Weekly News Update in Obstetrics and Gynecology 

Good Monday news readers. 

This week, card carrying Ob/Gyns the world over are going all green on us. The World Health Organization and no less than 6 other international Ob/GYN professional societies have “ come out” calling for “ providers to incorporate environmental health screening as a part of routine practice." They have also asked that clinicians become active on a local, national, and global levels to advocate against exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment. 

In sensational news, a Finnish study reports that discontinuation of hormone therapy may increase the risk of cardiovascular death. This news comes as one of many postscripts to the large Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study designed to assess the effects of two forms of hormone therapy (HT): combined therapy with conjugated estrogens plus synthetic progesterone, and unopposed estradiol in those with a hysterectomy. Until the WHI, conventional wisdom was that HT prevented heart disease, but fostered breast cancer. Surprisingly the WHI showed women in the combined HT group had small but significant increased risks of both heart disease and breast cancer. Those in the estradiol alone group had neither. 

In Finland, which has a highly regulated and uniform brand of socialized medicine, the use of HT took a steep dive upon the release of the WHI. ( It did in the US too.) Examination of this time period a few years ago in Finland has yielded these new insights. No one knows precisely why this is the case, but the authors speculated that it is because only estradiol, either with or without progesterone, is used in Finland. No conjugated estrogens are used. 

 It turns out that the average age of the women in the WHI was 63, a good 12 years older than the average age of natural menopause. These were women who might have accumulated atherosclerotic disease before even starting the HT. Authors of a related recent Finnish study speculated that estrogen may be good for clean vessels, but bad for atherosclerotic ones. This is physiologically plausible since estrogen encourages turnover of the vascular lining, which is where plaques happen. The plot on HT thickens again, but maybe in a good way. Stay tuned. 

Cup half full or half empty ?  The CDC reports that there has been a 44 % increase since last year of hospital policy driven encouragement of breastfeeding within one hour of birth. The trend is good ! However, the respected blog “ Shots”  at NPR ( National Public Radio) decried the findings, pointing out that most hospitals still are not doing a good enough job promoting breastfeeding and most hospitals give formula despite mothers wishes.The cup has some water in it….errr milk. 

Aren’t there some animals who ovulate in response to intercourse ? Kitty cats ? Animal lovers help me here. A new study in the Journal Fertility and Sterility has identified intercourse induced changes the immune system that are pregnancy favorable. Researchers have stated “... sex outside the fertile window is still important for triggering important changes in a woman’s body that may promote a healthy pregnancy.' Meow. 

Stay tuned for more news from the world of Ob/Gyn next week in Medical Monday.