Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World OB/GYN

Policy news is once again front and center this week. For starters the Senate approved the controversial nomination of Representative Tom Price to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. The legislator is an outspoken proponent of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He has suggested replacing it with tax credits, health savings accounts, and high risk pools for sick costly consumers. 

Meanwhile more than 12.2 million people have enrolled in the ACA despite its uncertain fate. At the same time, insurers are warning that insecurity in the sector by itself could drive up premiums in the near future. 

The current CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Hal Lawrence III has stated that there have been clear benefits to women's healthcare contained in the ACA. Accordingly, ACOG  is combating GOP efforts to completely repeal the ACA, urging lawmakers to confirm preserve a provision which prevents insurers from charging women higher premiums than men. Key physician groups including ACOG who provide care to women and children went to Washington last week to lobby for retention or expansion of features of the ACA which provide benefits for women and children. They along with increasing numbers of GOP lawmakers are advocating a repair not repeal approach. Nonetheless, House Speaker Paul Ryan has insisted that repeal and replace will be passed this year though acknowledges it may take several years for it to be implemented. Speaker Ryan has given the GOP semantic permission to repair the ACA by stating that repeal and repair  “essentially amounted to the same thing.” 

The federal government has been looking at Medicaid block grants as a way to save money. This means each state would receive a grant of a fixed amount of money and it would be up to them to allocate it as per their state specific needs. Those favoring this approach cite the amount of money that would be saved. Those against this approach, divided, not surprisingly bye party lines, argue that it would result in slashed benefits and increased costs to states.

On medical news, obesity is back in the spotlight. Obesity is epidemic, and it is costly. It also happens to affect fertility. New research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that among couples where the woman is obese the time taken to become pregnant is longer. When both members of the couple are obese, i.ewith the body mass index of 35 or higher, it takes 60% longer to become pregnant.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS is a cluster of signs and symptoms that relate both to fertility, menstrual functioning, carbohydrate metabolism, and cardiovascular health. It is often accompanied by high body fat percentages, if not obesity. New research indicates that disordered eating behaviors are four times greater among those with this syndrome compared with controls. Is already well-known that when PCOS patients lose weight, their menstrual functioning infertility improves.

Obesity is a risk factor for many forms of cancer. New research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has indicated the converse. Intentional weight loss may reduce postmenopausal women's risk of uterine cancer.

Is strange and concerning report, it has been discovered that large amounts of maternal licorice consumption during pregnancy may be associated with lower IQ, ADHD like behavior and early puberty in children. This was reported in February 3 online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology. The study was a community based cohort study of 1049 people in Helsinki Finland. The compound in licorice thought to be the culprit is glycyrrhizin. This substance apparently blocks an enzyme we have which shields the developing baby from maternal steroid fluctuations. More research is necessary. 

It has also been shown that the prevalence of certain types of bacteria in the cervix may affect a woman's risk of preterm birth. Bacteria which we have considered normal, such as Lactobacillus, are protective against preterm birth, while other bacteria, specifically several anaerobic bacteria greatly increase the risk. These findings were presented at the Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting.

There are new recommendations for HPV vaccine. Children less than 15 would obtain it need only get two doses. Older children still need the three shot regimen. TapHOPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer and genital warts and may be given between the ages of 9 and 26.  

Stay tune for more exciting news from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology, next week, on medical Monday.