Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

News in Women’s Health Research

September 30th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

I’m too swamped at work to write a proper review of this book-length report this week, but re:Cycling readers might like to know that the Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice (BPH) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) are releasing a pre-publication version of Women’s Health Research: Progress, Pitfalls, and Promise. You can read it online, and/or order the final version here.

[via Our Bodies, Our Blog]

Home Remedies for Period Pain

September 28th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

The health and fitness web site Helium has recently posted some sound suggestions for coping with menstrual pain without drugs (personally, I’m a big fan of medication for pain but I know that not everyone is). They recommend exercises, iliopsoas stretches, and specific nutritional supplements such as magnesium and Omega-3 acids.

Do any readers have other strategies they’d like to share?

I am compelled to remind, however, that re:Cycling is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, or treatment recommendations. Please check with your health care provider(s) regarding your personal health care decisions, and seek immediate care in emergencies. Our opinions do not substitute for medical or other professional care, and you should not use information read here or sites we link in place of a visit or consultation with your health care provider. Medical information changes constantly, thus the information here and on the sites we link should not be considered definitive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for yourself or anyone else. [From our "about" page.]

Weekend Links

September 25th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling


  • More evidence that “abortion trauma syndrome” is a political label, not a clinical one: new research finds that teens who have abortions are no more likely to experience depression or self-esteem problems than than those who keep the pregnancy.
  • Jezebel identifies 14 famous merkins (pubic hair wigs).
  • Sociological Images reports an artist developed an installation titled “Menstruation Skateboards” for the Secession Museum in Austria, re-framing menstruation for the purpose of marketing skateboards. Some of the mock ads feature bruised and bloody women with the slogan, “Some girls bleed more than once a month”. And what’s a skateboard company without a clothing line? (See photo at right.)
  • It Gets Better: Technically, this isn’t a women’s health link, but it’s an awesome project. After learning of another gay teen who committed suicide after years of homophobic bullying, Dan Savage and his partner launched this project as online support system for LGBT kids.

Party Time

September 23rd, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Liz Henry's uterus pinataHave you ever wanted to make a uterus piñata? Say, for a baby shower or a menarche party? Liz Henry explains how.

Ms. Henry notes that the symbolism is not as violent as it might first appear:

Now you might think of this as perturbingly violent or promoting the idea of bashing someone’s body part with a baseball bat. However, try to adjust your mind to a different symbolism where cornucopia-like, abundant wealth flows freely out of a fertile, open uterus and you, as whackers with baseball bats, are encouraging it to open up to the world and deliver its fabulous contents!

[via Geek Feminism]

Paper Covers Period

September 22nd, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Poor Mother Nature. Defeated again.

In saying “Paper wins”, do you think this ad is intended to criticize cloth pads and menstrual cups?

Ad for Tampax Pearl

Magazine ad for Tampax Pearl, October 2010

Because women aren’t medicated enough?

September 19th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

ProzacSome of you may recall that in my book, Capitalizing on the Curse, I argued that the addition of PMDD to the DSM-IV and the re-branding of fluoxetine HCI as Sarafem are linked. It was no coincidence that pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly sought a unique FDA approval for Sarafem as treatment for PMDD just as the patent on Prozac, also composed of fluoxetine HCI, was about to expire. Eli Lilly initially secured the patent for Sarafem until 2007, and it is no longer the only FDA-approved treatment for PMDD.

Lilly must be in need of a new way to keep milking the cash cow. How fortunate that new research suggests that Prozac can relieve garden-variety PMS as well. A neuroscientist at the University of Birmingham presented research last week at the British Science Festival that asserts a 2mg daily dose of fluoxetine in the week before menstruation could alleviate PMS. She tested it for three years on rats. Of course, rats don’t actually experience PMS, so they were “induced to have PMS-like symptoms”.

Every time I read another article about new treatments for PMS, I remember Joan Chrisler’s comments about over-diagnosis of PMS and PMDD (which are both associated with high levels of relationship and family stress): “We’re conditioned to want a pill. Instead of something you might need more, like a nap or a divorce, or the ERA.”

Weekend Links

September 18th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

You’re Never Too Young to Wax

September 16th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Via Virginia at Beauty Schooled, who is celebrating her graduation from Beauty U by republishing selected posts, I found this August 24 article about the trend of spas offering hair removal services to increasingly younger clients – starting at age 8.

Wanda Stawczyk, owner of Wanda’s European Skin Care Center in New York, says girls who start waxing young, even before they have dark hair, will always have lighter, thinner hair.

“It’s a very big result,” she tells ParentDish. “The hair is diminished almost 100 percent.”

She advocates for it even more strongly on her website.

“I call it the ‘Virgin’ — waxing for children 8 years old and up who have never shaved before,” the website reads. “Virgin hair can be waxed so successfully that growth can be permanently stopped in just 2 to 6 sessions. Save your child a lifetime of waxing … and put the money in the bank for her college education instead!”

Pediatricians consulted for the article raise concerns only about removal of pubic hair:

Waxing pubic hair if a girl is too young can make it difficult for doctors to tell if a girl is maturing as she should, Williams says.

“We use development of a certain type of hair and distribution of hair as a marker of normal puberty,” she says.

No worries, though. Wanda says her salon doesn’t do bikini waxes on their prepubescent clients:

“Everything but bikini. We don’t want to introduce them to that kind of service yet.”

Regular bikini waxing starts at 14 or 15 for her clients, Stawczyk says. Apparently they missed the latest issue of Cosmopolitan.

Happy Birthday to Us!

September 15th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

birthday cupcakere:Cycling is one year old today! We began with a few warm-up posts in the summer of 2009, but we launched officially (and sent out a press release to damn near everyone in the feminist blogosphere) on September 15.

In that year, we’ve had more than 300 posts (this one is #307) in 50 categories, and 747 comments. Menstruation and advertising are the most used tags, and humor is a close third. The most visited posts are tagged endometriosis, vulva, or celebrities. An average visitor spends two minutes and forty-five seconds on a page. Approximately one-third of visitors to our site are return visitors.

But enough statistical analysis.

To celebrate our anniversary, we’re growing! Please welcome our two new bloggers, Heather Dillaway and David Linton. Heather Dillaway is associate professor of sociology at Wayne State University, but you probably know her as the author of re:Cycling guest posts on menopause research and Saturday Night Live‘s misogynist series about 1980s ESPN hosts. David Linton, professor of communication at Marymount Manhattan College, has also contributed numerous guest posts about menstruation and popular culture, including a post about why tampons remain associated with Prince Charles long after one ill-fated phone conversation and period-tracking apps for men.

I’m absolutely delighted that both will be contributing to re:Cycling on a regular basis, and I hope that you are, too.

Block that Bloody Metaphor

September 14th, 2010 by David Linton

The challenge that advertisers face when promoting the sale of menstrual products is how to visually demonstrate how the product works or the aspects of the cycle that product addresses without showing actual menstrual blood or a woman’s anatomy. One well established solution is the use of blue liquid to demonstrate absorbency or the ubiquitous white clothing every menstruating woman is thought to prefer.

Creative metaphors and symbols abound.

Recently, a TV ad and associated web site have appeared marketing a product to treat what is called (in Capital Letters) “Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (HMB).” The web site states, “Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (HMB) is a medical condition also known as Menorrhagia.” Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, “Menorrhagia is a medical condition also known as heavy medical bleeding,” but maybe that’s just being picky.

The home page of the site claims that “Millions of women don’t have normal periods. Their periods are too heavy. But how much is too much?” The last sentence is printed in large type in a bright menstrual red color. Later, citing the US census, the site claims that there may be as many as 22 million women in the US who “suffer” from HMB, leaving unanswered how they define “normal,” a statistical term, if such a large number of women have the condition.

Since the ads and the site are the creation of a drug company, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, and the advice given is the usual “speak to your doctor” if you have these conditions, obviously there is a financial interest involved. Nothing new there. But it is fascinating to see how women’s bodies and their menstrual flow are visually constructed.

In this case, women are likened to a variety of drinking glasses containing some clear water. There are tall, slender glasses, short, round glasses, wine glasses with stems, glasses that bulge in the middle, glasses that flare out at the top. Each glass (there are nine different ones on the home page) has a different level of water in it, one only a quarter full, another three quarters, another half full, etc. We are to understand that this represents the wide variety in women’s bodies as well as the variations in the amount of menstrual blood each one produces each month.

I suppose that still water at a high level in a clear glass is an effective metaphor for a menstruating body, but when they did the video version of the promotion, they got carried away. The first image is of at lest three dozen different glasses with the suggestion of many more off to both sides of the frame. Then, as gentle music plays and a soft woman’s voice tells about HMB and that it can be treated, we see a number of glasses with low water levels. The narrator tells us that, “Every month millions of women have perfectly normal periods,” as the camera pans glasses with small amounts of water, but then, as we learn that “millions of other women don’t have normal periods,” we see a variety of glasses sinking into water or running over with water dripping down the lip or whirling through the air in slow motion as their contents spew across the frame in large and small blobs and droplets. The women represented by these glasses are in trouble and while a large glass tumbles out of control, its contents spewing every which way, the phone number and web site info settle on the screen.

I suppose it’s a good thing they used clear water. Had it been red it would have resembled a horror movie. But maybe that’s what was actually intended.

September is Menopause Awareness Month, and Menopause Brings Dry Skin and Wrinkles?

September 13th, 2010 by Heather Dillaway
"My Blue Guard" by Flickr user Coffeelatte, CC 2.0

"My Blue Guard" by Flickr user Coffeelatte, CC 2.0

September is Menopause Awareness Month. If you do a web search on “Menopause Awareness Month,” the first things that pop up are about hormone therapies, pain, cramps, eye floaters, and other terrible symptoms that should probably be commemorated this month….or maybe not. Other websites that pop up are the websites for the American Menopause Association (and a press release about hormone therapies to use) and the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), which defines this month more appropriately as a month within which we need to “increase awareness about the importance of having accurate information to enhance women’s health at menopause and beyond” and “draw attention to the large public health challenge that menopause brings—and to reinforce that women and their healthcare providers must have accurate, unbiased menopause-related information to make informed decisions that will lead to improved health and quality of life both around menopause and beyond.”  I was happy to see these press releases from NAMS with these slightly more positive statements about what Menopause Awareness Month might mean or bring.

However, it is clear that anti-aging companies are also trying to co-opt/maximize their profit during Menopause Awareness Month (of course, not surprisingly at all). For instance, a September 1st press release indicates that “Vichy Laboratories, a division of L’Oreal Active Cosmetics, the vast majority of women over 50 reported experiencing notable changes in the condition of their skin during menopause. In fact, 53 percent reported that the most common issue they faced after entering menopause was dry skin, followed closely by an increase in wrinkles and a sagging neck.”

I find myself nothing but sad when I see things like this. First, studies like this make it seem like menopause is akin to dry skin, wrinkles, and sagging skin – things that are defined as problematic for the female physical appearance and that need fixing – and, thus, menopause itself becomes problematic. This is medicalization at its best. Second, there is no mention of the fact that these things might not be solely the result of menopause, but that perhaps middle-aged men and non-menopausal women might have them too. Thus, there is no problematizing of the equation of menopause, dry skin, wrinkles, and sagging skin. If anyone has ever read Anne Fausto-Sterling or people like her, she makes it clear that most of the “symptoms” we attribute to menopause are actually not exclusive to menopause and might just assigned to it arbitrarily. (How many conditions and life stages and every day activities produce dry skin and wrinkles, for instance?)

Third is the fear factor that is present in all of these studies and reports. Reports like this encourage women to go seek out expensive face creams to deal with their menopause and middle-aged status, rather than relish the fact that they’ve earned that dry skin or those wrinkles or that those dry skin patches and wrinkles are not that problematic after all. Finally, press releases like this narrow the scope of Menopause Awareness Month. While NAMS actually defines it much more broadly, we end up only thinking about the (seemingly always negative) “symptoms” of menopause rather than all of the other things that menopausal women might actually want to think about during this reproductive transition and midlife.

I, for one, would like to honor Menopause this month in a much broader, more positive way than this report about skin conditions does. Hurray for Menopause Awareness Month and menopausal women!

Weekend Links

September 11th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

What we’re reading this week -

  • Fumbling in the Feminine Aisle: What to look for on menstrual product packaging to find the closest approximation to your U.S. brand when you’re in China.
  • Gayle Sulik’s new book, Pink Ribbon Blues, is available. An excerpt from the book’s abstract:

    Pink Ribbon Blues highlights the hidden costs of the pink ribbon as an industry, one in which breast cancer has become merely a brand name with a pink logo. Indeed, while survivors and supporters walk, run, and purchase ribbons for a cure, cancer rates rise, the cancer industry thrives, corporations claim responsible citizenship while profiting from the disease, and breast cancer is stigmatized anew for those who reject the pink ribbon model.

  • Parents in the Netherlands allow romantic sleepovers among teens. And still, the country has one of the lowest youth pregnancy rates.
  • Size matters – research indicates that fat men last longer in bed than their thinner counterparts, apparently due to their higher levels of estradiol.

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.