JANUARY 2022

The New Year has started with a gooey, smelly, itchy bang for Jane! She ended 2021 doing so well and being so careful….. So why the extra fishy smell down there? Jane knows about bacterial vaginosis…. The nurse at the reproductive health clinic explained that it is an overgrowth of a diverse assortment of non-Lactobacillus bacteria with weird and wonderful names like Gardnerella, Mobiluncus and Prevotella that produce the most stinky metabolites (like putrescine), turn her vaginal discharge milky and thin, and irritate the normally quiet and peaceful place that is her vagina. Why have her trustworthy and hardworking vaginal Lactobacilli disappeared? Who are these new characters that have moved in and turned Jane’s vagina into a hot mess? Why now! Jane has read that bacterial vaginosis can be caused by a whole range of things like douching, using water or a medicated wash to clean inside the vagina, having a bath with an antiseptic, or even using some perfumed bubble baths, vaginal deodorants, or scented soaps. Keeping the good bacteria happy might seem like hard work but, really, it is not – Jane keeps forgetting that her vagina is a self-cleaning, self-lubricating marvel of nature.

Jane does need to get this hot mess treated. The nurse at the clinic will be able to help to sort the good bacteria from the bad. Long may the lactobacilli rule that roost!

DECEMBER 2021

December is Festive season! Lots of end of year parties, lots of good food, good times and good vibes. For us in the Southern hemisphere, its SUMMER holidays! It goes without saying that the festive season is also the time for greater sexual risk taking among young people. In a South Africa, the festive season is the period when teenagers are most likely to engage in unprotected sex, particularly under the influence of alcohol and drugs, because they are celebrating the end of the school year, and their good school results1. It comes as no surprise that September is “childbearing season” worldwide, linked to conceptions during the festive and New Year period – twice as frequent as on any normal day of the year2.

Against this backdrop, Jane and John are also out partying during the festive season – catching one another’s eye under the mistletoe. A quick kiss, a slow dance and…..John whips out his trusty Christmas condom….Jane produces some silly Santa’s lube for occasions such as this….

Jane’s top tips for surviving silly season without regrets…..stay safe and take control!a

1. Makhubele, Jabulani, Masilo. 2017. Reviewing factors which predispose learners to indulge in sexual activities against the risk of pregnancy and sexual diseases: implications for social work intervention. Gender and Behaviour, 15, 9627.

2. Régnier-Loilier, Rohrbasser. 2011. Is there a childbearing season? Population & Societies, 474, 1.

NOVEMBER 2021

Jane has seriously been reconsidering her contraceptive choices during the COVID19 pandemic! Contraceptives have been in short supply, because of supply chain disruptions. Being one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of condoms, contraceptive pills and IUDs, India’s restriction on the export of some crucial pharmaceutical ingredients and medications has seriously affected contraceptive supply at Jane’s local clinic.

Jane was anxious to read an article by the United Nations Population Fund that “up to 23 million women may have been unable to access family planning services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in as many as 1.4 million unintended pregnancies”.

Jane “The Brilliant” is so relieved that her friends told her about the small but powerful sub-dermal implant – one of the easiest, effective and long-lasting contraceptive methods that are available to young women. She won’t have to worry about supply as it offers her at least three years of protection, slowly releasing very low doses of progestin, protecting her against pregnancies – but not STIs alas! She’ll still have to insist of the trusty condom to protect her from those….and she has lots of those stored away “just in case”!

OCTOBER 2021

The Condom is the glass slipper of our generation. You slip one on when you meet a stranger. You dance all night… then you throw it away. The condom, I mean, not the stranger”. – Quote: Helen Bonham Carter as Marla Singer in Fight Club.

Our feisty heroin Jane explores her contraceptive options further this month. What about condoms? They are one of the world’s oldest forms of birth control, although weren’t widely used – much less accepted – until the 1940s, when the demand for fighting fit, syphilis-free soldiers around the world changed the face of contraception forever. From early prototypes of linen and sheepskin to thick rubber sheaths that stank of sulphur, condoms haven’t always been the most comfortable form of contraception. The World Health Organisation still advises that “condoms are the only contraceptive method proven to reduce the risk of all STI’s, including HIV, as well as prevention of pregnancy.

SEPTEMBER 2021

Our heroin Jane is choosing when she wants to fall pregnant through accessing contraception. Jane is standing on the shoulders of giants – powerful contraceptive innovators that significantly improved various aspects of life, including women’s health, family roles, feminism, and gender relations.

“No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” – quote: Margaret Sanger, American birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse 1879-1966. Thanks to activists like Margaret, there are a whole arsenal of different reversable contraceptive methods available to young Jane – long-acting contraceptives, short-acting contraceptives, and barrier methods – ensuring young women can choose the type of contraceptive that suit them physiologically and socially.

AUGUST 2021

“Some called it Eve’s curse but she thought that was stupid, and the real curse of Eve was having to put up with the nonsense of Adam, who as soon as there was any trouble, blamed it all on her.” Quote: Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace Central to reproductive health is the cycle of female hormones that regulate fertility. Love them or hate them, estrogen and progesterone highs and lows control reproductive cycles. Through our amazing heroin – Jane – proudly shares her experience about her amazing menstrual cycle, from the view point of her formidable uterus –  https://mg.co.za/article/2017-05-10-culture-of-shame-contributes-to-coded-language-around-menstruation/