Category Archives: Guest Posts

Treat Yourself: The Importance of Self-Care for Women

By: Jillian James

 Self-Care. It’s a very simple concept, and yet many women need to be reminded to take a step back and care for themselves. During the day we may find ourselves constantly investing energy into our jobs, schoolwork, partners, friends, pets, and a variety of other places. We may not remember to take time in our day to focus on our own health and our own needs. Self-care is incredibly important for our emotional and physical well-being.

Taking the time to care for ourselves can help us feel more confident and can give us more energy and a more positive outlook on life. We can’t properly take care of others or fulfill our jobs and responsibilities without first taking care of ourselves.

READ YOUR INTERNAL SIGNALS

When you are very busy throughout the day, you sometimes can get out of tune with your body and its rhythms. If you have a very hectic schedule take a few minutes to stop, slow down, and listen to what your body is saying. Are you hungry? Eat a granola bar or almonds, and try to never skip a meal or go long stretches of time without eating or drinking. Are you tired? Consider what things can be put off until tomorrow so that you can get a full night’s worth of sleep.

CONSIDER MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we must fulfill our most basic physiological needs before we can fulfill our needs for love, security and friendship. Being healthy and feeling safe are key to our state of health. If these needs are not met then we will feel anxious and unsettled, which can lead to problems forming friendships and creating relationships.

BLOCK OUT NEGATIVITY

 

In a world where we are constantly exposed to information on a 24/7 news cycle, sometimes you need to unplug in order to maintain your mental health. If the negative news gets overwhelming, turn of the TV and focus on a positive, healthy activity. Or better yet, research ways that you can take action and get involved in groups that promote ideals that you believe in. Block negative people from social media and don’t expose yourself to websites that give you anxiety or feelings of dread.

 

 

TREAT YOURSELF

Taking a day to take care of yourself and relax can revive and reenergize you. Take a bubble bath, get a pedicure, have a casual day with friends or stay in bed and watch your favorite show. Our brains and bodies need time to recharge in order to stay healthy and to function at their best. There is nothing wrong with taking time to care for you.

If you feel like you aren’t taking enough time for yourself, then challenge yourself to set aside time this week and focus on yourself. Your mind and body will thank you for it!

Skipping Thanksgiving

PeanutsThanksgivingThanksgiving is my absolute, favorite holiday. It’s not about the mashed potatoes and turkey, though that in itself is something to celebrate. However, now it seems to be a shopping day squeezed in between Halloween and Christmas? The day after Halloween, stores near me were gearing up for Christmas with Christmas lights and early Black Friday sales. My oldest daughter has chosen the Saturday after Thanksgiving to tie the knot with her longtime partner. She tells everyone her wedding day is just a huge, expensive Thanksgiving. This is why her mama is freaking out over the tiniest of details. While she sits back and plans which stores have the best sales.

So, we decided this year to not have our traditional Thanksgiving, and cave to the shopping mania of the Black Friday Eve sales. My three daughters have convinced me that we are STILL having Thanksgiving on Saturday!

My sixteen year old daughter lamented the fact of the skip over holiday to her boyfriend. He asked, “Why is Thanksgiving your favorite holiday?” I got on my soap box, and my daughter rolled her eyes… Thanksgiving is about family and traditions like football and my Aunt Wanda’s peas with toasted almonds. It’s about learning to play 500 rummy with all of your elder aunts, even if you never wanted to learn, and running wild with your pack of cousins that you wish lived with you because they are so much fun!

As I have grown older and started my own family, I have tried to keep these traditions of fun and excitement. My mother passed last year, and no holiday will ever be the same. Especially, this one. I am officially one of the grownups at Thanksgiving, even though I have been cooking the turkey and stuffing for years. But alas, I am taking this year off. (However, I will be making peas with toasted almonds.) There won’t be a kids table with fun crafts and crayons to keep the little ones busy, there won’t be cut out leaves to write down what we are thankful for, there won’t be my mother asking if I washed the turkey before I put it in the oven. My daughters have convinced me that new traditions will be just as much fun. However, we do still have to read ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey. Funny Thanksgiving story!

We have decided that a ‘light’ meal prior to putting our walking shoes on and joining the shopping frenzy with their aunts and cousins at 6 PM ‘Black Friday Eve’ will be a great new tradition. (They giggle that this is their way of ushering me into the 21st Century! I have to admit that I have been scoping out the websites and pre-sale events.)

So, for those of you who think that I have caved and have forgotten Thanksgiving – remember, Thanksgiving is about family and fun, at least for me. Any day that I can spend with my family is a day great Thanksgiving. The males in our family are excited to stay home and watch football in peace. Although, we still have to make time for everyone to play 500 Rummy! (To great sighs from the younger members of my family and extended family.)

Happy Thanksgiving to old traditions and to new traditions! AND Welcome, Black Friday Eve!

Tagged , ,

Loving Your Pelvic Floor

Enjoy this informative and relevant guest post, written by a long-time friend and reader of The Feronia Project.

I am a CrossFit coach and a mom. As a CrossFit coach, I train lots of women on a daily basis. As a business owner responsible for replenishing the supplies of my gym, I know that maxi pads disappear more quickly from our ladies’ room than tampons. This surprised me until I realized that our ladies were using more of the pads because they leak during exercise — specifically jumping rope and box jumps.

Because I have an almost-two-year-old child, I know the struggle of trying to stay dry while jumping rope. While this issue was more prevalent for me during my early days of postpartum recovery, I still experience the occasional leak when I start to fatigue during a workout. Raise your hand if, as you read this, you are nodding your head and saying, “That’s me!” Raise your hand also if you think this is normal.

pelvic floorLet me blow your mind — leakage during exercise, or sneezing, or coughing, or laughing, or yelling at your kids IS NOT NORMAL. Stress incontinence (the clinical term) is NOT NORMAL and it could lead to your uterus falling out. I’m not kidding. Continuing to exercise while ignoring the signs of pelvic floor weakness (ex: incontinence, low back pain, neck pain) can lead to uterine prolapse, which is the uterus (or bladder) slipping out of place and, in a worst case scenario, bulging out of the vagina.

Urinary incontinence is estimated to affect 1 out of every 3 people. Addressing this issue with appropriate exercises can preclude the need for surgery, reduce (or eliminate) low back and hip pain, and most importantly, help keep you DRY! (For more on incontinence – types, diagnosis, treatment – click here.)

LoveYourPelvicFloorWebIt is estimated that 66% of women know WHERE their pelvic floor muscles are, and only 40% of women actually exercise their pelvic floor (see infographic –>). To raise awareness among our female athletes and our friends about how NOT NORMAL stress incontinence is during exercise, my gym hosted a Women’s Health Workshop with physical therapists from Eastern Iowa Physical Therapy that specialize in women’s health. During this workshop, we discussed the importance of posture, breathing, and pelvic floor awareness (it’s about more than just Kegels!).

Here are 5 myths about pelvic floor health that you NEED debunked NOW. This article is a MUST READ!

For more information on how your posture and pelvic floor are connected, check out this informative article.

For more information on how your breathing affects your pelvic floor, and exercises to retrain how you breathe, click here. See also this video, which explains the pressure system that is your abdomen.

There are physical therapists and gynecologists all over the U.S. that specialize in women’s health, which is the diagnosis and treatment of pelvic pain and incontinence. To find a physical therapist in your area that specializes in women’s health, follow this link and be sure to click on “Women’s Health” at the bottom of the form. Most states allow you to go directly to a physical therapist without getting a physician’s referral first. Currently, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands allow patients to seek an evaluation and some level of treatment from a licensed physical therapist without a prescription or referral from a physician.

Ladies, it’s time to love your pelvic floor. It’s time to get back in touch with “down there.” It’s time to understand that a little leakage can lead to a host of troubles, including keeping you from having a strong, stable core and dry pants. And ain’t nobody got time for wet pants.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

STD Mythbuster: Blue Waffle

Please enjoy the last contribution from our wonderful student intern…

A couple of weeks ago, I was facilitating a sexual health class with middle schoolers on viral STDs. I was asking the class to match the STD to its symptoms when a girl raised her hand.

blue-waffle9-290x200“What about blue waffle,” she asked.

“Blue waffle?” I thought I had heard her wrong.

“Yeah, it gives women discharge and makes it all blue and painful on the outside,” she responded.

Luckily for me, my supervisor was able to step in and explain to the class that “blue waffle” is an internet hoax. (READ: BLUE WAFFLE IS NOT REAL.) There are a number of graphic images circulating around the internet that accompany lists of bogus symptoms, and there are a whole host of bogus websites that appear to be real (but aren’t). The graphic images appear to be photoshopped.

Regardless of where the images come from, if you are perusing the internet for health information, always go to reliable websites and triple check your sources. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s real or true. If you are looking for sexual health information and don’t stop by a well-known, reliable website like The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for verification, you’re doing your research the wrong way.

  • The majority of STD’s are asymptomatic (that means no symptoms).
  • If you are sexually active, or have multiple partners, always use protection and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, and do it often.
  • Use lubricants to minimize tearing of the condom.
  • When in doubt, see a medical professional.

Sometimes we feel shy or embarrassed talking about sexual health issues with a doctor and the internet is a logical place to search for health information. This simply underscores what we aim to do at The Feronia Project, by providing you with medically accurate sexual health information.

Want more information about STD’s and safer sex? Check out the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Planned Parenthood to help you decide whether to get checked!

Or you can Ask the Sexperts! here at The Feronia Project.

Tagged , , , , ,

So You’re LBGT, Why is STD Testing Important?

Today’s guest writer, “Deeds,” is a Masters of Public Health student (with a concentration in health education) and has BA in exercise science. Some of her areas of interest are body image, sexual health, and LGBT issues.

Hello there friends of the rainbow!

cake Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Long Acting Reversible Contraception…FOR MEN!

Today’s post is by “Obi,” a Nigerian doctor conducting his field experience at Planned Parenthood as part of his MPH program. He was a general practitioner in his home country with main interest and expertise in maternal and child health.

Over the past decades the tedious, but important job of using contraception has mostly been the woman’s – from daily pills to injections to invasive surgical procedures – the burden is uneven. I come with good news!

A relatively new long acting reversible contraceptive (in the biz we call them LARCs) is currently being tested on men in India with a likely release to the general public by 2017. It was created by Professor Sujoy K. Guha from the Indian Institute of Technology with the name Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance (RISUG). It is being spearheaded by Parsemus Foundation. Like a vasectomy, it is an outpatient procedure and needs a tiny incision in the male genital area but unlike vasectomy, it’s more easily reversed.

Here’s a brief description of how RISUG/Vasalgel works:

  • a pin hole-sized incision is made at the base of the scrotum
  • the physician locates and gains access to the vas deferens
  • Vasalgel is injected into the vas deferens and then carefelly placed back into the scrotum

vasalgelThat’s it! Vasalgel is made up of two chemicals which mix when injected and thickens to make a polymer lining the vas deferens. Its specific mechanism of action is that it lines the wall of the vas deferens and lets sperm flow through it but ruptures the sperm cell membrane as they pass by. Fantastic, right?!

Vasalgel can be effective for up to ten years. When the male wants his fertility back, a solution of dimethyl sulfoxie or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water is injected into the vas deferens, which flushes it out. The procedure has been proven in clinical trials to be very effective and there are some side effects like scrotal swelling and pain but those were very limited. As you know, female contraceptives also have side effects (good and bad) so you can expect the same from a male contraceptive. It is important to note that Vasalgel will NOT prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Have you heard of this simple, yet innovative LARC procedure for men? What do you think?

To read a similiar article, see The Daily Beast.

Tagged , , , ,

The Art of Listening

Today’s post comes to you from Zara Barrie, the Assistant Director of The SOURCE Theatre. In case you don’t know about the gem that is The SOURCE, visit this website

iPOSmage-300x199

KT Curran (3rd from left); Zara Barrie (2nd from right)

I’m currently working on the seventh production I’ve directed for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida’s SOURCE Theatre. I’ve directed plays that land all over the ever-expanding spectrum of young adult issues; plays that head-on tackle teenage epidemics such as bullying, anorexia, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, and sexual assault. I’ve showcased these plays everywhere from prisons, detention centers, high schools, middle schools, private schools, public schools, community centers, groups of parents, churches, to thirty-something young professional sophisticates…the list is endless. Amidst the awesome diversity among our audiences, somehow the response to our shows remains (amazingly) constant. “I didn’t feel like I was watching a play, I felt like I was watching real life” is the most common reaction. Regardless of one’s socio-economic background, gender, race or age, audience members always leave a SOURCE production reflecting their life choices and determined to make an active, positive change in their lives.

I’ve been involved with The SOURCE for over a decade. Society has changed so much in the past ten years, it makes my head spin just to think about it. In that chunk of time we have experienced vastly different political climates, major changes in the public school system, a plethora of conflicting trends, new dangerous drugs constantly making their way into pop culture, ever-changing lingo, sky-rocketing use of technology, and the birth of social media which has established itself as the premier outlet for self-expression. With all these chaotic shifts in our country, SOURCE remains as powerful as ever. Recently I’ve decided to attempt to wrap my brain around what it is that WORKS about The SOURCE. After much head scratching and restless nights I think I may have come up with a conclusion.

The powerful impact of The SOURCE truly resides in the one constant, and that is, the collaboration between SOURCE artistic director/writer KT Curran and the young-members of The SOURCE Theatre. KT Curran is the deepest listener I’ve ever met. By truly hearing the voices of teenagers, she is able to write plays that are burning with truth, works of art so honest, they attain the unique ability to forever change the lives of the young people who receive the gift of seeing a SOURCE play.

Listening…it sounds like such a simple task, doesn’t it? Yet with each passing year of my life, I’m discovering how rare it is to come across someone who is able to leave their ego entirely at the door, and focus all of their being on hearing another person. KT is able to do this, effortlessly and without judgment. Through the beautiful art of listening, KT gives the voiceless a voice. Never have I come across a feeling as empowering and life-changing than the feeling of being heard.  Being heard affirms one’s self-worth in this world. It is not until a young person realizes their self-worth that they are able to change own their lives, and the world in which they live. Teenagers are our future, it is imperative they have a voice.

Visit The SOURCE Theatre’s YouTube channel so you can see for yourself! (These performances will knock your socks off!)

Tagged , , , , ,

Cervical Cancer is Preventable

We’ll be back with our regular posting tomorrow, but today, we’re featuring an op-ed from Dr. Sujatha Prabhakaran, MD, MPH, FACOG, our Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs/Medical Director, to mark Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s important to know that cervical cancer is preventable.

It is one of the few cancers that has two proven strategies to prevent – not just treat – the disease. In 2011, more than 12,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 4,000 women died from it.

Almost all of these cases could have been prevented if these women had had access to either cervical cancer screening via Pap smears or to the HPV vaccination – or both.

One thing may not know is that Pap smears don’t usually detect cervical cancer. What they detect are precancerous cells, cells that aren’t cancer yet but show changes that suggest they could become cancerous. Once we detect precancerous cells, we are able to provide treatments to either destroy or remove these cells and prevent them from ever becoming a cancer.

Women who have regular Pap smears (every 2-3 years is now recommended for most women) have a much lower risk of developing cervical cancer because, if they have an abnormality, it is often detected in the precancerous stage.

Another way to prevent cervical cancer or prevent precancerous cells from ever developing is the HPV vaccination. Most cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus. Seventy percent of cervical cancer cases are caused by two particular types, 16 and 18, which are included in the vaccine. By getting the HPV vaccine before they are exposed to those viruses, women can significantly reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer.

Access to these types of preventive care is vital for the health of women.

While uninsured or under-insured women do have access to Pap tests and HPV vaccinations at safety net providers like county health departments and Planned Parenthood, this access will improve as women’s preventive health services will now be covered 100 percent under the Affordable Care Act.

I’m certain this will be a welcome change for women all over the country.

Tagged , , ,

Didn’t Learn That in Health Class!: STDs and Stigma

The way we talk about sexual health is incredibly important. If we want to reach a place in our society where people can easily gain access to reproductive health care, we need to learn to talk about sex, sexuality, and our bodies in ways that facilitate this change. This is particularly important when it comes to talking about sexually transmitted diseases, as the stakes for breaking away from the shame-based fear currently associated with these infections are incredibly high.

hiv-stigma-cycleOftentimes individuals who have a sexually transmitted diseases face a great deal of ridicule within our society. This scorn is reflected in casual conversations, media representations, and unfortunately even in some education related to sexual health. Negative notions about STDs may portray individuals who have them as being dirty, sexually promiscuous, and irresponsible. This creates a mold in which only “certain types” of people get STDs. The problem with this logic is that research has shown that 1 in 4 Americans currently have an STD, with almost half of these infections taking place in the 15-24 year old age range. If you are engaging in sexual activity, and especially if you are having sex and not using a barrier method (such as condoms and dental dams), it is possible for you to contract an STD. Infections don’t differentiate between “certain types” of people.

It also is important to remember that one reason we hold such negative views about sexually transmitted diseases is because they are contracted during sexual contact. We wouldn’t publicly ostracize someone because they caught a cold, nor would we spread rumors about someone’s character because they contracted a nasty case of food poisoning. Promoting negative ideas about STDs and the people who have them is tied in with our culture’s negatives notions about sex. There ARE risks to having sex, just like there are risks to nearly any type of human contact. However, the current cultural shame around STDs doesn’t promote knowledge or understanding, nor does it propel people into seeking medical care. However, the best way to decrease infection rates and encourage more individuals to seek testing and treatment may just be to highlight the fact that an STD is an infection, and like other all infections requires professional medical help. If we work to remove the cultural stigma surrounding STDs we may be able to start a more genuine discussion about how STDs are spread, what can be done to prevent them, and what to do if you have an STD.

The first of this month represented World AIDS Day. In keeping with a focus on HIV and AIDS, there are some organizations that work to reduce stigma, and provide a great example of how we can communicate about STDss without relying on negative assumptions or misinformation. One such organization is The Stigma Project, which is a “grassroots organization that aims to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through education and awareness via social media and advertising.” Another organization is The Sero Project, which is “a network of people with HIV and allies fighting for freedom from stigma and injustice.” Check ‘em out!

Tagged , , , , ,

The Transgender Dating Dilemma

What's Normal Anyway by Morgan BoecherToday, we’re very pleased to re-run Morgan Boecher’s guest post on The Feronia Project. Morgan, who is trans male, runs What’s Normal Anyway, a webcomic about being trans male.

Sexual health takes on new meanings for those who transition from one gender and/or sex to another. Not only are there plenty of challenges navigating medical care for physical health, but there are the less frequently discussed issues of maintaining mental health while negotiating the minefield of sexual relationships as a transgender person.

When I came out and began the social and physical transition from female to male, I started creating a comic called What’s Normal Anyway. The comic helped me reflect on my experience, connect with others, and expand the narrow world of transgender media by a little bit. I also had a secret reason for putting my comic out there: maybe it would help me get dates, I thought.

Now, perhaps a webcomic artist isn’t quite the sexiest thing one could imagine, but while I was entering a realm of foreign gender customs and newly sprouting secondary sex characteristics, I was looking for reassurance in any form. Until that point, I had lived my life as a reasonably feminine female who did not have trouble finding straight boyfriends. While I had a hard time identifying with heterosexual dating scripts, I at least knew how to follow them. As a masculine person, I found that the rules changed. Straight guys no longer flirted with me, and what on earth would gay guys think of me? (Of course, there are straight and gay trans men, but they are relatively few and far between.) I sometimes felt more like a curiosity than dating material.

Dating experiences among transgender people must be incredibly varied due to the multiplicity of identities, sexual orientations, and bodies represented within the community. At the same time, each attempt to form a new relationship poses some degree of risk for a transgender person. A date does not have to react with violence or hostility to make a trans person feel disconnected, feel not enough of something – not man enough, not woman enough, not queer enough.

Dating presents another layer of challenges for transgender people trying to be themselves, and be loved and accepted as such. The will to keep in the game can require a great deal of resilience and self-esteem, and the journey is rarely clear and simple.

But hey, that’s what makes for good webcomic material after all.

Morgan Boecher is a Florida-grown New Yorker who is working on a Master of Science at Columbia University’s School of Social Work while he creates a comic about being trans male called What’s Normal Anyway, which he updates every Monday at whatsnormalanyway.net.

Tagged , ,