up. Aerie – a women’s clothing and lingerie brand – has taken on the frontline in this battle. In 2014, Aerie launched “AerieReal”, an admirable campaign to promote the beauty of all types of women in an untouched beauty campaign. Brands like Aerie serve as a beacon here and sets a positive example of how to better promote the physical and mental health of their customers.

https://www.entitymag.com/diversity-fashion-moves-slower-models-catwalk/

https://www.hercampus.com/school/western/fashion-and-mental-health

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/aerie-all-women-project-ad-diversity

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVJDs9nVbsY

 

 

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.

https://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/having-a-doula/

https://www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula/find-a-doula/

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.

By:

Marie Guiraud

 

For information, check out:

https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/south-africa-fight-acceptance-rainbow-nation

https://bit.ly/2DpI8sQ

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3696027

https://www.out.org.za/index.php/about-out/programmes/advocacy

Home

https://www.outrightinternational.org/content/directory-organizations-relevant-human-rights-lgbt-people

 

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:

http://www.tulipan.com.ar/

https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/violence/VAW_infographic.pdf?ua=1

https://nypost.com/2019/04/04/this-consent-condom-takes-four-hands-to-open/

https://www.equalitynow.org/the_global_rape_epidemic_campaign?locale=en

https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/stevens/ct-life-stevens-thursday-consent-condom-criticism-0411-story.html

“Goop” Brand and Fake Health Products

Valued at $250 million dollars in 2018, the “Goop” brand has taken commercial health and beauty market by storm. While many of this company’s products are harmless – such as lotions and accessories – there are a number of products which have generated a lot of negative feedback. In 2018, Goop was charged for false claims regarding two of their products. At this time, the brand was selling “vaginal eggs” (made of rose quartz).  Supposedly, following vaginal insertion, these eggs could help balance hormones, regulate menstrual cycles, and increase bladder control. None of these claims are backed by research, and even came under direct criticism from a renowned gynecologist and other medical professionals. Similarly, another one of their products – an essential oil – was criticized for false claims of preventing depression.

Despite this, Goop brand has continued to grow, gaining more revenue and customers. Although this brand has gained an exceptional amount of media attention, it only represents one of many brands falsifying health-related products. Companies like Goop often claim they provide “alternative treatments” to mainstream or pharmaceutical agents. But in reality, many of these fake products can be completely useless or even harmful. Many of these products are expensive, and wrongfully solicit money for worthless/harmful products. Additionally, products or methods which make claims to prevent serious diseases – such as depression or cancer – are providing false hope and might delay needed medical treatments. With internet culture in full-swing, it’s important to research the legitimacy of any alternative health products/claims, and to trust expert advice when necessary.

 

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/05/health/goop-fine-california-gwyneth-paltrow/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/29/style/goop-gwyneth-paltrow-dr-jen-gunter.html

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-fake-health-news-may-be-influencing-you-to-make-dangerous-decisions

 

 

 

Debate Over Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is one of the newest and most powerful medical advancements of our time. With this privilege, comes promising opportunities to predict, diagnose, treat and even cure certain diseases. One of the most common applications of this testing is in breast cancer patients. Understanding a patient’s genetic lineage can tell doctors a lot about the cancer they are treating.

Some sources  insist that all breast cancer patients should be genetically tested – although there is still quite a bit of debate over this stance. Although there are a lot of perks to genetic testing, some believe it’s an elaborate standard to adhere by, and don’t believe that all providers can or will offer this option.

These conflicting messages are confusing, and creates dynamics which are difficult for patients to navigate. Despite some disagreement, a number of well-respected scientists and clinicians insist that these tests can save cancer patients’ lives.  Dr. Mary-Claire King is a renowned geneticist who discovered the BRCA gene mutation in 1990 and its links to breast cancer. She is one of the many scientists who has come out to speak about the importance of genetic testing in cancer patients. She advocates for the utility of these tests, and insists they are necessary to help prevent and reduce risk of cancer threats.

 

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/health/genetic-test-guidelines-breast-cancer-bn/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/19/health/brca-genetic-testing-recommendation-study/index.html

https://www.gs.washington.edu/faculty/king.htm

 

 

A First: Uterine Transplant from Deceased Donor Allows for Live Birth

Innovation within the field of organ transplantation has grown tremendously in the past decade. Amongst this progress is a new story of success from São Paolo, Brazil.

A new study, revealed that for the first time ever, a baby was delivered via a uterus which had been transplanted from a deceased donor. The mother had an abnormality which rendered her infertile, and resultantly needed a transplanted uterus in order to conceive and give birth. This has been done before with living donors, but never had it been done with a deceased donor. The mother delivered the baby in c-section to a health newborn baby. Now, almost a year later, the child has continued to live a healthy, normal life.

This example is especially unique because of the donor. When transplanting from a deceased donor, there are always several hours of transport and surgery which leave the organ without oxygen. In this case, the uterus went without oxygen for nearly 8 hours. Dr. Andrew Shennan, an obstetrics professor at Kings College London noted the rareness and importance of this case in particular. This study demonstrated that the uterus can remain functioning and intact despite this 8-hour period. This information is invaluable, and can inform other operations in the future.

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/04/health/uterus-transplant-deceased-donor-study/index.html

 

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31766-5/fulltext

 

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/lsm/newsevents/newsrecords/2018/Jan/New-Years-Honours.aspx

 

FDA Expands HPV Vaccine for People Ages 27 to 45

Earlier last month, the FDA announced it has approved Gardasil 9, a vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) for people between the ages of 27 and 45. Previously, the FDA approved the HPV vaccine for individuals aged 9 through 26 years.

Gardasil 9 protects against nine types of HPV, a virus that is transmitted sexually and through intimate skin-to-skin contact. HPV is a very common virus and many individuals will get it at some point in their lives. While most HPV infections go away on their own, some may stick around and cause genital warts and cancer. This may be cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus, as well as cancer of the back of the throat.

It is recommended that all children aged 11 or 12 receive the HPV vaccine series. The vaccine is most effective at this age, before children are exposed to HPV.

Still, however, individuals up to age 45 years can now get the HPV vaccine. Older individuals can protect themselves against nine types of HPV. And even if one has been exposed to a few types, the vaccine will protect against the other strains they have not been exposed to.

HPV vaccination is cancer prevention. Why not consider protecting yourself?

For more information, check out the following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources:

What is HPV? 

HPV and Cancer

HPV Cancer Screening

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, August 23). Human Papillomavirus: Questions and Answers. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/questions-answers.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, December13). What is HPV? https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/whatishpv.html

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2018, October 9). FDA approves expanded use of Gardasil 9 to include individuals 27 through 45 years old. Retrieved from

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/UCM622715.htm?utm_campaign=10052018_PR_FDA%20approves%20expanded%20use%20of%20Gardasil%209%20to%20include%20individuals%2027%20through%2045%20years%20old

Grady, D & Hoffman, J. (2018, October 5). HPV Vaccine Expanded or People Ages 27 to 45. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/05/health/hpv-virus-vaccine-cancer.html

Health and the midterm elections

Today is election day. Across the country there are numerous elections which are weighing in on important health issues. There are several important health topics in the ballots, including: abortion rights, Medicaid expansion, marijuana usage, grocery taxes, and laws related to drug use and possession charges. Due to the political leanings of the current national administration, abortion rights are particularly vulnerable during this time.

Alabama, West Virginia, and Oregon are voting on legislation which will seriously affect access to abortion. On Alabama’s ballot, a newly proposed Amendment 2 is trying to change the wording which defines a fetus’ rights on the state Constitution. The amendment is aiming to grant a fetus the same rights and protections as a baby who has been born. If passed, this issue could have serious implications on further legislation which may eventually outlaw abortion in the state. In addition, this ballot measure doesn’t include the right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at-risk.

West Virginia and Oregon are voting on measures which attempt to withhold state funding for abortion cases in respect to state employees and Medicaid recipients. However, in contrast to Alabama’s measure, these states do grant the right to victims of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

It is important to consider how our votes can act as determinants for health issues like these and many others. Voting at a state level can have a much larger impact on both national and local issues – especially pertaining to public health and medicine. Go out and vote today!

Look up your registration status, local polling place, and sample ballot here:

https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/

 

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/05/health/health-ballot-initiatives/index.html

https://ballotpedia.org/Alabama_Amendment_2,_State_Abortion_Policy_Amendment_(2018)