How to Talk to Your Partner About Getting Tested With Minimal Weirdness

You’re pressed against the wall of a new date’s apartment as they kiss your neck and reach to undo your pants. Every atom in your body is ready for more, but then your brain kicks in: Shit. We haven’t talked about STIs yet.

Or perhaps it happens when you’re on cloud nine after defining your new relationship. You’ve gone over whether or not you want kids, proper toilet paper orientation, basically everything except sexually transmitted infections. It’s the only nagging thought dampening your excitement.

As much as you’d like to tell your brain to shut up in these moments, discussing STIs with sexual partners is essential for taking care of your health, even if it does seem incredibly awkward.

Here’s why you need to have the talk.

Ideally, you’d talk about STIs before having sex with any new partners. But we live in the real world and we know that that’s not necessarily the norm.
So why is that? You might tell yourself it’s fine to skip this talk. Who wants to talk about your last STI test or that time five years ago that an ex gave you chlamydia? Can’t you just assume that this person would mention it if there was something to bring up? Your last STI check was all clear. You have condoms. It’s all probably fine, right? Listen, we understand the urge to completely ignore this topic.

“Ultimately, having this conversation is about sexual health, but there’s a cultural bias that feels like you’re in some way accusing someone if you bring up STIs,” Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a sex and relationship therapist in New York, tells SELF. “There’s still a lot of stigma.”

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you are not accusing someone of being promiscuous or dishonest by asking them about their STI status. Anyone can get STIs and many come with absolutely zero symptoms. Assuming “oh, he would tell me if he had an STI” assumes that they got tested recently, which may not be something you’ve discussed yet. Likewise, assuming “I’m sure she doesn’t have an STI” is most likely completely baseless—you cannot infer STI status from anything other than an actual test.

So, yes, you need to have this talk—even if you’ve already had sex with this person. The rates of many sexually transmitted infections are on the rise for various reasons. And while medications can clear up STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea, others, like herpes and HIV, are incurable.

That doesn’t mean getting an STI has to devastate your life. Even STIs that aren’t curable are often manageable with the correct treatment, and people with these conditions can still lead full, happy, sex-filled lives. But trying to avoid STIs, especially those transmitted via bodily fluids, is generally easier than dealing with them after the fact. That’s why talking about STIs with your sexual partner (or partners) is so critical.

Here’s how to bring it up.

The way you bring up STIs depends largely on the status of your relationship. Of course, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how you do this. All the advice in the world doesn’t guarantee that it won’t be a little awkward. But here are some tips that may help.

If it’s at the moment before sex with a new person:

You can pause that up-against-the-wall moment to ask if your partner has been tested for STIs and what the results were. But at this point, you don’t really know them well enough to do much with that information.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask. The way they respond to this question can be a great litmus test. But unless you know for sure that your partner recently got tested and hasn’t had sex with anyone else since then, operate under the assumption that they might have an STI and that you should have the safest sex possible. That may mean using a condom, a dental dam, or both. (Remember that these barrier methods don’t protect against all STIs, since some, like herpes and HPV, can be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact.)

You can ask your partner if they have these barrier methods around or pull one out yourself. If they question you or protest, Fleming suggests saying something like, “Since we haven’t gotten tested together, we definitely need to use a [barrier method].”

This is also a great way to lay the groundwork if you think you’ll have sex with this person again. “The assumption is that you’re going to be tested eventually,” Fleming says.

If you’ve been seeing someone and want to get tested before having sex:

Tosin Goje, M.D., an ob/gyn at the Cleveland Clinic, says that she often sees women who want to be screened before having sex in a new relationship. “You should have a conversation with your partner and have them screened also,” Dr. Goje tells SELF.

Although bringing this up at all is great, it might be best to do it in a non-sexual context when both of you are thinking clearly. If you’re a little freaked out to mention it, admit that. You can say something like, “I’m nervous to talk to you about this, but it seems like we might have sex soon, and it’s important to me that we get tested for STIs first.”

As an alternative, you can get tested and kick things off by sharing your results. This can make it clear that you’re not judging or shaming your partner by bringing up STI testing. It’s just a normal part of having sex with a new person. Fleming suggests saying something like, “Since it seems like we’re going to have sex soon, I decided to go get tested. When did you last get tested?”

If you’ve had sex with them already:

Maybe you’ve been using condoms and/or dental dams up until this point, but now you want to stop. If you don’t know what to say, keep it simple: “If we’re going to stop using condoms/dental dams, we need to go get tested. Just to be safe.”

Perhaps you got caught up in the moment, had unprotected sex, and are wondering if it’s OK to just make that your M.O. with this person. In that case, try, “I know we haven’t been using protection, but if we’re going to keep doing that, we should get tested so that we can really enjoy it safely.”

Again, it might be easiest to have these kinds of conversations when you’re not right on the brink of sex. And if you’re going to be having unprotected sex with someone, you should talk about not having unprotected sex with other people, too.

What if they aren’t receptive?

We’d hope that everyone would be open to discussing sexual health with someone they’re about to have sex with. But since STI stigma is real, even someone who’s otherwise a total catch might be confused or offended. Hopefully they’ll come around quickly once you discuss why it’s important to you.

“If you ultimately explain that this is non-negotiable and they still say no, then you may want to question if this is the right partner for you,” Fleming says. “If they’re not thinking about…what you need to be comfortable, that’s a red flag.”

Katie M., 32, knows this all too well. Soon after she graduated from college, she started dating someone new. The first few times they saw each other, they made out, but eventually things got more heated, Katie tells SELF. When they were on the verge of having sex, she said, “I’m fine with sex, but we both need to get tested before that happens.” But her partner pushed back, saying that they should just trust each other.

If you find yourself in this situation, Fleming suggests saying something like, “I’ve never received this reaction before. Can you tell me why you’re so against getting tested?” You can also explain that trust has nothing to do with it if you haven’t been tested recently, and that you’re trying to look out for their health, too.

For various reasons, Katie stopped seeing that partner soon after their STI discussion. Seven months later, she met the man who eventually became her husband. They were dating long-distance and hadn’t yet had sex when he made plans to stay with her over Thanksgiving. “I told him that if we were going to have sex while he was there, we both needed to get tested,” she says. He had an STI report from his doctor in his suitcase the day he got off the plane.

What if either one of you tests positive?

You may expect to have celebratory sex immediately after you both get your test results. But if one of you tests positive for an STI, you should ask your doctor what the diagnosis means for your sex life. You might need to abstain while completing a round of antibiotics, for instance. If you’ve already had sex with this person, it would be worth having a conversation about whether or not they should be tested and treated, too.

Opening up to your partner about having an STI can be unnerving, but it won’t necessarily be the disaster you might imagine. Carly S., a 26-year-old with genital herpes, has been there. Herpes never fully goes away, even if you take antiviral medications to help prevent outbreaks and lower the odds of spreading the virus.

When Carly started dating after breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, she knew she’d have to tell potential partners about having herpes. She worried that it would torpedo budding relationships, but the first guy she told simply responded, “OK,” and that was that.

“I know it’s not a big deal [to have an STI], but it was kind of like validation [that] not everyone is going to think I’m gross,” Carly tells SELF.

When Carly stopped seeing that partner and brought up her STI status to a different man, he also didn’t judge her. He said, “That sucks that that happened to you.” They’re still dating today.

Bottom line: An STI does not need to ruin your life, sexually or otherwise. “It’s not who you are; it’s just a thing you have,” Fleming says. “You need to take care of yourself and your partners, but it in no way defines you, who you are, or what you can offer as a partner.”

Also keep in mind that if you and a new partner get tested together, the prospect that one of you has an STI is already on the table. That might make it even more likely that you’ll receive the nonchalance Carly encountered. So might sharing enough medical context to explain why your specific STI isn’t the end of the world, like how long treatment will last or what medications you’ll be starting to lower the chances of spreading the infection.

Remember: You got this.

Anyone who treats you poorly for talking about STIs (or having one) probably isn’t worth it. Whether you are bringing up STI tests or the fact that you have an STI, there’s always a chance that someone might respond cruelly, ghost you, or do something else along those rude lines.

It’s their right to decide who they do and don’t want to have sex with. But if someone treats you poorly over taking responsibility for your sexual health, they’re likely not a great partner to have in the first place.

Related:

Nearly 70,000 Pounds of Tyson Chicken Strips Recalled Due to Possible Metal Contamination

Apparently nothing is sacred when it comes to food recalls, not even delicious, chicken tenders. This week, Tyson Foods Inc. voluntarily recalled three types of frozen chicken strips due to potential foreign matter contamination, specifically pieces of metal.

In fact, according to an alert from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) last week, Tyson is recalling 69,093 pounds of meat after two consumer complaints of “extraneous material” in the products.

The recalled products are:

  • 25-oz. plastic bag packages of frozen “Tyson FULLY COOKED BUFFALO STYLE CHICKEN STRIPS CHICKEN BREAST STRIP FRITTERS WITH RIB MEAT AND BUFFALO STYLE SAUCE” with “BEST IF USED BY NOV 30 2019,” case codes 3348CNQ0317 and 3348CNQ0318, and individual bag time stamps from 17:00 through 18:59 hours (inclusive).
  • 25-oz. plastic bag packages of frozen “Tyson FULLY COOKED CRISPY CHICKEN STRIPS CHICKEN BREAST STRIP FRITTERS WITH RIB MEAT” with “BEST IF USED BY NOV 30 2019,” case codes 3348CNQ0419, 3348CNQ0420, 3348CNQ0421, and 3348CNQ0422, and individual bag time stamps from 19:00 through 22:59 hours (inclusive).
  • 20-lb. cases of frozen “SPARE TIME FULLY COOKED, BUFFALO STYLE CHICKEN STRIPS CHICKEN BREAST STRIP FRITTERS WITH RIB MEAT AND BUFFALO STYLE SAUCE” with “BEST IF USED BY NOV 30 2019,” and case code 3348CNQ03.

All the affected products were produced on November 30, 2018 and have “best if used by” dates of November 30, 2019. They also have the code “P-7221” on the back of the package. These products were shipped to retailers nationwide.

Here’s what to do if you have any of the recalled products.

If you happen to have purchased any of the recalled chicken strips, you should not eat them. Instead, the FSIS says you can return them to where you bought them for a refund or simply dispose of them. You can check out Tyson’s site to see pictures of the affected product packaging.

So far, there haven’t been any reports of adverse events associated with the recall. But finding extraneous bits of metal in your chicken strips can be both unsettling and risky. If you’re concerned about any illnesses or injuries related to the recalled products, FSIS says you should talk to your doctor.

Related:

How Does Cannabis Actually Affect Sex?

Cannabis (marijuana) has a bit of a mixed reputation when it comes to sex. You may have heard that it’s a traditional herbal aphrodisiac with nearly mythical libido-boosting powers. Or maybe you heard that it can reduce sperm count or contribute to erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. In reality? It’s probably far more complicated than any of those assumptions, which is why we’ve compiled everything we know and don’t know about how cannabis affects sex.

There is one huge caveat, though: Thanks to the system of prohibition that’s dominated drug policy in the U.S. for the past few decades—a system that has had and continues to have a disproportionately large impact on communities of color—there’s simply not a whole lot of research to go on.

Another pretty big caveat: Sexual arousal and functioning is incredibly complicated, so analyzing the sexual effects of any substance is going to inevitably be multilayered. “A lot of the understanding that needs to go into a discussion around cannabis and sexuality has less to do with cannabis and more to do with sexuality,” Jordan Tishler, M.D., medical cannabis expert at InhaleMD in Boston, tells SELF.

When researchers examine sexual enjoyment, they may take different aspects of it into account, including biological, social, and psychological factors that may be playing a role in attraction, arousal, orgasm, and overall satisfaction, Dr. Tishler says. But even if all of those things are accounted for, good sex means different things to different people—and even different things to the same person depending on the day. So it’s something that’s inherently a little challenging to study, which is a good thing to keep in mind when interpreting these results.

Amanda K. Behrens

Here’s what the limited research tells us about cannabis and sex.

Most of what we know about cannabis and sex comes from self-reported surveys. Knowing that cannabis is purported to help with anxiety and pain, it makes sense that the plant may also enhance sex indirectly for some by affecting those other issues. But research directly linking cannabis to sexual enjoyment is somewhat lacking.

Because cannabis is a schedule I drug in the U.S. (meaning the federal government decided it has a high potential for abuse and low potential for medical benefit), it’s difficult to study in a controlled environment. You can’t exactly give participants weed and measure how their sex habits change, for example. (Or at least most U.S.-based researchers can’t do that because it requires a specific type of drug license to use the actual compounds, which has historically been incredibly difficult to acquire.)

So, instead, researchers have often used self-reported surveys—in which participants are asked about their drug use and their sexual experiences—to get an idea of what’s going on. But these studies come with a few drawbacks.

For one thing, it requires relying on people to accurately (and honestly) remember how much and how often they’ve used particular substances, as well as what effect it had on their sex lives. Researchers also have no way of corroborating what survey respondents say. Scientists can’t test the drug people have been using to see what it actually is (does it have a high THC content? Is it a concentrate or an edible?) and they have to trust that they and their study subjects share a common frame of reference for and definition of subjective words to describe a highly personal experience, like “enjoyment.”

Surveys also only show us a correlation between two things, like cannabis use and the enjoyment of sex. They can’t assess the mechanism behind that correlation or even necessarily tell us why it exists. There can be all sorts of reasons why these answers were correlated the way they were, from something inherent in a person’s personality to the self-selecting nature of the survey respondents. It could be that people who are eager to take a survey about cannabis use are more likely to have had a positive experience with cannabis, and so they’re disproportionately less likely to report having issues with it.

Plus, many of these studies have historically focused mostly or entirely on the experience of men. For instance, in a study published in 1979 in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, researchers asked a group of 84 grad students (78 percent of whom were male) what they thought the relationship between cannabis and sex would be. Those who had firsthand experience with the topic (39 percent) were asked to answer from that perspective. Although the groups agreed that cannabis increases overall sexual pleasure, only those who were “experienced smokers” also strongly believed that it increased the intensity of an orgasm and that it should be considered an aphrodisiac.

But this study included a small number of participants (and an even smaller number of people who actually had firsthand experience using cannabis for sex), the majority of whom were young and male. So it’s not clear how well their results would translate to the experience of people outside those groups.

In another study, published in 1984 in the Journal of Sex Research, the researchers actually interviewed their (all white, 62 percent male) college student participants rather than handing them a questionnaire. The study found similar results: Most participants reported that cannabis improved some aspect of sex—but they added a few interesting details.

For instance, although 58 percent of men in that study reported that it increased the quality of their orgasms, only 32 percent of women said the same. But men and women agreed in about the same amount that cannabis increased their desire for a familiar partner (50 percent of men and 60 percent of women), increased sexual pleasure and satisfaction (70 percent of men and 76 percent of women), and improved the sensation of touching (59 percent of men and 57 percent of women). Additionally, only 34 percent of men said cannabis increased snuggling, but 56 percent of women said it did.

Again, this study had a small number of participants, most of whom were not women and all of whom were white. That makes it difficult to know how accurately the responses from women here reflect the feelings of women in general.

A more recent study (that received plenty of headlines), published in 2017 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, used data from the large nationally representative National Survey of Family Growth. Rather than asking people anything about how their sex lives interact with their drug use, the researchers here simply correlated participants’ self-reported frequency of cannabis use with the frequency that they reported having sex.

They found that people who reported using cannabis monthly, weekly, or daily also reported slightly more frequent sex than those who never smoked. (Women who used cannabis daily had an average of 7.1 sexual encounters in the previous four weeks compared to 6 for those who never used it.) But these results can’t answer any questions about whether or not cannabis use is correlated with the enjoyment or satisfaction of those sexual experiences.

Although this study did include a large number of participants, the researchers had to work with data that had already been collected, meaning that the original survey wasn’t necessarily designed to answer the questions the researchers here asked. Another study of the same size using questions specifically designed to examine the relationship between cannabis use and sex would, theoretically, give more accurate results, but it still wouldn’t tell us why people answered the way they did.

Not satisfied with the data from previous studies, Becky Lynn, M.D., director of the Center for Sexual Health and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Saint Louis University, tells SELF that she set out to conduct her own survey. “I wanted to know what women really thought,” she says. “Did they think that marijuana was improving their sex life?”

To find out, she worked with other people in her practice to offer a survey asking about cannabis usage with regards to sex—whether or not it had any effect on sex drive, orgasm, lubrication, pain, and the overall sexual experience—to everyone who came through their doors. Some of the more than 30 experts at that center are ob/gyns like Dr. Lynn, but there are also obstetricians, urogynecologists, gynecological oncologists, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialists. Every patient who saw any doctor there was offered the survey, so “it wasn’t only people coming in with sexual problems” who were offered it, Dr. Lynn says.

Ultimately, over 300 women filled it out and the results became the basis of two studies recently presented at the World Meeting on Sexual Medicine and the annual meeting of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health—and just published in Sexual Medicine.

Of 373 respondents, 176 reported ever using cannabis, with about half of them reporting frequent use (anywhere from once a week to several times a day) and half of them reporting infrequent use (anywhere from once a year to a few times a year). And 127 of the 176 cannabis users reported ever using cannabis before sex.

There were a few major findings, like that people who reported ever using cannabis prior to sex were more likely to report having satisfying orgasms than those who did not use cannabis before sex (and this was a statistically significant difference). And those who reported frequent cannabis use (not necessarily before sex) were also significantly more likely to report having satisfying orgasms than people who reported infrequent cannabis use. People who reported using cannabis before sex were also more likely to say that they use cannabis specifically to decrease pain (though this wasn’t a statistically significant difference).

This study does have many of the same limitations as those that came before it (such as a small sample size and a possible self-selection bias), but it’s unique in that it primarily focuses on the experience of women. However, like many of the other studies on this topic, the participants were primarily white and heterosexual.

Amanda K. Behrens

This is how cannabis could theoretically impact sex.

In case you didn’t know, your body makes its own natural version of cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), and there is a significant amount of receptors for those compounds “in areas of the brain that deal with sexual function,” Dr. Lynn says, such as the amygdala and hypothalamus. Recent research suggests that 2-AG, an endocannabinoid, is released in humans after orgasm, suggesting that these compounds may be involved in normal sexual processes.

But what happens when you add cannabis to the mix? We do have some answers: Cannabis is a vasodilator (meaning it opens blood vessels and increases blood flow), Dr. Tishler explains. It has direct effects on the cannabinoid receptors in the skin and nerve pathways that are involved in perceiving pain. It can also affect some higher order functions, including memory and feelings of fear and anxiety.

And it’s easy to see how all of those effects could contribute to better sex for some people, but we still don’t have a full, conclusive understanding of what cannabis is doing physiologically in the context of sex. “There are just theories on why this works,” Dr. Lynn says. “There’s really no definitive answer.”

Indeed, there are some studies in humans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that show those sex-related areas are activated even more with the addition of cannabis, Dr. Tishler says. But, again, these studies have their drawbacks—they’re not measuring arousal or libido directly.

What we know about cannabis in this context comes entirely from animal studies, she explains, which can be done by altering the way endocannabinoids and their receptors work (something that can’t easily be done in humans). “Animal research suggests that stimulating the CB1 receptor delays ejaculation, so reports about the time of the act in humans could be true (and not just a result of impaired time perception),” Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University at Albany, SUNY, tells SELF, which may contribute to the increased level of enjoyment the human participants reported in the surveys we mentioned previously.

In some cases though, delayed ejaculation may become problematic. For example, in a 2010 survey of 8,656 Australian adults published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, men who used cannabis daily were more likely to report reaching orgasm too slowly or not at all compared to those who never used. But that study also found that cannabis use was associated with premature ejaculation. As a reminder, this is a self-reported study, so these findings are based on men assessing their own sexual performance, not some sort of objective measure of what happened.

There is also some evidence in humans to suggest that frequent use of cannabis can cause undesirable effects. For instance, among chronic, heavy cannabis users, the drug can negatively affect sperm production, Dr. Earleywine says. In a study published in 2015 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers looked at the semen quality of about 1,200 Danish men between the ages of 18 and 28. Nearly half of that sample (45 percent) reported using cannabis within the previous three months. Their results showed that those who used cannabis frequently—more than once a week—had a 28 percent reduction in sperm concentration and a 29 percent lower sperm count compared to those who used once a week or less.

Interestingly, a study published this month in Human Reproduction did not find the same results. Instead, in a longitudinal survey of 662 men who provided semen samples between 2000 and 2017, those who reported ever using cannabis had significantly higher sperm count than those who had never smoked. The researchers suspect that there may be some reproductive benefits to moderate cannabis use but that “this relation reverses at higher doses, resulting in adverse effects,” which could explain their contradictory findings.

Ultimately, though, there’s nothing definitively proving that cannabis enhances sex or that it could contribute to or be used to treat specific sexual dysfunctions (such as premature ejaculation). But, if you’re in a position to try it, our experts do have some words of wisdom.

Amanda K. Behrens

Here’s what to know before you mix cannabis and sex.

Cannabis is a psychoactive drug and different people react differently to it. So, especially if this is your first time using the substance, it’s important to start low, go slow, and take some precautions to make sure you have the most enjoyable and safe experience possible.

As a reminder, cannabis is legal for medical use in 33 states plus the District of Columbia, and it’s legal for adult (recreational) use in 10 states plus D.C. But it remains illegal at the federal level, so there are some obvious legal risks inherent in using cannabis for any reason in the U.S. It’s also important to remember the age restrictions within those states.

Dr. Tishler suggests trying cannabis on your own before incorporating a partner. “What I tell everybody is that the first time you want to think about using cannabis for sex, that should be a masturbation event,” he says. That way, you’ll know how you react to cannabis and how it affects your level of arousal and your orgasm before bringing in a partner and all of their variables.

But Dr. Lynn says there may be some benefits to trying it the first time with a trusted partner “in case you freak out,” she says. (Although some people find that cannabis can sometimes relieve anxiety, in other cases it can increase anxiety and feelings of paranoia. So, if that happens or you’re nervous about it happening, having a buddy could be helpful to calm you down.) Either way, know that you can say no to sex at any time—whether or not you’re using cannabis with another person specifically to enhance sex. The same rules of consent apply.

Speaking of consent, when you are ready to use cannabis to enhance a sexual experience with someone else, make your boundaries known and seek affirmative consent for anything you do. Our understanding of giving consent while using cannabis is still developing, Dr. Tishler says, but it’s crucial that you and your partner have a discussion ahead of time—before you get stoned—about what is and is not OK for you. Of course, consent is important whether or not you’re using cannabis, Dr. Lynn says, but this adds yet another layer to the conversation, and everyone needs to be on the same page.

It’s also important to differentiate between whether you want to use cannabis to enhance your sexual experience or to help manage a diagnosable sexual dysfunction, a factor that research hasn’t been able to tease out yet. If you are experiencing symptoms of sexual dysfunction or pain during sex, check in with your doctor or a sex therapist to talk about that.

And know that, as with all drugs, there is a potential for some unpleasant side effects with cannabis. We know that cannabis (especially when smoked) can affect the lungs and exacerbate conditions like asthma. It can also increase the heart rate and cause anxiety in some cases.

Amanda K. Behrens

Despite the lack of research, there are a ton of sex-related cannabis products.

In case you’re curious. As we’ve discussed, the research surrounding cannabis and sex leaves a lot to be desired. So your mileage will undoubtedly vary with any product claiming to help you with a sexual issue or to enhance the experience of sex. And the good ol’ placebo effect may dictate a good amount of what happens.

Dr. Tishler says he recommends going with vaping cannabis over using an edible or topical product, because it’s easier to get the dose you want at the time you actually want it when it’s inhaled. (And we’ve already covered the benefits of vaping over smoking cannabis here.)

Below are a just a few of the cannabis products out there purported to enhance sex. We chose them because they all incorporate both THC and CBD (there really isn’t any research looking at CBD-only products for sex, Dr. Tishler says), because they come highly rated, and because they simply look like fun.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Avocados Recalled in 6 States for Possible Listeria Contamination

Before you pay extra for guac, listen to this: Avocados sold in six states are being voluntarily recalled and customers are being warned about the possibility of listeria in their avocados, according to a recall notice posted on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) site.

Specifically, Henry Avocado Corporation is voluntarily recalling California-grown avocados sold in Arizona, California, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin after a routine government test turned up positive results for listeria monocytogenes at the company’s California packing facility. Avocados affected by the recall will either have a “Bravocado” sticker on them or, if they are organic, will have both “organic” and “California” on the sticker.

The recall does not include avocados imported from Mexico that Henry Avocado Corporation also distributes.

Here are the symptoms of listeria to keep in mind.

The symptoms of listeria infections are generally similar to other foodborne illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. And those may include fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If the infection has reached beyond the gut, they can cause more serious symptom, such as:

  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • confusion
  • loss of balance
  • convulsions

But, as SELF explained previously, listeria poses a specific risk to pregnant people. If the infection has spread beyond the gut in someone who is pregnant, they may only experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, and muscle aches, the CDC says. But the infection can still cause serious side effects, including miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or a life-threatening illness in the newborn.

Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are also at a greater risk for experiencing more severe symptoms. But, in general, healthy adults are able to recover from an infection without issues. If the infection is mild, there may not be any need for treatment, the Mayo Clinic says. For more severe symptoms, patients may be prescribed antibiotics.

To date, there haven’t been any illnesses associated with the recall, and Henry Avocado says they are already contacting retailers to remove the affected avocados from stores. But the company is also urging any consumers who may have purchased them not to eat them. If you happen to have them in your kitchen, you can either toss them or return them for a refund.

Related:

It Took Me Years to Separate Working Out from Trying to Lose Weight. Here’s How I Did It

For many years exercise was, to me, purely a tool to manipulate my body. For me, the purpose of exercise was to burn calories or to create an energy deficit so I could “cheat” and eat the foods I really wanted, which I had decided (with some help from diet culture) were “bad” to eat and even morally “wrong” to want in the first place. Exercise was how I punished myself for what I’d eaten and sometimes what I wanted to eat. Whether I considered a workout a success was totally conditional and tethered to the calories I burned or the numbers I was seeing on the scale. And fitness wasn’t the only thing that I judged by whether I was losing weight; my self-worth got the same treatment. My whole vibe around exercise was negative and harsh; it’s no wonder I had a hard time sticking with it consistently. My mind always went back to debits and credits of calories and fuel. It was a mindset I couldn’t shake.

If I’m honest, after looking at the National Eating Disorder website, I see now that my unhealthy relationship with exercise definitely checked some of the boxes for symptoms of compulsive exercising. And to be clear, I don’t think that my relationship to exercise was that much different or more severe than the relationship lots of us have to exercise while living in the reality of diet culture.

Over many years and through a lot of self-work, my mindset and behavior have completely changed. I now coach women to re-frame their relationship with exercise from punitive and perfectionistic to joyful, empowered, and celebratory.

What I know now—that I never could have imagined then—is that exercise can simply be about feeling good in your body or the pure joy of achievement. The rush I feel after finishing a tough workout, maybe one that I didn’t feel like doing in the first place; what if that was enough to make exercise “worth it?”

But making this shift in how you relate to exercise doesn’t happen overnight and it definitely doesn’t happen just because you want it to. In my experience, it’s something you have to work at. I had to change a lot of behaviors in order to start thinking about exercise in a new way. But the good news is that it worked for me and I’ve seen it work for my clients. Here’s how I overcame my unhealthy relationship with fitness and body weight:

1. I stopped following media or influencers that reinforced diet culture. I started following accounts that celebrated movement and body diversity.

If you’re awash in images that reinforce the value of thinness, it’s really tough to stop valuing thinness. That’s it. Of course often times this content is meant to be “fitspo,” but it’s only ever inspired me to feel like however much I did would never be enough.

I ditched it all and replaced it with accounts of women who were celebrating their bodies and achievements at all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities. I filled my news feed and inbox with nothing but body positivity and it changed my thought patterns around what it means to achieve fitness milestones in a diversity of bodies.

Some of the people I started following are: ultramarathoner Mirna Valerio (@themirnivator), personal trainers Roz the Diva (@rozthediva) and Morit Summers (@moritsummers), and yoga teacher Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn).

I started to read books like: Triathlon for Every Woman by Meredith Atwood, Slow Fat Triathlete by Jayne Williams, A Beautiful Work in Progress by Mirna Valerio, Eat, Sweat, Play by Anna Kessel, and Embrace Yourself by Taryn Brumfitt.

2. I started tracking everything other than calories.

As someone with a long history of dieting, the only tracking I was accustomed to was logging everything that went in my mouth and any kind of exercise I did. Each day my goal was to make sure those numbers meant that I’d created a caloric deficit. If they did, I would deem the day a good one. If the numbers didn’t line up or worse, if the calories consumed were greater than those burned, it was a bad day. I still can’t believe how much power I gave to numbers!

Fortunately there are tons of ways to keep track of things we do for our health. I like to track my moods, mental health, and how I feel about my body. I also keep a log of the exercise I did along with how I slept and how much water I’ve drunk. These are the things that help me keep track of how I’m feeling physically and mentally.

If you’re interested in trying a new way of tracking, check out this page from the fitness journal I offer my clients. It will guide you through tracking your workouts (and more) in a way that will focus you on your emotional wellbeing.

3. I planned for the ride to get bumpy every now and again by literally writing extra rest days into my training schedules.

In every fitness journey there will be peaks, valleys, and plateaus. For me the peaks are when I’m feeling great, I’m crushing my workouts, and everything is aligned. But when I hit a valley, I’m just not feeling it as much. Then there are plateaus, those frustrating times when you feel like working out just isn’t getting any easier.

Guess what? This is normal. Having these ebbs and flows to how you feel and how your workouts feel doesn’t mean you’re failing. In fact, it means you’re succeeding at having an organic, authentic relationship with exercise.

Here are some ways I do this is:

  • When I plan my training schedules, I incorporate a plan for potential valleys and prepare programs with some extra time to allow for illness or potential injury, just in case.
  • I stopped being so harsh with myself and honor my body when my energy is lower. I ask myself, What would be the best thing for my body right now? Sometimes it is to push through but other times it’s about taking some time to rest.
  • I also have flexibility within my training plans and sometimes move scheduled workouts around. This way, I am still getting the training I need without completely blowing it off.

And by the way, if you track and compare those good days against the bad days with the journal sheet, you sometimes can start to see some behavioral patterns and when we have knowledge around our behavior, we have power to change.

4. I totally re-evaluated my relationship to my scale.

Truth be told, I didn’t get rid of my scale entirely because I occasionally weigh myself. But it’s gone from my sight line and that puts weighing myself out of my mind, too. It means that if I want to weigh myself I have think through whether it’s a good idea in the moment to follow through with that. This is a really personal decision and we all need to figure out what’s right for ourselves when it comes to weighing ourselves. However, I strongly recommend really thinking through your relationship to the scale. For example, how often do you weigh yourself? Does the number on the scale have a pretty big effect on your mood or your day? Does your weight at a given time influence how much you’ll eat or workout? If you answered yes to any of these, (like I did previously) you may want it gone all together.

5. I stopped doing exercise I didn’t truly enjoy.

I remember once doing a fitness program where I worked out intensely for six days a week and followed a fairly stringent meal plan. The main objective of the program was to shed pounds quickly, (yes, I fell for it). For the first time in my life, my knees hurt from all the jumping, my body was taxed, and I was starving. It felt wrong and just plain sucked. Plus—and maybe you already know this from personal experience—fitness geared towards rapid weight loss doesn’t often lead to a sustainable workout routine. So, I stopped doing this program because I was in it for all the wrong reasons. I went back to fitness I enjoyed and returned to training for events such as 5k and 10k races and sprint and olympic triathlons. I found the variety in workouts, mostly in the outdoors, suited my personality. These goals weren’t about weight loss and shredding pounds but more about athletic victory and for me. That is the only motivator that keeps my fitness routines sustainable.

It’s really important to align your fitness routine with what makes you feel good. Choosing something that’s too severe can trigger all sorts of unhealthy habits or extreme behaviors. Remember long-term sustainability is the key. Choose something that interests you, that challenges you in a healthy way; find something that you enjoy, and you will be set up for long and happy (although sometimes bumpy!) relationship with working out. And remember that the only person who gets to decide what a sustainable fitness routine is for you is you.

There is a fine line between mindful tracking and dedication to your health, and obsessiveness, over-exercise, and chronically standing on the scale. Of course, staying on the emotionally healthy side of that line can be easier said than done. If you find yourself unable to break unhealthy habits or thinking way too much about eating and exercise, consider working with a professional like a therapist or registered dietitian who can help you implement some of these changes. I really think it’s worth it; reflecting not only on the workouts you do but also how you mentally manage the results of your workouts are both equally important in the health equation.

Louise Green is a plus-size trainer, founder of the fitness program Body Exchange, and author of Big Fit Girl: Embrace the Body You Have. Follow: Instagram @LouiseGreen_BigFitGirl, Twitter @Bigfitgirl, Facebook @louisegreen.bigfitgirl

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Mothers of fussy babies at higher risk of depressive symptoms

It’s no secret that fussy newborns can be especially challenging for parents already facing physical and mental exhaustion from caring for a new baby.

But now science backs up the impact on parents: The less soothable the infant, the more distressed the mother.

Mothers of highly irritable infants experience greater depressive symptoms, according to new University of Michigan-led research. The nationally representative study, which included data from more than 8,200 children and their parents, appears in Academic Pediatrics.

The study is also believed to be the first to explore whether the degree of a baby’s prematurity in combination with infant fussiness may influence the severity of maternal depressive symptoms.

Researchers found that mothers of very preterm, fussy infants (born at 24-31 weeks) had about twice the odds of experiencing mild depressive symptoms compared to moms of very preterm infants without fussiness.

However, mothers of fussy babies born moderate-late preterm (32-36 weeks gestation) as well as mothers of full-term infants were about twice as likely to report moderate to severe depressive symptoms as moms of less irritable babies born at the same gestational age.

“We found that maternal depression risk varied by gestational age and infant fussiness,” says senior author Prachi Shah, M.D., a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and an associate research scientist at U-M’s Center for Human Growth and Development. “Mothers of fussy infants born late preterm and full term are more likely to experience more severe levels of maternal depression, than mothers of fussy infants who were born more preterm.”

“These findings reinforce that all mothers caring for babies with more difficult temperaments may need extra help managing the emotional toll,” she adds. “Early screening for infant fussiness may help identify mothers with depressive symptoms in need of support, but may be especially important for mothers of infants born mildly preterm, in whom the symptoms of depression are more severe.”

Shah notes that while very preterm infants have higher morbidity than babies born later, the perinatal care of infants born very preterm may actually help buffer against more severe maternal depression.

Very preterm infants are often cared for in a neonatal ICU setting where part of the specialized care includes guidance focused on the vulnerabilities associated with preterm birth. As parents transition home they often receive an enhanced level of postnatal support and developmental follow up, including referrals to early intervention programs, home visiting and subsequent care in neonatal clinics.

“The additional support and services provided to families of very premature children help prepare parents for the potential challenges associated with caring for a preterm infant and may help mitigate the risk for maternal depressive symptoms,” Shah says.

However, she notes that mild depressive symptoms may progress into more severe depressive symptoms, and should also be addressed as early as possible.

Additionally, researchers found that maternal characteristics associated with prenatal stress and socioeconomic disadvantages — such as lower income, unmarried status and smoking -were associated with greater odds of both mild and moderate-severe maternal depressive symptoms.

Asian and black race were also associated with greater odds of moderate-severe depressive symptoms whereas Hispanic ethnicity was associated with lower odds of maternal depression. Authors say this raises questions regarding the role of culture as a potential risk or protective factor in the development of maternal depression.

The study included data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort. Maternal depressive symptoms were assessed through self-reported questionnaires at the baby’s nine-month visit.

The study adds to previous research suggesting that mothers of more irritable infants report significantly less confidence and more stress than mothers of less fussy infants.

“Pediatricians and providers should pay close attention to mothers who describe difficulty soothing their babies,” Shah says. “Early interventions may help reduce the risk of maternal depression that negatively impacts a child-parent relationship and that may be harmful to both the health of a mother and child.”

‘Technoference’: We’re more tired and less productive because of our phones

One in five women and one in eight men are now losing sleep due to the time they spend on their mobile phones, according to new QUT-led research that has found a jump in ‘technoference’ over the past 13 years.

Researchers surveyed 709 mobile phone users across Australia aged 18 to 83 in 2018, using questions replicated from a similar survey back in 2005.

They then compared the findings and discovered significant increases in people blaming their phones for losing sleep, becoming less productive, taking more risks while driving and even getting more aches and pains.

Study leader Dr Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety — Queensland (CARRS-Q) said the survey results showed 24 per cent of women and 15 per cent of men could now be classified as “problematic mobile phone users.”

For 18 to 24 year-olds, the figure jumps to 40.9 per cent, with 23.5 per cent of respondents aged 25 to 29 also suffering technoference.

Participants were also asked about their driving habits, with researchers finding a correlation between problem phone use off the road and on the road.

Key findings of the 2018 national survey include:

– One in five women (19.5 per cent) and one in eight men (11.8 per cent) now lose sleep due to the time they spend on their mobile phone (vs 2.3 per cent of women and 3.2 per cent of men in 2005).

    – 12.6 per cent of men say their productivity has decreased as a direct result of the time they spend on their mobile — compared to none in 2005 — and 14 per cent of women have also noticed a productivity decline (2.3 per cent in 2005).

    – 14 per cent of women try to hide the amount of time they spend on the phone (3 per cent in 2005), as do 8.2 per cent of men (3.2 per cent in 2005)

    – 54.9 per cent of women believe their friends will find it hard to get in touch with them if they don’t have a mobile (up from 28.8 per cent), and 41.6 per cent of men thought this (almost identical to 41.9 in 2005).

    – 8.4 per cent of women (up from 3 per cent) and 7.9 per cent of men (up from 1.6 per cent) have aches and pains they attribute to mobile phone use

    – 25.9 per cent of women (up from 3.8) and 15.9 per cent of men (up from 6.5) say there are times when they would rather use their mobile phone than deal with more pressing issues. For 18 to 25 year-olds, this figure was 51.4 per cent (up from 10.5).

Dr Oviedo-Trespalacios said the survey had uncovered an interesting pattern of “technoference.”

“When we talk about technoference we’re referring to the everyday intrusions and interruptions that people experience due to mobile phones and their usage,” he said.

“Our survey found technoference had increased among men and women, across all ages.

“For example, self-reports relating to loss of sleep and productivity showed that these negative outcomes had significantly increased during the last 13 years.

“This finding suggests that mobile phones are potentially increasingly affecting aspects of daytime functioning due to lack of sleep and increasing dereliction of responsibilities.”

But on the positive side, less people reported they had received phone bills they could not afford to pay. And, perhaps surprisingly, the number of people who found it difficult to switch off their phone remained fairly constant across the 13-year time span.

Dr Oviedo-Trespalacios said the survey results also indicated that phones were being used as a coping strategy, with one in four women and one in six men saying they’d rather use their phone than deal with more pressing issues.

He said Australia had one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world, with about 88 per cent of adults now owning a smartphone. Globally, the world is expected to pass 2.5 billion smartphone users this year.

“The speed and depth of smartphone take-up in Australia makes our population particularly vulnerable to some of the negative consequences of high mobile phone use,” he said.

“Rapid technological innovations over the past few years have led to dramatic changes in today’s mobile phone technology — which can improve the quality of life for phone users but also result in some negative outcomes.

“These include anxiety and, in some cases, engagement in unsafe behaviours with serious health and safety implications such as mobile phone distracted driving.”

Detrimental effect of overlooking female athletes’ nutritional needs

As poor nutrition can negatively affect everything from bone to reproductive health, more attention needs to be paid to the specific nutritional needs of female athletes, a collaborative study from New Zealand’s University of Otago and University of Waikato argues.

Dr Katherine Black, of Otago’s Department of Human Nutrition, says most research into sport and nutrition focuses on male athletes, but the number of women participating in sport is growing, and female athletes have specific nutritional challenges and needs.

“They are not just male athlete adjusted for weight,” she says.

Dr Black and colleagues from Waikato and High Performance Sport New Zealand, carried out a literature review on the subject of low energy availability (LEA).

LEA is when available energy in the body is too low for optimal physiological functioning, leading to altered hormonal profiles and eventually total loss of menstruation.

Along with having significant negative impacts on bone, endocrine, immunological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, reproductive, and psychological health, LEA also results in long-term decreases in athletic performance.

The researchers’ findings, just published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, show reported prevalence of LEA varies from two per cent (club level endurance athletes) to 77 per cent (professional ballet dancers).

“Female athletes often have energy intakes which do not match their high level of energy expenditure. Sometimes this is because they purposefully restrict their caloric intake for performance or aesthetic reasons, other times it can happen accidentally due to increased training loads, competitions, or lack of knowledge about how to best fuel for the demands of their sport or exercise.

“A further factor affecting energy intakes of females is that food consumption is influenced by hormonal factors so there can be significant variations in appetite and energy intake across their menstrual cycles,” she says.

Despite the severe negative health and performance consequences, Dr Black says awareness of LEA is low.

“It is only recently that we are starting to discover the true extent of poor nutrition in association with exercise amongst females.

“As we encourage more women to exercise, we also need to know how to ensure their health is not compromised,” she says.

Coaches, parents and athletes need to be aware of signs of low energy intakes, such as increased injury or illness, and seek advice where needed. Athletes also need to know menstrual irregularities are not normal.

“The focus of LEA research and practice should be on prevention instead of prevalence — start early and develop good nutrition, training and body image habits to carry through.”

Some ways athletes and coaches can avoid LEA include understanding the different nutrient requirements across stages of the menstrual cycle; promoting recovery by eating after exercising; designing training programmes to take into account signs of LEA, fatigue or overtraining; putting significant care and planning into advising athletes who wish to reduce body fat whilst training; and optimising energy-dense foods and promoting liquid-based recovery options.

One way the industry is helping educate on this issue is via High Performance Sport New Zealand’s Women’s Health in Sport: A Performance Advantage project. The group holds regular meetings between researchers and practitioners to create best practice principles on a range of female athlete issues.

“By specifically highlighting the health effects of LEA, and proper fuelling for training and performance, could improve the health outcomes of many female athletes, which will carry through their sporting career,” Dr Black says.

Does story time with an e-book change how parents and toddlers interact?

Picking what book to read isn’t the only choice families now make at story time — they must also decide between the print or electronic version.

But traditional print books may have an edge over e-books when it comes to quality time shared between parents and their children, a new study suggests.

The research, led by University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and involving 37 parent-toddler pairs, found that parents and children verbalized and interacted less with e-books than with print books. The findings appear in journal Pediatrics, which is published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Shared reading promotes children’s language development, literacy and bonding with parents. We wanted to learn how electronics might change this experience,” says lead author Tiffany Munzer, M.D., a fellow in developmental behavioral pediatrics at Mott.

“We found that when parents and children read print books, they talked more frequently and the quality of their interactions were better.”

The parent-toddler pairs in the study used three book formats: print books, basic electronic books on a tablet and enhanced e-books featuring additions like sound effects and animation. With e-books, not only did the pairs interact less but parents tended to talk less about the story and more about the technology itself. Sometimes this included instructions about the device, such as telling children not to push buttons or change the volume.

Munzer notes that many of the interactions shared between parents and young children while reading may appear subtle but actually go a long way in promoting healthy child development.

For example, parents may point to a picture of an animal in the middle of a story and ask their child “what does a duck say?”

Or, parents may relate part of a story to something the child has experienced with comments like “Remember when we went to the beach?” Reading time also lends itself to open-ended questions, such as asking children what they thought of the book or characters.

Munzer says these practices, involving comments and questions that go beyond content, are believed to promote child expressive language, engagement, and literacy.

“Parents strengthen their children’s ability to acquire knowledge by relating new content to their children’s lived experiences,” Munzer says. “Research tells us that parent-led conversations is especially important for toddlers because they learn and retain new information better from in-person interactions than from digital media.”

However, such practices occurred less frequently with electronic books, with parents asking fewer simple questions and commenting less about the storyline compared with print books.

The study suggests that electronic book enhancements were likely interfering with parents’ ability to engage in parent-guided conversation during reading.

Munzer adds that nonverbal interactions, including warmth, closeness and enthusiasm during reading time also create positive associations with reading that will likely stick with children as they get older.

Authors recommend that future studies examine specific aspects of tablet-book design that support parent-child interaction. Parents who do choose to read electronic books with toddlers should also consider engaging as they would with the print version and minimize focus on elements of the technology itself.

“Reading together is not only a cherished family ritual in many homes but one of the most important developmental activities parents can engage in with their children,” says senior author Jenny Radesky, M.D., developmental behavioral pediatrician at Mott.

“Our findings suggest that print books elicit a higher quality parent-toddler reading experience compared with e-books. Pediatricians may wish to continue encouraging parents to read print books with their kids, especially for toddlers and young children who still need support from their parents to learn from any form of media.”

New type of mobile tracking link shoppers’ physical movements, buying choices

Improvements in the precision of mobile technologies make it possible for advertisers to go beyond using static location and contextual information about consumers to increase the effectiveness of mobile advertising based on customers’ location. A new study used a targeting strategy that tracks where, when, and for how long consumers are in a shopping mall to determine how shoppers’ physical movements affect their economic choices. The study found that targeting potential customers in this way can significantly improve advertising via mobile phones.

The study, by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, New York University, and Pennsylvania State University, appears in the journal Management Science.

“Our results can help advertisers improve the design and effectiveness of their mobile marketing strategies,” says Beibei Li, assistant professor of information systems and management at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, who coauthored the study.

The study took place in June 2014 at an Asian shopping mall with more than 300 stores and more than 100,000 daily visitors. Consumers were asked if they wanted to enjoy free Wi-Fi, and if they did, completed a form with their age, gender, income range, and type of credit card and phone.

Researchers tracked 83,370 unique responses over 14 days. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: Those who did not receive any ads via their mobile phone, those sent an ad from a randomly selected store, those send an ad based on their current location, and those sent ads based on information trajectory-based targeting. Researchers monitored the participants, obtaining detailed information on the shoppers’ trajectory — where they were, when, and for how long — as well as detailed behavioral data that is recorded and updated regularly from many mobile devices.

Customers who purchased an item from a store in the mall were asked to fill out another form, which included similar questions as well as information on the amount spent and whether the purchase was related to a coupon the customer received via his or her mobile phone. A short follow-up survey was conducted via phone.

The study found that trajectory-based targeting can lead customers to use offers sent via mobile phone more frequently and more rapidly than more conventional forms of mobile targeting. In addition, trajectory-based targeting led to higher customer satisfaction among participants.

Trajectory-based mobile targeting also increased total revenues from the stores that were associated with the promotion, as well as overall revenue for the shopping mall. It was less effective in raising overall mall revenues on weekends, and less effective for shoppers who were exploring products across a range of categories instead of considering buying something from just one category.

The study also found that trajectory-based targeting is especially effective in attracting high-income and male shoppers.

“Mobile ads that are based on customers’ trajectories can be designed to influence consumers’ shopping patterns,” explains Anindya Ghose, professor of business at New York University, who coauthored the study. “This suggests that this type of targeting can be used not only to boost the efficiency of customers’ current shopping behavior but also to nudge them toward changing their shopping patterns, which will generate additional revenue for businesses.”

The study was funded by Google and Adobe.

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