Maternal mortality is a big topic nationwide. The rates are unacceptable in the US, and particularly bad in the South. Arkansas, in a reasonable move to triage women for eligibility for home birth, have established a screening process. That screening process for women helps the State determine who may legally delivery at home. Heretofore, this screening did not require a vaginal exam. Now it does, and this has brought fire from patients and home birth midwives. It has always been our position that a patient may decline anything for any reason. However, to qualify for certain program certain requirements must be met. My position would be that women who do not want vaginal exams will have to forgo participation in that particular program. And, I must ask, what is the problem with vaginal exams ? Women are not fragile and information is power. This type of overly precious attitude toward the female body, even by women, is counter to the interests of maternal and fetal health. It is case of putting philosophy over responsibility.
Texas OB/Gyns are starting to speak out about what they see are the causes of excessive maternal mortality rates. They are identifying system errors such as failing to recognize risk, as well as more subtle phenomena, such as unconscious bias. Race is of course a factor as black women are four times more likely to die than white women. A rally in Boston highlighted the same cause of maternal mortality. The centerpiece of the rally was a billion the US Senate which will promote the formation of state review committees for maternal mortality.
Pennsylvania is also taking measures to try to curb maternal mortality and has established a committee through the State Health Department to scrutinize the problem.
In an effort to get more pregnancy women into prenatal care, Connecticut has approved a bill to make pregnancy a “ qualifying life event”. This means that pregnant patients in the state my enroll in insurance plans anytime, and need not enroll within the confines of the enrollment period.
With all this talk on maternal mortality, one might take a moment and discuss maternal morbidity. Morbidity means serious complications short of death. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has indicated that for every 1 mother who dies, 70 nearly die. That is an astonishing statistic and goes a long way in my mind toward explaining why Obstetricians have such burn out, and why their numbers are decreasing. Maternal morbidity comes from all the same things maternal mortality: worsening maternal health, worsening access to evidence based care. poorly funded health care systems, unconscious bias, race, etc.
The Trump Administration is considering implementing the so called “gag rule”domestically. This would prohibit the dispensation of Title X funding to any clinics which even mentioned abortion. I wonder how this reconciles with freedom of speech ? Can you imagine trying to enforce this ? All patient consultation and exam rooms would need to have audio recording equipment and someone would have to review the recordings. Dystopian much ?
The Trump administration is reappropriating about $15 billion in unspent funds from CHIP (Children Health Insurance Program) and certain part of the ACA ( Affordable Care Act). Democrats feel this is not the time to cap these budgets or reduce rainy day funds. However the Trump administration budget is ballooning and they are trying to cut costs anywhere they can even for vulnerable groups.
Iowa has banned abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is at around 6 weeks. However, similar measures have passed in North Dakota and Arkansas but they have both been struck down as being unconstitutional and inconsistent with Roe V. Wade.
Louisiana has seen a quadrupling of the rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS describes the condition of infants who are born to opioid addicted women. A recent feature in teh New You Times has reported that about 90% of pregnancies among addicted women are unintended. The reasonable inference here is that addicted women have a hard time using birth control effectively.
ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ) advises pregnant and breastfeeding women not to use marijuana for concerns about developmental delays. Nonetheless, a new study has shown that 69% of Colorado Dispensaries phoned do recommend it to pregnant women for nausea. Dumb and dumber.
New data is coming out that induction at 39 weeks may be associate with fewer risks and lower C section rates. More research is needed.
A new study on genetic testing for breast cancer has shown that those who do not meet the criteria for testing have harmful mutations AS OFTEN as those who do meet the screening criteria. Sounds like the screening criteria need broadening.
In other genetics related news, we find that the number of genetics tests available is increasing. A new study has shown that only a small subset of physicians order genetic testing, and even fewer know how to interpret them. This appears to be a case of the technology moving faster than our understanding.
The Human Genome Research Institute is developing “ preconceptual screening” for couples. Right now screening is piecemeal, meaning only for a selection of known genes. However, they are developing a whole genome sequencing program, which has been made possible by NGS, or next generation screening. 3.5 % of participants had a medically actionable finding. As of yet, the majority of the information acquired does not have a clinical application.
Yet more data has come out of a large study on the HPV (human papilloma virus). In a study of 73,000, it has been shown not only to prevent cervical cancer, it also prevents precancerous lesion of the cervix. Additionally it did not show any increased risk of side effects compared to control.
Stay tuned for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology next week, here on Medical Monday.