Women's Health Base

A look at women, the world and the web

Archive for December, 2008

Americans believe HPV vaccine doubles promiscuity

Posted by hannahflynn on December 29, 2008

The majority of American adults fear the HPV vaccine will double adolescent sexual activity.

This fear may lead them to be less willing to seek out the HPV vaccine for their daughters according to a team based at Yale, this week.

Researchers at Yale School of Public Health also found the cost of the vaccine would have to be significantly reduced to increase public uptake of the vaccine, after applying ‘game theory’ to a number of factors that may discourage people from taking part in a vaccination programme.

Here in the UK fears of the vaccine promoting promiscuity have not been as wide-spread, Cancer Research UK found 75 percent of mothers were in favour of vaccinating their daughters. Still, lets not forget St Monica’s Roman Catholic High School in Bury, which refuses to let its pupils receive the HPV vaccine on its premises. (The Nursing Times paper on it is here).

There are calls for the HPV vaccine to be mandated however, as the optimum age for vaccination is between 11 and 13 years, while children are still under parental control.

The Lancet reported in 2005 that “Parental consent ought to be waived for HPV vaccination as it is for other sexually transmitted infection-related health care.”

In a country where the children under the age of 16 have been able to obtain birth control as well as STI prevention without parental consent for some time now, we must ask: why should the HPV vaccine be any different?


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Behind the label – Diaphragm

Posted by hannahflynn on December 28, 2008

It may be out of fashion but it still has its uses

It may be out of fashion but it still has its uses

Its pretty retro, it doesn’t work very well and only 2 percent of the population use it. Its so archaic the only recent referral to it in modern culture was when Carrie announced she used it in Sex and the City, and even then the dawn of a diaphragm renaissance was queried. Yes, it has the ick factor and many women of a certain generation have a ‘diaphragm-baby’, but it is still a recommended back-up method for the pill, one of the most popular forms of contraception in the UK.

‘Typical Use’ problems

As with any form of barrier contraception, its main failing point is many couples fail to use it every time, people are unable to insert it properly and the diaphragm has to be fitted correctly to be most effective. Typical use sees the effectiveness of the diaphragm fall from 92-96 percent for perfect use, to 83-87 percent.

There is little that can be done to improve these statistics as getting it in and out is irredeemably complicated. Though there are currently trials for a one-size fits all diaphragm, namely the BufferGel Duet and SILCS Diaphragm, which would avoid issues surrounding ill-fitting diaphragms.


Several studies have shown there is little scientific evidence for the recommended use of spermicide with the diaphragm. That is not to say that it is not required, but that the most effective use of spermicide does not require the frequent reapplication suggested by providers of the diaphragm.

Following the publication of a review in 1982, a paper was published showing the two most frequently prescribed spermicides, Ortho Creme and Gynol II were effectivee for 12 hours after insertion as opposed to one hour, as implied by current NHS recommendations. It also showed creams to be more effective than gels.

Due to nonoxynol-9 falling out of fashion after studies showed it could increase the transmission rate of HIV to women, the latest studies for this form of contraception have focused on the possibility of using the diaphragm without it.  

A Brazilian study first showed using the diaphragm continuously (ie. only removing it once a day to wash it) and without spermicide was significantly more effective at preventing pregnancy than traditional use with spermicide.  Later studies have failed to find such convincing results and recommended use with spermicide.

There remains a need for a large-scale study on the effect of alternative spermicides on STI transmission and pregnancy rates.

Who it would be good for?

To put it bluntly, people using another form of contraception or people who would be happy to have a ‘surprise’.

Women planning on starting to use the diaphragm need time on their hands and no sense of shame. Seriously. In the UK you are required to attend two appointments: one for the the fitting and another a week or two later to show the clinician you can insert it and remove it effectively. This service is normally only provided at a family planning or integrated sexual health clinic meaning getting an appointment can be tricky.

All icky complications aside, it is one of the few barrier methods available that is appropriate for couples with a latex allergy as some are manufactured in silicon and the two forms of diaphragm currently in development (see above) are to be made in silicon and polyurethane. It is also cheap, not a concern in the UK where all forms of contraception are free, but a relevant point if living in underdeveloped nations.

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The pill to be made available without prescription

Posted by hannahflynn on December 28, 2008

Plans to make the combined oral contraceptive pill (otherwise known as The Pill) available over-the-counter has caused a furor in medical and political circles.

As is increasingly the case, many medical professionals say the best way to cut unintended pregnancy is not to increase the availability of the pill, but to suggest alternative, permanent forms of contraception to young women.

The BMJ are debating the issue with a poll and a debate led by Daniel Grossman (based at the University of California) who states that trails in Washington showed pharmacist dispensed hormonal contraception  to be a viable option and Sarah Jarvis of the Royal College of General Practitioners arguing that availablity is not the problem.

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Drinking during pregnancy:subtle effects must not be ignored

Posted by hannahflynn on December 27, 2008

There are worries that a study showing the increased cognitive ability of children born to women who drank moderately during pregnancy was not reported accurately in the British media.

The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Study Group, a subgroup of the Research Society on Alcoholism, are concerned that reports of the study failed to highlight the recognised effect higher socioeconomic class has on both moderate drinking and increased cognitive ability. They suggest that class alone is responsible for improvement in post-natal neurodevelopment.

They have retaliated with a statement entitled ‘Light drinking will not make your baby smarter’.

American science aggregator, Science Daily reports the group are concerned some media outlets reported the beneficial effects of light drinking during pregnancy, ignoring previous literature on the subtle but adverse effects of light drinking during pregnancy.

Further Reading:

Sobering news for pregnant women

The odd drink in pregnancy won’t harm baby

Light drinking in pregnancy a risk for behavioural problems and cognitive deficits at 3 years of age?

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Twas the morning after Christmas…

Posted by hannahflynn on December 26, 2008

Groggily waking up on Boxing day, our minds are cast back to the day of indulgence before. But it’s not just greed that may have overcome us over the Christmas season. If we look at the abortion stats for last year, our overweight, clap-ridden nation has spent the season of giving getting, well…pregnant.

A month ago it was announced by the British Pregnancy Advisory Committee the morning-after-pill should be given to women before the Christmas and new year period to ensure it was available when pharmacies and surgeries are closed. The announcement caused the usual furore amongst conservative types who insisted it would encourage promiscuity. My favourite being the complaints over the advertisement for it.

Then, just a few days before Christmas, Obama’s own state has seen a ruling passed that allows pharmacists who’s beliefs prevent them from dispensing the morning-after-pill (in the United States ‘Plan B’) to be exempt from providing it. Draughted in just weeks before Bush must step down, the decision is expected to be blocked by the Obama administration, but the supreme court ruling does pose a few questions for the incoming scientifically literate administration.

One of those questions is the far broader question of just how effective is the morning-after-pill? Many are looking at the way it is currently used and are saying, not very.

Use of the morning-after-pill has increased greatly over the past couple of years, but abortion rates have gone up. The BMJ reported just over a year ago this was because women were unaware of when they were at risk of pregnancy. This was also the case when women had supplies of emergency contraception at home and so opening times of surgeries and  pharmacies were not a limiting factor. Anna Glasier who wrote in the BMJ said, “If you are looking for an intervention that will reduce abortion rates, emergency contraception may not be the solution and perhaps you should concentrate most on encouraging people to use contraception before or during sex, not after it.”

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How Stephen Fry embraced web 2.0, the world and generation Y

Posted by hannahflynn on December 7, 2008

There were murmurs in the maglab that if you followed Stephen Fry on Twitter he would follow you. I didn’t quite believe it, but as a member of Stephen Fry’s Proxy Friendship Group on Facebook I thought I would be a fool to ignore the possible intimacy of a ‘Twitter follow’ from the man himself, so I looked him up and… followed*. 

Sure enough a week or so later, I checked my ‘followers’ and Fry himself was listed among them. But that is not the end of the story. Anyone who has decided to amuse themselves by following Fry will have been taken to Indonesia, Soho and New York and back over the last couple of weeks with not only his wonderfully verbose use of 140 characters but also his use of twitpix. He has also done some cleverest stuff I have seen so far with hashtags.

Anyone who has read Dork Talk is well aware that Fry is a web 2.0 addict, he refers to his relaunched webpage as www.stephenfry.com 2.0 which is littered with, amongst other things: a blog, status updates, ‘podgrames’ and fora.

While Stephen Fry is not purely a journalist, journalists-as-brands could learn a lot from the way Fry has tackled the web. As a current JOMEC student I can merely dream of the number of followers a brand like Fry has, but a not particularly long look at his web presence does offer an insight into how he has done it:

1) Link it all up. The website shows his Twitter updates and hosts his blog which links to his Guardian column. His Facebook group links to the website, as does his Twitter. The list could go on…

2) Write what you know. Yes, it is a lot less interesting if you are not a crowned member of the glitterazi, but its worth considering this old maxim from time to time when trying to carve your niche in the big wide web.

3) Update regularly. He has short sharp blog posts and provides a running stream of commentary on his status updates, which lots of people comment on. Though some people I know have stopped following Fry on Twitter due to the frequency of his updates, leading to a kind of Twitter-swarm…

4) Be a bit middle-class. People are far more likely to actively subscribe to and participate in your content (ie. comment) if they are able to fork out for a broadband connection. Without wanting to make sweeping statements, I imagine the Stephen Fry fan demographic are.

5) Be linked to a reputable news source. Obvious and difficult, but the column Fry has in the Guardian does lend a kudos to his other material.

*We need to come up with a verb meaning ‘to follow on Twitter’. You can Facebook someone but can you Twitter them?

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10 things I have learned about social networking

Posted by hannahflynn on December 4, 2008

Last night I was thinking I should return to the social networking experiment that I started at the beginning of term. This has been shockingly successful, with The Guardian (amongst others…) reporting on The Waves group after spotting them on social networking sites. So here follows some ‘advice’…

1) Use Facebook. The Waves has heard all people who come to its meetings saying they heard about it via the Facebook group. Another group I have been in contact with, Riverside Community Garden Project, say that once they got on Facebook the number of participants at their allotments shot up.

2) Get linked to by other blogs. The F Word Blog commented on The Waves, leading to several hundred people hitting The Waves blog in one day and some commenting on it, which leads me to…

3) Say something controversial. Or at least something others will perceive as controversial. Complaints rolled in over one comment on the blog on both The Waves blog and the F Word blog, stringing out the increase in blog hits over several days.

4) Respond to comments. It starts up a conversation that will go on for longer than the original point is still newsworthy, and it prevents bad publicity.

5) Old people still use Yahoo! groups. Mainly the slightly older generation who refuse to get on ‘MyFace’, but somehow find this fossil of a forum easy to use.

6) No-one uses Ning, but most people think it’s a good idea. Or at least pretty. This is a social networking site that is like a MySpace for groups, which looks better than any other social networking site (you get loads of templates to choose from) and isn’t associated with Murdoch.

7) Have an RL presence. Occasionally meet up in real-life if you can, it’s easy to forget this is the point of social networking in the first place. It also gives a focus to any online conversation.

8) You need a group around you to make Twitter work. You need to go to them, at the moment people do not tend to come to you.

9) Flickr is cool. It also means you don’t have to worry too much about embedding when Blogger or WordPress is playing up, like with all web hosts you can link. 

10) Generation Y will change the web! We are three times the size of generation Y and far more plugged in according to Sarah Perez of Read, Write, Web. She also says we over-share but as we can control our privacy settings quicker than prospective employers can dodge them we are more in control of social networking than ever before.

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