Words from DivaCup’s CEO for National Women’s Health Week

Carinne Chambers-Saini, Co-Founder and CEO of the DivaCup

This week is National Women’s Health Week, a week set aside as a reminder for women to make their health a priority and build positive health habits for life. The week encourages women to visit their doctors for a well-woman visit and preventive screenings, to get active, eat healthy, take care of their mental health and make positive health choices overall.

The theme this year is What I Wish I’d Known. I believe everything happens for a reason, and even the “challenges” we face have a purpose and help shape you. No regrets, right? Honestly though, there are some things I’d wish I’d known that could have prevented a lot of unnecessary “challenges”. Things like being kind to myself, asking for help and putting my health first. I wish I understood my body and my menstrual cycle more as a teenager.  While we can learn from every experience, we can also learn from others and their insights.

When my mom and I started Diva in 2001, we were on a major mission. Nothing could stop us and we were unstoppable. I would work every day of the week and work late into the night. Who needs sleep? Over time, this leads to adrenal fatigue and other health issues. Especially when my focus was 100% on work and not making time for healthy eating, exercise and sleep!

Caring for your period doesn’t need to be uncomfortable or wasteful. I had a really difficult relationship with my cycle. Thankfully, I discovered a better way early on. For those of you who know the Diva story, you know that by the age of 14, I was already using a menstrual cup. But, even still, while I had found menstrual care that was better for me and actually worked, like most teenage girls, the dynamics of my cycle changed with every cycle. My period took a few years to stabilize. Your cycle is supposed to change as you age. Your first period will not be the same as a period you experience in your 30s or 40s. Our bodies change so much every few years, and with this, so too does our cycles. Add to this, having children, and your cycle experience is taken to a whole new level (we’re talking heavier and possibly more cramps for the first few postnatal periods).

Being healthy takes work. Today, we can go into a grocery store and leave with a fully cooked meal or enough frozen/packaged items to create a super tasty meal in minutes. But, convenience doesn’t always translate into healthy, wholesome foods.

It’s okay to “cheat” sometimes, I love my dark chocolate! I do my best to eat a whole foods diet. I find avoiding sugar, wheat and dairy makes me feel better, and reduces a number of symptoms related to my cycle. But, if I’m being honest, eating healthy takes time and is a lot of work. Meal prep is awesome, if you have the time to prep. Eating local and organic is the ideal, but not always accessible to everyone. With two young kids and a business to run, some nights, we end up ordering take out.

I don’t mind working out, but it’s not a passion of mine. I enjoy being on the move and staying active with my kids, but heading to a cycle class at 5 am is a real struggle for me. The most successful tip for me has been to find activities that I enjoy and can incorporate into my lifestyle. I love practicing yoga and it’s helped me to be kinder to myself and slow things down, even if it’s only for a short time.

Above all, take time to rest and reflect at the end of each day. Be sure to also test your health IQ, get health tips, and find out more about National Women’s Health Week at www.womenshealth.gov/nwhw. You also can follow HHS OWH on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

The Diva Team is all for PERIOD Con

The Diva Team loves talking about periods, so let’s start.

Fact: Half the population experiences a period each month and unfortunately, many do not have access to period care.

Solution: PERIOD: The Menstrual Movement. PERIOD is the largest youth-run NGO in the menstrual health category. PERIOD was founded by Nadya Okamoto, a dynamic young woman with a desire to change the conversation around periods. PERIOD’s mission is to celebrate periods and provide products to those in need.

On November 18th in New York City, PERIOD is hosting the world’s first youth-run activism conference surrounding menstruation: PERIOD Con 2017. Diva International is proud to be supporting the event as the Diamond-Level Sponsor and even more thrilled that our CEO, Carinne Chambers-Saini will be the event’s keynote speaker.

It’s a beautiful thing when two inspiring and driven women come together with the same mission in mind- to provide a better period experience. Both Nadya and Carinne recognize that access to period care is a necessity, not a privilege.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to interact with young leaders who are making positive changes in their own communities. All in all, we’re beyond excited to be at PERIOD Con in just a few weeks,” Carinne Chambers-Saini.

The conference is an opportunity for each PERIOD Chapter Leader to learn how they can further the Menstrual Movement in their own communities. Each Chapter Leader is working towards raising awareness about PERIOD by hosting fundraisers and distributing period products to those in need.

Carinne was encouraged to learn that PERIOD’s high school and university chapters are led by inspiring young activists making positive change in their own neighborhoods. As a thank you to these leaders, Carinne wanted to provide each Chapter Leader with the opportunity to win 1 of 25 PERIOD Con entry tickets. Applicants were asked to fill out an online application and the winners were chosen by Diva. Carinne, along with the Diva Team cannot wait to meet the applicants at PERIOD Con!

“It feels like a dream to work with The DivaCup in this capacity,” says PERIOD Founder and Executive Director, Nadya Okamoto. “I, personally, have used The DivaCup since my second menstrual cycle when I was fourteen years old, and dreamed of partnering with The DivaCup. It’s quite a statement for such a company to so heavily be investing in both the leadership potential in the next generation, and the Menstrual Movement overall.”

PERIOD Con is based around the three pillars of PERIOD’s mission, which are Service, Education and Advocacy. Diva’s mission is to provide solutions for menstruatoras with an emphasis on excellence in menstrual care, environmental care, production and sustainability. The opportunity to align these goals with PERIOD’s mission is a privilege in of itself for Diva.

If hearing about PERIOD has sparked your interest, it’s not too late to get involved. Whether that means telling someone you know about the work they’re doing or applying to start a chapter in your community- anything helps.

Spread the word and let’s continue to talk about periods!

-The Diva Team

Diary of a Diva: Princeton Menstruation Celebration!

Hi there!

My name is Jamie, and I’m one of the co-presidents of Princeton Students for Gender Equality (PSGE). We teamed up with The DivaCup to hold a Menstruation Celebration, an event to break the menstrual taboo, educate students about menstruation, collect product donations, and most of all, celebrate periods!

Why Hold a Menstruation Celebration?

It all started last summer when I was texting with a guy friend who is studying to be a doctor and the topic of menstruation came up. It soon became clear that he knew the science behind it and the technical terms, but had no idea what periods are actually like for those who have them. He thought we changed a tampon two or three times per period! I was shocked! I texted a dozen other non-menstruating friends and found that many also had no idea what people who menstruate experience on a monthly basis. Something had to be done! So, PSGE decided to partner with Princeton Students for Reproductive Justice (PSRJ) to plan the Menstruation Celebration event!

We Spread the Word!

To advertise the event, we hung up posters and put the word “menstruation” all over campus!
We also interviewed Princeton students who don’t menstruate about what they know about periods for a hilarious and surprising video.
I definitely recommend you watch it!

The Day of the Event!

We held the event on November 18th in our central campus center, and it was a huge hit! Hundreds of people stopped by to talk about and celebrate menstruation.
There was so much to do and see, including:

  • Homemade period-themed snacks: vulva cupcakes, pretzel tampons dipped in white and red chocolate, uterus cookies, and chocolate-chip ovary bread.
  • Fun games and activities: pin the ovaries on the uterus, a uterus piñata full of red candy, a photo station with a giant uterus and period trivia with The DivaCup notebooks as a prize!
  • Informational posters about what a period is, period myths, periods and politics and how to use trans-inclusive language when talking about periods.
  • Alternative products station featuring a demonstration of The DivaCup!
  • Access station featuring stories from people who struggle to access period products.
  • Collected donations for Distributing Dignity, an organization that provides pads, tampons, and bras to those who need them.
  • A raffle for The DivaCup and Diva Wash, as well as some other great products.

Amazing Results!

We collected some amazing menstrual product donations and we raised over $700 for Distributing Dignity! The event had a huge impact on campus, people were talking about menstruation in dining halls and dorms across campus. Thank you so, so much to The DivaCup team for the support and the incredibly generous donation. Tons of people came into the event confused or unsure about The DivaCup and left with far more information and excitement. (And a personal thank you to Diva Cup for getting me through hiking trips, my gap year in Senegal, and life at Princeton!)
Much menstruation love,

 

Jamie O’Leary. Jamie O’Leary is a sophomore at Princeton University from Rutland, VT. She is an Anthropology major with a Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, and she is especially interested in studying and breaking taboos around women’s bodies and sexuality. She is one of the founders and co-presidents of Princeton Students for Gender Equality (PSGE), an activist group and an inclusive, intersectional forum for discussions of feminism, gender, sex, and sexuality. (Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/princetonstudentsforgenderequality/).

 

Menstrual Hygiene is Key to Global Development

When it comes to global development, in working to advance families and breaking the cycle of poverty, women’s empowerment is the key. However, a major obstacle that stands in the way of bringing all women to the forefront is the taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation.

MHDay_banner_blue_FBWomen’s empowerment and feminism are hot topics right now, especially when it comes to creating more educational equity on a global scale. However, no matter how many opportunities we create, women and girls will not be able to take full advantage of those opportunities if menstrual hygiene is not addressed. Periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries. In Kenya, girls miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of a lack of access to adequate menstrual hygiene. That is almost a full week of class, or 25% of one school month. Think about that… because of periods alone, girls are missing almost a whole quarter of their classes.

In many countries, periods can be scary because of what menstruation symbolizes—the transition from being a child to a woman, ready to be a wife and mother. In some other countries, as I have learned, getting your period can be the signifying event that prompts female genital mutilation, child marriage, and dropping out of school.

Inadequate menstrual hygiene management also has negative mental and physical consequences. In India, 70% of reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene, and the effects can go so far as to affect maternal mortality. Unclean methods of maintaining menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of resources, or lack of education on the usage of products, can lead to infections ranging from skin irritation to something more fatal, like toxic shock syndrome. Poor menstrual hygiene management may also cause strange bodily odors and bleeding through one’s clothes, which causes women and girls to feel nervous and self-conscious when on their period.

This taboo around menstruation causes people to associate periods with weakness. A week in their month where girls feel emotionally on edge, in pain with cramps, confused about new food cravings, and worried about bleeding through their clothes. I, myself, before coming to the realization of how human and real it is as a woman to experience periods, identified my time of the month as a weakness.

Women (more so, all humans) deserve to feel confident and ready to reach their full potential, regardless of a biological function. Thus, the stigma surrounding the topic of menstruation is an obstacle standing in the way of the right to reach one’s full potential. Limiting the potential of essentially half of the world’s population due to menstruation is in itself a fundamental barrier to continued global development.

eng_facebook_girls_1This is one of the many reasons why a day like Menstrual Hygiene Day, which is observed every year on May 28th, is so important. Menstrual Hygiene Day raises awareness around menstrual health, the barriers that people who menstruate face, and the effects that inadequate education, sanitation, and understanding about menstruation can have on women and girls all around the world.

We all need to become advocates for menstruation. In the US, only about 20% of our government positions are held by women, and if that 80% who are men are afraid to talk about menstruation, women and girls all around the world will continue to feel silenced and less capable on their periods. It is clear that menstruation impacts more than just one week of each month in a woman’s life. The menstrual movement is a human movement, and it starts now, with all of us—boys, girls, men, women—let’s all give power to the period!

 

 

NadyaNadya Okamoto Nadya Okamoto is an 18-year-old from Portland, Oregon. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Camions of Care–a global nonprofit organization that strives to address the natural needs of women through advocacy, education, and service. Nadya founded Camions of Care after her family experienced a degree of homelessness, during which she discovered the unaddressed need of menstrual hygiene. Nadya wants people to understand that everyone deserves to have their natural needs met so they feel ready to achieve their full potential. She is also the Youth Director of Social Venture Partners Youth, is on the board of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, PLAN International USA, and is involved in many other school activities around law practice, politics, and gender equality.

  

Every Diva Needs her own Period Repair Manual

Lara Briden, ND, author of the popular book, Period Repair Manual talked with The Diva Team about her knowledge and expertise when it comes to all things period! This engaging book provides women with details, advice and tips about everything you need to know, do and follow when it comes to your period.

And… The DivaCup is offering a Period Repair Giveaway, entry details are below!PRM Book

Based on the information regarding the pill and its side effects, what is the best/most informative way to educate women on alternative contraceptive methods?

Non-hormonal birth control is a viable option for women of any age. As I explain in my book, the advantage of a non-hormonal method is that it permits healthy ovulatory cycles and therefore production of the estrogen and progesterone we need for bones, metabolism, and mood.

The best method of non-hormonal birth control is a combination of condoms and Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). Through FAM, women will learn to recognize their peak fertile days (charted according to fertility awareness-based methods), and then abstain on those few days per month. Strategic short-term abstinence greatly reduces the risk of pregnancy in the unlikely event of a broken condom.

A second non-hormonal method is the copper intrauterine device (IUD). It prevents pregnancy by impairing sperm motility and implantation, and is highly effective with a failure rate of just 0.6 percent (lower than the Pill).

Can you expand on the importance of hormonal receptors and the “river system?”

Our bodies get used to a certain level of hormones. In the book, I used an analogy of hormonal rivers carving out gullies, and the gullies are the memory of the hormone receptors. For example, when estrogen receptors become accustomed to the torrent of strong synthetic estrogen in the birth control pill, it can be difficult to adapt to the trickling stream of normal estrogen. This adaptation or—dare we day, addiction—to synthetic estrogen is the cause of post-pill symptoms such as acne and hair loss.

What effect does a woman’s diet have on her menstrual cycle? Do you feel women need to be more conscience about their diet during menstruation?

Diet has a profound effect on menstrual health. First of all, a period-friendly diet provides all the nutrients required by the ovaries and hormonal system. Those include zinc, iodine, magnesium, and iron—to name just a few. Many women don’t obtain enough of those key nutrients, which is why they suffer symptoms such as period pain and PMS.

A period-friendly diet is also an anti-inflammatory diet, which means that it contains little or no inflammatory foods such as sugar and alcohol. Inflammatory foods cause period problems because they interfere with hormonal signalling.

To be effective, a period-friendly diet must be followed all the days of the cycle—not just during menstruation.

What are the best ways for women to be more educated about their period?

I’m a big fan of period apps, which are smartphone applications that allow women to track data about their monthly cycles. Apps can track cycle length, as well as symptoms such as spotting, breast tenderness, and mood.

Many apps also track cervical fluid and basal body temperature so that women can detect the mid-cycle temperature rise that signals ovulation. Ovulation is the most important event in the menstrual cycle because it’s how we make progesterone. A menstrual cycle without ovulation is not a healthy cycle.

What are some symptoms of menstrual disorders that girls and women can look out for?

A menstrual cycle should be regular (21-35 days). It should arrive without premenstrual symptoms, and without pain. It should not be heavier than 80 mL (The DivaCup holds 30 ml) over all the days of the bleed.

Common period symptoms include irregular periods, spotting between periods, painful periods, and heavy periods. Those are all clues that I discuss in Chapter 5 of my book: “What Can Go Wrong With Your Period?”. I call them clues because period symptoms are almost always an expression of underlying general health. For example, irregular periods can mean a problem with the hormone insulin. Painful periods can mean zinc deficiency. The best way to fix periods is to fix the underlying issue.

You provide many tips in the book, but which three tips do you think are most important? 
  1. Learn to detect ovulation. Ovulation is the key to a healthy menstrual cycle because it’s how we make progesterone. Progesterone deficiency causes many period problems including PMS, PCOS, and heavy periods.
  2. Reduce inflammatory foods such sugar, alcohol, vegetable oils, and for some women: wheat and dairy products.
  3. Take magnesium. I call magnesium the Miracle Mineral for Periods because it’s my front-line treatment for almost every period problem including PMS, PCOS, and period pain. Magnesium helps periods because it helps the body to cope with stress. It also improves the function of insulin and thyroid hormones, and is essential for the manufacture of both estrogen and progesterone.

Learn more by picking up a copy of Period Repair Manual! The DivaCup is also giving our Divas the chance to win a Period Repair Manual Prize Pack! Enter for your chance to win a copy of Period Repair Manual, The DivaCup and DivaWash!

ENTER HERE!

Lara BridenLara Briden  Lara Briden is a board certified naturopathic doctor who qualified from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1997. She currently runs a busy hormone clinic in Sydney, Australia. Lara has also been a devoted user of Divacup for more than 10 years.

 

 

Providing Period Care for Pader Girls Academy

This past spring, Diva International Inc. partnered with Lunapads in support of their One4Her program in recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day. We committed to donate an AFRIpads Kit (5 reusable pads and 1 carrying bag) for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May. Each kit provides a girl with a sustainable supply of cloth pads to manage her period for over a year.

This year, thanks to our Divas, we were able to go above and beyond our goal of 500 kits with a total of 524 kits to girls in need!pader

These pads were distributed to the child mothers studying at Pader Girls Academy, in Uganda. The young girls who live at PGA have been victims of rape, coercion or abduction (due to Uganda’s 25-year civil war) and have missed the opportunity to continue their education as child mothers are often stigmatized.

However, with its special day care services and opportunity for vocational and secondary education, PGA is a rare opportunity for these strong young women to continue their education, and learn to advocate for themselves and their families.

Recently, Diva International Inc. received a letter from Denis Ongaya, Deputy Program Director of PGA, expressing his thanks for Diva and Lunapads’ help.

On behalf of the management and students of Pader Girls’ Academy, we sincerely appreciate Lunapads and Diva International Inc. for the support extended to the disadvantaged girls in this school. This support will go a long way to enhancing our on-going efforts in improving learning at the school by increasing convenience to the mothers as they attend classes during their menses.

The Afripads kits were distributed to 229 girls in the school each receiving one kit leaving a balance of 295. The balance is still kept at the school and will be distributed to the vocational students expected to report for non-formal learning in third term 2015.

pader2At Diva International Inc., menstrual hygiene management means a lot to us and we believe that all women deserve to manage their period safely and with dignity. All too often, supplies needed for period care are difficult to find due to poverty and limited resources, but thanks to Lunapads and our Divas we were able to supply these much needed supplies to the young women at PGA.

But the fight is not over. Please take some time to learn about Menstrual Hygiene Day and how you can work to fight poverty, menstrual taboos and how to ensure that women around the world can receive the basic needs they deserve. Together we can show the world that #MenstruationMatters!

Help change a young girl’s life by donating to Pads4Girls or shop to support One4Her today!

 

 

 

 

#MenstruationMatters to Diva International Inc.

The month of May is a favourite at Diva International Inc. for many reasons. The sun is shining, flowers are blooming and it plays host to one of our favourite days: Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD).

Organized by Wash United, and together with close to 300 partners from around the globe, MHD is a global effort to draw attention to the women’s right to hygienically manage their periods, no matter where they live.

Why does it matter?

In other parts of the world, women have very different experiences during their period. Girls and women in developing countries miss 20 percent of their education or work because they are unable to attend while they are menstruating. This can be due to insufficient water and sanitation facilities, poor access to menstrual materials and a lack of menstrual hygiene education.

In order to change the attitudes surrounding menstrual hygiene management (MHM), there needs to be education. However, in many countries menstruation is still considered taboo and many women are left in the dark about what is happening to their bodies and how they can manage their cycle.

Did You Know…
  • 83% of girls in Burkina Faso and 77% in Niger have no place at school to change their sanitary menstrual materials.
  • Many women and girls use unsanitary materials such as old rags, husks, dried leaves, grass, ash, sand or newspapers because they do not have access to affordable, hygienic and safe resources.
  • By the time a girl finishes grade 8, she will already have missed up to 30 weeks of school.MHD
  • Commercial menstrual pads can be too expensive for low-income girls and women to afford. In Mukuru, Nairobi many girls aged 10?19 have reported having sex with older men to pay for basic items, such as pads.
  • In one study by HERProject, 73% of the Bangladeshi garment workers they interviewed miss work for an average of 6 days per month (resulting in unpaid work days) due to vaginal infections caused by unsanitary menstrual materials.
  • 48 % of girls in Iran and 10 % of girls in India believe that menstruation is a disease.
  • Chhaupadi’, a practice that forces menstruating women and girls to sleep in separate huts or sheds (and subjects them to other harsh restrictions) is still widely observed in many rural areas.
  • In Western parts of Uganda, country cattle owners do not let menstruating women attend to their cows for fear that the milk may turn bloody.
Changing the Future for Women

While many of these facts are surprising, organizations and individuals are working to create a unified voice for women and girls around the world to break the silence surrounding MHM.

For example:
  • Looking at current market trends, more and more women in developing countries are getting access to hygienic menstrual products.
  • The Kenyan government will spend over USD $2 million to provide pads to 678,770 disadvantaged school girls and Kenya eliminated the import tax on menstrual products in 2011 to reduce costs.
  • Many NGOs & social businesses are making enormous progress on delivering menstrual hygiene education
  • There are many men working to de-stigmatize and break the silence around menstruation by advocating for improved MHM.
Get Involved!

You can get involved in MHD by sharing the many resources put together by the team at WASH United. Share the MHD infographic and #MenstruationMatters sign to your Facebook or Twitter profile, or attend an event! You can also show your support beyond MHD, whether financially or through your time, by giving to one of the incredible organizations who are helping to provide women and girls with accessible and affordable menstrual hygiene products.

diva500-2What we are doing to help?

At Diva International Inc., MHM means a lot to us and we believe that all women deserve to manage their period safely and with dignity. That is why, in recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day, Diva International Inc. is partnering with Lunapads and their One4Her program, committing to donating an AFRIPad kit (complete with 5 pads and 1 carrying bag) to the girls and women of Pader Girls Academy for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May.

Help us reach our goal of distributing 500 kits; purchase The DivaCup today to help support girls’ and women’s futures around the world!

 

 

Reference Guide: All facts were drawn from the Menstrual Hygiene Day Fact Sheets produced by WASH United. View them here.

 

Research Opportunities and The DivaCup

PrintA few weeks ago, The Diva Education Team had the opportunity to visit The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Long Island, New York. Diva International Inc. has committed to provide menstrual cups for the Feinstein institute’s ROSE Study (Research OutSmarts Endometriosis) in an effort to help advance the care and knowledge of a disease that affects 1 in 10 women.

You may be wondering: What role does The DivaCup play in all of this?

One element of the study includes asking participants to provide a sample of menstrual flow through the use of The DivaCup. The DivaCup easily collects flow, is super comfortable and if women choose, can be used as their preferred femcare option after they’ve submitted the sample.

For those not familiar with endometriosis, approximately 5.5 million women and girls suffer from endometriosis in North America alone. Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus and is shed every month, grows outside of the uterus on other organs or structures in the body. Symptoms can range from painful menstrual cramps to incapacitating abdominal and pelvic pain and infertility. While the severity of endometriosis varies, the more extensive forms of the disorder can cause severe pain and disability. In addition, approximately 40% of infertility is associated with endometriosis.

Pink science equipment microscopeThe team at the Feinstein Institute are welcoming and enthusiastic about the work they are doing. Everyone we met was positive about the study and thankful to have the opportunity to play a part in the research. Bringing years of research and experience together, the team is diverse, dynamic and excited for what can be achieved through the aid of The DivaCup. We met with Peter K. Gregersen, MD and Christine Metz, PhD  the lead investigators on the study, along with the researchers, nurses and medical school interns.  We got to tour the lab (where we saw some fascinating cell samples in the microscope collected from menstrual flow using the DivaCup) and had the opportunity to talk through the many advances the team has already made in the study.

All in all, the trip was both inspiring and educational.

The goal of the ROSE study, which has received funding from the Endometriosis Foundation of America, founded by Dr. Tamer Seckin, is to investigate the cause of endometriosis and bring improved diagnostics and treatments for women living with the disease.

Current diagnosis relies on pelvic exams and ultrasound imaging coupled with laparoscopic surgery. Women with more severe endometriosis often require surgical intervention to relieve symptoms and it is not uncommon for a woman to require repeat surgery. Hormone treatments may be effective in many women, but can have unpleasant side effects. Improved diagnostic methods and better tolerated and more effective medical therapies are needed.

Researchers involved in ROSE are using several approaches to study endometriosis. These include efforts to better understand the genetic basis of the disease and relate this what is occurring at the cellular level in the disease, with particular emphasis on the role of stem cells and the immune system.

They are receiving great feedback and response, but the study is hoping to receive hundreds of samples each year and needs your help! Women both living with and living without endometriosis in both Canada and the United States can participate in the ROSE study to help find answers for those who are suffering.

To learn more about getting involved visit the ROSE Study webpage.

 

Feinstein Empowering®The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Headquartered in Manhasset, NY, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is home to international scientific leaders in many areas including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sepsis, human genetics, pulmonary hypertension, leukemia, neuroimmunology, and medicinal chemistry. The Feinstein Institute, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, ranks in the top 6th percentile of all National Institutes of Health grants awarded to research centers. For more information, visit www.FeinsteinInstitute.org.

Q & A with 1in10 about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

As September is PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) Awareness Month, The Diva Team thought to share some insight on PCOS with some help from 1in10:

Sept Awareness 1in10 20141. What is PCOS?

Although those who have heard of PCOS usually think of it as a reproductive disorder, PCOS is not a menstrual or reproductive disorder.

PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is an Endocrine and Metabolic Disorder affecting at least 1 out of every 10 women worldwide. PCOS is now recognized as the most common endocrine disorder in women. It has been labeled as both a “silent killer” and “the perfect hormonal storm”. While it is important to understand that there is no cure for PCOS, it is just as important to realize that the symptoms of PCOS can be managed with proper treatment.

PCOS causes a wide variety of symptoms that have the ability to be truly devastating to a woman’s health and well-being. PCOS can be diagnosed in all phases of life – it is not a disorder solely affecting women of childbearing years. In the United States alone, over 8 million women of all ages have received a PCOS diagnosis – PCOS is not limited to women of reproductive age or potential.

Because the symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman in their display and severity, and because not all women with PCOS have ovarian cysts, organized medicine has considered re-naming the disorder.

Common symptoms of PCOS include, but are not limited to: weight fluctuations, acne, hirsutism (excess body hair), skin tags (Acrochordon), absent or infrequent menstrual periods, hair loss at the scalp (Androgenic alopecia), dark skin patches (Acanthosis nigricans), depression and/or anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, ovarian cysts, and difficulty conceiving a child.

2. How does PCOS affect the menstrual cycle?

Because the majority of the outward symptoms of PCOS affect the hair and skin, most women have trouble connecting those symptoms to an Endocrine (hormonal) disorder and fail to seek help. Most women receive a PCOS diagnosis after their cycle either becomes extremely irregular (less than 4 periods a year) or stops all together – or if they have trouble conceiving a child, but they may have been living with PCOS for years without knowing it.

Our hormones impact every process that goes on inside of our bodies – and our bodies have pretty specific “optimal” ranges for each hormone. When one or more hormones deviate from that range (either lower or higher), as is the case with PCOS, the body recognizes this and fails to operate the way it should.

Take insulin, for example. Insulin is such an important hormone that the levels of insulin in your body can affect multiple processes. When insulin doesn’t (or can’t) do its job, it sets off a series of events in the body that impacts not only your blood sugar levels, but your weight, the condition of your skin, your hair cycle, your menstrual cycle – and more!

Failure to receive a diagnosis, and therefore failure to treat, PCOS can have a devastating effect on a woman’s health. PCOS has been linked to several serious health conditions, including (but not limited to): Thyroid Disease, Autoimmune Diseases, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Endometrial Hyperplasia, NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease), Chronic Kidney Disease, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Stroke, Heart Attack, Gestational Diabetes, Preeclampsia, Infertility & Cancer (Endometrial, Ovarian, Uterine & Breast).

myPCOS Ad 1in10 20143. What support is there for women experiencing PCOS?

If you are suffering from PCOS, it’s important to know that you are not alone and that there is support available to you!

1in10 provides online support via myPCOS – a private, members-only social network for women with PCOS, webinars, outreach programs, PCOS Awareness Month events, and free educational literature and tool kits available for downloading and printing on our website.

4. Can you share a bit about 1 in 10?

1in10 is a grassroots non-profit organization for women with PCOS, founded and run by women with PCOS, grounded in 3 core principles – education, empowerment and hope. We firmly believe that educating women about their bodies will empower them to take control of their health, and give them hope for the future.

5. What can the Diva Community to do help draw awareness?

While September has been recognized as PCOS Awareness Month, 1in10 feels that it is vital to raise awareness year-round. After all, PCOS is a disorder that impacts the entire body. It is important that women get the facts about PCOS, understand how it can affect them throughout their entire life, and also how it may impact the lives of their children and family members.

By promoting healthy lifestyle choices, encouraging women to be educated about how their bodies work, and staying on top of the latest medical research we believe that all women will be empowered to become their own best health advocates.

6. In addition to medical care, what alternative treatments are available for women?

The most important thing a woman can do to help manage her PCOS is to make healthy lifestyle changes. Hormone levels can be positively (or negatively) impacted by nutrition and exercise, so it is important to move your body and give it the fuel it needs to run properly. By being conscientious of the food you eat (particularly carbohydrates) and making sure you exercise, you can help to minimize your PCOS symptoms and get your hormones back on track.

For women who are seeking PCOS treatment outside of traditional medicine, we recommend that you research all forms of alternative treatments available to you before undertaking any of them. There are hundreds of herbs and supplements on the market for reproductive health and/or infertility, but not all of them will truly help women with PCOS. Remember – PCOS is both a metabolic and endocrine disorder, so it is important to really research the ingredients in a supplement to find out exactly how it may impact your hormones.

Aside from supplements, acupuncture can be a great mechanism for relaxation and reducing the stress of PCOS. In times of stress, our bodies increase production of the hormone cortisol. Increased levels of cortisol impact your blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate, immune response and digestive processes – which can all affect your PCOS symptoms.

No matter how you choose to treat your PCOS, the important thing to remember is that it does need to be treated! Depending on your hormone levels (as detected and evaluated by blood work) and symptoms, you may have success with diet and exercise alone, with safe supplements, or you may need prescription drugs. Remember to talk to your team of health professionals before beginning any diet or exercise program, and before taking any new supplement – and remember to always evaluate your progress by your blood work.

1in101in10

1in10 is a grassroots non-profit organization founded in 2011 by a group of women with PCOS who are determined to make a positive impact on the lives of women just like us.

What sets 1in10 apart from other PCOS organizations is our commitment to education based on medical research and scientific evidence. We believe that support without education is what has been missing from the PCOS community, and we are on a mission to change that! As an organization, and as women with PCOS, we have adopted 3 core principals – education, empowerment and hope.

Our Mission: 1in10 empowers women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome by providing knowledge, resources and support. It is our goal to promote public awareness of PCOS by providing current and medically approved information. We encourage those suffering, and those who know someone suffering, from PCOS to unite and join together as a Cysterhood.

Menstrual Hygiene Management 101

MHDI first learned about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in grad school. A core class in the program centered on global issues and when it came time to writing my final paper, I wanted to tie my research topic on fem hygiene advertising to the theories of the class. I was surprised to learn that there was an entire field of research dedicated to menstrual health and feminine hygiene in the developing world. And even more surprised that I was never taught about the lack of care and support women receive when it comes to their periods.

Within just a few hours of research, I realized just how limited my viewpoint was on the topic of menstrual care internationally. It’s a topic we don’t often hear about, but one that deserves both our attention and resources.

As a new topic for many, the Diva Team thought to take some time to talk about some of the basics of MHM.

According to Wash Untied,

Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) starts with the articulation, awareness, and information about menstruation and menstrual hygiene practices.  Women and girls should be able to manage the period in safety, privacy and dignity by i) having  access to and using hygienic materials together with ii) the provision of adequate water and soap for washing and bathing and iii) assuring adequate collection and safe disposal of sanitary products – at home, schools/colleges, institutions, workplace and in public places.

Consider these facts:
  1. A little over half of the world’s female population is of reproductive age and experience a cycle that last between 5-7 days.
  2. In regions where women do not have access to feminine hygiene products, rags, dry leaves, newspaper etc. are often used to manage flow.
  3. UNESCO estimates that 1 in 10 African girls miss school during menses, which often leads to a higher dropout rate and missed opportunity.
  4. In countries like Bangladesh, female garment workers are reporting to miss up to 6 days of work because they do not have a way to care for their period.
  5. Many girls in developing countries are not educated about puberty or the menstrual cycle.
  6. In North America women throw away 11,000 tampons/pads throughout their menstruating years – yikes! Many developing countries do not have proper waste disposal infrastructure, which leads to an increase in public waste and hygienic concerns. For this reason reusable options like cloth pads and menstrual cups (where access to clean water and soap is readily available) are ideal solutions for women everywhere.
  7. Taboos surrounding menstruation are still prevalent in countries around the world. For example, 48 % of girls in Iran and 10 % of girls in India believe that menstruation is a disease.

What we can gather from these insights is that MHM is fundamental to advancing education, ensuring health, strengthening the economy, protecting the environment, realizing human rights and changing attitudes of both (men and women).

You can learn more about these key areas by viewing these fact sheets put together by Wash United. We want to welcome all our Divas to play a part in spreading the world about MHM.

On May 28th, 2014 we will be participating in the first ever Menstrual Hygiene Day and you can too! Organized by Wash United, and together with over 100 partners from around the globe, MHD is a global effort to draw attention the women’s right to hygienically manage their periods, no matter where they live.

AFRIpadsIn recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day, Diva International Inc. has partnered with Lunapads and their One4Her program and have committed to donate an AFRIpads kit for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May (up to 500 kits). To date we have been able to provide over 250 girls with a better way to care for her period for over a year! Help us reach 500 by buying a DivaCup for you or a friend today!

You can also get involved in MHD by sharing the many resources put together by the team at Wash United. Share the MHD infographic and #MenstruationMatters sign to your Facebook or Twitter profile, make a conversation starter bracelet or attend an event! You can also show your support beyond MHD, whether financially or through your time, by giving to one of the incredible organizations who are helping to provide women and girls with accessible and affordable menstrual hygiene products.

Reference Guide: All facts were drawn from the Menstrual Hygiene Day Fact Sheets produced by Wash United. View them here.
1. Menstrual Hygiene Matters. WaterAid, 2012
2. Torondel & Sumpter, 2013
3. Africanews, Sanitary Towels for Kenyan Teenage Schools Girls, 2011. 7. IBID
4. Her Project, Female Factory Workers’ Health Needs Assessment: Bangladesh, 2010
5. Dasgupta & Sarkar, Menstrual Hygiene: How Hygienic is the Adolescent Girl? 2008
6. National Research Center for Women & Families, Tampon Safety, 2010
7. WSSCC, A tide of change in India, 2012