The CDC continues to study the relationship of the Zika virus to a severe brain anomaly called microcephaly. No one really doubts the association; The goal in documenting the association scientifically it to understand the mechanism of how the virus dose the damage and therefore how, ultimately to prevent or interrupt it. Similarly, new research this week provides stronger links between Zika infection and Guillaine Barre syndrome, or post viral partial paralysis.
Zika virus has been seen as far north as Washington DC. Aedes Egyptae mosquitos have been identified there as well, and it is speculated that they survive the winter by staying indoors or in subways. Apparently the mosquito maps in the US are “not complete”.
Preterm labor and delivery has vexed Obstetricians for decades. We have little to prevent it. We did feel were making inroads into predicting it using two specific tests: ultrasound measurement of the cervical length and a swab for a chemical called fetal fibronectin. However, according to new research these may not be as useful as previously thought. Risk factors for preterm birth are young age, low pre pregnancy maternal birthweight, smoking, short inter conceptual interval, urinary tract infections, and periodontal (gum) disease. 12% of all births in the US are preterm. Preterm delivery is the leading cause of neonatal mortality in the US. For more information, see our section HERE on preterm labor.
A study reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health has shown that only about 42% of men have heard of emergency contraception, aka the morning after pill. This is a safe effective solution to prevent unplanned pregnancy. It is available over the counter.
Essure is a device placed in the fallopian tubes for sterilization. It turns out to have a far higher complication rate than was previously believed or advertised. A powerful social media campaign brought this to the attention of the FDA who has now studied the matter and given its recommendations. Essure will not be pulled off the market. Instead, Bayer AG will be required to perform new studies on the implant. The FDA will also require a boxed warning and supply a checklist for physicians to review with patients. The FDA is currently seeking public input on the packaging.
From the chickens and eggs department, a recently released study in the Journals of Gerontology showed that “ higher education, positive wellbeing, overall good health, and higher physical functioning all contribute to women maintaining good memory health after age 80.” This data comes from a study initiated in 1991 and is a subset of the huge Women’s Health Initiative Study famous for its revelations about postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy.
A recent study in older first time pregnant women shows that induction at or after 39 weeks is NOT associated with a bad birth experience or a higher risk of C section. This is contrary to the prevailing wisdom.
This last week, the US Supreme Court has heard arguments over the matter of abortion facilities. At issue is whether they must meet hospital grade surgical standards. Proponents state this will make the facilities safer. Opponents say that this is a ruse, cost prohibitive and simply a legal way to close down all but a few facilities (75% of them according to ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Medical experts say this level of facility is not medically necessary for these procedures.
Meanwhile statistics in the US now indicate an 18 % drop in unplanned pregnancies between 2008 and 2011. One third of these pregnancies were averted though legal abortion. Further south, the staunchly Catholic South American countries grapple with the devastation of Zika induced microcephaly and the question of abortion should it be identified.
Stay tuned next week for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health.