What Is Preeclampsia?

The following post comes to us via Jon Brown, a journalism student at Arizona State University, and Planned Parenthood Arizona intern for the spring semester of 2015.

Prenatal care is important for a healthy pregnancy.

Prenatal care is important for a healthy pregnancy.

May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month, and to be fully honest I didn’t know a thing about what preeclampsia was until I sat down to write this blog post. What I found out is alarming.

Preeclampsia is a blood pressure disorder and it affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnant women. It belongs to a group known as hypertensive disorders, which is the leading cause of maternal deaths. As a group, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, which includes preeclampsia as well as other disorders, account for 11.1 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in this country.


Prenatal care from a trusted ob/gyn is crucial!


Symptoms of preeclampsia can include a constant headache, belly pain under the ribs on the right side, swelling (legs, hands, and feet), decreased urination, protein in your urine, nausea with vomiting, and vision changes such as temporary blindness. In extreme cases, when preeclampsia develops into eclampsia, it is characterized by high blood pressure and seizures. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • teddy bearImagine being 10 years old and pregnant as a result of rape by your stepfather. Imagine being forced to carry that pregnancy to term and give birth — all because your government says so. This is what’s happening to a child in Paraguay. It’d be remiss of me not to mention the fact that pregnancy can be extremely hazardous to this child’s health and can endanger her future fertility, and that girls under the age of 15 are FIVE times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than those over age 20. Again, this child is 10. (Think Progress)
  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says (correctly) that the religious zealots who don’t believe in abortion are infringing upon the rights of the rest of us. (Jezebel)
  • In contrast, two of the candidates from the Republican side, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, want support allowing employers to fire their employees based on birth control usage, terminating a pregnancy, and other private decisions that have have less than nothing to do with an employee’s job performance. (MSNBC)
  • Meanwhile, Oklahoma has become the fourth state to enact a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions. Gov. Mary Fallin said, “This legislation will help women get the information they need before making a decision they can’t take back.” Um, don’t they already have the information??? That they’re pregnant and no longer wish to be???!! (WaPo)
  • A prolific chlamydia outbreak at a Texas high school that only teaches abstinence? Who would’ve ever thunk it? (Slate XX Factor)
  • Dr. Keith Ablow, a medical blowhard of the Republican persuasion who practically lives on Fox News, thinks men should be able to “veto” a woman’s abortion. Because why should the final decision on that belong to a woman? It’s not like pregnancy is in any way “risky” or could have life-long effects on her health or life in general. He hates that women have “all the control” … over what happens with their bodies and health and lives and all that petty nonsense. Boo friggity hoo. I’ll tell ya what, Ablow, the day an embryo can be transferred from a woman’s body to a man’s to carry to term, I’ll be on board with men having a say. Mmmkay? (Raw Story)
  • Dr. Ablow’s commentary was mostly in reference to the shenanigans of Nick Loeb, the ex-fiance of Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara, and the brouhaha over frozen embryos created during their relationship. Sofia is not interested in those embryos becoming people since she broke up with Nick, so Nick went on an epic faux pro-life shaming rant/tantrum that disgusted most people with any common sense or critical thinking skills. (RH Reality Check)
  • One writer illustrates why it’s important to be pro-abortion in addition to being pro-choice. (Salon)

Teen Talk: I Can’t Get Pregnant … Can I?

teen pregnancy testIt’s wasn’t something you thought would happen. Your period is LATE!!! And you were sooooo careful — you didn’t use any contraception because you heard if he didn’t ejaculate or pulled out right away, you couldn’t get pregnant. And, just to be extra sure, you did jumping jacks for several minutes right after! What went wrong? Is it possible that the information you heard from your friends about how not to get pregnant was incorrect?


Sperm have one mission: to find and fertilize an egg. They don’t care what position you’re in, whether you have an orgasm, or if it’s your first time.


You know how babies are made, but you may have misunderstood some basic facts of human biology. The male body produces that tiny resilient sperm — actually millions of tiny resilient sperm — whose only mission is to find and fertilize a woman’s egg. They are so resilient that they can travel farther and live longer than you might think. They are present in men’s ejaculated fluid (semen) and also in the pre-ejaculate (the small amount of fluid that leaks out of the penis before a guy ejaculates). If any of that semen comes in contact with a woman’s vaginal area, there is a chance of her becoming pregnant. And if you don’t use some form of contraception with each and every act of intercourse, you are having unprotected sex, which increases your risk of getting pregnant. It only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg.

Let’s look at some common misconceptions you may have heard about how not to get pregnant. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • same-sex-coupleLet’s start this rundown off right with some heartening, touching news: Our uber-conservative governor, Doug Ducey, shocked us all by clearing the way for same-sex couples to adopt and foster children in Arizona. (AZ Central)
  • Somebody pinch me. More Arizona goodness: A Scottsdale venture capitalist is doing his part to ensure that women in the United States have access to affordable birth control. How terrific! (Tucson Sentinel)
  • Delaying pregnancy could reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. (Live Science)
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 90 percent of teenagers who are sexually active used some form of birth control the last time they were intimate. Ninety percent! Ahhh-mazing. (Tech Times)
  • Dear Religious Right: My president is not here for your “conversion therapy” shenanigans. (NYT)
  • Will California pass a bill to force “crisis pregnancy centers” to start giving abortion options? If so, I’ll go ahead and wager my entire bank account that these lying liars will close every single location. Sorry, but the truth is they’d much rather deceive women than help them. (RH Reality Check)
  • Joining Utah, South Dakota, and Missouri, North Carolina is on track to become the fourth state in the nation to enact a three-day waiting period for abortion. Congratulations on sucking, all of you.  (The News & Observer)
  • Kansas has banned the safest and most convenient procedure for women undergoing second-trimester abortions. (NYT)
  • The whirlwind of Republican idiocy continues in Alabama, where conservatives are now trying to prevent abortion clinics from being located within 2,000 feet of a public school. Because someone terminating a pregnancy could somehow affect anonymous, oblivious school children? Does Alabama ban guns (including concealed carry) within 2,000 feet of public schools? Nope!!! (Montgomery Advertiser)
  • Younger Republicans are less pig-headed about birth control than their older peers, but still fairly pig-headed. (HuffPo)
  • Women who develop gestational diabetes early in their pregnancies are more likely to give birth to children who will later be diagnosed with autism. (Reuters)

Does Douching Work?

illustration of a douching apparatus from an 1882 medical handbook

As a newly minted teenager, I was helping my mother go through some of my recently deceased great-grandmother’s things. I held a mysterious object in my hands and studied it curiously, puzzling over its unfamiliar form, pastel color scheme, and floral pattern. Finally, I gave up: “What is this?” I exclaimed. My mom, instantly uncomfortable, muttered her answer through clenched teeth: “It’s a douche bag,” she replied.

I remember being rather scandalized, but also a bit amused to be holding a piece of ancient misogynist history in my hands. Even as a junior high student, I knew that douching was marketed toward women with the message that their vaginas were “dirty” and in need of “cleansing” — scientifically invalidated ideas to which we surely no longer adhered. It seemed fitting that we were sorting through the belongings of a person born in the 19th century, dividing them into the useful and useless. Surely the douche bag belonged in the latter category.


Just because douching products are available in drugstores doesn’t mean they’re safe or effective.


Little did I know, more than 20 years ago, that douching hasn’t exactly been relegated to a historical footnote. Overall, nearly 25 percent of American women 15 to 44 years old douche regularly — which is down from nearly a third in 2002. Douching rates may vary by ethnic group: CDC data from 2005 found that 59 percent of non-Hispanic black women, 36 percent of Latinas, and 27 percent of white women douche. Socioeconomic status and education level can also be a factor.

For those of you who don’t know, vaginal douching is the practice of flushing the vagina with a liquid, which is administered through a nozzle that is inserted into the vagina. Some people believe that douching cleanses or deodorizes the vagina, or can prevent pregnancy or infections. Some might think their partners expect them to douche, or that douching will “tighten” or “rejuvenate” their vaginas.  Continue reading

Abstinence-Only Is a Failure to Educate

Editor’s Note: The following post was written by Julie, one of Planned Parenthood Arizona’s interns. Julie is an Arizona State University student majoring in biological anthropology and women and gender studies. She has a passion for women’s reproductive health, and hopes one day to pursue medical school and become a provider for an organization like Planned Parenthood.

college studentsHow well do college students feel their sex education prepared them for navigating relationships in college and coming into their sexuality?

Though many young people begin dating in high school, college is the time when a lot of relationships flourish and students begin to explore their own sexuality. The experience can be exhilarating, like navigating a battlefield of hookups and breakups without the threat of a curfew.


Abstinence-only programs fail students, who need accurate information to make informed decisions to protect their health.


Facing the dating scene in college can be scary as well, especially for those who didn’t have the chance to learn about sexuality or how to form healthy relationships while still at home. Many schools across the country teach only abstinence to students, and this can leave them ill-prepared to make healthy decisions when they face real-world situations.

Bailey W., an ASU women and gender studies student, describes her experience with sex ed in primary school as anything but comprehensive. Her school provided the abstinence-only education common in schools across Arizona and many other areas of the country. These programs advocate for heterosexual, monogamous marriages as the only appropriate settings for sexual interaction.

For Bailey, this created an unhealthy mental perception of sex that followed her into college. “I felt guilty about my sexuality because I was always taught that there are only two options: Don’t be sexual and stay safe, or be sexual and put yourself at extreme risk of ruining your whole life.” She admitted she didn’t know much about birth control until she came to college, and her first boyfriend basically taught her about her own anatomy. Continue reading

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 24: Miscarriage Management and Counseling

Welcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.

holding handsMiscarriage. It’s a common occurrence — at least 10 to 15 percent of all pregnancies end this way — but one that is not often spoken about. When carrying a wanted pregnancy, its sudden loss can trigger a range of emotions. During this time, Planned Parenthood can help.


There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel after having a miscarriage.


What Is Miscarriage?

When a pregnancy ends before it has reached the 20-week mark, a miscarriage has occurred; most miscarriages occur within the first eight weeks of pregnancy. Pregnancy loss after the 20-week mark is called stillbirth, and while it isn’t as common as miscarriage, stillbirth occurs in 1 out of 160 pregnancies.

Signs of a miscarriage include vaginal bleeding or spotting, severe abdominal pain or cramping, pain or pressure in the lower back, or a change in vaginal discharge. These symptoms aren’t specific to miscarriage — they could indicate other problems, so visit a health-care provider if you experience them during your pregnancy.

After a miscarriage, you might have pregnancy-related hormones circulating in your body for one or two months. Your period will most likely return within 4 to 6 weeks. While you may be physically ready to get pregnant again after you’ve had a normal period, you might want to consult with a health-care provider about the need for medical tests. You also might need to think about when you will be emotionally ready to try for another pregnancy. Continue reading