Tag Archives: women’s health

Planning for the Future

A young woman searches for a doctor who will let her be in control of her own body

When Christa Poindexter graduated from high school in 2008, she knew that giving birth to children was something that she did not want for her future.
“I remember talking to my first gynecologist, well before I was sexually active, and explaining that I was interested in permanent birth control for when I became sexually active,” she explains. “The doctors look at you like you are crazy.”
For Christa and many other women, this conversation is still difficult to have with medical professionals in the south, predominately in what is considered the “Bible Belt” region. The double standard still exists that, even in your twenties, you are old enough to choose to commit to a child for the rest of your life, but not old enough to decide that you never want to give birth to children.
Four years later, Christa brought it up to her doctor again. She explained that she planned on adopting children when she was ready, something that is desperately needed across the country. Again, her doctor refused to offer any form of permanent birth control.
“She explained that she would not perform the procedure unless her patient was 30 years old or had two to three children, and she preferred three children. It was a shocking thing to me,” Christa says.
This topic became the first that Christa brought up when she visited a new doctor. Even when she moved to more progressive areas, like Philadelphia, she was met with resistance.
“In Philadelphia, a doctor told me she did not want to dismiss it, but that I was simply too young. She told me that it wasn’t that she wanted me to have children, but my age was not what her practice would allow,” she adds. “When I asked if she knew someone who would do it, she said I should try a different form of birth control.”
This suggestion, although perfectly valid for women who seek temporary birth control, was simply not right for Christa. During her first three months on any form of birth control pills, she experienced severe side effects from headaches to hair loss. When she explained these to her first doctor, she suggested a non-hormonal IUD. Until that time, Christa had never experienced cramps with her monthly cycle. Once she had the IUD, her cramps became worse, and her cycle lasted 18 days.
Christa then switched to a hormonal IUD and began having headaches, back aches, and extreme cramps. She experienced weight gain and emotional turmoil. For years, she struggled with each temporary solution offered to her in place of the permanent one she desired. Then, she moved across the country.
When she met with her doctor in California, at age 26, she inquired about a permanent procedure once more. This time, after acknowledging that Christa was young, she followed it up with the truth that rises above a woman’s age or marital status: Christa owns her own body. She should be able to make decisions like this one for herself.
They agreed to a procedure called Tubal Ligation. This can mean different things for different people, but for Christa it meant that her fallopian tubes were removed. She met with the doctor and surgeon thirty days prior to the surgery for an evaluation that made sure she understood what the procedure meant and that she was not forced. By law, her doctor had to go through every single form of birth control verbally as an option. Once Christa refused all of them, they could schedule her surgery.
“All of the changes that I’ve experienced are positive. My monthly cycle is back to normal. I am happier, not moody and crying all the time. My hair isn’t falling out, and I don’t have any weird body changes. I’ve lost weight. It’s all positive for me,” she explains. “I have no scars. They walked me right through it. I have no pain or soreness.”
Christa does say that some women could have scars, and it is important to remember that, like birth control pills or IUDs, side effects can be different for everyone. People who are interested in this procedure should have full discussions with their doctors about options and potential side effects to make the best decision. Of course, based on your age, you may be having that discussion with more than one doctor. Above all, be the best health advocate you can for yourself. It never hurts to get opinions from a few different medical professionals to weigh your options.
You may also want to look at your insurance coverage before scheduling a permanent birth control procedure.
“When I selected my insurance plan with my employer, I noticed that most of them covered sterilization. It was interesting to me to see that they also believed an individual owns their own body, and they wanted to give options for coverage based on that. The surgery was very expensive, but my insurance covered all of it except my copay since I was in the hospital,” Christa says.
Since her procedure, Christa has received both criticism and congratulations. From her critics, Christa is often told the same things her original doctors said almost ten years ago. She is young. She may regret this one day.
Some even revert to talking about how much they love their own children, which is an odd argument to hear from someone else in the context of Christa’s body.
“Of course they love their own children,” she says. “I’m not telling them they shouldn’t, or that I won’t love the children I adopt one day.”
Because, when it all comes down to it, the public outcry that goes into whether a woman can choose permanent birth control seems to far surpass the energy that goes into helping children in foster care or in need of adoption. Christa, who has volunteered through various organizations to help these children, has seen this problem first hand.
“I work with various age groups, and it has made me feel close to them. I don’t have to go through the challenge of birth, that could be detrimental to my health and the health of a baby,” she explains. “At the end of the day, there are children out there already who need love, and I can provide that for them without going through childbirth.”

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

The Gift: The Art of Giving Back

“Imagine a time and place in which giving is not just for the holidays.”

"Mercy All Out" by Dreama Kattenbraker
“Mercy All Out” by Dreama Kattenbraker

Fleda A Ring Artworks is preparing for the giving season in the best way yet. An art exhibit, “The Gift,” featuring artists, Ann Trinkle, Brian Counihan, Christopher Cobb, Dave Stein, Dreams Kattenbraker, Heath Nevergold, and Mary Beth Lee is opening this Friday, December 2nd from 6-10 P.M. The exhibit is to stay open until January 27th, 2017.

The Gift is an art exhibit featuring a number of artists with the proceeds going towards Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. With the season of giving, what better way to celebrate the holidays than supporting local artists and a good cause? The show extends an entire 26 days past the holidays so if this season is just a busy time you have almost the entirety of January to stop by and make a difference!

Written by Nicole Brobston

Extraordinary Women: Monique Ingram

If you have ever met Monique Ingram, you know that she is an amazing woman who gives her all to her commitments and truly changes the lives she touches for the better. She is involved in many aspects of our community from her role as a health educator for Roanoke’s Planned Parenthood Health Services to volunteering with the Showtimers Community Theatre. Her interests have taken her around the world, and we feel very fortunate that she continues to share her knowledge and experience with the people in our area. 

What inspired you to get involved with Planned Parenthood?
As an adolescent, I found out that my grandmother had breast cancer and I didn’t know what that meant until she was leaving us. I remember hearing conversations in hushed tones between my family members about doctors and reproductive health. After she died, I knew I wanted to have a career where I could teach people, particularly women, about their bodies and how to help themselves.

I thought the only way I could do something with women’s reproductive health was to be a doctor or an OBGYN. I started talking to people at Roanoke College, particularly Dr.  Deneen Evans. We discussed how to craft my academic career to achieve my goals. There was a need in our area for women of color, and for women in general, to know their choices and how to find their voice when it came to reproductive healthcare.

My mom helped encourage me to fill that void. She is a strong woman, a minster. We started out in a small community where she was told she couldn’t be a preacher. She found a church home where they embraced women in ministry. I recognized that same fire in me too, and I started to create my own path. I looked into an internship at Planned Parenthood, and there I was mentored by Dina Hackley-Hunt. I used to watch her and think, “Man, I want to be just like her.” Some of my students say that about me now, and it’s crazy because I can’t believe I’ve come full circle.

monique
Photo by Jeff Hofmann

After I completed my undergraduate degree, I went home for a while before deciding that I wanted to go to graduate school at Virginia Tech. There was a job opening at Planned Parenthood. I thought, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to get that because I need my masters degree.”

However, my mom encouraged me and told me to apply because I might get it. I did, and they hired me.

I am so thankful for all of the wonderful women in my life. They’ve invited me to climb on their shoulders and see the endless possibilities of the world. They knew I would have a limited vantage point from my place on the ground. I love them so much for encouraging me to dream bigger, be better, and pay it forward.

What is your wish for every woman?
I wish that every woman could have the time and the space to find her voice—to figure out how loud she wants it to be and when or if she wants to use it. That is my wish for every person. It’s a difficult thing to try to figure out who you are and it takes time, effort, and some tears. You have to flesh out what you’re scared of, what you’re willing to stand for, and how you’re willing to grow. Growth is a huge part of finding your voice and figuring out who you are. One of my favorite quotes is, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”

What do you do in your spare time?
I’m a member at the Showtimers Community Theatre, and I’ve been part of that family for about ten years. I don’t mind being on stage, but I adore being stage manager. I love being behind the scenes and bossing people around. That’s my comfort zone. I’m the cochair of the hospitality committee and we put on all the opening night parties for our patrons and actors to thank them for their support. Actors are volunteers, so they don’t get paid. This gives us an opportunity to recognize the gift of their time and efforts. Showtimers couldn’t happen if it weren’t for the patrons and the actors.

I am also an education partner with Project Real Talk, an all girls leadership and life enhancement nonprofit in Roanoke. Additionally, I serve on the board of Girls Rock Roanoke.

What do the upcoming months have in store for you?
This summer, I will travel to Uganda to work with women and children who are HIV positive and hopefully shadow some educators in and around Kampala. I want to listen and learn how certain educators in other parts of the world approach sex education, particularly in areas where it is difficult to be comprehensive about it.

In July, I will be going to Cyprus to work with high school students from around the United States on a service learning trip. Then, I will head back to Roanoke and start graduate school to get my Master of Public Health degree.

I am also hoping to help schedule “Are You An Askable Parent?” workshops through Planned Parenthood for parents and adults that work with young people and teenagers. The goal is to get them to a place where they feel comfortable having conversations with young people about sex education. Ultimately, our goal is to get parents to a place where they feel more comfortable having those conversations no matter what is going on with their teens or how they identify.

Visit our website during the month of June for Monique’s full interview! If you are interested in learning more about the programs that Planned Parenthood offers our community, go to www.plannedparenthood.org. To view a full list of upcoming performances by The Showtimers Community Theatre, visit www.showtimers.org.

Your Time Could Change a Life

wings6Gleaning for the World is announcing their new women’s program, WINGS. Around the world, women are forced out of their schools, jobs and society because of their monthly cycle. Annually, these women lose months of education and income because they do not have access to feminine hygiene products. It is devastating and abandons so many to violence, exploitation and prostitution.

These desperate women resort to any means available for help. They walk to landfills to get newspapers, dirty rags, corn cobs and even bark. In places where taboos are the worst, some women are forced to sit on dirt mounds or above holes for hours at a time.

This new program is an incredible solution. These kits provide all the supplies women need for their monthly cycle and can last for up to three years. That is an extra nine months of education, income and freedom. What’s more, it helps improve their self-esteem and empowers them to reclaim their future. No longer do they have to hide each month or dig through garbage to find makeshift supplies.

“I have been to some of these communities and met these women,” says WINGS program spokeswoman, Danielle Sarchet. “I have seen the happiness on their faces when they realize what they have, and it moves me to know that the volunteer efforts of women in Virginia will change these women’s lives.”

These kits are assembled by volunteers in Central and Southwest Virginia. Due to the donation of supplies and volunteers, they are produced at far below retail price. Fifteen dollars will produce and ship one kit to a woman in the developing world.

If you would like to volunteer to produce these kits (in part or in whole), contact Danielle Sarchet, WINGS and GFTW Volunteer Coordinator, at Danielle@gftw.org or call (434) 993-3600. For more information on what you can do to help, visit gftw.org/wings.