Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era

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America's best-selling book on all aspects of women's health

With more than four million copies sold, Our Bodies, Ourselves is the classic resource that women of all ages can turn to for information about every aspect of their well-being. Completely revised for the first time in a decade, these pages give women everything they need for making key decisions about their health ? from definitive information from today's leading experts to personal stories from other women just ...

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Overview

America's best-selling book on all aspects of women's health

With more than four million copies sold, Our Bodies, Ourselves is the classic resource that women of all ages can turn to for information about every aspect of their well-being. Completely revised for the first time in a decade, these pages give women everything they need for making key decisions about their health — from definitive information from today's leading experts to personal stories from other women just like them. This updated edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves includes the latest on:

• Nutrition and exercise

• Relationships, sexuality, and sexual health

• Complementary health practices

• Reproductive choices, pregnancy, and childbearing

• Growing older

• Medical testing and procedures

Together with its companion website (www.ourbodiesourselves.org), Our Bodies, Ourselves is a one-stop resource for women of all generations.

Plus: The rearranged food pyramid, a chapter about sexual orientation and gender identity, advice for making safer sex more fun, the latest on breast-feeding, support for women experiencing pregnancy loss, and a section devoted to getting the best care in today's complicated health care system.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The original edition of 1970's now-classic Our Bodies, Ourselves has sold more than three million copies, and the revised and expanded edition will likely prove equally popular among women of all ages. According to the authors, some of them among the original contributors, knowledge is power, but women will make little change in the medical and health-care industries unless they join forces with other women at home and around the world. Like its predecessor, this volume is wide in scope (but lacking in depth), and has a profoundly feminist perspective as it emphasizes sexual health, reproductive rights, community-based organization and the political, economic and social conditions that limit women's access to quality health care. Much of the new information details recent health research on women's needs and inequities in medical care for men and women, and reflects the experiences of different ethnicities, sexual preferences and economic backgrounds. Women are the primary consumers of health care in the U.S., but, the authors say, they are grossly underserved. In addition, the medical community has viewed many life-stage conditions-pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome, menopause-as illnesses rather than natural processes that require teams of supportive practitioners. The book's rousing political orientation may motivate readers to access the numerous resources listed or the companion OBOS Web site. More than a book, OBOS is a health movement and deserves a place on every woman's bookshelf. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Journal of the American Medical Association

"A mother lode of information and resources for the client/consumer and the physician."

Library Journal

"Its strength lies not only in the huge amount of information provided but also in the methodology. Topics range from diet and exercise to relationships, motherhood, sexuality, and physical and mental illnesses; coverage of each is exceedingly readable, strikingly comprehensive, and thoroughly documented."

-- (starred review)

Publishers Weekly

"More than a book, OBOS is a health movement and deserves a place on every woman's bookshelf."

Library Journal
First published in 1970, this classic has been completely overhauled but maintains its aim to empower women by addressing a wide range of health issues in a practical manner. Its strength lies not only in the huge amount of information provided but also in the methodology. Topics range from diet and exercise to relationships, motherhood, sexuality, and physical and mental illnesses; coverage of each is exceedingly readable, strikingly comprehensive, and thoroughly documented. Upwards of 400 women-and a number of men-impart their personal stories in italicized passages throughout. Readers will note the contemporary design and updated photographs, as well as a companion web site (www.ourbodiesourselves.org) with additional and updated data. Somewhat more psychosocial in approach than The New Harvard Guide to Women's Health (2004), this remarkable and necessary resource is recommended for all libraries and for individual purchase.-Linda M.G. Katz, Drexel Univ. Health Sciences Libs., Philadelphia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743256117
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 4/19/2005
  • Edition description: 35th Anniversary Edition
  • Edition number: 35
  • Pages: 848
  • Product dimensions: 9.06 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 1.71 (d)

Meet the Author

The Boston Women's Health Book Collective (now known as Our Bodies Ourselves) is a non-profit organization founded in 1969 whose board members include Teresa Heinz Kerry, Susan Love, and Gloria Steinem. Their mission is to empower women by providing information about health, sexuality, and reproduction. Our Bodies, Ourselves is the organization's core vehicle for driving their mission. While OBOS is famous for its voice in policy, advocacy, and educational efforts related to women's health, they see their role as a global content provider as paramount. Judy Norsigian is the Executive Director of Our Bodies Ourselves.

The Boston Women's Health Book Collective (now known as Our Bodies Ourselves) is a non-profit organization founded in 1969 whose board members include Teresa Heinz Kerry, Susan Love, and Gloria Steinem. Their mission is to empower women by providing information about health, sexuality, and reproduction. Our Bodies, Ourselves is the organization's core vehicle for driving their mission. While OBOS is famous for its voice in policy, advocacy, and educational efforts related to women's health, they see their role as a global content provider as paramount. Judy Norsigian is the Executive Director of Our Bodies Ourselves.

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Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

We are delighted to present Our Bodies, Ourselves—an in-depth look at women’s sexuality and reproductive health, from the first gynecological exam to sexual health in our later years.

Since its first newsprint edition published in the early 1970s, Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS) has enabled women to learn about their bodies, gain insight from the experiences of other women, and consider how best to achieve political and cultural changes that would improve women’s lives. This completely revised and updated ninth edition, released on OBOS’s fortieth anniversary, covers topics ranging from sexual anatomy, body image, and gender identity to pregnancy and birth, perimenopause/menopause, and navigating the health-care system.

This edition reflects the perspective and voices of a wide range of women, and their stories are told through new formats. At our invitation, more than three dozen women of all ages and identities participated in a monthlong online conversation about sexuality and relationships; we found their honesty and forthrightness so compelling that the conversation itself became the foundation of a new “Relationships” chapter.

Other new voices include women’s organizations around the world that have created their own resources adapted from Our Bodies, Ourselves. Throughout the book, you will meet members of the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network and read about their work on issues such as abortion, infertility, HIV education and prevention, and social activism. From distributing posters via canoes in rural Nigeria to setting up interactive websites in Israel and Turkey and reshaping health policy in Nepal and Armenia, their efforts exemplify movement building and the power of voices raised in action.

This edition focuses on the core health issues—reproductive health and sexuality—that first brought the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective together. Some topics added over the years—such as nutrition, emotional health, and medical conditions that disproportionately or differently affect women—have been omitted this time, in part because information is now more readily available elsewhere. This has given us room to expand on issues such as reproductive rights, violence against women, and environmental health, which not only are centrally related to women’s sexual health and well-being but also are areas where, despite decades of advocacy and activism, women still face enormous challenges and obstacles that prevent them from leading safe and healthy lives.

Our Bodies, Ourselves is both a text dedicated to factual information grounded in the best available evidence and a resource about health-care inequities and the work of those dedicated to ending social injustices. The many contributors to this book did not always agree on how to analyze the social, economic, and political forces that affect women’s health or how to characterize a medical controversy. When a conclusion remains uncertain, we have shared their questions and concerns so readers can make their own decisions in the absence of the kind of evidence we ultimately hope will be available. Our website (ourbodiesourselves.org) contains additional content, references, and useful links on women’s health topics not covered in this book.

Note

OUR BODIES OURSELVES GLOBAL INITIATIVE

Ever since Our Bodies, Ourselves became a best seller in the United States, it has inspired women in other countries to adapt it—in part or as a whole—to their unique cultural needs. Through the our Bodies ourselves Global Initiative, we support more than twenty-two women’s organizations as they develop materials based on Our Bodies, Ourselves and use their resources in wide-scale outreach to advance the health and human rights of women and girls in their countries. Although the earliest projects were located primarily in Europe, we have since collaborated with organizations across Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe to bring culturally meaningful and reliable information to communities where it is most needed. As a result of our partnerships, resources based on the book are now available in more than twenty-five languages and in print, digital, and other socially interactive formats. You will read about our partners in the “In Translation” sidebars and we invite you to visit ourbodiesourselves.org/programs/network to learn more.

As always, we recognize how the personal is often political and thus underscore when individual solutions are not possible or not lasting. Throughout the book, women who have joined with others to bring about change share their stories. The combination of practical information with political critique and women’s lived experiences has long been the hallmark of Our Bodies, Ourselves and is one of the reasons the book has remained one of the most enduring legacies of the women’s movements that grew out of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Much has changed in the United States since the first edition, when abortion was illegal, birth control was not widely available, and the few available texts on women’s health and sexuality—almost all written by men—discounted women’s experiences and perspectives. Today, information is abundant, but it is still difficult to find reliable information that encompasses the diversity of women’s experiences and teases apart the conflicts of interest inherent in many issues that affect women’s health. Far too often, corporate and pharmaceutical interests influence medical research, information, and care, and contribute to the unnecessary medicalization of women’s bodies and lives. This not only wastes money and poses avoidable risks but also can discourage women from questioning the assumptions underlying the care they receive and from valuing and sharing their own insights and experiences. The need for a book like Our Bodies, Ourselves remains as strong as ever.

Changing the medical system, organizing for better care, and altering the larger social, political, and economic forces that limit women’s lives require creative and concerted efforts over a long period of time. We believe that enhancing reproductive health and sexual pleasure can play a significant positive role in all our lives and strengthen us as we work toward sustaining a vision of a world that will better nurture all women, men, and children. We encourage you to explore this book with curiosity and vision.

OBOS Editorial Team: Kiki Zeldes, Christine Cupaiuolo, Wendy Sanford, Judy Norsigian, Amy Romano, June Tsang, and Ayesha Chatterjee Spring 2011

© 2011 the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective

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Table of Contents

Introduction : a letter from founders of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective
1 Body image 3
2 Eating well 19
3 Alcohol, tobacco, and other mood-altering drugs 45
4 Our bodies in motion 57
5 Complementary health practices 67
6 Emotional well-being 82
7 Environmental and occupational health 96
8 Violence and abuse 118
9 Gender identity and sexual orientation 141
10 Relationships with men 154
11 Relationships with women 169
12 Sexuality 186
13 Sexual anatomy, reproduction, and the menstrual cycle 227
14 Safer sex 261
15 Sexually transmitted infections 272
16 HIV and AIDS 291
17 Considering parenting 309
18 Birth control 322
19 Unexpected pregnancy 381
20 Abortion 389
21 Pregnancy 419
22 Childbirth 450
23 The first year of parenting 474
24 Childbearing loss 495
25 Infertility and assisted reproduction 506
26 Midlife and menopause 527
27 Our later years 553
28 Unique to women 587
29 Special concerns for women 658
30 Navigating the health care system 701
31 The politics of women's health 719
32 Organizing for change 748
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First Chapter

Introduction

Welcome to Our Bodies, Ourselves, the classic book about women's health and sexuality that is written by women, for women. Since its first newsprint version in 1970, Our Bodies, Ourselves has been created and revised by women speaking from our own research and experiences about our bodies, health, and medical care.

This edition reflects the work of more than four hundred women -- and quite a few men -- who share both personal stories and health information based on the latest scientific evidence. The result is a new Our Bodies, Ourselves, rewritten for today's realities.

Changing Times, Continuing Need

Much has changed since the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the group that became the Boston Women's Health Book Collective first started to meet. Abortion is now legal (though threatened), and birth control options have increased; the AIDS epidemic has made safer sex a subject of public discussion; and lesbian and gay couples have the right to marry, at least in Massachusetts. Many groups, including an active movement of women with breast cancer, have drawn new attention to environmental factors in disease and to the politics of research funding. More health care providers are women now, and doctors and medical researchers of both sexes tend to be more sensitive to and knowledgeable about women's concerns than doctors of an earlier generation. Information on women's health is widely available.

But the need for a book like Our Bodies, Ourselves remains. Too much medical care still focuses on the expensive "solutions" of drugs and surgery, rather than on preventionor management strategies such as good food and exercise, a clean environment, and safe working conditions. Too often, women's life experiences, from childbirth to menopause, are seen as diseases to be treated rather than natural, healthy processes that sometimes have problems. And too many of us still don't have the knowledge and resources to participate effectively in maintaining our health.

Self-help and Beyond

This book offers individual women the tools to take care of ourselves, from eating well and becoming more physically active to learning how to cope better with stress. It provides helpful, clear information about substance abuse, heart disease, eating disorders, and many other conditions that women confront. A new chapter, "Navigating the Health Care System," provides practical advice for getting the best care possible.

Yet Our Bodies, Ourselves is about more than self-help. Many aspects of our health, from workplace safety to sexual violence, are often beyond an individual's control. Therefore, this book addresses the political, economic, and social factors that affect our health and medical care: the industrial plants spewing pollution, the fast-food giants pushing junk food, the pharmaceutical companies unethically promoting drugs, the government dismantling our social safety net. We can change these conditions only by working together, sharing our stories with other women, and advocating for policies and programs that protect the health of our families, our communities, and the world.

Many Women's Voices

Despite some changes, this edition retains one of the distinctive traits of Our Bodies, Ourselves: the use of real women's voices. These first-person stories, set off in italicized passages throughout the text, have been collected from conversations, letters, and e-mail messages that spanned the globe.

Diverse voices are also embodied in the all-embracing "we" of this book. When the Boston Women's Health Book Collective first wrote about "our bodies," the "we" reflected the white, mostly middle-class, well-educated background of many of its founding members. But as more diverse women have helped revise the book, the "we" has grown to include a greater variety of experiences.

Making Changes Together

No matter who we are, we often need both information and support to make healthy changes. If we are trying to get more exercise, for example, inviting a friend to share a morning walk may make it more fun. Similarly, if we are feeling overwhelmed as new mothers, we may want to join a play group with other families in the neighborhood. The same principle extends to issues beyond our individual well-being: By working together, we can bring about change and improve the health of our communities.

This new edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves serves as a first step on such paths, offering information, stories, and resources so that we can take care of ourselves -- and one another.

Heather Stephenson, managing editor

For the Boston Women's Health Book Collective

July 2004, Boston

Copyright © 1984, 1992, 1998, 2005 by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2005

    Top Resource For Women

    Love this book! I can not say enough about this book. It really help me understand a lot about myself and my relationships and eating patterns with my ups and down mood swings. Great information with realistic outlooks and affects on women lives.

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