our bodies ourselves

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Did ‘Our Bodies Ourselves’ Change Your Life?


One after another, the women of all ages came to the audience microphone and instead of discussing the film they’d just seen, they paid homage and offered heartfelt thanks to Judy Norsigian for a book that changed their lives.

At least, that’s my memory from a screening and panel discussion I attended a few months ago — and the film was quite a provocative one, too. It’s just that women whose eyes have been opened by Our Bodies, Ourselves, which is written by a collective that Judy helped found, tend to feel a burning sense of gratitude — and this was a rare chance to express it.

This weekend offers another chance: A celebration and conference on global women’s health at Boston University, marking the iconic book’s 40th anniversary and the release of its latest version. I see from the Website that the event is already full, but there’s a waiting list and it will be Webcast here.

Readers, did Our Bodies Ourselves change your life? Let us know how, below (and you can email your account to the book’s blog, as well, here.) I’d share more if my own memory weren’t such a sieve, but my recollection is that it was my most important source of information about sex and my own anatomy when I was a teenager and beyond.

Radio Boston aims to air a segment with Judy Norsigian sometime soon, and USA Today does a wonderful job today of summing up the era that spawned OBOS, as it’s widely known, and the book’s sweeping impact. It also shares the disturbing news that the OBOS collective is ever on the verge of going under, and now is no exception:

More than 4 million copies of the book have been sold; an additional 300,000 have been donated to women’s groups worldwide. It has been published in more than 20 languages and updated in nine incarnations, yet the collective struggles, Norsigian says.

“We’re always on the edge of going under,” she says. “Part of the problem is we have all these principles — we won’t take drug company money, or advertising, plus we’re about raising consciousness. … We’re too radical for some funders and not radical enough for others. We’re facing possibly going under next year.”

10 Reasons To Get An IUD, And 5 Downsides

Our recent post on why IUDs are on the rise has been going gangbusters, so for those interested in more bite-sized chunks of information, here’s a distillation:

After being out of style for decades, IUD use has been rising rapidly among American women in recent years, spurred by strong endorsements from birth-control experts. IUDs are by no means for every woman, but top women’s health authorities are saying they’re a good option for most women — unlike the old days when, because of the risk of infection, they were recommended only for women who’d already had children.
This post is not numerically balanced because birth control experts are not balanced: They argue that the IUD is under-used. But let’s start with some downsides:

1. IUDs don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. A reader who’s happy with her own IUD points out: “An IUD is an effective form of birth control NOT a way to practice safe sex.”

2. Though current IUDs have caused nothing like the 1970s fiasco of the dangerous Dalkon Shield, complications still do arise. As Judy Norsigian of Our Bodies, Ourselves noted: ““Like every method, it has its downsides. There’s a remote risk of embedding and perforation, but it’s small. And some women have a lot of pain, others don’t. Some women expel the IUD, others don’t.”

Two IUDs are in use these days: The copper Paragard and the hormone-emitting Mirena. Each has some minuses:

3. The copper Paragard can lead to heavier periods.

4. The Mirena makes periods diminish or disappear, which some women don’t like.

5. Also, though their levels are very low, the hormones that the Mirena emits can affect some women. A friend of mine just had her Mirena pulled because of nasty, depressive symptoms. It’s a well-trodden path for women to replace the hormonal Mirena with the copper Paragard.

This is not an exhaustive list. But as our IUD-using reader said, “One great thing about needing a procedure to get this type of birth control is that it will allow you to have conversations with your ob-gyn and have an honest discussion about what kind of birth control suits your lifestyle.” That conversation should also include a run-down of the risks. A helpful IUD fact sheet is here.

Now for the upsides:

1. “Just one act“: It takes a doctor’s visit to have an IUD implanted, but then your birth control is likely set for years.

2. Effective: Once that “one act” is done, the device is close to 100% effective.

3. Cost: The IUD is also considered one of the most cost-effective forms of birth control; though it costs several hundreds dollars up front, that cost is spread out over years, and… Continue reading