Tag Archives: health

Breastfeeding Prevents Breast Cancer

Breastfeeding is the original calmer, too. Oxytocin, babes.

A few weeks ago, I encountered a university student raising money by staffing a bake sale in support of breast cancer research. I bought two chocolate chip cookies, perused the brochures displayed on the table and noted, “There aren’t any on breastfeeding.”

“Well, no, because this is about breast cancer. And research for a cure.”

“I understand. But maybe you didn’t know that breastfeeding prevents breast cancer? Up to one-fifth of malignancies.”

What?

After I explained, she dragged her friends over to listen to my impassioned – albeit short — speech. Not one of these intelligent, competitive students had even heard of the research showing that feeding one’s baby from the breast benefits the mother, too. Not from their maternal relatives, nor their physicians, nor their professors, nor . . ..

So do girls and young women a favor. Let them know. Spread the message below. Forward this post – every message below links to a different article or study on how, when they are mature and ready to take on the task of raising a child, breastfeeding improves the health of the mother.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

BREASTFEEDING PREVENTS CANCER.

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We Need to Stop Obsessing About Marriage

 

Pause. Think.

 

How many truly good marriages have you known?

 

Straight, gay, even long-term partnerships. How many have been really happy and respectful?  Yes, of course, relationships over years contain ups and downs, but of the ones that make it through, how many are not just long in years, but healthy?

 

Not many, right?

 

This amusing-but-true Slate article demonstrates what can impel someone to want to blow up their marriage after kids arrive.

 

Beyond sharing the inevitable work that comes with children, there are other reasons for marriage break-up. Two people marry who really shouldn’t. One partner changes so much that the relationship is harmed. Or events outside the marriage impact it terribly. Or mental illness erupts. Or. Or.

 

There are lots of reasons for people not to be joined to each other. And really only one – that they do better together than apart – for them to stay married.

 

Unfortunately, the American obsession with preserving the two-parent family is hurting women who are being abused within their marriage, and their children, as this article demonstrates.

 

Researcher Sara Shoener, from the article: “My point . . . was that when we as a community frame marriage as a universally good thing for families, we bolster the obstacles intimate-partner-violence survivors must overcome to secure safety for themselves and their children, no matter their place in the social structure.”

 

We all know of low-income women who hesitate to leave abuse, who figure they must sacrifice their own health and safety in order to give their children an in-home father figure. Note that the sons of these abusive fathers can grow up to be abusers themselves, that daughters accept more abuse, and that men who abuse their wives are often also assaulting their children in hidden ways.

 

But what of higher-income families? They’re not as violent, right? Not necessarily.

 

Shoener notes, “Since the op-ed ran, I have been inundated with messages from women in upper-middle-class families who have been hiding their partners’ violence. Particularly for women who have dedicated their lives to raising children while their partners were the primary wage earners, leaving a violent marriage would entail an upheaval of their entire social and economic lives. For example, one woman wrote and said she was afraid that if she left her violent husband, she wouldn’t be able to afford her children’s school and extracurricular activities, thereby disadvantaging her children and removing herself from her support network. She described a life filled with tennis lessons, PTA meetings, afternoon play dates, and couples’ activities that would have to be sacrificed. The disadvantages of single motherhood look different for different women, but are frequently a factor in their decision-making.”

 

The reality is that the system, and the US insistence that marriage – any marriage – is better than two single parents, exposes children to violent fathers in order to attempt to buttress unhealthy marriages.

 

Shoener: “I observed a lot of social service and court systems [where] safety considerations were often overlooked . . .. When survivors [of abuse] resisted this arrangement, they risked being considered uncooperative or vindictive. In fact, many attorneys who represent survivors told me that they try not to bring up their clients’ experiences of abuse to avoid being seen as selfish or petty. Abusers could exploit this reality to garner more power.”

 

And the system allows them to do this, thus endangering not only the survivor of abuse, but the children.

 

In fact, men who have been demonstrated to be violent can still have legal access to guns and go on to commit murder, as this article shows. In the US, it happens every day.

 

How to change this marriage obsession in a reality of politicians who extol marriage per se as an intrinsic good rather than placing weight on the quality of the union?

 

“I would absolutely agree that children who are lucky enough to have two loving parents [in the home] are going to fare better on average than those who do not,” Shoener says. “But I’d argue that value is derived, in large measure, from economic and social resources — a house in a good school district, money for extracurricular activities, time to check homework — that single parents have a more difficult time accessing. There’s a large body of research that suggests that abusive relationships drain those resources, rather than contribute to them . . .. In my estimation, we could build a stronger community by better meeting the needs of parents in a variety of family structures, rather than focusing solely on incentivizing one that isn’t going to work for everyone.”

 

If we look at nations that prioritize children’s well-being (the Scandinavian countries, where parents’ marital status is unimportant compared to how they nurture their children), we see that there’s a stark divide between them and us.

 

Prioritize marriage – no matter what – or prioritize kids? It really can’t be both.

Let’s stop regarding a marriage license as proof of family health.

It’s never been that.

 

 

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First Comes Love. After That?

 

Marriage. Or, as in The Princess Bride, mawwige

 

We pretty much think we know what marriage is. It’s that time that happens after the wedding, be it ornate or a few mumbled words in a registry office, the months and years together. Sometimes apart. With children or not, through choice or impossibility.

 

We often think it’s a man-woman thing. Or a woman-man thing. In some places, it can also be a woman-woman or man-man thing.

 

Among people of certain religions, it can be a man+multiple women thing. Much less frequently does it involve one woman and more than one man, although anecdotal evidence out of India and China indicate that such marriages, usually involving brothers, are increasing and will continue to do so as the “lost girls” phenomenon (abortion of female fetuses) continues.

 

A lot of people, like this Washington Post columnist, think marriage is a state to be desired for all single people. Tell that to the women assaulted and murdered by their husbands, or the spouses of both sexes married to the insane, the emotionally cold, the manipulative, the sociopathic.

 

Marriage does not carry the cachet it did a generation ago, and with good reason. As divorce became easier, it grew apparent that what we need is a better way to be matched with a loving spouse.

 

It’s no wonder that in some Western societies, people intentionally have children before they marry. Sometimes they never marry. Swedish children are more likely to be raised by two unmarried parents than American children are to be raised by two parents still married to each other. As we know in rearing kids, healthy presence counts.

 

This Australian article mentions the thoughtfulness that the current crop of young-and-in-loves bring to the question of to marry or not.

 

“Australian Institute of Family Studies senior researcher Lixia Qu attributed the decline in the divorce rate to the fact more than 80 per cent of marriages were preceded by couples living together these days and couples marrying later in life. ‘People are quite cautious nowadays about marriage,’ Ms. Qu said. ‘When they do get married, they’re older, they’re a bit more mature, they’ve experienced a sort of weeding-out process.’”

 

They’re also doing less hormone-driven thinking. In the US, studies show that the divorce rate is higher where people are encouraged to marry young and have children right away. When they wait, they are more likely to have healthier marriages.

 

The Guardian interviewed 20 young adults from different nations to learn their takes on marriage. Yes, no, maybe so? Their responses varied from “oh, yes” to “probably not” and several stops in between. What was most interesting were their approaches. Thoughtful, measured, and in this era, with a definite eye toward economics.

 

Which is not to say that the heart has no say. Indeed it does, as well as a concern for both spouses’ well-being. This lovely article lists ten alternative wedding vows, genuinely meaningful ones.

 

“I promise to nurture your goals and ambitions; to support you through misfortune and celebrate your triumphs” – that’s #6 on the list. What a fantastic promise to make and to keep.

 

As the reasons for marriage have altered through the centuries (who in contemporary Western society marries in order to connect adjoining parcels of land? – a common course in the Middle Ages), so our taste for marriage waxes and wanes. If parenthood is no longer as important as in the past, if remaining with a partner is the most essential thing, including tax advantages, emergency care and passports, then we will still marry. We will still risk. Perhaps we will weigh the risks and marry not from obligation or temporary passion, but out of a loving friendship.

 

While searching for a photo, I found this lovely statement:
“If I had my life to live over again, next time I would find you sooner so I could love you longer.”

 

Says it all, really.

 

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Quit Yer Yapping!

One of those sports men love.

 

Has the smoke cleared? Is it safe to come out?

 

Evidently, no.

 

Other Western nations are laughing at us. Well, they would be having a right old giggle, except that horror prevents laughter. How, they wonder, can the US, the home of much brilliance and democracy, be affected by people who make no sense?

 

Welcome to the US of the Teahadist years.

 

Want to buy insurance? Think you should not need to help pay for another person’s contraceptive pills or devices, or indeed her birth expenses should contraception fail? In the US, plenty of these people are fuming. Publically. The concept of sharing the insurance load seems to have whizzed right over their little heads.

 

Generally, these conscienceless objectors are male. Women usually have more sense. And – if they are past childbearing age – more sense of collaboration, of “we’re all in this together”.

 

“I’m not on the Pill!” the male fumers rant. “I won’t ever give birth! Why should I have to pay more because some floozy opts to . . ..” You’ve heard it all before.

 

Here’s a counter-attack:

 

For one thing, oral contraceptives and other devices prevent unwanted births. Such births are costly. Those children don’t disappear once out of the womb. They need to be schooled. Do the protesting men want public schools more crowded than they are now? Children also need to be housed, which means more competition for apartments and homes, and since they’re unwanted, they will either need psychological help to heal from their neglectful parents, or additional police presence. That’s just a start. Their problems could endure for decades, and that means more crime, more pain for their victims, and more incarceration.

 

Like I said, expensive.

 

Still unconvinced that we’re all in this together?

 

Fine. Here are some activities. The injuries from which no insurance should fully cover, activities that are demonstrably dangerous and result in injury:

 

Snowboarding.

Driving fast.

Jumping off buildings.

Playing American-style football.

Drinking too much alcohol.

Experimenting with sexual asphyxiation.

Motor-boating.

 

None of those is on the list of extreme sport like paragliding (the expenses of which are carefully calculated by health insurance companies, which often refuse to insure their practitioners or charge them significantly higher premiums), yet the above activities result in many, many injuries each year. Terrible injuries, often to the brain. Just because some idiot opts to . . ..

 

What’s the common thread weaving through those activities?

 

Their practitioners are almost all male.

 

I should object. I should protest. I have the right to say – along with many women – look here, I don’t do that stuff! I don’t engage in reckless behavior like that. I have more respect for my body than to abuse it with substances and excess speed and devil-may-care mistreatment. All of those activities are entirely optional. Those guys chose to race, jump off the garage, guzzle Stoli like it was water.

 

Why should I pay for young men’s foolishness and older men’s folly?

 

Oh, yeah, that’s right. Because we’re all in this together.

 

Got it, guys?

 

 

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Paging Dr. Kegel

 

The man who made surgery unnecessary

 

Despair.

 

That’s the reaction I had when reading this article on young women opting for surgery to obtain what are termed “designer vaginas”.

 

Lest you think we’re confusing our V-words, no. They’re not attaching rings or gems to their vulvas (the part that can be seen), they’re paying surgeons to cut-and-stitch their birth canals.

 

And why? Well, porn, for one. They – or their partners – expect a certain experience that imaginary, pixelated characters presume to have. In other words, fiction. So if their own friction doesn’t live up to the low standards of their preferred fiction, well, off to the GYN to have that little “problem” resolved.

 

Of course it’s the woman who submits to surgery. Naturally. Never mind that surgery is supposed to be healing by way of a knife, and there’s no healing performed here because, well, there’s no disease or injury.

 

The mind boggles.

 

So she has her expensive surgery. She risks complications from the anesthesia, recovery, the many nasty germs that float through hospitals, post-surgical infection, and, let’s face it, from the potential mistakes of the surgeon himself. I say him, could be her, but most Western surgeons are male.

 

There she is, form-fitting and juuuussssst right. Maybe. She could end up dead from septicemia, or merely wounded and requiring hospitalization and perhaps months of recovery.

 

There has to be an easier way.

 

There is. Ta-daaah! Enter Arnold Kegel, MD, who in the 20th century designed a series of exercises so simple and discreet they can be done on public transportation, in meetings, even while watching TV with the family. Although Kegel – the man – designed Kegels – the exercises – in order to help women who had trouble with bladder control (they’re great for that, too), he soon found his patients reporting an odd side effect: sex with their husbands felt better, and the men were ecstatic.

 

Well, duh. What the exercise does is help the pelvic floor muscles become more elastic, stronger, tighter. It would be strange if that didn’t improve vaginal intercourse.

 

Kegel exercises are recommended to women of all ages. (Maybe the people choosing surgery missed that day in sex education class?)

 

So why pay thousands of dollars and run the risks of surgery when, in just a few minutes a day, you can build yourself a snappier little birth canal for free?

 

In any case, surgeons who do gynecological reconstruction have a far greater task ahead of them, one they could begin on immediately, both paid and volunteer, and that’s repairing the ravages of FGM (female genital mutilation), which is not only long-term torture in terms of sex, but also impairs a person’s ability to give birth and survive it.

 

Some surgeons, especially in France, have begun this work. It is like a miracle to people who for years have paid a very heavy price for their society’s inhumanity.

 

But there are hundreds of thousands – likely millions – of people who currently have no access to such surgeons. In Egypt, over 90% of female adults are survivors of knives that cut away their clitorises, inner lips, and sometimes the outer lips of their vulvas, as well.

 

While numbers in Egypt are very high – FGM started there in the time of the pharaohs, and Islam has yet to name it accurately as a pre-Muhammad cultural practice, thus pagan and forbidden – other nations have shockingly high percentages of mutilated people, too. Horribly, the practice continues, so that attacks on little girls in many Muslim families are regarded as just a part of growing up. (Note: Some of those little girls do not survive the assault. They die from blood loss, shock and trauma, and, days later, fevered and hallucinating from advanced septicemia.)

 

So instead of doing useless designer surgery, gynecologists, how about employing your skills to heal? Educate your colleagues, get together and devote one morning per month – per week – to FGM survivors, and know that you’re not just making life better . . . you’re making life bearable.

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The Big Check

How much belly is too much belly?

 

I’ve written before of how excess weight affects the testosterone balance in both men and women, which leads to less energy, lower libido, and increased consumption – for men – of ED drugs . . . when just weight loss would make things perk up again, get you “back in the game”, as an advertising campaign puts it.

 

The reason for the disruption in the balance of testosterone lies in the fact that fat stores estrogen, even when you don’t want it to. It’s not something you can will away: “Ten extra pounds, you vill NOT hoard ze estrogen, understandt?” With more estrogen than you can use – or than is healthy, since excess estrogen nurtures cancer cells – the testosterone you have is outweighed, literally, by your fat.

 

A smaller percentage of testosterone means slow, bludgy days. Zippo energy. And a libido that quit hours ago.

 

But how much fat is too fat, for men?

 

A new British campaign sets the answer right before your very eyes. Called “The Big Check”, it asks: Can you see your penis by simply glancing down? After you use the urinal, for example. Can you see it without having to lift away your belly?

 

A UK website, We Love Our Health, puts it like this: “New research shows 1 in 3 men are unable to see their penis. If your stomach is starting to obstruct the view of your manhood you shouldn’t ignore it; not only can it knock years off your lifespan, but it could put you at serious risk from life-threatening illness.”

 

Talk about an easy way to tell if you need to let go of poundage!

 

Releasing your manhood-blocking weight is also good for heart health, brain health (strokes and such), and high cholesterol – the latter is implicated in erectile dysfunction and impotency, too.

 

Since most men pay more attention to their cars than to their own health, the website has a page of tips for the women who love them, on how to get your guy to take care of his own, er, engine and other parts.

 

So, men, pop quiz. Stand up. Look down. See it?

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Fifty Years Too Late

This was poison

 

Imagine you’re in the early stages of pregnancy and experiencing morning sickness and nausea that, well, doesn’t restrict itself to pre-noon. At any time, any place, you could be taken short. Find an empty place (pull the car over if you need to), tell your small children you’ll be right with them, and proceed to be very sick indeed.

 

Not fun. For some people, as well, first-trimester nausea lasts throughout the pregnancy. One of the most joyous things about birth is that one finally feels healthy.

 

Now, imagine a medication that could make the nausea vanish. No more hot saliva, frantic searching, upchucking. No more apologies for ruining a neighbor’s shrubs. Clear sailing for as long as needed.

 

Sounds good, right?

 

That’s what physicians and lay people thought decades ago, when a little pill manufactured in Germany became, for some months, popular as a nausea preventive in pregnancy. Until the babies of thousands of women who took the pill began to be born.

 

Babies who lacked hands and feet. Who had flippers for arms. Babies whose bodies had been deformed by the very pill that prevented their mothers’ vomiting.

 

That was thalidomide.

 

A pause here to acknowledge and honor the woman who prevented thalidomide from entering the US. Born in 1914 and still living, Frances Oldham Kelsey, PhD, MD, worked at the FDA at the time as a pharmacologist. She had grave reservations about thalidomide because the research showed a nervous system side effect. Despite intense pressure by the manufacturer to approve the drug, Dr. Kelsey refused to sanction it for the American market. Thanks to Dr. Kelsey’s determination, the only American children abused by thalidomide were those whose mothers bought the drug while overseas.

 

Many thalidomide-affected children were turned over to orphanages right after birth. Their shocked parents –there was little counseling or emotional support in the 1960s – simply felt they could not handle raising a child with such profound bodily defects. Many children died before they turned one year old. Some were adopted by other families. Some stayed in orphanages until they were grown.

 

Globally, the numbers were huge. There were 12,000 children affected by thalidomide.

 

Why write about this now? Because it is only now, 50 years later, that Gruenenthal, the manufacturer of the poison thalidomide, is making an apology. Harald Stock, its CEO, acknowledged that the firm had remained silent. The Independent reports that, “He said the company had failed to reach out to the victims and their mothers over the past 50 years.”

 

A half-century of silence. Why now? Why even speak up now?

 

Perhaps it’s that finally, Gruenenthal feels it can take responsibility. Perhaps Herr Stock is a forward-thinking corporate executive.

 

Perhaps it’s because, in Australia, thalidomide survivors – legless, armless, but with abilities and brains – are, at last, filing suit in courts of law.

 

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Filed under FDA, Frances Oldham Kelsey, Health, Law, Morning sickness, Pregnancy, Thalidomide