Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reproductive Trade-Offs and Cultural Views of Women's Health - Searcher 3/20

This week’s readings left me questioning the biological trade-off that oral contraceptives and industrialization have left us with.  If it more beneficial for women to have 400+ menstrual cycles in their lifetime, thus developing a slightly greater risk for breast cancer, or should women take an oral contraceptive to have fewer periods in general, with no decreased risk of cancer?  Chapter 9 specifies that, “the present generation of MSOC’s contains the same synthetic estrogen and progestogens as conventional oral contraceptives” (189) making it clear that the benefits of hormonal birth control make menstruation less of a hassle and prevent pregnancy.  I found the comments of surveyed women to be the most interesting, as they many recognized the inconvenience of menstruation, but often opted for the benefits of what supposedly accompanies remaining as natural as possible.  In order to further research this many-sided issue, I spoke to some of my local friends.  I found that the majority of them went on a pill because they had irregular cycles and their doctors suggested they take the pill to regulate themselves.  However, they also found severe mood swings, and weight gain as negative side effects.  While the pill can beneficially regulate cycles, it seems to be a “one-size-fits-all” type deal as opposed to a custom fitting, where the amount of each hormone a person needs may differ slightly, or significantly, from patient to patient. In the future, pills may be better suited to their users, which could decrease the risk of breast cancer, lessen the hassle of menstrual cycles, and better fit the extensive biological variation seen in any biological function. 

The second piece of research I conducted looked more closely at cultural views of women’s health and abortions.  Upon reading 50% of women in Hong Kong liked their periods, I knew there had to be a cultural reason behind their reasoning.  Sure enough, it is because “they see it as a way to ‘get rid of bad blood’” (193).  The article below examines how various religions view menstruation and explains how those views originated.

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