Menopause

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Policy News

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Under the ACA, the Affordable Care Act, all health insurance providers were required to cover the full range or reproductive health services including birth control and abortion. However, a suit filed by two Christian has succeeded in blocking the part of the mandate that pertains to coverage of the abortion pill. DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services ) will no longer be able to enforce this portion of the mandate against them. 

The US provides health care aid to many countries. In those health care systems, birth control and abortion services are provided. However the US Gag rule has prevented funds from continuing to go to countries which provide abortion services. . The Trump administration has created auspices under which exceptions to the gag rule may be obtained. This is because there are some such countries whose national law requires health care providers to include information about such services. Such countries may continue to receive US aid under what is being called the “ affirmative duty defense”. Theater loophole, the “passive duty” exception, the US may continue to supply funding if abortion is legal in that country. 

Texas continues to rally. Texas comes in at 47th in vaccination rates. A new group called the Texas HPV coalition aims to increase this rate to 80% before 2026, stemming a tide of HPV related diseases including cancer. 

As previously reported, Texas had shot itself in the foot by defunding and otherwise weakening primary health care for the poor, and reproductive health care in general. It has also been early in the race to defund Planned Parenthood and teen pregnancy prevention programs. Now its teen pregnancy rates, and more worryingly, the material morbidity and mortality rates are skyrocketing. Texans are now are trying to circle the wagons. In particular, the Dallas City Council has by itself resolved to spend $300,000 on a program to curb teen pregnancy rates. 

Nationally the same logic is at work. This coming week the Senate will vote on a bill which will create “Maternal Mortality Review Committees”  that track and investigate maternal mortality. 

Physician leadership is again voicing its defense of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A recent article in Forbes has highlighted the uniform positions of the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Psychiatric Association. How can this not give the administration pause ? 

An Oregon county has sued the Trump administration for their new guideline which give preferential funding to health care programs that promote abstinence. If they prevail, it could block these guidelines nationwide. 

Because contraception has now somewhat unexpectedly become such a controversial topic, the medical community is lobbying harder and harder for drug companies and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration to make birth control an over the counter medication. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have long advocated for this regard the oral contraceptive pill. Now the American Medical Association  was set to consider a resolution to this effect. 

Medical News 

Vitamin D is increasingly in the spotlight. This time,  new study has shown that adequate levels of vitamin D protect against miscarriage. Women at high latitudes in areas with little sunlight and little seafood are more prone to vitamin D deficiency. 

A new study out of Duke indicates that young women’s exercise rates drop off after high school. Additionally they drop off more quickly than do mens. More research is needed to understand and correct this phenomenon. 

Remember the Zika virus epidemic ? A new study shows that over half of Floridians took no precautions whatsoever against the virus. The report has shown that much more education is needed. 

Here is a sad commentary on out profession and on our relatively affluent population: Less than10 percent of our population get the recommended screening and counseling pertaining to preventive health care. This pertained to basics like measurements of vital signs and blood tests, but also to imaging studies like mammograms and colonoscopies for colon cancer screenings. Preventive health screening should also include counseling on weight, tobacco and alcohol use, screening for depression and currency on vaccinations. 

 Alcohol is harder on women than it is on men. This may be related mainly to weight. A new study indicates that young women who drink regularly and heavily ( 4-5 alcoholic drinks) are probably destined for low bone density such as osteoporosis. Women have little androgen (male hormone) compared to men, and androgen protect bone. Estrogen does too, but its production ceases after menopause, when osteoporosis is at its highest risk. Young women need to realize they are likely olive considerably longer than their mother and grandmothers. To do so in comfort and wellness, they need to take really good care of themselves. 

Stay tuned for more news from the fascinating world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, here, next week on Medical Monday. 

 

Medical Monday: Beaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Policy News

The “Global Gag Rule” is a rule which prohibits international health care organizations from counseling about abortion lest they lose their aid money from the USA. More recently Title X funds are being withheld from groups in the US who perform abortion or mention it as a choice. Many feel this amounts to a domestic gag rule. However, the Trump administration is back peddling, saying it only relieves Title X recipient caregivers of the requirement to mention abortion as an option. These are two very different things. I wonder which is really the case. I wonder too, if this means the Title X grant givers will requests the medical records documenting patients' visits to see what caregivers and patients are discussing. ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) has called this an “egregious intrusion” in the doctor patient relationship.  Analysts point out that, additionally, these new rules will give those “health clinics" which oppose abortion and birth control easier access to Title X funds.

Medical News 

The Chair of ACOG New York has produced a guide to the Gyn annual exam for the New York Times. In it, she has explained what to expect, including the holistic nature of the visit. Many people think of the annual Gyn exam as just a pap. However, it is wellness and preventive check that addresses the overall health of the patient. Pelvic exams are performed as indicated according to protocol. Patients are also reminded about what should not take place, such as more touching than is necessary. Patients are reassured that they are entitled to an explanation for everything that is done. 

Texas is starting to take the bull by the horns. Maternal mortality and morbidity in Texas has been egregious. Authorities are now honing in on the contributing factors, and devising strategies to address it. The Texas Medical association has drawn up a list of recommendations including statewide legislation to improve health care coverage for pregnancy women, to increase access to long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCS), and to increase the quality of record keeping on maternal complications. 

Tobacco smoke from a pregnant women damages the unborn baby’s lungs (among other things). New research indicates that vitamin C may mitigate this risk. The changes from smoking do not simply harm the baby in that time frame. In utero exposure to those chemicals induce changes in the baby's genes (epigenetic change) which may persist throughout life. 

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) has been a worry for some time. I remember when it was first defined. At that time, we had no clue about its cause. It remains incompletely understood. However we now understand that the odds of it are greatly reduced when the parents do not smoke, and also when the baby sleeps on their back. This knowledge has given rise to the “Back to Sleep” movement which promotes putting babies to sleep on their back. We have also since learn that avoidance of loose bedding and avoidance of co-sleeping is protective. This means newborns must not sleep in the same bed with parents, despite what may seem like convenience. Nonetheless, NPR has recently reported on the disconcerting trend of increasing co-sleeping. AAP the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out again against co-sleeping which iss highly the associated with an increased risk of sleep related deaths in babies under 4 months of age. 

The Institute of Clinical and Relational Science at UCSF (University of California San Francisco) has produced research indicating yoga may help incontinence and anxiety in older women. Findings were presented at the American Urological Association in San Francisco. 

Marijuana in pregnancy is again in the news, with yet more reports coming out about its disruption of fetal brain development. It is also linked to smaller birth weights and irritable behavior in infants. It is also linked to higher likelihood of still birth. And yet, 70% of Colorado dispensaries are recommending marijuana to pregnant women for nausea in pregnancy. Conflict of interest and flagrant irresponsibility, much ? 

Lung cancer in young women has now surpassed that in men. Lung cancer in men and women has decreased over the last two decades, however it is decreasing more rapidly in men. 

There is now good data that air pollution is related to infertility and preterm birth. A new study on the subject shows that the closure of oil and coal plants boosts fertility in nearby communities. 

There’s an app for that. Maybe. There are many apps pertaining to birth control. There may even be one that can help predict the risk of preeclampsia. However, before you go relying on one of these, Please check with your doctor about the validity of such an app. Quality varies, so buyer beware. 

 

Stay tuned for more news from the fascinating world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, here, next week on Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Policy News

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This week, and maybe from here forward, policy is becoming more State based. A few blog posts ago, I highlighted the fact that the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is run differently in different States. Some States run it entirely themselves, with money coming from the Fed, while others have the Fed run it. Other States use a hybrid model. Many States are looking at potentially rising health insurance premium rates, which will be necessary to keep programs funded, and are beginning to add State based funds to defray the severity of the increases. In other words, they are providing their own insurance subsidies to their citizens who use the ACA for their health insurance. 

Many States are turning to work requirements for Medicaid Recipients. I believe the idea there is to incentive work and the earning of money , with which ACA or better insurance can be purchased. It is both to reduce the burden of Medicaid patients on a State by causing fewer people to actually need Medicaid, either in the short run or the long run. 

There are currently work requirement proposals in ten States, which could potentially impact 1.7 million. As an Obstetrician Gynecologist, I would advocate for separate work requirement algorithms for pregnant women versus others. 

The judicial branch of our government is starting to weigh in on the Trump administration’s changes on the way health care is being delivered in this country. An Ohio law blocked funding to 28 Planned Parenthood clinics. However, a Federal court has blocked this law, saying that while the State may prefer “ childbirth to abortion” defunding planned Parenthood has little to do with that question since this particular money is not used for the support or performance of abortion. In barring this law, many primary care health services will be safeguarded. 

There are several lawsuit against this administration’s defunding of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. A Federal Judge in Washington DC has declared the termination of the program unlawful and ordered the DHHS, Department of Health and Human Services to move forward again with the application of four such applicants within the program. 

Medical News 

If a pregnant woman is a risk for gestational diabetes, her physician may ask her to improve her diet and be more active. It turns out that those who made the changes have better glucose regulation even one year after baby is born. 

Coming from the other direction, we have the following report from the esteemed Journal Lancet. It seems that the environmentally determined health of both mother and father play greatly into the ongoing health of future not-yet-conceived babies. Each parent’s condition, whether well nourished, stressed, obese or fit, has influence on the cells and the DNA from which future children will be made. This us believed to take place through a process called epigenetics in in which an indivudual’s present day physiologic circumstances feed make and alter the expression of their genes and the genes of their germ cell lines (eggs and sperm). The article goes on to conclude that it points to a whole new level of preconceptual counseling which we must do. 

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) usually related to smoking, now kills more women than men in this country. The days of “Virginia Slims” a TV ad brazenly directed toward women, are coming back to haunt us. I try to to remind patients that tobacco related poisons are much harder on women than men, and that smaller people in general get a higher relative dose. 

Many breast cancer patients lose their hair, if not from chemotherapy, then more mild so from anti cancer hormone medications like tamoxifen. New research says Minoxidil can help reverse that. 

Newsflash: the USPSTF - the US Preventive Service Task Force feels there is now enough evidence to recommend exercise to prevent falls in those over 65. And while I jest at the commonsensical nature of this announcement, falls are a major concern for most people over 65 and can lead to serious and life threatening injuries. No matter what age you are now, consult with your caregiver to see how you can attain optimal health and fitness for the present and the future. Whatever it is, whether seated stretching or training for an Ironman, start now. You will not be getting any younger. That is, unless you get more fit. 

A recently reported study shows IUD (Intrauterine Device) use has increased in recent years through 2013. This is believed to have been related to dropping out of pocket prices. I suspect newer studies will show use has increased even further with many women chasing long acting methods for fear of losing affordable birth control coverage. 

US maternal mortality has been increasingly in the news. Despite all the press, maternal mortality continues to rise through the present, and is concentrated in certain areas of the country, most notably Texas. Many correlate the most severe statistics with poverty and discrimination. Of late, many also finger the defunding of primary care clinics, particularly those like Planned Parenthood, which served more real and lower income populations. There are, at present two Bipartisan pills stuck in Committees which would support the formation of state committees to track and prevent the phenomenon. 

Stay tuned for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, here, next week, on Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday : Two Week Catch Up

 
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Happy Easter and Happy Passover. We have two weeks to cover. Thanks for reading ! 

 

Policy News

Much of the National Health Policy News this week deals with contraception and reproductive health. Can anyone remember any time in this or any other country when these private matters were ever so much on the national stage ? The politically conservative aspects of my nature questions why this degree of government intervention in private lives is necessary. My medical qualifications and medico-legal experience cause me to classify some of this meddling as practicing medicine without a license. 

Title X is a federal grant program whose purpose it is to promote positive birth outcomes and healthy families. It provides grants for family planning and health services. So here’s my first question: Why is it not run by health care professionals ? Trump administration officials are now contemplating new wording which would add additional criteria for clinics to receive Title X funding, namely the provision of primary preventive services. Sounds good right ? Well many clinics offer only reproductive health services. These clinics would have to expand or close. This measure seems like just another way of closing family planning clinics.  Now whether pap smears would qualify as preventive health is unclear, or whether paps would be classified as reproductive health, I don’t know. 

Texas is challenging the federal government’s withholding of funds for its family planning programs. They were withheld several years ago based on the fact that these providers, many of them through Planned Parenthood, also provided abortions.

Planned Parenthood itself is challenging the Federal Government on its withdraws of funds from the teen pregnancy program. Between this and two other plaintiffs, the Department of Health and Human Services has partially and temporarily restored some of the funding until litigation can be completed. 

Idaho has failed to solve the problem of insurance for those whose income falls between Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act coverage criteria. A proposal called Plan First Idaho would have funded family planing services for women in the gap. My question is, what rocket scientist designed the State’s the two programs such that their income qualifying criteria do not meet seamlessly ? This is a problem of their own making and it needs solving. Republicans in the Idaho House stalled this measure. 

Idaho Governor “ Butch” Otter has approved a measure by which prospective abortion patients must a told about “ abortion reversal” a procedure that does not exist. Additionally, he has signed legislation which will require abortion providers to collect personal and demographic information which, in de-identified form they intend to make public. I don't know what they think this will accomplish, but I have a feeling it may backfire, since they will be able to see how many and how diverse a group of women utilize the procedure.

The Supreme Court is hearing a case between the State of California and a group of "crisis pregnancy centers”, an actual chain of 130 outlets run by “ The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates”. These centers are anti-abortion counseling facilities, however they are licensed as family planning providers. California has a law requiring that all licensed family planning facilities to post notices of the availability of free or low cost birth control and abortion services and they are challenging it. They are arguing that this posting requirement violates their free speech.  So far the Court has expressed concern that these clinics not be singled out from other clinics. California has argued that their staff, many of whom are not medically qualified, present medical misinformation as truth, all to the end of dissuading patients from abortion. Apparently theses non-credentialed counselors actually wear white coats. 

Along with the opioid epidemic has come a hepatitis C epidemic. Kentucky, having seen a surge of the disease, has passed a law now requiring all pregnant women to be tested for it. Hepatitis C used to be very hard to treat. However, patients have much more hope nowadays due to the availability of effective therapy. 

Missouri has expanded Medicaid for pregnant women in drug abuse treatment. Their continued coverage will be contingent upon them staying in treatment, and could under those conditions, be continued up to 12 months.  

And now for more of a purple to blue state review:

Florida is considering a bill requiring HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination to be required as part of the vaccinations required of children attending public school. Human papilloma virus causes multiple illnesses most notably cervical cancer and genital warts, and the vaccine has not demonstrated any conclusive evidence of harm.

It is interesting to note that physicians are not prescribing HPV vaccine equally for female and male children. Doctors recommend the vaccine twice as often for girls as they do for boys. This puts the boys at increased risk for HPV disease, and puts all their future partners at increased risk too. 

Mississippi passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks Of course this is unconstitutional based on Roe V. Wade which is still on the books. A Federal Judge over turned Idaho's ban. 

New Hampshire has passed a bill which will allow pharmacist to prescribe birth control. No doctors visit will be necessary. The medical establishment has concluded that vast majority of the birth control methods are safe for the vast majority of women. They certainly are when compared to pregnancy for those same women. Authorities believe this will eliminate yet one more barrier to contraception. Utah signed a similar law into place earlier in the week. 

On the other coastline, the state of Washington now has a bill that will require insurance to cover contraception, abortion and maternity care. Additionally, after the first of the year, all contraception has to be co-pay and deductible free. This includes voluntary sterilization. 

The new budget has failed to shore up the ACA ( Affordable care Act) marketplaces. States will have to tighten their belts and work on their budgets one by one. 

ProPublica has reported that the “US is the most dangerous country in which to give birth”. States all over the US are creating programs to quantify and address the problem of maternal morbidity and mortality, even as the Federal government under Trump is dismantling reproductive and maternal health care piece by piece. 

Do you ever get the feeling that the various States in America are becoming like the countries of the European Union with different values, cultures budgets and laws ? 

 

Medical News: 

 

Obstetrics: 

Striking research findings presented at Lancet Global Health conference have shown that the death risk is double among pregnant women who are anemic compared with those who are not. The lead study author also found the correcting anemia is not a sufficiently high enough priority among physicians. 

Research presented at Diabetes UK conference has shown that excess weight gain incurred during pregnancy by  gestational diabetics is associated with greater risk of cesarean section.

Women who exercise in pregnancy have shorter labors. This interesting news was published in the May issue of European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. The study group attended a professionally led session of moderate exercise three days per week. Labor was shortened about one hour, mostly in the first stage, or dilating phase. ACTIONABLE ! 

Children who were breastfed exclusively for at least 6 mores were less likely to become overweight to obese than their counterparts. The conclusions were drawn by analyzing over 38,000 records from children South Korea. The finding were presented at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting. 

Gynecology/General Medical News: 

There may be a male birth control pill on the horizon. Research at the Endocrine Society's annual conference has presented information on a new male birth control pill called DMAU. It contains androgen and progestin,  which is analogous to the contents of the female birth control pill, estrogen and progestin. Once daily tablets appear to be safe and effective. No period required. 

Menopause and aging in general is characterized by a loss of muscle mass and bone density as well as the deposition of fat. As suspected, the Mediterranean diet may have a positive impact on bone mineral density and muscle mass in postmenopausal women. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the eating of high quality protein, large volumes of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil and a modest amount of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains. As a whole, the diet is lower in simple carbohydrates than the typical American diet and is also higher in protein and antioxidants.

There are now over 400 cases of a rare lymphoma which are linked, epidemiologically, to breast implants. Breast implants are not new. Lymphoma is not new. However our ability to collect and parse data is better than it has ever been. The FDA it's taken this ability and created a meaningful database for this type of information. While an association between breast implants and this rare lymphoma is being established through data collection, a causality between the two is not necessary implied. That said, nothing is more likely to lead us to understand the causes of this problem than amassing quality data about it. 

Federal funding support for cancers is disproportionately low for gynecologic cancers if you rank them by lethality. Cancer of the ovary and the uterus ranked near the bottom of the funding list. Contact your elected officials ! 

A new modification of the current device used for pap smears can identify cells from endometrial (uterine lining) and ovarian cancer. The investigational PapSEEK uses an analysis of 18 genes and analysis similar to that used in prenatal screening for Down’s syndrome to identical the genetically abnormal cancer cells. THIS IS SO COOL ! 

A new study on postmenopausal hormone therapy has shown that it does help maintain thinking and memory skills. This is the case IF it is initiated shortly after the onset of natural menopause. This study was presented in the Journal Neurology and was a high quality randomized controlled trial of 75 women between the ages of  42 and 56. 

In my mountain state, there is not a great deal of sunlight or seafood. As a result we have a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. New research indicates that vitamin D deficiency increases a post menopausal women’s risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome includes the unholy triad of diabetes, high blood pressure, and abnormal serum lipids ( cholesterol and triglycerides) which together increase cardiovascular risk. Vitamin D levels are checked by a simple blood test. Ask your doctor about this ! 

 

Stay tuned for more news from the exciting world of Obstetrics an Gynecology, next week, here on Medical Monday ! 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Policy News

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The Trump administration has said that the patients displaced by closures of Planned Parenthood offices can be absorbed by community health centers. However, a new survey out by Kaiser has indicated that fewer than one in five community health center will be able to compensate in this manner. Planned Parenthood may be apt to close if they cannot receive Title X funding through Medicaid on account of including abortion in their counseling or practice. 

A new Ohio law due to take effect later this month would have criminalized abortions done for Down syndrome. However, a Federal Judge has blocked the law, calling unconstitutional. In particular, it has been determined to violate the 14th Amendment due to violations of both liberty and privacy. 

Certain crisis pregnancy centers have no medical credentials whatsoever. Instead, they are merely storefronts for anti-choice or religious advocacy. The Supreme Court will hear arguments this week about the nature of their obligation to disclose their credentials and their agenda. 

The Contraceptive mandate was rolled back in Massachusetts. The state has challenged this but initially has failed to show enough data on adverse effects on the people of the state. The State plans to also argue that the rollback challenges the First Amendment which contains a prohibition against the establishment of religion by the government. 

New fast track legislation for the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) called “Right to Try” has been under consideration. This would have streamlined/abbreviated the testing and approval process for certain potentially beneficial drugs, thereby getting them to more patients sooner. Proponents cited potential benefit, while opponents cited potential harms of less than completely tested drugs. The House failed to pass the measure failing to meet a 2/3 majority. 

 

Medical News 

 

The problem of appalling and increasing Maternal Mortality in the United States is squarely on the table now. Researchers are now focusing on several factors which may have led to this perfect storm. In addition to funding cuts and clinic closures, a shortage of Obstetric providers and rural hospitals providing Obstetric care is now in the mix. 

Stepping back, I'd like to remind readers that Mortality means death. However, for every mother who dies a childbirth associated death, there are 70 others who are near death and critically ill. This is the “ Morbidity” part of the equation. A new study has shown that addressing maternal Morbidity and Mortality in the States would greatly bring down the cost of healthcare. 

I would add that since 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned, that the contraceptive mandate might be worth its weight in gold to decrease maternal Morbidity and Mortality in rural areas and in general. Case in point: Colorado, home of my residency alma mater, the University of Colorado, has made sure safe and effective birth control was available all across the state, rural areas included. As a direct result, rural teen pregnancy rates fell by over half between 2007 and 2014. 

New research on teen pregnancy indicates that childhood bullying and various forms of rejection seems to be a risk factor in teen pregnancy. It is even more so for lesbian and bisexual girls, something caregivers should bear in mind. 

The field of Obstetrics is beginning to grapple with gender issues in the field. In 1970, only 7% of ObGyns were women. Now, 59% are. Furthermore, only 17% of ObGyn residents are men, and residents are the future. What are the ramifications for women’s health? Will men be excluded from the field by patient preference or institutional customs? 

Everyone has hailed the balancing of the field as a good thing. However, is it good if Obstetrics and Gynecology becomes devoid of men? One recent meta-analysis says 8% of patients prefer men Ob/Gyns and 41% have no preference. Here are some factors in the debate: 

  • Patients may legally discriminate regarding who sees them. 
  • Assuming that a certain gender will be insensitive or unprofessional is unfair. 
  • Male medical students going into any specialty may be denied important clinical experience in their training if they are excluded from rooms. 
  • Both men and women can and have made significant contributions to Obstetrics and Gynecology. 
  • Outside of Obstetrics and Gynecology, men dominate 37 of the 42 other specialties, and fewer than a third of other doctors are women. 
  • People want caregivers that are relatable, but their most important priority is to have a good doctor. 
  • Women Ob/Gyns are not good Ob/Gyns because of their biology. It is because of learning, skill, and experience. These are gender neutral. 
  • How male caregivers are introduced has a great deal to do with how well they are accepted. 
  • The healthcare and health status of women is something everyone in society should care about and be able to work on. 

What do you think? Have had both male and female Ob/Gyns and have liked them all. 

Marijuana in pregnancy is again in the news. A recent study presented at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine has found an association between MJ use in pregnancy and the following outcomes: increased risk for stillbirth, increased risk of preterm birth, increased incidence of hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. 

Predicting cardiac risk in women is different than predicting it in men. In women, central obesity is a particular concern. Increasing BMI predicts increased cardiovascular risk. However, large waist to hip ratio predicts it even better in women. 

Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president of health policy for ACOG, has stated that labioplasty for purely cosmetic reasons should be cautiously considered since it is the removal of sexually functional tissue. Labioplasty for cosmetic or supposedly performance-related purposes is becoming increasingly popular, even among young women. I would add that it is often a cash up front business that practices use to bolster their income. 

Zika virus infection in pregnancy produces discernible malformations of the brain and eyes 7% of the time, across the board. The rate is higher if the infection is contracted in the first trimester. There is some evidence that the rates of malformation varied by country. 

In the good news department, women who are “ highly fit” in midlife may be less likely to get dementia later in life. This study ran over 44 years on about 1500 women in Sweden. Those only moderately fit saw some delay of dementia as well. 

Also in the good news department is the following: Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner, has announced plans to impose new lower limits on nicotine in cigarettes to make them minimally or non-addictive. While certain people will still roll their own, it seems certain that the population as a whole will benefit. 

 

Stay tuned next week here, for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Medical Monday: Delayed Edition

POLICY NEWS 

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The Department of Health and Human Services wants to expand funding for “ natural family planning” and “ fertility awareness” which are largely ineffective methods of timing based birth control. In other words, DHHS want Medicaid to begin covering visits where patients are told this is a viable method of contraception. In other words, the DHHS wants to spend your tax dollars on an ineffective, scientifically invalid method of birth control. Meanwhile the rest of the administration is working on dismantling the Contraceptive Mandate, the part of current insurance law which states that insurers must cover, without copay, real effective birth control. Additionally, the DHHS has announced it is moving away from “ comprehensive sexual education” which is evidence based, and instead will be using your tax dollars to teach “ abstinence only” which has been proven not to work. It is beginning to seem like the administration wants women to have more babies. Maybe they see this as stimulating the economy through having more consumers, I don’t know. 

California Judge Haywood Gilliam has stood up to the Feds determined to weaken the contraceptive mandate. He has blocked changes to the ACA in California, saying that he will not allow these changes “ transform contraceptive coverage from an entitlement to a benefit subject to employer discretion.”

Utah is writing law which will require radiologists to specifically notify women of dense breast tissue. In this warning they are to explain that screening is less effective, and that they may be eligible for other screening modalities. 

New Jersey has replaced Republican Governor Chris Christie with Democrat Phil Murphy. Governor Murphy has reversed 8 years of policy by restoring funding to Planned Parenthood and other women’s health organizations. He has also signed a bill expanding coverage for Medicaid coverage of family planning, prenatal care and cancer screening. 

DHHS is working on various plans to reduce the price of prescription drugs to consumers. Sounds good right ? However one of the cost control measures is capping the amount of prescription drug benefit that Medicare Recipients can receive. The other strategies include enabling as many as 5 states to collectively bargain with suppliers over prices. 

The administration is at it again, proposing bargain basement plans for people. In the words of Admiral Akbar, “It’s a trap !”

These plans are cheap, and some fear that consumers might not realize their limitations on coverage or pre-existing conditions. These plans which do not comply with the protections and coverage of the ACA ( Affordable Care Act) are a recipe for future disaster. They contribute little to the collective pot and cover little for their purchasers. 

 

MEDICAL NEWS 

In the important and alarming department, we have cleaning sprays. New research published in the American Journal or Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has shown that the “regular use of cleaning sprays can have as much impact on health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day." In this 6000 person study, “ cleaning even once per week was associated with an accelerated lung decline risk”. I will try to find out more about the types of cleaning agents used. 

HPV vaccine is still underused. Fewer than a third get their first dose by age 13, and fewer than half of all children are up to date on all their doses

In other vaccine news, a recent inventory of 400,000 births confirms that both influenza and TDaP vaccines are safe in pregnancy, and confer protection to both mom and baby. 

When we think of a heart attack, we think of an older man with check pain. However, women suffer heart attacks almost as much as men. However in women, particularly women under 55, symptoms may not be recognized since they are different than mens. These patients are more likely to have what is described as indigestion, shortness of breath, palpitations, or jaw pain. 

In related news, women’s heart attacks may have a different mechanism, coronary vasoconstriction, rather than the blockage from plaques that male patients often have. A new study confirms that among women with chest pain, and clean arteries, nearly 8% have scarred areas on the heart confirming that a heart attack occurred. 

About half of all breast cancer patient facing radiation heard “ frightening stories” about it. However after the therapy, only 2% agreed that the stories were true. 

Illinois has targeted maternal morbidity, specifically maternal morbidity due to severe maternal hypertension. A “quality initiative” specifying a “suite of interventions” was implemented. Participants qualified for the study by having BP at or greater than 160/110 (yikes!). Interventions included prompt pharmacologic treatment of maternal hypertension, specifically designed discharge education, and short postpartum follow up intervals. Severe maternal morbidity such as stroke as already decreased by 41%.

 

Stay tuned for more exciting news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology right here, next week, on Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetric and Gynecology

Policy

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The GOP appears to be giving up on repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Those who support the patient care aspects of the ACA may cheer, but they should not breathe a sign of relief, since the funding mechanisms of this plan remain somewhat undetermined. Encouragingly, there is increasing GOP interest in crafting legislation which will make the plan more fiscally stable. The goals in this case would be to guarantee Federal subsidies to insurers, and to reduce patient premiums while keeping essential benefits.

Do you think that people realize that the more people sign up for the ACA, the more stable it will be ? Well, it's true. It's easy. Go to heathcare.gov to see if you qualify. 

South Carolina has argued that a “ human being is a person at fertilization”. They have created a legal category “preborn humans” which incidentally my spell check refuses to recognize, and they propose these preborn humans be afforded due process and all protections under the law. ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, opposes the bill since it is not based on science. 

A 20 week ban on abortion failed the Senate. The bill’s proponents advanced the bill on the basis of their belief that 20 week fetuses can feel pain. ACOG has gone on record saying “ the fetus does not have the physiological capacity to perceive pain until at least the 24th week of gestation.”. We as a medical culture have a great deal of experience with 24 week babies since they routinely come to any large newborn ICU. Had the bill passed, it would have been challenged under the standing Roe V. Wade. 

Idaho has introduced a bill which introduces misinformation into the informed consent language for medical (pill based) abortion. The bill’s language asserts that medical abortion can be halted after the first of two pills is taken. The bill further requires providers to provide a list of other providers who can advise about “ abortion reversals”. None of the bills assertions are based in fact. A patient contemplating a medically induced abortion should not proceed if she has any doubts, since there is no evidence reversal is possible. I feel angry on behalf of distraught women who may be told this misinformation and who try to rely on it. 

A group of private donors has bankrolled the provision of medical abortion services for all public universities in California. A bill is under debate which will require public universities to provide this service. 

Another bill proposed in California would require larger businesses with new construction to provide space for breastfeeding. The bill stipulates these areas need to be be in place by 2019. 

The Utah bill which will require the offering of IUDs through Medicaid has passed the House and is heading to the Utah Senate. Republican lawmaker Ray Ward, has proposed the measure to decrease unplanned pregnancies, teen pregnancies, and abortions. 

Medicaid expansions may be able to move forward in several traditionally red states if they are paired with work requirements. What do you think ?

 

Medicine

 

Researchers out of UC San Francisco have come out highlighting the adverse effect of marijuana on the unborn. Dr. Dana Gossett has cited several recent studies which indicate marijuana increases risk of still birth and adversely affects how the babies brain develops. ACOG has already come out formally warning pregnant women not to use. This could potentially turn out to be a huge generational problem if these children, as a generation, have significant delays. This research also raises the question of what is marijuana does to the brains of children and adults who use. This research also raises the issue that state policy on marijuana has been made without any reference whatsoever to available science. 

Preliminary date from a Dutch population based study indicate that women with implants may be somewhat more likely to develop anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Further studies are needed to clarify the risk. 

It has been well established that obese women have an increased incidence of breast cancer based on weight aone. However it is now becoming clear that even fat/skinny women are also at increased risk. This means even a woman of normal overall weight with a high body fat percentage has increased risk. 

 

TDAP stands for tetanus diphtheria and acellular pertussis. This vaccine is given to children and to pregnant women. It turns out that that protection is afforded to the baby through the mother no matter when mother gets the vaccine in her pregnancy. Upshot: It is never too late to get a TDAP in pregnancy. Babies first vaccinations are not until 2 months, so baby needs passively acquired immunity from mom getting her shot in pregnancy. 

 

This season’s flu is on tract to be the worst of the decade. already it has surpassed the 2009 “ swine flu” epidemic. As f this writing, flu has led to 37 pediatric deaths nationwide. You may have heard that this year’s vaccine is only partially effective. This is true, but some protection is better than none. Get you and your loved ones vaccinated. Do not go to work of you are sick. Ask sick co-workes to go home. Do not take sick children to day care. Wash you hands twitch soap when you arrive at home. Be assertive ! If you think you have been exposed to flu, call your health care provider. You may be eligible for preventive medication, and certainly are if you are pregnant or immunocompromised. 

 

A new Zika vaccine has been fast tracked by the FDA. It is called TAK-426 and is currently being tested on 240 people between the ages of 18 and 49. 

 

Women have autoimmune disease 9 times more often then men. I will therefore report on two news items of interest to those with autoimmunity. The first pertains to Rheumatoid Arthritis. A new study has shown that women with Rheumatoid Arthritis tend to deteriorate after menopause. This hints at a relationship between autoimmunity and reproductive hormones. Unfortunately the relationship is not yet clear. Meanwhile, those with these issues should talk to their Gynecologist about navigating through menopause in a way that minimizes difficulty and risk. 

 

The second has to do with lupus, a condition which I have. New research indicates that a gene called “ Toll Like Receptor 7 (TLR-7) ” may be involved. Normally, only one copy (allele) a gene is active in a given individual. However, in lupus patients the second copy of TLR-7 does not deactivate as it should. The normal role of TLR-7 involves activation of type 1 interferon signaling which is critical to antiviral immunity. However too much of this powerful immune response can be damaging. Lupus nerds stay tuned with cautious optimism. 

 

Stay tuned next week, here, for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Policy News 

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The Trump Administration will continue to use a bundled payment model for Medicare recipients. This means that the government will pay a certain lump some to cover all the inpatient and procedure related medical care given to Medicare patient rendered in a 90 day period of time. If the healthcare providers use less than that amount of money they can receive a bonus. This strikes me as a terribly perverse incentive. Hospitals and caregivers have every incentive to skimp on care so they can pocket the bonus. What if the amount of money allocated is not enough for all the care the patient needs within the 90 days? It is interesting to note that this bundled payment strategy was created under Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act or the ACA) and has been reincarnated in almost exactly the same form under the Trump administration.

Several women’s health organizations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), have instituted a program called"The Care Women Deserve”. Under this program, there will be an effort to educate all women regarding the health services to which, under the ACA which is current law, they are entitled, at little or no cost. Examples of these services include well woman visits, also known as annual exams, Pap smears, contraception, also known as birth control, HIV screening, mammograms and breast-feeding support. Not all women know that they are entitled to all these services.

The Trump administration has long tried to weaken the contraceptive mandate, the part of the Affordable Care Act which requires insurance companies to cover contraception without co-pay. They have received many legal challenges to these attempts. The Trump administration has paid out over 3 million dollars of taxpayer money to to settle these lawsuits.

For the first time in Medicaid's 50 year history certain states will be allowed to interpose work requirements on certain able bodied adult recipients. The National Health Law Center is preparing to challenge this in court.

Washington DC’s only pubic hospital has been closed due to quality concerns. 

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the GOP is scaling back plans to reform the ACA and social security type programs. They are focusing on basic problems like funding the government. They are even talking about increasing the debt limit and reaching a compromise on immigration. Since when has the GOP been interested in increasing the debt limit ? 

 

Medical News 

Studies 

  • Once again our own immune system is at the heart of a disease process. Evidence from a mice model suggests that the damage caused from Zika virus infection is actually from the mother’s immune response against the virus in the baby. This was published in Science Immunology. 
  • A large retrospective study has indicated that pregnant women who take methylphenidate for ADHD have a higher likelihood of having a baby with a heart defect. 
  •  A new study published in the Journal Birth looks again at Texas maternal mortality rates. Between 2011 and 2015, there has been an 87% spoke in maternal mortality. The worst has been in mothers over, 40 with that group having a mortality rate 27 times that of women under 40. This is felt to be related to increasing rates on chronic and under treated disease including obesity, lack of insurance and lack of health care. 
  • A 172 woman study published in Menopause made the we-already-knew-this-department. They have shown that one year of postmenopausal hormone therapy prevented depressive symptoms more effectively than placebo. Postmenopausal hormone therapy is FDA approved for hot flashes and vaginal dryness, but not for mood disturbance. Maybe it should be. 
  • The Journal of Asthma has published a study linking prenatal exposure to PCBs ( polychlorinated biphenyls) to asthma and upper respiratory infections and eczema in children. 
  • A new study has indicated that women who work night shifts have a (gasp) 19% higher chance of getting cancer than those who do not work at night. This meta-analysis has shown that the risk is proportional to time worked at night, and that the risks  go up differently for different cancers. The most surprising is skin cancer with a 41% increase in risk. Next is a 32% increase in breast cancer, and an 18% increased risk in digestive cancers. Yikes ! I hope the exact reasons for this get figured out and dealt with ! 

We have a new department ! It is called the stupid and irresponsible department. Our inaugural feature is devoted to the TV show Black Mirror, whose writers decided to depict emergency contraction, aka “ Plan B” or “ the morning after pill” quite incorrectly. In particular, they portrayed a teen who took it as having nausea, which is not typical. A nurse in the show informs her she had taken it “ to terminate a pregnancy”. Basically the show confused the morning after pill with the abortion pill. The morning after pill is progesterone only, thus should not cause nausea. Plan B does not cause abortion of an established pregnancy. It prevents pregnancy. Thanks so much, TV,  thanks. 

Stay tuned for more exciting news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology next week here, on Medical Monday. 

 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Happy new year ! Hopefully this year we will benefit from the upheaval of 2017. Many of us became more political. The issues about which we care came into distinct focus. Perhaps we clarified our priorities. Hopefully health and quality time are high on your list. 

In that spirit, I am going to try to streamline what I hope has already been a streamlined blogging format, and go to what could perhaps be called “ bullet blogging”. Perhaps you have heard of “ bullet Journalling”  or “dot journalling”? I had been doing it for some time without realizing it. Instead of journaling in full sentences and paragraphs, I journal in bullet lists, small graphics and graphs. It is fun, fast, and lets me indulge my visual nature. 

If you have been into any Michaels, Joannes or any other craft store lately, you may have seen prominent displays showing fancy little bound or three ring journals, sticker sets, small format markers, washi tape, and specialized fill pages - all for such enhanced journaling. There are also many cool online resources for bullet journalling. 

I am an incredibly digital oriented person, and so it may seem a surprise that I would be interested in such analog things. I believe that for every person’s life or work management system, there is a particular optimal balance between digital and analog. Everyone one needs a little paper. In my office, I have suggested that my employees keep “ one notebook to rule them all”. Instead of a proliferation of sticky notes and other scraps to get mangled or lost, the one notebook, complete with dates and legible writing, held everything. I gave them some beautiful starter notebooks, and they took it from there. They seem to enjoy it. One co-worker in particular has made hers into what I would call an art form. That is the idea ! It is to take some joy and satisfaction in even the smallest things, like note taking and scratch calculations at work.

And so it has occurred to me to try “ bullet blogging”. It is my hope it will be faster, simpler and easier on the eyes. I’m going to give it a go. 

Policy News 

Via CMS( Center for Medicaid Services) : 

  • 8.7 million signed up for Obamacare, federal health insurance made possible by the Affordable Care Act, likely underestimated 
  • 95% of last years level, despite half the signup period and deep cuts to advertising
  • Final figures due out in March

 

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS ? 

Employees of the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) and other federally funded health and science organizations were “discouraged" from using seven words in budget reports: 

  • Vulnerable

  • Entitlement

  • Diversity

  • Transgender

  • Fetus

  • Evidence-based

  • Science-based

#RESIST 

Two separate letters have been issued from > 300 public health organizations urging the HHS ( Health and Human services) to ignore this. The second letter included signatures from

ACOG ( American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)

AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) 

APHA ( American Public Health Association) 

 

Blocking the blockers 

  • Last week  Federal Judge in Northern CA blocked the Trump administration’s loophole which let’s objecting employers out of providing insurance with contraception to employees. 
  • The Justice Department is “ evaluating” LOL. 
  • Comment: No one ever has, because of Obamacare, made anyone else use contraception. 
  • Fact: Contraception reduces teen pregnancy and abortion. ALOT. 

 

Kick the can

GOP has kicked the real budget and real health care bill into January. Stay tuned. 

 

Medical News

 

ACOG President-Elect Lisa Hollier, MD MPH, Houston, Texas, brings a new clear focus: the rising maternal mortality in America. 

  • Missouri ranks high is maternal mortality, in the worst ten. 
  • Oregon is creating a special commission on rising maternal mortality.
  • One in four pregnancies in central Oregon are drug affected. 
  • Mississippi has the highest rate of preterm birth, which is high cost in both human and financial terms. The CEO of Magnolia Health in Mississippi is taking aim at this problem. 
  • Infant mortality in Kansas is about three times higher for black babies than it is for all babies. 
  • Dr. Hollier's own state of Texas takes the cake, with the highest maternal mortality this side of the third world. 

 

STUDIES: 

 

Study: Breast pain is not a symptoms of breast cancer. Neither lack of pain nor lack or palpable lumps means lack of breast cancer. Upshot: Get your mammograms ! 

Study: Cervical Pessary may be of use in preventing preterm birth. 

Study: at home STI ( sexually transmitted infection) test kits may increase detection rates. 

Study: Post menopausal Estrogen therapy may protect against some forms of memory loss. 

Study: Income and weight are inversely related for women. This is not true for men. Contemplate. 

FDA (The Food and Drug Administration) plans to increase regulation of homeopathic remedies. Because there are no real studies on these. Contemplate. 

Marijuana update 

  • Mj use in pregnancy has increased in CA from 4 to 7%. In pregnant teens it has increased from 10 to 19%. 
  • ACOG recommends discontinuation of MJ for those who are or who are contemplating pregnancy. For reasons, see HERE: Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Lactation 
  • It's clear that we as a nation do not value science. Do we value drug induced relaxation over clear thinking or the cognitive development of our children ? Very little contemplation needed. 

Male Contraceptives ? 

NIH ( National Institute of Health) and the Population Council are sponsoring a clinical trial of a hormonal male contraceptive gel. Don’t expect it on the shelves for at least 5 years. I wonder how the GOP will attempt to regulate male methods of contraception. 

It’s best if you follow up on these leads to put together your view of women’s health care in this country. What I have given you should contain enough key words so you can google your way to the source material. Remember to seek out reputable sources like the NIH, the CDC, ACOG, AAP, APHA, or major academic medical centers like Mayo Clinic or Stanford.

2018 is a new year, and a new approach is needed to ensure the best for women’s health care. Get involved. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obststetrics and Gynecology

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The word must be out that the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is alive and well. In the first four days of enrollment, November 1st through 4th, over 600,000 Americans enrolled. That is to be compared to the 1 million who enrolled in the first 12 days last year. This year so far, 22% were new enrollees whereas last year approximately 24% were. These figures do not include enrollees in independent state exchanges created since last year. Insurance companies corroborate that, at this point, enrollment is up compared to last year.

The Congressional Budget Office has revised its estimate of how much the repeal of the individual mandate would it affect the national debt. Initially it was thought that removing the Individual Mandate (the requirement in the ACA that all people maintain some form of health insurance) will result certain number of people not buying insurance through the ACA. Savings would occur because the ACA would not have to spend money to cover these individuals. The initial estimate of these savings was $416 billion. The new estimate of the savings has been reduced $338 billion which still sounds like a lot of savings. 

I wanted to know if these big sounding ”savings" included an economic analysis the savings or expenditures outside of the coffers of the IRS. They did not. The actual letter from the Congressional Budget Office to Richard Neal of the Committee on Ways and Means in the US House of Representatives is here: 

 

https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/costestimate/hr1deficitsanddebt.pdf

 

It clearly states that while their calculation indicates a savings to the Federal Government by repealing the Individual mandate, it does "not include the macro economic effects of enacting the legislation”. What are “macroeconomic effects” ? These are the economic effects downstream resulting from poorer health and it’s consequences. Have these macroeconomic consequences been precisely defined ? No. But the general trends are clear and overwhelming. Losing health care coverage depresses individual and nationwide economic well being. 

Repealing the Individual Mandate leaves more money in government coffers, yes. But so would something ludicrous like ending Medicaid and Medicare altogether. Data from multiple disciplines shows us that money spent on health care is well spent, and results in a saving in the long term. Yes there is a savings in human suffering, and that is paramount. But if you are the sort of person who only wants to speak in dollars and cents, you too will realize a monetary savings. We as a society will realize higher levels of educational and vocational attainment, less unemployment, and greater individual and national economic productivity if we pay now for health insurance. You’ve heard of pay now or pay later ? This is a perfect example of this adage. We pay for health insurance for all, covering prevention and health maintenance, OR we pay later, in more unemployment, more welfare recipients, and the unreimbursed cost of advanced diseases and disability. So do not get too exited about that $338 billion in savings. It is not going to jump right back into your pocket as lower taxes. 

The state of Maine is currently a battleground between the people and the Governor's office. Despite a popular vote supporting the Medicaid expansion, the Governor plans to stop it based on his department's analysis of fiscal consequences. He estimates the cost of Medicaid expansion to be somewhere between 63 million and a hundred million dollars, whereas the nonpartisan budget office estimates that the expansion will cost 54 million and bring in an additional 525 million dollars of annual federal aid. I always find these large factual discrepancies disturbing because it seems clear that some of them are informed primarily by party politics. It seems to me that some sort of double-blind research could take place using a high degree of computational analysis. With this, a sound human-free estimate could be generated on pretty much any question. I doubt either side wants this though because it would take away their ability to play politics. 

The Massachusetts House has voted 136 to 16 to approve legislation which would protect birth control coverage for women. The law will require health insurers operating in the state continue offering birth control coverage without copayments for prescription contraceptives regardless of changes in federal policy or repeal the Affordable Care Act. The bill also goes further and mandates coverage for over-the-counter emergency contraceptives without a doctor's prescription. The Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker supports this bill. It will be taken up by the Senate this Tuesday. The Senate is expected to approve the measure. 

A House bill under consideration would the eliminate medical expense deduction. About 9 million households or 6% in our country utilize this deduction. This is interesting because this deduction could apply to anyone who pays their deductible. I am embarrassed to say that when I was a new business owner in the 1990s I was not aware that my medical expenses not paid by insurance were tax deductible. I later learned this from my accountant. I still find that a lot of people are unaware of this deduction. My total family out of pocket currently sits at about $5000 and we seem to utilize it every year. I can easily document how much of it we utilize through my insurance company's website where I can access my EOBs (explanation of benefits). I simply submit this information to my accountant and it counts as a sizable deduction. 

Why the federal government wants to tax expenditures related to health I do not know. You would think they would encourage responsible spending of this nature. You would also think that there are plenty of other things to tax. For example, we already tax vices like alcohol, and tobacco. But we could tax them more. I am a strong proponent of vice taxes because they work. Those intent on buying the substances are willing to pay more to get what they want, and those who are on the fence and want to use less say they appreciate the additional financial disincentive which ultimately results in them using less. 

Americans are known for their consumerism. One could argue that we all have far more stuff than we need, and that we are not adequately responsible for repurposing, repairing, reusing, donating, giving, or recycling what we have before we buy something new. What if these such discretionary items were taxed ? What if we made sure that items like food, hygiene products, cleaning products and other necessities like over the counter medications, were not taxed, while so called luxury items, which we do not necessarily need, are taxed. Wait ! We have this already, and in some states it is called a sales tax. It applies to everyone, people can chose to pay it or not, and it does not disincentivize spending on health. Think about it. Government should incentivize individual spending on health and education. In my opinion, this could happen far more than it is. 

Doulas. By now you’ve heard of them. They are people, usually women, who help pregnant women during labor. They are espoused by all levels of Obstetric care because of their association with better outcomes. However, they are now being utilized in the postpartum period. We are increasingly focused on postpartum depression and its risk factors. We are also focusing on supporting women as they initiate breastfeeding. Postpartum doulas can help with all of this. They can address some of the exhaustion and sleeplessness that new mother experience by helping with nighttime feedings and infant care. They can help with meals and housekeeping. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recently formalized its support for such postpartum care in its recommendations. 

For women, the association of moderate to vigorous physical activity and longevity persists even into old age. A recent study where the average age of participants was 72 has shown that those who log an average of 70 minutes of regular exercise a day had a 70% lower risk of death compared to the least active women who move just eight minutes a day. This research is important to me because I have many older women in my practice who feel certain that exercise consists of a leisurely walk. It is true that you cannot take such patients and insist that they suddenly start a program of moderate to vigorous exercise. But you can recommend that they start gradually with supervision, and work their way up to what is actually appropriate. Is high time to stop treating middle-age and older women as fragile.

In sobering news, new data indicates that women treated for early breast cancer still face a risk of recurrence to 20 years later. This data comes from a meta-analysis including 88 smaller clinical trials. The patients surveyed were believed to be disease free. These are patients who completed five years of post cancer therapy with tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors as recommended. So this study result is an unhappy surprise, but one that should quickly prompt further research, and may even change therapy for such patients in the very near future.

It is interesting to think about this new data in light of the current findings published recently in the Journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. This study revealed that "many breast cancer patients skip recommended treatment after surgery because they lack faith in the healthcare system”. While these patients did not report distrust of their doctors, they reported a general distrust of medical institutions and insurers. These women were more likely to skip follow-up treatment such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or radiation, statistically worsening their outcomes. 

Finally in the we-already-knew this department, the International Journal of Public Health has published a study concluding that sexual harassment whether verbal or physical, can “cause psychological harm”. While this seems entirely within the realm of common sense and conventional wisdom, readers should realize that it is critical that studies like this be performed and published. On the basis of studies like these, tangible harms can be demonstrated in a court of law, and justice can be pursued in a more definite way.

 

Stay tuned next week for more exciting news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, right here on Medical Mondays. 

Medical Monday: Breaking New from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Now here is something we haven't seen in a long time. Four days ago on Thursday Congress practiced bipartisanship. With the news the abrupt cessation of insurance subsidy payments by the federal government, those all over the healthcare sector were scrambling. Lawmakers had to cooperate against Trump’s decision or risk chaos. Senators Lamar Alexander, Republican from Tennessee and Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state have announced that they have a viable bill. This bill to reinstate subsidy payments has 12 sponsors divided evenly between Republicans and Democrats. These Congressmen are promoting a bill to resume federal subsidies to insurers that Trump has blocked. The Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has confirmed that all 48 Senators would vote for the bill. They number 48 which, when combined with 12 sponsoring Senators who are already known to support the bill, would give 60 votes at least, enough to defeat a filibuster.

Good thing lawmakers have decided to try to cobble together a solution to this problem. It turns out that several powerful states have banded together to sue the Trump administration over the decision to end ACA subsidy payments. Lead by the attorneys general of both California and New York the states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state. Additionally, the healthcare industry and the insurance industry have roundly condemned the interruption of subsidy payments, stating that this move will cost US economic and health harm.

 A group of medical associations, the so-called"Group of six”, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Psychiatric Association, has made a joint statement “ Our organizations strongly reject a marketplace that allows insurers to discriminate against any individual based on their health status age or gender allowing insurers to sell narrow, low cost health plans likely will cause significant economic harm to women and older sicker Americans who stand to face higher cost and fewer insurance options."

Concerns have already been raised that restoring subsidies paid from the federal government to insurance companies would benefit it insurers more than consumers. The authors of the bipartisan bill, Alexander and Laurie, and explicitly addressed concerns that"Restoring the payments to insurers could be viewed as… a bailout”. They indicated that the agreement would contain"The strongest possible language" to insure that the money provided for the subsidies would go to the benefit of consumers, not insurers. It is unclear at this time whether or not this bill, once enacted, would prevent some or all of the large rate hike that all of us can expect in our premiums this next year.

The fine details of women's reproductive health care are very much on the table in this political climate. As you are no doubt aware Trump has weakened the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. Last week he created a loophole which will allow employers to stop providing birth control coverage in their corporate insurance plans if they have religious objections. This week the bill has been introduced to reverse this exception. The bill is called"Protect Access to Birth Control Act”. Unfortunately it does not yet have the bipartisan support that it needs. 

A Denver school teacher, Jessica Campbell, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration for it's modification of the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The suit names the President and his Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury.The suit states that the exceptions “jeopardize women's health and economic success in order to promote certain religious and moral views by attempting to nullify the right equal access to preventive medical care, particularly contraceptive care and services, protected by the US Constitution set forth by Congress in the Women's Health Amendment to the affordable care act.” The suit seeks to prohibit enforcement enforcement of the changes. 

The Omaha World Herald, has surveyed several large Nebraska and Iowa employers. They presented their informal findings in a recent article which explains that according to their survey, most Nebraska and Iowa employers will continue to offer insurance plans with contraceptive coverage.

IUDs (Intrauterine devices)are one of the best and one of the most expensive contraceptive methods. This is because they're extremely effective with very low failure and complication rates. It is also because they are able to be used by women who cannot tolerate hormones. Although the most popular IUDs contain hormones they contain only enough to treat the lining of the uterus and they do not produce systemic effects outside of the uterus. The their side effect rate is low. Some experts worry that because this method is particularly costly i.e. somewhere upwards of $1000, Women may lose effective access to it. 

Dr. Haywood Brown, President of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has written an opinion piece indicating that he is opposed to the Trump administration’s ”…regulation that will threaten contraceptive access for women everywhere, particularly in underserved rural communities”. He argued that access to contraception” amounts to more than just dollars and cents. It can be life saving for women who already faced serious medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure."

Access to all forms of reproductive health care have been compromised in various ways under the Trump administration. An important methodology utilized by the Trump administration has been the political appointment of many antiabortion and anti-contraception activists to government positions despite lack of qualifications. It is ironic and disturbing that the restrictions placed on contraception, a benign medical treatment, will lead to a certain increased rate of abortion.

On to the medical news. 

In the good news department, vaginal estrogen is safe for all postmenopausal women. This includes women who have had a hysterectomy, women who still have an intact uterus, women with history of cancer, those with cardiovascular disease, only those with thromboembolic history such as a deep vein thrombosis for a pulmonary embolism. The results of this study presented recently at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society also fall under the category of the we-already-knew-this department. This is because we have always known that estrogens given vaginally do not get into the systemic circulation, this research finding is worth reiterating because indicates that no post menopausal woman need suffer with a painful atrophic vagina.

Also in postmenopausal news, and in the we-already-new-this department, a new study confirms that oral estradiol and progesterone may improve menopause related quality of life. While this type of therapy reduces hot flashes and mood instability related to menopause, but it's use is constrained particularly in those who still have a uterus. This is because the administration of the combination of both estrogen and progesterone may only be given for about five years or the shortest amount of time at the lowest effective dose. After five years or so concerns begins to mount for increasing risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.

There is an increasing number of women in South Carolina who are giving birth without any prenatal care whatsoever. It has been long established that lack of prenatal care is a contributor to for birth outcomes.

Tanning addiction is real, and it increases risk of skin cancer. A new study published online any October 11 edition of Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, Young white women with a history of depression were found become prone to tanning addiction. Indeed, over 20% of young white women who have frequented at tanning salon do become addicted to tanning. The study noted that these young women "depend on tending to feel attractive often show symptoms of depression.”

Oral HPV and the disease that it produces are increasing. HPV stands for human papilloma virus and it is the virus responsible for general warts, cervical cancer and cancer of the mouth and throat. Girls and boys between the ages of 926 should be completely vaccinated against the virus. The vaccine remains underutilized and many do not realize it must be given to males as well as females. I'm going data on the vaccine continue to confirm its safety.

At the present 7% of women with breast cancer are younger than 40 years of age. It Is noteworthy that this percent has been increasing since the mid-1990s. With all the debate about mammogram testing frequency and age at first mammogram, I wonder how we can be expected to screen for these cases among young women. At present, the debate is between whether to start mammograms at age 40 or age 50. With increasing cases in women under 40 this provides a good argument for the breast self exam and also to tailor mammogram screening to risk factors.

In related news, the percentage of women who opt for breast reconstruction surgery right after mastectomy for cancer is increasing rapidly. Over the past five years the proportion of breast cancer patients opting for reconstruction grew by about two thirds. In 2009 only about a quarter of women opted for reconstruction whereas more recently in 2014 and 14 the number rose to 40%.

Obstetric history stays important long after your last baby is born. Preeclampsia may indicate a tendency towards high blood pressure later in life. Similarly, pregnancy associated or gestational diabetes can signal a risk for diabetes and even heart disease later in life. Recent study published online in JAMA internal medicine has shown that patients with a history of gestational diabetes can mitigate their risk for cardiovascular disease by healthy lifestyle. In particular, gestational diabetes was not significantly associated with cardiovascular disease risk elevation among women he maintained a healthy diet, were physically active, never smoked, and maintained normal weight. 

A rather fascinating new bit of research indicates that lack of sleep could raise a pregnant woman's risk for gestational diabetes. In particular, women he slept less than 6.25 hours and I were almost 3 times likely this study tells us nothing about which where the causes and which were the effects. Still it is an interesting relationship and one which deserves more scrutiny perhaps even outside of pregnancy.

The CDC(Centers for Disease Control) has released a new data indicating that obesity rates among US adults is steadily increasing with the current rate of about 40%. This is not near overweight where the body mass index is between 25 and 30. This is obesity, with body mass indices in excess of 30. Approximately 30% of people where obis in the year 2000 15+ years later that is increased by 10% to 40% of all people. Of course there's significant state-by-state variation but the numbers are formidable across the board. For every state where the percentage is lower than that there is a state whose percentage is higher. Obesity sits with mental health and addiction as the three topmost priorities the Department of Health Services.

These days, when a patient asks to have her tubes tied, we may suggest that she have her tubes altogether removed. This is because of the relatively new Revelation that many if not most of all ovarian cancers actually come from the tubes. Thus we can get some theoretical and hopefully real cancer reduction by removing the temps instead of merely tying them for cutting them. This interesting conclusion about the origins of "ovarian" cancer have come from the nascent field of molecular genomics.

 

Stay tuned next week for more news from the breaking world of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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I spent this week at Stanford MedX Conference. This conference covers some of my fondest professional interests. In particular, we covered various themes of technology in medicine, such as the use of devices and apps for patients to use to follow chronic disease conditions like diabetes. We covered the increasingly important role of apps in research. 

We explored the phenomenon of peer to peer connections among patients and discussed how it is especially helpful with rare or undiagnosed conditions. 

Another prominent theme at the conference was design in health care. We heard lectures and  participated in workshops in human centered design, or more particularly patient centered design. We used design thinking to create maps of the patient experience, then took that information forward to inform features as disparate as language used in phone notifications, seating in exam rooms, and interior decor. 

One theme of the conference was “everyone included”. I already knew this meant the voices of all genders. I also learned it meant all those in health care, not just patients and caregivers. Namely, it also included family members, medical researchers, device makers and all those who design and evaluate the health care experience. 

The genius of the conference in my mind was that it brought together those who were traditionally separate. In my two years of attending the conference it became readily apparent that fantastic synergies were possible by bringing together people from these varied  backgrounds. Patients, physicians, scientists, designers and computer scientists, sat around around common tables to learn methods to solve vexing problems in health care. And yes, we were given large sheets of paper, colored markers and sticky notes. 

But... the people ! This was the best part of all. I am here to report that there are plenty of good and brilliant people in the world with the ability to conceive of solutions to serious problems. At this conference, they came in all shape, sizes, ages, nationalities and genders. You could not pick them out at a grocery store. But if they had a conversation at your dinner table, you would quickly learn how special they were.  

On to policy. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) continues to predict a 15 percent rise in premiums for policies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They have reported that this will likely be the case due to uncertainty over the Federal government’s willingness to pay subsidies to defray the cost of health care. Also likely contributing might be reduced  number of enrollees now that the individual mandate is not being enforced. 

GOP Senators have pared their efforts down to a one point bill. This final attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare basically takes Medicaid expansion money and shifts it to block grants administered by States. 

At the same time, Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed a near opposite. He has proposed retooling Medicare in the image of Obamacare and providing it to everyone. This is the so called “Medicare for all” proposal. While this has no likelihood of passing this Congress, it is espoused by most of the potential upcoming Democratic candidates for President. The rationale here is that such a plan would save money in the long run. The reasons for this being conceivable have been discussed before and elsewhere. In a nutshell, it has to do with people’s willingness to keep up on their prevention, screening, contraception and prenatal care, thus avoiding costlier more severe phenomena. 

The Senate Finance Committee has obtained an easy bipartisan agreement to refund CHIP, the children's health insurance program,

In another strikingly bipartisan move, Congress has rejected deep cuts to the National Institute of Health. Indeed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have defied the Commander in Chief and increased spending on biomedical research. 

In medical news, HPV vaccination rates continue to be sub par. However new data shows that vaccinations that have been given may be conferring a herd immunity as HPV infections have decreased 32% between 2009 and 2014. 

Vaping is viewed as a safe alternative to smoking in pregnancy. There is NO data to support this. In fact, newer data show an association between maternal vaping and asthma in the offspring.

Marijuana is viewed as safe in pregnancy. However, it is associated with learning difficulties in grade school  offspring. The State of Nevada is beginning a program to educate about this. 

In concerning but unsurprising News, pregnant women’s exposure to pesticides appears to be associated with premature delivery and low birth weight. 

 A recent study shows a faint correlation between two flu shots in row and miscarriage. Ever hear of signal to noise ratio ? This is probably noise. ACOG continues to reiterate the real demonstrated need for flu vaccine in pregnancy. 

Belly fat; it’s always the last weight to come off. However, it is well worth the effort. We’ve known for some time that belly fat was associated with increased rates of cardiovascular disease. However, new research indicates that central obesity is associated with increased rates of several cancers. Moreover, in the case of breast cancer, it is more closely associated with higher risk forms of hormone receptor negative cancer. 

As data science improves, so do our results. New research published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical  Association, constitutes the largest longest and best designed trials on the safety of postmenopausl a hormone replacement therapy. Happily, it does not increase the risk of premature death. This is medicine’s way of saying that the therapy is safe. 

 

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned next week for more exciting news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

In policy news, it is no secret that Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was a failure. Their proposals included many measures that would curtail health care for women in the form of either provision of contraception, for health screening for condition such as sexually transmitted diseases, breast cancer or cervical cancer and access to prenatal and maternity care. The failure of this bill led many of us who care for women to breathe a sigh of relief. 

However there is a new threat to women's healthcare. The House Appropriations Committee is responsible for setting the federal governments spending priorities for the upcoming year. These budgetary items come in the form of bills. Most of the bills concern essential services such as the military but included with these budgetary plans are several add on provisions or riders which contain potential law related to women's healthcare and it's funding. For example, the bland and harmless sounding "Financial Services and General Government Bill" would prevent people from purchasing insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchange which includes comprehensive reproductive coverage. As another example, the "labor, health, and education" bill would eliminate funding for Title 10 family planning clinics which provide a low income women and men with cancer screenings birth control tests for sexy transmitted diseases. The Republican plan for this care is to reroute it to community health centers. However many question the ability of community health centers to meet this increased demand.

 MATERNAL MORTALITY BY COUNTRY FROM THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK VIA indexmundi.com

MATERNAL MORTALITY BY COUNTRY FROM THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK VIA indexmundi.com

Representative Nita Lowey (Democrat from New York) is the top ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. She and several colleagues have offered alternative amendments to guarantee that women have access to these health services. They include provisions for birth control without co-pay, Title X family-planning funding, rescinding the Global Gag Rule, and re-instituting funding for the United Nations Population Fund. Without control of Congress these are likely doomed, but at least drafts are in place and the issues are on the table.

Last week, Senate leaders passed some bills that stand to help patients. The first is a bill that will help fund the FDA review of prescription drugs and medical devices.  The second bill, called the”Right to Try” Act, it will help the FDA to “…speed review generic drug applications”.

Even those of us who applauded the Affordable Care Act realize that it needs some more robust Federal funding for the the upcoming years. Republican Senator from Tennessee Lamar Alexander has “...organized bipartisan hearings next month" to help fund ACA a insurance marketplaces next year. Governors from both parties have urged the Trump administration to act continue to making ACA subsidy payments. President Trump has tried to characterize these federal contributions to defray the cost of healthcare as an insurance company "bailout". 

The expanded health care that the Affordable Care Act provided was beneficial in human and longer-term economic terms. However instituted immediately in the then insurance marketplace, it would have been financially unaffordable without federal subsidies. That is the reason why the federal government subsidies were designed in the first place. Consumers would contribute, States would contribute, and the federal government would contribute through the taxpayers, in what amounted to an elaborate cost sharing plan. The implicit and explicit philosophy was that the healthcare of the American people was a shared responsibility and a worthwhile financial investment for the future. 

As has been previously reported, Texas has a maternal mortality crisis. The maternal mortality rate is 35.8 deaths per 100,000 live births as of 2014 where is the rest of the nation sits at 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. Texas's rate is characteristic of a third world country Robinson United States of America which has state-of-the-art medical care. This issue has been on the table for several months now in a large study is underway to fully understand the reasons why. Meanwhile editorials in Texas newspapers abound to the effect that the crisis is no mystery. Various pieces of legislation large and small, State and federal, over the last decade have resulted in curtailment of access to women's healthcare, including reproductive health care, general women's healthcare, and prenatal care. Could there be a connection?

In the medical news, we begin with the opioid crisis. According to new research publishing the animals of internal medicine, approximately 2,000,000 Americans self report that they are addicted to opioids. There are likely many more. 11 million admit to misusing opioids. Opioid addiction is surprisingly dangerous and hard to treat as it becomes enmeshed with behavior and Biology. There are specialists who treat opioid addiction but they are few and far between even in sophisticated medical communities. Doctors who will treat pregnant women with opioid addiction correctly are even more scarce.

Do you think cultural factors matter in health? Do you think behavior is ”catchy” ? I just learned that pregnant women in Florida smoke at double the rate of women in the rest of the country. I think such outliers are very interesting and provide potentially informative subjects for study.

I am the sort of person who is very interested in maps and infographics. The idea of regional variations in health behaviors is fascinating to me and can be portrayed in maps. See todays' illustration lifter from indexmundi.com who lifted it from the CIA World Factbook   The case of Florida and smoking, the case of Texas and maternal mortality, and indeed the case of the entire south and rates of obesity should constitute low hanging fruit for any interested researcher. 

The FDA is taking a powerful step in the battle against smoking. We have had warning labels. We have had higher taxes on cigarettes. We have had educational campaigns. However now, the FDA will lower the amount of nicotine in tobacco products. There is good reason to believe that lower nicotine in cigarettes will lead to smokers quitting and enable them to quit more easily.

In the odd and frightening department we see the new research published in the Journal Cancer Epidemiology, which suggests that postmenopausal women with gum infections are more likely to get many common cancers than their peers. Ladies, use those electric toothbrushes, that thick floss, and those peroxide and fluoride mouthwashes. Check in with your dentist. More research is clearly necessary.

Mothers across the world are missing a great opportunity. This is breast-feeding. According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, only 40% of babies were exclusively breast fed for six months, which is the undisputed recommendation. Rates in the United States are considerably lower with  25% of mothers exclusively breast-feeding for six months. The report included research on the key reason why mother stop breast-feeding. It is the need to return to work. Solving this problem would be a matter of addressing culture, policy pertaining to postpartum leave, paid postpartum leave, and breast-feeding in the workplace.

Breast-feeding has numerous benefits for babies, mothers, families, and society at large. A new study documents that breast feeding may be linked to a lower risk of breast cancer. This study was a meta-analysis of 18 prior studies. 13 of which showed that breast cancer risk dropped 2% for every five months a women breast-fed.

News continues to filter in regarding the use of CRISPR to edit genes in human embryos. At present CRISPR has been used to edit out the single gene mutation that causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The most logical next candidates are other single gene mutations which cause disease. Examples of single gene diseases are cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, fragile X syndrome, muscular dystrophy, also known as Huntington's disease. Hope is on the horizon ! 

 

Stay tuned next week for more exciting news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Belated Medical Monday

I have just heard the best news about the Republican plans to replace the ACA (Affordable Care Act). Senate Republicans would like to postpone a repeal until……drum roll please …. the year 2020, when, you guessed it… another presidential election will take place ! I think this may be the GOP’s way of saying, “Sorry, never mind. We agree with President Trump who said, “Health care is hard.”." 

Especially now that the piper has started talking about getting paid… i.e. the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has had it’s say, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have come to realize that the costs of dropping the ACA provisions may exceed the costs of keeping them. 

There is however a need for action, and Senate Republicans will likely try to take action to stabilize premium costs. They will also to endeavor to continue federal insurance subsidies which help low income American with co-pays and deductibles. 

In other policy news, the Mexico City policy is back in place. This is the policy of withdrawing US aid funds from international organizations which provide reproductive services which include abortion. This is policy is meant to show the current administration's condemnation of abortion, and to curtail the incidence of abortion. However, Kenyan health care researchers have cited clear evidence from the past about what happens when the Mexico City Policy is in place. In fact, if these US funds are withdrawn from these types of health clinics, then many women go without health care and contraception and many more unintended pregnancies occur. Not surprisingly, under these circumstances, MORE abortions are actually performed. It seems impossible that the administration cannot be unaware of this. If this is true then it would seem they are really more interested in political posturing than abortion prevention or the health care of women. I'm going to speculate this this exact sort of thing will happen in that other part of the third world called Texas, where women's health care services have been severely restricted.

The Mexico City rule is also called the “ global gag rule” since all US funds can be withheld even if the clinic staff even speak of abortion.

Did you know that the current administration proposes not only to cut coverage of health care but also to health care research ? In his 2018 budget request titled “ A New Foundation for American Greatness”, cuts are proposed for the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration), the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), and the National Institute of Health (NIH) including the National Cancer Institute. How do you feel about this ? Tell your elected officials. 

Many on the red (Republican) side of the aisle continue to favor covering those with pre-existing conditions. Many of you may know of Jimmy Kimmel, the late night host and comedian. He has entered the health care debate in a most poignant way. His wife recently gave birth to a son with a congenital health defect. This defect required immediate very expensive and live saving surgery, which with insurance under the current Affordable Care Act, will be covered entirely. This baby's care coverage will not be subject to penalties for preexisting conditions, and there are currently no caps on insurance payouts under the ACA. Cases like this do become very costly, and in an environment where there are caps on what an insurance will pay, the Kimmel child might not get all the care he needs to live. So, legislators have spoken of health care plans which “pass the Jimmy Kimmel test". To pass the test, an insurance plan must cover all the care that such a baby would require. Many Republicans are coming out to favor plans which pass the Jimmy Kimmel test. See Jimmy’s moving monologue HERE:

http://ux.azcentral.com/story/life/tv/2017/05/02/emotional-jimmy-kimmel-discusses-baby-sons-heart-surgery/101189324/

In medical news, ACOG is trying to get the word out on normal anatomy. There is a disturbing rise in cosmetic surgery for the female genitalia, even in young women.  ACOG (American College of Gynecologists) is trying to educate patients and clinicians about the considerable variation in normal anatomy. They are also cautioning against so-called vaginal rejuvenation surgeries and other procedures which can have serious complications. One has only to look at the high costs of such surgery and the lack of insurance coverage of it to know that it is simply a moneymaking ploy used by unscrupulous gynecologists. 

In the “ we already knew this” department, a new study has come out reiterating that domestic violence is more common in pregnancy. Everyone needs to be aware of this. 

In the "you have some control” department, new research indicates that even one 10 ounce alcoholic drink may increase your risk of breast cancer- by nearly 10 % in post menopausal women ! The same study also shows that vigorous exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer. Worried ? Stop drinking and start exercising. 

It has now been well established that the HPV vaccine works to prevent genital warts and reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. The new revelation is that for kids under 15, only two rather than three doses are needed. 

Do you snore ? If you do, go get evaluated, regardless of your age. It is clear that sleep apnea increases risk of cardiovascular disease. New research also indicates that it complicates pregnancy, increasing risks of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. 

Bed sharing with newborns increases risk of SIDS ( Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). A new program which includes face to face education and distribution of baby box kits has been shown to be effective in reducing the incidence of bed sharing. Baby boxes provide a separate space for baby with a flat mattress and a firmly fitted sheet. These boxes, as opposed to a bed or crib with lots of blankets, toys and fluff, are much safer places for baby to sleep. 

 

Stay tuned for next week’s Medical Monday and thank you for your patience ! 

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.

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

The World Health Organization will have convened on Friday to evaluate whether Zika is still to be classified as a “ public health emergency of international concern.” I am not sure of the criteria for such a classification, but it does not seem to me that we have yet seen most of the consequences of Zika in those yet to be born. Furthermore, it is not clear how Zika will fare though the turn of the seasons. 

The effects of Zika are generally serious to devastating. It is fascinating and confounding that these effects vary by geography. This means Zika has different effects depending on where the infection is contracted. The American Society for Tropical Medicine recently convened and examined this question which needs much more formal study. 

Women are more likely to get Zika from men than men are to get it from women. This is because the virus is now believed to suppress the vaginal immune response (Vaginal immune response ! Who knew ? ) and thus go undetected so it can establish infection in both mother and baby. 

Blood banks in affected states have been screening for Zika. Only 40 out of 800,000 positives have been found. This is not meant to represent an assessment of Zika prevalence in these states since the people who come to donate are screened and kept from donating if they have risk factors for the infection. 

In other news, there is another option for women with vaginal atrophy. Many older women and those who have had cancer have vaginal atrophy, which manifests as dry, thin, inelastic tissue. It also manifests as pain during intercourse. Fourteen percent of all women have low equal desire and sex related personal distress. Part of this in older women may related to vaginal atrophy. Unfortunately, this is not always addressed at the doctor’s office. Many such patients are not able or wiling to use vaginal estrogen. They may now use DHEA, dehydroepiandrosterone, an adrenal androgen, as a daily vaginal capsule, to help with this. The trade name will be Prasterone and it has recently been approved by the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) for this use. 

The idea of using vaginal estrogen in breast cancer survivors has, until recently, not been considered due to concerns that the hormone enters the systemic circulation and might cause increased risk of recurrence. However a recent study published in JAMA Oncology has shown that estradiol secreting vaginal rings and intravaginal testosterone cream are both safe and effective therapies in those breast cancer patients who are receiving aromatase inhibitor (AI) therapy. 

In insurance news, President elect Trump has indicated that he favors preserving the prohibition against insurers denying coverage due to preexisting conditions. He also favors allowing parents to keep children on policies until the age of 26. An article in the Wall Street Journal recently opined that keeping these provisions without keeping the universal mandate (requirement for everyone to have insurance or be fined) and the funds it would bring in, would strain the coffers of health insurance companies bound to keep the first two provisions. 

At this point, hearsay reigns in matters of the new administration’s policies. Before the election, Republican politicians spoke of eliminating the individual mandate on health insurance. Now, there is talk of revamping it. Similarly, and more realistically, it is said that Medicaid under the new administration is more like to be altered than it is to be shrunk, as Republican candidates suggested. 

This column has covered the falling teen birth rate. Recent analysis of this data has shown that this is the case much more in urban compared to rural areas. Between 2007 and 2015, the teen birth rate fell 50% in cities, but only 37% in rural areas. Teen birth rates fell most among white and hispanic girls. 

In related news, a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health showed some interesting relationships between childbearing and longevity. Over 20,000 women were followed for over 16 years. Researchers discovered that a larger number of children is associated with less longevity in black women, but more longevity in white women. They also found that women who delay their first birth until at least 25 are more likely that their counterparts to live until age 90. 

Stay tuned next week for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Medical Monday : Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology 

As per recent precedent and priority, we start with the Zika news. 

Three of nineteen traps in the Miami area have trapped mosquitos which have tested positive for the Zika Virus. New readers will note that this virus is transmitted to humans through mosquitos bites and sex. If a pregnant women acquires the virus, it often leads to severe brain damage to the baby most notably in the form of microcephaly, which means small brain. It also leads to hearing loss. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Control and Prevention warned that microcephaly may be “ the top of the iceberg” and that the full impact of Zika may not be apparent until they grow older. Thus it is of paramount public health important especially with regards to the care of pregnant and potentially pregnant women. 

Zika virus infection can also increase the risk of post viral paralysis,Guillain-Barre syndrome, in those who are infected. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has confirmed the association with Guillain-Barre in seven different countries.

The FDA has recommended that all donated blood be screened for Zika, even in places where the virus is not present. Zika testing is currently expensive and time consuming, but officials feels this is necessary, given the seriousness of the infection and the fact that many Zika infections are asymptomatic. 

The mosquito vector which carries the Zika virus has a territory spanning only part of the United States. For this reason, officials believe the sexual route of transmission may become more important here that mosquito transmission. 

The director of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has stated that federal funds to fight the Zika virus will be exhausted by the end of September. It has already spent $194 million of the $222 million it was allocated. Congress must then act to provide funding to fight the virus effectively.

Postmenopausal hormone therapy is back in the news. Current practice is largely dictated by a landmark study called the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which was released in 2002. One of the principal investigators of the WHI, Dr. JoAnne Manson, said the “ WHI findings have been seriously misunderstood and misinterpreted. She indicated that the benefits still outweigh the risk for women of average risk for breast cancer." Aye there’s the rub. To calculate risk, you will need to have a good history taken, including a family history, a physical exam, a mammogram, and maybe even a visit to the genetics counselor. The plot thickens. 

Texas maternal mortality rates have doubled in the last four years and no one knows why. Numerous commentators have now published about this, and most have noted the political and funding challenges to women’s health care there and in the whole bible belt. There is serious speculation as to whether slashing funding for women’s health and the increase in maternal mortality is related.  Some would say that amidst the ardor to defund clinics which provide reproductive health care services like abortion and contraception, that Texas has also weakened its ability to care for pregnant women. In effect, Texas may have shot itself in the foot. It is believed that family planning clinics are an entry point into health care for many women of modest means. It is often the place where pregnancy is diagnosed. Without these clinics, prenatal care is delayed or absent. An editorial in the Dallas Morning News indicated that if were Texas a country, it would rank 31st in the OEC (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) for maternal mortality.

Unpacking this further we see that this jump in mortality is predominantly occurring in black women. Heart problems, prescription drug overdoses, and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy like preeclampsia (aka toxemia) are the leading causes of death in these women. I can tell you that to properly follow a women with cardiovascular or blood pressure problems in pregnancy is big undertaking. It involves frequent if not weekly visits, fetal monitor strips, serial Ultrasounds, and social support so the patient can rest. Maternal mortality is the worst complication one can imagine. Complications can happen anywhere, but deaths should be a rarity if care is adequate. According to research in the Journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, Texas maternal mortality rates are the worst in the nation and among the worst in the developed world. Truthfully it’s a disgrace. 

In the practicing medicine without a license department, Ohio passed a law in 2011 stipulating that providers of medical abortion had to use a FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) protocol for the doses of the 2 medications involved, mifepristone and misoprostol. Basically the law required them to follow the package insert, or “ the labelling”. This protocol was developed in 2000. By 2003, specialist organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the World Health Organization, found shortcomings with the protocol and recommended changes in the package insert, allowing for the simpler and more effective dosing protocol, but also the evidence based extension of the gestational age for which the drug would be effective, and the ability for women to take the medication at home. However these changes weren’t made due to political reasons.  It now appears that since the law was enacted, women taking the suboptimal dose are more than three times more likely than before to have complications requiring additional intervention, often surgical. In other states without this law, medical providers would simply follow the most up to date recommendations of their professional governing body, including an up to date dosing protocol, regardless of the FDA labelling. This is called “ off-label use” of FDA approved medications. In many cases, in many fields of medicine, off label use is common and necessary to take the best care of patients. Up until May of this year, however, it was illegal to do so in Ohio. I wonder what they did to the rebel caregivers who gave the correct doses ? It would be tough to be a doctor in this climate. If the law didn't get you for off label use of meds, the lawyers could for knowingly giving a potentially unsafe dose of a medication to a patient. 

In May of this year, the FDA corrected the package labeling to reflect the most up to date science on the subject. Regardless of how you feel about abortion, you would not want to give a patient part of a dose of medication to only evacuate her uterus partially, since this can cause hemorrhage and infection !  Dangerous !

You may recall that a few weeks past I reported on the decline in teen pregnancy. At that time we were not precisely sure why. However, now, parsed the data and we have nailed it down. Drum roll please…..It’s…. you guessed it…. contraception !!! It turns out sexual activity did not vary in that time frame. Use of contraception did. It increased from 86% use from 78%. Science !

Perform labor is in the news. The causation of preterm labor has remained a bit of a mystery. To show you how nascent is our science, I present the findings of two recent studies, both retrospective. The first, published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal examined 400,000 births. Resistance to preterm labor seemed to be conferred by three things: birth spacing, optional weight at the beginning of pregnancy, and appropriate weight gain in the pregnancy. Pretty vague, I grant you. Next, is an NIH(National Institute of Health) study of 200,000 women. In this group  they were able to unearth the uncanny fact that women exposed to extremes of temperature early in pregnancy were more likely to deliver preterm. OK. What if they wore appropriate clothing and used climate control devices ? Gosh that is unhelpful information. Whereas, any old crusty Obstetrician can spot preterm labor risk as it walks through the door. She or he might notice the frenzy with which the patient blew in, the smell of cigarettes, the poor nutritional status, or poor dentition (teeth). We need studies which tell us about factors we can change - not the weather ! 

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

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology 

Zika again dominates the news in Ob/Gyn. As of Friday, a storm system was approaching the subtropical state of Florida, where 43 are confirmed infected with the Zika Virus. Authorities think the storm may help spread the virus which is transmitted by mosquitos and sex. Meanwhile, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) does not have enough Zika testing resources. I myself experienced this last week when I was told a specimen we sent to the CDC would take “weeks” to result. We Ob/Gyns are not able to effectively work in time frames like this, and so this week we will have being having some words with the powers that be. 

A new study published in Radiology has shown that Zika can cause many other brain defects besides microcephaly. They have thus far identified 8 major defects. One of the most common was ventriculomegaly, or enlarged ventricles and thinning cortex. 

Thus far the Florida outbreak has been clustered around Miami. However Thursday, an isolated case showed up some 250 miles to the north in Tampa Bay, Pinellas county. It is still unclear how this occurred. On the bright side, modeling done by researchers at the University of Florida has indicated that the total outbreak should limited to under 400 individuals or less, considering all the southern states. They also believe winter will stop the outbreak, which would then recur next summer the same way. It is estimated that 20,000 pregnant women in the Miami area are taking extreme measures such as confinement indoors or moving to avoid Zika infection. 

NewYork officials are noting that travel restrictions to Zika affected area not being properly observed by pregnant or pre conceptual women. How do they expect people to take these restrictions seriously when they gave full sanction to people traveling to the Olympics in Rio? 

Dr. Kristyn Brandi writes that Zika is spreading more rapidly than anticipated in Puerto Rico, and that resources of information and contraception are not adequately available. 

The chair of ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) has written a strongly worded piece which has criticized how politics has prevented the funding of an adequate Zika response. He and co author, Dr. Didi Saint Louis of Morehouse School of Medicine have called for the full funding of comprehensive reproductive health care to allow women to avoid or delay pregnancy. They have called on Congress to reconvene to deal with this. 

In the non-Zika news, HPV virus is in the spotlight. This virus is responsible for abnormal paps, and cervical cancer, among other things. It has an effective vaccine which is meant for young people between the ages of 9 and 26. However parents remain wary to give it to their children. Research is being done regarding the prospect of putting it on the list of already mandatory vaccines which must be done before school entry. Surveys show that parents would accept this as long as there was an opt out provision. As of 2014, only 40% of girls and 20% of boys were vaccinated. It will be interesting to see if there will be those who decline the Zika vaccine once it gets developed. 

Breastfeeding is practiced by about 80% of all American women when they leave the hospital. However less than a third keep it up for the recommended time. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that infants should get nothing but breast milk for six months, and that breastfeeding should continue one year. 

Co-sleeping beyond six  months has been shown to produce significant stress on women. Researchers at Penn State note this may be related to fragmented sleep and less time with partner. Perhaps this is related to the falloff in breastfeeding. 

In the everyone-already-knows-this department, researchers at UCLA have discovered that menopause accelerates aging. In all fairness, what they have determined is that methylation increases in menopause, accelerating cellular aging about 6 %.

And in the we-should-have-known department, the “ baby simulator” program in high schools designed to deter teen pregnancy may actually be encouraging it. Graduates of the program with over third more like to have a teen pregnancy. 

Stay tuned next week for more news from the amazing world of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  

Wellness Wednesday: Healthy Bowels

What affects our health, how we feel, and how we look, but is rarely discussed ? You guessed it: Bowel movements, or lack or them, or problems with them. Today we will give some attention to the humble colon, indeed the whole female pelvis, as we contemplate the well being of this part of the body. 

Those of us that operate on the female pelvic organs the uterus tubes and ovaries can tell you that they are in close proximity to the bladder and the colon.  In fact, they are sandwiched between the bladder in the front and the colon (large bowel) in the back. Constipation can affect the way the uterus and bladder feel and function, and visa versa. 

Definition

A common definition of constipation is bowel movements less than every three days. The American College of Gastroenterology defines constipation more completely, factoring in all sorts of problems with bowel movements, such as straining, small or hard stools, a sense of not being able to empty the bowels, or difficulty passing stool. Bloating, abdominal pain and excessive gas are also related issues.  

Risk factors

Risk factors for constipation include being a woman, being pregnant, being older, dehydration, low fiber diet, being sedentary. 

Causes

The basic cause of constipation is an unduly slow passage of stool through the bowel such that the stool becomes hard and relatively dry. This slow passage may be caused by a blockage in or near the colon such as a tumor, or a narrowing of the bowel from a stricture or a scarring of an anal fissure.

Since the colon moves stool forward using muscular contractions, poor muscle function can cause constipation. This can be from problems with the nerves that innervate the colon, such as in diseases like MS, stroke, and spinal cord injury. The colon muscles also function poorly if they do not contract and relax normally, or if the surrounding pelvic muscles are weak. Weak pelvic muscles can be caused by injury at childbirth, overweight, poor conditioning, poor posture, or all of the above. Hypothyroidism and diabetes can cause constipation. 

Constipation can also be caused by medications, most famously narcotic pain medications and sedatives. Certain high blood pressure, antidepressant antacid and allergy medications can do it as well. Diuretics like caffeine and alcohol can cause constipation. 

Poor bowel habits can start a vicious cycle of constipation. Ignoring the urge to go for reasons of convenience or modesty leads to more time for water to be extracted from stool, a harder stool, and a more difficult passage. The urge to go may even go away, compounding the problem. 

Poor dietary habits are probably one of the most common causes of constipation. A diet high in saturated fat and sugar can predispose to constipation. A diet low in fruits, vegetables and fiber will surely cause constipation. 

Complications

Untreated constipation may damage the area around the anus, either by producing sore dilated veins (hemorrhoids) or by causing small tears (anal fissures). The pressure and straining associated with constipation will worsen the condition of the pelvic muscles. It may do this to such an extent that the bladder may also start to have problems emptying, holding urine in, or both ! Constipation may even predispose a person to frequent urinary tract infections. 

Evaluation

Persons suffering from constipation should not suffer in silence. Constipation is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. The workup of constipation consists of a history, physical exam, and possibly some imaging procedures. 

Treatment

Treatment is determined after the workup is complete. Taking care of serious pathology is critical. But this is less common than lifestyle factors. Dietary and activity changes are front and center in the treatments for most people. Fiber, both soluble and insoluble, are key, along with ample hydration all through the day. Supplements of fiber are widely available if patients just cannot seem to get the right foods into their diet. Finally enemas and medications can be utilized. 

Enemas and suppositories can be used for serious cases. Other classes of medications can be useful, but one must be aware of how they work. 

 

  1. Stool softeners like Colace do just that. 
  2. Bulking agents like Citracel or Metamucil hold additional water. 
  3. Osmotic agents like Milk of Magnesium chemically hold water in the colon. 
  4. Stimulant laxatives like senna or bisacodyl stimulate the colon muscles to contract more. 

 

The first two are generally safe for everyone, but the last two should be used with the supervision of a doctor, since there can be medical consequences. Laxatives should be used with great caution, since they can even be addictive like narcotics, with more and more being required to get the desired effect. 

Those with pelvic floor dysfunction can be treated with pelvic floor physical therapy. More and more medical communities are incorporating this treatment modality into their centers. This is key since these issue disproportionately affect women. These women have often curtailed their work, social lives, or exercise because of problems with bowel and bladder, and this is a significant loss, especially when treatment is available. 

Stay tuned for this week’s Food Friday, when we will explore the dietary remedies for constipation in more detail. 

 

References:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/basics/definition/con-20032773

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/constipation_in_adults/article_em.htm

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/constipation/Pages/overview.aspx

http://patients.gi.org/topics/constipation-and-defection-problems/

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

Good Monday ! We will start our news this morning with a revelation that a once deadly virus is now under firm control via the three pronged approach of surveillance, treatment and vaccination ! I speak, of course of the Human Papilloma Virus,(HPV), responsible for causing cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer.

A new CDC study published in The Journal of pediatrics reports states that" thanks to a vaccination program that began decade ago fewer US women are entering adulthood infected with” HPV. Apparently this study is the first to show falling levels of dangerous strains of the virus in women in their 20s. Human papilloma virus vaccine also known as Gardisil, has been available for use for children ages 9 through 26 for many years now. It was initially only available for girls because the studies were done first on girls but subsequently it was released also to boys. 

Zika is our newest viral threat. It has ravaged South and Central America and proceeds northward into areas where the Aedes aegypti mosquito can live. Zika is blood borne and spread by this mosquito. Male to female sexual transmission of ZIka is now also confirmed. It is also vertically transmitted, meaning from mother to unborn child, and is strongly linked to the development of microcephaly in the the growing fetus, which produces severe brain damage. Conclusive proof of the connection is likely to come in June when a large cohort of nearly 5000 women mostly in Columbia will give birth.

Zika infection is also a threat to the nonpregnant in that it is strongly associated with a much higher risk of developing post viral paralysis, Known as a Guillain-Barré syndrome. World Health Organization researchers note that there is been a spike of Guillain-Barre "everywhere that we are seeing to seek a virus".

In the good news department, breast cancer survivors are now believed to be able to safely use vaginal estrogen therapy. Vaginal estrogen therapy is used to treat vaginal atrophy, often see in menopause or after breast cancer treatments which stop a woman from producing estrogen. Vaginal atrophy is a painful condition which causes various problems and prohibits intercourse. We do not give systemic estrogen to breast cancer survivors since we are concerned it could encourage a cancer recurrence. Vaginal treatments are not believed to produce a systemic dose. 

In more good news, a cheap easy to use vaginal ring is helping to curb HIV transmission rates in Africa. The rings slowly releases an antiviral drug to combat HIV and it needs to be changed every 4 weeks. It reduces transmission by 30 %. 

In concerning news, preeclampsia in pregnancy seems to be associated with a measurable risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. The effect is so pronounced, that left ventricular functional abnormalities can be seen on imaging family soon after delivery. 

Also concerning is new research indicating that breast cancer risk may be increased in those with hyperthyroidism. 

Finally, in the news-that-sounds-like-science-fiction department, the first uterus transplant in America has been performed. The recipient is 26 years old. She will have to wait year before attempting In vitro fertilization. If she succeeds, she will be permitted to keep her uterus for one of two children and then it will be removed.