Heather Boerner

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Sexual Health

Freelance health writer Heather Boerner writes about women’s health, men’s health, STDs, pregnancy, menstruation and obesity, among others. Find what you’re looking for faster searching the site.

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“Queerspawn: ‘Culturally queer’ kids of LGBT parents come out of the closet”
Planned Parenthood Teen Talk, 06.09
Alexis used to treat her mom’s homosexuality as a “secret identity.” She was afraid of being ridiculed at school, so she let everyone assume that her “step-mom” (her mother’s partner) was married to her dad instead of her mom.
But that all changed last fall, when Alexis was assigned to write an essay about something that changed her life. Her parents’ divorce and her mother’s coming out certainly fit the bill. When she read her essay aloud to the whole class, her secret was blown. To her surprise, it was a relief.
“I had major fear back then because . . . I get this vibe from society that my family is not accepted,” she says. “But now I’m glad I came out (about having gay moms). I think the world needs to know I’m not going to cower in fear because I’m afraid of people making fun of my family.”
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Stay in Balance: Natural remedies can help keep PMS symptoms at bay”
Yoga Journal, 08.08
“When monthly preperiod cramping, moodiness and fatigue hit, it’s tempting to pop a pain reliever, down some caffeine and keep powering through your day. But numbing the discomfort or giving yourself an artificial energy boost won’t address the underlying causes of your symptoms.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Taking Control of Birth Control”
teenwire.com, 03.04.08
Talking to your health care provider about the big BC — birth control — can be so mortifying you want to crawl right out of your skin. But it can also be quick and painless. And, most importantly, talking to your provider about contraception can prevent a life-altering unintended pregnancy.
A recent study in Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology asked teen moms whether they used birth control before they got pregnant. Their answers may — or may not — surprise you: Most reported that they were too embarrassed to talk about contraception with almost anyone, including their partner, their parents, and their health care providers.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Defining Virginity"
teenwire.com, 01.08.08
You've messed around. You've made out. But did it cross the line to sex?
That's the question that a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health tackled. The study asked more than 1,000 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 19 what they'd have to do to lose their virginity and what counts as abstinence.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Lighten Up: When winter’s gloom darkens your mood, yoga can brighten your days”
Yoga Journal, 01.08
During much of the year, Becky Hahn cheerfully heads to her yoga mat in the morning, enjoying the deep breaths and Sun Salutations that leave her body humming.
But in the wintertime, it’s a different story. From mid-October through April, Hahn feels mentally and physically drained. She struggles to get out of bed in the morning, withdraws from family and friends, and has a tough time coping with unexpected obstacles.
Sometimes she has to drag herself to her mat, but the 26-year-old Pennsylvania resident makes sure not to miss her practice. Her regular yoga sessions make her seasonal depression manageable. When she started doing yoga five years ago, the change in her mood took a few weeks. But once she started feeling an effect, she said, “The sunshine was back.”
Read the full article here.
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“Do I Look Weird? How girls can feel better about their bodies”
teenwire.com, 10.02.07
You're a teenage girl, and in addition to worrying about doing well in school and whether the person you've got a crush on knows you're alive, you're worried about your body. A lot. You dread someone seeing you naked. You think your breasts are abnormal. You have hair in strange places. You're too skinny, or too fat, or maybe you feel strangely small in some places and strangely big in others. And your vulva? You're pretty sure it's not supposed to look like that.
The only answer is to avoid any and all romantic relationships for the rest of your life — right?
Wrong, says Kathy Kater, author of Healthy Body Image: Teaching Kids to Eat and Love their Bodies, Too! and a therapist who treats lots of teens and adults who struggle with body image issues. In lots of cultures, girls don't experience this prolonged and torturous body judgment, Kater says.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Do I Look Weird? How guys can feel better about their bodies:
teenwire.com, 10.09.07
You're a teenage guy, and the thought of someone — especially that someone you have a crush on — seeing you naked fills you with dread. You feel generally freakish: You think your penis is small and misshapen and you have hair in weird places. Maybe you think you're too skinny, too fat, or have the torso of a sickly nine-year-old.
The only solution is to avoid any and all romantic relationships for the rest of your life - right?
Wrong, says Leigh Cohn, co-author of Making Weight: Men's Conflicts with Food, Weight, Shape and Appearance. While many, and perhaps most, teens are embarrassed about their bodies in one way or another (and so are adults, by the way), your insecurities about your body don't have to hold you back.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Not Seeing Straight: What nurses need to know about lesbian sexual health”
Registered Nurse Magazine, 10.07
Providers lacking training and research are often insensitive to the needs of lesbians, making them uncomfortable by treating them like straight patients. And many lesbians, in turn, shun medical care—falsely assuming they don’t have as many health risks as straights. Learn the latest on what nurses can do to ensure everyone gets the care they need.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“A Questioning Mind: The questions Deborah Tolman asked have changed the way people think about teenage girls and sexuality”
SFSU Magazine, Spring.07
Professor Deborah Tolman uses her hands as she talks, sweeping them up in an imaginary bell curve. She is mapping the way teen girls behave and think about their sexuality. The ends of that curve, where teens are either more chaste or more aggressive, are getting longer, she says, “as if someone has grabbed them and pulled them out a bit. But for the vast middle, my sense is that it’s still a minefield, and girls are still not entitled to their own sexuality.”
As the director of the San Francisco state center for Research on Gender and Sexuality, Tolman is one of the country’s preeminent experts on teenage sexuality and sexual health. From the classroom to the set of ABC’s “Nightline,” she challenges commonly held beliefs on these subjects and asks thought-provoking questions. “We only know what we ask,” she says. “The tagline of our center is, ‘Producing new knowledge to advance social justice and social change.’ But I’m thinking that ‘Asking new questions to advance social justice and social change’ is more accurate.”
Read the full story here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Healthcare for All: Making space for LGBT healthcare”
PlannedParenthood.org, 07.06.07
Planned Parenthood has strived to be at the forefront of health care for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). In 2005, the most recent date for which statistics were available, Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 2,500 hours of training on appropriate and sensitive care for LGBTQ clients.
plannedparenthood.org looks at some local affiliates who are reaching out to the LGBTQ community in new and innovative ways.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Feelings and Sex”
teenwire.com, 06.05.07
Sure, sex ed may teach you what body part goes where and when — but does it teach you how you'll feel after hooking up?
Probably, not. Unfortunately, even the most comprehensive sex education usually teaches only the physical parts of sex. Most teens are left to figure out the emotional part by themselves.
And young people often get confused, says Amber Madison, a former college sex columnist and author of Hooking Up: A Girl's All-Out Guide to Sex and Sexuality. When Amber tours college campuses to talk about sex, it's almost always about the emotional aspects of sex. What she finds most of the time is that teens get confused about whether they're having sex because they want to or whether they're having it because of outside pressure.
Read the full story here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Self Image and Sexual Health”
PlannedParenthood.org, 04.11.07
When Natalie Campbell-Ybarra, 24, got her first bra in second grade, she was just an average tomboy who favored baggy jeans and loose T-shirts. She was totally unaware of how other people saw her.
But after getting that bra, everything changed. She suddenly felt that she wasn’t just a kid, but “the girl with boobs.” She became self-conscious about people seeing the outline of her bra through her shirts and felt horrible when kids teased her, asking her if she stuffed her bra. “Why would I do that?” she remembers thinking. “Why would I want this?”
Soon she moved desks to the back of the class and became painfully introverted. She refused to do oral reports because she would have to stand up in front of everybody. She had a hard time concentrating. She stopped playing jump rope with the other girls. Her grades started to slip. She felt depressed and hated her body. As a teenager, she says, all the teasing and assumptions from people who thought she was older than she was and more sexually experienced finally got to her. She started having sex — and not good sex, either. She didn’t enjoy it.
Campbell-Ybarra’s story may seem extreme, but it’s not, according to a report recently released by the American Psychological Association. The report, issued by the association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, analyzed research on girls and sexualization and found that those who felt alienated from their bodies and felt their appearance was the most valuable part of themselves were also more likely to experience a number of poor health effects.
Read the full story here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Questioning Abstinence Until Marriage”
PlannedParenthood.org, 03.14.07
With the national debate about abstinence-until-marriage programs raging on, Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health research, policy analysis, and public education, decided to investigate whether abstinence-only until marriage campaigns are a realistic policy goal. After all, the average age of first sex and the average age of first marriage are wildly different.  To find the answer, he looked at rates of premarital sex in the United States.
What he found was surprising to many:  Not only had more than nine out of 10 people had premarital sex, but the rate of premarital sex has been consistent for more than 50 years.  Finer’s conclusion was that premarital sex is not only normal but nearly ubiquitous — and has been for decades.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Generation Confused: Cancer vaccines, birth control, emergency contraception -- with all these options, are teens any sexually healthier?”
San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, 02.11.07
Teen girls have access to the HPV vaccine, Depo-provera, a form of injectible birth control they don't have to remember to take, and to prescription-only Plan B, an emergency contraceptive that prevents pregnancy if taken within days of unprotected sex. If you define sexual health as being free of disease or pregnancy, today's teens have the potential to be the healthiest of any in history.
But sexual health is more than that. The World Health Organization defines it as "a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence."
In a country where the president supports abstinence until marriage, "To Catch A Predator" regularly tops the ratings in its timeslot and the raunchy "American Pie" films are hits, parents and teens are trying to navigate a world marked by piety on the one hand and raunch on the other.
What fills that gap is sexual schizophrenia: lots of flash and little of substance to help teens understand desire and how to navigate the tricky world of first relationships.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Plus-Size and Pregnant: Having a positive plus-size pregnancy”
BabyCenter, 01.07
When Adrienne Erazo, a researcher at a newspaper in Orange, California, got pregnant the first time, the excitement over building her family was immediate and profound. As her baby started to grow, she felt a sense of purpose, like this was what she was supposed to do her whole life. But hanging over that joy was a pall of doubt and shame: Was she doing something wrong? Was she hurting her baby?
She wasn't drinking alcohol, smoking, or taking drugs — she was simply overweight, a size 22W at 5 feet 4 inches tall. She'd been overweight most of her life.
Now pregnant with her second child, Erazo wants you to know something: "I'm fat and pregnant and I'm just fine," she says simply. "It's important for other moms to know that you're not a bad mom and you won't be a bad mom just because you're plus-size."
In fact, if you're a plus-size woman, you're part of a growing sorority. Today, one in three pregnant women is considered obese — having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. And half of women of childbearing age are considered overweight — having a BMI of 25 to 29.9. And while plus-size women face increased risks of complications, the majority of these are manageable if they occur, and being overweight doesn't mean you're destined for a troubled pregnancy.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Plus-size the Pregnant: Understanding and managing health risks”
BabyCenter, 01.07
Most plus-size women can expect a healthy pregnancy. But as with any journey as complex as having a baby, the ride may get a little bumpy from time to time.
Women with a body mass index (BMI) above 25, considered overweight, are more susceptible to certain pregnancy conditions such as gestational diabetes. This risk climbs higher if your BMI is 30 or above, considered obese. Not sure where you fall on the spectrum?
The fact is, doctors and researchers still don't know exactly why weight matters. And it's just one piece of the puzzle — age, genetics, and even ethnicity factor in.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Plus-Size and Pregnant: Seven facts about pregnancy after weight-loss surgery”
BabyCenter, 01.07
Weight-loss surgery (also called bariatric surgery) is becoming ever more common — according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people getting gastric bypass surgery increased ninefold from 1996 to 2004. But how do these kinds of surgeries impact getting pregnant and affect those nine months afterward? Here are seven facts you should know about having a baby after bariatric intervention.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Positive Period Alternatives”
teenwire.com, 01.17.07
You know the feeling. You're sitting in class. You've got your period. You're wearing a pad or tampon, but you're still worried. Sixteen-year-old Abigail (not her real name) recalls the feeling vividly.
"You sit in class knowing you have it and wondering what's going to happen," she says. "I felt nervous. If something leaked, I'd freak out. Then you have to stand up and everyone sees you. It's potentially disastrous, social suicide."
But Abigail has found a way to avoid that feeling. She uses alternative menstrual products that she says are comfortable and make her feel better about her period.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Get the Shot: The HPV vaccine isn’t just for straight girls. Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo tells us why.”
Curve Magazine, 01.07
HPV vaccine? Aren’t you already immune simply because you don’t have sex with men?
Not so fast.
Research shows that queer women are just as likely to have HPV as other women.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Resolve to Prepare”
teenwire.com, 01.02.07
Katie (not her real name) is starting the year with something new: a prescription for emergency contraception (EC). As part of her New Year’s resolution, the 17-year-old Massachusetts resident is protecting herself in case a condom breaks or something worse happens. Should you do the same? Katie thinks so.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“HIV Testing Today: How new guidelines could affect you.”
Planned Parenthood Online, 01.06
When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its revised recommendations for HIV testing earlier this fall, Dr. Celia Maxwell was ready.
Maxwell, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Management and Research at Howard University Hospital, deployed staff to the emergency room, labor and delivery department, the medical wards, and the outpatient clinics to give free HIV screening to everyone who wanted one. She says it's time to start thinking of HIV in a different way.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“The New ABCs of HIV”
teenwire.com, 12.05.06
There are so many things to worry about when you start dating someone: Does your boyfriend or girlfriend like you as much as you like them? What level of sexual activity are you comfortable with? How secure do you feel with this person?
Should HIV testing be added to that list?
It should be, according to new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Released just in time for World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the new recommendations suggest that sexually active teens get tested starting at 13.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Plus-Size Pregnancy”
Choice! Magazine online, 11.13.06
Half of all women of childbearing age in the United States are considered overweight, and one in three is obese.  Research shows that being overweight or obese — defined, according to the standard body mass index (BMI), as more than 25 BMI for overweight individuals, and more than 30 BMI for those who are obese — raises a woman's risk for certain pregnancy-related complications.  How common are those risks, and what can overweight women do to have a healthy pregnancy?
Download a PDF of this article here.

”HPV, Herpes and Sexual Health Vaccines”
Choice! Magazine Online, 10.27.06
When Jonas Salk discovered a vaccine for polio in the 1950s, he changed the lives of millions of children and their parents.  No longer did the public live in fear of disfigurement or death from the disease.  As the country commemorates Salk’s birthday on October 28, researchers and scientists are making breakthroughs of their own with vaccines that have the potential to improve the lives of people at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — just about everybody on the planet at some time in their lives.
“This is a very exciting time and I’m very heartened by the research,” said Jeanne Marrazzo, associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.  “It’s a very wide open field right now.  Sexual health vaccines need to be very strongly developed over the next 10 years.”
Download a PDF of this article here.

”Intimate Partner Violence and Pregnancy”
Choice! Magazine Online, 10.23.06
When Dr. Sujatha Reddy sees new patients, she asks them the same questions:  Do you ever feel unsafe at home?  Have you ever been hit, punched, or kicked by a member of your household?  Have you been hit recently?
While the answers to those questions are usually in the negative, new evidence shows that it continues to be important for health care providers to ask them.  One recent study proves what Reddy, an OB/GYN in Atlanta, GA, already knows — violence during pregnancy can cause severe health problems for both the woman and a newborn, and that those health effects can last for years to come.
Download a PDF of this article here.

 “Men & the Mirror”
Choice! Magazine Online, 07.16.06
Research shows men of all ages and sexual orientations can experience a negatively skewed view of their bodies called body dysmorphia. It can make men feel either too fat, too short or too tall, or not muscular enough, and can include everything from thinning hair to penis size to the shape and appearance of testicles, says Dr. Katharine Phillips, director of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Body Image Clinic at Butler Hospital in Providence, RI. She is the author of The Broken Mirror: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
Phillips' most recent research — which has not yet been published — shows that 60 percent of men and women with body dysmorphia avoided physical contact, including sexual activity and close dancing. Those who did have sex said it wasn't satisfying. The study did not address whether men felt more sexually apprehensive than women.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Gaining Menstrual Pride”
Choice! Magazine Online, 05.08.06
Many women have felt shame about their periods and bodies and have felt powerless when it comes to sex. But is there a connection? That's the question at the heart of a recent study in the Journal of Sex Research. The study confirmed a connection between menstrual shame, body shame, and, for those who were sexually active, riskier sex. The good news is that the converse is also true — positive feelings about the menstrual cycle, vulva, and body in general are associated with more sexual assertiveness, more sexual experience, and less sexual risk.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Weight Matters”
Choice! Magazine Online, 12.05.05
Researchers have found that women with a body mass index of 25 or more — that is, women considered overweight or obese — receive fewer Pap tests and mammograms, even though they face a higher risk of cervical and breast cancer. Indeed, overweight or obese women got fewer Pap tests or mammograms regardless of their income, age, or health coverage.
Download a PDF of this article here.

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