Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Dating the men of Stayfree

August 31st, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Via Tracy Clark-Flory at Broadsheet, I learned of this new internet campaign from Stayfree.

At last, my girlish fantasies realized! I have always dreamed of a man who would have dinner almost ready when I got home, and then mansplain the intricacies of feminine hygiene products while the risotto simmered.

Except I grew up in the 1970s, so my fantasy man shaved his face, not his chest, before our date.

[See also A date with Ryan and A date with Trevor.]

Marketing Menopause: Economic Forecast

August 30th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Longtime readers may recall that late last year, the New York Times published an essay about how hard Big Pharma has worked to market menopause as an estrogen deficiency disease. Despite that exposé and others of the well-documented risks and limited benefits of hormone therapy, plus thousands of lawsuits pending over the role of HT in breast cancer,  there’s apparently still quite a large potential market for pharmaceutical treatments for menopause (and other women’s health concerns).

To find out exactly how to mine that market, you can purchase the research report titled Women’s Health Therapeutics Market to 2016 – High Unmet Need will Drive the Uptake of Novel Drugs in Menopause and Osteoporosis from GBI Research. The report promises the following:

  • Analysis of the women’s health market in the leading geographies of the world, which include the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan.
  • Market characterization of the women’s health market, including market size, annual cost of therapy, sales volume and treatment usage patterns.
  • Key drivers and barriers that have a significant impact on the market.

This will better allow you to “align your product portfolio to the markets with high growth potential” and “develop market-entry and market expansion strategies by identifying the leading therapeutic segments and geographic markets poised for strong growth”. Not to mention the ability to “reinforce R&D pipelines by identifying new target mechanisms which can produce first-in-class molecules with more efficiency and better safety”.

It all looks very useful. Too bad I don’t have an extra $3500 in my back pocket.

Weekend Links

August 28th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

The abundance of recommendations for this week makes up for the sparseness of last week’s list!

How to Ask for a Raise

August 26th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Step 1: Wash your vulva.

Ad for Summer's Eve from Woman's Day magazine

Yep, you’re a lady, so step 1 in asking your boss for a raise is washing your ladyparts with special ladysoap. It’s not until step 8 that we get around to “focus on things you’ve done for the company’s bottom line”.

Excerpt from Summer's Eve ad

(Actual advertisement from actual ladymag.)

[via Trixie Films]

ETA 08/27/2010: Via the always-awesome Bitch magazine, we’ve learned that Summer’s Eve brand manager has apologized for this ad, and is working to remove it from circulation:

Hi I am Angela Bryant, Summer’s Eve Brand Manager. I would like to first of all apologize if this ad in anyway has offended anyone. We are taking immediate next steps to remove the ad from circulation. We want you to know that Fleet Laboratories and the Summer’s Eve brand have the utmost respect for women. While we understand how some may come to an alternative conclusion regarding our recent ad, that was never our intention. Thank you.

Ditch the Disposables

August 24th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

The lovely ladies of LunaPads have made a sweet little video that explains why you should make the switch from paper products to cloth pads – in less than 90 seconds!

If you’ve already made the switch, this is an easy way to persuade your friends. You can email it, Tweet, share it on Facebook, heck, cue it up on your smartphone and show it to ‘em!

Saturday Surfing: Links for a late-summer weekend

August 21st, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

New “Brilliant” tampons

August 20th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Ladies, are your tampons doing enough? Apparently absorbing menstrual fluid without leaking is no longer sufficient: new, Brilliant pH tampons “are clinically shown to reduce the usual feminine pH increase that occurs during your period.”

But let Dr. Streicher explain in this commercial for Brilliant pH tampons.

Screen cap of Dr. Lauren Streicher ad

Video should open in new window.

Of course, Brilliant also includes a “comfortable, soft plastic applicator” with “smooth rounded tip” and raised ridge for “easy grip”.

Sex, the Brain, and the Pill

August 18th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling
Positron emission tomography image of a human brain

Positron emission tomography image of a human brain

Does taking the Pill increase the size of your brain? According to this story in The Daily Mail, you betcha. And it makes women more talkative, too. That’s right – brain scans of 28 women PROVE it.

I know not to take too seriously such headlines in The Daily Mail (there’s a reason my British friends like to call it The Daily Fail), but if that story has you gnashing your teeth, consider this piece from The Guardian to be the antidote:

In fact, there are no major neurological differences between the sexes, says Cordelia Fine in her book Delusions of Gender, which will be published by Icon next month. There may be slight variations in the brains of women and men, added Fine, a researcher at Melbourne University, but the wiring is soft, not hard. “It is flexible, malleable and changeable,” she said.

In short, our intellects are not prisoners of our genders or our genes and those who claim otherwise are merely coating old-fashioned stereotypes with a veneer of scientific credibility. It is a case backed by Lise Eliot, an associate professor based at the Chicago Medical School. “All the mounting evidence indicates these ideas about hard-wired differences between male and female brains are wrong,” she told the Observer.

“Yes, there are basic behavioural differences between the sexes, but we should note that these differences increase with age because our children’s intellectual biases are being exaggerated and intensified by our gendered culture. Children don’t inherit intellectual differences. They learn them. They are a result of what we expect a boy or a girl to be.”

Now adding Delusions of Gender to my reading list; I’ve already read Lise Eliot’s Pink Brain, Blue Brain. (I also heard her present this work at a conference; it’s a very compelling presentation.)

But I Thought Lightning Never Strikes Twice

August 16th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

June 2010 magazine ad for Always maxi pads Procter & Gamble femcare ads are such an easy target. It’s shooting fish in a barrel.

Periods = lightning? Really? And the classic deictic euphemism, “it”, well, that just makes me tired.

At least there’s no blue liquid.

Saturday Surfing

August 14th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling
EWU's new red turf

EWU’s new red turf

This week’s picks:

The Leap from Younger Puberty to Fat-Shaming

August 12th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling
'Puberty' by Edvard Munch. Photo courtesy of Flickr user independentman // CC 2.0

'Puberty' by Edvard Munch. Photo courtesy of Flickr user independentman // CC 2.0

When the story that girls are reaching puberty earlier than ever began popping up everywhere this week, I did not doubt its veracity. It was no coincidence that I received an email from a friend yesterday, observing with mixed feelings that she had just purchased a first bra for her oldest daughter. Her daughter is 9.

News about girls reaching puberty earlier and earlier isn’t exactly new. We saw a flurry of stories in late 2009, when studies found an association between early menarche, late menopause and breast cancer. Additionally, the finding that African American girls often show signs of pubertal development earlier than other girls is well-established.

The study that triggered this new explosion of publicity, published this week in Pediatrics, assessed girls’ development by evaluating the size of breast buds (as breasts are called in early stages of development). The researchers evaluated an ethnically diverse population of 1,239 girls ages 6 to 8 across three research sites. They found that 10.4 percent of white, 23.4 percent of black and 14.9 percent of Hispanic 7-year-olds had reached “Sexual Maturation Stage 2.” Stage 2 is more typically reached at age 10, but may occur any time from age 8 to age 13. Menarche, the first menstrual period, occurs on average at age 12, in Stage 4, but it, too, varies, occurring as early as age 9 and as late as age 17.

The Pediatrics study does not, however, reveal what has caused the age of puberty to fall. Many are quick to blame the alleged obesity epidemic, as the study found that heavier girls were more likely to have more breast development. But Dr. Frank M. Biro, the first author of the study and the director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, told the New York Times that it is unlikely that weight alone explains the findings. Instead, he speculates that environmental chemicals may influence early breast development, and he and his colleagues are presently running lab tests to assess the girls’ hormone levels and chemical exposure.

Fat is one of many factors affecting pubertal development. Others include:

  • environmental toxins, including phthalates and Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, which can be found in nearly anything made of plastic: baby bottles, toys, plastic serving utensils, and more
  • premature birth and low birth weight, which affect endocrine function
  • psychosocial stressors, such as family dysfunction or abuse
  • formula feeding, especially without breast feeding
  • in-utero chemical exposure
  • and, often neglected in these discussions, endocrine disruptors–the hormones used in raising beef and dairy cattle as well as chicken in this country. Almost all foods in a modern North American diet contains endocrine disruptors.

(For a more thorough analysis of causes of early puberty, see Sandra Steingraber’s report, The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls: What We Know, What We Need to Know, published in 2007 by the Breast Cancer Fund. Among other findings, Steingraber reports that new research has revealed that the amount of natural hormones a child’s body produces on its own is much lower than previously estimated; this means “safe levels” of exposure to synthetic hormones and endocrine disruptors must be recalibrated, and policy modified accordingly.)

Sadly, much of the public discussion of this research seems to be centering on the possible role of the alleged obesity crisis (or in fat activist Kate Harding’s preferred terminology, “the obesity crisis OOGA-BOOGA!”), despite a lack of concrete evidence. I’d hate to see this research lead to increased fat-shaming and body image issues for young girls, as there are far more serious consequences of a dramatic decline in age of puberty.

Why isn’t the focus on what can be done to help girls? Research published ten years ago by Girl Scouts, Inc., reported that 8- to 12-year-old girls are growing up in an increasingly stressful environment, as their cognitive and physical development occur at an accelerated pace, while emotional development does not. In other words, despite the budding breasts, a 10-year-old is still a 10-year-old psychologically. The resulting tension leads to young girls dealing with teen issues, such as sexuality and relationships, before they are ready.

Sandra Steingraber’s report for the Breast Cancer Action Fund lists numerous other possible outcomes of early puberty, including increased risk of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders, as well as higher risk of PCOS and breast cancer later in life. Early puberty is also associated with greater risky behaviors in adolescence, such as smoking, drinking, drug use, and crime, as well as early and unprotected sex. Early-maturing girls also experience higher rates of violent victimization.

Hold the Eggs When Ovulating

August 11th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Fascinating new research from the National Institutes of Health finds that women’s cholesterol levels correspond with cyclic changes in estrogen levels. Total cholesterol levels can vary by as much as 19% over the course of the cycle.

The researchers found that as the level of estrogen rises, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol also rises, peaking at the time of ovulation.

In a typical cycle, estrogen levels steadily increase as the egg cell matures, peaking just before ovulation. Previous studies have shown that taking formulations which contain estrogen — oral contraceptives or menopausal hormone therapy — can affect cholesterol levels. However, the results of studies examining the effects of naturally occurring hormone levels on cholesterol have not been conclusive. According to the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, high blood cholesterol levels raise the risk for heart disease.

. . . .

In contrast, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels — as well as another form of blood fat known as triglycerides — declined as estrogen levels rose. The decline was not immediate, beginning a couple of days after the estrogen peak at ovulation.

These findings provide another reason for girls and women to learn to track their cycles, so their blood tests can be interpreted more precisely.

It also gives more weight to the frequent assertion of members of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research that menstruation matters — and is worthy of our study — in part because it is not an event isolated in the uterus and vagina, but a complex part of the endocrine system that has effects on health and well-being throughout a woman’s body.

Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.