Saturday, December 31, 2005

GoodSearch - Searching for a Cause

GoodSearch uses the Yahoo! Search Engine, and donates money to an organization selected by the searcher based on the number of searches run. According to the GoodSearch FAQ,
Search engines make most of their money from companies that pay an advertising fee when users click on links during a search. At GoodSearch, we've developed a patent-pending way to track and direct these search-generated proceeds to charities. In other words, a portion of advertiser dollars (and not your own!) earned as a result of your search, are now passed along to the organization you've chosen to support.
You can add GoodSearch to your Explorer or Firefox toolbar.
(Found via LibrarianInBlack)

Local and national organizations relevant to women's health you may contribut to using GoodSearch include:

  • Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Inc. (the Our Bodies Ourselves people)
  • Breast Cancer Education Initiative, Inc - Germantown, TN
  • Human Being Care, HIV Resources, Inc. - Jackson, TN
  • Memphis Regional Planned Parenthood, Inc. - Memphis, TN
  • Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
  • Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, Inc. - Nashville, TN
  • Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
  • Tennessee Breast Cancer Coalition Inc. - Nashville, TN
  • Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, Inc.

    Please note that I am not necessarily familiar with these organizations and am not endorsing them, but found them as women's health donation options through the GoodSearch list of charities, which really needs a subject browse and location search. At this time, you may only search by organization name.

    Technorati Tags: ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Charities; Internet (consumer health); Women's Health (consumer health)
  • Surgeries to Avoid

    Consumer Reports has released an article titled, "12 Surgeries You May Be Better Off Without." The procedures specific to women are hysterectomy, C-section, and episiotomy. The article describes some conditions for which the surgeries are commonly performed, and gives recommendations for when the surgeries should and should not be done.
    (Found via Kevin, MD)

    Fact sheets on these procedures:
    Hysterectomy - National Women's Health Information Center
    Episiotomy: A Cut You May Not Need -
    What You Need to Know About Cesarean Birth - March of Dimes

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Cesarean Section; Episiotomy; Hysterectomy OR Hysterectomy, Vaginal

    Friday, December 30, 2005

    It's Self-Cleaning, Ladies

    Several feminist bloggers have been discussing recent news on douching. The referenced study, published in the Dec 05 issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, examined whether intervention could reduce the prevalence of douching among women. Discussion on blogs such as I Blame the Patriarchy,, and Pandagon, centers around the statistic that >25% of U.S. women of childbearing age report douching regularly.

    Why is this notable? Because douching is not recommended or considered safe, because:
    Douching changes the delicate chemical balance in the vagina (and the vaginal flora), which can make a woman more prone to bacterial infections. It also can spread existing vaginal or cervical infections up into the pelvic organs (uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries).

    Research shows that women who douche on a routine basis tend to have more problems than women who do not douche or who rarely douche. These problems include vaginal irritation, infections (called bacterial vaginosis or BV), and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Women who douche often are also more at risk for getting pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection of a woman's pelvic organs. It is caused by bacteria, which can travel from a woman's vagina and cervix up into her pelvic organs. If left untreated, PID can lead to infertility (not being able to get pregnant) and ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus). Both BV and PID can lead to serious problems during pregnancy, such as infection in the baby, problems with labor, and early delivery.

    Douching also does not prevent pregnancy, as some women seem to believe. The bottom line? Your vagina is self-cleaning, and douching may actually cause health problems. Not to mention that you probably don't want to give your money to a company who sells you cleanliness and confidence, only to help you get infections.

    Worth noting in the results of the 2002 edition of the National Survey of Family Growth, which measures such things, are the education, sexual, and racial disparities in douching activitity. Those who reported having douched in the past 12 months were more likely to have first had sex prior to age 15, live in the South, be African American, and/or have reached lower educational levels. Those who douched were more likely to report having family planning or medical care in the past 12 months. Given the study that interventions reduce douching, and the fact that these women are getting healthcare, it seems that healthcare providers should make more of a point to ask and educate about this practice. I have never been asked in a GYN visit whether or not I douche. It seems that if providers ask, it opens up a window to educate the patients.

    Technorati Tags: ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Irrigation/adverse effects OR Vaginal Douching/adverse effects

    Wednesday, December 28, 2005

    Search Request Roundup #2

    This is the second installment of Search Request Roundup, in which I look at recent searches that led to my blog and provide some information on the desired topics.

  • Symptoms of Pregnancy: has this nice overview of early symptoms of pregnancy, which include tender, swollen breasts or nipples, fatigue, slight bleeding or cramping, nausea, frequent urination, constipation, dizziness, headaches, and other fun.

  • Uterine Penile Penetration: provides information on painful sexual intercourse (dypareunia), and says, "Women report the feeling that "something is being bumped into." The uterus may hurt if there are fibroid growths, the uterus is tilted or if the uterus prolapses (falls) into the vagina. Certain conditions or infections of the ovaries may also cause pain, especially in certain sexual positions. Past surgeries may leave scar tissue that can cause pain. Because the bladder and intestines are close to the vagina, they may also cause pain during sex." I could not find anything suggesting the penis could actually penetrate the uterus.

  • Women's Medical Check Up: It's hard to tell what this searcher wanted, but here are some charts explaining when certain health screenings should occur (parts 1 & 2), and a guide from Planned Parenthood on how to prepare for and what to expect during a gynecological exam.

  • Symptoms of Miscarriage: MedlinePlus has a good overview on miscarriage, covering symptoms, causes, signs, tests, and complications. The listed symptoms include low back or abdominal pain, bleeding, and/or tissue/clot-like material expelled from the vagina. The March of Dimes has more detailed information on causes of miscarriage.

  • Sexual Harrassment Laws: The EEOC provides information on federal sexual harrassment laws, which apparently only apply when there are 15 or more employees at a workplace...

  • What does FAAFP mean?: This "Degree of Fellow" credential is issued by the American Academy of Family Physicians to physicians "who have distinguished themselves among their colleagues, as well as in their communities, by their service to family medicine, by their advancement of health care to the American people, and by their professional development through medical education and research."

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Abortion, Spontaneous; Dyspareunia; Pregnancy; Sexual Harrassment/legislation and jurisprudence
  • Contribute Your Pregnancy or Childbirth Story to a New Book

    The folks from Our Bodies Ourselves are soliciting stories of childbirth and pregnancy for inclusion in a new book. You can fill out a simple web form to share your story for this project, which will "explore the strengths and limitations of our current maternity care system and how women can get the best care possible."

    Perhaps some of our locals, such as Bad Bad Ivy, Ms. Booty Homemaker, BusyMom, or Jamie of BlondeMomBlog have something they'd like to contribute. Hmmm?

    (Found via BitchPhD)

    Technorati Tags: ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Parturition OR Labor, Obstetric; Pregnancy

    More from Yahoo! Answers

    I had another look at Yahoo! Answers today, as I am interested in what types of women's health questions are being asked of strangers on the web. Among the notable questions:
  • I have been bleeding continuously since I gave birth in January. What could be the cause of this?
  • What does it mean when a woman has a white creamy gel substance in her vagina? - one of the (wrong) answers: It's just white blood coming out. And don't worry it's just normal for a female to experience these.
  • Can you get pregnant from oral sex? - users correctly answered no, and pointed out the risk of STDs
  • I recently had a tubal ligation and D & C they had to do laparotomy what is the recovery time? - what the patient could expect should have been explained before the procedures were done
  • I had my tubes tied in Jan of 1999 and still have problems with pain is this normal so day i cant hardly move?
  • What are tampons? - I added an answer to this one, linking to a site that explains how they're used and TSS risks

    And the most disturbing:
    what are the symptoms of lossing my virginity? i was drunk and i dont know what happened, when i asked the guy he told me thathe did it to me but i want to know my self. so is ther any symptoms for that? many thanks

    I remain disturbed that these individuals haven't asked their healthcare providers about these issues, particularly in cases of prolonged bleeding or pain. It's not clear whether a lack of information, lack of access to healthcare, embarrassment, or some other factor is responsible. Something strikes me as seriously wrong when a girl wants to know "symptoms" of losing her virginity because she may have been sexually assaulted while drunk. These women clearly have an information need that is not being filled through traditional, expert channels. If I were experiencing long-term pain or bleeding, I would make an appointment or call my provider right away, and I'm interested in why others would not. So, to my readers, are there questions you won't ask your healthcare provider? If so, why? If you're a healthcare provider or librarian, what's your take on this information disconnect? To the health librarians - are you willing to begin answering some of these questions? Do you feel any professional responsibility to stamp out health misinformation and improve the links between individuals and the information they need, outside of your institution? Just curious.

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Health Promotion AND Internet; Internet/utilization
  • Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    A little catching up

    A couple of things of note from the last few weeks:
  • 11/05: The CDC released preliminary data for 2004 on infant and maternal health. Among the findings: 1) the rate of c-section delivery rose 6% to be 29.1% of all births, reaching the highest level ever reported in the US, and a 40+% increase since 1996; 2) no improvements in timely receipt of prenatal care was found; 3) the rate of vaginal birth after cesarean has declined 67% since 1996.
  • 11/29/05: Mother Jones has put together a timeline of activities related to emergency contraception, with links to the text of press releases, statements, news articles, and legislation relevant to the drug and the controversy over over-the-counter access.
  • 12/6/05: The legislature of Virginia has moved to allow certified professional midwives to legally practice in the state.
  • 12/22/05: points out some rather offensive T-shirts with slogans such as "It ain't rape if she ain't awake," "By reading this you consent to oral sex," "Stop rape. Consent," "Slept my way to the top," and "Abuse me." I'm all for free speech, but not so much for making money from having a laugh about sexual abuse.
    Technorati Tags: ; ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Cesarean Section; Contraception, Postcoital; Midwifery; Sex Offenses; Vaginal Birth After Cesarean
  • Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    The Information Deficit

    Information technology, women's health, and librarianship collided in an interesting way for me this week. Yahoo! launched a new online tool, Yahoo! Answers. This site allows users to ask almost any question, and receive answers online from other Yahoo! users. Unlike Google Answers, researchers aren't vetted in any way, and there is no charge for receiving answer. Unlike asking your local librarian, there is limited opportunity to clarify the question, or correct/weed out misleading or inaccurate information.

    For example, I was browsing the Yahoo! Answers questions, and came across this one: When do you start to show during pregnancy?
    Three people answered, with responses ranging from "3 months" to "it depends on..." After receiving answers, the user can choose to select the best answer, call for a vote on an answer when there are multiple answers, or extend the deadline on answering the question. In this way, the user may actually think their question is answered appropriately and close the question, even if the provided answer is wrong. Likewise, if another more knowledgable user wants to add clarifying information, this can't be done on a closed question.

    The thing that really disturbed me about this question was the follow-up from the author: "Thanks that help me a lot because i really don't know if i'm pregnant but i have the syptoms of pregnancy and i have not started my period in 3.5 months."
    Clearly, this user has information needs beyond "when do you start to show?" These might include:
  • That a pregnancy test can be obtained at a drugstore for $10-$15.
  • That there are other causes of amenorrhea aside from pregnancy
  • That if a pregnancy is confirmed, at least two recommended prenatal care visits have already been missed
  • Information on pregnancy and prenatal care
  • Where to go in the local community for low and reduced cost care

    A good librarian could have delved further into the request with the patron to bridge the gap between the stated need and the real need. Unfortunately, due to the closed answer, other Yahoo! users cannot provide this type of information. The implications of the question are notable - that the asker thinks she might be pregnant, hasn't gotten her period in months, and is looking to find out whether she should be showing yet as confirmation or refutation of a pregnancy. One wonders about the circumstances she is facing, and what led her to ask an anonymous and decidedly non-expert online community for an answer.

    I've been troubled by this user's question, and the distance between the answer she got and the answer she needs. I'd also like to use this opportunity to encourage people to use their local librarians. You may think of them as the people who check out the books, but this is like saying a doctor writes prescriptions. While true, there is a vast store of expertise and knowledge in your librarian that can be used to answer your every question. As your doctor is an expert on medicine, and your lawyer is an expert on your legal needs, your librarian is an expert at digging up the information you need, no matter how trivial or profound. Your librarian will never close your question, and will never let an answer go at face value when you give her/him signs that you really need more.

    Technorati Tags: ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Internet/utilization; Librarians; Library Services
  • Friday, December 09, 2005

    Nashville Was Talking, Rachel Will Be Talking...

    I know, I know, I've been a bad blogger with few updates. The end of this semester has been a killer. Fear not, blog reader - because I'm focusing on medical librarianship, I was able to set it up so my independent study for next semester (starting Jan 4) will be to work on this blog. Regular updates will be required, and I'm looking forward to it. Next weekend, I'll try to catch you up on some stories that have slipped by in the interim.

    Here's what I was up to during my 4-day Thanksgiving tenure as the guest-blogger at Nashville Is Talking:
  • Fun With Light Poles
  • Middle Ground on Immigration?
  • First Car Reminscence
  • When You Just Can't Get Enough Consumerism
  • Another Lovely Pic From Sugarfused
  • Freedom of Speech is Killin' the Children!
  • The NiT Movie Roundup
  • Metro as Absentee Landlord?
  • 6 Degrees of Sharon Cobb
  • Some Good News from New Orleans
  • TN Voting Machines to Get Upgrade
  • World AIDS Day
  • Because You Never Know What Girls Might Do With Accurate Information (on the Oak Ridge High School censorship of an article on contraceptives)
  • Live Tape-Delayed Thanksgiving Blogging
  • Airline Woes
  • Electoral Insights
  • Charlie and the Amoral, Capitalist Factory
  • Williamson County Wastefulness?
  • Excellent Use of the Phrase "Crap Shoot"
  • Striving For Understanding
  • Response to the "Kid Haters"
  • A Morbid Commemoration
  • Is it April 1 Already?
  • That Doesn't Look Like Fondant
  • I'm Buying Coffee
  • What You're All Thankful For
  • Nashville Isn't Talking
  • The Holidays are for Sharing
  • Same Story, Different Day (uh, Century)
  • BLOG - a Poem (check it out if you want a glimpse of how I wrote circa 1984)
  • ThanksGIVING
  • What's on the Menu?