Vaginal Dryness

Have you experienced the pain and discomfort of vaginal dryness?

Also known as vaginal atrophy, vaginal dryness is known to affect women of any age, though it is most common post-menopause. (1) Symptoms include soreness in the vaginal area; an itchy, burning feeling; and a burning sensation during urination. (2) A routine pelvic exam will show if the vaginal walls are thin, red, or pale. (2)

There are a number of factors that can cause vaginal dryness:

  • Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which attacks the body’s moisture glands causing dryness throughout the body (3);
  • Douching can lead to vaginal dryness by disrupting the balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina. Doctors recommend that women do not douche, as it can lead to several health problems (4);
  • Certain medications, such as blood-pressure medicines, antidepressants, and allergy and cold medicines can also lead to vaginal dryness (5,6);
  • Anxiety and stress can affect sexual arousal (7); and
  • A drop in estrogen levels caused by menopause and perimenopause, childbirth and breastfeeding, surgical removal of ovaries (2,6), treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy (8), and nicotine dependence. (9)

Vaginal dryness can be eased by adhering to these tips:

  • Don’t douche
  • Quit smoking
  • Relieve stress and anxiety
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid scented soaps and lotions (2)

If you are experiencing vaginal dryness, don’t worry! You are not alone and treatments are available. Talk to your health-care professional about possible solutions.

 

References:

 

  1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/vaginal-dryness/basics/definition/sym-20151520
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000892.htm
  3. http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/tc/sjogrens-syndrome-topic-overview
  4. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching
  5. http://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-04-2012/medications-that-can-cause-sexual-dysfunction.html
  6. http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/vaginal-dryness-causes-moisturizing-treatments#1
  7. https://www.everydayhealth.com/vaginal-dryness/guide/
  8. http://www.thebreastcaresite.com/chemotherapy/hormonal-changes-chemotherapy/
  9. https://smokefree.gov/quitting-smoking/reasons-quit/health-effects

Will High Cholesterol Cause Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

High cholesterol alone is not thought to cause erectile dysfunction, but plaque-clogged arteries can, because blood flow is essential to an erection, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

“High cholesterol is atherogenic [causes atherosclerosis] and can cause erectile dysfunction on that basis,” says Seth J. Baum, MD, president of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology and director of women’s preventive cardiology at the Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Florida. “When we see patients with ED, we have to consider not only cholesterol disorders, but also that other parts of the body might be afflicted with atherosclerotic plaque. The heart, lower extremities, and brain are the areas we typically examine to look for such disease.”

For the full article click here.

Have Pride for Good Health: Why You Should Start Wearing More Color

Prode Colors

At FemmePharma, we believe that equality starts with health: good physical and mental wellbeing of marginalized peoples is fundamental to ending oppression. While our focus typically lies on women’s health, June is LGBTQ pride month, so we’d like to take the opportunity to stand in solidarity with this fellow minority group that faces medical biases and consequential healthcare disparities. We’re breaking out our rainbow wardrobe and wearing it proudly!

We’ve Come a Long Way…

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) listed homosexuality as a disorder until 1973 and transgender as one until 2013 (at which point it changed the pejorative gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria). These clinical changes reflect the larger cultural shift towards greater acceptance of the LGBTQ community that is currently taking place in the West. But a combination of “legal factors, social discrimination, and lack of culturally-competent health care” still unfortunately impacts the quality of care, access to care, and health-related decisions of LGBTQ individuals. In other words, sociocultural marginalization affects a person’s health – a lot.

 And Have A Long Way Yet to Go

There are no LGBT*-specific diseases; however, members of this community are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to experience certain medical conditions and hardships. For example, members of this population are less likely to have health insurance coverage (either through a job or partner), seek medical attention when necessary, or rate their overall health as very good to excellent. Some of the other top health concerns are:

  • Mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts
  • Unhealthy body weight and body image
  • Illicit drug, tobacco, and alcohol abuse
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Criminal and intimate partner violence

When a person is ostracized, criticized, and terrorized because of components of their innate self, it has a profound impact on all areas of life – not the least of which being health and wellness. As a culture, we need to continue fostering acceptance, understanding, and kindness. To reduce healthcare disparities, we need to grow the medical knowledge and data available about and for the LGBTQ community to better serve their healthcare needs. And as LGBTQ individuals wait for society to catch up to them, they can continue caring for their own wellbeing by finding doctors they trust, friends and counselors on which they can rely, and communities in which they can flourish.

So why not join us in wearing a little more rainbow this month, to show off your support for LGBTQ Pride? You’ll not only be supporting a civil rights movement, but helping out the health and wellness of others as well.

*Due to lack of medical research involving queer individuals, the Q is not included in this section.

Resources

http://www.glaad.org/publications/pridekit

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/04/gender-dysphoria-dsm-5_n_3385287.html

http://www.lgbthealtheducation.org/wp-content/uploads/12-054_LGBTHealtharticle_v3_07-09-12.pdf

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/report/2009/12/21/7048/how-to-close-the-lgbt-health-disparities-gap/

http://www.lgbtagingcenter.org/resources/pdfs/TopHealthIssuesforLGBTPopulationsKit.pdf

 

 

 

 

What Does It Feel Like to Use the Wrong Bathroom?

BathroomMeredith Russo, in her compelling New York Times Op-Ed piece What It Feels Like to Use the Wrong Bathroom, writes about her experience of doing something as a transgender woman that many of us take for granted: using the restroom while at work. She describes the day she came in to work for the first time dressed as a woman. It was 2013 and she was working at a call center:

Things went well at first, with co-workers taking it in stride and customers reading my voice as female, but then one of my bosses demanded to speak with me.
She wanted to talk about bathrooms.
“Have you had the surgery?” she asked. (Have you ever talked about your genitals with a superior at work? It’s not exactly a party.) I told her no. “Well, then, you’ll have to use the men’s until you do. We can’t risk a lawsuit.”
I headed to the men’s room, where I waited for the solitary stall to open up. I considered going all punk rock, hiking up my skirt at a urinal and flipping off any man who looked at me funny. But there is probably no meeker creature on earth than a newly transitioned woman.
The man who emerged from the stall looked at me as if I were a jug of spoiled milk. I waited on the toilet until the bathroom was empty again, but as soon as I started washing my hands, another man entered. He looked at me for a long time and then made a beeline for the urinal next to the sink, inches away from me, his stare never breaking.
There was a lot of turnover at this job, so every two weeks a fresh batch of employees seemed to come in. This meant that every two weeks new men would come into the bathroom, assume they’d accidentally entered the women’s room when they saw me there, and then glare at me when they figured it out. Some insisted that I was in the wrong place — until they realized what I was, and got really angry. It got so bad that I stopped going to the bathroom at work altogether, and I developed urinary tract infections. So then I stopped drinking water before and during work.

Russo is from Tennessee, where the law does not currently bar her from using the women’s restroom. Law aside, however, she lived in fear of being fired for disobeying her employer’s wishes, choosing to instead jeopardize her health. Eventually, she found a way to leave the situation altogether:

After a year, a book deal let me quit my job to write full time. Nobody can harass me for using my own bathroom. In many ways, I have it easier than others: I’m white, and I sort of pass when I’m wearing makeup. I haven’t been assaulted or raped, a common experience for trans people.
That doesn’t mean it’s not still an issue when I have to use a public restroom. The fear is still there — that someone will take offense, get angry and attack me, or that I’ll be made to leave a business, that I’ll be accused of sexual misconduct, arrested and sent to men’s jail.
That’s the main thing I wish the supporters of these laws would realize: We are much more frightened of you than you are of us.

You can read more by Russo in her young adult novel “If I Was Your Girl” and find the full text of the article excerpted above here.

Planned Parenthood is much more than just Abortion!

Planned ParenthoodIn a statement presidential candidate Jeb Bush made recently, (and later redacted), he said, “The next president should defund Planned Parenthood.” He also went on to say, “I’m not sure we need a half-billion dollars for women’s health issues.” Mr. Bush’s definition of women’s health falls into the ‘good old boys’ mentality solely focused on reproduction. Sadly, he is not alone.

He further went on to equate women’s health with abortion, failing to see the broader needs of women, thus further downplaying the role Planned Parenthood plays in helping women. Other candidates such as Huckabee, Cruz and Fiorina, who vigorously support defunding of Planned Parenthood, raised similar opinions in the recent Republican debates. Governors Christie, Bush and Kasich all proclaimed their prior actions to defund the agency in their respective states. Senator Cruz, in a clear political grandstand, is threatening to close down the government unless Planned Parenthood is defunded. The actions of many politicians, although swaddled in moral and religious justification, are clearly motivated to gain favor of a large segment of the American population who still have not come to terms with a woman’s right to manage her reproductive health.

Many of our leaders experience tunnel vision when it comes to the definition of women’s health. Bush again mistakenly targets Planned Parenthood when he states, “Abortion should not be funded by the government.” Huckabee has taken an extremist anti-abortion view stating recently that a 10-year-old child who was raped by her stepfather should be denied access to an abortion. A large number of our elected politicians, both Republican and Democrat, support the concept of not using federal funding for abortion services. They should all be fully aware of the Hyde Amendment, which already prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, except in cases of incest or rape. Thus, whatever federal assistance Planned Parenthood receives currently does not cover abortion services.

In Bush’s amended statement designed to clarify his original statements on funding for Planned Parenthood he said that he was referring to the $500 million in funding that goes to an organization that “…was callously participating in the unthinkable practice of selling fetal organs.” He was referring to a heavily edited video of Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the donation of fetal tissue for scientific research to develop treatments for a variety of clinical conditions. The problem with his statements is that they focus on only one aspect of the services Planned Parenthood provides and ignore many others.

Politicians feel free to target Planned Parenthood solely for political gain with minimal concern for the women they affect. Why is women’s health always reduced to just reproductive conditions? Unfortunately, by the nature of its edict, Planned Parenthood addresses many of the reproductive and gynecological needs of women and doing so limits the definition of women’s health. This narrow definition of women’s healthcare serves to ignore the broader needs of women. A variety of medical conditions such as endometriosis, breast cancer, mastalgia are exclusive female disorders which have a significant impact on women, but others such as depression, urinary incontinence and various autoimmune diseases disproportionately affect women. Where are these needs being addressed?

Currently, 79% of Planned Parenthood clients are at or below the poverty level. In 2012 alone, they provided services for 3 million people. So beyond abortion, what do these services actually entail?

STD Testing

STD testing and treatment accounts for 41 percent of the PPH services, including testing for HIV. Without affordable, accessible clinics like this, many of these diseases would go untreated, spread and potentially take lives.

Contraception

Affordable contraception is the next biggest service that PPH provides, accounting for 34 percent of their total services. This includes birth control, emergency contraception and vasectomies – it does not include abortions. Sadly, getting birth control still isn’t easy, especially if you’re a teen. Without affordable contraception, unplanned pregnancies and STDs would become an even bigger issue than it already is.

Cancer Screening and Prevention

PPH offers this: Cancer screening and prevention equals 10 percent of their total services. That includes everything from PAP tests to breast care to colposcopy procedures to LOOP/LEEP procedures. These services get expensive fast if you don’t have decent health insurance even with Obamacare.

Other Services

The remaining 1 percent of other services that PPH Services provides includes areas such as adoption referrals, urinary tract infection treatments and other family practice services. Additional funding for PPH or other similar organizations would allow for expansion of these non-reproductive services to better meet the needs of women.

Now that you know the extent of services that are provided by Planned Parenthood, you understand why broad statements such as those made by ill-informed politicians concerning defunding women’s healthcare can be seriously detrimental. Women’s health goes well beyond contraception and planning to become a parent. We need to enlarge the definition based on what we know of women’s diseases and disorders.  Let’s imagine for a moment changing the name and focus of Planned Parenthood to WHC Services and then examine the breath of services it would provide beyond reproduction. Expansion into women specific conditions such as endometriosis and mastalgia would be possible through adequate funding. Areas that are not thought of as typically women’s diseases but have a higher prevalence in women such as metabolic diseases like diabetes, depression, and services for those living with autoimmune diseases could also be addressed.

It is critical that we change the nature of the conversation and clarify what constitutes services for women and women’s health. Without funding to keep these services affordable and accessible, as well as expand their range,

The dictionary defines a woman as “a female adult” and a female as “ denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs”. It is time that we stop using the terms as if they are interchangeable!

Transgender FAQ: Everything You Were Afraid to Ask!

Transgender Symbol

If you’re like me and every other self-respecting pop-culture fanatic out there, you were glued to the Diane Sawyer interview with Bruce Jenner this past April. It seemed too good to be true: the world-renowned athlete turned reality star turned… woman? Surely, this was some kind of publicity stunt to further the Kardashian brand.

But as the interview unfolded, it became clear that this was the real deal. Bruce (now Caitlyn) was just a guy who felt completely and utterly misunderstood his entire life, and finally did something about it – hopefully to the benefit of others like him.

I felt bad about putting her story on the same level as a Real Housewives plot line. I also had a zillion questions.

Here’s a few of the most commonly asked questions about transgender folks.

What exactly is transgender?

Someone who is transgendered does not self-identify with their assigned sex. And while we’re at it, gender and sex are two different things. Sex is determined by your genitalia, but your sex doesn’t determine your gender. Your gender is your self-identity. When your gender and sex don’t match up, you’re trans.

Does this mean all transgender people are gay or lesbian?

Nope. Diane Sawyer seemed to have some trouble with this one in the Bruce Jenner interview. But as Bruce stated, he is still attracted to women and his own gender-identity does not affect that.

Do all transgender people eventually get gender-reassignment surgery?

Not all of them. This is a very personal choice, like any surgery. Some people opt to medically transition to another sex, but plenty of others decide against it.

Are transgender people mentally ill?

While many transgender people do suffer from gender dysmorphia (a state of emotional distress that happens as a result of the dissatisfaction associated with your assigned sex), trans people aren’t mentally ill. Each case is different. Like the rest of us, not all trans people share the same experiences or make the same choices.

What kinds of issues do transgender people have?

41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide, in comparison to the 1.6 percent of the rest of the population. 78 percent of transgender grade school children face harassment and 35 percent face physical assault. Needless to say, depression and bullying are huge issues in the trans community.

Can’t they just… stop being transgender?

It doesn’t work that way. Imagine if you had to stop being yourself – meaning you had to give up your interests, your mannerisms and even the way you dress. You can’t just flip a switch and stop being you. If you tried, you’d likely end up extremely unhappy. That’s a big part of the struggle of identifying as trans.

What can I do to help?

Check out GLAAD’s exhaustive list of resources, including suicide prevent hotlines. Think before you speak. Don’t make assumptions about anyone! For even more information on this topic go to GLADD’s FAQ page.

Do you or someone you know identify as transgender? Share with us in the comments!

What Constitutes Rape?

Rape, Girl

Lately, it seems rape is always a topic of debate. Year after year, especially as elections come closer, politicians say the “darndest” things. Todd Akin told us all about “legitimate rape.” Texas Representative Jody Laubenberg said how rape kits “clean out” a woman after intercourse. Richard Mourdock proposed that rape is just “what God intended.” The list goes on, but the message is clear: a woman’s body – and her rights to ownership of it – are always under debate.

Going beyond ownership of body, now ownership of a woman’s experience with rape or traumatic sexual violence is coming under fire. Recently, an article published on The Washington Post deliberated one writer’s view on what constitutes rape. Basically, she drew a very hard line on what defined rape, citing anything else simply as “bad behavior.”

Let’s look at the definition of rape. According to Merriam-Webster, rape is “unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent.” A secondary definition cites rape as “an outrageous violation.”

RAINN, or the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, gives us three questions to ask when discussing rape: Are the participants old enough to consent? Do both people have the capacity to consent? Did both participants agree to take part?

The answer to all of these questions should be a resounding yes.

The writer opens her article with a few examples of unwanted sexual interaction: “And the time I told a man, ‘Look, I’m not going to sleep with you,’ and it was taken as, ‘Try again in a couple of hours.’ He did, and it worked.” Not rape, she claims – just “despicable behavior.” But, shouldn’t that be one and the same? Isn’t that an outrageous violation – of trust, of control over a body that you don’t own?

To repeat: consensual sex (and good sex, I would say) should have a clear, definitive yes from all parties involved. No threats – physical, emotional or verbal. No persuasion. No cajoling. No trying again after a no was given.

Just yes.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

In Perspective: Contraceptive Use and Brain Cancer Risk?

Brain Cancer Contraceptive

Do oral contraceptives increase the risk of brain cancer in women between the ages of 15 to 49? It’s been all over news with headlines reported by the media, which proclaim, “ hormonal contraceptives are linked to brain cancer”. Although there have been a number of studies examining the potential link between reproductive factors, and an increase in certain types of brain cancer in women, thus far they have been inconclusive. However, the latest study, a Danish registry of women that examined use of oral contraceptives and their potential to increase the risk of brain cancer, became the centerpiece for media hype.

We recommend women examine the facts to place all such studies into the proper perspective by understanding the information presented and what it means to YOU.

Here are the facts translated for convenience:

  1. What was the form of study?

Answer: Data was drawn from Denmark’s national and administrative health registries. “A registry is a collection of information about individuals, usually focused around a specific diagnosis or condition. Registries collect information about people who have a specific disease or condition, while others seek participants of varying health status who may be willing to participate in research about a particular disease. Individuals provide information about themselves to these registries on a voluntary basis. Registries can be sponsored by a government agency, nonprofit organization, health care facility, or private company.” (Source: National Institutes of Health, 2014)

  1. Who were the individuals studied?

Answer: Women in Denmark between the ages of 15 and 49 who had a first time diagnosis of glioma

“Glioma is a common type of primary brain tumor, accounting for about 33% of these tumors. Gliomas originate in the glial cells in the brain. Glial cells are the tissue that surrounds and supports neurons in the brain.

Gliomas are called intrinsic brain tumors because they reside within the substance of the brain and often intermix with normal brain tissue.

There are different grades of gliomas; however, they are most often referred to as “low-grade” or “high-grade” gliomas. The low or high-grade designation reflects the growth potential and aggressiveness of the tumor.

There is no obvious cause of glioma. This type of brain tumor affects all ages, but is more common in adults. Gliomas are slightly more common in men than in women and more common in Caucasian people than in African-American people.” (Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine, Department of Neurology and Neuroscience)

  1. What was the duration of this study?

Answer: The data reviewed was for the period from 2000 to 2009.

  1. What were the results?

Answer: The examination of data uncovered 317 cases of glioma and aged-matched them with women who did not have glioma.

  1. What can be concluded from the examination of this data?

Here is what one of the principal investigators concluded:

“While we found a statistically significant association between hormonal contraceptive use and glioma risk, a risk-benefit evaluation would still favor the use of hormonal contraceptives in eligible users,” says Dr. Gaist, who points out that it is important to carry on evaluating long-term contraceptive use in order to help women choose the best contraception for them.”

For more information on contraceptive use, consult a qualified physician in your area. And, please weigh all the facts.

January Is Cervical Health Awareness Month

cervical health month

Now that 2015 has settled in, you’ve had some time to think about your resolutions. If you’re like me, you’ll remain in a crazed getting-stuff-done mode for a solid month before forgetting completely about your healthy new choices the second a new season of Black Mirror hits Netflix. (Seriously, it’s an amazing show.) But don’t lose that momentum! January happens to be Cervical Health Awareness Month, so now is the perfect time to focus on you.

Why Cervical Health?

The whole idea behind Cervical Health Awareness Month is to draw attention to women’s health and the need to keep up with your regular wellness visits. So if you’re overdue for a gyno visit, now is the time to make one. These are pretty important for a lot of reasons, and two of the most important ones related to Cervical Health Awareness Month are to prevent HPV and cervical cancer.

What’s HPV?

You’ve probably heard a lot about HPV in recent years, especially with the advent of the HPV vaccine. HPV is a super common sexually transmitted disease that is a major cause of cervical cancer. About 79 million Americans have HPV, and many don’t even know it. HPV is often symptomless, so those who have it often don’t know until they’re tested for cervical cancer.

Sometimes HPV will result in genital warts, but for the most part it’s hard to detect without a proper test.

What About Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is mostly caused by HPV. It happens when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control. Without treatment, it can spread and affect the uterus, lymph nodes and other pelvic organs. Some of the symptoms of cervical cancer include painful sex, vaginal bleeding and discharge. The good news is that it’s totally treatable if it’s found early – so all the more reason to get tested for HPV sooner rather than later.

What Can I Do?

Make that gyno appointment – STAT! Considering that healthcare reform covers most wellness visits and cervical cancer screenings, you have no excuse not to. The HPV vaccine is another option you may want to discuss with your doctor. Finally, you can encourage your friends to do the same. The more people who are screened, the less chance that HPV has to spread even more.

Are you scheduling your wellness appointment for Cervical Health Awareness Month? Let us know in the comments!

Early Puberty: More Than Just One Step Ahead

iStock_000004649408Medium copy

Many kids today get things a lot earlier than I did growing up. Six-year-olds have iPads. Ten-year-olds use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – better than most adults, I might add. I imagine that, in the future, toddlers will be texting each other from their iPhones.

Technology isn’t the only thing that kids are acquiring earlier; girls are beginning puberty at earlier ages. For young girls, puberty is a process that usually takes two years and involves three distinct milestones: the emergence of breasts, the appearance of pubic hair, and their first menstrual period. According to a study done in 2010, by age 7, the development of breasts had started for 10% of Caucasian girls, 23% of Black or African American girls, 15% of Hispanic girls, and 2% of Asian girls.

Scientists and doctors agree that age seven is early for girls to start puberty; however, they can’t always come together on the issue of normalcy. When is it precocious puberty and when is it just considered ahead of the curve? In addition, what’s causing it?

At this point, doctors cannot identify an exact cause to the sudden drop in age. However, doctors recognize a few factors that may lead to early puberty:

  • Weight is important. Girls who are overweight have higher levels of the hormone leptin and are therefore more likely to enter puberty earlier than thinner girls. Exercise is one practice that doctors recommend for prevention.
  • Environmental chemical exposure is concerning as estrogen mimics can alter puberty timing as they behave like steroid hormones.
  • Family stress has been connected to early puberty. Girls who grow up without a father are twice as likely to enter puberty at a younger age. In addition, maternal depression and growing up in poor countries have affected the times in which girls enter puberty.

The onset of puberty is overwhelming – both for young girls and their parents. The best thing for parents to do in instances of precocious puberty is simply be honest with your daughters. Consult your pediatrician and possibly a pediatric endocrinologist for medical guidance.

Your daughter will be experiencing a lot of changes and she may feel frightened or anxious – and she will need your hand to hold through it all.