Thursday, September 22, 2016 Couldn't Really Care Less

To be clear, I have no problem with people needing help to clean their house.  
My problem is with the way this ad  "others" people in positions of service by:

1) appealing to consumers basic desire for happiness and free time and then
2) implying that their target audience is white (stock image of the blonde woman with her child) and entitled to those basic desires ("get that time back"). Then
3) by juxtaposition, suggesting the housekeeper's free time is "supposed" to be full of cleaning and that they are *not* entitled to that free time, because their *clients* are the ones who are entitled to it. Which is why clients pay housekeepers to service them.
Since housekeepers usually cannot "get more quality time" by hiring someone, this implies that those who do not have the extra money for that service simply don't need that "quality time".

This creates a hierarchy within the ad's premise:
-You (client) have money but no extra time to be happy.
-Pay a someone else to do it, so you can be happy.
-that someone else *IS* the solution to this problem, so who can that someone call for assistance in order to get time back and "be happy"?
-That's not really any of your concern. It's not as important as your free time. You deserve free time because you have the money to pay for this service.

The fault is with the ad for equating money with deserving happiness. Obviously it's an ad strategy as old as time (buy our thing; be happy!), but in this case, the message of the ad comes at the cost of service workers' humanity.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Ins and Outs of Menstrual Cups

Photo Cred: BucketListly Photos
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes, 49 seconds

Can you tell me about menstrual cups? she said. Im moving overseas and I dont think theyll have the products I want to use there, so Im thinking about getting one before I go.
Just one of many ways this conversation has started for me with many different types of people. Some are looking for new solutions to their menstrual hygiene or simply curious about this new device theyd had yet to hear anything about.

Im pretty good at giving the low-down at this point:

Menstrual cups are a small, flexible device you insert into your vagina to collect fluid from your period. It sits directly under your cervix and can hold ounces of blood with no leaking.
They are usually made of surgical grade silicone, but can also be made of tree rubber. Be sure to confirm what material your cup is made of before purchasing as the silicone is hypo-allergenic whereas rubber is not.
Contrary to what Divacup would have you believe, there are *MANY* brands of menstrual cup.
Photo Cred: The Eco Friendly Family

Which menstrual cup you choose can depend on something as simple as how much money youd like to spend or other factors like the shipping cost/time, the size of the cup, the cup design, and the business model of the company who sells it (Ruby Cup operates on a TOMs Model where each cup you buy automatically donates one).

In terms of cup design, I personally wouldnt pick one with a loop at the bottom (like the MeLuna Shorty, pictured above) because the more crevices the cup has, the more chance it has to grow bacteria in the holes and grooves. This probably isnt really an issue with this design, but something Im personally cautious about.
Also about design, lets talk about size. How are you supposed to know if your vagina is the right size for a small cup rather than a large one? First off, the cups usually only come in two sizes (if that). So you have a 50/50 shot of picking one which will work well for you.
Most of the cup company websites Ive pawed over, say that the small cup is for those people who have not had penetrative intercourse. I would also recommend this to someone who has a light flow or who feels a larger cup might simply be uncomfortable for them to wear.
The large cups are for people who have had penetrative intercourse, who have birthed children, or who have a normal to heavy flow as these cups are larger and can hold more volume without needing to be emptied.

Right, yes. You have to empty the cup. I found that, even when I was having a VERY heavy flow (2 ounces of blood or more per 24 hrs), I only needed to empty my cup 2 or 3 times per day. You can sleep with the cup in and it will not leak! This really cuts down on the number of times you have to empty it when youre away from your base camp (wherever that may be). I found that I would empty in the morning when I woke up, maybe once at lunch, and then again before I went to bed.
Lets dive into the strategy of the lunchtime empty. Its one thing to empty your cup in a bathroom where you feel you have some sort of privacy. If you do need to empty it in a public bathroom, heres how I managed. Pick a stall, any stall. Id remove my cup (heres a page with some how-tos), and then pour contents into the toilet. Now, you have some options. You can purchase a sanitizing spray or wipe, or you can do what I do which is to simply wipe the cup down with some good ole fashioned toilet paper and then give it a quick rinse in the sink, and reinsert. I found I never had a problem with this and its discreet. Theres also not really any noise associated with the cup, whereas pads and tampons have that horrible plastic wrapping which alerts everyone in the entire building to the fact that youre menstruating (I dont miss that!).

The cup varies in price depending on where you order it from. There are finally some companies who are starting to manufacture and sell cups in the United States. Everyone before that was imported (even DivaCup is made in Canada). Imported ones cost roughly $38 dollars depending on brand and inflation and shipping. The brand Lena Cup seems to be running about $25 and has some good resources regarding FAQ of menstrual cups. They are made in California and are FDA registered. However, being FDA registered is kind of a moot designation as long as the device is made of %100 silicone.

I notice on Lena Cups website they have a sCaRy article about the dangers of tampons. While I am a HUGE proponent of menstrual cups and their ability to change peoples lives, Im not selling them. So I have no reason to make you hate tampons (and I personally think thats kind of a sh*tty thing to do); I just personally dont use them anymore. However, there are a few things worth noting about the differences between tampons and cups.

Cups do not absorb anything; they collect fluid instead. This means the cup will not suck up the natural moisture in your vagina (which is NOT the same as your menstrual fluid) which, if it did, would otherwise eff up your PH balance. I often recommend people with chronic yeast infections try cups because of this.

Tampons, when left in for too long or overnight, are notorious for causing Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). This is a rare, but serious illness which can easily lead to death. Cups cannot give you TSS. I believe this is because they are made of silicone which does not degrade in your body, and does not (I believe) cause the tiny scratches in your vaginal wall which allow for the TSS causing bacteria into your bloodstream.

You can also have sex while using your cup. I would not recommend having penetrative sex with a cup in. I accidentally did this once (long story), and while it wasnt terrible, after I realized what had happened, it fully explained why something felt funny the whole time. The cup is flexible, however, so you can engage in penetrative sexual activity and (up to a certain extent) not leak (I say a certain extent because Im not sure how raucous youre planning to get).
Oral sex is a whole nother story. If thats what you were hoping for, GO FOR IT. Literally no reason not to (as long as its safe, sane, and actively consensual). Its probably going to be great and you may even forget youre on your period.

Then, yes, there is that cool factor of not having any environmental waste. Some cup companies say you can keep the same cup for ten years, others say five, and still others (Diva) recommend you replace it every year. I personally dont see any reason why you cant use a cup thats made of the same medical grade silicone for more than a year, but I think it has to do with customer retention and getting people to make recurring purchases (Think about it: If you only bought a cup once every ten years, thats great for you and terrible for Diva cup. This is part of why I dont purchase their products).

Environment aside, even a $40 cup pays for itself within three months of use (when replacing tampons and pads).
To clean, I boil my cup. I have a two dollar tiny pot from Goodwill and it is my cup pot. I use it exclusively for boiling my cup because, well, I felt like it was kind of weird to put it in the dishwasher with our plates, glass cups, and silverware- but thats just me! Everyones preference are different and it is totally acceptable to use the dishwasher to sterilize your cup. I would be wary of using any kind of soap though, because some residue might remain in the tiny air holes at the top of the cup, causing irritation if it came into contact with sensitive skin.

CAVEAT: If you have an IUD or want one (which, omg we should totally also talk about :D ) you need to be aware that it is possible to dislodge your IUD if you decide to use a cup. In theory, it is possible that when you pull out the cup, you could accidentally pull on your IUD string and remove the IUD in the process. I have had an IUD for four years now and have been using cups for that same amount of time. This has literally NEVER even sort of happened to me, but I wanted to be sure you were aware. Some people even say the suction of the cup pulling out of your vagina could suction the IUD out of place. While Im sure this might be true in some cases, again this has never happened to me and simply doesnt outweigh the amazing benefits I have personally experienced from using my cup.

I truly hope this has been helpful and I really love talking about this particular subject. If you have any questions, please do email us at Im always happy to chat about this, birth control, or other sexual health subjects.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Terms and Conditions of Pregnancy- Things to know

Photo Cred: Martin Vowel

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 23 seconds. 

My sister is the "researcher" of the family. She's the one who reads all 95 product reviews on Amazon to figure out, not just whether or not to buy a cloth diaper, but which cloth diaper is the best (do I want the bamboo fabric or the natural cotton option???).
But although there's no shortage of lengthy reading materials when it comes to pregnancy and birth, I'm composing a list of what I now consider to be must-know facts about the process- for transparency sake!
(I should note that everyone and every pregnancy is different. These are things I learned via my sister's research or her personal experience, but not everyone's will be the same.)

1) Tearing is a real thing

Babies literally tear you open. Either the doctor cuts you with a scalpel in a procedure called "episiotomy" in which the process is controlled, or the baby does it with its head. Pick your poison. Just be aware that it could tear "up" next to your clit. Yeah, you read that right.
Episiotomy used to be a routine part of childbirth, but now apparently less so according to the Mayo Clinic

2) There is a pregnancy induced condition that makes you throw up for NINE months.

It is called hyperemesis gravidarum aka the fifth circle of hell

3) Pitocin is the drug of choice for Doctor's in hospitals who want to keep you "on schedule".

Pitocin can be used for good. But with great power comes great responsibility. Sometimes it is necessary to administer in order to save a baby or birthing parent from experiencing complications in birth.
Other times it just speeds up the baby's heart rate to the point where the medical team will then suggest an emergency c-section, a physically debilitating and stressful procedure. If you think c-sections are posh, take a look at this video:

(Tw- blood, graphic video of surgical procedure)

They pry the parent open. PRY. With forceps.

4) Placentas, you grow 'em, you birth 'em.

You must give "birth" to your placenta. It's literally an organ you grow while you're gestating which keeps your fetus alive. It's about the size of a human liver or like, three personal sized servings of flan.
Oh, and, like flan, you can eat it:

On a more serious note, birthing or removing the *whole* placenta within a very short period of time is crucial because any remaining tissue from it can cause septicemia.

5) You will likely get a post-partum "mega period"

This is not something you can control with any regular tampons or dainty panty liners. It is not uncommon for birth parents to simply opt for an adult diaper to deal with this because it's that serious.

6) Pregnancy is 40 weeks.

This is not really "news", but in 2013, the American College oObstetricians and Gynecologists decided to officially change the definition of what a "full term" pregnancy is:

That definition aside, I had never thought about just how LONG 40 weeks truly is. There is some debate about how to "count" the amount of months pregnancy lasts. As many people have noted, a month is sometimes said to have four weeks, which isn't really accurate. Most months actually have more than four weeks (4.35 weeks). So, if you're one of those people who is simply turning the pages on your calendar to mark your time, then the 9 month distinction is probably a fine mental goal for you. However, if you (like me) are likely to be counting down the exact days until you can be done with things 1-5 above, then you may want to stick to counting weeks rather than months as it's a little more precise.

7) Breastfeeding is hard and can last longer than pregnancy itself.

Some people are unable to breastfeed or simply don't want to. For those who do wander down the nursing path, it can be a huge learning curve involving lactation consultants, pain, and sleeplessness. But somehow, pregnancy/labor gets ALL the press for being the hard part.

These are just some of the things I now consider every time I get "baby fever". Certainly something to think about rather than getting easily swept up in the flurry of cute baby names and onesies.