Biology of Women / Edition 4

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Centered around the health of the human female throughout the lifespan, Biology of Women continues to provide a basic framework upon which health related issues can be discussed. Now in its fourth edition, the text remains unique due to its biological depth for medical professionals with the readability for non-major students. A woman's reproductive life and psychological issues are covered, as well as an examination of the sociological and cultural factors that influence a woman's nutrition and physical activity. New pedagogical features to this edition include case studies, glossary of terms, controversial treatment options, and historical perspectives.

AIDS, assisted reproductive technologies, mam- mography, silicone breast implants, PMS RU-486, etc.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780766811423
  • Publisher: Cengage Learning
  • Publication date: 11/7/2001
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 672
  • Product dimensions: 8.18 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Deceased—Former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Wisconsin

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Women and Their Health

A number of the women's health advocates hired their own physicians and started their own women-controlled feminist health centers. Some offered a wide range of gynecological, contraceptive, childbearing, and feminist therapy services. The New Hampshire Federation of Feminist Health Centers, one of the few that is still alive and well today, publishes WomanWise, a quarterly newsletter in "the spirit of sharing information and experiences so that all women may become like the wise women of our heritage-sensitive, caring, powerful, and wise." In some of the collectives the goals expanded beyond consciousness-raising, the development of better-informed patients, and improved patient-practitioner relationships, to more radical self-help activity. Selfhelp emphasized self-examination with the conviction that increased knowledge is the way to increased power and control.

A movie produced in 1974 by Cambridge Documentary Films, Inc. is a wonderful example of the self-help and self-health philosophy of the women's health collectives. Called Taking Our Bodies Back, the film, which still is available on video from the production company, made an eloquent and powerful statement about women's dissatisfaction with the health care they were receiving and expressed women's developing assertiveness in trying to regain control of their bodies. In a series of vignettes, the movie illustrated many of the women's health issues of the time-unnecessary surgery, the lack of options in breast cancer treatment, the way women generally, and teenagers in particular, were not given the information or the opportunity to make informed choices aboutbirth control, and the demeaning way in which minority women often experience medical treatment. But perhaps the most graphic depiction of the way things were in the early days of the women's health movement occurs at the beginning of the film, when a young woman demonstrates how to perform vaginal self-examination. In the opening scene, she is standing on a platform in front of a large audience and showing and describing a plastic speculum, an instrument that is inserted into the vagina to spread apart the vaginal walls. She jokes about its "duck-bill" bivalves, and says she had to buy one for her little boy as well as herself because he wanted it as a "quackquack" toy. The audience laughs, and she goes on, talking rapidly. Moving very quickly now, she climbs up on a table, puts herself into the familiar gynecological examination position, inserts the speculum, and the movie camera and lights focus in to frame . . . of all things! The audience is being invited to look at her cervix! The women in the film solemnly file past her, their excitement and interest apparent on their faces. They are fascinated and, surprisingly, there is no embarrassed laughter. All the women are seeing a part of a woman's body they have never seen before, a portion of their reproductive tracts that until that moment has been visible only to their doctors-and they evidently are captivated by the sight.

To doctors and many others, such a demonstration on film of how to look at your own cervix was a prime example of the lunatic fringe of the women's health movement. Peering into body orifices always had been the prerogative of the physician. Why would a woman want to look at her own or another woman's cervix? For a woman to buy a plastic speculum and twist herself into a pretzel to do a vaginal examination-what a strange idea! Why would she do it?

The reason for a woman's desire or need for self-examination, however, was not just in seeing the cervix; she can look at a drawing in an anatomy book. The importance of looking was in the demystification of her own body. Vaginal examination was the initial symbol of self-help, the way women began to take their bodies back from the medical profession. Most women, even after studying human reproduction in school, still are fairly ignorant and hence uncomfortable about their own reproductive anatomy. Most men are not. The genital organs of a man are exposed, easily visible; they can be seen and touched, and are-many times a day. If any changes occur, the man can note and describe them himself. But in a woman, the reproductive organs cannot be seen. They are internal and not easily subject to examination. What cannot be seen-a woman's cervix, uterus, ovaries-almost can be forgotten; and yet a woman knows that such aspects of her body are at the very core of her sexuality, of her womanhood. Thus, such organs are there-but-not-there, like secrets that women, the owners of these things, cannot understand. What women are, reproductively, remains hidden to them, enigmatic and strange.

If all women took a mirror and a diagram of their anatomy and then viewed and examined their own external genitalia, they would progress tremendously in selfawareness and in the reassurance that everything is "normal." And since the cervix is the most accessible part of the internal reproductive tract of the female, inserting a plastic speculum and looking at it, for many women, is a way of feeling more comfortable about their reproductive organs, a way of dispelling much of the mystique that surrounds them.

Of course, the choice of whether or not to look at the cervix is up to the woman. For many of us, knowing about our reproductive organs is enough, and we really do not choose to examine them. Besides, there are strong cultural taboos stemming from childhood that discourage touching or tampering with one's self "down there." Only men legitimately are allowed to touch and, when they are doctors, to examine and describe the reproductive anatomy of females. Not only are the members of the medical profession (who are still 85% male) permitted to do so-continued health and good preventive medicine make it a requirement. And so, once or twice a year, a woman is encouraged to see her doctor for her pelvic examination, when the position, size, shape, and general health of her reproductive organs are checked.

The specialist in obstetrics and gynecology (Ob/Gyn) is the acknowledged expert, the authority within the medical profession on the aspect of a woman's life so highly valued in our society-that pertaining to the sexual organs. Nonpregnant healthy women consult their Ob/Gyn for their routine gynecological examination. An increasing number of women have no family doctor and rely on their Ob/Gyn for an evaluation of their general health as well. A woman may ask her physician for advice about any medical problem, sexual matter, becoming pregnant, or about avoiding pregnancy. She exposes her most intimate self and her most intimate problems to her Ob/Gyn-the doctor a healthy woman visits most frequently. The experience could be informative and reassuring, or it could be an ordeal. It depends on the physician...

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Women and Their Health: From Early Feminism Through the Millenium. Chapter 2: Reproductive Anatomy. Chapter 3: The Menstrual Cylce and Its Hormonal Interrelationships. Chapter 4: Menstrual Problems: Causes and Treatments. Chapter 5: The Basis of Biological Differences. Chapter 6: Female Sexuality. Chapter 7: The Mammary Glans. Chapter 8: The Gunecological Exam. Chapter 9: Gynecological Difficulties. Chapter 10: HIV/AIDS in Women. Chapter 11: Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery. Chapter 12: Problems of Infertility. Chapter 13: Problems of Fertility - Contraception. Chapter 14: Menopause. Chapter 15: Health and the Working Woman. Chapter 16: Cosmetics: The Multibillion Dollar Put-On. Chapter 17: Our Health in Our Hands.

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