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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Women

In Elemental. More on Medium.

How pharma weaseled its way into the bedroom and left us wanting

Animation: Julia Moburg/Medium; Source: Getty Images

Female sexual desire has always been suspended on a tricky societal tightrope. In the past, it was something to be repressed and undiscussed. Violate these norms — or just appear to — and the consequences were grim. Today, for many women, the pendulum has swung in the other direction: Wanting and having a lot of sex is frequently portrayed as an integral part of leading a healthy, balanced, modern life.

Despite these complex expectations, female sexuality remains under-researched and little-understood. This extends to common sexual issues, including a drop-off or complete disappearance of sexual desire, which most women experience at…


The real reason women should drink less than men

Woman holding a wine glass filled with red wine.
Woman holding a wine glass filled with red wine.
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

It’s no surprise to anyone that drinking has increased dramatically as a result of the pandemic. As a pattern, drinking increases with any extreme stressor, and recent market research shows that alcohol sales went up by 55% during the pandemic’s peak.

This increased alcohol use has been particularly notable among women. Though even before 2020, women were beginning to drink more. What many may not realize is that women tend to have worse outcomes from increased drinking — worse outcomes in health issues, psychological consequences, and progression to an alcohol use disorder.

As a recovering alcoholic, former nurse, and middle-aged…


An OB-GYN answers questions and explains best practices

After testing positive for Covid-19 earlier in the morning, Manuel Carchipulla cries as he sees his wife Diana Garcia Garcia hold her baby Danaey for the first time via FaceTime, at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, New York on April 28, 2020. Photo: Newsday LLC/Getty Images

New moms ask this question every day in my Texas OB-GYN practice located in the heart of a Covid-19 hot spot. During each office visit, providers and pregnant patients discuss the challenges of the pandemic as it relates to pregnancy, labor and delivery, and newborn care.

No expecting couple ever wrote a birth plan listing “have my baby in the middle of a global pandemic” as a goal. Everyone wants to share the magic of childbirth with the people they love. …


A New York ear, nose, and throat doctor on the prospect of hormone therapy

Image: chaofann/Getty Images

As an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor in private practice in Manhattan, I’ve been considering — as have other doctors and researchers — a way to fight Covid-19 that may have been sitting under our noses all along.

Having felt the fear in the hundreds of Covid-19 patients I have treated, I started reading every study possible to try and make sense of this disease. I’ve noticed a common thread that is only beginning to get attention.

Though it’s true we don’t have a cure or a surefire way to prevent people from getting the virus, I wonder if…


For health care workers, ‘the simple act of coming home from work is now a potential threat to our loved ones’

A photo of two healthcare workers wearing masks standing at a counter against a teal background.
A photo of two healthcare workers wearing masks standing at a counter against a teal background.
Photo: Prabin Ranabhat/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

I return home from the hospital and remove my clothing in the garage. I sprint to the shower in my underwear. I avoid touching anything in the house, including my wife and kids.

No welcome-home kisses. No hugs. Like the rest of the world, we are practicing social distancing. Except with an added gut-wrenching twist: My family must distance themselves from me.

Desperate for a moment of levity, I posted a question on Facebook: “Health care friends. Confession time. Who else disrobed in the garage then sprinted to a shower in your undies after work today?”

My friends’ responses made…


Physicians are learning to ask more questions about periods to get a better understanding of a person’s overall health

An illustration of a woman holding a glowing tear drop.
An illustration of a woman holding a glowing tear drop.
Illustration: Sophi Gullbrants

It happens monthly, for two up to seven days at a time. A woman will menstruate for about during her lifetime, on average. And yet there are still plenty of unknowns and misunderstandings around the effect menstruation has on women’s health.

“There is tremendous variation in how girls and women think about menstruation and what they define as healthy and normal,” says Dr. Geri Hewitt, a professor of obstetrics/gynecology at Ohio State University, and a chair of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) adolescent health committee. “There is also tremendous cultural variation regarding expectations around menses.”


Women need to exercise for longer periods at a lower intensity in order to optimize fitness

Photo: RoBeDeRo/Getty Images

The typical clichés around exercise are that his idea of getting in shape is pumping iron, while she’d rather pull out the yoga mat. These are indeed stereotypes and there are plenty of women who rave about their latest triathlon and many men who are amazing yogis. However, there are real physiological differences between the sexes that may cause different responses to exercise.

A most substantial contributing factor to these differences depends on something called “muscle fiber type” and how our sex hormones affect it.

There are two types of muscle fibers: Type I fibers, which are great for long…


Please go away and never come back

Photo: Paula Winkler/Getty Images

Dear Hot Flashes,

I was about to give a talk to 1,500 people at a conference. And then, there you were. You showed up and you didn’t mess around. You heated me up. And you didn’t stop. You kept at it, all right. You kept at it 17 to 20 times a day.

Hot flashes, you don’t care what I’m doing when you hit. When I’m teaching, I have to throw off my sweater, only to put it back on three minutes later, and a cashmere scarf too because I’m suddenly freezing. Who knows what my students think. …


Vaginal cannabis suppositories have grown in popularity, but their safety and efficacy are still up for debate

Suppositories containing CBD are seen on display in a shop in Paris. Photo: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

Since 2010, Stepfanie Romine, 38, has suffered with intense monthly menstrual cramps. “My pelvis feels like it’s tightening and pulling down, and my entire body feels like it’s trying to contract,” she says. Like approximately 32% of women, Romine’s menstrual pain caused her to miss work. “I was tired of losing a day every month to cramps,” she says.

Doctors ruled out fibroids, endometriosis, and cysts; their only guess is that hormonal imbalances are causing them. Though she tried painkillers and heating pads, nothing seemed to dull the pain.

Then, one day last year, an ad for Foria CBD suppositories…


Illustrations: Gabriella Marsh

60% of cancer survivors experience sexual dysfunction. Kristin Rojas breaks down taboos with a lot of determination and some lube.

The sun has set on Please, an “educated pleasure shop” in Brooklyn. Against a rainbow of vibrators and dozens of intriguing how-to and history books, Dr. Kristin Rojas is surveying the latest wares. There’s the Ohnut, a set of stretchy seafoam green rings designed to limit the depth of a penetrating partner, and a smartphone-connected Kegel device for coping with incontinence.

The 32-year-old breast cancer surgeon comes here often. She lives in the neighborhood — the brownstone-lined streets of Park Slope — and works nearby at Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn’s largest hospital. In the course of a week, Rojas counsels…

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