Tag Archives: women’s health

“HelloFlo”: The Viral Ad That Empowers Girls to Embrace Their Periods

“For these campers, I’m their Joan of Arc. It’s like I’m Joan, and their vag is the arc.”

These words come from the mouth of a young girl in a recent ad for HelloFlo, a new company that specializes in making menstruation as painless as possible. You can help but do a double take (did that girl seriously just say “vag”?), and that is perhaps exactly what the ad creators intended.

But neither the company nor the controversial ad were rooted in any “feminist agenda,” says HelloFlo founder Naama Bloom. The company functions by sending boxes of tampons, pads, and candy to women in alignment with their personal cycles, all for $14-18 a month.

As Bloom said in an interview with CNN, “I just wanted to talk the way women talked and the way I talk and talk the way I am teaching my daughter to talk.” But even that is remarkable. After all, how many girls really feel this way about their periods? For that matter, how many moms, teaching their daughters about menstruation, feel this way?

The onset of puberty is happening earlier and earlier for girls in the United States, a trend that does not bode well for future generations’ rates of ovarian and breast cancer. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and exposure to toxic chemicals can all affect the timing of puberty, and the increase in all three in this country has obviously contributed to an earlier onset of menstruation.

On top of that, menstruation has been a consistent point of embarrassment for girls and women, and this has unfortunately perpetuated a culture of body shame. Whenever menstruation begins, it is not something to be ashamed of nor fight against. Girls need all the information they can get to be prepared, both physically and emotionally, for this powerful rite of passage. In a way, periods are what makes the world go ’round. Right?

What’s your relationship with menstruation like? Tell us your stories in the comments section below!

Amazing Timelapse Makes Pregnancy Look Like a Breeze

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 11.49.31 AMNine months of pregnancy condensed into a minute and a half – with a healthy baby at the end!

Anyone who has ever gone through pregnancy, whether as a mom or a partner, knows that the process is a lot more tiring and involved than a timelapse can convey. Then again, sometimes we’re so preoccupied by every ache, pain, and subtle change that we forget the amazing, holistic arc that pregnancy truly is.

Knowing that the process would demand plenty of focus on the micro level, this creative couple decided to document their pregnancy so that in the aftermath they could enjoy the entire journey from start to finish. In their whimsical representation of child-bearing, both the pregnancy and the baby’s birth come about with just a kiss to the belly. Take a look!

If only it were that easy! And what a happy, healthy baby little Amelie Amaya is. Congrats to the happy family!

Did you document your pregnancy (or your partner’s/sister’s/friend’s) in any special way? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Why Kate Middleton’s Natural Childbirth Should Inspire Us All

grid-cell-11924-1373657822-26Kate had natural childbirth!

Kate had natural childbirth!

Kate had natural childbirth!

I’m not sure how reliable the reporting on Access Hollywood is, but I flipped on the TV last night to get the latest royal baby update and heard that Kate had natural childbirth.

After a Google search I quickly learned that Princess Kate was taking steps to prepare herself for a drug-free experience; and if Mario Lopez’s man on the scene is correct, doulas, midwives, and natural childbirth advocates around the United States are jumping for joy.

The US ranks among the countries with the highest rates of epidural use and Cesarian section. It’s hard to decipher exact numbers as some hospitals report childbirth stats and some don’t, but on average well over 60% of vaginal births in America employ an epidural. Some hospitals report 95% epidural use for vaginal births. 32% of births overall are Cesarian, many of which are scheduled and elective.

We Americans tend to learn lessons the hard way. We think we can create answers to life’s problems and pains by outdoing Mother Nature. (Ahem, GMOs, ahem.) And then we spend generations trying to figure out how to dig ourselves out of the holes we’ve trenched. I place childbirth in this category.

We’ve created a “new normal” in America. Over the past several decades, there’s been a shift from using chemical pain relief only when labor is not progressing to using chemical pain relief before active labor has even started. This is not the case in the rest of the world. This the numbing of America. How deep will we get before having to dig out from this one?

I’m a mom of three naturally born babies. I get it completely. Birth is painful, it’s challenging, it pushes us to our limits – the perfect introduction to motherhood. From a spiritual perspective natural childbirth is an incredible opportunity to awaken. From a confidence perspective, it’s downright empowering.

After I had my first baby, there was a procession of nurses stopping by my recovery room to congratulate me on nixing the epi. I was like a celebrity that evening. One nurse even stopped in and told me she heard me growling and screaming down the hall and felt a thrill.

Really? Just for having a baby like billions of women have before me? Really really?

I can’t count how many birth stories I’ve heard over the past 10 years. The number of natural stories are far and few, but a surprisingly high number of friends have opted for the epidural and not benefited from its effects, still feeling the intensity of labor and the pain of delivery. The epidural is not always a ticket out of the torment.

That said, I encourage OBs to encourage patients to at least try a drug-free experience. The anesthesiologist will be lingering nearby in case she needs to needle up. What I always suggest to pregnant ladies who ask for advice is this – Keep the pain in perspective. It won’t last forever. Focus on the breaks between the contractions. And just when you think you can’t take another minute of pain, have the nurse check you. You’re probably fully dilated and ready to push. Pushing will hurt, but it will be way faster without the epi.

But don’t take my word for it. There are a gazillion moms out there who have forgone that big fat needle in the spine and lived to tell about it. We need more high profile examples like Kate Middleton to let women know that natural is the norm worldwide and to inspire American women to look at the anesthesiologist and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

In the end, the most important part of childbirth is healthy baby, healthy Momma.  Modern medicine is a blessing. And we are doubly blessed here in America to have top notch services to provide new mothers and infants with excellent care.

A woman needs to do what is best for her and her baby and take advantage of the resources available to her during this intense time.

That might include chemical pain relief, emergency C-section, or it might include a drug-free-screaming-banshee-spiritually-uplifting-celebrity-in-the-maternity-wing delivery. No matter how that baby comes out, he’s a miracle nonetheless. As is his Momma.

 

Image via Buzzfeed

11-Year-Old Nada Al-Ahdal Narrowly Escaped Child Marriage – Here’s What She Has to Say

Nada Al-Ahdal is an 11-year-old Yemeni girl who recently risked everything to run away from home and seek refuge with her uncle after learning about her parents’ intentions to marry her off to a much older man. Nada knew that her teenage aunt, trapped in an arranged marriage and abused by her husband, had committed suicide to escape her fate. Nada did not want to be forced down the same path.

“I would have had no life, no education. Don’t they have any compassion?” Nada says in a video posted on YouTube. “I’m better off dead. I’d rather die.”

Thank goodness Nada has an older relative there to take her in and stand up for her, but many girls her age are not as lucky. The World Health Organization reports that 39,000 girls around the world are forced into child marriage every day. “Child marriage” is defined as marriage before 18 years of age, but many are even younger when they are forced into matrimony. The many dangers girls face in early marriages include premature pregnancy, maternal mortality (girls under 15 are five times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than older women), infant mortality, poverty, illiteracy, abuse, and more.

The best defense against practices like this, which endanger women and make our global community weaker, is education. We must raise our voices and empower women to change their communities.

Here are several resources working against child marriage and in support of women and children everywhere:

5 Quotes From Dr. Christiane Northrup That Will Make You Proud to Be a Woman

 

christiane_prodPeriods, PMS, menopause, morning sickness… Is there any aspect of the body’s cycles women can be proud of? According to the media and mainstream Western culture, women have more to feel ashamed and plagued by than proud of when it comes to their bodies. With messages of body positivity only barely making a dent in women’s overwhelmingly conflicted relationships with their bodies, something has got to give.

Enter, Dr. Christiane Northrup, the women’s health expert shaking every belief we’ve held about the female body for decades. Northrup’s reality check: Menstruation is a sacred experience that demands rest and self-regeneration. So-called “PMS” is really a flourishing of creative energy that surges through the female brain at certain points in her cycle. Menopause is a process of transformation, during and after which women can experience the best sex of their lives.

If any of the above statements contradict your own feeling about your body, then read on. In these 5 soul-shaking quotes from an interview featured in the latest issue of Spirituality & Health Magazine, Northrup offers a rallying cry for women to embrace the powerful bodies they inhabit:

1. The key is to understand that every woman has the keys to the kingdom inside herself, and those keys are found in doing those things that she loves to do.

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2. You [women] have a cycle where you bleed in tune with the moon. It is the cycle responsible for all human life on earth. It is the cycle that connects you to your creativity and to the very essence of the tide coming in, the tide going out, the seasons, the sap going into the roots and then rising up, and we have been taught for 5,000 years to be ashamed of that cycle.

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3. Did you know that we have as much erectile tissue inside our pelvis as men have? only, theirs is on the outside. What we have is the clitoris, which is the only organ in the human body whose sole function is pleasure.

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4. Menopause is when you really move into your goddess energy in a big way. You’re no longer losing your blood, so you move into this phase now where your FSH and LH hormones in the pituitary gland are at the same levels as when you’re ovulating. and for many women that is their peak time
of sexual desire.

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5. What we women are sure of is that there’s a man out there who will complete us. That’s what every movie tells us. But what it’s really about is doing that inner work of completing oneself.

Only as complete, proud, self-loving individuals can women experience the fullness of life that they deserve. Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

*****

 

SH_JulyAug_CVR_lrgSpirituality & Health is a magazine for people who want to explore the spiritual journey and wake up to our capacity for self-healing, vitality, and resiliency. Read the entire conversation with Christine Northrup in the July-August edition of Spirituality & Health, on newsstands now! Get your first issue FREE here.

Would you like to win a FREE year-long subscription to Spirituality & Health magazine?

This month, Intent is giving away 5 year-long subscriptions to Spirituality & Health magazine. To enter, simply comment below with your favorite empowering quote. Be sure to include your name and email so we can contact you if you win.

 

“A Beautiful Body”: Reclaiming Beauty from a Backward Culture that Devalues Mothers’ Bodies

Motherhood brings love, joy, and children into women’s lives. It also brings responsibility, body changes, and considerable sleepless nights – these are parts of the bargain. One thing it should not entail, but often does, is body shame and low self-esteem. In pregnancy and motherhood, women’s bodies become vessels of life. They are the sites of ultimate creativity and abundance, and there is no shame in that.

But then come the stretch marks and scars, the loose skin and soft breasts, and it’s hard not to look at yourself and feel alienated from the image of beauty our culture promotes. This phenomenon has inspired photographer Jade Beall to reclaim women’s natural beauty in her series “A Beautiful Body.” The project began when Beall entered into the world of motherhood and, as way of coping with the changes her body was experiencing, began posting photos of her post-pregnancy body to Facebook. The response was overwhelming, Beall writes on her website. There was clearly a deep longing for and desperate lack of widespread representations of real mom bodies, in all their beauty and life-giving power.

Thus Beall began photographing women in all stages of pregnancy and motherhood, some with big baby bellies, some with newborns, some with grown kids and years-old stretch marks kissing their soft tummies. The degree of enthusiasm for this project led Beall to embark on publishing a book by the same title, now available for pre-order. The book will contain photographs of mothers (like the ones above) along with each woman’s personal story of finding beauty and strength in spite of media-enforced stereotypes.

It speaks to the world we live in to see so many women crippled by feelings of shame and inadequacy. The materialist, superficial culture we live in outlines a narrow box with the label “Beauty,” and anything that doesn’t fit into it gets brushed aside. This leaves us feeling responsible for our own lack. But the reality is that these labels and values are 100% arbitrary, empty, and meaningless. Thus the task for all of us, as Beall’s series demonstrates, is to reframe our lens; to reclaim our bodies, as well as our aesthetic values, which have been co-opted for so many years by a media culture that has no real interest in our well-being.

What do you think? Are you inspired by Beall’s photo series? Please share your own photos and stories in the comments below and on social media!

 

All photographs by Jade Beall.

“Stand With Wendy!”: A Texas Senator’s Inspiring Abortion Filibuster Races Down the Clock

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 12.27.56 PMWendy Davis was just 19-years-old when she gave birth to her first child. She had helped support her single mother and three siblings starting from the time she was 14. After becoming a mother, herself, she went on to pursue further education, first at community college, then at Texas Christian University, and finally as a graduate of Harvard Law School. By these life touchstones, alone, it’s clear Davis is a force to be reckoned with.

Fast forward several decades to 2008 when Davis was elected to state senate as the progressive Democratic leader who yesterday inspired women’s rights activists around the country. The occasion for yesterday’s filibuster – which lasted nearly 13 hours, during which Davis didn’t eat, drink, sit down, lean on anything, or leave for any reason – was the anti-abortion and reproductive rights bill SB-5. If passed, this bill would have prohibited abortions past the 20-week gestation mark and result in the closure of 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics, along with a host of other restrictions.

Davis began her filibuster at roughly 11am on Tuesday, and by the evening nearly 200,000 people were watching the livestream on YouTube. Even President Obama tweeted to show his support, ending his tweet with hashtag #StandWithWendy. This viral movement, contained in the space of a whirlwind 13 or so hours, swept social media and shot Wendy Davis to the national stage at unprecedented speed.

But the events of the day were by no means tidy. Davis’ filibuster was cut off by Lt. Governer David Dewhurst, for what reasons are unclear. Other Democrats on the floor jumped in to further stall the final vote, as by now the clock was ticking and the midnight deadline fast approaching. With just 15 minutes to go, Senator Leticia Van De Putte jumped in to demand her voice be heard: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The question acted as a rallying cry for women’s rights, and the crowd erupted in support, pushing the proceedings over the midnight mark. Thus, despite swift measures by Republicans to contest the final time of the vote, the clock didn’t lie, and the bill would not pass.

Watch Wendy Davis respond to an emotional crowd after her nearly 13-hour filibuster that secured reproductive rights for women in the state of Texas:

With yesterday’s filibuster, as well as Davis’ previous filibuster against Texas public school budget cuts, it is clear that Wendy Davis is a senator worth keeping an eye on. Her energy, drive, and progressive values may make her the strong female politician we’ve all been waiting for (not that there haven’t been many others to inspire us over the years.) What do you think? Would you vote for Wendy Davis to be the first female president? Will yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act make it harder for Davis to get re-elected to the state senate?

Photo credit: Twitter

Denied an Abortion – What Now? A Study on the Effects of Unwanted Motherhood

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 3.05.08 PMIt may have been one spontaneous night with an ex, never to be replicated; or perhaps a traumatic moment of violence and sexual abuse. She could be unemployed, ill, very young, or already a bit creaky in the joints. Maybe she has other kids at home and a partner in active duty, in prison, in the hospital, or deceased. And in the midst of working, paying bills, job hunting, taking care of children, doing homework, or whatever her daily responsibilities include, the tender belly and light periods get pushed to the back of her mind – until it’s too late.

Whatever their reasons, these are the women who discover their pregnancies late in the game, determine their best course of action is abortion, and upon medical inspection are turned away from the procedures they desperately want or need. How do these women, the ones forced into motherhood, fare and what are the effects of their denied abortions?

This question provides the foundation for an ongoing study, called “The Turnaway Study” run by Diana Greene Foster, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. Researching abortion clinics around the country, Foster’s study aims to determine the differing effects, if any, between women who seek late-term abortions and get them versus women who seek late-term abortions but are denied them, most often due to timing. (Individual states’ and clinic’s limits vary, but tend to fall sometime in the second trimester.) Such effects might range from the psychological and emotional, to socioeconomic factors, to long-term physical health. In essence, is there any statistical evidence to prove that women are any better or worse off for keeping a baby, even if they wholeheartedly wanted to terminate the pregnancy?

This study lands in public discourse at a time when pro-life advocates preach the many dangers to women’s mental and physical health resulting from abortion. It isn’t a hard line of reasoning to follow, especially given the hormones that are already being released in early pregnancy. But, as noted in a thorough article published in the New York Times, the psychological and health effects of carrying a pregnancy to term – and then, of course, raising a child – can be just as overwhelming, if not more so.

Based on Foster’s study, women in the turnaway group suffered greater health effects, including increased hypertension rates and chronic pelvic pain, as well as socioeconomic effects that left them below the poverty line three times more often than the women who received abortions. Both groups, however, Lang points out, began with similar life circumstances.

Only 6.6 percent of near-limit patients in the study and 5.6 percent of turnaways finished college (nearly 30 percent of adult American women have a bachelor’s degree). One in 10 were on welfare, and approximately 80 percent reported not having enough money to meet basic living needs. A majority, in both groups, already had at least one child.

These are interesting statistics on several counts. First of all, women seeking abortions later in their terms share a baseline social disadvantage that includes less education, lower income, and, now, pregnancy on top of their other responsibilities. In being forced into motherhood by denial of an abortion, these women experience all the physical strains of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the often-overwhelming financial burden of another mouth to feed. No one sets out to someday get an abortion, but when it comes down to it, some women feel this is their best option – and the results of Foster’s study might give us cause to concur.

Both Foster and Lang are mindful of the politically-charged nature of this research, though. Foster does not consider herself a pro-choice pioneer, but rather a concerned ob-gyn, interested in determining what is best for women’s health.

The purpose of Foster’s study is not to set policy by suggesting new or uniform gestational limits. She notes, however, that there are ways to reduce the number of women seeking abortion at an advanced gestational age by improving access to reproductive health care. But Foster sees herself as a scientist, not an advocate. She did not set out, she says, to disprove that abortion is harmful. “If abortion hurts women,” she says, “I definitely want to know.”

Truth be told, there is no pro-abortion movement. Nobody “supports” abortion, of course, because ultimately we would hope to live in a world in which people who want to have children do, and those who don’t, don’t. The point is rather that women know what is best for them and their families, and childbearing may not factor into that at the moment.

It’s a delicate topic, though, and one that certainly warrants further discussion. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

New Motherhood: 5 Ways to Thrive in the Postpartum Period

Vanessa's Sunshine!!! Emilía.

By Zoe Etkin

In America we desperately need to let go of “super mom” syndrome. The expectation that women should be back to work, back in shape, and somehow managing everything else, in 6 weeks or less is just not a realistic portrait of new motherhood. I propose a new way, well, an old way, really, of viewing the postpartum period. One that honors the mother just as she is in her unique journey. The number one issue is the length of maternity leave in this country—6 weeks doesn’t cut it. But I won’t go down that rabbit hole, as government reform is what is required to make that change possible. There are, however, things we can do, as new mothers, and as those who support new mothers, to make the postpartum period less stressful and more enjoyable.

  1. Enlist family and friends for support, but set clear boundaries. Moms: give your friends (family too) specific hours that they should visit. Make it brief—2 hours tops—enough time for them to throw in some laundry, grab you a snack, and hold the baby while you shower. Friends/family: When you visit a new mom, focus your attention on her. Often people get wrapped up in the excitement of the new baby (totally understandable—babies are amazing), but at the exclusion of the mother. Let her know what a good job she is doing, then moon over the baby when she’s taking a little “me time.”
  2. Part of recovering from your birth, and producing milk to feed your baby, is maintaining good nutrition. Sitting down to eat a full meal is often not possible for new moms, so it’s important to have healthy snacks and water available at all times. Simple snacks I recommend are avocadoes, almonds, eggs, trail mix, fruit, and smoothies. Preparing meals before the baby comes is a great idea too. Prep a few homemade veggie lasagnas, soups, and other easily reheated meals for the first weeks home with baby. You’ll probably be offered meals from friends and family as well. Streamline that process by choosing someone to set up a Meal Train for you. This website allows you to state food preferences, times you’d like food delivered, and if they are to just drop it off (rather than come in). Fresh meals at your doorstep are such a blessing to families with newborns.
  3. Diapering/Nursing Stations: If you have a larger home, particularly multi-level, you don’t want to be trekking up and down the stairs to change baby’s diaper, or feel tethered to one spot for nursing. Purchase a few small baskets and stock them with water, nuts, diapers, nursing pads, burp cloths, a clean onesie, wipes and nipple/butt cream. Place one basket by your bed, one in baby’s room, and one in the living room/where ever else you’ll be nursing. I highly recommend these to women who’ve had surgical births, as stairs can be uncomfortable to navigate during recovery.
  4. Hire a postpartum doula. No really, I’m not just plugging my own work! What we do as postpartum doulas is focus on the mother’s needs, emotional and physical, assist with breastfeeding, give newborn care instruction, watch siblings, perform light household maintenance, and provide resources and referrals, among other things. With many new mothers’ partners away at work, the doula can provide relief, support, and encouragement. Our hearts are so open as doulas, we absolutely love watching our clients grow into confident, amazing parents. We’re there to support the partners as well, and the siblings, making sure the household is running smoothly, but our number one and two priorities are mother and baby.
  5. This is for you, mama: make time to take care of yourself. I know it seems impossible with a newborn, but schedule it into your day. When your friend, relative, postpartum doula comes over, make sure one thing they do is hold baby while you nap, exercise, eat, shower, meditate, or whatever else feels good to you. You’re not super woman, and we need to stop making our mamas feel like they need to be. It’s okay to be exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed. It’s also okay to accept help when it’s offered, and ask for it when you need it. We’re a society of hard workers, but we must balance that work with self-care.

Finally, set up your postpartum support system prenatally, making the transition into new motherhood more easeful. Take the journey one day at a time. It will get easier. Your baby is only this small for a short part of her entire life. You are doing an amazing job, right where you are in this moment.

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76773_582146197395_8154608_nZoe Etkin is an LA-based CAPPA trained birth and postpartum doula, poet, and teacher. She earned her MFA in Writing from CalArts, where she earned the Beutner Award for Excellence in the Arts. She is the editor of Red Sky: A Literary Journal, and her own poetry can be found in many print and web publications. She is committed to educating and empowering women, supporting families, and promoting good writing.

 

Photo credit: David Terrazas

What Angelina Jolie Left Out About Her Preventive Mastectomy

Angelina-Jolie-13As you undoubtedly read earlier this week, Angelina Jolie published a profound and honest article through New York Times on Tuesday announcing her elective double mastectomy. The decision arose out of the 37-year-old’s fear of developing breast cancer, which seemed likely given that she carries a faulty BRCA1 gene and had an 87% risk. Her mother also died of ovarian cancer just in her 50’s, and Jolie wisely did not want to go through the same agony, nor put her family through such pain.

It was a brave and noble move on her part – not only to undergo the invasive treatment, but also to announce her decision publicly in the attempt to raise awareness and start a dialogue. But as H. Gilbert Welch points out, there is one major thing left out of Jolie’s article: Less than 1% of women are at risk of carrying the BRCA1 gene – or its sister BRCA2 gene – so Jolie’s story is only relevant to a very small minority of women. In most cases, Welch (a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice) says, breast cancer incidence is sporadic and unconnected to BRCA1.

Should all women be tested for BRCA1, then, in the off chance that they do have it? Not necessarily, Welch cautions. A strong family history of cancer may be indication enough, and across the board testing can carry its own problems. The moral of the story, according to Welch? Angelina Jolie made an extremely courageous and, for her, probably necessary decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. A small number of women may benefit from a similar course of action. In general, though, other measures, in addition to regular screenings, can be taken to reduce cancer risks, and Jolie’s decision need not set the standard for all women out there.

What are your thoughts on the preventive double mastectomy? Let us know in the comments below!

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