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Women's Health

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Gynecology for Guys

What men need to know.

Ignorance Is Widespread

As his class settles in, Bekkar assures them that they're not the only ones in the dark about women's anatomy. As proof, he displays the drawings he collected at a focus group conducted while the class was in the discussion phase. He asked several men, ranging in age from 25 to 55, to draw and label the female reproductive system as accurately as they could.

He shows three of the winning drawings, which he also includes in his book, Your Guy's Guide to Gynecology, written with his colleague, Udo Wahn, MD. "This is one of the better ones," says Bekkar, grinning. The "first prize" drawing Bekkar refers to is a childish picture that resembles a faceless rabbit with ears (the ears are actually meant to be the fallopian tubes). Another winning drawing looks like a close-up of the same rabbit, and the third, charitably speaking, could be compared to a flower. And these were drawn, Bekkar points out, by educated men: a banker, a computer consultant, and an administrator.

Undoing the Ignorance

Using a blitz of slides, background music, and nonstop patter, Bekkar plunges in. He shows the men accurate pictures of the female anatomy, drawn simply on a slide with crucial parts labeled. Another slide shows the complicated ebb and flow of hormones during a typical monthly cycle.

Then he introduces premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. PMS is defined as physical or emotional symptoms, or both, that precede menstruation and that are severe enough to disrupt work or other activities.

Most women experience some symptoms, such as breast tenderness, bloating, crying spells, or anxiety, but some women are affected more severely. Women who have PMS, he says, may feel "powerless and guilty. It's not like they wake up and say, 'I'm going to be hard on my partner.' "

Just when stuff begins to get heavy, Bekkar turns comic and shows a slide entitled "The Top Ten List of Things We Don't Recommend You Say to a Woman With PMS" while he plays David Letterman's background music. Among the no-nos: "Hey, those jeans used to be real loose on you, didn't they?" and "Aw, c'mon -- that PMS stuff is all in your head!"

Next, Bekkar turns to menopause. First he defines it (the cessation of monthly periods, occurring on average around age 51), then discusses symptoms (fatigue, hot flashes, forgetfulness, decreased sex drive, heavier periods before they cease entirely), and finally, treatments (synthetic hormones, natural [plant-based] hormone substitutes, and other remedies).

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