Tag Archives: pregnancy

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does: Part 2, Condoms

packets of individual condoms

Welcome to the second installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does.” In this series we will highlight Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl doesn’t know about.

It’s National Condom Week! So it’s only fitting that the second installment of our “Over 90 Percent” series honors the humble condom, that mainstay of anyone’s safer-sex arsenal. By providing a barrier between body parts and reducing skin-to-skin contact, condoms dramatically decrease risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection (STI). On top of all of that, their use during heterosexual intercourse can keep sperm from entering the vagina, making them essential components in family planning. Condoms can be used in a wide variety of sexual activities — they can be worn on penises or put onto sex toys, and with a couple of scissor snips they can be converted into dental dams. They are inexpensive and widely available without the need for a prescription. If you need to replenish your condom supply, or if you’re using them for the first time, you can walk into any Planned Parenthood health center to pick them up.


Learning how to use condoms correctly will maximize their effectiveness. Are you aware of the finer points of condom use?


There are tons of contraceptive options for people with uteruses, from pills to IUDs, but condoms are one of the few options that people with penises have — although there is exciting research being done on expanding these options. If you are heterosexually active and capable of getting someone pregnant, using condoms consistently and correctly will allow you to take control of your reproductive future. In a given year, 2 out of 100 females whose male partners use condoms will become pregnant if they always use condoms correctly — with imperfect use, this number increases to 18 out of 100. Combining condom use with other birth control methods, like diaphragms, birth control pills, or IUDs, will dramatically boost the efficacy of your contraception. Continue reading

A Spotlight on Folic Acid

A cup of cooked lentils contains 358 micrograms of folate.

A cup of cooked lentils contains 358 micrograms of folate.

In the late 1920s, the London School of Medicine for Women graduated a brilliant student named Lucy Wills. This newly minted physician embarked on a trip to Bombay to investigate reports of anemic female laborers whose condition seemed to be exacerbated by childbirth. Thinking the anemia could be a sign of a nutritional deficiency, she fed her patients Marmite, which at the time was a fad among British and Australian health nuts. It seemed to help, and because she didn’t know which chemicals in Marmite were responsible for her patients’ improvement, she called that unknown ingredient the Wills factor — which we now know is folic acid.


Prenatal folic-acid supplements are thought to prevent 50 to 75 percent of neural tube defects.


January 8 marked the start of Folic Acid Awareness Week. Folic acid is essential in cell division, so we need it in order to grow or simply to repair damaged tissues. It is especially important that anyone who might become pregnant consumes at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, as it can help prevent certain types of birth defects.

Neural tube defects, including anencephaly and spina bifida, occur in about 1 in 1,000 births, and can affect an embryo when it is just a few weeks old, often before pregnancy is even detected. Anencephaly is an especially tragic and usually fatal condition in which an embryo fails to develop parts of its brain or skull. The prognosis for spina bifida is better — some people with spina bifida are unable to walk, while other cases are so mild that they might never be diagnosed. Continue reading

STI Awareness: Cytomegalovirus and Molluscum Contagiosum

Most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are caused by microorganisms – lifeforms that are too small to be seen without a microscope. Many STIs, however, are caused by viruses, which technically aren’t even alive. Rather, viruses are pieces of genetic information that are stored in protein capsules. When these capsules come into contact with a host cell, the genetic information is able to enter the cell and hijack its machinery so that the host cell manufactures copies of the virus, as well as potentially harmful viral proteins. Many well-known STIs, such as herpes and HIV/AIDS, are caused by viruses, but this month we will focus on two lesser-known viral STIs, cytomegalovirus and molluscum contagiosum. Your local Planned Parenthood health center, as well as other clinics, health departments, and private health-care providers, can help you get a diagnosis and treatment for these STIs.

Cytomegalovirus leaves granules inside its host cells called inclusion bodies, pictured here. Photograph from the CDC’s Public Health Image Library.

Cytomegalovirus leaves granules inside its host cells called inclusion bodies, pictured here. Image: Public Health Image Library, CDC

Cytomegalovirus

The bad news is that most people are infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV) at some point in their lives. About 80 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to be carriers, about 4 in 10 Americans are infected with CMV before puberty (usually through contact with saliva), and adults can be reinfected through sexual activity. The good news is that among healthy adults, a CMV infection usually does not have any symptoms, though if they do they could seem like a mild case of mono. Being reinfected with the virus later in life also carries with it only a small risk for symptoms in healthy adults.

And back to the bad news: While an infection with cytomegalovirus usually does not have symptoms, if someone is infected while pregnant it can harm the fetus. About 1 in 100 U.S. babies is infected with CMV, but usually doesn’t show symptoms. Every year in the United States, around 5,500 babies are born with symptomatic cytomegalic inclusion disease (CID). Symptoms of CID vary, but the most severe include mental retardation and hearing loss. If the mother was already infected before conception, there is a 2 percent chance the virus will be transmitted to the fetus; however, if the infection occurs during pregnancy, this risk jumps into the 40 to 50 percent range. Continue reading

STI Awareness: Bacterial Vaginosis and Chancroid

Sexually transmitted infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, protozoans, and even animals. Bacterial vaginosis and chancroid are both infections caused by bacteria, which means that they can be treated with antibiotics. While bacterial vaginosis only affects people with vaginas, chancroid disproportionately affects people with penises. You can seek diagnosis and treatment for bacterial vaginosis and chancroid at a Planned Parenthood health center, as well as health clinics, private health-care providers, and health departments.

Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of bacteria species in the vagina. Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of bacteria species in the vagina. Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis seems to be most commonly caused by the bacteria species Gardnerella vaginalis. Scientists aren’t quite sure how this infection is caused, but risk seems to correlate with a change in sexual partners, having multiple sexual partners, douching, or using an intrauterine device; it can also occur in females who have never been sexually active. It is more common in pregnant women. There is no counterpart to this infection in males, although G. vaginalis can be found in their urethras; this raises the possibility that bacterial vaginosis can be sexually transmitted, in which case it could be directly transmitted between two females or indirectly transmitted from one female to another via a male.

Bacterial vaginosis seems to result from an imbalance in the vaginal flora (“flora” is a somewhat fanciful term for the bacteria that live in your body; under normal circumstances they are harmless and even beneficial). Vaginas usually are habitat to a population of bacteria called Lactobacillus, which produce hydrogen peroxide as a byproduct. When the number of Lactobacillus declines, G. vaginalis is able to move in on Lactobacillus’ old territory. The decrease in Lactobacillus and increase in G. vaginalis leads to a rise in the vagina’s pH. The new vaginal environment is less acidic and more alkaline; a vaginal pH of more than 4.5 is one criterion for the diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis. Another symptom includes a vaginal discharge that may smell somewhat fishy. There might also be genital itching or pain during urination. It is also possible not to have symptoms. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Bill Could Force IRS To Investigate Abortions…the freaking IRS! (Jezebel)
  • Arizona Legislators Pass Paranoid Abortion Bill (Huff Po)
  • Gabrielle Union: Great actress and a Planned Parenthood supporter! (AOL Black Voices)
  • South Dakota’s New Abortion Law Violates Separation of Church and State (Daily Beast)
  • Wave of Anti-Abortion Bills Advance in States (ABC News)
  • Black Women Die Nearly Four Times the Rate of Whites from Pregnancy Complications (Seattle Medium)
  • Sound-Off: ‘I Wish I’d Had Planned Parenthood’ (Essence)
  • Idaho, Kansas and Alabama All Begin 20 Week Abortion Bans (RH Reality Check)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • National Abortion Rates Plateau, While Protests Increase (Time)
  • American parents say: “It’s our job to teach our kids about sex.” (U.S. News & World Report)
  • Highly undesirable anti-abortion bills proposed in FL and NE (Ms. Magazine)
  • Taking birth control pills on a 24-day regimen may be more effective than the standard 21-day regimen. (L.A. Times)
  • What issue dominated state legislative trends in 2010? If you guessed abortion restrictions, you’d be correct! (Guttmacher)
  • One of the many horrors of HPV: oral lesions! Yikes. (Clinical Advisor)
  • Anne Davis MD, MPH, and Medical Director of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, says forcing pregnant women to stay that way ignores medical risks of pregnancy. (NY Times)
  • Legislators trying to restrict access to abortion are nothing if not creative: The state of Maryland may mandate wider doors at clinics knowing they won’t be able to afford them and will be forced to shut down as a consequence. (Change.org: Women’s Rights)
  • Conscience clauses, which allow pharmacists and medical personnel to refuse patients birth control and other medications they believe to be abortifacients, can be deadly according to this article. What puzzles me is why these people would go into a field where such medications are commonly and routinely provided and then assert that it’s “against their personal morals” to dispense these drugs. Isn’t that sort of like me, a vegetarian, purposely getting a job at a steak house where I know meat is served constantly and then refusing to serve customers anything other than vegetables because of my beliefs? I’m pretty sure that not complying with your job description is a terminable offense in any other profession. (Care2)

Amanda is Here Because Women Deserve Better Than Forced “Choices”

Canvassing in LD17 with David Schapira

“She heads for the clinic and she gets some static walkin’ through the doors. They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner, and they call her a whore. God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes. ‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose.”

I remember hearing those Everlast lyrics one day when I was a teenager. My thoughts were very different then, but I was at a different stage in my life. I was a devout Baptist.

As a doting follower, I felt that part of my salvation relied upon opposing abortion. What did that mean to me? That there were lost souls in the world “killing babies” and that it was my duty to stop this atrocity. It meant that I was right because I had the Bible and Jesus Christ on my side, and anyone who opposed me was blinded by Satan and obviously wrong. To be frank, I knew absolutely nothing about abortion; not what it truly was or the reasons for women seeking it. I opposed it because my faith told me to, and it wasn’t a big deal to me.

A few years later, I feel that I was given a dose of my own medicine. Continue reading