Monday, October 30, 2006

'Lab-made sperm' fertility hope

(image: BBC)

To go with the earlier post about the artificial womb. Now, we're finally almost at the point where we can remove humans from the reproductive process altogether.

From the BBC:
"Scientists have proved for the first time that sperm grown from embryonic stem cells can be used to produce offspring.

The discovery in mice could ultimately help couples affected by male fertility problems to conceive...

The experiment was carried out using mice and produced seven babies, six of which lived to adulthood.

However, the mice showed abnormal patterns of growth, and other problems, such as difficulty breathing
More here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Adoption and Fertility

Last night on the panel, interestingly, the two adoptive parents tried to conceive, decided they were infertile, then turned to international adoption. And BOTH became pregnant *after* the international adoption. I've heard this story SO many times, I almost think adoption is one of the greatest fertility enhancers ever.

Obviously, it has to do with stress, expectations, our goal-oriented culture, etc. Makes you think, ey?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

For Local Yokels: Transracial Adoption Discussion & Panel

For anyone in the Providence, RI area:

Wednesday 25 October 2006: TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION PANEL, 7:00 pm Wilson 102

Brown Ethnic Studies faculty Marie Myung-Ok Lee, adopted students, and parents of adoptees gather together to discuss the challenges of transracial adoption. Sponsored by Multiracial Heritage Week

(Wilson Hall is on the Main Green of the Brown University campus)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Downward Flow...

Thi is from the Seventh Generation siteThe Non-Toxic Times Newsletter - Seventh Generation:
"Riding the Crimson Highway With Aunt Flo: Announcing The Tampontification Tour!"
Part of this campaign is to bring talking about menses out of the closet, which I thoroughly encourage and applaud.

But I'm not thrilled about tampons being seen as the normal way to control "Aunt Flo." When I first discovered tampons, Hello, Judy Blume? I thought they were a clever solution to a rather unspeakable "problem," just like contact lenses were a clever answer to my unspeakably thick-lensed glasses.

But the more I'm learning about the way menstruation works, the more I am to concur with the natural medicines types (I also remembered my mother being so horrified when being introduced to American tampons and their function) who believe the flow should not be obstructed. Menstruation is a kind of cleansing period for the body, so let's not keep it in a moment longer. Just as the fetus, unfortunately, becomes uber-magnet for toxins (e.g., lead released from mother's bones, mercury from that tunafish sandwich or flu shot), so too the endometrium bears the junk that doesn't belong in the body. I used think I was doing okay and being green by using to use sea sponges but even that's too obstructive for me. Back to pads, or, more accurately, being on the rag.

I bought some cool homemade organic fabric pads off Ebay, but when I travel for short distances, these Pleasure Puss patterned pads (but not organic), are pleasant because the patterns on the pads make the you-know-what less noticeable, and they come with their own bag that you can stash them in until you get home. The owner of the site, Nadia, is also knowledgeable and nice.

Lastly but not leastly, the National Women’s Health Network estimates that in the United States alone, more than 12 billion pads and 7 million tampons are used once and disposed of every year. They take a very long time to break down and release toxic chemicals into the earth.

So if you must disposable tampon or pad yourself, at least try for the organic/ non-chlorine bleach whitened ones. I definitely wouldn't advise sticking some chloriney dioxiny polyestery plug in there.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Father: I didn't want Madonna adoption - "
The father of the Malawian boy Madonna plans to adopt added a fresh twist to the saga, saying he never intended his son to be adopted by the pop diva, but only for her to raise the child on his behalf.

In an interview with Reuters Television in his home village of Lipunga on Saturday, Yohane Banda said Madonna asked that she be able to raise his one-year-old son on his behalf, rather than that the child should become her own.

Banda's statement is a major shift from his earlier remarks last week when he railed against human rights groups that have gone to court to stop Madonna from adopting his son David.

'Had they told us that Madonna wanted to adopt my son and make him her own son, we would not have agreed to that,' Banda said in his local language of Chichewa.

'It would have been better for him to continue staying at the orphanage because I see no reason why my child should be given away forever when I can feed him,' he said, speaking at his village of Lipunga near the Zambia border late on Saturday."

I know Madonna's not going to take my advice, but maybe she should just do the "Nobel" thing and give the father a micro-loan so he can take care of and raise his own son...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Review: Living Harvest Hemp Oil

My beady little eyes always light up when a company goes to the trouble to put their products in glass--yes! Living Harvest makes a raw, expeller-pressed organic hemp oil that it a treat. Drizzle it on veggies, rice, use as a dipping oil if you're still eating bread.

Also, hemp seed oil has a well balanced ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFA), and Gamma Linoleic Acid (same as in Evening Primrose Oil). Hemp seed oil contains the highest amount of Essential Fatty Acids of any vegetable oil and it;s high in natural occurring antioxidants such as vitamin E and chlorophyll.

Not to mention that hemp is an easily grown, sustainable products that the doodyheads in the government (most recently, Arnie) refuse to let U.S. farmers grow because of it's association with marijuana. So support hemp products, and when the corporations see there's money to be made, we'll see that law disappear pretty fast, I think.

Wait, there's more! The extra-extra nutritive bonus of hemp is that it contains all the essential amino acids in addition to the fatty acids. Most plants are missing one or two aminos, which is why certain clever combinations food evolved: rice, corn and beans, rice and soybeans, etc. to form a complete protein. These acids are "essential" because you need them to function and your body CANNOT product them.

The University of Arizona's Biology Project gives the following summary:
"The essential amino acids (that we cannot produce internally) are arginine (required for the young, but not for adults), histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. These amino acids are required in the diet. ..

...The failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 10 essential amino acids has serious health implications and can result in degradation of the body's proteins. Muscle and other protein structures may be dismantled to obtain the one amino acid that is needed. "Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later, the amino acids must be in the food every day."(Biology Project)

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Africa's Poor Had The Best Week Ever

Wow, fellow Korean American Richard Kim, writing in a blog for The Nation, really nailed it, with a post that brings together two of the topics we've been covering here.

"Africa's poor had, like, the best week ever. Not since the days of khaki colonialism has buying Africa been so sexy, so fashionable. Early last week, Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie swooped into the village of Mphandula in Malawi and adopted 13-month old David Banda. Price tag for this celebrity accessory du jour: $3 million to anti-poverty programs and $1 million to produce a documentary on the plight of Malawi's children, one million of whom are AIDS orphans (though little David is not, his father is very much alive and planned to reclaim the child until the Material Girl made an offer)."

But don't worry, if an African baby is too pricey for you (and conjures up undesirable associations to Angelina Jolie or slavery), then you can buy Red instead. Launched this week in North America, Bono's campaign re-brands Motorola Rzr phones, Gap t-shirts, Armani sunglasses and Converse sneakers with the Product Red logo. Up to half of all profits will go to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS; a $199 Red Ipod Nano will, for example, lead to a $10 donation by Apple. Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Penelope Cruz, Christy Turlington, Chris Rock, Mary J. Blige and other celebrities have all endorsed the campaign. "Can a tank top change the world?" asks one Gap ad. In the UK, where AmEx Red donates 1% of all purchases to The Global Fund, the question was simply "Has there ever been a better reason to shop?..."
Definitely, read more here.

Kudos, Mr Kim! The FertilityBitch gives him his own Korean stone fertility statue:

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Consume for the cause?

Yesterday we spoke of breast cancer, which made me think about how I never understood how buying some chemical-laden lipstick with a pink ribbon on it was supposed to help breast cancer.

Well, I was just in NYC to watch a friend unveil her new novel, and when walking around, even in the bowels of the East Village, I felt like all I saw were these "buy red GAP items to help Africa." Can consumption for a cause ever be good? I doubt it.

Thankfully, the Worsted Witch already has it covered (the pink stuff, too):

Product Red saves African lives: “This season, you can actually feel good if your bank account is running in the red.”

[U2’s Bono]** is bringing his good-faith efforts to the mass population, teaming up with the world’s largest clothing retailer, The Gap, to sell his “Product Red” clothing line. The Gap, itself a target of quite a few anti-sweatshop activist groups, is redeeming its image with Bono’s new line of t-shirts and jeans, some of which are made in factories in Africa in order to stimulate economic growth, and as much as fifty percent of the net sales of all Product Red items will go to purchase AIDS anti-retroviral drugs.

Product Red doesn’t stop at The Gap’s doors either. Apple has launched a Product Red iPod nano and Motorola a Product Red Razr phone, and Emporio Armani and Converse are also selling items under the label. Donations are made by each of these companies to provide AIDS medication.

I threw up this link partly for the crybabies who bawl about how the poor megacorporations JUST WANT TO BE LOVED. (Not that I care about them, because, trust me, I don’t.) But also mainly because my old grad-school roommate is a HUGE Bono fan of terrifying proportions and she would wallop me with a giant cannoli till I lost all consciousness if I didn’t give the man props. So this is for you, Maria. Because you’ve watched The Godfather trilogy far too many times for comfort and I’m afraid for my family.

And in case anyone thought I was getting soft in my old age …

Product Red kills African lives: “[S]pare me the fantasy that shopping till you drop somehow affects radical change.”

In the place of anything resembling citizenship we have consumer choices, “innovation” and above all brand marketing, which is even now in Product Red being cast as some sort of corporate largesse. (”Isn’t it so great that the Gap and Apple would submerge their own brand identity,” glowed many a business page article). Shopping is sharing, and the unprecedented accumulation of wealth squares entirely with “ending poverty”—just ask Gates or Warren Buffet. In their world, fighting AIDS somehow never seems to query how Europe and the US underdeveloped Africa and how the continent’s abundant resources are still exploited by the world’s wealthy.

And as this smart blogger points out, the AmEx board is stacked with former and current CEOs and directors of major Pharma companies who waged a genocidal campaign against the generic production of AIDS drugs. At 1 percent of AmEx Red profits, absolution comes cheap these days, don’t it?


** Also, Bono's the one who jets around in a football-field sized plane, which I think consumes something like the equivalent of the yearly gas supply of a 100 Hummers of something like that for one little trip to Africa. I do admire the man, but ask him, please think about that!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mammograms: more complicated than meets the eye

My midwives hate it when it's time for my yearly checkup because we get into a gigantic fight about mammograms, which they believe everyone should get starting in your late thirties. The last two times I was in, I said, "haven't you read the studies that show little difference in outcome between people who do and don't have mammograms AND the slight increase in cancer in people who have yearly ones--possibly because the radiation involved promotes tumors?"

In the aftermath of my most recent checkup, the midwife even said, "Could you, uh, not be so loud and not talk about it in front of the other patients?"

Why not? I think being informed in one's healthcare decisions is prudent, but more often than not, healthcare providers see anyone who doesn't meekly and unthinkingly obey as a pain in the ass. From the BBC:
Lead researcher Dr Peter Gotzsche, of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, said: "Women invited to screening should be fully informed of both benefits and harm.

"When screening advocates and their organisations produce information materials, they generally emphasise the benefits and omit information on the major harms.

"This needs to be corrected to ensure that women can give genuinely informed consent before joining a screening programme."

In 2001, the same authors concluded there was no convincing evidence that screening programmes reduce mortality from the disease.
Not to mention: They also revealed a further 200 women out of every 2,000 experienced distress and anxiety because of false positives - a result that indicated a cancer was present but was later found to be wrong.

I'm not saying that mammograms are completely useless--they DO detect cancers. But for every one person whose life is prolonged, 10 people will have unecessary (and perhaps life shortening--think of stress, invasive surgery, toxic chemo/radiation) treatment.

And I'm not making recommendations to others, but letting your know that I myself am opting out of getting my boobs mushed for no good reason. I'd rather spend that time taking a walk in the fresh air.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Occasional CELEBRITY FERTILITY column: Madonna adopts a "Colorful" Child

In an earlier post I wrote about how according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Angelina Jolie's adoption of a child from Ethiopia caused a mini-run on Ethiopian babies. Not to mention her back-to-the-primeval birthing in Namibia (well, with her OB very un-environmentally being flown in from L.A.) made fellow-celebrity Brittney Spears look into giving birth in that African country as well.
So now Madonna has adopted from Malawi:
One-year-old David Banda flew from Johannesburg overnight with a bodyguard and Madonna's personal assistant.

The baby arrived at London's Heathrow airport at 0630 BST, despite claims by some charities that the rules on adoption have been bent for the star.

A statement from the star's publicist confirmed Madonna had been granted an interim adoption of the child.

The decision by a Malawian court gives the singer and her husband, film-maker Guy Ritchie, temporary custody of 13-month-old David Banda for 18 months.

A group of charities in Malawi had tried to stop the adoption, claiming it was unlawful because Madonna has not lived in the African country...

...The boy's father, Yohame Banda, has agreed to the adoption.

"What I want is a good life for my child," he said.
It's disturbing that the child still has a living parent, not to mention extended family. The whole first world/third world implications of this are inescapeable. I think it probably has to do with how, unlike, say, the already-damaged American child (perhaps in foster care?), the cute UNICEF-type baby being infinitely malleable and capable of reinvention (and who better to be his mother than the champion chameleon Madge herself?)

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Review: Excalibur Dehydrator

To be filed under: favorite toys.

Our 9-tray Excalibur Dehydrator is one of the healthiest eco-friendly made-in-USA kitchen helpers ever. I used to dehydrate the surfeit of tomatoes we'd get at the end of the CSA season in the oven set on low with mixed results. This dehydrator circulates the air so you get nice even drying, has adjustable temps (we like low and slow to preserve enzymes), and have feel a bit Little House on the Prairie with all the food we are putting up.

We've made yummy beefalo jerky, apple chips, banana chip, dried tomatoes (my mom ate a whole bowl), veggie crackers, and I'm in the process of drying some spirulina bars.

We've also soaked/sprouted nuts and dried them, which makes them taste better and are easier to digest, and drying them at around 105f (temps are adjustable, you need higher heat for meat, etc.) preserves the enzymes. Hm.....think we like this? It's also supposed to be economical energy-wise.

Apparently you can also make your own fruit or yogurt rollups and millions of other things we have not yet begun to explore...

I also know (preggy ladies take note) that you can dehydrate veggies and things into a powder and reconstitute them in water or milk for nutritious LIVING baby foods when it's time for solids.

Hm, I guess I like this!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Artificial Womb

Hm, is this what I need?

From The Observer:
"Doctors are developing artificial wombs in which embryos can grow outside a woman's body. The work has been hailed as a breakthrough in treating the childless.

Scientists have created prototypes made out of cells extracted from women's bodies. Embryos successfully attached themselves to the walls of these laboratory wombs and began to grow..."
This is getting weird; will women (and men?) someday be obsolete? Is it unequivocably good to trick an embryo to attach to an artificial womb? Could one view this project as a male attempt at claiming, through technology, a process that once was uniquely a woman's? It's all a little too Brave New World for me:
"This hive of industry," as the Director was fond of calling it, was in the full buzz of work. Every one was busy, everything in ordered motion. Under the microscopes, their long tails furiously lashing, spermatozoa were burrowing head first into eggs; and, fertilized...From the Social Predestination Room the escalators went rumbling down into the basement, and there, in the crimson darkness, stewingly warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones, the foetuses grew and grew or, poisoned, languished into a stunted Epsilonhood. With a faint hum and rattle the moving racks crawled imperceptibly through the weeks and the recapitulated aeons to where, in the Decanting Room, the newly-unbottled babes uttered their first yell of horror and amazement."

from Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

I think you remember what happens next...dystopia!

p.s. thanks for all your notes of support--very much appreciated. You can see you've helped me feel better as I'm back bringing you the best/worst of fertility related news...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Good News, the Bad News (More Acupuncture Stories)

Since everyone who takes the time to read and/or comment here is honoring me with their precious time, I've decided that in turn, anyone who wants to come along for this journey will get nothing but the straight stuff from me. No coy, hey, I'm four-months pregnant! announcements.

The good news and bad news all at once: I was pregnant.

If you've followed the other acupuncture/TCM posts, you know we weren't supposed to "try" this month, so it's actually an interesting sign that we did successfully conceive even though (ironically) this month we tried NOT to (reverse psychology anyone?)

It's still kind of sad when this happens, even when I KNOW I have the sludgy womb problem--what embryo wants to grow in a messy house? I keep imagining it being like trying to find some floor space in my messy office covered with books and papers and cookie crumbs (gluten free, though). I'm supposed to take the whole next month or two "off" and see what happens next.

p.s. I brought a bunch of cheapo early pregnancy tests from . This might just be my experience, but almost 2 weeks past my period it was still saying I wasn't pregnant, then when I overcame my cheapness and bought a First Response drugstore test the same day, it went positive in less than 10 seconds. Oops! Just an FYI

Friday, October 06, 2006

Happy (?) Columbus Day

I'm actually not on vacation, am off to a conference for a few days. And yes, I'm still late...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Red Seaweed as HPV/cervical cancer preventative

The Triple Helix is a magazine of young scientists/med students/etc. that's published here at Brown, and I find it really well done and chockablock with fascinating info, such as this tidbit about carageenan, a derivative of red seaweed and a natural binder of lots of health foods and cosmetic products:
In a recent study by the National Cancer Institute, researchers have found that the common food additive carageenan is effective in protecting against HPV (human papillomavirus) infections and cervical cancer...

Shown to cause cervical cancer in humans, the HPV virus attacks cells by attaching to proteins on the cellular surface, chemically gaining access to the cells of the cervix. Carageenan was found to prevent infection by inhibiting the virus from attaching to cells, working at concentrations 100-times lower than the best viral inhibitors currently employed...

Microbicides made of carageenan would be much less costly than the current $360 vaccine available on the market, making this treatment much more accessible to women in the United States and abroad. Cervical cancer afflicts 10,000 women in the United States each year, and about 250,000 women worldwide die from the disease annually...

Carageenan has been shown to provide protection from other diseases as well, including the herpes simplex virus (HSV), the virus that causes cold sores. Used as a thickener in household products like yogurt and toothpaste, carageenan is safe and readily available, and scientists claim that carageenan could become one of the best preventatives available to block against the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
Nahhhh, let's just give everyone a vaccine instead. And poor people? Screw 'em!

Anyway, Korean folklore has seaweed in general as being good for you. Some studies have shown it inhibits tumor growth, and at the very least, it has lots of iodine for the old thyroid and trace minerals--don't forget, you go back far enough, we probably all crawled out of the sea.

Dulse is one red seaweed that's pretty tasty (I'm not sure it's EXACTLY the one carageenan is taken from, but it's in the same family). I get most of my seaweed from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, because their products are organic AND they test for heavy metals!

Aaaaaand, it's associated with fertility (which could be because the iodine helps the thyroid, which helps the get the picture) From Susun Weed:

Dulse, blood mystery of the sea. Dulse, daily, is a wonderful ally for strengthening women. With her dark purple-red color and her ever-changing shape, dulse is as red and changing as a woman's moon time. She is the image of uterine power and mystery. With her beneficial yeasts, proteins, and minerals, dulse is an optimum nourisher for uterus and nerves.
-Susun S. Weed, Healing Wise

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Acupuncture Stories

My late father, "Dr. Lee," was an acupuncturist, and so I guess whenever any of his patients saw this Ziggy potholder, they bought it for him, the result being we had about 8,000 of these in the house. So when he passed on I kept this, except I don't actually USE it.

I'm supposed to spend a few months getting rebalanced using the herbs, tuina massage, and 2x/week painful acupuncture. We're not supposed to "try" during this time, as the whole point is to get the downward flow going.

Only problem is, there is no flow, downward or otherwise. I'm late by about 2 days, which is weird because I'm usually very regular. I took a home pregnancy test, so I'm not to be pregnant. I guess it's good that it's something different...but strange.

p.s. Technorati has stopped paying attention to GreenFertility since about a month ago, even though I have been manually pinging--what a waste of precious time. A complimentary copy of my novel with LOTS of compliments to anyone who can get it going again.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Milk Chug on Train

Okay people, so I was on the train going up for my usual acupuncture and torture--I mean tuina--massage and the lady sitting across from me (who didn't look healthy to begin with) pulls out this awful thing called a "milk chug," which she proceeded to...chug. The whole thing. It made me queasy just thinking about it, and I was thinking how the Euro-American types have the super-duper milk digesting gene or something. I don't think I've had straight milk in...decades?

Ten minutes later, though, she was discreetly clutching her tum, even sticking her hand under her shirt, and looking mighty dyspeptic. Looking around me today as I strolled in Boston, I was amazed to see how much milk people were coffee, the chug, one woman even had a Nalgene bottle full of milk. Oh, I should mention the coffee milk is the state drink of Rhode Island or something--something to do with some coffee company deciding this was the way to use up old coffee grounds. Yep, yep, yep, you can always count on a company to have our best interests at heart.

Anyone here really like milk?

If you want to watch people throw up milk in real time, don't miss this video:

Tomorrow: another dispatch from acupuncture session. Bet you'll be sitting on pins and needles in the meantime....