Puberty and Menstrual Health

Who knew there were loads of organizations with a focus on menstrual health? Not me. I’m not even sure that I knew “menstrual health” was a thing.

Since the New York Times story I’ve been contacted by several organizations which focus on menses.

I had a chance to speak to Dr. Greg Smith, director of education for You ARE Loved, a non-profit which is dedicated to educating people about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). The organization was started by a family who’s 20-year-old daughter, Amy, died after exhibiting flu-like symptoms. They didn’t connect her time-of-the-month to her symptoms soon enough.

TSS is the dreaded tampon disease. Actually, it’s the ingredient viscose rayon, which has all sorts of great uses but is evidently not meant to be put in your hooha, which is believed to cause toxic shock. The major tampon manufacturers — Playtex, Tampax, OB and Kotex – all use this ingredient, says Smith.

Alternatives to traditional tampons that You ARE Loved recommends include organic tampons from companies like Seventh Generation or Natracare and reusable products like Instead Soft Cups or Diva Cups and disposable and cloth pads.

The reusable cup is the part that I am interested in. I, personally, have not purchased a pad or tampon in about three years. I switched to the reusable silicone Diva Cup. It sounds gross because it’s new, but it’s actually far less icky than wearing a diaper, I mean pad, or pulling a bloody stick of cotton . . . you get the grody picture. It’s an option that I would love for my daughter to embrace for the simplicity, the affordability, the convenience and yes, the environment. But, how young is too young?

Smith, a dude who is spending his time educating women about their periods because “every significant female in my life has had menstrual issues from a very young age and I’ve learned more about it than anyone would ever want to,” says he is aware of children as young as seven using period cups exclusively, and girls as young as six using them periodically. SIX and SEVEN. Good Lord. I had assumed it would be too hard, but then I remembered that when no one told me how a tampon worked I wore the applicator too. Then jumped on a trampoline and . . . TMI. (I’m starting to feel like Edgar Allen Poe.)

Only Diva Cup (silicone), Keeper Cup (latex), Moon Cup (silicone) and Lunette Cup (silicone) have passed the voluntary testing the United States gov. recommends, notes Smith. Smith also pointed out that there are many cheaper knock-off cups now that reusable cups have gained popularity due to price, but their safety has not been tested.

Price? Let’s look at the math: you could buy tampons every month for the rest of your pre-menstrual life (some sexuality geeks actually did this math, I found it on Google) OR you could shell out $25 for a reusable cup.

Tampons – $3,072.30
Maxi Pads – $3,557.40
Cloth Pads – $200.05

So, like, who is so cheap that they would buy the $15 sub-par, untested-for-safety cup? We’re talking about your vag. people. It’s kinda important and has to last a lifetime. This is not a hard choice, at least not for me. Of course, I’ll give my daughter choices, but there’s no one stopping me from passing on “mother’s wisdom,” when explaining that tampon use carries the added risk of the “tampon disease” that could actually kill you.

These Lunettes are so cute I may spend another whopping $25 to get that orange one for myself when I go to buy one for my daughter.

 

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10 Tips for Kid Facebook Safety

 

I’ve noticed a new trend — younger and younger kids are on Facebook and they are trying to Friend me. At times these kids are as young as 8 and they are usually kids of my friends or relatives or friends of Ainsley’s.

I don’t Friend kids and I think all adults should strongly consider whether they should or not. (Personally, I don’t allow Ainsley to have a Facebook page for the reasons below, but that’s a parent’s call.)

  •  If you are my Facebook Friend then you probably know that I am likely to repost an off-color joke, not-for-kids essays that I might publish on The Girl Revolution, say something that might offend the kids parents or post an article on sexuality or some other issue that isn’t meant for a child audience. I don’t particularly want to change my FB habits.
  • There are several hundred people on my FB page that I don’t personally know. They are people that I have networked with online. They are people who know me from this blog. They are people who have Friended me because I said something funny on one of their friend’s posts. These people often make inappropriate-for-children comments on my posts and the kids would read them.
  • Any one of my Friends could be a child predator and could use my page to scout for kids. You never know. People are always shocked when they find out someone they know is a child molester. Someone could see a kid comment or like one of my posts or sift through my Friends list and ask a kid to Friend them.
  • As much as we try to educate them, I don’t think kids are sophisticated enough to reject Friend requests, especially if the person seems innocuous and is flattering to them.
  • Child predators often pose as kids and make friends with kids. Kids are not sophisticated enough to discern between a real kid and a fake kid. Sometimes parents aren’t either. These people are well-practiced in what they do.
  • I’m not convinced that most parents are proactive enough in monitoring their kids online behavior.
  • I don’t want to be responsible kids’ Internet safety, except my own.
  • I don’t want to be a negative or questionable influence in a kid’s life. As I said, I don’t want to censor myself for kids. If an adult is offended by my comments then I trust them to UnFriend me or block my comments. I don’t trust kids to be smart enough to be offended by inappropriate content.
  • As a parent, I would be concerned if my children were friending a bunch of adults, save Grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins.
  • I don’t particularly want to engage with children online. I enjoy the conversation of adults.

 

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Planned Parenthood, Solve the Federal Funding Abortion Problem

It’s that time of year again. Republicans have introduced a bill that will ban federal funding for abortion procedures and Democrats have gotten all up-in-arms because this will put funding for birth control at risk because they have threatened to cut off all funding to Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization which supplies millions of women and girls with vital and necessary birth control.

Every year this happens: if there is a sitting Democratic President and a majority Republican Congress, Congress passes the bill and the President vetoes it. If there is a sitting Republican President and a majority Democratic Congress, Congress passes the bill and the President vetoes it. If both the President and Congress are Republican, Planned Parenthood relies on private funding until Democrats come back into power and unwittingly, Republican representatives increase the abortion rate by decreasing access to birth control and driving up the rate of unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. If both the President and Congress are Democrat, Planned Parenthood gets its funding, Right-to-Lifers are up-in-arms protesting louder than ever and tend to take to the Supreme Court.

Year after year after year after year. Same story. Year after year after year after year.

And every year, it’s the same tone of outrage and shock on both sides.

I have a proposal that would SOLVE the problem once and for all.

Planned Parenthood should become two separate non-profit family planning organizations.

  • One should supply birth control family planning services as it has done since its conception in 1966.
  • One should focus on the termination of pregnancy and be completely privately funded.
This would do several necessary things.
  1. It would allow Republicans to Save Face. Which is necessary in any compromise. Republican voters need and use low cost and free birth control and family planning services, such as Planned Parenthood provides, as much anyone else. By dividing into two different organizations Planned Parenthood becomes an organization that gathers the support of the masses, rather than divides the support of the masses.
  2. This measure stops asking the Religious Right to surrender their religious convictions about abortion. Which is not only unfeasible, it is never, ever going to happen. It’s also blatantly an unfair request. Planned Parenthood and political conviction cannot trump God. Not even the Supreme Court can trump God. One of the primary foundations of this country is Freedom of Religion and these people are entitled to it. They are entitled to believe that conception begins at birth and to destroy it is wrong. They are entitled not to be harassed for this belief. They are entitled to stand up for their convictions. They are entitled to fight for the unborn. If Planned Parenthood divides into two separate organizations — one that performs termination and one that does not — they allow the Religious Right to hold fast to their religious conviction that termination of life is profoundly wrong and allow them to withhold their support of such a thing, while allowing them to simultaneously support the birth control and family planning arm of Planned Parenthood. It’s a win-win for the Religious Right AND Planned Parenthood AND every woman and girl in this country.
  3. This measure would provide a soft middle ground for the swing voter like myself who is growing increasingly uncomfortable with many forms of abortion due to the increased availability of birth control methods, the viability of younger and younger babies living outside the womb, the lack of social stigma of unwed and divorced mothers, the increased social and career status of mothers, the invention of the morning after pill and various other reasons.
  4. It’s an achievable compromise and frankly, this country is due for a compromise that works. We’re all sick to death of the same old crappy arguments that go nowhere. We’re sick of the revolving door of the same bills, the same Supreme Court arguments, the same political battles and the same Pundit cable battle cries.
This solution is simplicity itself. And that’s exactly why it might work.
Woman Up Planned Parenthood. You’ve been fighting the good fight for women and girls for 45 years. We need you. We need you as much now as we ever did. But, we need you to look your opponent in the eye and be the bigger person. With this compromise women and girls win. Republican women and girls win. Democrat women and girls win. Religious Right women and Girls win. Pro-choice women and girls win. All women and girls win. Sometimes, the person who is willing to suck up their ego and give a little is the one who wins in the end.
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A 21st Century Look At A 20th Century Abortion Law

21 Weeks

I’ve been Pro-Choice since I read Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game, in which, the government limited the number of children parents could have, based on some sic-fi reason of intelligent selection, only parents who had especially bright children could get a waiver to have a third child who might save the world. I figured if the government could make birth choices — well, then they could control birth choices. China controls birth choices. The United States controls birth choices. I don’t like the idea of that at all. I think parents should make birth choices. Since mothers carry the responsibility of birth, and the primary responsibility of raising said children if dads choose to skip out, then mothers should be allowed to make the choices around the carrying of the child.

So, I’ve been Pro-Choice. I’ve been a supporter of Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade holds that the termination of pregnancy is lawful until the viability of the fetus or if the mother’s health is in danger. 

Changing Viability

With current science, the viability of the fetus is changing every day. Meaning, younger and younger babies are living outside of the mother’s womb. More babies are being saved with medical intervention. Michelle Duggar’s 19th baby, Josie, at 25 weeks, weighed only 1 lb. 0.6 oz., and she lived. Not only has she lived, but she’s thriving after the first year of a lot of medical intervention. Premature babies that never would have lived in 1973, when Roe v. Wade became law are living full, meaningful lives.

My perspective has changed from when I read that book as a freshman in college, as a 16-year-old kid. I, now have these little kids, five and nine. They aren’t just “cells,” as I have heard some pro-choice abortion activist try to minimize them as. They are people. It bothers me. They aren’t hypothetical anymore.

A 20th Century Debate in a 21st Century Reality

The debate should be different than it was in 1973. Yet, somehow it’s not. I find this incredibly frustrating.

In 1973, there were hardly any birth control choices that were reliable. Condoms sucked. The birth control pill was like 75% effective. There was no Nuva Ring, no Depo Provera shot, no Norplant, no Ortho Ethra patch.

In 1973, having a baby out of wedlock probably did ruin your life or at least drastically change it. Your parents might kick you out of the house or disown you. They sent you off to relatives to avoid the shame you would bring to the family. You would get kicked out of high school, you might be forced into a terrible marriage. You would likely not go to college. You would likely be doomed to poverty. Certainly there was a terrible social stigma.

Today, I’m in my late 30s and have known lots of girls who have gotten pregnant out of wedlock and it’s been long enough that I’ve seen it play out. Here’s the thing — it hasn’t ruined their lives. . . . I know it’s crazy, right?

In fact, some of these women are the best mothers I know. Some of them married the baby-daddies and have solid marriages and went on to have other children and have careers. Some have been kick-ass single moms. Some had abortions and went on to have other children out of wedlock and went on to be great single moms. Some gave their babies up for adoption and went on to have families. Some had their babies, were single-moms for a time and then married and had more children and normal lives.

Having a child did not ruin their lives. Didn’t ruin one single life. Not their’s, not their baby’s. Isn’t that funny? It turned out to be a total fiction, meant to scare us into not having sex, I guess.

This year two women close to me chose to go through unplanned pregnancies, one very young and one in her 30′s. Several relatives of mine also went through the same experience. It was beautiful to watch how warmly those babies were received into this world. It was wonderful to watch how the mothers were warmly embraced and supported during their pregnancies and after. It was an honor to participate in. Was their road harder? Harder than my own road of witnessing 9/11 in my last month of pregnancy and experiencing devastating postpartum depression with my first planned pregnancy? Maybe. Maybe not. Is their future less bright because of their unmarried status? Maybe. Maybe Not. When I look at their future I have no problem seeing a very bright future in front of any of them. I don’t see a scarring social stigma of unmarried, unplanned pregnancy attached to them anymore. In fact, what I see is motivation, they have been motivated to stop playing childish games and get a move on in their futures, enroll in schools and seek out their futures with ambition and energy that they had not exhibited before.

Need I mention that the President of the United States is the son of a single mother, the product of an unplanned pregnancy? Probably not. Though I do think it’s relevant to the conversation at hand.

The Morning After Pill

But, the real turning point for me has been the invention of the Morning After Pill. With the invention of the Morning After Pill, I simply don’t see the need for most abortions anymore. The Morning After Pill prevents the egg from dropping so no pregnancy can occur. You can use it five days after sex and no pregnancy will occur.

Which means if rape, a date rape, a bad decision, the condom breaks, a drunken episode you wish hadn’t happened, something you don’t quite remember occurs or  you get slipped a roofie, you can take this medication and though grief may be had, babies will not.

See, for me, this should make everyone happy. It’s a brilliant and necessary compromise. This should be legal and available for everyone regardless of age and without parental consent. It should be over-the-counter without a prescription, right next to the condoms on the shelf in Walmart.

The Pro-Lifers have a point. It’s Life. Life is essential. Life is beautiful and lovely and worth protecting. So are women’s choices. So are women’s rights. So are women’s bodies. Sore women’s dignities.

But, the reality is that girls and women will make bad choices sometimes. The reality is that men and boys will violate girls and women sometimes.

There has to be something available for women and girls in these cases. But, that something doesn’t need to extend into the lives of babies. If something happens, women and girls should know . . . they can do something quickly and efficiently.

We can educated them about what needs to be done, so they are ready and they can quickly go to any store and get the Morning After Pill. We should educate about it, like we educate about the use of condoms. Let’s just be done with this 30-year-old unsavory, hostile and embarrassing battle that has run its course and has gotten very, very stale.

Before you think I’m speaking from my Ivory Tower, in my younger years, I assure you there were plenty of times when I woke up and my first thought was, “Oh my God, I made a terrible mistake!” But, I assure you, it was my very first thought. And after a date rape, I did take the Morning After Pill, and it wasn’t pleasant, but it was better than the alternatives.

Hope & Reality 

Will the Morning After Pill resolve every single instance in which every single woman might want to seek an abortion? Of course, I am not that naive. But, I don’t want to keep having an outdated 1973 conversation about abortion given 21st Century medical advances and a lack of social stigma about untraditional pregnancy timelines and circumstances; my tolerance for legal 2nd trimester abortions is gone because I consider them “viable” as defined by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade; I no longer believe many of the hypothetical fictions and “justifications” often touted by Pro-Choice advocates are acceptable reasons for getting an abortion; I think we can do a hell of a lot better job educating about birth control methods and providing access to them; we should be making better use of and educating about the Morning After Pill; and I think we should be romanticizing the hell out of adoption as a beautiful option.

Comments Note: You are welcome to leave a comment on this post. However, due to the history of hostility on both sides of this debate I request that comments left follow this form, Agree/And (agree with something in the post, then make your statement as an AND statement rather than a BUT statement). For instance, “I agree that science and medicine has changed the viability of a fetus, and I also feel that the Morning After Pill won’t resolve the issue of mid-life pregnancies in the case of women who . . . “

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• 1 in 3 students drop out of high school.
• 4 in 10 teen boys have a criminal record.

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