COVID-19 Is No Obstacle to Planned Parenthood’s Sexual Health Care

On March 31, 2020, Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services declared people in Arizona need to continue practicing “social distancing” as a way of preventing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The “stay-at-home” order, which will stay in effect until at least April 30, directs Arizonans to self-isolate in their homes, leaving only in a limited set of circumstances, such as to visit essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies, receive health care or assist a family member in doing so, serve an essential work function, or get outdoor exercise. Anything that is not deemed as an essential need should be avoided.

What Is Social Distancing?

Social distancing, also called physical distancing, means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. To practice social or physical distancing:

  • stay at least 6 feet away from other people
  • do not gather in groups
  • stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings

Continue reading

You Are More Than Your Body: Eating Disorder Awareness Week

The following post comes to us via Tracey Sands, a graduate student at Arizona State University’s West Campus studying communication as it relates to advocacy. Tracey believes dialogue is an act of love and strives to empower others to find and use their voice. She is an education outreach intern at Planned Parenthood Arizona.

The scale. The dinner plate. The mirror. The photos. All of these silent, inanimate objects are anything but silent when you have anorexia. The scale yells back saying, “You weigh too much.” The dinner plate taunts you, “I know you’re hungry, but you won’t eat me.” The mirror scoffs at the way you look, and the photos clap in support of the mirror’s disapproval. No matter what silent, inanimate objects are a signifier of an eating disorder, the eating disorder itself is constant and deafening. How do I know? Because what I described above happened to me.

My Story

Growing up I was a sassy and confident leader, both in school and sports; the first to raise my hand or reach out to a classmate, and the go-to person for team morale and strategic plays on the basketball court. Although this did not completely drift away, it was dulled at the beginning of 7th grade as I started to hate my body.


You are more than your eating disorder, you are more than your body.


Why did I hate my body? I honestly don’t know. I just did.

While no one knows for sure what causes eating disorders, a growing consensus suggests that they are influenced by a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.

I developed an all-consuming anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder in which you restrict the amount of calories you consume and limit the types of food you eat, which led to detrimental weight loss. By completely restricting my diet and pushing my body and mind to their literal limits, I went from 125 pounds to 98 pounds in one year. As I lost weight, I lost my confidence, my strength, and my period, all occurring during the most pivotal time of growth, puberty. The physiological and emotional impediments put me in a dark, unhealthy place. Continue reading

Healing Hearts, Honoring My Mother

Whether it be a chocolate heart, a broken heart, or someone having your heart, Valentine’s Day has the word heart on all of our lips. While the clichés can be cute or sickening, depending on your general outlook of the holiday, the word heart has become an identity for our personality in reference to our emotions.

Very few people will first think of the pump-like organ that regulates blood circulation from its home in our chests. Even fewer people give thought to the health of that organ, which is unfortunate since 1 in 4 deaths is caused by heart disease, making it the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. To refocus our awareness of the true definition of the word, February is American Heart Month.


You can be proactive about your heart health — and that of those you love.


There are different kinds of heart disease, which obviously means that there are different causes. While cardiovascular disease can refer to different heart or blood vessel problems, the definition is widely used in reference to damage done by a buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries. As that buildup thickens, the walls of the arteries harden, which obstructs blood from being distributed to your organs.

This process is called atherosclerosis, but we know it as coronary artery disease. While some heart conditions can be due to heart defects that you may have been born with, atherosclerosis is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease and is caused predominantly by correctable problems: obesity, lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet, and smoking. Continue reading

One Simple Kit

A community health worker teaches how to make cloth pads. Photo: Nyaya Health

A community health worker teaches how to make cloth pads. Photo: Nyaya Health

Last week, I texted a friend of mine and told her: I have a hard choice before me. When she asked what that was, I smiled as I replied: I must choose between replenishing the MAC mascara that I just ran out of and buying the new Harry Potter book. We both laughed. But really, even as a single mom who falls beneath the poverty level, this was my choice of the day.

I have known hard times. I have lived in my car with my two dogs and I have had to volunteer my time cleaning my son’s school to ensure that he gets an education because I couldn’t afford the monthly tuition. I have taken hits by the ones I love, both physical and metaphorical, and I have had my innocence stolen from me by a boy I hardly knew.


One simple kit is combating poverty, hunger, and gender inequality.


Yet somewhere across a sea, a young girl sits in her room, blood gushing from her for reasons unbeknownst to her. Fear brings tears to her eyes as she struggles to understand why God has cursed her. That is what her mother has taught her. That if such a thing occurs, it is a curse from her creator for being a filthy creature. A girl her age tells her that she has contracted a disease, something she couldn’t remember the three letters to reference, but she knew was deadly.

In a rural region in southern Malawi, a girl who has had her first period may be expected to undergo a “sexual cleansing” ritual, in which she is made to have unprotected sex with a man called a hyena — a risky proposition in a country in which nearly 1 in 10 adults has HIV. Her choice to deny such an offer could result in her entire family being stricken ill or even dead — at least that is what she is told. Continue reading

Teen Talk: What Is Kissing Disease?

kissing diseaseIf you’re a total dork like me, you might have some plush microbes hanging out on your desk or in your bedroom. The one that represents Epstein-Barr virus is especially adorable (look to your right and try not to coo in delight!). I just want to grab it, cuddle up to it, and fall asleep in its pillowy purple-pink embrace.

In reality, Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV for short, is not the most warm-and-fuzzy microbe of the bunch. I’d way rather have a cold. Why? Because EBV causes mono, which is more whimsically known as the kissing disease. And, despite that cute moniker, kissing disease can be most unpleasant.


Take it from one mono survivor: “Mono stinks!”


First, an explanation of why mono is also called the kissing disease. Merely being in the presence of someone with mono won’t put you at risk, even if you’re both in the same room — you need to be actively swapping spit with them to be exposed to the virus. Kissing is probably the most famous way for two people to exchange saliva, but sharing cups, eating utensils, or toothbrushes can do it, too. After exposure to the virus, symptoms could show up in 4 to 6 weeks.

Second, an explanation of why mono can be so terrible. While not all teenagers and young adults who are infected with EBV will develop symptoms, those who do probably won’t enjoy the experience. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, head and body aches, sore throat, and fever. It’s bad enough to have those symptoms for a few days, but mono might seem to go on and on with no end in sight. Most people are better in 2 to 4 weeks, but even then it could take another few weeks to get back to 100 percent. And some unlucky people can experience these symptoms for six months or even longer! In addition to these nasty symptoms, serious complications are possible. Continue reading

National Girls and Women in Sports Day: Creating an Even Playing Field for All Athletes

soccerFrom tennis to mixed martial arts, women excelled across a broad spectrum of athletic events in 2015. They graced Sports Illustrated covers and ESPN highlight reels, achieving excellence in a world still dominated by testosterone. Yet even though 44 years have passed since President Nixon signed Title IX in 1972, sexism continues to rear its ugly head in competitive athletics. Even women who reach the pinnacles of success in their fields face constant battles against subtle but pervasive gender inequality.


Female athletes still have a long way to travel on the road toward total parity with men.


As 2016 ushers in another year of nail-biting finishes, heart-wrenching losses, and championship victories, it’s time to celebrate the women who made 2015 a remarkable year in sports and reflect on the work that still remains on the road to gender equality. On February 3, the Women’s Sports Foundation will do just that by hosting the 30th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day in Washington, D.C. The event will both celebrate the progress that female athletes have made over the last four decades and promote ways to advance women’s status in the world of sports.

It would be impossible to discuss athletic accomplishments from 2015 without recognizing the ladies of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, who, in a single game, gave the United States more fútbol glory than the men’s team has offered in more than 100 years of existence. What follows is a commentary on how the team has maintained its tradition of excellence in the face of the misogyny that remains heavily embedded in competitive sports. Continue reading

What Do We Know About Herbal Remedies and Menstrual Cramps? (Spoiler Alert: Not Much.)

herbalWhen I was entering adulthood and suffering from severe menstrual cramps, I suffered without relief for far too long. And I am certainly not alone in this experience. The most common gynecological disorder is dysmenorrhea — painful menstrual cramps — which strikes an estimated 90 percent of reproductive-age females. Furthermore, around 40 percent of American women use some form of complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM. “CAM” is a catchall for approaches to health care that fall outside of the mainstream. Given the popularity of CAM and the ubiquity of dysmenorrhea, it was no surprise that I experienced painful cramps, nor was it shocking that I tried a few herbal remedies, which are a type of CAM.


“Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean safe or effective, so be critical.


During my second year of college, at the age of 19, a friend recommended a couple of herbal remedies to add to my cramp-fighting arsenal. I tried them, but it was difficult to know if they really worked. My pain varied so wildly cycle to cycle that I had no way of knowing if I was just having a “good month” when I initially tried these products. Although I thought they worked at first, after I had accumulated more menstrual cycles under my belt, I started to wonder if my cramps were really any less painful. On average, I still seemed to be missing just as much school and work as before — but I wasn’t sure.

The problem was that I never collected any before-and-after data — I didn’t spend years ranking the severity and duration of my cramps, or keeping track of the hours spent in bed away from school, work, or other obligations. Furthermore, my initial sense of optimism could have colored my perceptions. Since we can be tricked by our own expectations and biases, it is important to have access to quality evidence — gathered in large, methodologically powerful studies.

Raspberry leaf tea was the first herbal remedy I tried. It tasted OK, and the ritualistic nature of drinking a hot beverage from a steaming mug was soothing. But is there any actual evidence that raspberry leaf can help relieve the pain of dysmenorrhea? Although it’s been used therapeutically since at least the 1500s, the only human studies I can find for any gynecological condition examine its use during pregnancy or labor — not for treating menstrual cramps. The only claims for raspberry leaf’s efficacy in treating cramps come from biased sources, like the manufacturers themselves. It seems the tea I drank during my late teen years had word of mouth and marketing going for it, but not much else. Continue reading