France Passes Law Granting Free Birth Control to Teenagers, and No One Balks | Slate

So: Straightforward, almost boring health care policy story about a government taking sensible, cost-effective measures to curb a public health problem. But the story isn’t really about health care policy—the underlying narrative here is that the French are yet again making American politicians look like a bunch of out of touch prudes. (Americans don’t need the French to point this out: Just wander into an American abstinence-only classroom to hear sexually active kids being told that anything short of waiting the 15-plus years between puberty and the average age of first marriage to have sex is a ruinous choice that will end with the fornicator unable to feel love or dead from AIDS.)

Needless to say, the measure sailed through the French legislature without any kind of political battle. Boring! How does that nation survive without its share of powerful right wingers claiming that giving girls access to contraception will lead to “sex-based cults” or that making it free means that girls who access the service are now obliged to give talk show radio hosts homemade pornography?

North Dakota Won’t Stop |

Right now, legislators in North Dakota are trying to make history by pushing through a sweeping package of bills aimed at restricting women’s reproductive health care. North Dakota could become the first state in the nation to pass ‘personhood’ legislation, which would ban all abortion in the state – even in the case of rape and incest. Even some forms of birth control, stem cell research, and in vitro fertilization could be banned. And women suffering a miscarriage could be prosecuted. And that’s not all. The state is also attempting to close down its sole clinic by imposing unnecessary and burdensome licensing requirements.

The Most Effective Form of Birth Control


Intrauterine devices, under-the-skin implants and Depo-Provera injections — the long-acting reversible contraceptives — are much more effective in preventing pregnancy than the transdermal patch, the vaginal ring or the birth control pill, a new study reports.

Researchers provided 7,486 volunteers with the contraceptive of their choice, then followed them for up to three years. (Women using condoms, diaphragms and natural family planning were not included in the analysis.) There were 334 unintended pregnancies.

Failure rates for pills, patches and rings were more than 9 percent by the end of the study, compared with less than 1 percent for the long-acting reversible methods. The study appeared in the May 24 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

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I've never been to the gynecologist. What can I expect at my first visit?

Via Women’s Health:

I’ve never been to the gynecologist. What can I expect at my first visit?

The first time you see a new gyno, you’ll often meet in his or her office to talk. Your doc is going to want the scoop on your life before beginning the exam. “[The patient] should expect to be ready to be truthful about a lot of issues, including sexual activity, the number of partners she’s had, whether they were male or female, the age she first got her period, and when she became sexually active,” says Shari Brasner, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and a partner in a private practice. The gyno will want to know your family history and things that have affected your health and that of your parents and siblings. Think you may need to be tested for an STD? Bring that up now. Your gyno will discuss the Pap smear, appropriate testing for sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, as well as whether you need blood work to test for HIV, hepatitis C, or syphilis.

Then you will move into the exam room, where you will undress completely and put on a robe. Your gyno will do a head-to-toe exam, including possibly checking your neck for thyroid abnormalities, a breast exam, and then the pelvic exam. During the pelvic exam, your doc will use one or two fingers inside the vagina and one hand on top of the belly, in the pubic region, to feel the internal organs. He or she may also use a speculum to hold the walls of your vagina apart to see the cervix and take specimens using swabs.

Total time? Approximately 20 minutes. Since that’s such a short amount of time, it’s wise to come prepared with a list of specific questions you want to ask. It’s very important not to leave the office without disclosing something important that could influence what kinds of tests the doc should perform. “I don’t want to finish my specimen collection and then find out that the patient suspects her boyfriend is cheating on her,” Brasner says.

Get the facts about the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of gynecologic cancers.

Via CDC:

When gynecologic cancers are found early, treatment is most effective.

Gynecologic cancers are cancers that start in a woman’s reproductive organs. The five main types are—

Each gynecologic cancer is unique, with different signs, symptoms, risk factors (things that may increase your chance of getting a disease), and prevention strategies. Every year, more than 80,000 women in the U.S. are told they have a gynecologic cancer, and more than 25,000 women die from a gynecologic cancer.*

*Source: U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2008 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report.Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute; 2012. Available at:

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September: Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Via Feronia Project:

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, but accounts for more deaths per year (~15,000) than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Why? Because it is difficult to detect in the early stages since the small, almond-shaped organs are buried deep in the abdomen and often create only non-specific mild symptoms.

So what can you do? Know your risk factors and be aware of the symptoms. Potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation or menstrual changes

Persistence of symptoms is KEY. Because these signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer have been described as vague or silent, only around 19% of ovarian cancer cases are found in the early stages. Symptoms typically occur in advanced stages when tumor growth creates pressure on the bladder and rectum, and fluid begins to form. Remember to report all symptoms to your doctor, as disconnected, unusual, or mild as they may be. Visit the National Ovarian Cancer Coalitionfor more information.

Via This Is Personal:

The health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act, has made it easier than ever for women to access affordable birth control by requiring employers to cover birth control without co-pays or deductibles. Opponents of the law claim that requiring the coverage of birth control for their employees violates their religious beliefs – but what about their employees’ religious beliefs? 

Should your boss’ beliefs trump yours? 

Well, someone thinks so because more than 40 lawsuits by employers, including private companies, have been filed (houses of worship like churches, synagogues, and mosques are excluded from this requirement). Even though past lawsuits challenging contraceptive coverage requirements have failed, and some currently include the most ridiculous of claims, it is important to be aware that this issue isn’t going away anytime soon.

Let’s make it clear that true religious freedom means giving everyone the right to make his or her own decisions, including whether and when to use birth control.

Everyday Health: When to Call Your Gynecologist

With pelvic pain and skipped periods, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your body could be trying to tell you something.


With the news that insurance companies will now be required to cover preventive health-care measures for women — including birth control, HPV screenings, and HIV counseling — it’s easier than ever to schedule regular checkups with your gynecologist. Prevention is your best defense against future health problems, but you can’t always predict when or what types of issues may arise. So how do you know if your symptoms warrant a trip to the doctor? These potentially serious signs are among several that call for a visit, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

  • Pelvic pain and abdominal discomfort. It’s important to tell your gynecologist what kind of pain you’re having. Does it come on suddenly or is it constant? This will help the doctor make a proper diagnosis. Sharp pelvic pain may be a warning sign that you have an infection, a ruptured ovarian cyst, or a dangerous ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy growing outside the uterus), according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). More constant pain or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen are suggestive of uterine fibroids, which are non-cancerous tumors.

    Another potential source of regular pelvic pain is endometriosis, a common condition in which the lining of the uterus grows outside the organ. “Endometriosis starts with pain during the menstrual cycle and can progress to become an ‘all the time’ pain as endometrial cells grow outside the uterus,” says Stephen Weiss, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. The endometrial tissue bleeds during menstruation and can cause terrible pelvic pain. “There is no cure for endometriosis, but anything that makes periods shorter, lighter, or nonexistent can provide symptom relief,” says Weiss. One option is birth control pills, especially a brand called Seasonale, which limits menstrual periods to four times a year. Another choice is the drug Lupron (leuprolide), which lowers estrogen levels and can slow the growth of endometriosis. Your treatment will depend on how bad the pain is and whether you plan on getting pregnant. In addition to causing pelvic pain, the condition can lead to trouble having a baby. “There is no proof that early endometriosis is a cause of infertility, but high stage endometriosis can lead to fertility problems,” says Weiss.

  • Bleeding between periods/postmenopausal bleeding. Occasional spotting between periods shouldn’t set off any alarm bells. But when the bleeding lasts for days or is heavy and painful, it’s time to call your gynecologist. This could be a sign of an injury to the vagina, a miscarriage, or even cancer of the cervix or uterus, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “If you’re having mid-cycle bleeding month after month, certainly call the doctor,” says Weiss. It is also important to check in with your doctor if you have stopped having periods due to menopause, but have begun bleeding again. This could be a sign of uterine cancer.
  • Problem periods/missed periods. It’s important to know what’s normal for you. “If you have had heavy periods for 15 years, you don’t have to call the doctor about it now,” says Weiss. But if you’re soaking through a sanitary pad or tampon every hour for two to three hours, or your bleeding has lasted longer than a week, your gynecologist needs to know. Uterine fibroids, an infection, or athyroid problem could be to blame. “If you feel weak or dizzy during menstruation, you should call your doctor, no question about it,” says Weiss. Irregular or infrequent periods can be a symptom of an underlying condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormone imbalance problem, according to the NIH. A missed period could be a sign that you are pregnant, or that there is another medical condition requiring attention.
  • Unusual discharge or soreness in the genital area. Vaginal discharge is the body’s way of keeping the vagina clean and healthy. The thickness of discharge changes at different times of the month, depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. But if you notice a yellow, green, or gray discharge that has a bad odor, it’s time to see your gynecologist, according to ACOG. Changes in discharge as well as itching and burning around your vagina could indicate some type of vaginitis. Two major culprits are yeast and bacterial infections, which can be treated with medication. Very painful genital sores could be a sign of herpes, says Weiss.
  • Painful sex. One of life’s greatest pleasures shouldn’t be painful. Pain during sex can be felt as deep pelvic pain or soreness in your genital area. Common causes are vaginal dryness, infections, or uterine fibroids, according to the NIH. Your gynecologist will likely perform a pelvic exam and tests to find out what’s wrong.
  • Problems with urination or bowel movements. Urinary incontinence or difficulty moving your bowels can be symptoms of pelvic floor problems. That’s when the tissues that support the pelvic organs become damaged or weakened, often due to childbirth. If the muscles are weak, your gynecologist may suggest special pelvic exercises, called kegels, to strengthen the area. But if there’s a tear, your gynecologist will suggest other treatment options.

    When to See the Gynecologist: Resources
    Experts say females who are sexually active and/or who are over 21 (whichever comes first) should see their gynecologist yearly for routine checkups and screenings. The sooner a problem is found, the sooner it can be treated. To find a gynecologist in your area, search the doctor directory provided by our partner site, Revolution Health, where you can find doctors by specialty, city, state, or zip code.

    Always pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you are experiencing any of these warning signs, your gynecologist can evaluate the problem and provide treatment to help you get back to feeling your best as soon as possible.

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What Every Girl Sees At A Gyno Appointment | College Humor

It’s like the dentist. But without pants. 

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Wednesday Addams is all grown up and scaring the hell out of Planned Parenthood protesters |

Happy Halloween! 

How To Tell Your Friends (and Boyfriend, and Gynecologist, and Nosy Family Members) You Don’t Want Children

Via Jezebel:

Your gynecologist

You’d think that the servicer of your lady parts would have your best interests at heart, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. For years, I’d boldly declared my intentions of remaining child-free at each of my annual check-ups, which my doctor often brushed off with a skeptical wave of his prescription pad. The line was drawn when he refused-refused!-to even discuss the pros and cons of a tubal ligation, saying that I was “too young” to know what I wanted, and that until I was married, the conversation was closed. I was 28 then, and I knew enough to get the hell out of that office and to find a provider who’d take my health-and not his personal credo-seriously.

You don’t need to take drastic measures, like sterilization or stomping out your doctor’s office, to make a statement about your choice. But you shouldn’t have to make a statement; when it comes to your healthcare providers, they should be on your team, rooting for you no matter what. Any other attitude is a red flag in my book. Places like Planned Parenthood, for example, are staffed with providers who are just as happy if you’re rolling solo for the rest of your days, or if one of those days will involve you plus 2.5 children.

Voicing your opinion to stay child-free has its risks, but it’s mostly a matter of getting used to protests that you’d one day make an excellent mother. And to those people, I say: if you liked it, then you shoulda put a NuvaRing on it.

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Blog: Prepping for a Trip to the GYN (

At least once a day, a patient apologizes to me that she hasn’t shaved her legs or had a pedicure before climbing into the stirrups. In addition to being worried that I am going to find some dreaded disease, they think I am judging their hairy legs, unwaxed crotch or chipped toe polish. It reminds me that what is a very routine exam for me is anything but routine for the women who are experiencing it.

But unlike the dentist, where brushing and flossing is essential, women need not do anything to prepare for an exam with their gynecologist. Truly, my only expectation is basic hygiene – a shower or bath within 24 hours is always appreciated.

In some cases, a woman’s efforts to “prepare” for an exam could actually diminish my ability to get accurate test results. If a Pap test is on the agenda, it’s important that a woman hasn’t done anything to wash away or obscure the cervical cells that need to be screened for pre-cancerous changes. It is also impossible to evaluate an abnormal discharge or odor if the environment has been altered. That means no spermicide, no medications, no lubricants and no douching (you should never douche under any circumstance!) for 24 hours before your appointment.

And, ideally, no sex. Having intercourse without a condom the night before a Pap will not make a normal Pap smear abnormal, but it might obscure cervical cells so that it cannot be accurately read.

Should you cancel if you “forgot” the night before? Realistically, after waiting two months for an appointment, asking for the afternoon off work, or desperately needing a refill on your birth control pills, it may not be practical to take a pass. Be sure to mention to your gynecologist that you had sex, and be aware that you may get a call back if the Pap can’t be read accurately.

On the other hand, if you are coming in specifically to check out an abnormal discharge or odor, you should probably reschedule. It’s pretty much impossible to figure out what is going on if you had intercourse hours before your visit.

If you are coming in for another problem, say abnormal bleeding, an STD check or pelvic pain, it really doesn’t matter.

Is it ever a good thing to have sex before your appointment? Actually, yes. If someone tells me they bleed every time they have sex, it is helpful for me to see where it is coming from – the uterus, cervix, or vagina. (Just don’t “prepare” in my waiting room or bathroom.)

And no, I really don’t notice and don’t care if you have shaved your legs and gotten a pedicure. Tattoos … now that’s another story (and a topic for another blog).

Speaking of Pap smears, recommendations for frequency of Pap smears have changed again. Click here to read this article for new guidelines.

Dr. Lauren Streicher is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University’s medical school, The Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago. Her clinical interests include all aspects of gynecology but Dr. Streicher has a particular interest and expertise in menopause, sexual health, minimally invasive surgery, laparoscopic hysterectomy, and alternatives to hysterectomy.