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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Take Back Your Body: A D.I.Y. Gynecology Primer (early 2000s)

Our bodies are our most basic resources. To utilize them, treat them well, and keep them out of the reach of patriarchy, it helps to know what's going on inside. The Gynecology industry has hijacked much of the autonomy and self-awareness that witchy women of centuries past enjoyed. Let’s get started on taking it back.

Know what’s going on Ignorance is the means to enslavement, so get to know your body! Familiarize yourself with the workings of your menstrual cycle for the entirety of the cycle. The purpose of regular self-exams is to learn what is normal and healthy for us so we can recognize early changes or infections.

Examining the mucus of your vagina is very effective way to know what's happening with your cycle. Estrogen is the hormone that regulates the condition and consistency of vaginal mucus. At the beginning and the end of the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are low, there will be very little mucus. What little there is tends to be sticky, whitish in color, and bitter or salty in taste. As your cycle continues estrogen levels increase resulting in an increase in vaginal mucus. The fluids will become slippery. Ovulation, the release of an egg from the ovary, will soon occur. While you are ovulating and fertile, the mucus will be more translucent and stretchy with a sweeter taste. Cover the tips of your fingers with the mucus and pull them apart slowly. Long fibers will stretch between them. This type of mucus will be around for about four or five days, starting with a day or two before ovulation. You are most fertile during this time. Since sperm can remain alive in your body for up to a week, you are most likely to conceive between one week before ovulation and several days afterward. After the peek of fertility, the hormone progesterone will cause most of the mucus to dry up into a thick sticky substance, sometimes yellowish in color. Menstruation occurs 12 to 14 days after ovulations. The variance in the duration of different woman’s cycles is mostly due to the first half of the cycle, before menstruation. To be fully aware of the specifics of your cycle takes about three months of observation.

Careful gynecological self-exams with the use of a speculum will make you far more knowledgeable about your reproductive system than a doctor who would see you once a year. A speculum opens the vaginal canal and allows you to observe your cervix with the help of a flashlight and mirror. The cervix shifts its position in the vagina through the cycle. When you are fertile, the cervix is low in the vagina canal. During menstruation, it rests high in the canal. If you don’t have a speculum, you can use your fingers to feel where your cervix is. To find your cervix, put two fingers inside your vagina and reach as far back as you can. Your cervix will feel firm maybe a little rubbery, like the end of your nose. The opening in the cervix leading to the uterus, called the os, will open up when you are fertile and when menstruating. The color of the cervix can change during your cycle, usually more red when fertile though this varies greatly from one woman to the next. If you are pregnant, your cervix will be blue or purple. Detailed directions for using a speculum to observe your cervix can be found at http://www.sisterzeus.com/usingspeculum.htm.
Menstruating

I love getting my period. Liberated from the constraints of commercially manufactured toxic products, the process can become interesting and engaging. The feminine hygiene industry works to distance women from their own bodies and keep them dependant on biologically and ecologically suppressive products. There are several healthy alternatives to poison laden pads and tampons, including clothe pads, The Keeper, and sea sponges. There is a great deal of information on this topic available both on-line and in zines. The Blood Sisters Project (http://www.bloodsisters.org/bloodsisters/) is a good place tostart for information.

Problems with Menstruating

Most abnormalities in menstruation can be treated with easily obtained herbs. If you are irregular, or suffer from PMS, taking two cups of False Unicorn Root tea every day for the second half of your cycle (from ovulation to menstruation) will help regulate your hormones. This is a long treatment, taking about four months to take full effect but has lasting. Herbs that induce menstruation are called emmenogugues. Two such herbs are parsley and ginger. If your period is late or you skipped a period, two or more cups of strong tea from these herbs should induce menstruation in a few days if it is taken during or after the regular time menstruation is expected. I prefer parsley because it has fewer side effects. Ginger can cause hot flashes and restlessness. If you want to delay your cycle, Yarrow and Shepherd’s Purse can be taken as tea. It is harder to purposefully delay menstruation than it is to induce it. Reduce your intake of aspirin, caffeine, salt, red meat, and estrogen when you are trying to achieve this.

Yeast Infections

One of the most common and irritating things to happen to a woman’s vagina is a yeast infection. If you have been paying attention to your vaginal mucus, a yeast infection can be detected early and treated with organic yogurt or a clove of garlic. Yogurt contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, a bacterium that kills excess yeast. Put the yogurt in plastic tampon applicators (the only reason you should have anything to do with tampons) or the fingers of rubber gloves and freeze them. The yogurt-sicles can be inserted into your vagina to effectively cure an early yeast infection. A more animal friendly cure involves garlic. Carefully peel the papery skin off a fresh garlic clove. Wrap it in gauze or cheesecloth, tying the ends with unwaxed dental floss, and leaving a bit of string dangling so you'll be able to pull it out afterward. Insert this into your vagina and leave it in over night, repeating for several nights. If the infection is sever or not clearing up, continue the treatment during the day as well, changing the garlic clove every several hours.

Contraception and Abortion

If you pay attention to your cycle, you will know
exactly when you are fertile and at risk or becoming
pregnant. This awareness will aid contraceptive
efforts. Queen Anne’s Lace seeds are a well-known and
effective contraceptive. The inhibit the production
of progesterone so the uterine lining does not grow
enough to support a fertilized egg. One teaspoon full
of the seeds should be chewed every day from a few
days before ovulation until one week after. Chew them
thoroughly, even though they taste terrible. Some
women also take a teaspoon full for six days after
unprotected sex. If conception has occurred, Queen
Anne’s Lace seeds may aid in inducing a miscarriage.
Other aborifacient herbs include Angelica and Black
Cohosh. The use of herbs to induce abortion is a
potentially dangerous task, but a worth wild
alternative to the psychologically damaging process
that the current medical establishment offers us as a
choice. A midwife should be asked to help with the
process of a natural abortion.
More Information
-Bloomington Women's Health Collective, P.O. Box 3207, Bloomington, IN 47402,
* http://www.spunk.org/texts/anarcfem/sp000885.txt
* Has six pamphlets available on Self-Examination and Treatment, send them $3.50 for all six.
- Hot Pants: Do It Yourself Gynecology, Herbal Remedies
* Through zine on DIY Woman’s Health
* Send them $2, CD 5756 Succ. C, Montreal, Qu, Canada, nH2X 3T7

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