Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Maternity leave

"Where oh where are the funny, informative, awesome posts on lady parts?" you may be asking yourself. Well folks, I went and had me a baby. So I've taken a break for a little while. Somehow, writing well researched blog posts doesn't fit into my little one's schedule of eating, pooping, sleeping, and playing.

But not to worry, Lady Parts: The Manual will be back in full swing in no time, and I will have SO much more to blog about with a new (and personal) perspective on lady parts. Pregnancy and motherhood are amazing and awe inspiring experiences and has taught me so much more about lady parts that I can't wait to share with you!

Oh, the little one is up...gotta go!

Friday, June 8, 2012

What to eat? My answer to a simple question

In my last blog post I wrote my thoughts on the "cleansing" diet fad. I figured I would follow that up with a my thoughts on what we should be eating. I get questions about diet quite a bit, and figured I would tell you all about how I eat. Also, I just read Mark Hyman piece about the "last diet you will ever need" and in many ways, I couldn't agree with him more.

I like to practice what I preach, and in my opinion I lead a pretty well balanced life. I LOVE to eat. Really I do. Me and food are besties. I love all flavors and textures, love that I live in the food capital of the world (in my opinion), and I love to cook.  So, I don't want you to think I live in an imaginary lala land where my diet dictates my life.

To be clear, I don't believe in "diets". I believe in eating healthy, eating in moderation, and enjoying life. I've had friends on every kind of diet imaginable: Atkins, Paleo, Weight Watchers, South Beach, low carb, low fat, high protein, cookie, shakes. You get the picture. Personally, I just could never do it, and I definitely could never sustain it. I like to be able to have cheese (I REALLY love cheese) and bread, and meat, and wine.

This is my thinking when it comes to food: as touted Mark Pollan:  "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." It is also how I grew up, so I am lucky that my palate has developed in a way that has made it easy to follow a healthy diet.

I love my veggies, and we pretty much keep vegetarian at home. That way, when we eat out, eating meat feels like a treat, and I appreciate that I am eating something that used to be alive.I love fruit, and growing up, we usually had fruit after dinner and I have been sticking with that. I don't believe in sugar substitutes. I would always rather have a teaspoon of real sugar in my morning coffee and not have an extra cookie than substitute. I try to keep processed food to a minimum and the few processed food that I do eat are made with simple real ingredients (like Triskets, which has only three ingredients). When it comes to carbs, I eat whole wheat/whole grain, even in pasta (you get used to it and it is much more filling).  I am not a big snacker, but when I do it is yogurt,  a piece of fruit,  nuts, dried fruit, or hummus and veggies. I don't like sodas (high fructose corn syrup gives me migraines, and you know my feelings about sugar substitutes), so I drink mostly water, or I mix a little bit of fruit juice with soda, or add a lemon or a lime to seltzer or water. My home is always stocked with these yummy healthy things, so I can never make a "bad choice."

I love to try new restaurants and eat out as well, and I never feel like I am denying myself anything. When I do indulge, and trust me I do (did I mention I love pizza?), I try to balance it out with a good salad. And if I really go overboard I go a little harder at the gym.

That's it folks. Nothing fancy. No diet. Just real food in moderation.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Detox diets: Fad or Fabulous?

Seems like everyone and their mother is doing a detox diet or "cleanse" these days. And it seems like anyone with an audience is trying to bank in on this trend too - Gwenyth has the goop cleanse, Dr. Oz has the 48-hour weekend cleanse, Dr. Lissa Rankin has the pink and green detox cleanse, and of course, there are the juice cleanses - blueprint, organic avenue, and the master cleanse to name a few.

What exactly is "detox"or "cleanse" diet? They are extreme diet plans, mostly focused on weight loss, that claim to flush "toxins" out of your body. What "toxins" are they targeting, you ask? Well they don't exactly say. While there are a variety of different detox diets, they mostly follow the pattern of very low caloric intake, with the addition of small amounts of fruit and or vegetables, water, and supplements of one form or another.

So dear readers, I thought I would do a little research and see what the real deal is when it comes to the whole notion of detoxing. As usual, I started out with PubMed, a national citation warehouse for medical and scientific research. And guess what I found? Pretty much nothing. I searched cleanse diet, detox diet, and other such terms and came up with nothing. Nada. Zilch.

The fact that there have been NO studies done on detox or cleansing raises red flags for me. People spend a lot of money on many of these cleanses, and yet there is no scientific proof that any of them work. And in fact, many can even cause harm. Yup, these diets often cause you to fast, which puts your body into freak out mode, so you can actually lose muscle not just fat. And such a low-calorie diet can make you feel dizzy, tired, lightheaded, and nauseous. Add a colonic or colon cleanse to the mix and your body's electrolyte and fluid balance is completely off.

My two cents if you are feeling icky and want to give your system a "boost"? Eat loads of veggies and fruits, drink lots of water, and switch to whole grains. Minimize fatty meats and alcohol. Get your body moving. This is not a "diet", but just a healthier way of living that you can actually maintain.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

People you know may have nether germs: Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Many of us often worry about getting hit by a car, or getting cancer, or when it comes to our sexual health, preventing pregnancy (or after a certain age, getting pregnant). And while we may carry around a bucket of hand sanitizer to avoid icky cold and flu germs, we don't necessarily know or do much about the icky germs that may be on your partner's nethers. You may even have something right now and not know!

First things first: If you have sex, no matter if you are straight, gay, married, or single, you can get an sexually transmitted disease, or STD for short. And no matter what kind of sex you are having, no matter which body part is going into which body part, you can get an STD. 

Now you are thinking, "I would totally know if my partner has something funky going on down there." But actually most STDs can be there without any signs. Pretty sneaky, right? So you or your partner can be passing around an infection without knowing it. Or, when you think of STDs, you probably think about HIV, since that is what most of us have been taught to fear the most (for good reason!). But there are other STDs that should be on your radar screen that are quite common. 

Here are the most common STDs that you should be thinking about:

1. Chlamydia. And as many of us learned in high school, it is not a flower. It is the most common, curable STD out there. In us ladies it infects the cervix, and while you can have it an not have any signs or a LONG time, the most frequent symptom is pain during sex, or vaginal discharge, or burning when peeing. Untreated it can spread and cause pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, which can lead to chronic pelvic pain and infertility. 

2. Gonnorrhea. AKA "the clap". Pretty similar to chlamydia in terms of organs infected and symptoms, but with the extra kicker - it can infect the throat. Makes you rethink oral sex, huh. 

3. Syphilis. "The Pox" doesn't have the squeakiest of reputations, and untreated can lead to some pretty nasty complications. You can get it through direct contact with a syphilis sore, which can usually be found around the nether area and the mouth, both inside and out. To make things even more complicated, these areas areas are not always covered by a condom, so you can get syphilis even if you are using protection.

4. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Probably the most common STD. Very common and associated with 99% of cervical cancer cases. Read here for just how bad it is and what you can do about it. 

5. Herpes. Another sneaky and tricky STD. This virus can lurk without any signs or symptoms, so you may not be aware if your partner has it. For those that do have symptoms, they are usually blisters that appear around the nether area that take two to four weeks to heal the first time they happen. Genital herpes can be treated but can't be cured, which means once you get it, you have it for life. 

6. Trichomoniasis. Never heard of this? Well it is actually the most common STD among young woman. While the other STDs listed above are viral or bacterial infections, the "trich", as it is called for short, is caused by a parasite. Again the majority of people do not have any signs or symptoms. For those that do, they can get a itchy, burning, sore, or red lady part area, and may have pain while peeing. 

So there you have it ladies, some icky nether germs that you should be tested for regularly if you are having any kind of sex with another person. Make sure you bring this up with your lady parts doc - studies have shown that the majority of docs don't start a conversation on STDs, so be your own health advocate and ask about being tested. And sadly, while you may be faithful and think you are in a monogamous relationship, unfortunately, your partner may not, so get yourself tested either way. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The deal with the mini pill: And no, it is not just a smaller sized birth control pill

For some of you ladies that just had some babies, you may already be quite familiar with the mini-pill. For the rest of you ladies, you may have heard about the mini-pill, but may not be quite so sure exactly what it is. Let me enlighten you:

The mini-pill, contrary to it's name, is not a miniature version of normal birth control pills. They didn't just take your orthotricyclen or Yasmin and make the packaging smaller. It is actually a birth control pill that ONLY contains the hormone progesterone, as opposed to the regular birth control pills that contain both progesterone and estrogen. It works by making your cervical mucus (oh yes, we are back to that. More info about cervical mucus here) thick and the lining of your uterus thin, basically making those little sperm swimmers unable to get to your ovaries and any possible fertilized egg from actually implanting. Sometimes the mini-pill suppresses ovulation as well.

Why would you want to take this pill and how come your lady parts doctor hasn't talked to you about it? Well while less hormone does sound great, it does make this form of birth control not as effective as the regular pill. In fact, your chances of getting knocked up on the mini pill are higher mostly because the progesterone only keeps your cervical mucus thick for 24 hours, so you HAVE to take it at exactly the same time every day, leaving NO room for error.

But, there are benefits to using the mini-pill. If you are breastfeeding, you can actually take the mini-pill and it will not change your milk supply (in fact, it may even boost it!). This is great for moms that need the birth control protection but also want to continue breast feeding. Also, some ladies out there don't jive well with estrogen - they may have a higher risk of heart disease, blood clots, high blood pressure or migraines - and the mini-pill is great birth control option for them.

The mini-pill is another great birth control tool to have - just remember that in order for it to actually work it needs to be taken exactly on time!

Friday, March 23, 2012

No more annual paps?

Most of us are used to going to the lady parts doctor once a year, put our feet in stirrups, getting that scary looking duck thing shoved inside of us and then having a coarse swab taken. But my friends, while you will still have to undergo this super fun ritual, it will no longer have to be on an annual basis.

That swab is a pap smear, and it tests whether your cervix is growing funky cells, which could possibly be cancerous. While paps are an important part of cervical cancer screening, they carry a high false positive rate (meaning that your test comes back with not so good results, despite the fact that everything is really fine), leading to unnecessary biopsies and procedures that can arise in complications further down the road. 

Now docs are advising to only get a pap smear every THREE years, and only once you turn 21, regardless of sexual activity before. Instead, women under 30 should be getting regular HPV (oh yes, that fun virus) tests (a leading cause of cervical cancer). Mind you, these recommendations only apply to ladies without a history of abnormal pap smears, cervical cancer, dysplasia, HIV, or other illnesses. 

And even if you are healthy, you should still be going to your lady parts doc on a regular basis, and get your lady parts and the boobs checked out annually. If you are sexually active, you should have regular screening for STDs, and should check in about your birth control situation. Checking in with your lady parts doc is also just a great way to ask them all those nagging questions you have about your body. So just because you won't have to be getting your cervix scraped as often, doesn't mean you should be ignoring your lady parts. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sex shouldn't hurt

Ladies, if you are looking at the title of this post and thinking to yourself, "Yeah right. It always hurts," then listen up. There are many reasons why you could be experiencing painful sex, with real medical conditions that could be causing it.

First things first. If your lady parts aren't nice and lubed up, sex is going to hurt. Foreplay, lube, and some relaxation can go a long way. But sometimes it is much more serious than that, and you may need more than a little extra hanky panky and KY.

Some things to consider:
  • Lady parts infection: yeast and bacterial infections can make your lady parts feel like they are on FIRE during sex, and not in a good way. Various sexually transmitted diseases can be the culprit too, including genital warts, herpes, and sores.
  • Vaginismus, or vaginal muscle spasms, means that your vagina just clams right up, creating a no-go zone for sex. 
  • Issues with your cervix (making deep penetration hurt), ovaries (those pesky cysts), endometriosis (read all about it here), or your uterus (such as fibroids). 
  • Babies: if you just had one, you should wait at least 6 weeks to let your lady parts heal. You did just push a child out of there.
And finally, you may have something called vulvodynia, which is when you have pain in the area around the opening of your vagina. They have no idea what causes this, but it leads to burning and irritation so bad that having sex becomes simply unthinkable or a form of torture. Since there is no known cause, there is no known cure, but there are various ways that it can be treated. 

Bottom line, if the very thought of sex makes you want to cross your legs, run across the room, and grimace, give your lady parts doctor a ring and make an appointment. It may be embarrassing (even other lady part docs get shy when they need to talk about their own painful sex life) but sex should be awesome and never painful (well, unless you like it that way, and that is a topic for another day). 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grow me some new eggs! New possible fertility treatment with stem cells

We have always been told that we are born with all the eggs our body will ever make. In fact, at birth, our ovaries contain 2 million follicles (little hollow balls of cells with an immature egg in the middle). The ovaries absorb half of these during our childhood and when we get our period for the first time we are left with around 400,000 follicles, of which 300 to 500 will actually develop into eggs.

And then a study that came out this week (from Harvard no less and published in Nature Medicine) totally makes us rethink our ways of thinking. They found that a new type of stem cells in the ovaries that can make immature egg cells (which will then grow into possible fertile eggs). Now they were able to show that when injecting these stem cells into pieces of human ovaries, and then transplanting them to mice, the mice were able to make eggs. Como say wha? Yeah, pretty cool stuff.

Does this mean that we can go to our lady parts doc and ask for stem cells to be injected into our ovaries to give us some more eggs? Not quite. But the research is quite promising and can mean that later down the road we may be able to give our ovaries little recharge if we are having fertility issues.

Friday, February 17, 2012

So you want a baby? How to get knocked up

Here on Lady Parts, I do a lot of writing about how to NOT get pregnant. Indeed, for many of us, when it comes to our lady parts our main goal is to keep them pregnancy free. Yet there comes a time for many when those tiny little booties melt your heart, and all you can think about is, "GET ME A BABY!NOW!!"

After so many years of successfully NOT getting pregnant, you need to totally shift gears and figure out how to get a baby in your belly stat. Here are some steps to guide you through that TTC (trying to conceive) transition:

1. Stop using contraception of any kind. That means, no birth control pills, condoms, rings, patches, IUDs, or pulling out.

2. Be healthy. Get yourself eating well, exercising in a moderate fashion, and taking prenatal vitamins. If you are a smoker, stop (it is gross anyway, so this is a good a time as any to stop).

3. Make sure your meds are safe to take if you are pregnant. This includes your skin care products. Give your doctor a shout out and let them know that you are trying to get knocked up and whether any of your meds should be avoided.

4. Have unprotected sex. Yup, go nuts. Any position will do. Enjoy yourself, as the contractions from an orgasm helps pull in the sperm.

5. Have unprotected sex at the right time. Start by figuring out when you are ovulating (see my post about your cervical mucus). If you are still having trouble figuring out your cervical mucus, get yourself some ovulation strips. You can buy them at the drug store, or super duper cheap at Amazon. Pee on a stick (or in a cup and then put the stick in the cup) twice a day from around day 9 or 10 of your cycle. Some woman ovulate early in their cycle, some later, so it may take a while to figure it out when to optimize the stick peeing. When you are about to ovulate your cervical mucus gets very gooey like an egg white, and if you are peeing on a stick, you should see a positive LH surge. Drag your mister to the bedroom and get to work.

6. Check in with your lady parts doc. I recommend doing this BEFORE you are trying to get knocked up, just to make sure all the parts are in order, and there isn't some underlying condition that may affect your fertility. There is nothing more annoying that trying to conceive for a while, only to eventually find out that there was something that could have been treated that was preventing you from getting pregnant.

7. If you aren't getting a little happy face, plus sign, or "pregnant" read out on your pregnancy tests for a couple months (I would say around 6, especially if you are over 35, perhaps a little longer if you are under), give your lady parts doctor a ring. And listen to your body - if you think things are not quite right, be your own advocate. You know your body best!

Happy baby making!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Our quest for the perfect vagina

Following up on my post where I discussed the many shapes and sizes of lady parts, there is now a British documentary called The Perfect Vagina, which Lisa Rogers looks into the world of vaginal cosmetic surgery. You can watch the whole documentary here.

For those that follow this blog, you know that I think that women should learn to love their lady parts, and that lady parts should remain as they are, looking, smelling, and behaving like lady parts. Not plastic barbie lady parts that smell like roses without a nary a nether hair out of place. That is not real life, and it is absurd that many women are in constant worry about making sure their vagina fits some sort of unrealistic prototype. There was a woman who posted recently on Vagina Pagina, worried about moving in with her boyfriend and how she can make sure that she never loses the vaginal fresh scent all day long, going as far as asking if she should shower twice a day, load up on pineapple juice, use scented wipes, and nether groom daily. The lovely ladies on the board quickly informed her that these actions were unnecessary and possibly harmful to her lady parts, but it rehashed my earlier worries about our need for lady part perfection.

Now, I know some men have issues with their members (check out My Penis and Everyone Elses), but women  seem to take it to extremes; "chopping up their bits"as Lisa Rogers phrases it. There is a remarkable increase in labiaplasty and vaginal cosmetic surgery in general, making me wonder, what's next? And whose version of "normal" or "perfect" are these women trying to achieve?

That is all I am going to impart for now, but I am very curious as to what your reactions are on the matter. Have we gone too far in our pursuit of perfection? As the Joy from About Face points out, what is next, designer sexy organs?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Public Service Announcement: Birth Control Recall

Thought I would just give you all a heads up that Pfizer is recalling some of it's birth control pills, particularly Lo/Ovral-28 and Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol. EEK. Apparently there seems to have been some sort of packaging error and the pills may be incorrect, leaving you at risk for getting unintentionally knocked up.

Here is the FDA recall link: so that you can check your pill lot to see if it was recalled. If so, start using some back up protection, say a little prayer, and tell your lady parts doc.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Menstrual Migraines

Was trying to think of a catchy title to this blog posts, but who am I kidding, migraines suck, and migraines + periods suck worse. So no catchy title ladies, just the facts.

The majority of migraine sufferers are female - around 70% according to some estimates. And the majority of those females report that their migraines are related to their menstrual cycle. You can blame the wonderful hormones estrogen and progesterone - they are the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle and as they fluctuate they also can trigger migraines.

Now what exactly are migraines? Are they just headaches? I kind of like to explain them as "I know it when I feel it." But they are pretty much a headache on 'roids. According to the Mayo clinic, "A migraine headache can cause intense throbbing or pulsing in one area of the head and is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound." Migraines can also come with a weird precursor, like visual disturbances and tingling sensations. For me, I get blurred vision out of one eye, or part of one eye.

What many people don't know though is there is no reason to suffer! The most important thing about migraines is that you need to start treating them right away. Don't wait for them to get bad, because trust me, these headaches don't get magically better. Start out with some over the counter pain killers (Advil, Motrin, Exedrine, or Tyelnol). See if that helps. Ask someone to give you a neck and shoulder massage (my husband is now an expert masseuse). Dark rooms, cold compresses, and quiet are very helpful.

But if you have these migraines on a monthly basis, talk to your lady parts doctor or make an appointment with a neurologist. There are SO many great migraine medications out there that really are amazing. And there are a bunch of options to PREVENT the migraines in the first place. These include blood pressure medication and what I call PMS Prozac(aka, Prozac you take before your period). Also, if you are on birth control, talk to your doctor about whether your specific hormone combo could be contributing to the migraines, since you may want to try something else and see if that helps.

Happy heads equals happy ladies.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The mysterious hymen

Happy new year my lovely readers!! Sorry for my absence, but I have been traveling here and there, seeing family and friends. Not to worry though, Lady Parts: The Manual is back and ready to go strong in 2012, providing you with fascinating information and latest news about your lady parts.

Thought I would start off the new year by dispelling an age old myth that has plagued women for centuries. I'm talking about the hymen, that cherry that supposedly pops during vaginal sex, leading to bleeding.

The hymen is a membrane, a really thin layer of tissue,  that partially covers your external vaginal opening, and forms part of the vulva. It is formed in the early stages of fetal development when there is no opening to the vagina at all, and usually divides incompletely 
before birth. In fact, some women are born without a hymen, as theirs has already totally divided.

And much like the rest of our lady parts, the hymen is completely different from one lady to the other. It may be thicker our thinner, pinkish or whitish, looking like rose petals, a carnation, a crescent, or a jigsaw puzzle. For most it is really elastic and stretchy.

About that age old test for virginity: you CANNOT determine whether someone is a virgin based on their hymen. Yup, total falseness.  The hymen can be separated for a variety of random reasons, like stretching during athletics (like if you were in gymnastics or the dance team), putting in a tampon, masturbating, or for no reason whatsoever. In fact, the vast majority of women DON'T bleed the first time they had sex. Some women have such stretchy hymens that they never break!

So there you have it, the low down on your hymen. Happy 2012!

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