Tag Archives: women’s health

Amanda Beard and lessons for young women?

9 Apr

So says this article.

Amanda Beard was my swimming hero growing up.  For as long as I was in swimming, she was the top of my best event.  What she went through with isn’t completely unheard of in swimming, but it’s just so surprising to be reminded that it can happen to anyone, even if you’re at the top.

I don’t normally like to read comments sections, but (trigger warning in the link) Jezebel’s article on Amanda Beard‘s book has some interesting comments, from trigger warnings to the nature of swimming and how the timing of swim careers with body’s natural development make for a complicated relationship with the sport.  I’m reminded of my mom’s genuine concern with my “compulsion” to swim and make it to practice, of my shared laments that “normal people” just don’t seem to understand it’s more than a sport.  Looking back now, after some time away from it, I still remember how emotional it is, but I’m still not sure what to make of it all – whether it was  completely justified or not.  I learned a lot of lessons and my character is largely shaped by the whole experience, but still I’m not sure if I would put my own kids through the same.

Gastrointestinal truths

12 Mar

I have female patients who try to convince me that they don’t pass gas.  I tell them, “Well I know you pass gas every day, and I know how much you pass every day!”

– GI Pathophysiology prof

For the record: 7-8 times a day.  Males do it twice as much.

Angry women, angry people.

11 Jan

I’m Mad at You Because You’re an Idiot, Not Because I’m a Woman

By Litsa Dremousis from Jezebel:

I was with some girlfriends at an upscale bar downtown when a group of guys asked if they could join us. An attorney with dark, wavy hair in a plaid oxford shirt sat next to me, and we bantered flirtatiously for an hour. He was ring-free and never mentioned a partner. That is, until he asked for my phone number.

“But you’ll have to call me on my cell. My wife and I are in a weird place right now,” he said, attempting to elicit sympathy.

“Maybe that’s because you hit on women in bars,” I noted.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked. “You don’t know the whole story.”

“And I don’t want to,” I said.

“God, you really don’t like being a woman, do you?”

In two short moves we’d leapt from his infidelity to my ostensible gender dysmorphia and/or self-loathing. If this were checkers, he’d have been king, albeit of the dipshits.

What struck me was that both Rex and the attorney had delivered ill-timed, emotionally charged information, and when I’d expressed proportionate anger or irritation, the blame somehow boomeranged back onto me. I’d been expected to remain amiable, though by any objective measurement, that expectation was ludicrous. Either guy could have physically pummeled me had he chosen, so it’s not as if they were in danger, even for a second. Yet their reaction was still confusion and rancor when I pointed out their inanity.

The first time I burped in front of my college boyfriend, he said he didn’t know girls could burp. I pointed out that women, in this case, share the same physiology as men, so why wouldn’t we burp? He said he didn’t know why not, but that his mom and his other girlfriends had never burped. When I laughed and said they’d never burped in front of him, he dug in his heels. His mom and ex-girlfriends didn’t burp, so how was he supposed to know I could? Female burping was an urban legend, apparently, like alligators in toilets or crepes that turn out right the first time.

I’ve been a feminist since I was a little kid, but I’m extremely close with my dad and brother, and at every point in my life, at least half my closest friends have been male. I’m not trying to perpetuate gender stereotypes about dudes, while fighting the ones about ladies. But it’s weird to me that many straight men watch professional sports and action films, or back their friends up in bar fights, and find those displays of aggression admirable— but when a woman loses her temper for a specific and valid reason, these same men judge her for what is, like burping, a human reaction.

How do we alter the notion that a woman who stands up for herself, her loved ones, or her beliefs is the one who’s causing trouble? By accepting once and for all that legitimate female anger isn’t the hallmark of a bitch, cunt, ballbuster, or drama queen. We’re nearly 52% of the population— it’s time for more men to understand our behavior isn’t aberrant, and for more women not to feel “guilty” for not staying in the narrow range of traditionally accepted emotional responses. Women are multi-faceted humans with a full range of ambitions and emotional needs. Guys, sometimes we disagree with you, but sometimes we disagree with each other. Which is how it should be.

When I was much younger, I assumed girly things were bad while being more like a boy was good.  I made fun of my friend when she started wearing a bra.  When my friends and I played imaginary games in the schoolyard, I would pretend to be a guy.  Maybe I was a natural tomboy or maybe it was from idealizing my 3 older brothers, but while I’ve stopped thinking that girls are just a weaker version of boys, it’s hard to shake the feeling that acting too “feminine” in the outdated sense is frowned upon.  It still irks me when my classmates are overly polite, talk in a higher than usual pitched voice, giggle when nervous, preface sentences with “I think / I’m not sure but / Maybe”; all things I still notice myself doing too.

I’m mixed between wondering if part of me still thinks that boys are better than girls, or if it’s genuine frustration with how what’s considered feminine is largely based in what’s considered girlish.  It’s interesting that the author was surprised that her anger was perceived as threatening, and interesting too that the response to the threat was to minimize it by chalking it up to angry female hormones.  It reminds me of why I’m uncomfortable with “Women’s” organizations or specialties like “Women’s health”.  It gets down to separating women from the range of what’s considered normal;  If you’re acting like a woman, you’re not acting like a regular person.

How doctors learn to do pap smears and pelvic exams

27 Nov

Stephanie: in lab the other day
Stephanie:  we did our first pelvic exam (ie genital!)
Stephanie:  but on models
Stephanie:  but the vaginal model was kind of weird to watch classmates do
Stephanie:  feeling around, rectal exams pap smears and feeling uteruses
Stephanie:  our model wasn’t working right so our tutor had to stick his hand in it to work it properly
Stephanie:  and he had his arm up to the shoulder in this fake lower body model
Stephanie:  and then my friend had his hands in the other end
Stephanie:  it was just kinda weird
Ktown: oh myyy

Ktown: you must get quite comfortable around each other
Ktown: so the model like looks and feels real?
Ktown: i guess that is a silly question
Stephanie:  it looks real
Stephanie:  and kinda feels real
Stephanie:  but it’s not flexible, it’s kind of rigid
Stephanie:  so when we were trying to get the speculum in for pap smear
Stephanie:  you had to really force it
Stephanie:  and it seemed really violent, painful
Stephanie:  or pulling it out, people were like wrenching it out
Ktown: ahhhhh omg
Stephanie:  then it fwapp’d back
Ktown: fwapp’ed?
Stephanie:  the noise it made
Ktown: i wont even ask

Stephanie:  you’re supposed to inspect the rectum and the vagina at the same time at one point
Stephanie:  like have two fingers on the same hand in both
Stephanie:  it’s basically the shocker
Stephanie:  and did you know there’s a special order to which finger you take out first? (the vaginal one)
Stephanie:  and my friend was too shy to say vagina or anus
Stephanie:  so he was trying to describe his finger that was in the anus the longer one
Stephanie:  to avoid saying anus
Ktown: oh my

Ktown: youve shockered a fake girl!
Stephanie:  it was for science!

Ktown: why must you do both at the same time?
Stephanie:  it’s to feel the septum between them
Stephanie:  it’s supposed to feel like the webbing between your thumb and first finger
Stephanie:  (i bet you just felt it! because i did in class when i heard that)
Ktown: i see
Ktown: felt what?
Stephanie:  the webbing on your hand
Stephanie:  nevermind i was wrong!
Ktown: i was thinking about feeling my finger webbing
Ktown: then i read that and freaked
Stephanie:  it’s hard not to. I’m just curious!
Stephanie:  (i was anyway. In class i tried to hide that i was feeling it. I don’t know why i cared!)
Ktown: i keep thinking your talking about the other one

Stories from the Female Reproductive Tract

6 Nov

Heard in class:

“Last week I realized how little I know about the female vagina.”

“You really had to specify that it was female, huh.”

We just finished the female reproductive system in Pathology and I have to say it has got some freaky stuff going on.  It’s hard to conceptualize for many (I’ve heard a lot of guys complain that they just don’t get it because they don’t have ovaries, tubes, uterus, etc.. but it’s not like it’s something women can just open up and look at on themselves), but it’s really cool when you step back from it.  The whole process of ovulation and menstruation is so messy (Eggs rupturing out of the ovary!  Layers of the placenta breaking down and falling out!) and the pathologies you see in the female tract are so different from anywhere else because of the cells that are there ready to develop into a new person.

Mature teratomas

A cancer of the (unfertilized) egg where it starts to grow random bits of body like hair, skin, teeth, even brain.  Although it’s a cancer it’s totally benign and won’t spread or cause any trouble.  What might though is the skin that develops from it, which can sometimes turn into a skin cancer inside your ovary.


The endometrium, the part of the uterus that is sloughed off every month in your period, is a sneaky bugger.  Sometimes it can start to develop outside the uterus, in places like the ovary, the fallopian tubes, even the lungs and in bone or in scars of previous surgeries (laprotomies and C-sections).  Even though it’s in an unusual place, it keeps functioning like normal every month i.e. bleeding in time with your period.

Partial Hydatidiform Mole

This is a kind of abnormal placental growth that’s caused by abnormal fertilization where a normal egg is fertilized by two sperm at the same time.  The embryo ends up with one and a half times the normal number of genes, which doesn’t stop it from developing at least a little bit, but then dies.  The woman will think she’s pregnant but after 3 or 4 months, she might be wondering why her tummy isn’t getting bigger anymore, and may go to a clinic when she notices she’s passing out tiny grape-like structures.  Instead of a developing baby, she has some normal placental parts, plus some abnormal grapey placental parts, and some embryo parts as well.

The Cup of Divas

29 Oct

Abby was just in my room, checking out my earrings hanging by my mirror, the little Buddha statue sitting on my dresser.  Then an odd cup, sitting inverted on the surface-top.  “Oh what’s this?”  “Oh my God don’t touch that!”  Abby found my Diva Cup. I really shouldn’t leave it out lying around.  But hey, it was a great way to introduce the idea to someone (how else, really, can it ever come up?) and I think she thought it was a great idea.  And on top of that, she and I reached a new level in our friendship.

Julia first told me about Diva Cup, which I wasn’t sure about because of swimming (flip turns, hey!) but I highly endorse it.  Think of how many tampons and menstrual pads you keep out of the trash!

The Bill

14 Oct


My first reaction after reading this was to wonder whether there was some way to build a scientific argument against denying women the right to abortions.  I felt frustrated by how spiritual beliefs so often trump scientific facts.  Then I felt kind of funny for feeling that way.  It’s just that these arguments seem so desperate sometimes.

Best/worst quote from Virginia Foxx, Republican congresswoman from North Carolina and supporter of the bill:

For my colleagues across the aisle who say that this is a misogynist bill, nobody has ever fought more for the rights of women than I have. Fifty percent of the unborn babies that are being aborted are females. So the misogyny comes from those that promote the killing of unborn babies.

In the US, abortion is a liberty but it isn’t a right.  That means that it’s legal and the government won’t step in to stop you from having an abortion, but it won’t take part in helping you get a safe abortion.   This bill is taking it to an extreme, using money as the barrier.  Essentially, it’s a liberty but only if you are so rich you pay for insurance completely out of pocket and you use hospitals that don’t accept any government funding.  I.e. it’s no longer a liberty.

I guess my frustration is from how the supporters of this bill think abortion is just wrong and go so far as to advocate that the death of the woman is justified, no matter what the reason.  Let alone the fact that making abortions impossible to get legally won’t stop abortions from happening.  It will only stop legal abortions from happening.  Women will get abortions but more of them will die because they will be turning to “clothes hanger abortionists”.

My understanding is that supporters of the bill assume that the fetus must be protected because it is life and didn’t do anything to “deserve” to die, but the woman (who is also life, a fact not often discussed) who dies because of the un-aborted pregnancy is responsible for her pregnancy and therefore it’s okay if she dies, it was her doing in the first place.

We treat people who are responsible for their conditions all the time.  ALL THE TIME.  We treat smokers who in this day and age are fully responsible for their lungs digesting themselves into a cancer, their heart failing, not to mention who are also responsible for the deaths of their families and friends around them who inhale the carcinogens from the cigarette that they chose to light up.  The motorcyclist who refuses to wear a helmet or the student who continues to binge drink.  The diabetic who doesn’t bother with their diet, or the 1 out of 6 Americans who is going to die of heart disease but still doesn’t think it’s worth eating better or exercising more.  We definitely don’t treat them any different (in fact the industry probably treats them better) than people who are arguably less responsible for their poor heart health.  That is the person who maybe isn’t able to afford eating better (fresh food is more expensive in poorer communities than in richer communities) nor able to exercise more (difficult when you have to commute 2 hours each way on public transit that is shoddy and underfunded, raise enough money to raise a child on your own, and also have time to raise that child).

Who cares if a woman is responsible for her pregnancy.  Why should she have to die for it?  It comes down to individuals (including some women) having a hard time letting go of the idea that women need to be looked after and their actions policed.  That they for one stupid reason or another, shouldn’t have the full capacity to decide for themselves what to happen to themselves.  That women’s decisions can be allowed to be made and the consequences of those decisions allowed to go forward without a ridiculous debate where the majority of the voices are men and women who don’t represent the women that this legislation will most affect.  Women’s choices impact societies immensely, but it should not be up to a society that largely excludes women to decide how these choices will be made, not through legislation, not through “women’s magazines”, not through gender roles for men, not through wedding reality shows, not through pink clothes for baby girls, not through she’s a bitch or stay young forever!  

This debate is a debate over the weight of a women’s choice and opinion, and it is sickening that it is a discussion that is still going on.

Selected Facts on Induced Abortion from the Guttmacher Institute

  • At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45.
  • About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.
  • The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.
  •  Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently, while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.
  • Forty-two percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children).
  • Fifty-eight percent of abortion patients say they would have liked to have had their abortion earlier. Nearly 60% of women who experienced a delay in obtaining an abortion cite the time it took to make arrangements and raise money.


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