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Chapter 7

PSYC 3480 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Phytoestrogens, Insomnia, Uterine Fibroid


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC 3480
Professor
Vas.Valoo
Chapter
7

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PSYCHOLOGY 3480
CHAPTER 7
Reproductive System and Childbearing
Menstruation
Menstrual cycle involves the release of a mature egg or ovum from its surrounding capsule or follicle – 4
phases, 28 days in length
Derived from Latin word for month
Governed by a feedback loop involving 2 brain structures – the hypothalamus and pituitary gland – and the
ovaries and uterus
The Menstrual Cycle
Follicular phase – days 4 to 14; low levels of estrogen and progesterone cause the hypothalamus to stimulate
the pituitary gland to secrete follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
oCauses ovaries to increase estrogen production and bring several follicles and their eggs to maturity
oEstrogen stimulates development of the endometrium (uterus lining) in order to receive a fertilized
egg
oEstrogen also signals the pituitary to stop producing FSH and to start producing luteinizing
hormone (LH) – suppresses all but one follicle and egg
Ovulatory phase – about day 14; LH levels peak, causing rupture of the follicle and release of the egg near a
fallopian tube – ovulation
oMost likely to become pregnant on the 3 days before or on the day of ovulation
oSome women experience mittelschmerz (middle pain) on the side of the abdomen where the egg
has been released
Luteal phase – LH stimulates the follicle to form a yellowish group of cells called the corpus luteum (yellow
body), which produces large amounts of progesterone and estrogen
oThese hormones, reaching their peak around day 20 and 21 of the cycle, cause the endometrium to
secrete nourishing substances in the event the egg is fertilized and implanted in the uterine lining
oIf fertilization does not occur, high progesterone levels cause the hypothalamus to stop the
pituitary’s production of LH – decomposes the corpus luteum and a drop in levels of estrogen and
progesterone through day 28
Menstruation phase – days 1 to 4; occurs when low levels of estrogen and progesterone can no longer
maintain the uterine lining, which is shed and exits through the cervix and vagina as menstrual flow
oThe low hormone level triggers the beginning of another cycle
oShould the egg be fertilized, the hormone levels remain high and a new cycle does not occur
Menstrual Pain
Aka dysmenorrhea – includes painful abdominal cramps and lower back pain during menstruation
About 55-73% of girls and women report experiencing this pain each month
Those who report higher levels of the pain and discomfort are also likely to report high levels of
psychological stress in their lives and poorer health
Also more likely to smoke or consume alcohol
Cause of menstrual discomfort – prostaglandins: hormonelike chemicals secreted by the uterine lining and
other tissues as menstruation approaches
oThese substances cause uterine contractions, decreased blood flow, and increased sensitivity to pain
oOver the counter drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen help relieve pain
oLow fat vegan diet also helps; as well as warm baths or heating pads
Attitudes Toward Menstruation
Through history has had ‘bad press’; menstrual blood viewed as having magical/poisonous powers
oMenstruating women have been isolated and forbidden to prepare food or to engage in sexual
activity
Menstrual taboos and myths still exist, in a less extreme form
Many euphemistic terms are used to avoid the word menstruation – ‘period,’ ‘that time of the month,’ ‘I’ve
got my friend,’ ‘she’s got the rag’ etc.
Many believe that women cannot function normally when menstruating but there is little evidence that any
aspect shows meaning fluctuations
In a study college men and women perceived a menstruating woman, compared to the average woman, as
being more irritable, angry and sad and less energized and less sexy

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oMen also saw her as annoying, unreasonable, spacey, less nurturing, less reliable and dependable,
less creative, more disagreeable etc.
oWomen found some redeeming qualities – more maternal, strong and trustworthy
Menstrual Joy
Some women experience their menstrual periods as self affirming, creative, and pleasurable and as signifying
femininity and fertility
Negative expectations influence women to focus on the more unpleasant symptoms
What would happen if menstruation was portrayed in a more positive light?
oStudy was done to show this; administered both the menstrual joy questionnaire (MJQ) and the
menstrual distress questionnaire (MDQ) to college women
oMJQ lists positive feelings that may experienced before or during menstruation; MDQ lists
negative feelings
oFound that women who completed the MJQ before they were given the MDQ reported less
menstrual distress and more favourable attitudes toward it that those who received MDQ before
MJQ
oShows that the way menstruation is portrayed effects the way women react to their cycles
The findings that menstruation has some positive aspects did not generate much media publicity
oMargaret Matlin believed this to show women-as-problem-bias: psychologists’ preference for
studying negative aspects of women’s lives rather than positive ones
Premenstrual Syndrome
Women may experience breast tenderness, bloating, anxiety, or irritability – does not disrupt their daily lives
Small minority of people experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – symptoms so severe that their normal
functioning is impaired for a week each month preceding menstruation
oIt is not experienced the same way around the world
oEg: women in China are much more likely to report temperature changes than emotional changes
What is PMS?
Controversy has swirled about PMS being a disorder because scientists do not agree on definition
Since 1987 the APA has included PMS in its diagnostic handbook, labeling its most severe form Premenstrual
Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
oTo be diagnosed, a woman must experience at least 5 symptoms during the week before her
menstrual period, including depression, anxiety, mood swings, or anger/irritability
oThe symptoms must interfere markedly with work or social relationships and must be present only
in the premenstrual phase of the cycle
oAbout 3-9% of women reach this criteria
Some believe the diagnosis of PMDD validates the experiences of women and is empowering while others
object to treating normal reproductive system functioning in women as disease
Some feminists believe that diagnosing PMDD stigmatizes women as mentally ill, undermines their self
esteem and feeds into socially constructed stereotypes about women
Treating PMS
Whether it is a mental disorder or not, it is important to give help to women who seek it
Some report that dietary changes or progesterone supplements help; taking vitamins E and B and calcium
with vitamin D reduces the symptoms
Antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil relieve emotional and physical symptoms; exercise also helps
Contraception
Average woman marries by 25 and achieves her desired family of 2 children at 31; spends next 20 years until
menopause trying to avoid unintended pregnancy
Contraception in Adolescence
The use of contraception has increased among sexually active adolescents, especially girls, in recent years,
due to growing awareness of the danger of AIDS and other STIs
One study – 69% of girls and 80% of boys said they used a condom the last time they had intercourse
Still a substantial number of adolescents do not use contraceptives consistently; about ¼ of teen girls do not
use contraception every time they do it
Sexually active teen who does not use contraception has 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year
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Why some women resist? They do not have enough power and control in their relationship
oSome cases – abusive male may interfere with the woman’s attempt to use birth control methods
oReject it because they believe it diminishes sexual pleasure, disrupts intimacy and suggests that
women do not trust their partner
oFor others it may disrupt their feminine sexual identity and threaten potential rewards they expect
in the form of love and protection
oOther factors that come into play may be their sense of invincibility (I won’t get pregnant), cost and
misconceptions about the use of contraception
Who is most likely to use contraception? The older teens are when they begin sexual activity the more likely
they are to use it
oOther factors include being in a committed relationship, having high education aspirations, having
knowledge about sex and contraception, desiring to avoid STIs and pregnancy, being minimal users
of drugs and alcohol etc.
Teens in schools that distribute condoms compared to those is schools that don’t are less likely to have ever
had sex or less likely to have done it recently
oTwice as likely to use the condom; less likely to get pregnant
Methods of Contraception
Abstinence is foolproof; increasing number of teens pledging to not have sex before marriage – many do not
live up to this vow
oThose who take the pledge are less likely to use contraception when they have sex
oSex ed programs that are based on abstinence are generally ineffective – do not delay the onset of
sexual activity nor decrease the number of teens having sex
oEvidence that such programs are linked to increase in STIs and pregnancies
Birth control pills are often used by women in their teens and 20s, by unmarried women and by those with
some college education
Tubal ligation is more commonly used by those who are over 34, who have been previously married and
those who have no more than high school education
oThis is far more common than vasectomy is for their male sexual partners
Of all methods, condoms are the only ones protecting against STIs
Uninsured women are less likely than insured woman to use contraceptives
Emergency contraception – the morning after pill – typically used when plan A wither fails or is skipped
oInvolves taking high doses of birth control pills within 72 hours of having sex, and then again 12
hours later
Newer version of plan B, Ella, is effective up to 5 days after sex – work by delaying ovulation or blocking
fertilization of the egg
oDo not affect a pre-existing pregnancy
Providing emergency contraception to teens does not result in riskier sex practices
Abortion
One of the most commonly performed medical procedures and also one of the most controversial
Debate around 2 views
oAbortion as a right and a means for attaining individual freedom and equity for women vs.
oAbortion as a threat to morality, the family and society
In 1973 the landmark Supreme Court ruled women the legal right to terminate pregnancy by abortion in the
first trimester (3 months);
oAllowed individual states to set conditions for second trimester abortions
oRules 3rd trimester abortions illegal except when mother’s life was endangered
Other restrictions have come about – in most Us states a parental consent is required for minors seeking
abortion
Low income women are less able to afford abortion
Polls conducted 35 years after the ruling found that public opinion has shifted away from general acceptance
of legal abortion toward a more ambivalent acceptance, favouring choice but only under certain conditions
Incidence
Nearly half of the pregnancies among American woman are unplanned and 4 in 10 are aborted; 2007 –
830000 women in US had abortions; 90% within first trimester
Abortion rates have steadily been declining especially among teens
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