Happy Valentine’s Day!
I hope you are full of hearts (as my son says). This morning we had heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast and he brought a box of heart-shaped cookies for his preschool classmates. I made dozens of cakes and cupcakes and delivered them to other people’s sweeties around town. It’s a sweet day.
You know what else I love? Organizations that really advocate for women’s health. They deserve your love. They work hard on tiny budgets trying to do things like change Medicare eligibility and revise FDA guidelines for Plan B.
So this Valentine’s day, check out these fantastic organizations. Send them your money, forward the links to your friends, donate your time, subscribe to their mailing lists:
1. Breast Cancer Action. “The Bad Girls of Breast Cancer Activism.” They focus on environmental causes of cancer, refuse to be wooed by the empty promises of the pink ribbon, and create some really thought-provoking materials.
2. RH Reality Check. For when you want a dose of reality with your news about reproductive health.
3. National Women’s Health Network This one’s been around since the 70s and you don’t hear about them enough. They are always working on policy initiatives, and are a great resource for information about women’s health in general.
4. Big Push for Midwives A fantastic grassroots organization that is working tirelessly to pressure states to pass legislation that allows midwives to be certified and practice independently throughout the country.
5. The Mautner Project. Originally focused on providing resources and services to lesbians with cancer, this organization has expanded to address a wide range of health issues and is tailored specifically to the concerns and priorities of women who partner with women.
Share the love!
I don’t read too much non-fiction these days. Right now I’m speed reading Gone Girl . It’s kinda sorta okay but makes me feel like my brain is melting. I don’t really like Gone Girl, but I can’t stop reading it. It’s kind of like my sugar addiction.
To my credit, the last time I went to the library, I checked out Far From the Tree, Buddhism for Mothers and In the House of the Interpreter. But I haven’t read them yet. This summer I read everything Jamaica Kincaid ever wrote (except this one) . She is so perfect. But I also read The Happiness Project. Please don’t let me read Jodi Picoult. If I read Jodi Picoult, it’s all over.
Anyhoo, back when I was a full-time smarty pants, I spent countless hours reading nonfiction, I read about health. Particularly women’s health. There is so much out there, and I feel lucky to have been introduced to it. So in case you’re looking for something to read that’s not a white lady novel, here we go.
Ten great books about women’s health:
1. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty. Dorothy Roberts is a great writer. This book will help you understand the racist undertones of much of American political discourse about reproductive health and entitlement programs.
2. How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex. Cristina Page. Best title ever
3. Cunt. Speaking of titles… okay, it’s a little crass and the language is tiny bit outdated, but Inga Muscio’s take menstruation, reproductive health and sexual freedom is still empowering
4. A Darker Ribbon. One of the most well-researched critiques of the breast cancer movement that is not preach or overly academic.
5. Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control. This should be required reading for anyone working for — or wanting to work for — an international development organization.
6. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down : A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and a Collision of Two Cultures. A can’t-put-it-down kind of read written by a journalist.
7. Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis on America. An ethnography of genetic counseling. A little bit on the jargony side, but still a good read.
8. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor.Paul Farmer will make you want to try and save the world.
9. Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety. You are what you eat. Marion Nestle.
10. How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS. Would get the award for best title if I hadn’t already given it to Cristina Page. Paula Treichler is one of my favorite smarty-pants writers.
And one bonus book…
11. Birth as an American Rite of Passage. Robbie Davis-Floyd. A classic. Read it.
What about you? What are your favorite women’s health books? What did I forget? And hey, what are you reading? I’ll forgive you if it’s Jodi Picoult.
Yep, it’s inevitable. Another week has come to an end. In health news this week:
- Saturday is World Prematurity Day, which is very close to my heart since my son was born 12 weeks too soon. The US isn’t doing a great job in preventing prematurity, we’re currently 113th in the world in numbers of preterm births (?!). According to the World Health Organization, 15 million babies are born too soon every year. That’s more than one in 10 births — and more than one million of these babies die shortly after they are born. The WHO and the March of Dimes estimate that three-quarters of preterm babies who die could survive without expensive care if a few proven and inexpensive treatments and preventions were available worldwide.
- Turns out that doctors with less than ten years experience spent an average of 13% more than more experienced physicians. I like this study because it looks at how physicians — instead of patients — are responsible for escalating healthcare costs. This isn’t something that you hear very often. =
- Drug makers called “compounders” are to blame for the recent meningitis outbreak caused by fungal contamination in a steroid prescribed to people with back pain. These companies (like Ameridose, the company responsible for the tainted steroid in question) are essentially unregulated by the FDA. They have been supported by many in congress because their products are often an affordable alternative to huge drug manufacturers. One argument about regulation was that states should be left to do it themselves. This confirms my theory that whenever a government official makes a states’ rights argument, it is cause for concern.
- A study of pregnant Medicaid recipients in 14 southern states found that African-American women were more likely than to have longer hospital stays and pregnancy complications. The study estimated that eliminating disparities in adverse pregnancy events could save between $114 and $214 million annually in Medicaid costs in the 14 states studied.
- Access to contraception is a human right. Even the United Nations says so.
Have a great weekend! Meet you back here next week, when I’ll be posting about healthcare in-sourcing, premature birth, and sharing an interview with a wonderful doula and author!
Have you heard about this case in Ireland where a woman was denied an abortion and died as a result?
Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year old dentist, was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child. She began having severe back pain and was told that she was miscarrying. She then requested that her doctors medically terminate the pregnancy, but was denied because abortion is against the law in Ireland. She died of blood poisoning a couple of days later.
There has been worldwide media attention on the case, since it’s a situation where an abortion actually would have saved the life of the mother.
Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but in 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that it should be legal when a woman’s life is at risk.The government never passed a law to this effect, which means that Irish physicians are very reluctant to perform abortions, regardless of the circumstances.
In 2010, three women sued the Irish government in the European Court of Human Rights for denying them access abortions. The women each had extenuating circumstances: an alcoholic with four children, two of which were disabled; a woman undergoing chemotherapy, and a woman who had taken emergency contraception that had failed to work. The court found they had no right to abortions under the constitution, and their complaints were dismissed. However, the court also found that Ireland’s ban on abortion even in the case of life-threatening pregnancies was in violation of European Union law.
Halappanavar’s death coincided with the release of a long-awaited expert report that recommends possible changes to Irish abortion law. The report was commissioned by the Irish government after the 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling.
Currently, about 4,200 women travel outside of Ireland every year to terminate pregnancies.
I’m as pro-choice as they come, but you’ve got to give it to the Irish. They are so adamantly against abortion that they sought a travel injunction against a 14 year old who was raped by a neighbor and whose parents were trying to get her to England to have an abortion.
They refuse abortion in all cases. No matter what. No exceptions for rape, no exceptions for life-threatening conditions, no exceptions for the threat of fetal-alcohol syndrome, or neglect, or deformity caused by chemotherapy.
It ain’t pretty, but if you are against abortion, then own it.
They acknowledge that sometime women die when they don’t have access to safe, legal abortion. They have no problem with the fact that outlawing abortion means that women and girls are forced to carry pregnancies to term and then parent children that are the product of rape when they are denied access to safe and legal abortion.
That’s the reality, and at least the Irish government is willing to take the fall out.
What do you think?
Reproduction used be so straightforward. People did it the um, old-fashioned way, and mostly they didn’t plan. Today, almost forty percent pregnancies in the US are unplanned, but for many women, planning to get pregnant is a very involved undertaking.
The data shows that in this country, 15 percent of women with their first child are elderly primigravidas, that is, they are older than 34.
An entire industry that has now been built up around this fact. Your eggs are old! You waited too long! How will you reproduce?
Capitalism and innovation is here to help. Go to any CVS or Rite Aid in the country, and you’ll be offered a wide selection of ovulation prediction kits ($35 for 2), a host of products aimed at boosting your fertility, and even home fertility tests .
An ongoing study at UNC Chapel Hill found that these tests are quite inaccurate.
One-quarter of the women would have been deemed infertile based on their FSH levels, but in fact they did not have more difficulty getting pregnant than other women in the study, the researchers reported.
The study is still recruiting, and will be until 2015. It’s refreshing to read about scientific research that is actually trying to help women achieve their fertility goals instead of coming up with more findings about how fertility declines, and a host of possible factors that might be associated with infertility.
And just a side note, here’s the principal investigator of the study:
It’s been another great week!
I started a new series, profiling women in health. If you would like to be profiled or have an idea of someone you think I should talk to, please let me know.
I’ve been pitching lots of stories about women’s health to a variety of news outlets and blogs, and will hopefully have some good news to share soon.
And a confession – I didn’t watch the veep debate. I listened to part of it on the radio, but missed the visual antics. Oh well, I’ll be watching on Tuesday as the presidential candidates face off for the last time.
Here’s what caught my eye in health news this week:
- Injections in the spine never seems like a great idea, but even worse when the medication is full of fungus. Some things definitely need lots of regulatory oversight!
- In a valiant effort to take the mind-body connection seriously, two studies look at the role stress when it comes to breast cancer and maternal well being.
- Floridians are voting on whether ban state funding for abortion, in addition to the existing ban on federal funding for abortion, put in place by the Hyde Amendment. Will they also be voting on whether to increasing state funding for birth control?
- Scientists have come to a consensus that formaldehyde causes cancer. So why are lobbyists trying to keep this information under wraps?
- No one wants to go on a job interview when they’re pregnant, and lots of women are nervous to tell their employers that they are pregnant even when they already have the job. Been there.
- The UK takes a big step, and makes treatment available for HIV positive patients who need them, regardless of immigration status. Public health in action.
- 3D mammograms: twice the radiation, three times the fun?
Thanks for reading! Have a great fall weekend, and see you on Monday.