Tag Archives: fertility awareness method

Unsweetened: Is Sexism In Science Blocking Hormonal Birth Control Research?

In this time of anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to discuss science critically. Jacobin magazine coined the term “New Scientism” to explain this trend, described as a fundamentalist approach to scientific practice that sees it as existing above the fray of politics and ideology; above criticism. Those who argue science is subject to influence and bias; that scientists can be apologists for the status quo, or even that not all of scientific progress is progressive, are labeled anti-science. Science, it seems, is not above embracing the “with us or against us” political style popularized in the post-9/11 era.

Last year the University of Wisconsin-Madison created a post-doctoral fellowship in feminist biology. This decision was met with accusations that the school was “rejecting science for equality.” The Guardian asked, incredulously, “Is the science of biology sexist?” The assumption is that science cannot be sexist, despite being conducted within and as a part of, rather than separate to, a sexist and patriarchal society.

Dr Janet Hyde, Director of the Center for Research on Gender and Women at UW-Madison, argued for the necessity of scientific inquiry that seeks to correct androcentric gender bias, “Scientists are humans and therefore have ideas, such as gender stereotypes, that other people have. Often these stereotypes influence how research is done, from the hypotheses that are proposed to the way in which the data are collected. Results that confirm gender stereotypes seem to “make sense,” whereas results that are contrary to stereotypes don’t seem to make sense and may not be reported.”

Dr Janet Hyde, Director of the Center for Research on Gender and Women at UW-Madison, argued for the necessity of scientific inquiry that seeks to correct androcentric gender bias, “Scientists are humans and therefore have ideas, such as gender stereotypes, that other people have. Often these stereotypes influence how research is done, from the hypotheses that are proposed to the way in which the data are collected. Results that confirm gender stereotypes seem to “make sense,” whereas results that are contrary to stereotypes don’t seem to make sense and may not be reported.”

This is illustrated most clearly when we look at the research conducted on a drug that is taken only by women, oral contraceptives.

Yet women are told that the majority of scientific research disproves the reality of their lived experience.

When Dr Alice Roberts described her experience of severe mood changes on oral contraceptives in the Guardian, science writer Ben Goldacre, amongst others, challenged her on Twitter, suggesting strongly that she should not have shared her experience when the preponderance of scientific research either denied the connection or was inconclusive.

However, hundreds of women were prompted to share their own similar issues with oral contraceptives with Dr Roberts and the response was overwhelmingly one of women grateful to have their experiences validated.

Considering the number of women who use oral contraceptives and the number of years they have been on the market, the amount and scope of research available is relatively small, with far more conducted into issues like breakthrough bleeding.

PSHE advisory and science teacher Alice Hoyle wrote in response, “Female voices and experiences are continually erased throughout history and in life and this is also true in science. How dare people erase the lived experience of women like this? The sheer volume of women on Twitter talking about their mental health experiences as a result of hormonal contraception should be raising red flags. How can this be dismissed because the “evidence” (such as it is) says there is no effect? How about listening to women?”

Feminists have argued that science sees the male body as the ideal and the female as a deviation. Leader of the women’s health movement, Barbara Seaman, once remarked that it seemed as though scientists were always trying to deal with “the disease of being female.” The medical field of gynecology was developed in the late nineteenth century and was not followed by an equivalent for male reproductive science. Soon after hormones were discovered, just over 100 years ago, it was decided that men’s hormones were stable and women’s hormones were unstable. As such scientific enquiry presumes women’s hormones require stabilization to meet the male ideal.

Just two decades later synthetic hormones were created and oral contraceptives, by replacing changeable natural hormone levels with one static synthetic hormone level, achieves this goal. Gender stereotyping assures the belief that, in regards to the impact on mood, taking oral contraceptives should bring about an improvement. Even if for some women this stabilization will be experienced as anhedonia or depression, suppressing the function of the female reproductive system until it is required for childbearing remains recommended medical practice. This is what is seen to “make sense.”

The most common reasons cited for the stalling of the development of a similar male hormone-based contraceptive pill are the negative impacts on mood and libido.

Across the board women’s health concerns are more likely to be labeled as psychosomatic and they are less likely to receive rapid treatment even when reporting chronic pain. This distrust of women’s own accounts of their experiences is not limited to the medical field and is currently debated more widely in discussion of cases of rape, for example.

Those that are seeking to develop more research into women’s health issues find it difficult to both source funding and to get their findings published.

Dr Jerilynn Prior, endocrinologist and director of the Center for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research in British Columbia, recently conducted a study into infertility in young women in Norway with significant results – 37% of the women were not ovulating.

The paper was rejected by five major medical journals, with only one reviewing the results. “I attribute this to the devaluation of women’s reproductive physiology by the dominant culture. Medicine, granting bodies and journal editors are all vested in that dominant culture. I even went so far as to appeal the decision at the British Medical Journal. Just imagine, instead, that this were a study in young men and the results showed that 37% were infertile at the time of the sample. Would you consider that relevant to patient care or practice? We think so. Is BMJ a general men’s medical journal?”

Dr Jayashri Kulkarni at Australia’s Monash University is currently undertaking a large national and international survey of women’s subjective experiences on third generation, newer hormonal contraceptives. She has discovered a link between these drugs and devices and subclinical depression with a variety of symptoms from lowered self-esteem to brain fog to obsessive-compulsive anxiety disorders.

Dr Kulkarni felt compelled to undertake this research for the benefit of women, “I built what I was hearing from women into a research project because I have a passionate belief that women have the answers. Yet they tell their doctors what they know is going on and they don’t feel heard.

I want their experiences to be validated by providing evidence that this is indeed happening.

Telling a woman who has made the connection that the research does not support her lived experience is unlikely to stop her coming off the Pill. But for the many who have not made the link, silencing women prolongs their suffering.

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Surfing The Crimson Wave: The Roses Of Fertility Awareness

If you tell your friend you use the Fertility Awareness Method, chances are you’ll get a response akin to, “…Oh. And you say you don’t want kids right now?” A lot of people don’t understand how empowering FAM can be and how it actually works. On top of all that, chance are they’re missing out on something pretty great: sex during your period, or, surfing the crimson wave.

Lots of people love surfing this wave, but FAMers particularly appreciate it because it’s one of the weeks when we’re less likely to get pregnant. Now, in general, it’s possible, although rare, to get pregnant on your period, but as we take our temperature and keep track of our cervical fluid, we can know when we’ve ovulating. After you ovulate you have between 12 and 14 days until your period. If you notice your temperature hasn’t dropped after your “peak” day, don’t have sex without wrapping it up. Otherwise, indulge!

The benefits of surfing that crimson wave are plentiful. Will you feel like having sex on your period? Sometimes that general get-out-of-my-face feeling the crimson wave brings on may make you think you’d never feel like you’d never want to have period sex. However, hormones during your period may actually INCREASE your libido. Girl, it’s time to get your groove on!

Lots of us ladies experience emotional swings around our period, and, of course, lots of women get crampy, but sex on your period can ironically help with that. Sex, like lots of exercise, can lessen the pain of menstrual cramps. All that good blood flow during sex has the ability to help with headaches and lessen your cramps. And, of course, Lord knows the magical powers of sex to help with tension and stress!

5 Things FAM Users Say To Their Partners: The Roses Of Fertility Awareness

As 2013 comes to an end, SuzyKnew brings you more on what to expect when using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) or natural birth control:

1. “What was my temperature?” While this may be something you ask your partner when you suspect a fever, a FAM-er asks this question everyday. Temperature is the most well known sign of ovulation (when an egg drops), and if the temperature shifts up, watch out! You could get pregnant. The reason we ask our PARTNERS is because in FAM, our partners can share the responsibility of tracking our fertility. One of the main ways they do this is by taking our temperature for us while we’re still nestled in bed.

2.  “Does this look like lotion or cement?” Another sign that you may be close to ovulating can be found your panties. By looking at the consistency of your cervical fluid, or the liquid stuff you see in your underwear (it’s the equivalent of semen for women, minus the sperm). At the beginning of your cycle after you finish your period, your cervical fluid may be kind of sticky and dry, like cement. Later in your cycle you may notice your fluid to feel and look more like lotion – this means you’re close to ovulation! Use the condom!

3. “I can’t today. I feel too wet.” While I imagine that a statement like this could bring a grown man to tears, it’s something we FAM-ers may say at least once a month! When we’re close to ovulating, our fluid changes from lotion-y to slippery and wet feeling (our bodies try to help the little swimmers out). This wet feeling is different from the one you feel when you’re turned on. This one stays even when you’re mad at him!

4. “I’m on my period! Let’s do it.” While many women (and men) can be grossed out having period sex (or, as I saw it called in a book, “Surfing the Crimson Wave”), it’s actually a great time to do have all the unbarrier-ed sex and not worry about pregnancy! According to Toni, you are safe to have sex the first 5 days of your cycle if you had a temperature shift about 2 weeks prior. What does that mean? Bust out the shower sex.

5. “I’ll join you in shower after I check out my cervix!” The last sign of where you are in your cycle is checking out the position of your cervix. Never felt your cervix, you say? Let the lovely people at the Beautiful Cervix Project help you get started. When your cervix is hard, low, and closed you’re less likely to get pregnant than when it’s higher, softer, and slightly open. This sign, is hardly ever used on it’s own for birth control, but rather just helps you confirm what you’re seeing with your temperature and fluid. I always check mine right before I jump in the shower. I’m naked then anyway, right?