Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nevermind the Dioxin

Bad news: Yes, you will find dioxin, fire retardant, rocket fuel, and other incredibly nasty chemicals in breast milk.
Good news: Breast is still best.
Not terribly surprising, but reassuring nonetheless to moms who may be worried that the environmental toxins found in breast milk outweigh the benefits. Nope. An analysis of recent studies shows that, despite the pollutants, the benefits of breast milk still trump those of any substitutes. Nurse away, kiddies. Maybe when you grow up you'll find a way to get Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) out of the ecosystem.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fertility Awareness Teacher Sarah Bly Hits The Road

Lucky residents of Portland, Austin, and possibly Iowa City: FA teacher Sarah Naomi Bly is coming your way. If you live in or near those towns, Sarah invites you to join her for an 8 hour workshop that will teach you to understand your fertile times for pregnancy avoidance, pregnancy achievement, and connection to your body and your cycles. Here are the dates, costs, etc:

Portland, Oregon: Saturday 2/7 and Sunday 2/8, 9AM-1PM
Austin, Texas: Saturday 2/21 and Sunday 2/22, 9AM-1PM  
Iowa City, Iowa (tentative): Saturday 2/28 and Sunday 3/1, 9AM-1PM

All classes are $94 for women, $120 for couples. Fee includes printed materials and private followup consultation. $30 non-refundable deposit required. For more information re Sarah and her practice, visit her website, To sign up for a workshop, call or email Sarah. Contact info is on her website. (Take that, spambots.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Dias Especiales" (Special Days) at Bronx Bedroom Project

Bronx Blue Bedroom Project (BBBP) is an innovative "gallery" in the bedroom of artist Blanka Amezkua. A new exhibit entitled "Dias Expeciales" (Special Days) by Jessica Lagunas opens on Saturday, 12/6.

From the artist's statement:

"The installation consists of a full-size sheet on a bed where I printed etchings inspired by medical books' images of biopsies from different menstrual cycle days. This project is an introspective exploration of the female body, but rather than offering a negative connotation with the association of dirtiness and impurity of some cultures and religions, I want to cherish women's bodies by exploring menstruation in a positive way.

The printing of this project was made possible thanks to a grant from NoMAA (Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance) and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone."

More info on this exhibit, the opening, and the BBBP, can be found here:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A real (not symbolic) way to fight breast cancer

Pink ribbons? Please. Now you can do something concrete to help researchers defeat breast cancer. Army Of Women is a collaboration between the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and the Avon Foundation. The idea is to link women with researchers so that both causes and cures of breast cancer can be studied. All American women are welcome to participate. (Women from outside the US are welcome to make donations but currently cannot participate in research studies.) As a member of the Army, you will receive periodic email notices about research studies. If you are eligible to participate (for example, if they are looking for women within a certain age group, and you are within that age group), then you can volunteer for the study. And if you don't want to participate in that study, then you don't. Participating might involve filling out a questionnaire or giving a sample, such as blood. Participating does not cost anything, and you will not have to pay any fees should you be asked to give a sample. 

There are several things about this new initiative that are innovative and promising. For one thing, it takes research out of the lab, where cancer research is typically done, and moves it into the field of actual human subjects. Large-scale studies involving people are usually not feasible for researchers. By providing a large group of willing participants, the Army will enable research to move forward in a way it has not been logistically able to do before. Moreover, the focus will be on actual women, and on prevention, and the causes of breast cancer, rather than on killing existing tumor cells in lab animals and trying to eradicate cancer that has already arisen. 

If you are interested in learning more or signing up, just go to Their goal is half a million women by the end of 2008. Currently they're up to about a quarter million, as you can see by the nifty counter on their home page. Under "getting involved" you'll see easy options for spreading the word. Take a minute out of this crazy holiday season to do something truly good. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Radio Lab takes on Sperm

You may or may not be familiar with Radio Lab. It's a science-oriented show that airs on WNYC, New York Public Radio, and is wildly popular in the podcasting world. This Friday, 11/21, they will be taking on the subject of sperm. Why sperm and not eggs, you may ask? I've no idea. Ask them. But based on their 8 minute preview podcast, it promises to be be both entertaining and educational.

There will be many ways to hear this show. If you're in the New York area, you can catch it on 93.9 FM from 3-4PM and on 820 AM from 8-9PM on Friday, 11/21. If you're near a computer at those times, you can stream it at After the show airs, it will be available for both streaming and download on their website on this page. (This page is also where you will be able to post comments about the various segments, and there are links to things mentioned on the show such as the Donor Sibling Registry.) And of course you can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes. 

If you haven't heard Radio Lab before, you may be pleasantly (or unpleasantly) surprised by the sound of it. It is highly produced. Unlike sperm, which, as my students have heard me say, is a classic example of quantity over quality.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NY: Protest Genital Cosmetic Surgery on 11/17

The New View Campaign will be staging a demonstration in NY on 11/17/08 to protest the rise of genital cosmetic surgery. Surgeons who promote these procedures  claim that they restore and enhance the appearance of the vaginal area to reclaim the "youthful appearance and function of the vulvar and vaginal area." These claims are unsubstantiated by research, and there is some evidence that these surgeries may actually create health problems, such as scarring, pain, obstetric risk, loss of sensation, and reduced pleasure. Of course they also prop us the idea that there is one specific, idealized vision of what a woman's genitals should look like. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has come out against the procedures.

The New View Campaign demands new regulations requiring that women considering these procedures receive information regarding possible risks, and also calls for independent post-operative research to assess adverse reactions. 

The protest will take place in NYC from 12-2PM outside a cosmetic genital surgeon's office. The specific location will be posted on the New View website on 11/16. The New View Campaign is working in conjunction with the National Women's Health Network, which provides information about women's health issues unbiased by the pharmaceutical industry, medical device manufacturers, etc. I find them to be a very valuable source of information. You can sign up for email alerts on their website, and consider supporting them. Barbara Seaman (see earlier post) was one of their founders, and they have been fighting for truth in women's healthcare ever since. 

If you work in Manhattan, do something good on your lunchbreak on 11/17.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"The Business of Being Born" at Bluestockings

Bluestockings is a radical bookstore, fair trade cafe, and activist center in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. They host interesting events nearly every night, and admission is free or by donation. Does it get any better than that?

On Monday, November 10th, they will be screening THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN, "a documentary which examines the culture and medical approaches for making American babies. The film interlaces personal birth stories with historical, political and scientific insights and statistics about the current maternity care system. A discussion with a doula and midwife will follow the screening." Start time is 7PM but I suggest getting there well before that if you want to get a seat. Lots of stuff to look at & snack on while you wait. Make efficient use of your time and start buying your community-supporting holiday gifts while you're there!

Bluestockings is located at 172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington (1 block south of Houston and 1st Avenue).

By train: F train to Second Avenue (one block south; exit at 1st Avenue) or JMZ-line's Essex / Delancey Street stop (5 blocks).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Vagina Festival is coming! October 24-26, 2008

My friend Alexandra Jacoby, an artist and activist, is organizing the second annual Vagina Festival, and if you live near New York and are reading this blog, you should definitely check it out. 

Vagina Festival will feature over 30 visual and performance artists presenting a wide variety of works including comedy, dance, music, painting, performance art, plays, poetry, and video. The aim is to create a comfortable and creative space in which to consider sexuality, body image, personal identity, health, and well-being. The Festival is an outgrowth of Alexandra's photography project, Vagina Verite, "an unabashed exploration of the plain, ordinary, mysterious matter of vaginas." Works from this project will be on display.

Vagina Festival takes place at Sage Theater in Times Square, NYC, October 24-26, 2008. See the website for program schedule and ticket information. Tickets go on sale October 1, 2008. While Vagina Festival is for and about women, it warmly welcomes men. For additional information about Vagina Festival, contact Alexandra Jacoby at alexandra at vaginafestival dot com or visit

Personal note: I presented at and attended the first Vagina Festival, held in a downtown gallery. It was a warm, ecletic, stimulating experience. This year sees a tremendous expansion of the Festival, thanks to many amazing volunteers, some of whom I met recently. I also met some of the artists, all of whom seemed outrageously smart and talented. I can't wait to see what they come up with.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Donations Now Tax-Deductible! We Have Fiscal Sponsorship!

Fabulous news, people. Thanks to the good folks at the Harm Reduction Coalition, who have agreed to be our fiscal sponsors, donations to the Fertility Awareness Center are now tax-deductible!

-If you think Fertility Awareness has value and should be (much) more widely known,
-If you think women (and men) are not being informed of all their reproductive health care options (with respect to both birth control as well as pregnancy achievement),
-If you think sex is better when you don't have artificial hormones coursing through your blood or chemicals in your yoni,

...then put your money where your heart is. Any amount is appreciated and will help us to carry out our mission. If you're tired of looking at that shabby website we've had forever, help pay for the new one! If you want me to be able to attend the first Fertility Awareness conference to be held in North America since 2006, help me buy the plane tickets! If you want to make sure there is always someone to answer the phone when someone is rural Idaho wants to learn more about Fertility Awareness, help pay for that service!

Making a donation is easy, and we will send you a receipt for your taxes. Please make checks or money order payable to HARM REDUCTION COALITION and (this is very important!) put FERTILITY AWARENESS CENTER on the memo line. Send your donations to:
Fertility Awareness Center
PO Box 1190
New York, NY 10009-1190


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Troubling Aspects of Assisted Reproductive Technology, Part 2

Chances are, you wouldn't want to date your half-sibling. But what if you didn't know s/he was related to you? If you were conceived with so called "donor sperm," i.e. sperm that your mother had purchased, you would have no idea who your siblings were. And you might have a hundred of them. Or two hundred. Should any one man be allowed to have that many offspring? From a genetic standpoint, it's madness. From an ethical standpoint, it's also pretty crazy. But of course ethics have little if any place here, in the wild wild west of assisted reproductive technology. A young man "donates" (i.e. sells) his sperm, and women and couples from all over the world have the opportunity to buy it. Usually, anonymity regulations prevent purchasers, and their children, from learning the identity of the donor. But as one child said in a recent BBC documentary about the children of donors, "He signed those agreements, I didn't." Recently, thanks to the internet, families that are related by donor have been able to connect, via online registries. This documentary, entitled "The 66 Club" tells the story of one such extended family, and the complexities that surround this new type of relationship, which really has no precedent in modern society. As this is a podcast, I can't post a direct link, but if you go to this page, and scroll down to "The 66 Club," you'll get to it. This is a really interesting podcast series, btw, consisting of documentaries produced by the BBC on a wide range of topics, usually socio/political stories in countries outside the UK. They run about 20-25 minutes long.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pathologizing Your Period

Does PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) exist? What about PMDD (Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder)? The makers of Prozac, and men who think women are inherently unstable, have a vested interest in making you think they do. Charters, weigh in: do you get (more) nuts before your period? I've long thought so called PMS was mostly about blood sugar becoming more unstable, and women needing to eat healthfully and more regularly in the days before their periods. But I recently read a study that showed that blood sugar did not vary during the cycle. One study is one study, but still, it made me wonder. I also think caffeine plays havoc w/moods, especially when one is premenstrual. If those last few days have you reaching for your shotgun, spend a few months (yes, it takes a few months) drinking Fair Trade decaf and see if you don't feel better. 
Ms. Magazine | Pathologizing Your Period | summer 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Toni Weschler to give workshop at Omega Institute, 10/3/08-10/5/08

Toni Weschler, author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, will be giving a workshop at Omega Institute, in Rhinebeck, New York. The workshop, entitled "Breaking Fertile Ground," is for women seeking pregnancy. You can get all the details here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Troubling Aspects of Assisted Reproductive Technology, Part 1

When you start to really look into the burgeoning field of assisted reproductive technology (ART), there are so many things to get upset about that it's hard to know where to begin. There are nightmare scenarios everywhere. Lately there have been a few stories about the situation in India, where women from more affluent countries go to take advantage of a state of virtual lawlessness surrounding assisted reproductive technology. Whether you're coming from the perspective of women's health care or that of social justice, these stories have it all. Economically oppressed people selling their bodies? Check. Women on both ends making decisions without being fully informed? Check. Doctors making decisions designed to maximize their profits in the absence of legislation meant to safeguard all participants? Check. The inevitable outcome of a grossly unbalanced global economy in which health care and fertility are commodities, bought and sold and profited upon like crops? Check.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Getting Off The Pill

One of my current students is actually blogging about her experience of getting off the Pill and learning Fertility Awareness. Normally I only get to hear about how FA has affected my students' lives AFTER they've learned it. It is absolutely fascinating to read about what it's like in the present tense, with all the nervousness and trepidation, not to mention the complete lack of affirmation from doctors, friends, etc. We who take FAM for granted can forget how scary it can be to give up the familiar and easy pharmaceutical control and take matters into our own hands. Do check it out, and don't overlook the comments that have been posted. Consider posting one of your own. Give this woman some support!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

FAC in the Media

For some unknown reason, we’ve been getting a lot of media attention of late. I was interviewed twice for an article that will appear sometime later this year in a national magazine, and I also participated in a documentary on the topic of sex education in America. I’ve no idea when that film will be coming out, or if I’ll be included, but the filmmakers did film one of my classes, and they seemed pretty enthused. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can check out a couple of articles that have appeared in regional papers. This first piece was published in The Radish, a Midwestern magazine focusing on healthy living:

And another piece ran in two Vermont papers, The Times Argus and the Rutland Herald. It’s the same piece, picked up from a news service, so no need to read both:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

FAC Participates in Dine & Learn Brooklyn

On November 9th, 2007, we participated in a massive
health fair for women, held at Brooklyn’s famous Tabernacle
Church. The fair was presented by SUNY Downstate Medical
Center, in conjunction with The Brooklyn Tabernacle, American
Cancer Society (Brooklyn), Diaspora Community Services,
and Center for Women’s Development at Medgar Evers College/
CUNY. Over 1200 women pre-registered for the event,
and I’d guess that at least 800 attended, despite a nightlong
downpour. Our information table was staffed by Shakti Ziller
(then a volunteer and now a board member) and me, and gave
us the opportunity to reach a very large, primarily African-
American audience. We also met lots of other like-minded
health care providers and representatives of community organizations
and advocacy groups. Most memorable visitors: the 3
teenage girls who kept circling back to our table, giggling, but
definitely interested.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Thank you, Barbara Seaman

The comparison to Ralph Nader is apt. Like Nader, she was a controversial muckraker. She opened our eyes at a time when people were used to blindly trusting their doctors, trusting their government, etc.

NY Times obituary

Washington Post obituary