Well, September’s just flown by, hasn’t it? Since my last update, back in August, I’ve turned 30, run my first half marathon, and sunk my teeth into some fascinating subjects – including cat cloning, heart attacks, dementia, arthritis, transgender hormone therapy, and vaginal fluid transplants.
In July I was one of the first journalists to report nationally, for The i, on the HRT shortage – with other national outlets and publications picking up on the story in August. Off the back of that original piece, I started hearing from trans women about the impact the HRT shortage was also having on them – in addition to the roughly one million menopausal cis women affected – and followed up for The i with a piece on those experiences. Also for The i, I looked at the complex relationship between arthritis and pregnancy, and the unique challenges of being a new mum with arthritis.
Finally, when my editor at Refinery29 emailed with a possible commission, and the email subject was “Vaginal fluid transplants”, I just knew I had to take it. I’ve been fascinated by vaginal bacteria since writing about some ovarian cancer research that was published during the summer, and this concept of vaginal microbiota transplants to treat bacterial vaginosis was a really interesting and exciting new development to look into. This article, I’m pretty sure, also broke my personal record for the most uses of the word “vagina” in the space of 1200 words.
‘My mood is all over the place’: How HRT shortages are affecting trans women – for The i:
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) shortages could have a “devastating” toll on trans women across the UK, in addition to the impact on cisgender women being treated for menopausal symptoms, a hormone specialist has warned.
As i reported in July, women across the UK are facing a “major and widespread shortage” of the drugs, which replace sex hormones in women who are going through either the menopause, premature ovarian insufficiency (also known as early menopause), or – in the case of trans women – gender-affirming treatment.
Sarah Brown, a Liberal Democrat politician and trans equality campaigner, told i she is aware of trans women who have had issues accessing their normal prescription, and she is concerned about the potential physical and psychological impact that on-going shortages could have on the community.
‘My arthritis symptoms began when I was pregnant at 23 – it was so painful I took early maternity leave’ – for The i:
Amy Devine-Devereux was a 23-year-old newly qualified nurse when, at seven months pregnant, the first signs of arthritis began creeping in. “I started having really agonising pain in my hips, not being able to walk around properly, and pain in my shoulder joint,” she recalls. “My hips got so painful that I ended up having to leave work for maternity leave a month earlier than I’d intended. Then, after I’d given birth, it all flared up.”
After a traumatic delivery, Amy hands and wrists swelled up within hours. “It really became obvious that things weren’t right,” she says. “Some of my first memories of that time are not being able to do the poppers on my daughter’s baby clothes, and not being able to hold her properly. When it was really difficult, I had to scoop my hands underneath her armpits and lift her up that way. Then, at other times, I could carry her around perfectly normally.”
After two months of GP appointments and referrals, Amy was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – an inflammatory auto-immune disease which affects 400,000 adults in the UK. Rheumatoid arthritis affects two to three times more women than men and, despite being most commonly diagnosed in those aged 40 to 60, appears to sometimes be triggered in younger women by pregnancy.
How Other Women’s Vaginal Fluids Could Help Cure Recurring Bacterial Vaginosis – for Refinery29:
When it comes to gynaecological symptoms we don’t feel comfortable talking about openly, the strong fishy smell associated with bacterial vaginosis is definitely up there. Bacterial vaginosis – or BV – is the most common vaginal infection, with symptoms including a greyish-white, watery discharge and unpleasant fishy odour. It’s not sexually transmitted and half of those affected don’t have any symptoms, but it can cause complications in pregnancy. And despite the fact that as many as one in three of us will get BV at some point in our lives, it’s still badly understood and notoriously difficult to treat.
Research published last week could be a game-changer though. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in the US have taken the first step towards using vaginal fluid transplants as a potential new treatment option for BV. Inspired by the successful use of faecal microbiota transplants (FMT – or poo transplants, to you and me) to treat gut problems, the idea behind vaginal microbiota transplants (VMT) is effectively to ‘reset’ the balance of bacteria inside the vagina, using ‘good’ bacteria from donors’ vaginal fluid (or mucus).
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Please note that I am NOT a psychologist or healthcare professional. Check out my resources page for details of organisations who might be able to help.
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