Thursday, April 28, 2011

What to Eat - voiced by Jason Schwartzman

15 Crazy Things About Vaginas

Lissa Rankin's picture

A few weeks ago, I finally finished my 20 city book tour to promote What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (Woo-hoo! Trumpets blare! Cymbals crash! Phew). But i realized that I never posted a juicy blog that I wrote in the fall at the beginning of the tour... and gals, is it a good one. Did you hear the story of how asked me to write this post -- "15 Crazy Things About Vaginas" -- for their website on the launch day of my book? They had posted "15 Crazy Things About Sperm" and it was wildly popular. So they figured they’d play nice in the sandbox and give us girls our time in the limelight.
And then, after it had been up on their website for about an hour, some suit in corporate made them pull it.
“Too saucy.”
You can read the whole crazy-making story here.
Anyway, I never did get around to posting what I wrote for them. So here you go.
15 things I bet you never knew about vajayjays.
It’s amazing how much misinformation is out there about the vagina. Given how fascinated our society is with the female body, you’d think we’d be a little more informed. But from what I discovered while soliciting questions for my book What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, many of us still have a lot to learn.
To help out, I’ve compiled a few things you may not know about the female genitalia.
  1. Pubic hair is not just a biological accident that forces us to the waxing salon. It serves three critical functions. First, it protects the delicate vagina. Second, it serves as a reproductive billboard to alert potential mates that you are biologically (if not emotionally) prepared to procreate. And last, it’s a pheromone carpet and traps the scents that lead potential mates to the promised land. So you might think twice before you shave it all off. It’s there for a reason. Embrace it.
  2. There are 8000 nerve endings in the clitoris, dedicated exclusively to female pleasure. The penis only has 4000. Who says God didn’t take care of us girls?
  3. The average vagina is 3-4 inches long, but fear not if your guy is hung like a horse. The vagina can expand by 200% when sexually aroused, kind of like a balloon. Remember, the vagina was made to birth babies, so it’s exceedingly elastic. If you have pain when getting it on with someone large, you can use dilators to help stretch the vagina so you can accommodate the whole package.
  4. The vagina doesn’t connect to the lung. While the vagina can expand, it’s not an open conduit to the abdominal cavity. While microscopic sperm can swim through a tiny hole in the cervix, a tampon simply won’t fit. So if you lose something in there, don’t worry. Reach in all the way and pull it out. Do not -- I repeat, do not -- go hunting for whatever you’ve lost with a pair of pliers. Think of your vagina as being like a sock. If you lose a banana in a sock…it stays in the sock.
  5. Yes, it’s true -- your vagina can fall out. Not to belabor the sock metaphor, but it can turn inside out just like a worn out sweat sock and hang between your legs as you get older. But don’t fret; this condition -- called pelvic prolapse -- can be fixed.
  6. Vaginas have something in common with sharks. Both contain squalene, a substance that exists in both shark livers and natural vaginal lubricant. (Cue music: “She’s a maneater…”)
  7. You can catch sexually transmitted diseases even if you use a condom. Sorry to break it to you, but the skin of the vulva can still touch infectious skin of the scrotum -- and BAM! Warts. Herpes. Molluscum contagiosum. Pubic lice. So pick your partners carefully.
  8. The average length of the labia minora is less than ¾ inch long (yes, someone got out a ruler and measured 2981 women). Only 1.8% of women have labia longer than 1 ½ inches. But remember, every vulva is different and special. Some lips hang down. Some are tucked up neatly inside. Some are long. Some are short. Some are even. Some aren’t. All are beautiful. You’re perfect just the way you are.
  9. While hair on your head can live up to seven years, pubic hair has a life expectancy of about three weeks, which is why it only grows so long. So don’t worry if you opt not to groom your pubes -- you won’t need to braid them any time soon.
  10. The word “vagina” comes from the Latin root meaning “sheath for a sword,” which may explain why some women simply hate the word. So if you don’t like the word “vagina,” pick your own name for your girly parts. Just call it something and don’t be afraid to talk about it.
  11. Only about 30% of women have orgasms from intercourse alone. The clitoris is where the action is. Most women who do orgasm during sex have figured out how to hit their sweet spot, either from positioning or from direct stimulation of the clitoris with fingers.
  12. Increasing evidence suggests that the G spot feels good because it lies right over a deep part of the clitoris. Although experts describe the G spot as being inside the vagina on the anterior wall, just under the urethra, the crura of the clitoris actually runs right there. And a recent study demonstrated that vaginal orgasms may actually be deep clitoral orgasms. But who cares? An orgasm is an orgasm. Appreciate it, regardless of where it comes from.
  13. Vaginal farts (some call them “queefs” or “varts”) happen to almost all women at one time or another, especially during sex or other forms of exercise. So don’t be embarrassed if your hooha lets out a toot. You’re perfectly normal.
  14. Some women do ejaculate during orgasm, but you’re normal if you don’t. The controversial “female ejaculation” most likely represents two different phenomena. If it’s a small amount of milky fluid, it likely comes from the paraurethral glands inside the urethra. If it’s a cup, it’s probably pee. Many times, it may be a little bit of both. But don't stress out about peeing on yourself. Put a towel under you and surrender to the experience.
  15. Safe sex (or even just orgasm alone) is good for you. Benefits include lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke, reducing your risk of breast cancer, bolstering your immune system, helping you sleep, making you appear more youthful, improving your fitness, regulating menstrual cycles, relieving menstrual cramps, helping with chronic pain, reducing the risk of depression, lowering stress levels, and improving self esteem. So go at it, girlfriends!
There you go. There you have it. It’s important to know this kind of stuff, because you can’t truly love all of yourself until you love and understand your girly parts. We talk about the eyeball or the elbow or the big toe. Why not talk about the vagina? Plus, the vagina is way more interesting than the pinky finger or the belly button. The vagina is the creator of life and the portal of pleasure. But it’s also where we carry many traumas -- menstrual cramps, childbirth trauma, molestation, rape, abortion, and painful gynecological exams. If we don’t release these traumas, they back up and manifest in a whole host of health conditions like depression and chronic pelvic pain. We must talk about our girly parts to liberate them.
The more we know, the more we’re empowered to live life out loud, love fully, and really rock this life.
*      *       *
So there you have it.
Can you believe that these 15 facts caused such a hullaballoo? What do you think? Did you learn anything new? Have any more fun vajayjay facts to share? What do you think about how "sperm trumps vagina" and that this article was pulled? (It still rattles me...)
I had such a great time on tour talking with women about their yonis, these sacred sources of vitality and power. Big hugs to everyone whom I met on tour, who has read What's Up Down There, and who continues to bring vaginas out of the closet!
Loving you and your yonis -- just the way you are,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inspirational Jealousy

By Katherine Henderson © 2011   

Today I was having a doula consult/pow wow with my good friend Michelle. She is currently planning her second home birth and I have the privilege of being her doula!

We were exchanging birth stories and the contrast of quality between her home birth and my hospital birth was like night and day.

"It was great!" she began wistfully, "My midwife was so encouraging. She told me exactly what I needed to hear."
I, on the other hand, labored alone for 14 1/2 hours. My OB didn't even come into the room until Korban crowned. He barely spoke to me, and certainly never looked me in the eyes.
"She only checked my cervix twice."
An L&D nurse was in my room every hour, on the hour, to stick her fingers in my vagina without so much as a "hello" before doing so.
"When I was losing energy she brought me some food to nibble on."
I was only allowed ice chips to eat and hard candy to suck on. Not a single morsel of real food crossed my lips the entire day.
"The only truly painful part was the crowning."
I was so afraid of being that screaming, cursing woman in labor that I got an epidural when I no longer had the strength to whimper alone in silence.
She was in the privacy and comfort of her own home.
I was in an unfamiliar hospital with the door swinging open constantly without regard for who was in the hall and able to see me nude. My room was so cold that I couldn't tell if my shaking was from hunger, cold, or the anesthesia. And all kinds of strange staff members were walking in and out without ever bothering to knock.
She was surrounded by loving support.
My anesthesiologist made fun of me for wanting to labor naturally.
Her midwife delayed cord clamping as a matter of routine.
My OB had to be asked repeatedly, and after the fact, regaled us with alleged "risks" of delayed clamping.
Her midwife respected her birth plan.
I was warned against "reading too much."
Her midwife understood that labor should start on its own.
I was bullied for refusing an induction.
She had an empathetic and caring woman who deeply revered the normal birth process.
I had a man who thought he knew how to birth my baby better than my own body.

I'll admit I'm jealous. She got to have the birth of
my dreams! But that's actually a good thing for both of us. It's a good thing for all womankind! It affirms the truth of what women have been told they aren't even allowed to hope for - that labor can be wonderful! And dare I say it - enjoyable!

My birth envy fuels the drive to achieve my own audacious dream of emotionally, spiritually and physically fulfilling labor.

Michelle, thank you for inspiring me with the beauty of your jealousy-inducing birth story! I am looking forward to being a part of yet another one of your amazing home births!

Katherine Henderson is a wife, and mother to one, in Ardmore, OK. She is currently working toward her Birth Doula Certification through DONA International. Read more from Henderson at SAHM I Am.

Ultrasound Scans- Cause for Concern

@ Dr Sarah J. Buckley MD 2005
Previously versions have been published in
Mothering magazine, issue 102, Sept-Oct 2000, and Nexus magazine, vol 9, no 6, Oct-Nov 2002.
A fully updated and expanded version is published in
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices (Sarah J Buckley MD, Celestial Arts, 2009).

When I was pregnant with my first baby in 1990, I decided against having a scan. This was a rather unusual decision, as my partner and I are both doctors and had even done pregnancy scans ourselves- rather ineptly, but sometimes usefully- while training in GP/family physician obstetrics a few years earlier.
What influenced me the most was my feeling that I would lose something important as a mother if I allowed someone to test my baby. I knew that if a minor or uncertain problem showed up – and this is not uncommon — that I would be obliged to return again and again, and that after a while, it would feel as if my baby belonged to the system, and not to me.
In the years since then I have had three more unscanned babies, and have read many articles and research papers about ultrasound. Nothing I have read has made me reconsider my decision. Although ultrasound may sometimes be useful when specific problems are suspected, my conclusion is that it is at best ineffective and at worse dangerous when used as a “screening tool” for every pregnant woman and her baby.
Ultrasound Past and Present

Ultrasound was developed during WWII to detect enemy submarines, and was subsequently used in the steel industry. In July 1955 Glasgow surgeon Ian Donald borrowed an industrial machine and, using beefsteaks as controls, began to experiment with abdominal tumours that he had removed from his patients. He discovered that different tissues gave different patterns of ultrasound “echo”, leading him to realise that ultrasound offered a revolutionary way to look into the previously mysterious world of the growing baby.1
This new technology spread rapidly into clinical obstetrics. Commercial machines became available in 19632 and by the late 1970’s ultrasound had become a routine part of obstetric care.3 Today, ultrasound is seen as safe and effective and scanning has become a rite of passage for pregnant women in developed countries. Here in Australia, it is estimated that 99 percent of babies are scanned at least once in pregnancy – mostly as a routine prenatal ultrasound (RPU) at 4 to 5 months. In the US, where this cost is borne by the insurer or privately, around 70 percent of pregnant women have a scan.4
However, there is growing concern as to its safety and usefulness. UK consumer activist Beverley Beech has called RPU “the biggest uncontrolled experiment in history”,5 and the Cochrane Collaborative Database – the peak scientific authority in medicine-concludes that,
…no clear benefit in terms of a substantive outcome measure like perinatal mortality [number of babies dying around the time of birth] can yet be discerned to result from the routine use of ultrasound.6
This seems a very poor reward for the huge costs involved. In 1997-8, for example, $39 million was paid by the Australian federal government for pregnancy scans- an enormous expense compared to $54 million for all other obstetric medicare costs.7 This figure does not include the additional costs paid by the woman herself. In the US, an estimated US$1.2 billion would be spent yearly if every pregnant woman had a single routine scan.
In 1987, UK radiologist H.D.Meire, who had been performing pregnancy scans for 20 years, commented,
The casual observer might be forgiven for wondering why the medical profession is now involved in the wholesale examination of pregnant patients with machines emanating vastly different powers of energy which is not proven to be harmless to obtain information which is not proven to be of any clinical value by operators who are not certified as competent to perform the operations.8
The situation today is unchanged, on every count.
The 1999 Senate Committee report, ‘Rocking the Cradle’ recommended that the cost-benefit of routine scanning, and of current ultrasound practices, be formally assessed. Recommendations were also made to develop guidelines for the safe use of all obstetric ultrasound, as well as for the development of standards for the training of ultrasonographers (see below). So far, none of these recommendations have been implemented.7
Biological Effects of Ultrasound

Ultrasound waves are known to affect tissues in two main ways. Firstly, the sonar beam causes heating of the highlighted area by about one degree celsius. This is presumed to be non-significant, based on whole-body heating in pregnancy, which seems to be safe up to 2.5 degrees Celsius.19
The second recognised effect is cavitation, where the small pockets of gas which exist within mammalian tissue vibrate and then collapse. In this situation
…temperatures of many thousands of degrees celsius in the gas create a wide range of chemical products, some of which are potentially toxic. These violent processes may be produced by micro-second pulses of the kind which are used in medical diagnosis….19
The significance of cavitation effects in human tissue is unknown.
A number of studies have suggested that these effects are of real concern in living tissues. The first study suggesting problems was a study on cells grown in the lab. Cell abnormalities caused by exposure to ultrasound were seen to persist for several generations.20 Another study showed that, in newborn rats, (who are at a similar stage of brain development to humans at four to five months in utero), ultrasound can damage the myelin that covers nerves,21 indicating that the nervous system may be particularly susceptible to damage from this technology.
Brennan and colleagues, reported that exposing mice to dosages typical of obstetric ultrasound caused a 22 percent reduction in the rate of cell division, and a doubling of the rate of aptosis, or programmed cell death, in the cells of the small intestine.22

Mole comments

If exposure to ultrasound… causes death of cells, then the practice of ultrasonic imaging at 16 to 18 weeks will cause loss of neurones [brain cells] with little prospect of replacement of lost cells…The vulnerability is not for malformation but for maldevelopment leading to mental impairment caused by overall reduction in the number of functionning neurones in the future cerebral hemispheres.23
Studies on humans exposed to ultrasound have shown that possible adverse effects include premature ovulation,24 preterm labour or miscarriage,15 25 low birth weight,26 27 poorer condition at birth,28 29 perinatal death,28-30 dyslexia,31 delayed speech development,3233-36 Non right-handedness is, in other circumstances, seen as a marker of damage to the developing brain.35 37 One Australian study showed that babies exposed to 5 or more doppler ultrasounds were 30% more likely to develop intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR)- a condition that ultrasound is often used to detect.26 and less right-handedness.
Two long-term randomised controlled trials, comparing exposed and unexposed childrens’ development at eight ti nine years old, found no measurable effect from ultrasound.38 3940 However, as the authors note, intensities used today are many times higher than in 1979 to 1981. Further, in the major branch of one trial, scanning time was only three minutes. More studies are obviously needed in this area, particularly in the areas of Doppler and vaginal ultrasound, where exposure levels are much higher.
A further problem with studying ultrasound’s effect is the huge range of output, or dose, possible from a single machine. Modern machines can give comparable ultrasound pictures using a lower, or a 5 000 times higher dose,8 and there are no standards to ensure that the lowest dose is used. Because of the complexity of machines, it is difficult to even quantify the dose given in each examination.41 In Australia training is voluntary, even for obstetricians, and the skill and experience of operators varies widely.
A summary of the safety of ultrasound in human studies, published in May 2002 in the prestigious US journal Epidemiology concluded
…there may be a relation between prenatal ultrasound exposure and adverse outcome. Some of the reported effects include growth restriction, delayed speech, dyslexia, and non-right-handedness associated with ultrasound exposure. Continued research is needed to evaluate the potential adverse effects of ultrasound exposure during pregnancy. These studies should measure the acoustic output, exposure time, number of exposures per subject, and the timing during the pregnancy when exposure(s) occurred.42

Conclusions and Recommendations

I would urge all pregnant women to think deeply before they choose to have a routine ultrasound. It is not compulsory, despite what some doctors have said, and the risks, benefits and implications of scanning need to be considered for each mother and baby, according to their specific situation.
If you choose to have a scan, be clear about the information that you do and do not want to be told. Have your scan done by an operator with a high level of skill and experience (usually this means performing at least 750 scans per year) and say that you want the shortest scan possible. Ask them to fill out the form, or give you the information, as above, and to sign it.
If an abnormality is found, ask for counselling and a second opinion as soon as practical. And remember that it’s your baby, your body and your choice.

For Full Article and Resources go to...

Midwives and doulas offer fresh perspectives on birth

When Michelle L'Esperance was an undergraduate at Smith and an aspiring documentary photographer, she attended a lecture by nationally renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin "on a whim." She decided to become a midwife the following day, a choice that led to 15 years of work as a midwife and a doula in the United States and abroad.
"The practice of midwifery is truly holistic," L'Esperance explained, citing its medical, psychological and spiritual aspects. "I get to be all of these things."
Midwifery entails responsibility for the physical health of the mother and the baby during the birth and often the post-partum period. Certification necessitates extensive medical training and apprenticeship.
A doula, however, is limited to emotional support and advocacy on the mother's behalf.
"When I'm working as a doula, I can't use most of my skills," L'Esperance said, "[but] I can always suggest questions to ask."
L'Esperance admitted that when she tells people what she does for a living she often receives blank stares. With the ascendance of the "mainstream medical model of birth" over the course of the last century, midwives and doulas now constitute what much of the general population considers alternative birth methods
The latter are widely perceived as unsafe and ineffective due to their lack of traditional medical parameters. Many claim that the media offers unflattering portrayals of these professions and the birthing process in general, creating an uphill battle for both experienced and aspiring childbirth professionals.
"Our culture is exotic by global standards," locally based childbirth educator and filmmaker Vicki Elson said. "We're afraid of biology."
Elson began studying the portrayal of birth in mass media several years ago. She studied dozens of birth scenes only to discover that birth was grossly distorted in these contexts. This served as the inspiration for her documentary, Laboring Under an Illusion.
"We wanted make a film about how ridiculous this is," she said. The film juxtaposes realistic, largely uneventful births with "scary stuff" to satirical effect. Elson said that although the public's response to the film in the years since its debut 15 years ago has been incredibly positive, the media has yet to revise its dramatizations of birth. Popular television programs such as "A Baby Story" continually perpetuate frightening birth scenes, Elson noted. 

Read the full article at...