Category: women’s health

More than 65 million people provide care for loved ones, averaging 20 hours a week. But, like many words in the health world, “caregiving,” carries around a vague set of meanings and connotations. As I write this, spellcheck is telling me that it isn’t a word (though neither is “spellcheck”) but it is a word and, more importantly it is a whole entity. It’s an act, a title, a career path, and a community of often under-recognized members of healthcare. Let’s bring caregiving into our conversation about Health Activism today.

First, let’s take a look at the official definitions for the term caregiving:

The Sloan Foundation tells us, “Caregiving is the act of providing unpaid assistance and support to family members or acquaintances who have physical, psychological, or developmental needs.”

The AARP tells us a bit more: “Person responsible for meeting the physical and psychological needs of an infant, child, or dependent adult.”

And the legal system notes that an “[i]nformal caregiver is a family member or a natural person who aids and supervises the daily cares of a disabled person.”

Who are these caregivers? The majority are family members and common examples include:

  • Parents taking care of a child who is mentally or physically ill.
  • Children taking care of an aging or sick parent.
  • Adults caring for other relatives.
  • Increasingly, there are grandparents acting as caregivers to their grandchildren.

Now let’s think about caregiving in our terms. Words like “support, needs, supervising, care” speak to our e-patient-turned-Health-Activist community. But nowhere in this caregiving research have I come across the language of “empowerment” with regards to caregiving. This is harrowing. Are caregivers empowered? Why isn’t this option being discussed? Most articles, studies, and conversation centers around the immense population of caregivers who suffer from depression and anxiety (a victory of sorts for combating stigma related to mental health) but nowhere does it discuss the alternative – the strong, self-educating, sharing, interactive caregiver. Can we turn the conversation around and commend caregivers in a way that encourages Health Activism or pride in their advocacy? I hope so.

Proof that caregivers are our peers? This 2011 Self-Identifying Caregivers Survey says, Over 90% of family caregivers become more proactive about seeking resources and skills they need to assist their care recipient after they have self-identified.” Similarly, 83% of self-identified family caregivers believe their self-awareness led to increased confidence when talking to healthcare professionals about their loved one’s care.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? These are integral traits of Health Activists.

Additionally, it probably comes as no surprise, but the relationship between women and caregiving is substantial. See if any of this information from the Family Caregiver Alliance relates to our Health Activist community:

Within our complex system of long-term care, women’s caregiving is essential in providing a backbone of support...Women provide the majority of informal care to spouses, parents, parents-in-law, friends and neighbors, and they play many roles while caregiving—hands-on health provider, care manager, friend, companion, surrogate decision-maker and advocate.5

Many studies have looked at the role of women and family caregiving. Although not all have addressed gender issues and caregiving specifically, the results are still generalizable to women because they are the majority of informal care providers in this country. Consider:

  • Estimates of the percentage of family or informal caregivers who are women range from 59% to 75%.6, 7
  • The average caregiver is age 46, female, married and working outside the home earning an annual income of $35,000.8
  • Although men also provide assistance, female caregivers may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than male caregivers.9

What if we replaced the word “caregiver” with “Health Activist” or “Parent Health Activist”? As you may know, the majority (upwards of 75%) of our own Health Activist community is female. Does this change the way you consider caregiving? How can we help empower this community of peers? According to this article by Anthony Cirillo, only 25% of caregivers turn to the web for support and community. Can there be a tailored e-patient movement for caregivers?

How can Health Activists come together to recognize those who are caregivers or caretakers and welcome them into our discussions about empowerment?



Health Activist Choice. Today’s blog post can be about anything you like. Free write! Whether you want to take inspiration from one of your community members or HAWMCers or just recap your April so far – anything and everything is fair game today. Length, topic, style – all up to you!

If you would like an idea for your post today, I would suggest joining in #StopSelfHate’s April Self Love Letter Challenge. Body Image and Voice In Recovery Activist Kendra explains her idea:

I think it is time we stop listening to the negative voices in our heads, and replace them with self love, respect and kindness. We deserve our own love and affection. So if you want to support Stop Self Hate, and fight for the right for your own self love and respect, please consider writing a love letter to yourself. It doesn’t have to be about body image, it can be about your achievements, accomplishments, reflections on your journey, or even some affirmations to help you fight for your own self love. Even if you don’t share with others, I think this assignment could help shift your perspective and help you gain a more positive outlook towards YOU. I want people to believe they matter, and to know their own worth. Whether you want to write it down on paper and scan it, or do a collage, take a picture, write a poem, or a letter, be creative! Try to search for what this Stop Self Hate movement means for you. What do you want to work on in your life and your journey?

Such a great idea, right? I think even taking a minute to consider how great you are (and how valuable you are to your community) should be a part of your day whether you choose to write a letter to yourself or not. And if you decide to write a letter to yourself today – please share a link to your post in Kendra’s blog post (as well as in the comments here). If your letter is personal – that is wonderful too – maybe just share a brief excerpt (a sentence or two?) and keep the rest for you. I think this is a powerful initiative and one that is important for everyone in all online communities and beyond to consider. Read more about StopSelfHate and connect with Kendra @StopSelfHate and @VoiceInRecovery.

What did you choose to do with your free write today?

Today I felt inspired by the popular Twitter hashtag extravaganza “Follow Friday” (#FF), where people suggest their favorite Twitter users every Friday. It’s an easy feel-good way to promote the work of others. And it’s great because it gives you new people to add to your feed! Well, I wanted to do our own version to promote awesome endeavors of Health Activists. Whether it’s a new project (like today’s very first HAFF) or an old favorite to revisit – I think this will be a good way to give virtual props to our friends who are working so hard to raise awareness in their communities. It is my hope that HAFF will be a way for you to take a minute, step outside your own health community and conditions-of-interest and learn a bit about someone else’s Health Activism. It’s easy to click “Like” or enter “ReTweet” – so why not take advantage of that and really make a difference in someone’s efforts?

Today’s very first Health Activist Follow Friday is Kendra’s new project called Stop Self Hate. You may recognize Kendra, awesome eating disorder and body image advocate and creator of “Voice in Recovery.” Through her online activism Kendra offers hope, understanding, support, and shares new research every day – and it’s always wrapped-up in genuine care and friendship, guided by her own experiences. Her passion for these topics is, I think, boundless – and her new project is a a truly inspiring one. I’ve got to share it with you!

Stop Self Hate is Kendra’s new initiative promoting self worth, “a grassroots movement fighting for self love, acceptance, and respect!” Watch Kendra’s powerful explanation of #StopSelfHate:

Isn’t this a wonderful project? I can’t wait to see it evolve and grow. Especially because, as you can see, this is an issue that affects all of us in our individual health communities and beyond. Like, Kendra, I also believe social media can/will change the way we think. Why not start that right now in a positive way?

So for this very first HAFF – let’s follow Stop Self Hate!

Click here to:
» “Like” Stop Self Hate on Facebook
» Follow @StopSelfHate on Twitter

» See what’s being discussed right now on #StopSelfHate

You can read more about this project in Kendra’s introductory blog post here. What do you think?

If you were to share one thing about your condition – what would it be?

Inspired by Amy’s awesome Women’s Health discussion “One Thing” – we have a challenge for you to bring back to your communities and to your Twitter feeds.

Amy asked: “If you could share one thing, one morsel of women’s health wisdom, with the young women of our world what would it be?” The question inspired some pretty powerful responses and sparked an idea with a few of our Health Activists. What if everyone did this for their own health condition?

By starting with just one thing – you open the door to discussion. Often we write long posts delving into a whole list of “things” that we want to share about the condition, awareness, our goals, our thoughts, our pasts. It can be a lot to digest both to write and to read.

Take a step back. Meditate on this question. Like the mantra “aum” (or “om“) – start with one thing, pause, and really sit with it  and let it resonate for a minute.

Then go to Twitter (or Facebook) and type your one thing and add the hashtag #My1Thing and another hashtag that your health community uses to tweet about your condition. (Ex: #cancer or #womenshealth)

How did writing just one thing feel? Was it difficult? Was it a good exercise? Do you want to tweet another thing ? (Go for it! Tweet as many “1 thing(s)” as you want.)

The idea is to say one thing about your specific condition – but, because we will all be using the same hashtag, everyone’s contributions will collect across conditions. I think it will be a good way to bridge gaps between communities and raise awareness. Be sure to encourage your twitter friends to get involved and tweet their “one thing.” Even if you’re not yet a Health Activist but have been touched by a health condition – this is something you can participate in.

In a few weeks we’ll check back on this and see what people have tweeted. I encourage you to check out Janeen’s discussion for another take on the #My1Thing for the Food Allergy community.

photo credit: wacky_tom on flickr

Join us on Wednesday, November 4th for an exclusive, Health Activist-only event: “When to See a Reproductive Endocrinologist: 7 Key Factors“.

Our speaker, Dr. Glenn Schatmman of Cornell University, is one of the country’s leading reproductive endocrinologists.

Health Activist participants will gain:
  • Valuable insight to help women online to make informed decisions
  • In-depth medical updates – usually reserved for physicians – about the factors that all TTC women should consider
  • Exclusive direct access to Dr. Schattman during our live Q&A session
This event is free and made possible by one of WEGO Health’s sponsors.
We’ll be offering this one-hour webinar at four different times on Wednesday, November 4th: Noon, 4PM, 6PM and 9PM (please note: all times are Eastern Standard Time)
Earn $5 for RESOLVE:
WEGO Health is always looking to improve the quality of our Health Activist events. To help us incorporate your ideas and feedback into later programs, WEGO Health will invite all webinar attendees to participate in a brief follow-up survey.
For every attendee who completes this short survey, WEGO Health will make a $5 donation to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. Your time helps us learn where we can improve and helps RESOLVE reach more families coping with infertility.
To receive your invite to this exclusive event, please complete this brief survey: Fertility Webinar Survey.

A member of the WEGO Health team will email you if you qualify for this event.
Please contact us at if you have any questions about attending “When to See a Reproductive Endocrinologist: 7 Key Factors”.

Join us on Thursday, September 3rd at 7 PM Eastern for the first-ever Women’s Health Chat on WEGO Health!

This chat is an opportunity to connect with other Women’s Health Activists, ask questions, share resources, and learn about what others are seeing in the community.

We’re thrilled to have Health Activist DinDin joining us for this chat as our Featured Health Activist and Guest Moderator. If you’re not familiar with DinDin, be sure to check out her WEGO Health Profile, as well the LiveJournal community about birth control that she moderates.

To join the chat on Thursday, simply log in on the homepage: by 7 PM Eastern. A small toolbar will show up at the bottom of your screen to join the chat.

I hope you’ll be able to join us for this exciting new event!

Please bring your questions for Adina, and indicate if you’re planning to attend by selecting an RSVP at:

I would love to see everyone make safe sex choices and reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. And I love educating people about their birth control choices and having seen firsthand how these decisions affect all of our lives.

Where to find her: Contraception since 2007 and on Twitter @Dawn_Stacey
Occupation: Writer, Advocate, Professor, Stay-at-Home Mommy

How did you first become interested in contraception, family planning, and other women’s health issues?
While pursing my Masters degree, I did an internship at Planned Parenthood that later turned into a full-time job. Through Planned Parenthood, I had the amazing chance to experience real-life struggles and joys in the area of reproductive health. I witnessed both births and abortions—so I can truly describe what to really expect during these times. This introduced me to the world of activism and how important it is to advocate for women’s health issues. Ever since, my passion for contraception and family planning has only grown.

What motivates you in your writing?
I believe that all individuals have the right to manage their fertility and should have access to accurate birth control information. I am passionate about contraception and its importance. My advocacy is what truly motivates me.

I would love to see everyone make safe sex choices and reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. And I love educating people about their birth control choices and having seen firsthand how these decisions affect all of our lives.

Who do you admire in the women’s health community?
Though she is no longer around, Margaret Sanger, in my opinion, is the epitome of reproductive health advocacy. I admire all the work that she did to pave the way to where we are today.

What are the biggest trends you see around birth control?
It seems that there has been a renewed interest in IUD use (either the Mirena IUD or the ParaGard IUD). This makes me happy since IUDs have gotten a bad rap in the past. Also, a lot of people as me about extended-cycle birth control pills. These are pills that allow a woman to manage how often she has her period. For example, Lybrel is a pill that is taken every day, so a woman can have no periods. And Seasonique is designed so that a woman only has a 4 periods a year. These are great options for women who have terrible symptoms with their periods. Plan B, emergency contraception, is also a very popular trend right now.

What are the first three tips you tell people who are trying to select a new form of birth control?
People need to know that having sex is about making choices. We choose: our partners, when we’re ready to have sex, when to wait, and what we feel comfortable doing. Now we can finally choose to have sex in the safest way.

When choosing a method, people should factor in a few things: how effective they want the method to be, how convenient, and what type of method would fit into their lifestyle best so that they will be more likely to use it. Also, are they even a candidate for this method? What are the health risks?

What is your favorite health-related website?
That’s easy… mine! One thing that I love about my contraception site is that I created the whole thing—it was my concept. When I began writing for in 2007, there was no contraception site. I was hired to build it from the ground up, so I have personally written every article and blog entry found there.

All my articles are full of accurate information and licensed medical doctors medically review them. So people can know that, without a doubt, the information I am providing is correct. (So much online info about birth control is not correct).

I also try to write in a way that people can understand since these topics can be fairly complex. My website is a wonderful platform to share my knowledge and my understanding of the personal issues that surround birth control use.

What is your favorite health-related book?
I have two – “Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health” by Toni Weschler and “Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective” by Judy Norsigian

Is your writing/project therapeutic?
Very much so. It is wonderful to know that I am helping people make very important decisions. After all, look at what is at stake if people make the wrong decisions about their contraception—pregnancy. The topics that I write about are really life-altering.

Words cannot capture the feeling I get when people tell me, via their emails, how much I have helped them or given them clarity. When I find my writing cited elsewhere on the web, it is a true testament to my job and my mission!

To connect with Dawn, visit her WEGO Health page.

In a recent study in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, scientists tracked the results of a new model of prenatal care, which incorporated dental care for a group of women in rural Kentucky.

Oral health is commonly overshadowed by the other forms of care that women require during pregnancy, including doctors visits, ultrasounds, nutritional care, vitamins and smoking cessation. But a mother’s dental health is actually a crucial factor for the health of her growing fetus. In fact, studies have shown that mothers with periodontal disease may be up to 7 times more likely to deliver a premature or low birthweight baby. And as most women are unaware that they have a periodontal infection, it is crucial that oral care be attended to in pregnant women.

Authors of the Journal of Health study reported that at the first dental examination nearly 70% of the women had cavities, but by 34-38 weeks oral health had improved considerably. Data from the study also revealed lower rates of preterm birth and low birth weight were observed among participants who had received oral health care than in the general population.

This article lists the following helpful tips on how to maintain good oral health throughout pregnancy:

  • Visit your dentist for regular check ups and cleanings. This is the best way to make sure that you are maintaining good oral hygiene.
  • Brush your teeth properly at least twice a day to remove plaque.
  • Floss your teeth daily. Flossing will remove food debris from in between the teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Use an antimicrobial mouth rinse. Antimicrobial mouth rinses can help prevent gingivitis.
  • Brush or scrape your tongue daily to help remove bacteria.
  • Eat nutritious meals and healthy snacks.

Have resources or thoughts to share? Join the discussion
For other great discussions, visit our Pregnancy community

Written by Haley Newman, Intern & Tufts University student

Here at WEGO Health we’re always looking for great new resources – sites we know our community members will find helpful and informative. So we’ve created a new series, “WEGO Health Loves”, to share some of our favorite sites for Health Activists.

Check back every week to see our latest crush. We hope you love them just as much as we do!

This Week on WEGO Health Loves: Stirrup Queens

During a recent podcast interview with Kelly Damron, author of the book Tiny Toes, we candidly discussed the challenges faced by women who are experiencing infertility. Specifically the need for information that is not always available in a society that may not be supportive or sympathetic to the conversation.

Enter Melissa (Mel) Ford of Stirrup Queens. Stirrup Queens has carved out a space full of life, information and support as well as the brutal, yet critical, honesty required by those of us who have experienced or are currently experiencing struggles with infertility. Mel’s passion and spirit is undeniable. It jumps off the site and makes challenging conversations with difficult topics open for discussion in a safe and nurturing way.

You don’t understand, so let me explain.

We thought we’d be able to have children and then we couldn’t.

It wasn’t a choice to enter into treatments/adoption/donor gametes; it wasn’t an option.

Having a child may feel like a choice to you, but it isn’t to us.

You and I will need to disagree on that, because you’ll never change our feelings about having a family be a need over a want.

Excerpt from A Stirrup Queen’s Manifesto

The site itself boasts an impressive array of resources and is perhaps one of the most comprehensive sources of infertility information. It covers a myriad of issues that impact women who are trying to conceive including the more heart wrenching topics of loss, disappointment and the ever-growing list of reproductive options available.

In addition to the website, you can find Stirrup Queens on Twitter (@stirrupqueen) – and an online community devoted to the conversation. The honesty of the community is striking and it’s impossible not to feel a connection with these women. Stirrup Queens is not only an impressive repository, but a safe place for women struggling with infertility to support one another through the journey. Thank you Stirrup Queens – many of us couldn’t do it without you!

Wait, wait! There’s more. Wondering what other sites we love?

In our ongoing work to empower Health Activists, we are holding Community Insight Groups – online focus groups – for people who are active contributors to the online birth control community.

We are holding focus groups in July for women who are currently using birth control, or have in the past. All participants will receive a $25 gift certificate. If you are interested, please stay tuned for details. The confirmed date and next steps will be posted soon.

Please note: These groups will take one hour and are held remotely. Participants can join from anywhere in the country, but will required to be online and on the phone at the same time.

For additional information please contact us.

Did you miss this month’s Women’s Health Newsletter? Read more about the “feature conversation” going on now in the Women’s Health Group.

Are menstrual periods a thing of the past? With so many new oral contraceptives on the market promising fewer periods, this question has sparked an interesting discussion about women’s health. Do we need our periods? What are the costs and benefits of taking a pill to eliminate them?

» What do you think? Join the conversation
» Have questions or info to share about Birth Control? Join the Women’s Health Group