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

Research on Zika continues at an accelerated pace. This last week Zika news includes the release of a new three-in-one test to test for Zika, Chickengunya and Dengue. Researchers say this cannot keep up though without an emergency spending bill from Congress. 

Puerto Rico has become a strong cause for concern. The director of the CDC has visited recently and expects “ hundreds of thousands” to be infected by Zika, among whom are thousands of pregnant women. Puerto Rico is believed to be an important route of infection to the United States. 

In Brazil, newest numbers show 29 % of Ultrasounds on babies born to Zika infected mothers show fetal anomalies with “ grave outcomes”. The newest research shows the prevalence much publicized defect called misrocephaly, but it is also becoming clear that other kinds of problems are likely Zika-related. These would include: lack of amniotic fluid, other forms of fetal brain damage, blindness,and stillbirth. 

There are 273 cases of Zika in the US States and 282 cases in the US territories including Puerto Rico. 

A small randomized controlled trial published in March of this year studied 78 first time mothers and their second stage of labor. The second stage is the time from becoming completely dilated to pushing the baby out. The old guidelines allow first timers pushing well to take 2 hours without epidural or three hours with epidural. Study subjects were allowed to push for one hour greater than current guidelines. In this study, when they did, C sections rates were cut in half without any other adverse effects noted  in either mother or baby. The authors remarked that the study was underpowered to detect small but clinically important differences. It does however, suggest that first timers were being “cut” as we say, too soon. 

As an Obstetrician, I would note that I have seen this study reported in the press. Many assumed that this meant that caregivers should now let patients push longer. Finally I got at look at the study itself. Nowhere in the press did it mention that all of the women in this study have epidurals. This makes it more difficult for many people to push effectively. Now it makes sense to me that more time made for more safe vaginal births. Certainly in many cases,  second stages with low quality epidural-influenced pushing should not be expected to make as much progress as second stages in women with strong epidural-free pushing. More time should be given for these patients. Normally, in a real labor population, some people have epidurals and some do not. Labor length averages are going to be influenced by his. However, If every single patient in a small study has an epidural, result swill skew toward the effect of the epidural-ized labor. Obviously. 

The old labor guidelines were made in the days before epidurals. In those cases, the women were probably unmedicated and thus pushing for all they were worth. In such cases, the old time allowances were probably appropriate. The idea is that, if your patient was going to deliver vaginally  safely, she should be able to do so within the old time allotments. Furthermore, if you persist in pushing her longer, you set yourself up for a variety of bad situations like stuck shoulders, a traumatized baby, or a traumatized mother, or a very late and thus risky C section. Hard coordinated pushing should result in continued progress of some degree. If it does not, the safety of vaginal birth should be questioned.

There are various signs we watch for during labor to tell if the baby can safely be delivered vaginally. It is so much more than the time duration of pushing. We watch the fetal heart tones, the evolving shape of the baby's head, the movement of the baby in response to the mother’s particular push in whatever particular position she is in. We factor all this in. I may know someone is stuck after only one hour, and I may let someone else safely go for four. It is a matter of not only knowing the labor guidelines, but but knowing the reasons behind them and knowing your particular patient very well. 

In the way cool department, researchers are using an iPhone app to begin a study of postpartum depression. They will be looking at a possible genetic predisposition for PPD. Using the iPhone will allow them to more easily get the enormous numbers (100K) they need to produce quality conclusions. 

In the good news department, Vox report that several more states, Missouri, Hawaii, Washington, South Carolina and Tennessee are considering bills to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills. Ob/gyns support these bills because of the well established safety of these medications. 

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about the ACA’s (Affordable Care Act) contraception mandate. A religious group called “ Little Sisters of the Poor”, one of the plaintiffs, are nuns, and they argue “ the birth control provision violates the laws of God.”

Governor Mike Pence of Indiana has signed a bill prohibiting abortions even for birth defects. He did this despite opposition from several of his female pro-life Republican colleagues in the House. Has he heard of the Zika virus ?


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 

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) predicts Zika will spread along the Gulf States of the US this Summer. The CDC has also said that since mosquito control in Florida is good, the risk there should be relatively low. As with regard to South America, and in particular Mexico, the CDC has noted that the Aedes mosquito, vector for the virus, is rarely seen above 6500 feet. 

Researchers studying a Zika outbreak in French Polynesia have identified a 1% risk of microcephaly among children born to mothers infected in the first trimester. Observers of the Brasil outbreak think the figure is too low given what they are seeing. It will take several more months to draw any conclusions.

As of Friday, there are 450 people in the United States who are infected by Zika. This does include Puerto Rico, where the Puerto Rican section of ACOG ( American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) are providing IUDS free of charge. (So proud of my brothers and sisters in ACOG ! )

In other news, concerns have been raised in an opinion piece in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology that media coverage of controversial medical technologies may prevent certain women from getting the best treatment for their particular needs. They site the recent reluctance of doctors to use mesh implants, morcellators, or Essure sterilization even in patients for whom they are well suited. 

In the no-good-reason department, new research shows that sexually active teens with LARCs ( Long acting reversible contraceptives such as IUDs) are 60 percent less likely to use condoms that similar girls taking the pill. Birth control use in teens is distributed as follows: 2% use LARCs, 6% use Depo Provera injection, patch or ring. 22% use the pill. 

Also in the no-good-reason department, new research indicated 50% of pregnant women who quit smoking start again after childbirth. What percent of smokers quit during pregnancy ? 13 %. 

What about smoking pot in pregnancy ? One thing’s for sure, Ob care givers are not consistently counseling patients about it. These are the findings of new research published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. I will say that as a caregiver, It is challenging to counsel against something that is so widely used, and for which people will rally. Neither the popular media and the research community  give us much in the way of support here. In fact, the facts on MJ use in pregnancy are not encouraging. If you are interested you can read the definitive information HERE, which is a summary document from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to its members. This is an area needing further attention. That is, if we value the brain power of the next generation. 

Steroids are given to mothers at high risk for preterm delivery. At this time, we give them from 24-34 weeks of gestation. However, new evidence indicates they may be helpful given even as early as 22 weeks. Hopefully the demand for this will be small. 

A new study published in JAMA ( Journal of the American Medical Association) reveals that vaccine aversion may be beginning to manifest in increasingly rates s measles and pertussis (whooping cough) in the United States.  No surprise here. 

Also In the vaccine department, there is good news. Chicken pox, also called Varicella, is now nearly 100% preventable. Think that’s no big deal ? Try telling that to someone like me who got it at the age of 24 ( and got seriously ill) or someone with a terrible case of shingles, which is reactivated chicken pox. New data says getting two shots instead one, one at age one, and the second around 4-6 years of age, confers near 100% protection. 

Stay tuned for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, here, (or hopefully in your inbox) next week, on Medical Mondays. 



Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health

ZIka virus news continues to be front and center. Zika virus causes an illness which is usually mild or moderate but is strongly associated with the development of a severe birth defect known as microcephaly. It is also associated with a post illness paralysis called Guillaine Barre.

This weeks changes include new mandatory reporting of confirmed case for all states in the US. Calls for Zikus virus research funding are being made. The WHO ( World Health Organization) has declared that the virus is spreading explosively. They have convened an emergency meeting, and in a rare move, has declared the virus a global health emergency. Brazil is the worst affected, the over 4000 cases of microcephalic babies born through the end of January.  Additionally Brazilian health authorities are fearing a wave of illegal and unsafe abortions among women who have no access to contraception or insecticide. Florida has declared a health emergency over Zika. Health workers in Texas have confirmed the sexual transmission of the virus. 

Brazil is using the military to spread insecticide.Two vaccine approaches are underway but will not likely be ready this year. Additionally genetically engineered mosquitos are being released into the wild, to sharply reduce the mosquito population. The US Senate plans to meet about the outbreak and plans to work closely with ACOG ( The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) to address the problem. 

In other news, ACOG has issued a statement urging Ob/Gyns to support new mothers whether they breastfeed or not. In the same brief, it continued to advocate for policies that support a working woman’s right to breastfeeding. 

In more breastfeeding news, the Lancet has reported research indicating that if “nearly every new mother breastfed, that more than 800,000 children’s lives would be saved each year and that thousands of future breast cancer deaths would be avoided." Compelling ! 

Stay tuned for more breaking news from the world of Ob/Gyn. Thanks for reading !


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

Laboratory analysis.jpg

The Zika virus continues to spread. There is increasing evidence that Zika infection causes microcephaly in the unborn as well as post viral paralysis Guillaine Barre syndrome. Every day there is new information about the outbreak, and the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) is the best place to learn about it.

Unfortunately, there is yet no hint about treatment, and a vaccine is 1-2 years the making at best. The WHO ( World Health Organization )has warned that ZIka is likely to spread to every country in the Americas except Canada and continental Chile. As of this last Friday, January 29th,  the World Health Organization has reported 31 cases in 11 United States states and 1.5 million cases in Brazil alone. The WHO estimates that the virus could affect 4 million people by the end of 2016. About half of those will be women and an unknown percentage of those women will be pregnant.

In other news ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has updated a “ Committee Opinion” which it distributes to all of its physician members. According to lead author, Dr. Allison Stuabe, "the goal is for OB/GYN's to own breast-feeding as a part of reproductive physiology”. The paper advocates that breast-feeding support should begin during prenatal care when breast-feeding can be discussed in clinic. Breast-feeding is still underutilized in this country and the world over. 

The American Heart Assoication has issued a report saying that “heart disease remains undertreated and under diagnosed in women”. It goes on to explain that "The causes and symptoms of heart attacks can differ markedly different between the sexes". Compounding problems is that “ women are under represented in clinical trials for heart disease ", occupying only about 1/5 of the slots. Moreover the report indicates,"even when women are included in trials, researchers do not often parse out the gender specific data that could deepen scientists understanding of how the disease affects women”

Last year the Gynecology community was startled by the revelation that ovarian cancer is now thought to originate in the Fallopian tubes. Accordingly, ACOG made a recommendation that they be removed in the course of surgery for other benign indications. However, a new study through Yale indicates that only slightly more than 5% of eligible surgeries utilize this recommendation. In all fairness, this is relatively new information and the efforts to disseminate it were fairly modest. Additionally taking the tubes out takes extra time at surgery and entails a certain amount of extra surgical risk. I was once told by an old professor of mine that it was not good to be either the first one on the block or the last one on the block to adopt a certain new surgical technique. 

This time the USPSTF (The US Preventive Services Task Force) has done something right. They have come out with a strongly worded recommendation to screen all adults for depression. They have gone on to particularly mention the need to screen all pregnant women and new mothers. They are basing this recommendation on new data indicating that maternal mental illness is more common than previously thought. New research indicates what has been called postpartum depression may actually begin during pregnancy and that left untreated these mood disorders can be "detrimental to the well-being of children". It is interesting that in the past the USPSTF has required proof of benefit to recommend any given intervention. Maybe today's announcement is a sign they will also begin using common sense.

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





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

Good Monday. We start out with good news, noting findings reported at the World Diabetic Congress that those who breastfeed have a substantially lower risk of developing type two diabetes later in life. 

Northern hemisphere readers will note that the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) has reported that this year's flu activity, so far, is relatively low. They also note that slow starts aren't unusual and those that haven’t yet gotten a flu shot should get one, especially since this year’s vaccine is good match. 

USPTF (The United States Preventive Services Task Force) has once again released it’s version of guidelines for breast cancer screening. They are, predictably, lax, and recommend individualization for women of average risk before age of 50, and every other year between 50 and 74. They have chosen this age range of screening since they state their data show this is the age range “ of greatest benefit” from mammograms. This is no doubt true since this is when most cancers are diagnosed. However, what they cannot seem to understand is that women want ALL the benefit that mammograms can confer. Think about it. Their recommendations would condemn any woman below 50 of average risk to having her cancer detected only when it became palpable. Of course mammograms detect them far earlier, when they are more curable. 

Women want ALL the benefits mammograms can confer, and yes, they understand all such diagnostic tests must be weighed against their risks. But in this case, the risks are so small. They are the risks of biopsies for concerning findings which come back negative for cancer. They are also, according to the USPTF, the risks of fear and discomfort of the procedure. I have seen two and a half decades of patients and I have never heard one patient cite these risks as even coming close to outweighing the benefit of screening for cancer. Where does the USPTF get the idea that these particular risks are so important or that women even care that much about them ?

The good news is that the controversy has hit the airwaves and the blogosphere. NBC, the Washington Post, the NY Times, and Newsweek, among others, all covered it. ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) maintains a recommendation of annual mammograms after 40, and the American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms from 45 on. ACOG plans to convene a conference to sort out the issue once and for all. 

Group B strep is an important pathogen for moms and newborns. A new vaccine against it is under development. 

Big news: Ovarian cancer actually seems to arise in the tubes. The data for this is sufficiently compelling that ACOG is recommending removal of the tubes with preservation of the ovaries when applicable. 

The CDC reports that the average age of first time mom’s is at an all time high, being 26 years and 4 months. This can be attributed, at least in part, to fewer teen pregnancies. 

In sobering news, a new virus called Zika is causing birth defects in the Caribbean and South America. It is spread through mosquitos. The CDC may warn pregnant women not to travel in that region. I’m sure we’ll hear more about efforts to deal with this in the near future. 

The effort to develop personalized vaccines to treat ovarian cancer is in the early stages. This work is on the desk of the FDA as we speak. 

Wow, so much happening ! Stay tuned for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology next week on medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Ob/Gyn 

2016 brings in some good news for women’s health. Physicians are starting to weigh in on the new over the counter contraceptives available in Oregon and California, and they are overwhelmingly applauding it. 

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times also indicates physicians are also weighing in on the controversy on mammogram frequency recommendations, and many support annual screening from the age of 40. This view is supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Care Network. 

The National Public Radio Health Blog Shots has indication that 2015 was the year “ menstruation came out of the closet. They cite the care of Kiran Gandhi who finished the New York Marathon on her period,without pads, drawing publicity to the idea that #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult. They cite other instances where menstruation entered polite public conversation, thereby beginning to erode long held taboos. 

The FDA now classifies mesh for prolapse as a "high risk device". Given the complication rates, I think this is a good thing. Also good is that the FDA excluded mesh for incontinence which is a different device entirely and works rather well, without the same high complication rate. 

You may hear of a retrospective observational study has picked up an association between the use of oral fluconazole (Diflucan) in the first 6 months of pregnancy with a 50% increased risk of miscarriage. From this data, it is not at all possible to say whether the diflucan is causing these miscarriages. Think about it…. maybe it is the yeast itself, or a diet high in sugar. More study is needed to figure this out. 

A new blood test may help physicians sort out those at risk for preeclampsia. This is most welcome since it is sometimes difficult to discern preeclampsia from chronic hypertension. 

Finally, in some really fantastic news, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has published research indicating that even “ older women” i.e. 69 or older, who get regular mammograms have a lower likelihood of dying from breast cancer during the ages of 75-84 compared to their counterparts who did not get regular mammograms. Currently we are permitted to stop screening around 70 and the US Preventive Services Task Force says mammograms should not be done after 75. This has to do with supposedly having an expectation of living less that another ten years. You know, something tells me this whole line of thinking is going to evolve as women live longer and more vital lives. I wonder what Betty White, Angela Lansbury, Sandra O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Dame Maggie Smith would have to say about all this. 

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

Good Monday and Happy New Year. ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) has once again reiterated the newer recommendations regarding cervical cancer screening. They have stated that “ Women ages 30 to 65 at "average risk" for cervical cancer should receive co-testing with cytology and HPV testing every five years or screening with cytology every three years”. ( Cytology just means sending cells with a pap and co-testing means DNA testing for HPV, Human Papilloma Virus via the same sample.) I would like to emphasize a couple of aspects of this statement: the phrase “ average risk”, and the idea that they are talking about sending specimens to the lab. 

Average risk is not precisely defined, and this is ok, since it gives clinicians room for applying clinical judgement to individual patient cases. Average risk does not certainly include those patients, who are by virtue of disease or medication, immunocompromised. It does not include those who have recently had precancerous cells in the cervix, vagina or vulva. In my opinion it does not include those who have a significant smoking habit, since smoking is tightly associated with accelerating the progress of HPV disease. I do not believe average risk includes those with alcohol or drug problems since these patients can have poor immune function and struggle with satisfying recommended follow up protocols. In my opinion, average risk also should not include those with high risk sexual habits, such as having unprotected sex or large numbers of partners. But does the media ever highlight any of these things ? I have not seen it. 

These ACOG recommendations are about the recommended sampling frequency for cells on the cervix. They are not a statement about the frequency of annual exams or even pelvic exams. Those proceed on their own schedules for their own separate indications. The media has not done a good job at highlighting this important distinction. After all, a woman is more than just her cervix. 

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has received a request from a group of researchers to retract their own study from the Journal on the grounds that they have discovered that the lead researcher has falsified data about the usefulness of nitroglycerin for improving bone density.  Kudos to those whistleblower researchers. 

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) will revise its regulations concerning the practices of licensed midwives, what we call lay midwives, meaning those who are not Certified Nurse Midwives. The DHEC was picketed by about 50 midwives. ACOG has said that while women deserve the right to chose where they deliver, they should be informed of the risks and benefits of the choices, including the two to threefold risk of neonatal death while delivering outside the hospital. (This data came from a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and involved a study of 80,000 pregnancies in Oregon.)

Let’s think a little more about that statistic on neonatal death. Neonatal death is defined as the baby dying in labor or in the first month after birth. Why would such a terrible thing happen in the hospital ? High risk pregnant patients come to the hospital. High risk mothers may have very early labor, ruptured membranes, or severe preeclampsia, all resulting in deliveries so early that babies are far more apt to die or have serious morbidities. This is the source of neonatal death in the hospital, not the average pregnant women who comes in for labor or induction.  On the other hand, most licensed lay midwives restrict their practice to low risk patients, with none of these aforementioned problems. And yet many more of their patients end up with dead babies, despite the fact that hospital caregivers are dealing with these sometimes insurmountable obstacles. Problems which are solved by a simple medication in the IV, or the use of forceps, or even a C Section in the hospital, result in death when the same problems occur outside the hospital.

Speaking of neonatal death being two to three times more prevalent among those who birth at home, did you ever consider that this is a group average ? What happens when you unpack that group ? It turns out that first timers delivering at home have a 14 fold increase risk of first apgar score of ZERO, which is tantamount to neonatal death. And while the multiparous patients (women with multiple prior births) may do better with labor, they are much more prone to hemorrhages and other maternal complications, which are not even addressed in this statistic. 

So beware of the medical reporting in the popular media. Don’t take those statistics at face value. Remember the actual human realities behind them. 

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

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

Medical Headlines took a bit of holiday break just like us, so today’s report will be brief. 

The Journal of Pediatrics recently presented research that has shown that many new parents use car seats incorrectly. The most common mistakes are straps too lose and chest clips placed too low. Anyone with doubts can just stop by any labor and delivery or pediatric clinic for an on the spot demonstration of the correct technique. 

In the good idea department, the American Journal of Public Health reports that young pregnant women  might get significant benefits with group prenatal care. The study groups ranged in age between 14-21 and received either traditional prenatal care or group prenatal care. Those receiving care in the group setting were 33 % less likely to have a small for gestational age baby. Personally I think it would be fun to instruct young women in a group setting. 

In the frustrating and dangerous section, Reuters has reported on Canadian study retrospectively comparing 11,000 low risk women who had home birth with 11,000 low risk women with hospital birth. Their endpoints were still birth or death. For these endpoints, there was no significant difference in outcomes, with the incidence at home being 1.5/1000 versus 0.94/1000 in the hospital. There are two glaring problems with drawing a conclusion from this: 

1. The incidence of stillbirth and neonatal death is small in both cases, so comparisons of even large numbers cases are relatively unrevealing.

2. We care about many more outcomes than still birth or neonatal death. For example, we care about near death of the baby or the mother, brain damage, post partum hemorrhage, retained placenta, postpartum infection, and so many more grave life altering things. The truth of the matter is that neonatal and perinatal medicine is so good now that no matter how badly a case is managed, modern medicine can almost always salvage it enough so that it does not qualify as a stillbirth or a neonatal death. Badly managed cases requiring intensive perinatal and or neonatal care that do not result in stillbirth or death are definitely things I should think everyone would want to avoid, but nonetheless are NOT on the radar of this study. For that matter badly managed cases that require intensive perinatal and or neonatal care that do not result in stillbirth or death but that DO result in bad outcomes like brain damage are not also reflected in this study’s conclusions. How helpful is that ? And yet, what is the Reuter’s headline ? “ Home Births May Be Safe For Low Risk Pregnancies “ Really ?

From the “ clues on the trail” department, we have the following two tantalizing tidbits. One, it turns out that there is some sort of association between gum disease and breast cancer. Those with gum disease have a 14% increased risk of the disease. Add smoking and it jumps to 20-30 % and that means smoking ANYTIME in the last 20 years. Yikes ! information like this could ultimately help us understand how breast cancer arises or persists. 

Two, Metformin, a common medication to help with ovulatory dysfunction, polycystic ovary syndrome, carbohydrate intolerance, and diabetes, “can block the release of toxins from the placenta when preeclampsia is present." Wow cool. Now someone smart needs to figure out why.

Ending with heartwarming news, the journal Pediatrics has presented research showing that “ kangaroo care” benefits premature and underweight babies in several measurable ways. Kangaroo care is prolonged skin to skin contact, and it is associated with half the risk of serious infection, 78% lower risk of low core temperature, and 88% lower risk of dangerously low blood sugar. 


So go hug your kid and have a happy new year. 

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

This weeks news is all about the facts and figures. Statistics is like pie. It is all about how you cut it. That is to say, the real meaning of raw data is challenging to correctly interpret. A great deal of the message from a study depends on how the data is presented. Be wary about drawing conclusions from studies where none can be drawn. 

The CDC report indicates that the number of abortions in the United States has hit a record low compared to 1990. This is true for all ethnic groups.

A new study has hit the press indicating that use of SSRIs, common antidepressants, in the first trimester is NOT associated with increased risk of autism spectrum disorders. Nonetheless the study also showed babies whose mother’s took SSRIs were 75% more likely to get autism than than their peers. Whether this is related to the mom’s condition, the medication or something else is totally unknown and cannot be known from this study. 

In the strange, counterintuitive and questionable department, a new observational study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows more complications among those with a planned C section compared to those with an emergency C section done after labor. This is against what has been show before, and against common sense. Authors at the NYT Blog Well speculate that somehow the labor is “ good” for babies. You just as well might speculate that people who chose elective C sections are less healthy to begin with. No conclusions can be drawn, although many will be. 

New findings in the Journal Cancer Epidemiology show that while cancer rates are declining in developed countries, they are increasing in the developing parts of the world. With development comes smoking, and more obesity, which increase the risk for certain cancers. 

The now ancient Women’s Health Initiative, which gathered data on a great many things, has been mined once again. This time it has revealed an association between smoking and infertility. No surprises there. 

I guess I am not the only one who doubts the work of the USPTSF on the issue of breast cancer screening and mammograms. Over 60 lawmakers, headed by Representative Debbie Schultz of Florida, have included a provision in the new budget requiring that the US government officially recommends breast cancer screenings at age 40 rather than 50 as the UPTSF does. Looks like they feel American women are willing to undergo some increased anxiety and discomfort in exchange for earlier detection, longer life, and less mortality. 

A new study out of Britain once again raises the question as to whether the use of the Ca 125 blood test can help detect ovary cancer and save lives. The results are by no means conclusive, but they will provide an impetus for much needed additional study. 

Back to pie. This week I hope you have several kinds, pumpkin, cherry and whatever is your favorite. Merry Christmas week ! 



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

Happy Monday on this short week ! This week in honor of Thanksgiving I plan to apply the filter of gratitude to the news that I feature. Let’s see how this works out. 

The LA Times recently reported on the actual C Section rate in the US ( 33%)  as compared to the theoretical ideal of 15 %. An ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) spokesman indicated that this discrepancy was largely about risk tolerance of the involved parties. Gratefulness filter: Le’t be glad we live in a place where C sections are readily available to those who need them. 

Findings coming out of the African American Cancer Epidemiology Study indicate that black women with the healthiest diets were 34 % less likely to develop ovarian cancer that their counterparts who ate the most unhealthy diet. Gratefulness filter: Diet is an easy factor to modify !

Findings presented at the American College of Rheumatology indicate that Denosumab was superior to Zoledronic Acid ( Zometa) at restoring low bone density due to osteoporosis. Gratefulness filter: This is great news for all with low bone density ! 

The Supreme Court rejects the case against Planned Parenthood. Justices Scalia and Thomas dissent. Gratefulness filter: Let is be glad we live in a country that respects free speech of differing parties, that observes due process and the rule of law. 

About 10 % of all new mothers suffer from post partum depression. New York is rolling out a ambitious program which will require that all expectant and new mothers will be screened for depression. Gratefulness filter: Thank goodness awareness is increasing about this important and treatable problem. 

Rhode Island has a new state mandate requiring HPV vaccine for youngsters. Nearly three quarters of seventh graders received it by the start of the school year. Gratefulness filter: Thank goodness we have a way to prevent cervical cancer. 

Count your blessings this week and stay tuned for more news from the world of OB/Gyn next week on Medical Monday ! 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health 

Happy Monday ! This week, in addition to reading the news and doing your normal workweek, you get to start seriously preparing for the holidays.  Enjoy the process !

Postpartum depression is in the news again, and this is a good thing. “ Shots” blog by NPR ( National Public Radio ) has run a story about a woman, Paige Bellenbaum,  who went through this. She has since recovered and has become an activist on the subject, and helped to write a bill in New York “ aimed at educating more families on the symptoms of maternal depression.” The bill also promotes screening through the Pediatrician's office. Early treatment for postpartum depression is, of course, more effective. 

Research findings presented at the NCI ( National Cancer Institute’s) annual conference underscored that increasing parity ( the more children you have ) reduces risk of ovarian cancer. The first child reduces the change of this cancer10% and each subsequent birth reduces it 8% more. While no one would decide the number of children they wanted based on this, it is interesting and may spur further research about how ovarian cancer comes into being the first place. Hopefully this will ultimately yield clues on how to prevent and treat this awful disease. 

New research published in the Journal of Diabetes Care indicates that women with central obesity (higher levels of abdominal fat) are more likely to develop pregnancy associated diabetes here. Of course it is also known that women who get gestational ( pregnancy associated diabetes) are more likely to get Type 2 Diabetes later in life. Moral of the story: Get in good shape and at your correct weight before pregnancy and in-between each delivery. 

Also hot on the trail of gestational diabetes (GDM), s study presented at the Conference of the Society for Endocrinology indicates that women who are sedentary in the first trimester are more likely to get GDM. They defined sedentary as sitting more than 6.5 hours per day. Has anyone ever tried a standing desk ? Personally I think the best thing at work is to alternate siting and walking about at frequent intervals. Also naps, mid afternoon. Wouldn’t that be cool ? 

The CDC ( Center for Disease Control) reports that half of pregnant women are gaining too much weight in their pregnancy. IOM ( Institute of Medicine ) recommendations indicate women with a normal BMI ( body mass index) gain about 18.5 an 24.9pounds. Smaller women should gain more and larger women should gain less. 

Wow this week's news sure had some common themes. 

To help you stay in the know very quickly, don’t miss Medical Monday.

Medical Monday: Weekly News Update in Obstetrics and Gynecology

Good Monday.

A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists suggested light meals during labor may be safe for most women. Ordinarily we would like to restrict intake to clear liquids nothing at all depending on the risk level of the woman. The main concern here is the risk of aspiration which means inhaling food particles from the stomach into the respiratory tract. Pregnant women are at increased risk for aspiration compared to non-pregnant women due to  the pressure from the baby and the relaxation of the esophageal muscles. Moreover, women are often nauseous during labor, increasing risk. The highest concern comes if the patient needs to go to cesarean section. In this instance she needs to be on her back with only a slight tilt, and this increases the risk of aspiration even further. It is unfortunate that the lay reporting makes it sound like we fear that women might aspirate during normal labor. Our concern is mostly having to do with the chance that they will go to cesarean section on a full stomach. 

Shots Blog on NPR covered this interesting tidbit: Babies and mothers exchange cells each others circulation during pregnancy labor and delivery, And they are maintained in circulation thereafter. These are believed to have implications for cancer and auto immune diseases that affect women. It is unclear whether these are beneficial, harmful, or both, depending on the circumstances. 

We know that when people have more testosterone in their system that they are more assertive or aggressive. But we are now finding is that the converse is also true. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, our testosterone levels rise in response to assertive behavior such as the use of power in a work situation. Study noted that this is especially true in women.

Did you know that tobacco use before pregnancy and in pregnancy is associated with cleft palette and congenital heart defects? The CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities performed a meta-analysis which indicated that 6% of oral clefts and 1.4% of non-syndromic heart defects are attributable to maternal smoking in the first trimester. 

Yet another study underscores the fact that drinking alcohol increases a woman's risk of breast cancer.

Got cold sores? Don’t feel bad. The World Health Organization estimates that half of the world’s population under 50 does too. 

Stay tuned for more news from the world of obstetrics and gynecology, Next week on Medical Monday.


Medical Monday: Weekly News Update in Obstetrics and Gynecology

Good Monday !

I am returning from a great five days back at Stanford with our son Forest, who is now also an alumni. We attended “ Classes without Quizzes” and enjoyed ourselves immensely. We learned about numerous things, including a little about the way the brain functions during early language development, the latest in nutrition research, and a MMOG, yes, a massive multiplayer online game called EteRNA which has become a powerful tool in the design of tiny RNA machines which may be used to treat disease. We also took a yoga Piyo Hip Hop Fusion class, went on a pro multi-ethnic eating tour and saw tons of old friends. 

So now we return inspired, excited to move the needle forward in everything we do, including Medical Mondays ! 

Flibanserin went on sale this last Saturday. Flibanserin is of course the pill to treat low libido in women. It goes by the name Addyi. Does anyone know how to pronounced this ? Someone got paid to think of that name, you know. I can’t wait to see the commercials. For some real information about this drug, please see my prior post HERE

This week, in a 2000 word opinion piece in the New York Times, a political scientist Courtney Jung, criticized breast feeding activists for putting too much pressure on women to breastfeed. She states broad based research indicates the benefits of breastfeeding are  “ modest”. Could this op ed have anything to do with the fact that she is releasing a sensational new book called “Lactivism” next month ? Imagine running a 2000 word ad for your upcoming book in the New York Times. I wonder if they even paid her for her ad.

Her subtitle includes many of us: 

How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy

I am just going to go out here on a limb and disagree and say that I do not think breastfeeding is bad policy. I guess I’m kind of a rebel that way. 

The American Academy of Pediatricians has come out saying that "no amount of alcohol is safe for unborn babies". The new guideline “identifies prenatal exposure to alcohol as the leading preventable causes birth defects and intellectual disabilities in children.” It was previously thought that "a small amount" of alcohol is okay in pregnancy. According to the CDC (The Centers for Disease Control), about 10% of women self-report that they drink alcohol in pregnancy. So in my simplistic mind this means that if women comply with this recommendation, 10% of the entire next crop of babies could be significantly developmentally better off than the last group. Wouldn’t this have staggeringly good effects on the population ? 

The American Cancer Society has revised its recommendations for mammograms once again stating that they should start at age 45 in a patient of average risk, and go to every other year at the age of 55, provided that the woman is expected to live at least 10 more years. The purpose here is to "eliminate false positives and over treatment’.

Has anyone ever considered asking the question, How bad is the badness of a false positive? And what do they mean by overtreatment? Do they mean biopsies which turn out to be benign or do they mean lumpectomies or mastectomies? Most physicians do not consider a biopsy to be a treatment. Most patients consider a benign result a great relief. I have never heard of a patient saying ”Doctor, my biopsy was benign. It looks like I really didn't need that biopsy after all ”. If biopsies were taken out of the “over treatment “ calculations would there really be any unnecessary “treatments” left to lament ?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has maintained their stance on mammograms every one to two years from the age of 40 forward. It also recommends a clinical breast exam annually. The American Cancer Society is dropping their recommendation for an annual clinical breast exam since it has not"been shown to save lives.” They say nothing about whether it extends lives. Is important for readers to know that there are many studies designed to determine whether or not a certain intervention prevents death in the course of the study. Preventing death is the same thing as saving life, no matter if you die at one year or ten years after treatment.  Studies geared to show an interventions ability to save life do not necessarily have the power to show it extends life. ACOG keeps its position on mammograms and clinical breast exams because earlier more frequent mammograms and clinical breast exams are associated with earlier diagnosis and longer life after breast cancer. 

I had better stop writing since there is steam coming out of my keyboard and my ears again. 

Stay tuned for more news from the wacky world of OB/GYN next week on Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: Weekly News Update in Obstetrics and Gynecology 

Did you know that some insurance companies offer rebate incentives to get indicated mammograms ? A recent editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association called this “ an ethically disconcerting distraction”. What do you think ? I think advanced breast cancer is far more expensive than early cancer caught and cured. 

A new study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health has shown that less than half of new mothers returning to work have adequate space and time to pump. Meanwhile, in related news, the Army now requires commanders to allow breastfeeding soldiers to have time and space to pump. To clarify, many soldiers stay stateside or in non-hostile countries with family on bases and serve in technical or support positions. 

One article and two more separate recent studies indicate a higher infant mortality for non- hospital births than hospital births. ACOG estimates risk at two to threefold across the board. Remember there is also evidence demonstrating a 14 fold incidence of first Apgar of ZERO in those delivering their first baby at home. All this seems self evident to me given all my eyes have seen. 

The American College of Physicians has come out against routine pelvic exams in the the asymptomatic woman. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has made it clear it supports annual pelvic exams. Recall that pelvic exams need not always include a pap, since a pap is the collection of cells from the cervix to be evaluated in the lab. Pelvic exams confer a wealth of information about infection, pelvic relaxation, masses in the uterus, masses in the ovaries, etc. Ask any ob/gyn; They will tell you they find significant things on pelvic exams in asymptomatic women all the time. It looks like this needs to be formally studied. 

Uh oh, more bad news for Essure, those little coils placed in the tubes for sterilization. (Darn it, this seemed so promising. ) A new study in the British Medical Journal evaluated over 52,000 women sterilized with Essure. These women were 10 times more likely to go to surgery in the following year than those that were sterilized with a traditional tubal sterilization procedure. It is interesting to note that the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) did NOT require documentation of Essure’s performance though a RCT ( randomized controlled trial). 

A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has shown 61% of women obtaining mammograms will have at least one false positive report. They are advocating that physicians do more to educate and reduce anxiety associated with these results. 

In the good news and empowerment department, a Norwegian Study reports that pregnant women who exercise regularly in the three months prior to pregnancy report less pelvic pain in pregnancy that their non exercising counterparts. And this is making me smile: High impact exercise was the most strongly associated with decreased pain. So, did these women go through life feeling less pain to begin with thus tolerate exercise and pregnancy better, or did the performance of the exercise change something about the way they perceive pain ? A study like this cannot answer these questions, but they are interesting to ask. 

Stay tunes for more news form the world of OB/GYN next week on Medical Monday. 

Weekly News Update in Obstetrics and Gynecology 

Good Monday news readers. 

This week, card carrying Ob/Gyns the world over are going all green on us. The World Health Organization and no less than 6 other international Ob/GYN professional societies have “ come out” calling for “ providers to incorporate environmental health screening as a part of routine practice." They have also asked that clinicians become active on a local, national, and global levels to advocate against exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment. 

In sensational news, a Finnish study reports that discontinuation of hormone therapy may increase the risk of cardiovascular death. This news comes as one of many postscripts to the large Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study designed to assess the effects of two forms of hormone therapy (HT): combined therapy with conjugated estrogens plus synthetic progesterone, and unopposed estradiol in those with a hysterectomy. Until the WHI, conventional wisdom was that HT prevented heart disease, but fostered breast cancer. Surprisingly the WHI showed women in the combined HT group had small but significant increased risks of both heart disease and breast cancer. Those in the estradiol alone group had neither. 

In Finland, which has a highly regulated and uniform brand of socialized medicine, the use of HT took a steep dive upon the release of the WHI. ( It did in the US too.) Examination of this time period a few years ago in Finland has yielded these new insights. No one knows precisely why this is the case, but the authors speculated that it is because only estradiol, either with or without progesterone, is used in Finland. No conjugated estrogens are used. 

 It turns out that the average age of the women in the WHI was 63, a good 12 years older than the average age of natural menopause. These were women who might have accumulated atherosclerotic disease before even starting the HT. Authors of a related recent Finnish study speculated that estrogen may be good for clean vessels, but bad for atherosclerotic ones. This is physiologically plausible since estrogen encourages turnover of the vascular lining, which is where plaques happen. The plot on HT thickens again, but maybe in a good way. Stay tuned. 

Cup half full or half empty ?  The CDC reports that there has been a 44 % increase since last year of hospital policy driven encouragement of breastfeeding within one hour of birth. The trend is good ! However, the respected blog “ Shots”  at NPR ( National Public Radio) decried the findings, pointing out that most hospitals still are not doing a good enough job promoting breastfeeding and most hospitals give formula despite mothers wishes.The cup has some water in it….errr milk. 

Aren’t there some animals who ovulate in response to intercourse ? Kitty cats ? Animal lovers help me here. A new study in the Journal Fertility and Sterility has identified intercourse induced changes the immune system that are pregnancy favorable. Researchers have stated “... sex outside the fertile window is still important for triggering important changes in a woman’s body that may promote a healthy pregnancy.' Meow. 

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

Medical Monday: Weekly news updates in Ob/Gyn

Did you know that not all breast cancer is the same? Breast cancer is of course cells from the breast which have become abnormal and behave in an unregulated destructive manner. We can study specific breast cancer cells to determine their particular nature, for example, whether or they have hormone receptors. When we study breast cancer cells for their particular traits what we are really trying to determine is what therapies would be the most effective against that particular breast cancer cell type.

Some tests we do on breast cancer cells are gene tests. A new gene test called Oncotype DX "accurately identifies a group of women whose cancers are so likely to respond to hormone blocking drugs that adding chemo would do little if any good while exposing them to side effects and other health risks”. This test allows certain patients identified by this gene test to skip chemotherapy, and have results which are basically just as good as the corresponding patients who did have to get chemotherapy.

You may have heard that there is increasing support for homebirth in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom of course has socialized medicine and a completely different medical care and medicolegal  infrastructure than the United States. For example, British homebirth midwives are highly trained graduate-level professionals who have trained with Obstetricians in hospitals. They use modern equipment, can prescribed medications, and are constrained to doing homebirth in very close proximity to hospitals with emergency capabilities. More importantly, they are very careful at patient selection. Finally, medical malpractice liability is handled through the National Health Service. 

None of this can be said for homebirth professionals in the United States where only a high school degree or GED is required along with an online test, care of home birth clinic patients and an observation of a small number of homebirths by a similarly trained person. These “direct entry” or “lay” midwives in the US are not required to carry liability insurance. 

For many reasons including all of this, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) maintains that the safest place to give birth is the hospital or a birthing center. It is interesting to note that because of medical privacy laws and reporting laws of the state, complications of homebirth are vastly under reported and understudied. Those of us who manage complications from unsuccessful home births are very concerned about these things.

Has anybody noticed that the brouhaha over Planned Parenthood has not prevented the government from continuing to function?

A meta-analysis study out of New Zealand  and published in the British medical Journal has once again raised the question of whether or not calcium supplements are useful for strengthening bones. Their study indicates that while supplemental calcium is indeed associated with increases of bone density up to 2%, they conclude this increase was not enough to meaningfully reduce a person's risk of fracture. It is worth noting that in this study they did not actually measure fracture occurrence in the groups over time.

A second study in the the same journal actually showed a slight reduction in people’s fracture risk with calcium supplementation but researchers concluded the change was not enough to make a statement about the effect. Of course the media reported both of these studies as saying that calcium did not strengthen bones. Oversimplify much ? 

In the conventional wisdom department, new research suggests that women who"begin hormone therapy toward the beginning of menopause may have a lower risk of developing heart disease”. Apparently women who start hormone replacement therapy within five years at menopause stayed free heart disease for a longer time than non-users.".

This is exactly what we thought would take place before we studied the matter in the large very important Women's Health Initiative study, which released in 2002. The Women's Health Initiative study or WHI, demonstrated that those on combined estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy actually had slightly increasing cumulative risk of adverse cardiovascular events after menopause. This was not what researchers expected. Conventional wisdom had always been the hormones like estrogen protected against cardiovascular disease, accounting for the commonly observed phenomenon of that premenopausal women rarely had heart attacks, compared to men or postmenopausal women. Unfortunately the Women's Health Initiative was a bit of a lumper, (as opposed to a splitter) in that it evaluated postmenopausal women of all ages all at once. Moreover, the average age of the test subjects was 63. Thus these women for far more than five years after the average age of menopause which is 51. These women would be likely to have already developed pre-existing cardiovascular disease, in the years after the onset of menopause but before the onset of their research protocol hormone replacement therapy.

Many researchers have speculated that there is something disadvantageous about starting hormone replacement therapy once the patient is long into menopause. Conversely clinicians everywhere have noticed positive effects on health and well-being in those who are able to take hormone replacement from the beginning of menopause and into old age. It will be interesting to see if evidence based quantitative science catches up with or remotely matches the conventional wisdom on the streets.

The Federation Internationale of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) is stepping up its research on the relationship between toxic environmental chemicals like BPA and problems like miscarriage and cancer.

Finally, in the good news department,  the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) “recommends pregnant women without obstetrical or medical complications exercise at least 30 minutes a day most if not all days a week, just like the rest of the population.” 

Stay tuned for more fascinating news from the world of obstetrics and gynecology next week on Medical Monday. 




Medical Monday: Weekly News Update in Obstetrics and Gynecology 

The Republican dominated House voted to defund Planned Parenthood last Friday the 19th. About a week later, the Senate rejected the same bill by a vote of 52 to 47. It turns out defunding Planned Parenthood would have allowed lawmakers to come in on budget and avoid a government shutdown on October1st. Both sides of the aisle are woking on plans to keep the government going after October 1st. I will say this: that meeting budget and funding Planned Parenthood are really two separate issues and should be treated as such. It is not as though Planned Parenthood is the ONLY straw that could have broken this camel’s back. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a public hearing this week about the relatively new method of sterilization called Essure. This procedure involves the insertion of small coils into the inner aspect of the the Fallopian tubes as they open into the uterine cavity. Is is an office procedure without incisions, which is its appeal. However there are now 5k plus reports of complications associated with the device and more pregnancies than were intially advertised. A panel of experts criticized both the maker, Bayer Health Care Pharmaceuticals, and the FDA, in the handling of device’s testing.  A long running social media campaign has influenced the convening of this hearing. 

Long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) like IUDs ( intrauterine devices) have been found to be 20 times more effective at preventing pregnancy that all other contraceptive methods. In more good news, almost everyone, even childless women and women with medical conditions, are eligible to use them. Their use is up in the last few years from 1.3% to 7.2 %. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that they be first-line contraceptives for sexually active teens.

Most women know there is a vaccine available to prevent cervical dysplasia and cancer. But now a clinical trial from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has shown effectiveness in a new genetically engineered vaccine to ERADICATE existing high grade precancerous cervical lesions in half of the test subjects. Wow, fantastic ! 

Stay tuned for more news from the wild world of Ob/Gyn in next’s week Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: Weekly News Update in  Obstetrics and Gynecology

It's a mixed week in OB/GYN news, as always.

A Swedish study indicates that women who are overweight or obese at the time of the first pregnancy are more likely to develop diabetes in the next decade or two of their life. The risk of increase is six times baseline.

The eighth circuit court of appeal in St. Louis Missouri has taken the position that forcing employers to cover the cost of contraception through their insurance “ violates the groups religious freedoms".

In other news in the war on contraception, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that cutting off funds from Planned Parenthood for one year could "reduce healthcare access for about 390,000 people" and at least through the Planned Parenthood budget with sales tax payers about $235 million. They hasten to indicate that defunding the organization could result in"several thousand unplanned births that would drive up government costs elsewhere such as in the Medicaid budget which pays for 45% of all births in this country.

The Census Bureau reports that the percentage of people without health insurance dropped in 2014 to 10.4 % down from 13.3 % the year before.

In the department of general women's health the following finding is rather striking. When comparing the cost of institutional care for male Alzheimer's patients versus women's Alzheimer's patients the following is noted. The cost of caring for women with Alzheimer's is six times greater then for a man with the same diagnosis. This is because when man has Alzheimer’s, female family members put much more time and energy into their care, saving them from expensive institutionalization. The reverse is not true when male family members take care of women with Alzheimer’s.

In other gender gap news, the Journal of the American medical Association reports that the gender gap in academic medicine is alive and well. Despite the fact that half of all medical school graduates are and have been women for sometime, Men are 15 percent more likely to have the rank of full professor. It also shows that women generally do produce less reach her research than men, But that this may be due to lack of mentorship, institutional support, and most importantly research funding through research grants. According to the same study, men received over twice as much research funding from their employers for equipment and labs. Women researchers are also less likely to receive NIH grants than there male colleagues.

For some good news this week we will have to turn to the field of vaccines. The CDC or Centers for Disease Control found that about 90% of children under the age of three were vaccinated against the common disease entities in the years between 1994 and 2013. What did this do for us? The CDC estimates that this will have prevented 732,000 early deaths in United States alone.

Finally, also in the good news department, the flu vaccine may be more effective this year according to the CDC or Centers for Disease Control. It is estimated that it will be nearly 3 times as effective as last year’s preparation. Remember that even if the vaccine doesn't prevent flu entirely, it will decrease the severity of flu which is very important in children and other vulnerable populations.

Stay tuned for more news from the world of OB/GYN next week in Medical Monday.