How I learned to stop worrying and listen to my hormones

21/08/2017 Sophie Heawood 0

I thought getting an app to track my menstrual cycle was ridiculous, but its revelations have explained so much about my personality

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in LA when my friend Lou says, “Give me your phone and I’ll download an app that tracks your menstrual cycle,” like we’re suddenly starring in a uniquely naff advert for solipsism in the 21st century.

I look around in case anyone has heard us. “Why on earth would I want that”, I mutter to her. My period comes fairly regularly, then it goes away again, and I’m not trying for a baby, and all right, so the whole thing does actually take me by complete surprise every single month, because my head and the clouds have always been in quite close contact – but still. I don’t really feel the need to inform my phone when I’ve got the painters in.

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Severe birth trauma has left me terrified of having another child

17/08/2017 Anonymous 0

Normally associated with soldiers, post-traumatic stress disorder affects 20,000 new mothers in the UK each year

I have revisited the day my daughter was born more times than I can remember. Almost every night since it happened, the trauma I experienced creeps back. Yet the medics involved will not have given that day a fleeting thought. It feels like an insulting paradox, that such a life-changing moment for one person is but an everyday event for another.

My labour didn’t go to plan. I experienced a searing white-hot pain when my drug-free water birth ended in an episiotomy without painkillers. I was terrified when dozens of medical staff rushed back and forth with equipment talking in urgent, hushed tones about a falling heart beat. Above all, I felt powerless, a total loss of control, and that I had no value as I lay naked on my back with strangers’ hands and faces around my exposed groin. As a result, I suffered birth trauma and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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The Guardian view on vaginal mesh implants: trust data and patients | Editorial

16/08/2017 Editorial 0

The devices have benefited a large number of women – but thousands have suffered serious adverse effects

The numbers tell their own tale. Thousands of women have undergone surgery to have vaginal mesh implants removed after suffering complications. Around one in 15 of those fitted with the most common type of mesh have required operations, according to NHS data obtained by the Guardian. In short, the problems are much more widespread than previously acknowledged. The removal rate was previously estimated at less than 1%.

But numbers are not enough. Each case is a woman with a disturbing story; and listening is as important as tallying them. Carolyn Churchill had to give up work after she was left in agony, with persistent bleeding. Yet she said she was made to feel like a baby for complaining. Others describe being left unable to walk or have sex – and of being assured that the implant was not responsible. So even this data under-represents the problem. Women may not be referred for removal, or may decide against it given the risks.

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From standup comedy classes to free massages – wellness at work goes mainstream

16/08/2017 Louise Tickle 0

It’s not just corporate giants like Google that run impressive wellbeing schemes. Smaller businesses are coming up with innovative ways to keep staff happy

When it comes to looking after people’s health and wellbeing in the workplace a complimentary bowl of fruit no longer cuts it. The corporate wellness industry is worth over $40bn (£31m) worldwide according to the Global Wellness Institute with companies looking after their workers’ wellbeing in a much more holistic way.

Related: Wellness in the workplace: how health initiatives can boost staff productivity

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From burgers to breaded mackerel: how Croydon is fighting the fat

15/08/2017 Nicola Slawson 0

On one of London’s unhealthiest high streets one in four children is obese, but now the council has stepped in

The high street in New Addington, south Croydon is one of the unhealthiest in London. Dotted between a launderette and a betting agent on a small curved parade are 10 fast food takeaways. There will soon be 11.

In the borough of Croydon there are 424 fast food shops, which predominantly sell calorific and unhealthy food such as fried chicken and burgers, according to data released by Public Health England last year. It has the second highest amount in London, after Westminster.

Related: The game improving a community’s health without them noticing

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We need to talk about male suicide – and not just when celebrities suffer | Richard Taylor

15/08/2017 Richard Taylor 0

Our society fears seeing men as vulnerable or weak, which makes the stigma around suicidal feelings even worse for those seeking help

I was doing what everyone does with their phones when they’re bored – refreshing social media feeds to the point where minutes turn to hours and suddenly it’s 3am and you’re eating cereal – when I saw Chester Bennington’s name trending. I scanned for facts hoping that his reported suicide was another sick example of fake news being spread on social media.

Related: Male suicide: Gender should not be a death sentence | Simon Gunning

We’re being told to do an awful lot of waiting when we frankly don’t have much time to waste

Related: The bold new fight to eradicate suicide

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It’s too late for my son, but the end of the campaign for ‘normal birth’ is welcome | James Titcombe

14/08/2017 James Titcombe 0

The Royal College of Midwives has abandoned the ideology that over the years may have contributed to many deaths, including that of my son

The decision by the Royal College of Midwives to withdraw its decade-long campaign for “normal birth” has come much too late for my own son, Joshua, who sadly died nine days after being born, but is a welcome step. The approach for too long influenced a style of care in maternity wards that put lives at risk.

These were the words spoken by Cumbria coroner Ian Smith, as he began summing up the inquest into the death of Joshua, on 6 June 2011: “With advances in medical science and techniques, childbirth has become safer and safer, to the point where we now expect children to be delivered safely. Now, I will have to say in truth, the process is a highly dangerous event, and you could make a glib remark that the most dangerous day of anybody’s life is their first day of life.”

Related: The Observer view on best medical practice for pregnant women | Observer editorial

Coroner Ian Smith was right in the comments he made in 2011; the most dangerous day of our lives is the day we are born

Related: More nurses and midwives leaving UK profession than joining, figures reveal

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Cancer treatment: sorting the good news from the hype

14/08/2017 Naomi Elster 0

The newspapers love a cancer research story, but many are misleading or won’t affect patients for many years. But there is plenty of progress worth reporting

Every news story about cancer research should come with a health warning: believe the hope, but not the hype. Good headlines are quick and catchy, good science is steady steps taken on a complicated issue over a long time. If a new treatment is still being researched, it could be metaphorical miles and actual years away from getting into the hands or bodies of patients. As blogger Kay Curtin, who has advanced melanoma, puts it: “The media tend to pick one line on a report and run with it, but they do not draw attention or highlight that it’s just a potential benefit, or the fact that many of these are just proven in a petri dish or a mouse and very often do not prove effective when tested on humans. It is cruel to existing patients to make claims with misleading headlines.”

One of the best ways to deal with cancer is to divide and conquer, based on as much knowledge as we can get of how individual tumours work. Treating all cancers from the same part of the body equally isn’t good enough – you must match the right patient with the right treatment.

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How running saved me from boozy lunches and obesity

14/08/2017 Nick Cohen 0

When the Observer columnist first went out for a run he hobbled home, only managing 200 metres. Four years later, running is a liberation …Four years ago, I put on what I used to call my gym kit and went for my first run in decades. Two hundred metre…

The Observer view on best medical practice for pregnant women | Observer editorial

13/08/2017 Observer leader 0

The ideal birth is the one that is safest for mother and baby

The announcement by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) on Saturday that it will finally abandon its “normal birth” campaign is overdue but welcome. By promoting “normal” over medical births, the campaign has for too long dangerously implied that a non-medical birth is superior to one in which doctors are involved. Given that we have had firm evidence for more than two years that, in the very worst cases, normal birth ideology has contributed to the tragic and unnecessary deaths of women and babies, the only question is why it has taken the RCM so long to act.

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Midwives to end campaign to promote ‘normal births’

12/08/2017 George Sandeman 0

Official body calls for shift in language and approach in attempt to stop making mothers feel like failures

Midwives are to end their campaign for “normal births” and change the way they talk about childbirth in a move intended to avoid making mothers who opt for medical interventions feel like failures.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has run an initiative since 2005 encouraging expectant mothers to give birth without medical interventions including epidurals, inductions and caesareans.

Related: The everyday trauma of childbirth made me stop at one child

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Viagra prescriptions on NHS triple in 10 years as stigma fades

11/08/2017 Sarah Marsh 0

Doctors warn of dangers of buying erectile dysfunction drugs online after £17m of unlicensed and counterfeit Viagra seized in year

The number of prescriptions for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs has nearly tripled in the last decade as they become cheaper and carry less stigma.

Figures from NHS Digital show there were 2,958,199 prescriptions for sildenafil in 2016, compared to 1,042,431 in 2006. Prescription numbers rose by 43% between 2014 and 2015, and by 16% between 2015 and 2016.

Related: Eating disorders in men rise by 70% in NHS figures

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Why we fell for clean eating

11/08/2017 Bee Wilson 0

The oh-so-Instagrammable food movement has been thoroughly debunked – but it shows no signs of going away. The real question is why we were so desperate to believe it. By Bee Wilson

In the spring of 2014, Jordan Younger noticed that her hair was falling out in clumps. “Not cool” was her reaction. At the time, Younger, 23, believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all possible diets. She was a “gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan”. As The Blonde Vegan, Younger was a “wellness” blogger in New York City, one of thousands on Instagram (where she had 70,000 followers) rallying under the hashtag #eatclean. Although she had no qualifications as a nutritionist, Younger had sold more than 40,000 copies of her own $25, five-day “cleanse” programme – a formula for an all-raw, plant-based diet majoring on green juice.

But the “clean” diet that Younger was selling as the route to health was making its creator sick. Far from being super-healthy, she was suffering from a serious eating disorder: orthorexia, an obsession with consuming only foods that are pure and perfect. Younger’s raw vegan diet had caused her periods to stop and given her skin an orange tinge from all the sweet potato and carrots she consumed (the only carbohydrates she permitted herself). Eventually, she sought psychological help, and began to slowly widen the repertoire of foods she would allow herself to eat, starting with fish. She recognised that the problem was not her veganism, per se, but the particularly rigid and restrictive diet regime she had imposed on herself.

Related: No diet, no detox: how to relearn the art of eating | Bee Wilson

Related: The sugar conspiracy | Ian Leslie

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Why I wrote a comedy show about incontinence | Elaine Miller

10/08/2017 Elaine Miller 0

As a physiotherapist, I know a third of women don’t have reliable body control. I wanted to raise awareness of this taboo subject at Edinburgh festival

I’m a physiotherapist, and as a fresh-faced graduate, my ambition was to work in elite sports. I did it, too, thriving on team spirit, travel and free trainers.

Then I had three babies in four years, each blessed with a bigger head than the one before. A dramatic sneeze during a zumba class showed me (and everyone there) that my pelvic floor had been reduced to rubble. In that excruciating instant, I realised that what really mattered was not being able to jump a tiny bit farther, or run a bit faster than others, but, being able to jump and run without wet pants.

Related: Ed Patrick is a junior doctor who’s finding the funny side | Sarah Johnson

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