Cervical Cancer. It’s one of those big scary C’s that we don’t talk enough about. The words “Mortality rate” and “most common cancer” are bandied about, but as a society, we seem to stick our fingers in our ears and hum. Much has been done on this in recent years, but we’ve a long way to go.
This week, a news story hit that the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has begun to use a robot for educating their students on the physical elements of childbirth. The news video included some (debatably creepy looking) footage of the robot in practice. Lucina, Ireland’s only “birthing mannequin”, has been purchased for €75,000 to benefit the surgical education of the future doctors taught in RCSI. The reaction to this news story has been mixed, to say the least. Some are horrified at the idea of a robot being used to teach doctors how to work in a childbirth setting. Others find it a genius idea which will likely improve outcomes for future patients as the educational tool will prove beneficial to the doctors in their training. So, what exactly is the reasoning behind the robot, what is it likely to teach that our current system doesn’t have, and is it all a bit of space age nonsense?
Ahead of the March for Choice next week in Dublin, there was a Repeal Not Replace demonstration in Cork City on Saturday 23rd September. I was asked by the organisers to be one of the speakers at this event. Initially I was hesitant to speak, feeling like my story wasn’t as relevant of that of many of the women who have suffered greatly under the 8th Amendment to our constitution. However, on reflection, I realised that as a woman who has gone through pregnancy in Ireland, I do have my experiences of maternity care under the 8th to speak about. The 8th Amendment is about so much more than abortion and it’s availability in our state, and I hope that I got that across in my speech. Here’s the full text of the speech, I’d love to hear what you think.
It’s World Breastfeeding Week, which means it’s time to celebrate all that is good and great about supporting women feeding their babies. It’s not something I feel particularly well-experienced in to write much about. My experience revolved around 9 weeks of supplementing, of panic and of not enough support – not exactly a ringing endorsement. There’s definitely a lot I’ve learned since that if there’s another baby will be put into practice to make it a better experience for everyone. However, in celebration of the boob-tastic women who fuel their kiddies themselves, here is a stash of breastfeeding resources which I have found to be EXCELLENT when it comes to all things boob.
Last week, I was wandering around Cork City when I came across a sight which turned my stomach. An anti-abortion group, Youth Defence, were protesting outside Brown Thomas on Patrick Street. As well as their usual selection of banners with images of dead foetuses, they also had lots of volunteers handing out leaflets with the same. So far, so unfortunately familiar. There were lots of families around, children are off school and the weather was nice. For the most part, parents were trying to rush their children through the area, ignoring the stands and trying to distract their kids. This was a job made much harder by the volunteers, who were handing the leaflets to the children.
Late last year, I started seeing a therapist. It was after my return to work (I’ve since been out again), and I wasn’t coping particularly well with my schedule and other pressures. It wasn’t my first foray into therapy; I’d seen counsellors in college on two separate occasions for a number of weeks each time. I was good with the idea that it worked, just not that I truly had time for it.
My therapist this time was a wonderful woman, who spoke in THAT VOICE, the one that says it’s alright to talk and cry and let it all out without judgement. She could bring me to my knees in the first sessions, letting out feelings of guilt, insignificance and anger. She left me with two major discoveries: the work of Brené Brown, and the need for self care.
In Ireland, women aged between 25 and 60 are invited to obtain a cervical smear once every three years. This screening process, run by Cervical Check from the HSE, was put in place to combat the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer. I’ve written recently about the importance of getting a regular smear test to ensure you’re healthy. However, what happens if it doesn’t come back with a clean bill of health? What if your cervical smear comes back showing abnormalities? What does a referral for a colposcopy mean? It can be easy to panic and assume “Oh god, it’s cancer, it’s definitely cancer”, but that’s not the case. Here’s a look at what those abnormal results can indicate, and how they’re treated afterwards.
When I was pregnant, I saw a lot of my doctors thanks to my blood pressure and I not getting along. In the later stages of my pregnancy, the words “pre-eclampsia” were bandied about a bit. It was discussed at length as to whether or not specific results that day indicated if I did or didn’t have it, or if it seemed likely I would. Nobody sounded very happy about the possibility so I for sure knew it wasn’t a good thing. However, there was little enough information being sent my way about it which led me to googling what it could possibly mean.
For a pregnant lady whose blood pressure was already high, googling may not have been the best idea. There’s a lot of information out there online. In particular, information in well meaning forums where pregnant women and mothers discuss different symptoms and features of pregnancy, birth and beyond. A lot of this can be misleading, or more frightening than it should be.
So, for the sake of my past self who was terrified of what this diagnosis could mean for me and my baby (thank you Downton Abbey), here is a No Nonsense Intro to Pre-Eclampsia – hopefully if you’re reading this due to a similar Google search, it will allay some of your fears. While it is a very serious condition which can be very dangerous if not managed correctly, it is also key to keep in mind that when it is caught in time, which is the majority of cases in modern Ireland, mother and baby get through it healthily and happily.