Belated Medical Monday : Breaking News form the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

A new inexpensive paper based rapid test for Zika has been introduced. This represents progress, but it’s accuracy remains to be determined. More recently, it has been discovered that testing urine for Zika is even more sensitive than blood. Good news for low cost testing ! 

Researchers are endeavoring to discover how the Zika virus does its damage. As in the case of many disease processes, the immune system seems to be mediating. Zika first affects the placenta by limiting the growth of placental blood vessels. It then moves to the fetal brain where, the immune response to the virus turns off a gene needed for fetal brain cells to specialize. 

Also of interest: there are pairs of twins who are unequally affected by Zika. In some cases, one twin develops microcephaly and one twin does not. Findings like this might lead to clues about how to test for, prevent or treat the condition. 

The United Nations has set up their own fund to combat Zika. Sixty -one countries are now affected by the virus. The National Governors Association in the United States has calling on Congress to strike a deal on emergency funding for Zika. It has been 2 months since President Obama initially requested the $1.9 billion though to be necessary to fight the virus. 

The safety of the widely used anti-nausea drug Zofran was questioned last year after a piece of research was released. A newer study from the Journal Reproductive Toxicology has found no connection to birth defects. In fact, it has also found that women who used Zofran were less likely to have a miscarriage or stillbirth. 

Outspoken Ob/Gyn and former clinical instructor at Harvard, Dr. Amy Tuteur has pointed out how the natural birth industry has fostered guilt and shame among those who have required or who chose medical interventions for labor and delivery. These interventions include pain relief, hospital birth and C sections. Most of these interventions are done in the service of the health and well being of the mother and baby. Dr. Tuteur points out that some may have lost sight of these fundamental goals. Anyone wishing to hear more of her opinions (which are as sharp as her scalpel) should go to

The chair of Illinois ACOG Dr. Maura Quinlin is trying to address the rise in home birth by bringing parties together to craft regulations to guide the practice. Chief among them is the need to restrict the practice to “ low risk women”. My position on this is that this is a first step; but that many women with complications start as low risk, and that they go from complicated to uncomplicated in the blink of an eye.

Most home birth midwives in the US are not Certified Nurse Midwives, who have years of graduate level education and hospital training. Most home birth midwives in other developed countries are. This is one reason behind the disparities in safety data between the US and other countries. The president of the American College of Nurse-Midwives and the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are working to establish educational competencies for midwives practicing in the US in order to bring them up to the standards in the rest of the world. 

Findings recently presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have shown some alarming facts associated with home birth. Women with prior C section who opted for home birth, even those attended by Certified Nurse Midwives, had a greatly increased risk (10X) of infants with serious medial conditions including seizures and neurological dysfunction (brain damage). Additionally, home birth VBACS ( vaginal births after C sections)  attended by midwives have a much higher risk of Apgar scores of 0—5. Earlier data referenced on my site has shown a greatly increased incidence of first Apgar of 0 for first deliveries at home. 

Maryland is moving forward with the “ Contraceptive Equity Act” , prohibiting copays and preauthorization requirements for contraceptives. Insurers have until 1-1-18 to comply. Hopefully more states and countries will follow suit. 

The chair of the Michigan section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has noted that numerous pieces of legislation have been introduced in recent years that aim to govern the practice of medicine for women. These have had to do with everything from reproductive and contraceptive care, to breast surveillance and even ultrasounds. She is encouraging the public to be wary about this. I would say it like this: Be wary of politicians who want to practice medicine without a license, especially if they only seem to want to do so on women’s bodies. 

The Missouri house last week debated a bill that would assign the fetus full personhood. Further south of Missouri, past the Mason Dixon line, mosquitos capable of carrying the Zika virus are plentiful. This is where the virus will have its greatest effect in the US. However, it is also the part of the US where reproductive services are harder to procure. The southern states, especially Florida and Texas have had some of the largest funding cuts to contraceptive services of any states in the union. They also have some of the higher rates of unintended pregnancy. In what should be a source of statewide embarrassment,  Florida cut Planned Parenthood clinics out of Medicaid funding, but now is crying for more Federal Aid (your tax dollars) to combat Zika. That’s some nerve.