Happy Fun Friday, kittens! This one is short and sweet … Need we say more?
Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend, dear Feronians!
If you’ve missed a period or are having pregnancy symptoms, your next step is a pregnancy test. Just taking the test alone can be somewhat overwhelming because there are so many options and sometimes the directions aren’t clear. Here’s what you need to know about getting a pregnancy test:
When do you take them?
Most pregnancy tests will be accurate around two weeks after conception. This does not necessarily mean two weeks after you’ve had sex, as the date of conception may not be precisely the date of intercourse. Sperm can live for up to 5 days inside the vagina or uterus so if, for example, you have sex on a Monday and ovulate on Wednesday, you might get pregnant on Wednesday. Some women find their tests are negative for longer than two weeks, so if you have a negative test and still have not gotten your period or are experiencing pregnancy symptoms, take a repeat test after a week or consult your doctor.
Generally speaking, positive is positive
The most common test uses a control line and a test line, with two lines meaning positive. It’s important to know that even a very faint second line is positive. Sometimes I find that a faint line confuses people and leads them to believe that it is not negative or unclear. That is absolutely not true, if there is a second line the test should be read as positive.
Another thing to know is that pregnancy tests look for HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, which is a hormone produced during pregnancy. This is important because there is a myth that taking emergency contraception or the birth control pill may cause a false positive, and this is absolutely untrue. False positive results can occur due to some medications or illnesses, and false negatives can occur due to a faulty test, taking the test too early in your pregnancy, or not following instructions. If you are unsure of your test results, contact your doctor for a repeat test or a blood test.
Home test vs. a clinic test
The pros of an at-home test: you have privacy, and it may be cheaper and faster than taking a test in a doctor’s office.
The cons: you may experience confusion about performing the test correctly, and you may have questions about your results that you are unable to answer yourself or find online. Some people find it awkward to buy tests at the store.
The pros of a clinic test: it’s performed by professionals who use high quality tests. Also you have immediate support, information and referrals at your disposal.
The cons: it may be less cost effective, and you may have to wait for an appointment.
If you take a home pregnancy test:
Don’t forget your local Planned Parenthood offers affordable and accurate pregnancy tests with helpful educators to answer your questions.
I am in my early 30s and have several friends who have recently miscarried. It is hard to know what to say or do for a friend or family member who has lost a pregnancy, and even harder for the person experiencing it.
I am currently pregnant and, when I found out a good friend of mine was pregnant, I was elated. She was eight weeks behind me and really excited to be pregnant. She went in for her first prenatal appointment and everything was progressing the way it should, but at 11 weeks she lost the pregnancy. She sent all of her close friends a Facebook message and told us that she would contact us when she was ready. Many of us – including myself – didn’t know what to say or do to help her. We all just let her know that we were there for her and that if she needed anything to please let us know.
I hope this post helps those who are going through a loss, and their friends and family.
How do you define a miscarriage?
Pregnancy loss (AKA spontaneous abortion) is a pregnancy that ends on its own during the first 20 weeks. Most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 10-25% of all medically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. About 50-75% of all miscarriages occur very early on in the pregnancy, shortly after implantation. Many of these women didn’t even know that they were pregnant. There are different terms used for pregnancy loss, but in the grand scheme of things the terms used really aren’t that important. The most important thing to realize is that it is not your fault. Most miscarriages are due to a chromosomal abnormality (a damaged egg or sperm). Some women can also miscarry because of hormonal problems, age, trauma, improper implantation, exposure to toxic substances, radiation, substance abuse, or severe malnourishment.
What are the signs of a possible miscarriage?
What can family and friends do to help?
What Can a Woman Do to Heal After a Miscarriage?
Do you have any tips that helped you, a family member or friend heal from the loss of a pregnancy? Please feel free to share your tips in our comments section.
During my first day in Johannesburg, South Africa, I noticed an article in The Times, titled,“Police Destroying Condoms.” The article was based on a recent report from the Open Society Foundation. The report interviewed sex workers from Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Russia and the US. Every country had issues with sex workers being harassed by police because they were carrying condoms.
More than 40% of sex workers in these countries said the police had taken their condoms from them. In Russia, this figure rose to 80% in some areas. In the U.S., 52% of people interviewed who identified as sex workers said they sometimes chose not to carry condoms because of stop-and-search harassment. In all six countries, the research found that police physically and sexually abuse sex workers who were found carrying condoms or used the fact that they possessed a condom as proof that they were sex workers and subject to arrest.
Because many sex workers depend on sex with strangers to feed themselves and their children, pay the rent or just for basic survival, the “no condom, no sex” rule just doesn’t apply. So they end up having unprotected sex, putting themselves and their partners at greater risk.
This is not only a health issue, but a human rights issue. Learn more about issues dealing with the rights of sex workers and HIV here.
|We’ve been hearing the warnings for years about the possibility of antibiotic resistant infections. Now a common sexually transmitted infection – gonorrhea – is in the spotlight. Recently, the Center for Disease Control issued a statement that gonorrhea is very close to becoming untreatable. There is just one antibiotic that remains effective in curing it, but untreatable cases of gonorrhea are showing up in Asia and Europe. To those of us on the front lines of STI prevention, detection and treatment, this is scary news, indeed.
Like many bacterial and viral infections, gonorrhea is able to mutate over time, so tried and true treatments must evolve to meet the needs of infected patients. We’ve seen this happen consistently with HIV medications. People living with HIV have to be monitored regularly to evaluate their body developing resistance to the anti-retroviral drugs. Luckily, new HIV medications have been developed and strategies to prevent the virus from replicating within the body have improved, so people have options when their current regimen is no longer effective.
Research into new antibiotics has not kept as current. Gonorrhea is not as prevalent at this time as the bacterial infections like chlamydia. It was, however, a huge problem in the past, before the introduction of penicillin in the 1940s. Many antibiotics have been used over the years since then. If – or should I say when – gonorrhea becomes drug resistant, I predict we’ll see a huge resurgence of an ancient plague.
For more information about gonorrhea, refer to Genevieve’s April 17, 2012 post.
So you got your annual screening and a few weeks later you get a phone call stating your pap test came back “abnormal.” Don’t freak out! This can mean a couple different things. To be clear, infections like chlamydia or yeast do not count as an abnormal pap! An abnormal pap means atypical cells on your cervix, that is, that the cells have begun to change in such a way that may be or become cancerous. This is called dysplasia.
After a pap smear comes back abnormal, what happens next depends upon a couple of factors, including your age and the severity of the dysplasia.
You may only need to repeat your pap smear in a few months, as often a health immune system can fight off the changes itself. Or you and your provider may opt for a colposcopy, which is a better way of looking at the cervix. A speculum is inserted into the vagina, solution is applied to the cervix with a cotton swab to highlight abnormal areas of tissue, and then a special microscope is used to look at the cervix. This allows the provider to see the dysplasia and, if deemed necessary, take one or more small tissue samples. This biopsy may feel like a small pinch and, while slightly uncomfortable for most women, it is usually tolerated very well. This biopsy allows the pathologist (the person who examines the tissue sample at the lab) to get a more detailed and accurate reading of the cervical cellular changes.
Depending on the colposcopy results, you may need to go back to pap smears every 3-6 months or, if the dysplasia is severe, you may need further treatment to fully remove the abnormal tissue. This treatment may consist of cryotherapy or a LEEP (Loop Electricosurgical Excision Procedure). Cryotherapy uses a freezing chemical to remove abnormal cells, allowing healthy cells to grow back in their place. A LEEP cuts away abnormal cells with a thin wire carrying an electrical current. Though both procedures may sound intimidating, in truth they are not very painful (many patients tell me their LEEP was more comfortable than their colposcopy, because of the numbing solution applied).
Cervical dysplasia is most often caused by HPV, a very common virus transmitted through sexual contact. Here are a few tips on how to avoid HPV and cervical changes:
Don’t smoke! Smoking is not good for your immune system, and you need a healthy immune system to fight the virus.
Consider the Gardasil vaccine, which protects you from 4 strands of HPV, 2 of which cause 75% of cervical cancers.
Use condoms. Though they may not fully protect you from HPV, as HPV is passed through skin to skin contact, because condoms cover parts of sexual anatomy they reduce the chance of transmission. Try female condoms too, which cover more skin.
Practicing abstinence or limiting sexual partners is also helpful, but isn’t foolproof. The CDC sums it up really well: “People can also lower their chances of getting HPV by being in a faithful relationship with one partner; limiting their number of sex partners; and choosing a partner who has had no or few prior sex partners. But even people with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV. And it may not be possible to determine if a partner who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected. That’s why the only sure way to prevent HPV is to avoid all sexual activity.”
Most of all, if you have a pap come back abnormal, keep these two things in mind: 1) Don’t panic. 2) Don’t ignore it. Cervical dysplasia is treatable and it does not necessarily mean you have or will get cancer. The keyword there is “treatable,” meaning you must see your provider for treatment to avoid detrimental effects to your health!
As I’ve mentioned previously on the Feronia Project, I used to be very overweight, or as actress and body rights activist Joy Nash calls it, “moderately obese.” This began from infancy, and the pounds continued to mount until I found myself at the age of 24 standing 5’4″ and weighing 218lbs. I felt ashamed, humiliated, and invisible to my culture and those around me. I grew up consuming teen magazines and watching MTV just like my peers did, and always felt sick and sad that overweight women were not portrayed in the media in any sort of positive light. We were only the ass of jokes or the example of what not to “let yourself become.”
In a time of loneliness, isolation and depression related to the scrutiny of my body issues, I came across a video on Myspace (remember when that was THE PLACE on the web?) that absolutely empowered me and lit me up inside. It was called “Fat Rant,” a short declaration of independence for fat women like me to stop self-hating and seize life!
I eventually did lose 70lbs through maintaining an online food diary and exercising, and have managed to keep it off for a year and a half. As Joy points out in her video, 95-98% of people who lose 75lbs or more gain it all back within the first three years, two-thirds of those within the first year. So I realize my work is still ahead of me as I maintain a different and more active lifestyle than before, and take my health one day at a time.
But to you, Feronia readers, you likely have had body issues at one time or another – it’s hard to escape the forcefed images of the Photoshopped thin ideal (harassing you in the check-out line magazine racks, internet advertisements, and ANY television show). I encourage you to check out Joy’s “Fat Rant” – I hope it will make you feel a little more entitled to relaxing in your own skin, no matter what size your clothes are.
Happy Friday, kittens! I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled that it’s the weekend.
Have you heard about Amy Poehler’s awesome new web show, Smart Girls at the Party? Amy, along with two friends, are reaching out to teen girls to show them that life is cool and they are too.
Her Ask Amy videos are fabulous. Got a problem with stress? Amy tackles it here:
New Delhi charter school in Louisiana recently came under fire for forcing its teenage students to submit to pregnancy tests, and kicking out those students who tested positive or refused the test. From Slate, the school’s official policy: “If an administrator or teacher suspects a student is pregnant, a parent conference will be held. The school reserves the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test to confirm whether or not the suspected student is in fact pregnant. The school further reserves the right to refer the suspected student to a physician of its choice. If the test indicates that the student is pregnant, the student will not be permitted to attend classes on the campus of Delhi Charter School.”
(FYI: Any student suspected of being pregnant who refuses to submit to a pregnancy test “shall be treated as a pregnant student and will be offered home study opportunities. If home study opportunities are not acceptable, the student will be counseled to seek other educational opportunities,” it said. But who’s to say the girls have parents capable of home-schooling?)
After the recent lawsuit from the ACLU, which believes the rule violates federal law requiring equal opportunity for education between the sexes, the school has stated “in light of the recent inquiry, the current policy has been forwarded to the law firm of Davenport, Files & Kelly in Monroe, Louisiana, to ensure that necessary revisions are made so that our school is in full compliance with the constitutional law.” School Board chairman Albert Christman has said that no one at the school realized anything was wrong until the lawsuit. It’s not clear yet whether a change in policy would reinstate previous students who had been forced to leave. If the school does revamp its policy to allow pregnant students to stay, there is no guarantee that pregnant teens at the school will find themselves in a supportive environment, but it will at least be a huge step forward for their chances at an education.