The Male Birth Control Pill: It’s About Time, or is It?

Photo courtesy of Gnarls Monkey

In our society women are given a larger share of reproductive responsibility than men.  This might make sense to many because men can’t get pregnant.  So, it’s logical to make a woman the gatekeeper of her reproductive health, right?

Yes and no.

Throughout history and across cultures, giving women access to safe methods of contraception have been a good thing.  Contraception afforded women more control over when to start a family in pursuit of careers, and education.  It also prevented forced or unwanted pregnancy.

Young Western women, such as myself, tend to forget that contraception wasn’t always a choice (and still isn’t depending on where you live).  But maybe this amnesia is a good indication that our society has far progressed past viewing women primarily as baby makers.

On the flip side.  We’ve far progressed past viewing women primarily as baby makers.  Two people are responsible for every baby expelled out of a vagina.  TWO! That baby is a whole lot of pressure and responsibility for just one woman.  True it’s feasible to raise a child a la one, but it’s not pretty.

As more dads are choosing to be stay-at-home caregivers and it’s becoming socially acceptable to assume men will be (close to) equally involved parents, it’s timely that the male contraceptive has arrive.  So now men and women can share reproductive responsibilities.

One would hope…

Yesterday, I was disappointed to hear a morning radio discussion between the male and female hosts about the new male Pill.  The conversation went something like this:

Female host: How cool is this male Pill?  For years we’ve had to medicate and be responsible about not getting knocked up.  It needs a fun catchy name.

Male host: I don’t think it’s a good idea necessarily.  I mean guys are so irresponsible as it is.  We can’t even remember to take out the trash let alone a daily pill.

The female host got sidetracked and obsessed about giving it a good name.  However, she did mention that like female contraceptives, the male version will have many options to “get it” such as a shot, gel, patch, or implant.  This MSNBC article talks a bit more about it.

There’s truth to the fact that all men won’t be responsible enough to take the Pill or get their monthly injections.  And there’s also the reality that men tend to visit doctors offices less than women and have a stronger aversion to medicating.  But women also forget sometimes too.  Or as one radio caller said “husbands have to watch out ’cause their wives will secretly stop taking the pill to trap you.” But men can’t get knocked up.  Ever.  So until our society’s men are viewed to have an equally great responsibility over bringing babies into this world, there’s more incentive for women to control their fertility than men.

Pushing the male contraceptive forward is a definitely a step in the right equalizing direction.  Some women might say “no way guys can’t be trusted” and some guys can’t.  But as long as we say that, it will remain a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ambiguity Over Breast Cancer Awareness Month

My good friend Luana playing a trivia game for cancer awareness month.

Every October I think about my late mother.  It’s partly because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and my mother passed away from breast cancer. But the larger reason is it’s her birthday this month.  The influx of pink ribbons, breast cancer campaigns, and happy birthday commercials sung by Justin Bieber (sponsored by the American Cancer Society) swarm me with reminders that we won’t be eating cake together.

I would seem like the perfect candidate to join the fight against breast cancer campaign given my personal story and my professional background in public health, but I feel ambiguous about the fight.  Maybe it’s my aversion to the color pink?

I’ve participated in my share of cancer walks and fundraisers but never, at those events, have I felt bright or hopeful that progress was being made.

Don’t get me me wrong.  The money raised for cancer awareness, research, advocacy, and support is invaluable and progress has been made. More people know about breast cancer screening, scientists can conduct their studies to learn more about the disease, and survivors and their families have support and resources which may not have existed a few decades ago.

So why the ambiguous feelings, perhaps even doubt?

For one thing I can’t get over the big picture catastrophe of cancer in our society and how we approach the solution.  Apart from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and one of the leading causes of death from cancer.  An estimated one out of eight women will have breast cancer in their lifetime and almost 200,000 women a year are diagnosed with it.

There’s little more devastating to a family than watching someone you love weaken to the point where they can’t feed or dress themselves, wipe their own asses, and for some, lose the fight.  In my family, a single-mom household, my sister, brother, and I had to grow up quickly and make peace with the situation.  For me, making peace is still a work in progress, perhaps for rest of my life.

I’m far from being alone.  Too many of my friends’ families have shared similar and unfortunate experiences.  I’m sure you also know a friend or two.

Cancer is just too damn common.  At my most recent race for a cure event, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the sea of pink t shirts with signs written on everyone’s backs reading “I’m walking for/running for/in memory of…” There was an air of celebration, support, and fight.  But the message and the atmosphere of these campaigns are confusing.  There’s nothing celebratory about the overwhelming number of people with cancer.  And why are we so focused on finding a cure?  It’s way less painful (for the individual and society) to focus on prevention.

Not to be a Debbie Downer but isn’t walking for a cure one step too late?  Are we setting ourselves up for more disappointment when we put our hopes and dollars to find the all encompassing cure, that may not come in time for your loved one?

Among professionals in public health, we share a common frustration.  Our focus is predominantly on preventing illness and mitigating the ones that exist.  This is different from the more popular medical model which tends to focus on diagnosing illnesses and finding a cure.  Good prevention is like society’s unsung hero because it’s hard to see its efforts.  While it’s much easier to notice and react to waves of people getting sick. As a society we’re partial to letting situations get really bad then then trying to find a quick fix solution.  Dare I mention the economy, diabetes, or childhood obesity?

Imagine soliciting money from people for the “run for a disease we may never get” event.  Not too sexy.  After watching my mother battle cancer, I rather pour money and run millions of miles  for this kind of event.  Of course a cure would have been nice but one didn’t exist for her.  Also, I would much prefer to have never changed out bowls of vomit from chemotherapy, or to see my mom waste away and go bald.  Any day!

I don’t want to hold my breath for a cure to come because cancer is complicated.  Our risks for cancer are affected by age, race, income, sex, education, genes, environment, food consumption, lifestyle, attitude, etc.  Success in overcoming cancer are similarly influenced by these factors.

But we do know that risk can be reduced by eating well, regularly exercising, reducing stress, not smoking or drinking too much, and generally leading a healthy lifestyle.  But this isn’t always easy to do.  Our society praises those who work hard and long hours leaving little time and energy for leisure and physical activity.  We also tend to over-consume heavily processed foods because that’s what’s readily available and marketed to us.  And some of us can’t help living next to a landfill or in a smog filled city.

I still believe that cancer foundations and organizations are necessary.  We need the support, we need the advocacy, and we definitely need the research.  I just feel that prevention and reducing cancer risk deserves equal effort, money, research, advocacy, and attention, if not more.

No cure was available to my mother, and as we speak millions are fighting the fight with no steadfast solution.  There’s a strong need and urgency for a cure, no doubt.  But what are we going to do to significantly reduce this need for a cure?  I leave you with an Obama quote from his presidential campaign.

We all know the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But today we’re nowhere close to that ounce. We spend less than four cents of every health care dollar on prevention and public health even though eighty percent of the risk factors involved in the leading causes of death are behavior-related and thus preventable.

Eat Local Challenge Part 2

Farmers' market photo courtesy of NatalieMaynor

Eating locally-grown food is appropriately called a challenge because it’s admittedly more difficult to do than I anticipated.  For one, I’m a picky eater with limited time to grocery shop and prepare food.  Fortunately I enjoy fruits and most vegetables, both of which are easily found in the “locally-grown” category.  What’s not easily found around me are sources of protein and grains.  In fact rice, a local staple isn’t even grown here in Hawaii.

Another reason why this challenge has been challenging is because I didn’t do my homework on where I can find the local version of foods I eat.  Take chicken for example.  I just assumed Whole Foods or the local farmers’ market would have local chicken available.  Well they don’t.  Rumor has it that, it is possible to buy locally raised chicken but I never took the time to find out where to buy it, when the vendor is open, how far would I have to drive to pick it up, etc.  Same goes for eggs.

I also didn’t psychologically prepare to give up foods that simply might not be available to me.  This is a big one because the idea of food restriction doesn’t come easily to me.  I’ve rarely felt the need to restrict anything I enjoy eating.  (My exception was when I couldn’t eat wheat for a few month because I was having mild reactions to it.  It was miserable.)  Depending on your relationship with food, this aspect of the eat local challenge may not be an issue.

My last and biggest obstacle with this challenge is I failed to get my fiance on board.  He’s easy going enough that if I came home with a bag full of locally grown produce (which I did last Sunday) he’ll eat it and won’t ask about the Tater Tots.  But I need more support than that.  It’s important that he helps me stay on track when that loaf of french bread from California is saying “wouldn’t I taste good with Nutella?” or when I’m too tired to cook, the frozen pizza all of a sudden looks like a healthy option if I bought the vegetarian one.  It didn’t take much to convince my fiance that this challenge would be good for us.  But it’ll take much more effort convincing him to care enough to take action with me.

Needless to say, my performance with this eat locally-grown food challenge isn’t going so well.  But I’m still committed to it for the long haul, especially since I’ll be feeding an entire family one day.  I want to make sure our healthy eating habits start now.

On the flip side, there’s limited (if any) evidence to show that an imported tomato (or grape, or zucchini) is more nutritious than one grown within a 100 mile radius from your home, however, economically it’s better to keep those dollars within the community.  Purchasing locally grown food also means there’s less need for preservatives and genetically modified organisms designed to ripen on route to your grocery store.  Local food is also less likely to be produced from large factories containing lots of processed ingredients, refined sugars, sodium, and trans fats.  So in that sense eating locally produced food is healthier.

So I have lots of homework: 1. Find out what’s actually available around me; 2. Figure out the accessibility of these vendors; 3.Assess how willing I am to modify my lifestyle; 4. Propagate pro local food information into my fiance’s head!

A friend once told me “I’ll only eat what I feel comfortable killing.” Under this parameter, the only meat she ate was fish.  Sharing her sentiment for respecting the food we consume, there’s something encouraging and “feel good” about eating food purchased directly from the farmer who grew it or better yet the food we’ve grown ourselves.  Anything to encourage me and others to eat more fresh produce is a plus regardless of whether the jury is still out about if it’s actually healthier apple for apple.

Eat Local Challenge Part 1

Local fruits sold at Whole Foods

Going green has become the new black.  Not only is sustainability trendy, it’s a necessity if we have any desire to leave the next few generations a world they can live in.  For today’s post I’m going to pick on one particular issue under the larger umbrella of disastrous crimes against mother earth.

Food consumption in America.

This issue is tricky because we all need to eat.  Modern conveniences has afforded most of us food accessibility and food options beyond imagination.  We are free to pursue careers and work jobs outside of a one acre radius from our homes because we no longer spend our days tending and harvesting crops for our family and community.  I acknowledge the value  and role in which modern agricultural practices enable the lives we live today.

However, what’s the price of this lifestyle on our environment?

Our nation’s hearty appetite for cattle means that more land is used to raise beef.  More cattle means more methane released into the atmosphere adding to the greenhouse affect.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

…the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.

Livestock reportedly uses some 30% of the world’s land surface.  Meat production also requires energy and water.  The Sierra Club asserts that,

16 pounds of wheat and up to 2,500 gallons of water are necessary to produce one pound of grain-fed beef. Cattle production also consumes large amounts of fossil fuels – about a gallon of gasoline per pound of beef – and produces water pollution.

Grains, fruits, and vegetables are environmental culprits as well, especially when we eat out of season and out of region produce.  Non-organic produce uses harmful pesticides and chemicals in the soil and on the food itself.  Also, shipping that mango to New York from the Philippines leaves a significant carbon footprint, adding to greenhouse gases.

Buying local reduces your carbon footprint

The Eat Local Challenge

Kanu Hawaii, a local non-profit dedicated to sustainability and community compassion launched an “Eat Local Challenge” today with the goal of getting 2,000 Kanu Hawaii members to eat locally-grown food for seven days (September 26 – October 2).  Alternatives to this challenge included eating local for a day, allocating 10% of your food budget to local foods, learning about candidates views on food policies for the upcoming election, and organizing a local food only potluck among many other ideas.

I’m taking on parts of this challenge (eating locally-grown foods for a day and allocating 10% of my grocery budget to local produce) to help reduce the environmental impact of living a modern life.  Eating locally will also help me eat more healthy, which I’ll talk about in the follow up post.

So far I’ve been grocery shopping once.  I’m happy to report everything I bought, except for free-range chicken was 100% locally-grown.  I didn’t buy much though.  Just a mango, half a pound of ahi, fresh salsa, buk choy, flat beans, and apple bananas.  This is also what I plan to eat tonight.

It was challenging to buy food for the week.  Considering where I live (Hawaii), it was disappointing to see how little food I could buy with these restrictions.  Luckily organizers of this Eat Local Challenge have put together resources on where to buy locally and have also partnered with various restaurants to highlight where in their menu, locally-grown produce is being used.

What do you think of the Eat Local Challenge?  How easily could you pull it off?  If you’re already doing something similar please share your thoughts and tips.

Happy eating everyone.

Work-Life Balance

Labor day weekend is approaching and for many (myself included) this means barbecuing, hanging out with family and friends, and most importantly NOT going into the office on Monday.  As a national day of observance for workers in America (and Canada), what does it mean to be a laborer in 2010?

In my most recent trip to Toronto, a few weeks ago,, the Canadian equivalent of the job search engine, was conducting street interviews about today’s work climate.

Standing at one of the busiest corners of downtown Toronto (Bloor and Yonge) waiting for my lunch date, the reporter and crew spotted me for a potential sound bite.  I must have looked particularly career oriented with my shorts, tank top, flip flops, sunglasses, and backpack look.  Or I was just the low hanging fruit among rushed businessmen and women on their breaks.

My post today is about the questions they asked and how they made me reflect on work-life balance well after the interview.

Going by memory, below are some of the questions and my reponses.  Feel free to comment on how you would have responded.

Q: Do you feel there is a shortage of jobs in your field?

A: No.  I work in public health.  If anything there’s a shortage of workers in my field.

How secure do you feel in your job?

A: I feel pretty secure in my job since there aren’t too many people in my field compared to the public health jobs out there.

Q: Are you worried that there will be another recession?

A: I hope there won’t be another one but I’m not entirely sure this recession is over yet, especially looking at our current unemployment rates.

Q: As a young person, do you feel there is more pressure on you to work longer hours because your employers assume you don’t have other obligations like family?

A: I think there’s more pressure to work harder and longer because I’m a young woman who is thinking about family.  Women today have more pressure to do it all.  We still have to be the primary caregiver, take care of the household, and still bring home a lot of the income.  The pressure is to work harder in spite of everything else to prove we can keep up.

Q: What can employers do to support work-life balance?

A: Be more flexible and understanding of our obligations outside of work.  Office buildings should have gyms and day care centers to make working out and childcare really accessible.  These things would help make it easier to balance work and life.

Q: How willing are you to reduce your hours and pay or take a different job to maintain your work-life balance?

A: Very willing.  In fact most recently I took a pay cut to reduce my working hours.  But I was only able to do this with a really supportive partner who makes enough for me to do this temporarily.  Most people I assume are not in this position so I feel very fortunate.

High Heels: The Good, the Bad, the Sexy

My Favorite High Heel Shoes

My favorite pair of high heel shoes is an elixir for feminine transformation: Stitched together by thin black leather straps, small silver clasps, and four inch tall plastic heels.  Slipping on those stilettos instantly lengthens and slims the appearance of my legs, hoists me up to a 5’9” stature, and jolts me with a boost of confidence.

Of course, something this good has its down falls. Impractical and often painful to wear, high heels come with a dose of side effects.  However, this hasn’t fazed many women (and some men) from slipping on those sexy shoes.  Perhaps its benefits outweigh the risks, but how well do we know the risks?

A 2010 British study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that among the female participants who regularly wore high heels, their Achilles’ tendons were thicker and their calf muscles were 13 percent shorter.  These findings may explain why women who chronically wear high heels (compared to those who don’t) might experience discomfort wearing slippers or flats.

For those of us who wear high heels fewer than five days a week (which the women did in the British study) we face other risks.  Any shoe that elevates our heel changes the angle of our ankle joint making it unstable, decreasing its range of motion, and increasing our risk for falling or getting an ankle sprain.

According to Nicole Sullivan, a physiotherapist specializing in optimal movement strategies and sports medicine, high heel shoes disrupt a person’s walking pattern, or gait.

“Narrow shoes like stilettos don’t allow for splaying of the foot.  Its position is not optimal for absorbing ground reaction force (shock absorption from walking), which then impacts the knee, hip, and lower back,” say Sullivan.

What about those comfortable high heels?

Do you like the heels with a roomier toe box and a wider, softer, and moderately elevated heel?  According to a Harvard study published in The Lancet, these comfortable high heels may help reduce the risk for falls, ankle injuries, and feet deformities but has the same, if not increased, harmful effects on our knees.

High heels compromise the ankle’s normal function, forcing the knee and hip to compensate in order to maintain stability.  An earlier Harvard study published by the same author found that on average, there was a 23 percent greater force on the patellofemoral joint (where the knee cap joins the thigh bone) when wearing high heels versus going barefoot.  Prolonged pressure across this joint from extended high heel use may even contribute to degenerative joint changes.

Regardless of how comfortable our heels feel, if our shoes are elevated, stress is added to our ankles, knees, hips and muscles supporting them.  Many women tend to wear these wide heel dress shoes for longer periods of time and especially for work.  For this reason, comfortable high heels – while giving mercy to our feet – are equally, if not more risky, to our joints.

According to Sullivan, findings from all three studies could have been stronger because each study had only 20 participants and thus they were not conclusive.  Nevertheless, these studies can offer additional insight to how high heels can impact our body. “I wouldn’t say never wear high heels but people should try to wear shoes that allow for their most natural gait pattern and allows for comfort.”

Tips For High Heel Lovers to Protect you Feet and Legs: (From physiotherapist Nicole Sullivan)

  • Roll a tennis ball under your calf. Sitting on your buttocks, bend one knee and stretch out the other leg in front of you.  Place the tennis ball under the straight leg so your calf is resting on it.  Gently move your leg so the ball is rolling up and down the length of your calf.  Switch legs.
  • Calf stretch. Face the wall, put right toes against the wall, while your heel is on the ground.  Lean into the wall until you feel a gentle calf stretch.  Hold for 3-5 minutes. Switch feet.
  • Avoid regularly wearing any shoe impairing your natural or optimal walking stride.

The Need for Sociology of Sex and not Just Science to Explain (Female) Infidelity

Earlier this month TIME Magazine came out with an article about “cougar sex” and why women in their “middle years” age 27 – 45 reported having more sex than any other age group.  The story started out addressing one of my pet-frustrations justifying infidelity among men.

Men who cheat on their spouses have always enjoyed an expedient explanation: Evolution made me do it. Many articles (here is one, and here is another), especially in recent years, have explored the theory that men sleep around because evolution has programmed them to seek fertile (and, conveniently, younger) wombs.

The article then segues into a study about female sexuality using evolution to explain higher sexual gusto among women in between the ages of 27 through 45.  The article was interesting but like other “science of sex” type explanations for sexual behaviors, I was disappointed in its lack of social contextualization.

I’m sure the author only had limited word space but starting the article in the context of infidelity increased my expectation that the story would drive home the argument that women cheat too and here are the scientific reasons why.

The article’s analysis of the study is still interesting but I’m not sure what to make of how the author presented the study’s theory.

Our female ancestors would have grown accustomed to watching many of their children — perhaps as many as half — die of various diseases, starvation, warfare and so on before being able to have kids of their own. This trauma left a psychological imprint to bear as many children as possible. Becoming pregnant is much easier for women and girls in their teens and early 20s — so much easier that they need not spend much time having sex. (Read about cougar cruises.)

However, after the mid-20s, the lizard-brain impulse to have more kids faces a stark reality: it’s harder and harder to get pregnant as a woman’s remaining eggs age. And so women in their middle years respond by seeking more and more sex.

I’m probably disappointed because I wanted more discussion on the sociology of sex and infidelity within this article.  Here are some pressing questions and discussion points on my mind about the topic.  Please chime in on your thoughts.

  • Men who cheat don’t always cheat with young women.
  • Today’s woman has more autonomy, power, and travel opportunities.  How does that affect the cheating trend?
  • Unfortunately, women cheat too but there’s still more stigma attached to a woman cheating than a man.
  • In the monkey world, the alpha male goes around spreading his seed. This theory is sometimes used to explain male infidelity. But little is discussed about the female monkeys getting cozy with all the available beta monkeys.  Also, monkeys pick bugs out of each others’ hair and eat them.  I’ll leave it at that.
  • Depending on who you talk to, isn’t infidelity about more than sex?  Isn’t sex just the end product of cheating or a symptom of some larger personal issue?

When Expectations about Being a Parent Lead to Unhappiness

I want to tread (write) gently in today’s post about parenting expectations and happiness because I’m not a parent.  But my fiancé and I have been talking about having children lately.  A few friends have told me to “just worry about the wedding first” but I humbly disagree that talking about children is premature.

Not to trivialize the wedding, but it is just one day.  Our marriage and parenthood are permanent commitments and I want to be on the same page with my soon-to-be-husband about how we will function as a family and agree that our partnership is suited for children.

I tend to be a worst-case scenario type person due to my less than fairy-tale like upbringing, so I’m incredibly sensitive to what challenges couples today.

Along with money, children are right up there and naturally, I want to talk about it before we make that irreversible decision to have kids.

So far we’ve talked about our views on spanking, private versus public schools, financial burden, discipline techniques, sleepless nights, level of commitment to maintain a sexual and social life, and sharing parenting responsibilities.

We’re not trying to take the romance or experience out of parenthood, we just know that if we can’t work together on common challenges, there will be a lot of disappointment in our future.

So it’s no surprise that we gravitated towards the segment above, about parents loving their kids but being unhappy, that aired on the Today Show this morning.  What resonated was the kind of expectations couples place on parenthood to automatically bring happiness.

Watching this segment reminded me of weddings and young marriages.  So much of the focus and expectation is on love and romance.  Well there’s nothing romantic about fighting over dishes, arguing about changing the kitty litter, or stressing over balancing work, marriage, and a social life.  But these are the things couples negotiate throughout a partnership and romance doesn’t make it better.  It just confuses you into thinking there might be something wrong.

This parenting segment reminded me of a similar trend in our society to over-romanticize the awesomeness of marriage and now parenting.  It makes people feel guilty for saying less than amazing things about their experiences as husband/wife/dad/mom.  Just look at Charlotte from the Sex and the City movie.  She had to be drunk to admit her kids were driving her insane and that she cries alone in a closet.  I just made a SATC reference, which I know may reduce my credibility but there was an honest moment in that scene.

I don’t want to sound like an anti-romantic.  There’s so much value in the overwhelming love we have for our partners and children (for those who have kids.)  It supports us through those difficult moments.  It just shouldn’t be expected to do all the work and we should be careful about expecting it to make us happy.


Saying Goodbye

Today’s post is the product of a free writing exercise I did in a class last week.  The instructions were:

  • Write for 20 minutes without stopping
  • No editing, no going back and changing what you wrote
  • Theme: I will never forget…

With the exception of small edits like spelling, the text below is untouched.  I’m sharing this piece because I want to recommend letting your mind relax and seeing where a similar exercise takes you.  Reflecting on the piece, it reveals (some of) where I am in “letting go” of my mom.  Also sharing is caring 🙂


I will never forget the day my mother died.  She was 54 and I was just shy of my 21st birthday.  My sister, brother and I were taking turns at the hospital where my mother was in some in-between palliative care unit.  I had just finished my shift for the day.  I slept over the night before.  There were no beds so I made myself comfy on the floor next to her.  We had been doing this for over a month.  Breast cancer metastasized in the bones, brain & chest were the culprit.  Holy Shit!  My back was aching everyday at that point.  Not from sleeping on the floor but from tensing my body so tight fearing the moment my mom decides to go.  The tightness in my body pervasively ached to the center of my bone.  If you could see the fibers connecting the tissues of those bones, they would be aching too.  As a family we collectively lost the weight of a small child.  The nurses were all so kind to force us into getting food and rest.  But who can rest under circumstances like these?  Who has an appetite when their mother can hardly eat, pee or breathe on her own?  So I left that night and passed the responsibility of keeping my mom company to my sister.  About two hours later I got a call from my sister.  Words weren’t necessary.  Her silence and soft whimpering told me that she was gone.  My brother and I rushed back to the hospital before the warm blood could dissipate from her body.  By the time I got there, her hands were starting to get cold.  I’ve never seen nor touched a dead person before.  Let alone one who was my mom.  I felt so numb seeing her.  I lay over to give her my last kiss goodbye.  Her mouth was wide open, like an old man snoozing under the afternoon sun.  Except there was no warmth there.  I kissed her on the cheek and said “goodbye.”  The skin was cold at that point and I knew the road ahead was going to be just as hard as the road that brought me to the side of my mother’s deathbed.  It wasn’t fair.  Not for me but my brother.  He was only 14 at the time and we already didn’t have a dad.  A father yes but someone to call dad, no.  It’s not fair that my brother was stuck with me and my sister.  We never got along and now we were tasked to raise him.  Good god.  I would have run away at that point if I were him.  But no.  He remained the strongest out of the three of us.  He cried once, that night and exclaimed how unfair this was.  I’ve never heard another peep or another tear from him again.  My sister and I were clearly the emotional ones.

Birth Control Coverage: Why a Debate?

If I was writing this article exploring the debate over whether birth control should be in the health reform bill, I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of a debate.  Here’s why:

  • A woman’s right to choose preventative measures from unwanted pregnancy is between her and her body.
  • It has always been predominantly the woman’s responsibility to control our reproductive health.  The cost of that control can add up!
  • Unwanted pregnancies, especially among teenagers are a huge public health and economic problem in our society.
    • These babies are significantly more likely to be born prematurely, have more health conditions, do worse in school, more likely to be involved with crime, and more likely to be a teen mom themselves.
    • Teen moms are less likely to go to college, let alone finish high school keeping her job options limited.
  • Making birth control more accessible to women is fiscally responsible:
    • Teen moms with unwanted pregnancies are more likely, than moms planning their pregnancies, to chronically need social services like Medicaid, Social Security and Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (formerly known as food stamps), shouldered by tax payers.
    • Children of teenage mothers are also more likely to engage in criminal activities which burdens the justice system also shouldered by tax payers.
  • Most importantly, what happened to the division of religion and state?  However one wants to define the beginning of life is none of my business, nor anyone else’s.  But it becomes many women’s business when select conservative believers interject their values to prevent a policy that would benefit millions of women in this country.

I commend the article’s writer, Tracy Clark-Flory, for being less judgmental than I would have been towards those who oppose insurance companies covering contraceptives costs.

Target Heart Rate Changes for Women?

According to a New York Times blog, Well, researchers announced a new formula to calculate target heart rates specifically for women.  According to the blog post,

The commonly used formula subtracts a person’s age from 220. But based on the data collected in the Chicago study, the right formula for calculating a woman’s maximum heart rate is a little more complicated: 206 minus 88 percent of a woman’s age.

In the short run these findings are only important for women who workout or train in heart rate zones, using heart rate monitors.  In the long run, trainers and sport exercise experts will look at this new formula and adapt workouts accordingly.

Unless you’re a competitive athlete where it’s important to train in various aerobic thresholds, this new formula provides little contribution for the average exercising woman.  Exceptions would be for women who are recommended to exercise with heart rate monitors due to medical conditions.

As fun as it is to calculate and monitor your training zones, all this math is unnecessary to work up a good sweat.  There are enough barriers to getting women to workout such as time, money and confidence.  Making the physical experience of exercise more cerebral with new formulas convolutes the goal of movement.

206 – 88% of a woman’s age is another one-size-fits-all type of formula which won’t fit all women.  If you’re doing an aerobic exercise and you want to make sure you’re reaping aerobic benefits let me share a tip my exercise physiology teacher rigorously researched and preached to our class.

Do the “talk test.” While you’re jogging, walking, Zumba-ing, you shouldn’t be able to talk to someone with ease but you should be able to talk to them.  Sustain that moderate level of talking difficulty and you should be in your aerobic target zone.  Clearly a trained marathon runner would need to run faster than a couch potato the same age to benefit from aerobic training, which is another reason why I find this generic formula problematic.

If science and technology are important aspects of your exercise experience, you may find this blog post interesting.

An Interesting Blog Post About the Male Pill

I’m digging The Sexacademic’s blog.  The blogger’s most recent post opens up discussion about the Pill for men.  According to the post it was developed in Israel and is going through clinical trials.  The author debates whether we could trust men with the responsibility of taking the pill.  It’s hilarious and intriguing.

I left this comment on the post.

Well it’s about time someone came out with a male birth control pill.  I see both sides of the debate and we shouldn’t assume all men act the same when it comes to sexual responsibility, though sometimes I fail to see any differences in their behaviors.  With the male Pill, I like the added option of the guy being able to take some reproductive responsibility.

This won’t entirely alleviate the unequal duty women have over unwanted pregnancies but it seems like a decent step forward towards equalizing the onus between two people.

New Tanning Tax Starts Today

As part of the health care reform bill, starting today there is a 10% increase in fake and bake services.  Anytime taxes are raised, there are a handful of people up in arms.  This time it’s the tanning salon merchants and some patrons.

Like cigarette taxes, this tanning tax is justified by the direct relationship between tanning and skin cancer which drives up health care costs.  Skin cancer is labeled a woman’s health issue due to its high prevalence among women , especially those who are under 30 years old.  However, anyone can get skin cancer.

This tax will help finance programs in the health care reform bill and encourage behavior change.  I’m all for it!

Check out NBC’s news clip.

Condoms for Kindergartners – In Newsweek Blog

Here’s an interesting Newsweek blog post about a bad headline for a good sex ed policy.  The policy essential allows students (at any grade level) to get condoms from a school nurse if they are considering sexual activities.  Now before you start questioning whether this policy should be implemented in the schools of one Massachusetts town, read the post.

The blogger, Kate Daily, takes on many controversial questions that would arise with a policy like this.  For example, “Wouldn’t passing out condoms encourage kids to have sex?,” “No age limit? Elementary students aren’t having sex, are they?” “Isn’t it the parents’ job to educate their children about sex?”

Daily uses peer reviewed research and the CDC to back up her arguments.  I give her post an “A.”  Here’s a small quote to give you a sample,

As nice as it would be to think that all 11-year-olds, or 10-year-olds, or 13-year-olds, are immune from sexual pressure, that’s not the case: kids develop on different timelines, and kids date outside their age range. A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that more than 40 percent of middle-school students interviewed at one school dated someone two years older or more, and of those students (median age: 11 and a half), they were 30 times more likely to have had sex. And those are the kids most in need of the counseling provided by a caring adult.

Where’s My Period? Another Way to Look at Late Periods Besides Pregnancy

I use an app on my G1 called “My Days.”  It’s used to keep track of my period and ovulation, and can track anything else cycle-related such as having sex, taking a pill, or writing notes.  The app also projects period, ovulation, and high fertility dates based on previous months.

It’s a useful tool if you’re trying to get preggers or if you’re avoiding an “accident.”  I use My Days because keeping track of my cycle helps me stay in tune with my body’s rhythm.

Since November 2008, I’ve been tracking my period and every month I would have one.  I’d have roughly a 32 day cycle with the occasional one week delay here and there with the same pre-menstrual symptoms each time: tender breasts, fatigue, crankiness and heavy emotions.

According to my calendar, I was supposed to get my period seven days ago.  So where is it?  I’m almost certain I’m not pregnant, or the joke’s on me.

I recently read an old New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell called “John Rock’s Error.”  It’s a fascinating look into the unnatural evolution of our menstrual cycles and how we, as post-industrial women, have our periods roughly four times more in our lifetime than pre-industrial women.  John Rock was the co-inventor of the Pill and the article also discussed what he didn’t know about about woman’s health and menstruation.

As suggested in Gladwell’s piece,

In a brilliant and provocative book, “Is Menstruation Obsolete?,” Drs. Elsimar Coutinho and Sheldon S. Segal, two of the world’s most prominent contraceptive researchers, argue that this recent move to what they call “incessant ovulation” has become a serious problem for women’s health. It doesn’t mean that women are always better off the less they menstruate. There are times–particularly in the context of certain medical conditions–when women ought to be concerned if they aren’t menstruating: In obese women, a failure to menstruate can signal an increased risk of uterine cancer. In female athletes, a failure to menstruate can signal an increased risk of osteoporosis. But for most women, Coutinho and Segal say, incessant ovulation serves no purpose except to increase the occurrence of abdominal pain, mood shifts, migraines, endometriosis, fibroids, and anemia–the last of which, they point out, is “one of the most serious health problems in the world.”

The evolution of expecting our monthly periods is partly attributed to diet.  Our availability of certain high fat and high caloric foods have increase how often we have our period but also when we get our first period (menarche.)  Both early menarche and increased frequency of that time of the month have health consequences such as increased rates of reproductive cancers as the article discussed,

Ovarian and endometrial cancer are characteristically modern diseases, consequences, in part, of a century in which women have come to menstruate four hundred times in a lifetime.

I’m not a pre-industrial woman so having a late period is somewhat enerving.  But Gladwell’s article brings a different angle to our discussion on reproductive health and monthly cycles.  It’s well worth the read and I guarentee it’ll make you think about your own cycle, lifestyle, methods of contraception, and pregnancy just a little differently.