Boldly Going Where Few Have Gone Before: Meet Space Gynecologist Dr. Varsha Jain

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Once upon a time, not so long ago, people feared that if a woman went into space while on her period, the blood would reverse its flow into her body — also known as retrograde menstruation — causing pain and possible death. This was one of many false notions that kept women from being included on space missions because back in those dark ages even the world’s brightest operated under socio-cultural misperceptions surrounding the still-taboo subject of a woman’s “time of the month.” It’s been more than three decades since the first American woman went where none had gone before, and times have certainly changed. For the first time in history, in 2013, NASA boasted its first ever gender-equal training class of astronauts. Today, the female astronauts now have their very own honorary researching gynecologist, Dr. Varsha Jain, whose current research examines menstruation, menstrual suppression, and risks of blood clots in space.

And before you ask, no, she’s not delivering babies in space nor will she be delivering the first Martian baby, as Dr. Jain often hears to the point that when she gave a talk during Tim Peake’s current mission onboard the International Space Station she even titled it “Space Gynecology…That’s babies in space, right?” and proceeded to debunk the notion that ob/gyn work is only about women giving birth to remind people that women are not only made to have babies. The other ridiculous question she regularly gets asked is whether she’ll be studying sex in space — “Um, no! It’s a workplace. Would your employer talk to you about sex in your workplace?” is Dr. Jain’s response to a question that was so absurd it didn’t even occur to me to ask her about it. Although I did sheepishly confess that my concerns with space —> Read More

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