Blush: HPV and You

My friends and I are getting to the age when our kids are getting shots that were not available when we were young.

The chicken pox vaccine, for one. (Varicella)

I, personally, had a very severe case of chicken pox over Christmas when I was 7 years old. My dad (and his mother) weren’t sure if he had had it as a kid, so I wasn’t allowed to go near him OR my 3 year old baby sister. Not a great Christmas.

Now, there’s a vaccine that prevents the horrible, full-body-and-sometimes-inside-the-mouth-and-on-the-eyelids, itchy rash. I’m ALL FOR IT. The vaccine, I mean.

But there’s another vaccine that wasn’t around when I was young: HPV9.

Giant Microbe of HPV (Human Papillomavirus). Image from giantmicrobes.com

I heard about it in University. I was still under the age limit to get it for free, and chose not to. I think that was a mistake. I was not very well informed about it and I regret not looking into it better.

Because the HPV9 vaccine protects against 7 types of HPV that cause types of cervical cancer, anal cancer, and genital warts.

And, more importantly, you can get HPV without having had sex.

Because HPV is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, if someone with HPV touches their genitals (say, wiping after going to the bathroom), doesn’t wash their hands (ew), and then touches you….you have a pretty good chance of catching it.

So if you have the chance, please get the HPV9 vaccine. It is super safe and will protect you for the rest of your life.


References

Immunize BC
Healthlink BC
CDC
Live Science

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Blush: Non-binary Representation in Media

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am completely obsessed with Amazon Prime’s miniseries Good Omens. The book it is based on is written by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett.

And it is incredible.

The miniseries, I mean.

The book is pretty good, but the miniseries is something special.

And part of why it is special makes it worthy of being a Blush post: the non-binary representation of the angels and demons. (No, I’m not referencing the Dan Brown book.)

Good Omens angels l-r Uriel, Sandalphon, Michael, Gabriel, and Aziraphale. Image from architecturaldigest.com (some interesting stuff about the set production through that link).

The Geekiary writes about it here, and it is definitely worth being a Recommendation Wednesday.

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Blush: Condom sizes

I’m sure, if you’re on the internet, you’ve seen the image of the girl putting a condom on over her arm. She wrote a tweet back in 2015 to prove that anyone saying that their penis is too big for a condom is either not telling the truth or hasn’t done their research.

While a regular condom might be too tight on a larger penis, there are definitely options out there.

Image from verywellhealth.com

It is important to wear the appropriate size of condom. If it is too loose, it might slip off inside the partner. If it is too tight, there is danger of it ripping.

To use a condom size chart, you must first measure the penis, both length and girth, while it is erect.

And remember, natural vaginal lubricant, saliva, and lubricated condoms are NOT sufficient amounts of lube for intercourse. Friction will require additional lube (and make sure to get lube that will not disintegrate your condom).

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Blush: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

You might notice that a pregnant person has especially lustrous and thick hair. This is because of the high levels of estrogen and increased blood volume; during the nine months of pregnant, normal hair loss just…doesn’t happen.

After the baby (or babies) is born, hormone levels and blood volume decrease dramatically, but in terms of hair loss, that doesn’t start happening until at least a couple days after the baby is born, and sometimes up to a couple of months!

But this re-start of regular hair loss doesn’t mean that they’ll go back to the normal amount of hair loss – there are nine months of no (or low) hair loss to make up for! The walls of the shower, the pillow, the hair brush – it starts to feel a little scary to see the massive quantities of hair being lost, especially if you weren’t aware of the phenomenon.

One of the ways to help mitigate is to get a short haircut.

(This has the added benefit of not getting your hair in baby burp-up, because no matter how chill your baby is and how little they burp-up, they still will occasionally, and if you have long hair, it WILL get in it.)

With my first child, I wore my hair in a ponytail until she was 4 months old. (And even then, I occasionally got my hair stuck in a sticky wet mess on my shoulder.) At that time, I read an article about a baby that had almost lost a toe because one of the mother’s long hairs had wrapped around the toe inside the sock.

So I chopped off my hair. Better not to risk it. And I deeply regretted not getting it cut earlier. It was so much easier to deal with!

Now, with my second child, I cut it off just before he turned 1 month. I’m barely noticing the hair loss (at 2 months, it is still possible that it hasn’t reached maximum loss yet) but compared to when I had long hair, I doubt I will notice unless it starts falling out in clumps.

Day before delivery, hair down to shoulder blades
Haircut!!

Longer hair definitely makes the hair loss seem more extreme.

Shorter hair also reduced the amount of stress on your hair follicles. Less weight, less brushing, and fewer forceful hair styles (pony tails, braids, etc) means less hair loss.

There are cases of extreme hair loss – large patches of missing hair, higher levels of hair loss for more than a year – and in those cases, see a doctor. It could be related to a hormone imbalance or a vitamin deficiency.

There are things you can do to help lessen hair loss other than chopping your hair off. Diet, supplements, reducing stress, and modifying hair care routines can all help. See the references for more details.


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References

Flo
American Pregnancy
Healthline

Blush: So how do I find a doula? – Guest Post by Tricia Surette

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Part 3: So how do I find a doula?

But how do you choose your doula? Where do you find one?

If you have a midwife, most offices keep a list of doulas that work in the area. Even OB/GYN’s are beginning to come around to the idea of doulas as partners in the birthing process and asking at your doctor’s office could be a good place to start.

Ottawa is home to the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Center, located on Walkley Road. It can be a huge resource for parents looking for birth options and for links to local doulas. On the third Wednesday of every month, if you have a midwife, you can attend their Choice of Birthplace seminar and it can be very informative if you are on the fence about where you want to birth and the type of birth you are looking for. Especially for a first-time parent.

There is also word of mouth. Ask around among other pregnant friends, see if anyone recommends someone, and doing a google search for doulas in your area can also give you a place to start.

Once you have decided you want a doula, do the leg work needed to find the one that will be the support you need when labour starts. Here a doula looks on as a happy mother initiates nursing her newborn baby. This is what all women deserve and a doula can help achieve that whether it’s a hospital, a birthing center or home birth, or even if it’s a c-section. Image taken by Nicky Rhea De Souza and shared here with permission.

Finding a doula and choosing a doula are two different things. It’s a good idea to interview your doula options, ask about their previous experiences, their training (if they have any), maybe some references if they are really new. But when it comes down to choosing your doula it’s about connection. You might connect with the one who has 14 years experience or you might connect with the one who has just finished training and is looking for some experience. Pay close attention to how your gut feels about the doula.

“I think connection is one of the most important things,” says Anderson, “because it’s very intimate giving birth. You need to be careful with who you have there and the people who are there should be on your side and you should feel good about that.”

The process of birth can be an incredibly empowering experience for women, and a doula can help avoid traumatizing pitfalls that can stay with women long after the labour is over, affecting their mental health by increasing the chances of postpartum depression and making it more difficult for a mother to connect with their newborn in the days and weeks that follow.

Whether you enlist a doula to support you in your labour or not, please do your homework on what your rights are and be aware of the cascade of interventions that can lead to a less than optimal outcome for both mother and child. Medical advancements have saved a lot of children, but when people rely too heavily on machines and stop listening to their bodies, the scales tip back towards there being a potential for more trauma due to unnecessary interference. The US has some of the most medicalized births, relying very heavily on machines and interventions, but they also have worse birth outcomes than some third world countries, so those machines do not necessarily know better than a woman’s body what it needs to do.

Trust yourself.

References

Wise Woman Way of Birth

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Blush: A doula’s toolbox – Guest Post by Tricia Surette

Read Part 1 here.

Part 2: A doula’s toolbox

Doulas have many tools in their repertoire that can help a woman in labour.

“When I first go to a birth, I observe what my client is doing and ask her some questions,” says Anderson. “For instance, if the mother says the pain is all in the back, I would start straight away with counter-pressure and ask her, ‘does that feel better?’”

Communication with your doula is key. Anderson will check in with her clients repeatedly about what is working, what’s not, and will change up her techniques accordingly. She can offer the use of a TENS machine, which can help some woman cope with the pain better. Anderson will also remind the labouring woman to stay hydrated, to rest, to breathe.

Doulas provide both physical and emotional support during labour. They have many tools to help a labouring person cope with the pain as their bodies move through the stages of labour. Here a doula uses a rebozo, basically a large scarf, to provide counter pressure to a client’s lower back. Image taken by Nicky Rhea De Souza and shared here with permission.

It’s not uncommon in birth for emotions to come up.

“If somebody gets really emotional, if they need to cry, I tell them, ‘Just cry’,” says Anderson. “I can ask them questions as to what’s coming up, what are you worried about and sometimes they’re very valid worries.”

And if something comes up on the medical side, Anderson can help remind the woman or the couple that it’s okay to ask questions. Rarely is there ever anything in birth that requires such an immediate response that there isn’t time to ask questions and find out what’s happening before making a decision.

“Sometimes in a hospital setting people can find it overwhelming where [information] is often presented as ‘this is how it is’ and some people have a hard time going against it,” says Anderson. “Sometimes it’s really hard to collect your thoughts when people are looking at you waiting for an answer, so I might say to them, ‘Ask for five minutes’.”

The discussions a couple has with their doula at their pre-meetings, as well as work they did on the birth plan, will make all of this easier to navigate, as there will be a bond and the couple will already be privy to a foundational understanding of the choices they may face during labour.

“Many times, at the hospital,” says Anderson, “the nurses would say to me, ‘You’re really lucky because you got to know these people. I just met them and they’re in labour’.”

The support a doula can provide for the non-birthing partner is amazing as well.

“[Partners] have a hard time because they feel like ‘oh, my love is in this much discomfort and I can’t do anything’. They feel helpless and that’s a difficult place to be.”

Doulas can help partners learn massage and counter-pressure techniques to help reduce pain, which gives the partner something to do and can help them feel more connected to their labouring partner and the birthing experience as a whole. Doulas can remind partners to breathe and to take time to rest, eat, or drink, especially if it’s a long labour as was the case for Chris Brown’s wife Debbie. Her labour went on for several days and they were sent home from the hospital a number of times, plus there were other complications such as meconium, a complication where the baby poops inside the amniotic sac and runs the risk of aspirating it into their lungs before they are born.

“I actually hyperventilated and left,” said Brown. “I think it was because I was afraid for Debbie and the obvious pain she was undergoing.”

But he credits their doula with providing them with a lot of information ahead of time, that allowed he and his wife to navigate the overwhelming elements of their daughter’s birth.

“She was genuinely there for us when we needed her and she did provide a lot of comfort and knowledge,” says Brown.

There have been some studies conducted on birth outcomes for woman with labour support and while some of the results are harder to quantify, in general most woman did better with continuous labour support. According to the Journal of Perinatal Education, “Doula-assisted mothers were four times less likely to have a low birth weight (LBW) baby, two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding.”

(At the end of the article there will be an additional of list of resources and recommended reading that you might want to explore if you are contemplating a doula for your next birth.)


References

Oakville Family Birth
NCBI
Science Direct
Dona

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Blush: What’s a doula? Why do I want one? – Guest Post by Tricia Surette

Follow Tricia Surette here!

Part 1: What’s a doula? Why do I want one?

Pregnant women often say that what matters most is the health of their baby or babies. Our society focuses heavily on the arrival of baby often to the detriment of the mother. One of my favourite quotes is, “the moment a child is born, the mother is also born,” and according to the internet it is attributed to Osho, a controversial figure. But the quote captures a truth about childbirth.

The woman is as integral to the process of birthing as the baby is, and her importance and her need for support is just as important as the health of the child. The act of labour is a symbiotic relationship between the woman’s body, mind, and soul working along with the movements of the newborn descending through her birth canal. The more we can allow that process to happen unhindered and for women to be free to listen to the intuition of their bodies, often the better the outcomes are for both the mother and child.

Here a doula holds a woman in early labour, providing support through the intense surges of her labour, as her body works to bring her baby earthside. Image taken by Nicky Rhea De Souza and shared here with permission.

Unfortunately, our highly medicalized birthing system in North America has forgotten the power of the female body – but this is starting to change.

Women are remembering, they are learning to trust themselves, and they are demanding more support. One of the forms that support might take is a doula.

“[A doula] is somebody who helps you see your strengths, helps plan, helps craft questions for your healthcare provider,” says Courtney Holmes, the family outreach and birth companion support worker at Mothercraft Ottawa. “They really help instill a sense of confidence and empowerment moving through the experience.”

Mothercraft Ottawa provides doula services to at-risk women in Ottawa. At-risk includes new immigrants and low-income mothers. The support the doulas provide those women is invaluable.

“How women feel about their labour and delivery is a huge marker for postpartum mental health issues afterwards,” says Holmes.

Pia Anderson, a local doula and Hypnobirthing teacher, has been a doula for over 14 years and has supported hundreds of women physically, emotionally, and informationally through their journeys of birthing their children.

Anderson tries to meet with each family at least three times prior to the birth. This helps build her relationship with the woman and her partner.

She is a big supporter of a birth plan, not because she expects everything will go according to the plan, but it gives a chance for the woman and her partner to explore their options and be aware of the different scenarios that might come up, as well as to explore questions they might want to bring up with their healthcare provider. It also gives them a chance to voice any fears or worries. Anything that can be addressed ahead of time or can be anticipated to come up during the birth, can help increase the chances of a positive birthing experience.

Anderson worries about the mothers who make a birth plan that they are too attached to.

Birth is not a predictable process and getting too entrenched into an idea of how it should go, ie. having your heart set on a “natural” birth (meaning no epidural, vaginal delivery, etc…) can set a woman up for disappointment if anything deviates from her vision. The birth plan is a great tool for educating yourself on what could happen and to help you be prepared for various outcomes, but it’s important that it’s viewed as a tool to help create an optimal birth in spite of anything that happens, and not a carved in stone agenda. Very few births go completely according to plan.

Melaina Landriault is a mother of three in Ottawa. Her first birth was a c-section as her daughter was full breach and stuck, but her two subsequent pregnancies were homebirths with doulas. Her second birth didn’t quite go as planned. It was supposed to be a hospital birth, but the hospital sent her home thinking she was still hours away from delivery. Her daughter had other ideas.

“I delivered her myself,” says Landriault. “[My doula] caught the baby!”

“We really believed what the doctor and midwife had told us and I’d never birthed before,” continued Landriault. “Then I remember pushing and [my doula] was like ‘Don’t push!’ and I was like, ‘I can’t stop this!’”

Landriault’s daughter was born in her living room with only her doula to support her. Her midwife arrived after the birth and an ambulance arrived to check everyone out as well.

This is not a typical scenario for a doula and most doulas will actively avoid a birth without any medical practitioners in attendance, but this one thankfully had a happy ending.

Unfortunately, if a doula attended a birth with no medical support and it didn’t have such a happy outcome, the doula could be open to a lawsuit with devastating results and charges could even be laid if the outcome is deemed the fault of the doula in any way.

Doulas are not medical practitioners and should never provide medical advice on your pregnancy or how you choose to birth. They can provide information to help you make a decision and will direct you back to your OB/GYN or midwife for answers, but they should never tell you how or how not to do something. The main goal of a doula is to support you in whatever choices you make and to help you achieve the best outcome for your birth so that everyone, including the mother, is healthy.

Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 in two and four weeks respectively.

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Blush: Guest Post on Asexuality by S.M. Carrière

This post has been copied with permission from S.M. Carrière’s blog.

Good morning, Readers!

The easiest way I can think of to explain my experience as an asexual and what I understand about it is to do so in a Q&A format.  As I do so, I cannot stress enough that not all asexual people have had my experience or my understanding on the subject, and their answers may vary.  This is just how I see things.

Clear?  Cool.  Here we go.

By AnonMoos (SVG file); AVEN (flag design) – This vector image includes elements that have been taken or adapted from this:  Asexual flag.png., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11521997. Image from wikipedia.

So… what even is asexuality?

You know, human sexuality is this wonderfully rich, complex thing.  I firmly believe that there are as many sexualities as their are people on the planet.  That said, asexuality is simply the lack of sexual attraction to anyone.

That doesn’t mean that they don’t feel any romantic attraction or are unable to fall in love.  It’s just that sexual attraction isn’t really part of their world.

Read the rest here!

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