Girlfriends, I'm about to go all Dr. Ruth on you. This is especially for the ones who are experiencing menopausal, post-menopausal and peri-menopausal symptoms. For those of you who file sex advice (especially from a layperson) in the Too-Much-Information category, please feel free to skip on to the next blog. Well (gulp), here we go.....
I entered into menopause two months before my 50th birthday eight years ago. I had gone eleven months without having a period, but the week my second grandson was born I had a real doozy. Then I never had another. I was more than ready to be done with all that monthly stuff. What I wasn't ready for were the not-so-wonderful side effects. Oh, I'm not talking about hot flashes...yes, I had my share of them and they were uncomfortable as all get-out, but as much as I can recall, they never caused me any physical pain. The physical pain part started later.
As some of you know, menopause can cause hair and skin to become drier, and that includes ALL skin. Sometimes dry-as-a-desert dry. Sure, there are wonderful creams and silicone topical applications that one can use during intercourse, and I did. Tried 'em all. (Albolene works the best of any I tried. It's not just for makeup removal, friends.)
On my annual trips to the gynecologist, she would inquire if I were having any problems with intercourse, and I would sort of touch lightly on the subject. It isn't easy for me to talk about these things...I was raised in the 50's and 60's, y'know. She would suggest that I start taking some form of HRT (hormone replacement therapy), and I would turn her down immediately, especially after the studies came out that linked heart attacks and cancer to estrogen treatment. She even suggested a topical estrogen that is inserted vaginally. I try to avoid medicinal remedies at all costs and usually try to find some natural alternative...diet or herbal. And I would never, ever take the popular Premarin, or Prempro, or Premphase, or Prempac, or Premelle. They are all synthetic hormones that are made from PREgnant MARe's urINe. The way it is extracted is horrible.
What Are the Living Conditions of the Mares?
Since there are approximately 431 current Canadian and U.S. PMU farms (but only 308 producing farms as of 11/1/03), and not having visited each one, HorseAid can only generalize based on the ones we have visited (our last visit was to Canada by our HorseAid founders and volunteers in May and June of 1999, that included a side visit to Minnesota).Pro-PMU people focus on the fact that the mares live out in 1,000+ acre pastures with their foals for up to six months of the year (on most PMU farms, mares are 175 - 185 days pregnant when the collection period begins. Estrogen production starts to peak between day 200 - 275 of pregnancy, then decreases to parturition. Mares are collected for a period of 160 - 180 days with the collection period usually being from October to April).Anti-PMU people focus on the fact that the pregnant mares are kept tied up indoors for at least six months out of the year.PMU farmers work to maintain a constant urine volume to meet both their quota requirements and the urine grade. Mares usually produce 90 - 100 gallons of urine throughout the collection season. On a daily basis, a pleasure horse type mare will produce about 0.5 - 0.6 gallon per day while a draft type mare will produce up to 0.75 gallon per day.To produce Premarin, these mares are impregnated, fitted with a UCD and normally kept throughout their last six months of pregnancy in stalls just 8 feet long, by 3 1/2 feet wide, by 5 feet high! Just before foaling they are taken "off line" and allowed to foal in outside paddocks (90% of the mares will carry a foal full term). In most cases they are impregnated by natural cover (artificial insemination has been tried in the past to "streamline" the operation, but was discarded as too expensive).Within six months of a successful breeding, they are returned to the PMU production line again (mares that do not become pregnant within a very short time, cannot be returned to the collection barns and will most likely be sent to auction or straight to the slaughterhouse).Foals removed from the mare are sometimes fattened on feedlots and then sold for slaughter ("The Foals of August"). The ones not sent to feedlots go straight to the meat auctions, or are sold to resale agents. A small number are sold by foal rescue operations to mostly U.S. rescue organizations.
A filly foal has a less than one in 10 chance of not going to slaughter, a colt foal, less than one in 50!As far as the use of catheters are concerned, PMU supporters say that they are no more (and in fact our research shows they were never used industry wide, if used at all) -- now "urine collection devices" (UCD's) are used. The UCD's are not very hygienic for the mares, since they allow the urine to soak the skin of the vulva, sometimes causing severe infections and painful lesions.As for the actual living space they have, current PMU farm guidelines (strictly "voluntary" guidelines that have no consequences, and are not enforceable in any way) state that for horses weighing under 900 lbs. the width of the stalls should be no less than 3.5 feet in width; for horses over that weight, the width is increased to 5 feet.
This may well be large enough for the horses to lie down -- but so is a coffin for a person. Would you like to sleep in one? While pro-PMU people, PMU farm vets included, say that it's enough room to lie down and sleep, some have contradicted themselves in print by saying that "horses can sleep standing up anyway."Horses can lock their legs and doze, but they must lie down for their essential 'deep sleep' period (in the wild and in pasture, horses lie down approximately three hours for every twenty-four). As for exercise, the guidelines leave that up to the discretion of the farm manager or farm employees.
HorseAid has carefully reviewed the guidelines with leading animal husbandry veterinarians and found them insufficient to protect either the wellness of the mares or the thousands of foals they produce. Our latest investigations reveal that even these inadequate guidelines are not being followed.Pro-PMU people say, "It's 20 below zero out there in the winter, which is when the mares are confined. It's more humane to keep them inside." However, no indoor arenas or turn-out pens were observed in any of the farms we visited. There are an estimated 125 producing mares on each farm (averaged across all farms - 150, if you include reserves, "hires" and foaling/nursing mares), and to hire employees to hand-walk each one even once a day would not be cost-effective (and so, usually not done).As a result, the already too-fat mares have problems with stocking up, soreness and hoof/wall separation. At almost EVERY farm we visited, there was some form of respiratory distress evident in the mares "on-line". (This quote comes from the website www.premarin.org, linked in the title)
It had been a couple of years since I went in for my pap smear, mammogram, and checkup. I had been wanting to change doctors for a while, so I found a new one. She is young and matter-of-fact, unlike my other doctor who was kind of whispery and not all that informative. As soon as she asked me about any problems in my sex life, I decided to be completely frank about it. "It hurts and no amount of lubrication makes it not hurt," I told her. Before the words HRT were out of her mouth, I told her that I would not, under any circumstances take any of the above substances. She understood completely, then she recommended a completely synthetic topical cream called Estrace, which is not made from horse's urine, to be applied via syringe every night for two weeks, and then twice a week thereafter.
I was horrified at the cost! Are you kidding me? $115+ change for a tube of something I wasn't sure would work? And to top it off, I took the prescription to the pharmacy where my daughter is a pharmacy tech. She wasn't working, but her young, male boss was called over to give me pertinent information. Gawd! I hoped he didn't remember who I am!
The doctor had warned me that it might be a little messy, so I made sure I had panti-liners on hand. Inserting it was no more difficult than inserting a tampon and the forewarned mess was fairly minimal.
How's it working? I know you want to know, so I'm gonna tell ya. I feel like I'm 30 again. The dryness is gone...completely gone. There is no need for Albolene. And it even has a little side benefit...I no longer leak. Yes, you heard me...no more leaking, even when I sneeze. And I'm only about halfway through the tube. To me (and my husband), it's worth every penny. I even think my mustache may be disappearing.