Endometriosis

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Endometriosis—the struggle is real.  Killer cramps are NOT normal.  Periods that last longer than 7 days are NOT normal. Heavy bleeding that soaks through a tampon every 2 hours is NOT normal; pain during sex is NOT normal. Bouts of diarrhea and vomiting that accompany every menstrual cycle are NOT normal. No, no, and no!  For many women, this reality is just endometriosis at work.

Sad truth: Many of us are taught to downplay these symptoms. Our pain is diminished by mothers, sisters, friends and even health care professionals who convince us that everyone goes through this.

Maybe that is why, according to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, it takes 10 years on average to receive an accurate endometriosis diagnosis. That’s a decade, people! That’s 130 periods of agony, 912 days of someone asking you to take Advil and suck it up.  That…is not okay.

Endometriosis is pervasive.  It affects 1 in 10 American females of reproductive age and an estimated 176 million women worldwide. It occurs when tissue similar to the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) is found outside the uterus on other parts of the body.  

There are lots of symptoms that can vary among patients.  Pelvic pain is most common, as well as pain that coincides with menstruation.  Other symptoms include heavy cramps, long-lasting bleeding, nausea or vomiting, pain during sex and, unfortunately, infertility.  Some women may even experience symptoms throughout their entire cycle—a real drag.

In addition to these physical symptoms, endometriosis takes a toll on women’s personal and professional lives. Chronic pain can severely affect quality of life day-to-day; medical care can be extremely costly. Furthermore, absenteeism can alter relationships in the workplace and at home.

Despite the intense discomfort, many women do not realize they have endometriosis until they try to get pregnant. And because the disease tends to get progressively worse over time, approximately 30-40% of women who have endometriosis experience fertility challenges.

There is no simple diagnostic test for endometriosis—no blood, urine, or saliva testing can confirm the condition. The only way to verify endometriosis is to undergo a diagnostic laparoscopy with pathology confirmation of biopsy specimens.  

On the bright side, many endometriosis symptoms— including infertility—can be addressed after diagnosis. The gold standard for endometriosis treatment is laparoscopic excision surgery. This involves a careful removal of the entire endometrial lesion from wherever it grows.

The first step to getting there is recognizing that your pain is not normal and seeking timely intervention. The earlier endometriosis is detected and treated, the better the results. Tracking your symptoms will make you better informed for your next doctor’s visit, and set you on a path to better (and less painful!) menstrual health.

For more information about Endometriosis, visit www.endofound.org

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Following other Glow Community members will allow you to see more of their activities in your Top and New feeds–the first two feeds displayed when you enter Glow Community.


It’s no longer a tough act to follow on Glow :)

Why is my period late?

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“Why is my period late?” Once you start wondering, you can’t stop, won’t stop. You wonder what is happening with that late period, what you did wrong. And then wondering turns to freaking out…

If this is you, welcome to the club.  The “sometimes-our-bodies-do-as-they-damn-well-please” club. Membership: 2 billion.

Our periods are not always “late” when we think we are. Say your cycle is of the average 28 day variety, but this month it has been 32 days with no period.  This does not necessarily mean that your period is “late.” Because lateness depends entirely on WHEN ovulation occurred.

Let’s break it down.  Cycles come in three phases: the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. In the follicular phase, the uterus prepares to receive a fertilized egg, should the opportunity present itself (yes, sex would be that opportunity); meanwhile, eggs mature so that they are ready to get a move on when the time comes.

Next, it’s ovulation. Ovulation is when a mature egg is released to the nearest fallopian tube.  Once it’s there, fertilization needs to happen within 24 hours, or else the egg degenerates. Thus, ovulation only lasts for about a day.  Move swiftly, sperm!

After ovulation, the uterine lining grows to prepare a nice cozy bed for the fertilized egg in the uterus. This is called the luteal phase.  If the egg never gets fertilized, then the the uterus lining will shed through the vaginal opening. #PeriodTime.  If the egg does get fertilized, then it will embed in the cushy uterus lining about 5-6 days after fertilization. And then you’re on the road to pregnancy…

Blah blah blah. What is to blame for my late period?!?!

It depends (not what you wanted to hear, we realize).  But a good general rule is that the majority of the time, your period will arrive on the mark 12 to 14 days past ovulation.  The trick is knowing when ovulation is happening.  And for that, we offer a few tools: The Glow app can help you know when. And there are tests called OPKs which enable you to pee on a stick and figure out if ovulation is going down.

The timing of ovulation can be influenced by a whole lotta things: diet, exercise, stress, sickness, weight, caffeine intake, whether you smoke or do drugs, whether you have recently been on any oral contraceptives, etc. Predicting the timing of ovulation can be one tricky business.

But rest assured: you are NOT the only woman who has worried about this.  We hear these concerns expressed all the time in the Glow Community. You are not alone. Also, know that it IS possible to figure out exactly what’s going on down there.  A little more measuring and some attention to the details, and you’ll have that period mastered :)

When Do I Ovulate? And Related Life Questions

When do I ovulate?

When do you ovulate?

When do women ovulate?

Do all women ovulate the same?

Ovulation patterns differ with each woman’s specific body type and menstrual cycle. You probably learned about ovulation in middle school health class….but that was years ago. Here’s a refresher.

Ovulation: The Basics

Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovary, and its travel down the fallopian tube. As the little egg is traveling, it has a *chance* of getting fertilized by a sperm. If that happens successfully, pregnancy is the result! As such, having sex during your ovulation window is the best way to maximize your chances of pregnancy. And conversely, avoiding sex when you are in your ovulation window is a good way to make sure you do not accidentally get pregnant.  

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Ovulation Calendar

Women often ovulate about half way through the menstrual cycle. Let’s hit the calendar. Call the first day of your most recent period Day 1 and the last day before your next period Day 28 (this assumes a 28 day cycle, obviously).  If you have a consistent, 28-day cycle, chances are you will ovulate about mid-way through the cycle–around Day 14.

During ovulation, an egg is available to be fertilized for only 12-24 hours; on the flip flop, sperm can live in the body for 3-5 days. Because of this, medical experts tend to talk about ovulation occurring during a multi-day “window” of time around the ovulation day.  Using the example of a 28 day cycle, you can presume that ovulation will occur approximately in the window between Day 12 and Day 16 (notice Day 14 is right in the middle–you see what we did there?). For cycles that are not 28 days long (ahem…most cycles), just count back 14 days from your NEXT expected period. That’s about the time when you will ovulate.

Ovulation Signs

Calendar estimation is one way to figure out when ovulation might be happening. But a more foolproof method involves also paying attention to your body’s signs of ovulation: patterns in body temperature and vaginal discharge (yep, it’s gonna get goopy).

Temperature - We’re not just talking regular temperature–this is basal body temperature, or the lowest body temperature you experience in a 24-hour period. It happens right when you wake up in the morning.  You can detect BBT by taking your temperature with a special BBT thermometer before getting out of bed.  When you ovulate, your basal body temperature rises.  The uptick is tiny–only about 0.5 to 1.6 degree Fahrenheit–but it is enough to indicate that ovulation has just occurred.

Vaginal Discharge - If you pay attention to the fluids in your panties, you’ll notice that cervical mucus (fancy medical name for discharge) changes a fair bit during your cycle.  Most of the month, your vag stays pretty mellow in this department. But as you approach ovulation, you’ll notice a clear, slippery, and stretchy substance making an appearance. That’s egg white cervical mucus. Named so because it looks and feels kind of like raw egg whites. Yes, we went there. You will never look at egg whites the same way again.

Ovulation Symptoms

According to polls in the Glow Community, a significant number of women have experienced the following symptoms (in addition to the temperature and vaginal discharge variations discussed above) during their ovulation window:

  • Change in cervical position and cervical firmness - 81% (383 women surveyed)
  • Increase in sex drive - 56% (2194 women surveyed)
  • Brief twinge of pain or dull ache felt in abdomen - 48% (2231 women surveyed)
  • Breast tenderness - 38% (2108 women surveyed)
  • Abdominal bloating - 35% (2253 women surveyed)
  • Heightened sense of vision, taste, or smell - 21% (2094 women surveyed)
  • Light spotting - 7% (2214 women surveyed)

Ovulation Tracking Tools

Accurately tracking your ovulation requires tools. From where we sit, these are the essentials.

  • Glow - Smartphone app that allows you to record everything from your period dates to your BBT and cervical mucus. The app does the math so that you don’t have to–and sends you updates before menstruation and ovulation to keep you in the know.  As you might expect, we recommend it highly :)
  • BBT Thermometer - Essential for knowing if you’re hot or not…and when you might be ovulating.
  • Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK) - This is a pee-on-a-stick test will give you a positive result a day or two before your ovulate…and signal when you should hop to it if you’re down to make babies.

Your body don’t wait. Sister’s gonna ovulate. So know the facts and stay up to date!

Pregnancy Symptoms: What To Look For in Early Pregnancy

Pregnancy signs and symptoms come in many different forms.  You could feel tired, crampy, perhaps a bit nauseous; your breasts could feel tender to the touch. Indeed, your period is a few days late. Are you just experiencing standard period symptoms, or are these the signs of pregnancy? And what are the signs and symptoms of pregnancy, anyway?

Fear not: Glow’s got your back. Below we’ve listed the most common early pregnancy symptoms in order of their frequency, according to the thousands of women in the Glow Community on the Glow app. Check ‘em out.

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Pregnancy Symptom 1: Bloating

The most surefire and yet annoyingly subjective way to sense whether or not you are pregnant is to ask yourself: “Do I feel bloated?” In the early weeks of a pregnancy, many women feel bloated due to increased levels of the hormone progesterone. According to a Glow survey of over 2000 pregnant women, 89.9% of them experienced bloating as an early pregnancy symptom. So pay attention to whatever floats your bloat.

Pregnancy Symptom 2: Achy Breasts

For some ladies, the breasts start feeling tender, sensitive, or sore as early as a few days after conception. The sensations are often most noticeable down the sides of the breasts, the pain a result of the increased production of the estrogen and progesterone hormones. Breasts are often especially achy during a woman’s first pregnancy. 86.9% of over 2000 pregnant women who responded to a Glow survey reported experiencing tender and achy breasts as an early pregnancy symptom. Boo for pain!

Pregnancy Symptom 3: Nausea

It’s the quintessential pregnancy symptom we see in every movie. Girlfriend thinks she has food poisoning; turns out she has a baby growing inside. The biological reason for nausea during early pregnancy is not completely clear. One theory suggests that nausea is linked to the production of the human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone. 78.1% of  over 2000 pregnant women surveyed in Glow experienced nausea as an early pregnancy symptom. However, only 44.6% of them actually went as far as vomiting.

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Pregnancy Symptom 4: Mood Swings

Crying during random commercials. Raging against a faulty vending machine. Laughing hysterically for no reason.  All of these could be signs of an early pregnancy-related mood swing. Mood changes during pregnancy can be caused by physical stresses, fatigue, changes in metabolism, or by the hormones estrogen and progesterone. 72.1% of 2000 pregnant women surveyed in Glow experienced mood swings as an early pregnancy symptom. That’s a whole lot of swinging moods.

Pregnancy Symptom 5: Cramping

For many women, one of the most overlooked signs of early pregnancy is cramping. Makes sense, since the cramps feel just like the ones you would normally get alongside your period. Cramping typically occurs when the uterus expands, causing its supporting ligaments and muscles to stretch. For most pregnant women, cramping is completely normal. 70.8% of 2000 pregnant women surveyed on Glow experienced cramping as an early pregnancy symptom.

However if the cramps appear to be one-sided and truly hurt, don’t delay in talking to a doc–it could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy (a fertilized egg implanting outside of the uterus). Get that checked out.

Pregnancy Symptom 6: Frequent Urination

Peeing constantly? In addition to the hormonal changes during early pregnancy that increase urine production, the uterus expands and presses on the bladder–and makes you #1 in line at your nearest restroom. According to a Glow survey of over 2000 pregnant women, 78.4% of them had to urinate more frequently than normal in the first few weeks of their pregnancy.

Pregnancy Symptom 7: Positive Pregnancy Test

A positive pregnancy test is a pretty definite way to determine if you are pregnant. Of the 1000 women surveyed on Glow, less than 5% of them ever had a false-positive pregnancy test result. False positive tests are tests that say you are pregnant when you really are not. They can occur if blood or protein is present in your urine. And certain drugs, such as tranquilizers, anti-convulsants, or hypnotics, may also cause false-positive results. Again, these puppies are quite rare. If a pregnancy test indicates you are pregnant, it is most likely spot on.

We could keep going. Seriously.  If you want to know more or talk about your experience with other women going through this, the Glow Community is the place. It’s in the Glow app and mirrored on the web. See ya there.

These 5 Women’s Health Facts Will Make Your Jaw Drop. But Actually.

Let’s be real: There are far too many incomprehensible, jargon-packed, fear-inducing health facts out there. They are 0 fun. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But the five facts that await you in this post—these ones are money. Check ‘em out. And if your jaw hasn’t hit the floor by the end…well, we’ll consider a refund :)

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Fact 1: Women’s Feet Can Grow With Each Pregnancy
Yep. Some of it is due to simple swelling. And that’s temporary. But women also tend to develop flat feet during pregnancy (some believe that all the extra weight has a foot-flattening effect). Additionally there’s a pregnancy hormone called relaxin which is needed to loosen the ligaments of the birth canal and pelvis, in preparation for child birth—and can also allow for ligaments in the feet to stretch. These two variables combined can lead to a more permanent lengthening and widening of a pregnant woman’s feet. One little study done on 49 women found that the majority of the women (60-70%!) had bigger feet after giving birth than they did during their first trimester. The length of their feet increased anywhere between .1 to .4 inches! That’s practically a shoe size. After that, shoe-shopping spree = essential.

Fact 2: The Clitoris Grows, Too
Shut the front door. This is definitely a thing—and not just during pregnancy. The clitoris grows throughout a woman’s life. In fact, by the time a woman is through menopause her clitoris can become several times larger than it was when the same woman was a teenager. This could be related to the fact that some women report having stronger orgasms as they get older. Here’s one to get your local know-it-all really riled up: The longest clitoris on record was 12 inches long! Yes, that’s a foot. Yes that’s hard to fathom; we learned it here. But full disclosure: research is inconclusive as to whether or not clitoris size leads to better orgasms. One study did prove that the distance between your clitoris and your vagina can make a difference, though. The shorter the distance between the two, the more likely you are to orgasm during sex.

Fact 3: Women Cry More Than You Probably Think
According to recent research, adult women cry 5.3 times a month; adult men, about 1.4 times. While it is easy to assume that this is because of the way that people of different genders are socialized, the research suggests that is not the entire explanation. Under a microscope, cells of female tear glands look different than men’s. Also, the male tear duct is larger than the female’s, so if a man and a woman both tear up, the woman’s tears will spill onto her cheeks quicker. Additionally the hormone prolactin, which is essential to lactation, also regulates the development of the tear glands and aids in the production of tears. By the time a woman reaches age 18, she could have 50-60% more prolactin in her bloodstream than a male of a similar age. And it shows. According to a recent Glow survey answered by 7800 women, 43.2% of women cry at least weekly. Only 2% said that they never cry.  

Fact 4: A Crying Baby Can Yield Leaky Breasts
As strange as it sounds, this phenomenon is well-known to many a breastfeeding mom. The leaking can be traced to the let-down reflex, which signals for the brain to release milk from the breasts. Usually this reflex only takes hold when a baby has been sucking on a mother’s breast for a few minutes. But for women with sensitive reflexes, hearing the sound of a crying baby can trigger a let-down and sudden milk-flow—even when the baby is not nursing. All the more reason to cry over spilled milk. 

Fact 5: “Blue Balls” Can Happen To Women, Too
Men can get “blue balls” when they have been sexually aroused for a length of time without achieving release. Women can experience a similar sensation—also due to vasoconstriction.  A woman’s labia, vagina, and clitoris swell and lubricate when she is sexually aroused; blood rushes to the area. If a woman orgasms successfully, then blood quickly drains from the genitals, which relieves pressure from arteries and veins and returns them to their normal size. However, when there is no orgasm, it takes longer for the physical signs of arousal to subside. Women will often experience an aching feeling in the vagina as a result of sustained vasocongestion. Or a “blue” vulva, if you will.

The Tale of the Tampon

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Every month or so, most of us deem it perfectly fitting and proper to stuff a wad of cotton up our vaginas to absorb menstrual blood.  We don’t think twice about it.  But if we did pause, just for a minute, to consider our behavior—well, we might wonder where this ritual came from.  When did tampons become a thing?

As it turns out, the ancients were all over tampons.  The oldest printed medical document, Papyrus Ebers, mentions Egyptian women using soft papyrus tampons in the 15th century B.C.  Women in ancient Rome used wool tampons. Women in ancient Japan fashioned tampons out of paper and changed them out 10 to 12 times a day.  Traditional Hawaiian women used the furry part of a hapu'u fern to absorb menstrual flow—the au natural approach.

In the United States, women were doing it DIY with tampons long before they were commercially available.  Some women cut out strips of surgical cotton and rolled them up tightly; others bought natural sea sponges at cosmetics or art supply stores and trimmed them into reusable tampons (gotta love those menstrual crafts!). But not every woman could pull this off.  Most who dared were actresses, athletes, or prostitutes—dubious professions, according to women of the more ‘respectable’ variety.  More conventional women wore sanitary pads held in place by a belt. Not. Comfy.

By the late 1920s and early 1930s, commercial tampons were starting to become available. But it was the advent of the applicator that transformed the tampon into the device we know today.  Dr. Earle Haas was the man with the clever applicator idea, which he patented in 1933 then trademarked under the brand name Tampax.  Unfortunately, Haas could not get people interested in his invention, so he sold the concept to an ambitious German immigrant named Gertrude Tenderich.  Tenderich made the very first Tampax tampons in her home with a sewing machine.

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Once Tampax was on the market, church groups and gynecologists expressed reservations about the product’s safety. But over time, tampons became more and more accepted.  Their popularity skyrocketed during World War II when women started taking on men’s jobs in factories, then again in 1972 when tampons started to be advertised on television.  

Today, approximately 70% of women of menstruating age use tampons, and ~56% of women who responded to a Glow Community poll said they couldn’t cope without them. A woman who is an active tampon user can be expected to use as many as 11,400 tampons in her lifetime! Lots. Of. Tampons.  And lots of lifetimes—from the ancient Egyptians through us 21st century souls—that have been convenienced and improved by this most handy dandy of devices.

IUDs are IN

Does it feel like all of your friends are getting IUDs?  Well, maybe they are.

An IUD is a small, T-shaped contraceptive device implanted in the uterus. Though IUDs lie far behind more popular methods of birth control like the pill and condoms, the share of women using an IUD nearly doubled from 2006 to 2010. Uh-huh, uh-huh.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that over 11%  of American women age 25 and 34 now use IUDs, and the number continues to grow.  

So, why the recent spike?

The bad press is finally dying down

IUDs had promising beginnings as a long-lasting form of birth control when they emerged in the 60s. Then, in 1973, a brand of IUDs called the Dalkon Shield injured as many as 200,000 women. There was a flaw in the Dalkon Shield design, which caused infections, septic miscarriages, and even death for some. Not. Good. At all. These IUDs were taken off the market as soon as the flaw was realized, but the damage was done. And the stigma around IUDs was born.

IUD stigma persisted among patients and health professionals thereafter. But recently, a slew of peer-reviewed studies have vouched for the safety of the IUD (which has been totally reengineered since that disaster in ‘73, by the way). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other respected organizations have also come to rally behind it, slowly reversing popular opinion. Other countries are leading the way. IUDs account for 27% of female contraception use in Norway, and they are pretty widely used throughout Europe.  

It’s incredibly reliable

As many as half the pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and 95 percent of those unintended pregnancies result from not using or misusing birth control: a condom breaks, a birth control pill is forgotten, etc. Meanwhile, IUDs are more than 99% effective, with little to no hassle once inserted.

It lasts forever

Okay not forever, but once implanted, IUDs do last for 3, 5 and even 10 years, depending on type and brand. That makes birth control just one less thing for busy women to worry about.

Reduced cost

In the past, the insertion of an IUD could have cost upwards of $1000. However, the Affordable Care Act has made it a requirement that health insurance cover all types of birth control at no cost. Thanks, Obama. Even though some uncertainties surrounding the adoption of the Act remain, for many an IUD is now a completely cost-free option.

No hormones!

There are several different brands of IUDs on the market, including one that does not release hormones into a woman’s body. Women of the yoga-doing, clean-living, organic-eating variety (and other women, too!) appreciate the ability to use a reliable form of birth control that does not involve hormones.

What about you? How do you feel about IUDs?

Despite all the recent good press, negative attitudes about IUDs persist. In a recent Glow poll, we asked 20,000 women for their perception of IUDs. 46% responded, “They scare me.” Only 14% of respondents answered, “They are great!”

For those scared of IUDs, it could make sense to discuss your fears with your doctor–and your doctor might even be eager for the conversation. In 2011, ACOG adopted new guidelines encouraging physicians to discuss IUDs with patients. The American Academy of Pediatrics followed last year by endorsing IUDs as a first-line contraceptive option for teenage girls.  

It’s true that inserting an IUD is a procedure like a pap smear, with possible discomfort initially and irregular spotting in the first few months. However, that could be a reasonable price to pay considering the long-lasting nature of this device, as well as the fact that you will not need to fear an unplanned pregnancy for a good long while. Wouldn’t that be an IUDream :)

Glow + Google = No More Period Surprises

We’ve all been that woman. Quickly sneaking away to the bathroom on a busy afternoon, locking the stall door, unbuttoning the blue jeans—only to meet the inevitable stain.  A four letter word finds its way to the tip of the tongue. It has arrived.

Starting today, Android users will have yet another way to remember that the crimson wave is on its way. Glow and Google have partnered to provide helpful card reminders in your Google app, so that you’re alerted to your upcoming period days before it happens.  Now cards will also pop up in anticipation of your ovulation window, keeping you fully aware of when it starts and ends. The Glow app does this, but now Google will do it, too.  Glow is Google’s first period tracker partner—and we think the new cards are way cool.

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No more awkwardly asking your friend for an extra tampon. No more emergency runs to the pharmacy. No more artfully folding toilet paper into a makeshift pad that you *hope* will last through the hour. Glow: 2. Period: 0.