Last Friday February 18, 2011, The US House of Representatives voted to exclude Planned Parenthood from all federal funding.
When I first heard about the vote I was stunned and then my shock immediately turned to outrage. When Republicans regained control of the House after last fall’s election, they made it patently clear that many of the social services we currently enjoy they intended to dismantle and do away with. Their vote to overturn “ObamaCare” and now the vote to exclude federal funding of Planned Parenthood shows that they fully intend to make good on their claims. And while you mamas on bed rest may be thinking, “This really has nothing to do with me”, Let me share with you a few reasons why we ALL need Planned Parenthood funded.
1. Planned Parenthood Provides General Well Woman Care.
When many people think of Planned Parenthood, they immediately think of a birth control or abortion clinic. While Planned Parenthood does in fact provide these women’s reproductive services, they also provide general well woman care to thousands, if not millions, of women annually. Planned Parenthood clinicians perform routine Pap Smear and Pelvic examinations, Screening for and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, screening for HIV and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV, the virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer), Breast cancer screenings and low cost referrals for mammograms. Planned Parenthood is the primary care provider for thousands of US women who are either uninsured, under-insured or have no other access to well woman gynecologic care. The vote to exclude Planned Parenthood from federally funding guarantees that there will be more unintended pregnancies in the coming years, the very thing that the allegedly are trying to stop.
The truth is that women will continue to have sex, as is their God given right, but without the affordable, available care that Planned Parenthood Clinics provide nationwide, they will be at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe pregnancy terminations. More women will be at risk for developing life-threatening infections and death.
2. The Conservative Agenda is Against Human Rights
Unfortunately, this issue goes well beyond funding of Planned Parenthood. The votes in the House of Representatives demonstrate that conservatives are actively working to exclude anyone who doesn’t hold their beliefs from any sort of human rights in this country. They campaigned vehemently against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the law that banned openly gay citizens from serving in the US Military. They are against Immigration reform and want to legalize racial profiling and deportation of anyone who cannot immediately produce citizenship validation on demand.
3. The Conservative Vote is a Vote against Women’s (Reproductive) Rights
Conservatives are actively working to repeal the human rights of one half of the US population, namely women. The conservative agenda is a war against women and women’s rights.
Case in point: Women still make only about $.77 for every $1 a man makes in the same job. The most impoverished people in this country are women and children. Women are disproportionately employed in low paying service jobs.
The United States is one of the only countries in the world that offers no paid maternity leave for working women. As many of you know, if you experience pregnancy complications and are out of work for more than 12 weeks, you may not have a job to return to after your pregnancy. Yet, you can have bypass surgery, hip replacement surgery or even a hysterectomy and have a job to come back to-and be paid while you are out! Such is not the case for pregnancy and pregnancy related complications.
Antiabortionist brazenly stalk, intimidate and even kill providers of abortion services limiting a woman’s access to a safe, legal medical procedure and robbing her of her right to choose what to do with her pregnancy. And with this vote to exclude federal funds from Planned Parenthood, they well prevent thousands of American women from receiving health care-unless she’s covered by her father’s insurance or married and covered by her husband’s insurance. These votes are slowly whittling away at our human rights and turning back the clock to a day when we were merely someone else’s dependent.
We ALL Need Planned Parenthood
We ALL need Planned Parenthood. Sadly a few of you reading this post will lose your job and health insurance while on bed rest. Prior to this vote, you could have received high quality, low cost post partum and subsequent gynecologic care from Planned Parenthood clinicians. Now if you suffer such loss, you’ll have far fewer places to turn for your well woman care. (By the way, if you think you’re safe because you have Medicaid, they are trying to cut funds to that program as well!)
Young women, those just out of college and not yet employed or without insurance no longer have a place to have well woman examinations, STI screenings or to receive contraception.
And our most vulnerable women, young girls will have nowhere to turn to for sexual health counseling and care. I know, many of you are saying, “My daughter can come to me if she needs anything!” I’m right there with you. My daughter is 8. It makes me dizzy to even contemplate the fact that she will one day be sexually active. I’d like to believe that being in my line of work, she”ll freely come to me with any and all questions. Yet, specifically because of what I do, she may be more inclined to avoid me entirely (gulp!). So if it can’t be me, I most certainly hope she’ll seek counseling and care from a safe alternative such as Planned Parenthood.
Many of you may be gawking at the fact that I am “encouraging” my daughter to utilize the services of Planned Parenthood. Again, I would prefer if my daughter come to me if she has questions, concerns or needs regarding her gynecologic health. However if when the time comes my daughter does not feel comfortable talking to me about her sexual health or sexuality, I’d rather she seek the counsel of other reproductive health professionals then the alternative, to go blindly into sex.
We ALL Need Planned Parenthood.
Please contact your House Representative and tell them to fund Planned Parenthood.
Dr. Jennifer Gunter is an obstetrician, gynecologist and physiatrist. While speaking about maintaining intimacy on bed rest, Dr. Gunter revealed that she had been on bed rest during her pregnancy and had premature twins. What followed is an intimate account of how Dr. Gunter and her husband cared for their sons and how she used her experience as a physician and mom of preemies to write The Preemie Primer an informative and supportive resource for parents of preemies from birth to about 5 years old.
Most women have heard of Kegels and at one time or another have been advised to perform Kegel exercises. But in my experience as a woman’s health professional, I find that many women have no idea what muscles are involved in Kegel exercises and as a result have no idea how to perform one properly. So I offer here a short review.
Kegels are essential exercises for all women, but especially for pregnant women on prescribed bed rest. Mamas on bed rest, with their prolonged inactivity and growing uteri are at increased risk of weakened pelvic floor muscles which will be further stretched and potentially weakened if they vaginally deliver their babies. The results can be urinary incontinence (involuntary loss of urine with coughing, laughing, sneezing), organ prolapse (bladder, uterine or rectal prolapse (bulging or protrusion of the bladder, uterus or rectum through their respective openings to the outside), or decreased sexual sensation due to the lax musculature. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. Let me start with the basics and work forward.
Dr. Arnold Kegel developed “Kegel” exercises to help women strengthen the pelvic floor muscles following pregnancy. Dr. Kegel noted that women frequently became incontinent following pregnancy and found that if they could strengthen the pubococcygeus “PC” muscle (the muscle that is suspended along the pelvic floor like a hammock and holding all of the pelvic organs in place), they could often improve or reverse urinary incontinence as well as bladder, uterine or rectal prolapse. He started teaching his patients how to contract the PC muscle and Kegels were born
So how is a Kegel done? First, you have to be sure that you are working the proper muscles. If you are squeezing and releasing your buttocks, you are probably not working your pelvic floor muscles-at least not effectively. You can be sure you are working the pelvic floor muscles:
- By stopping the flow of urine while urinating. While this is a good way to get to know the pelvic floor muscles and what they feel like when contracted, do not stop the flow of urine ROUTINELY as a way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This practice will actually weaken the muscles and cause or worsen urinary incontinence.
- You can look at your perineum and watch as you contract the muscles. If you are performing the exercises correctly, you will see the anus “wink” the perineum move up and down and the clitoris “nod” (thanks to Desiree Andrews of Prepforbirth.com for these great visuals!). This is a great way to see and learn which muscles are working. You can place a mirror on the floor and squat over it to see the muscles or hold a mirror between your legs. However, if you’re pregnant, it may be hard to hold the mirror between your legs and see and this is really hard of you are on bed rest. But for non-pregnant women, this is a good way to start learning how to Kegel.
- You can feel for muscle contractions by placing a finger or two into your vagina and then contracting the pelvic floor muscles around your fingers. Again, once you know which muscles to contract, you can effectively perform Kegels.
- There are devices that one can use to help stimulate the PC muscles. Physical therapists often use such devices when teaching clients how to do Kegels. Additionally, one can buy such devices and learn to Kegel using the devices.
Now once you get the basic muscle contractions down, you can then move on to some “advanced” Kegeling.
Squeeze, Hold, Release : This is just as it states. Squeeze your PC muscle, hold for a few seconds and release.
Elevators: This is an increasing contraction and likened to making floor stops while on an elevator. You begin by lightly contracting your pelvic PC muscle. After about 2-4 seconds, increase the contraction further pulling up the PC muscle. Hold for another 2-4 seconds and then tighten the contraction again. Hold for 2-4 seconds and then release. A variation is to gradually release the contractions holding for 2-4 seconds as the “elevator goes down.”
Quick Bursts: These are just what they say, quick contractions. You quickly contract the PC muscle, say 10 times. Rest for a brief moment and then repeat the series. This should be done several times over the course of about 5 minutes.
Some people recommend that women “Kegel” approximately 20o times a day-performing a variety of contractions. If you Kegel regularly, say 3-4 times a day performing 10 or more Kegels at a time, you will strengthen the PC muscle. But as the saying goes, the more you work a muscle, the stronger it becomes. So if you want to keep your PC muscle strong and have a strong pelvic floor, Kegel often, several times a day and in various situations so that you not only develop pelvic floor muscle strength, but also muscle control which can help prevent incontinence and enhance sexual pleasure.
Note: First image courtesy of Mayo foundation for Medial Education and Rsearch
Second image courtesy of www.menstruation.com.au