#ISupportPP on #PinkOut Day

Today is #PinkOut day :: a day to show support and committment to Planned Parenthood.

I have never been to Planned Parenthood but many of my close friends have.

It is important to me that others have access to affordable healthcare services. Whether or not I directly benefit from them should not have any influence in whether or not I support them.

When you support PP: You’re saying that you want to live in a society that provides for those who may not be able to afford to provide for themselves. You’re saying that someone shouldn’t be forced to carry a baby to term that they don’t want. You’re saying that you live in a world where, no, people don’t just have sex to procreate. You’re saying that information about sexual health is important in making educated decisions about what you do with your body. You’re prioritizing pap smears or mammograms, preventative care that will help us live better lives. You’re destigmatizing sex, you’re destigmatizing STIs, you’re removing just an ounce of the fear in getting a check up.

The affordable care act has provided preventative services to millions of women. The president is attempting to deconstruct the aca as a matter of ego and pride.

One of the most immediate changes for women was the ACA’s birth control benefit, which ensured that more than 55 million women now have birth control without a copay, and helped women save an estimated $1.4 billion on the pill in the ACA’s first year alone. – Planned Parenthood & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

It is easy to take these services for granted. My generation knows a world that has healthcare accessibility, access to abortion, access to birth control.

We might always have access to condoms and birth control and mammograms and sexual health testing, but what does we mean, and what does access mean, if only the wealthy or privileged are able to receive these services?

Support Planned Parenthood today by using the hashtags #PinkOut and #ISupportPP to spread the message. Wear pink with pride. Donate what you can (minimum donation of only $5.00) to Planned Parenthood to help them continue their efforts. Finally, find some other way to help. Everyone can do something, and everyone should do something.

Do you have a question about sex, sexuality, gender, or health? Submit now and I’ll answer on my website. If I don’t have the answer, I will help you find resources to get you started.

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Lena Cup Review

People who talk about menstrual cups fall into one of two camps. They are so absolutely obsessed with them that it’s a little creepy and you want them to stop talking, or they’ve never tried them before. I found a third category. People who are obsessed with menstrual cups but are turned off by the first group of people – the very vocal– so they keep their obsessions to themselves. A good chunk of my friends have flicked their tampons to the curb and gone full silicone. Now I know.

Like other humans, I sometimes get a little judgmental about things I don’t know much about. That was the primary reason I decided to try a menstrual cup. When I see this trait in myself, it must be squashed with experience. I hadn’t ever tried one before but for some reason I had an irrational hatred of them.

What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a cup for menstruation. You slide it into your vagina and it catches and holds blood. After up to 12 hours you pull the cup out, empty it, wash it, and either re-insert it or place it in the storage bag. Menstrual cups can be washed and reused every month. A cup can last years with proper care.

Don’t you get blood everywhere?

I was pleasantly surprised at how using the LENA Cup allowed me to actually acknowledge my body. Tampons and pads actively minimize the amount of contact you have with your body and with your period. That’s the point, right? This adds to the narrative that periods are dirty and gross and you shouldn’t talk about them.

The LENA Cup wasn’t the mess I’d imagined.

When the cup is inserted, it seems to take the fluids with it as it slides up. In my use, this prevented any mess. It seemed to be a cleaner process than a tampon because I didn’t have to fiddle with any kind of trash. If you’ve ever had a period, you know that any kind of period trash can be pretty yuck. Especially in public bathrooms. No wrapping tampons in toilet paper or having to toss applicators in the trash.

You have to empty the cup at some point, though!

I had never seen how much I was actually bleeding so I had no idea what to expect. If you are uncomfortable with the sight of blood, you can remove the cup while sitting and knock it back into the toilet without looking. How much blood is in the cup will depend on how heavy you bleed, where you’re at in your cycle, and how long you keep the cup in. Wash it off with a bit of gentle soap, and slip it back in.

It looks too big to insert, how does that work?

You will use a menstrual cup folding technique to get the cup in. This makes the cup insertion size about equal to that of a tampon. The cup slides up and it pops open, sealing to your vaginal walls. This process involves touching your labia and pressing up a bit into your vagina to make sure it’s securely in.

There may be a learning curve with insertion. I would recommend pairing with a liner until you become comfortable enough going solo. The removal process may also require a bit of patience the first couple of times. Having an understanding of how to flex your pelvic muscles to lower the cup downwards can assist in getting it out quickly.

The cup is made of a very smooth medical grade silicone that is super safe for your body and the environment. Because it’s so super smooth, and because it flexes to your body, you’re not likely to feel it. I had always been able to tell when I had a tampon in by flexing or simply feeling it sit there. The silicone is so thin and light that I very rarely notice that it’s there at all. The LENA Cup can stay in for up to 12 hours. The length of insertion time combined with the smooth material made my period exceptionally less aggravating.

What about the different sizes?

There are a lot of different menstrual cups out there. You may need to try more than one to find that one brand that suits you. Most menstrual cups also come in two sizes: Pre-Childbirth or Post-Childbirth. LENA Cup is cool because it bases the size recommendations on the flow you have, not whether or not you’ve had a child.

The LENA Cup costs $24.90. At an estimate, I was spending a couple of hundred dollars a year on tampons or liners.  It’s saving me money. And, to be honest, it’s just cool. (Note: I still keep tampons in my bag + bathroom for those not-too-rare solidarity moments.)

LENA did not send me this product for review or pay me to say these things. I’m happy to be proven wrong once again in the judgement department. Bleed on, little uterus.

Buy the LENA Cup.
Buy the Moon Cup.
Buy the GladRags XO Flo Cup.

Have a question about menstrual cups? Submit anonymously by going to Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer on my blog. Prefer email response? I try to respond as quickly as possible to one on one questions: ask at suggestivetongue dot com. Today, try to challenge your preconceived notions of something you feel judgmental about. You try that green juice. You wear leggings as pants. I live in Portland and make no excuses for these examples. Until next time. xox st.

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PMDD: Understanding the Difference

As it is finals week, I’ve been wrapping up in my final lectures. It’s a bittersweet feeling. There are so many things that I wish that I had done differently. It’s also a time to reflect on all of the things I’ve learned, all the things I’ve written, all the new subjects I’ve encountered.

In one of my last classes the professor mentioned PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) in reference to the DSM diagnoses of mental disorders. In the back, someone snickers.

PMS is still funny, which makes PMDD really funny. What comes to mind? Women acting irrationally, tears, anger, depression, fighting, snacking. That stereotypical “crazy woman” is funny because people don’t know how to deal with it. It doesn’t fit the comfortable and convenient view of women that is subdued and easy to moderate. If someone has PMS or PMDD (or simply if a woman is acting in a loud or strongly behaved way) that is entertaining.

Unfortunately for those who suffer from PMS or PMDD, the symptoms are nothing to laugh about. They can severely impact the quality of your day and influence how you feel about life, and yourself. Getting treatment for these symptoms may require a diagnoses from the DSM-V. A friend of mine recently was diagnosed with PMDD and suggested that I write a bit about what it is.

I’ve been unable to get my hands on a copy of the new DSM, but this is what I was able to find regarding its inclusion in the book.

Based on strong scientific evidence, premenstrual dysphoric disorder has been moved from DSM-IV Appendix B, “Criteria Sets and Axes Provided for Further Study,” to the main body of DSM-5. (dsm5.org)

Inclusion in the DSM is important because many people are unable to gain access to medication for what troubles them without a diagnoses from this book. It is, however, a controversial decision as well.

“I think any time a disorder occurs more frequently in women or only in women, there’s going to be a group of individuals who have concern that this will diminish women’s role in society, their sense of being capable,” Epperson says.

The article this quote is grabbed from is from the NPR: Should Severe Menstrual Symptoms Be A Mental Disorder? It is worth a read. When discussing mental illness it is important to consider how a diagnoses will positively and negatively influence that group of people afflicted by those symptoms.

Here is a breakdown on PMDD:

PMDD is a more severe and disabling form of PMS. It is much less common than PMS. Statistics I found cited between 1-8% of menstruating women.

The difference between PMS is that PMDD symptoms disrupt her normal daily activities in the time period that she has them. Unlike PMS, which may be more mild.

Strong emotional and physical reactions come ~10 days before a woman’s period. These symptoms can include anxiety, stress, depression, tension, and anger.

Treatment involves symptom reduction, which is one reason that medication might prove useful to women who are having these experiences around this time in their cycle. Other non-medicalized treatments like exercise and diet changes are also important. Counseling may help some women find coping strategies.

What I would recommend:

Many of you know that I keep a journal documenting various moods, emotions, and other various symptoms. Doing this can help you notice trends in your cycle as well as help you notice if there are any irregularities. I wrote up a mock of what this looks like on a blank page in one of my old moleskin notebooks. I didn’t really want to post my real one 🙂 It’s a pretty realistic replication though.

  • Hearts – Intercourse
  • Circles – High fertility days + Prediction of Periods
  • Dots – Days of bleeding
  • Numbers – Tracking cycle (day 1 – first day of period, typical cycle is 28 days, this is how you can predict your period if you have a normal cycle)

Generally I only write down moods when I have one that is particularly present. You can see that in the example there might be more negative emotions right before the start of a cycle (near the 23-28th days). These are PMS symptoms, light, generally manageable negative moods and physical discomfort.

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Creating a journal like this can also help you discover if your symptoms are more severe and are serious disrupting what you get done. If you’re worried that you might be suffering from PMDD I would recommend going further than a journal in this style and actually writing out how your day went, if you struggled with anything in particular, and keeping track of things in a more detailed way.

Questions? Have something you’d like me to write about? Submit by clicking ask advice at the top of the page and I’ll answer it on my blog. 

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