home birth

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

The GOP has confirmed that they still do not have the votes to pass a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act. More particularly, Congress could not compromise their efforts to prevent a government shutdown by complicating matters with healthcare. Thus, the government has stayed open at least for another week.

The lack of ability to bring a proposal to the floor demonstrates yet again the deep divisions within the GOP on the issue of health care. It is interesting to note that the only subgroup within the GOP to endorse the current proposal is the far right House freedom Caucus.

Physician leader organizations have again jointly written to Congress this last week criticizing the latest iteration of the American Health Care Act. The primary concerns addressed in this letter were two. First they criticize allowing states to scale back “Essential Health Benefits". Secondly, they voiced concerns about the possibility that those with pre-existing conditions will again be discriminated against.

Meanwhile Democrats continue to characterize the Trump administration's efforts in healthcare as those which sabotage women's healthcare across the board: not only reproductive rights including contraception, but also access to general health care including cancer screening like mammograms and Pap smears. It has also been noted across both sides of the aisle that the Trump administration seems to be disproportionately withdrawing health care support for the  the poor.  There is also concern that the GOP healthcare plan will weaken Medicare. Is this for these reasons that centrist Republican Governors and Representatives balk at supporting his proposals since they know they will shift a bigger financial burden onto their states. This would be true since states would pick up the tab for the care of these populations. This would even be true if they do not pick up the tab, since without regular care, the uninsured will simply come in on an emergent basis, which is especially costly. Then these unpaid medical bills are indirectly covered by the rest of us, those who self pay or have private insurance. Thank you, federal government.

We pay for the underserved populations via our taxes through federal programs like the Affordable Care Act. Or, we pay if the States do not or cannot pitch in for their medical care. I would rather pay for a program which allows people to get preventive care, early diagnosis and treatment, simply because it is right, and also because it prevents human suffering, and because it is far cheaper in the final analysis. 

Case in point is the recent situation in Florida. The Florida House passed legislation last Wednesday requiring able bodied low income Medicaid recipients to meet new work requirements to keep their healthcare. This excludes people with disabilities, the elderly and children as well as those who have documented medical reasons to be off work. This sounds like a great idea, right? The purpose of the bill was to save the state of Florida money, and perhaps to engender responsibility. However, opponents of the bill expect that these requirements will actually result in a partial exodus from the rolls of Medicaid since not all current Medicaid recipients will comply with the new requirements. Opponents of the bill believe that as people come off the Medicaid rolls, the actual healthcare costs for this population will increase since they will once again utilize hospital emergency rooms for their emergent and non-emergent needs.

As a reminder, in our country, uninsured people are never turned away from the emergency room for the inability to pay or for the absence of any form of insurance. The care the uninsured receive is in every way standard and is in effect paid for by those with medical insurance and those who pay their own bills.

In a good policy news department, a forward thinking Republican senator from Omaha Nebraska, Joni Craighead, has sponsored a Nebraska bill which would require doctors to notify women if their mammogram reveals dense breast tissue. This is because dense tissue signifies higher risk of developing breast cancer. It is also the because dense breast tissue requires more and sometimes different imaging to diagnosis abnormalities.

In how-can-you-not-realize-this department, the Journal Birth has published new research on the risks of home birth. Researchers reviewed data for more than 47,000 home births overseen by midwives. Expectant mothers whose babies were breech or those who were attempting vaginal birth after cesarean section “may fare worse trying to deliver outside a hospital". In particular the study revealed that “risk of fetal death is 8 to 10 times higher for a home delivery with these risk factors”. This is death we're talking about here. 

A new survey by the College Health Association has revealed that college women tend to choose less effective forms of birth control such as condoms or pills, rather than IUDS. Cost and access to these better methods are thought to be the explanation. 

In the incredibly creepy department, a new form of reproductive violence against women has come to light. A new study in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law has discussed “stealthing”. Stealthing involves a man removing his condom during sex without the knowledge or consent of his partner.  Women are then at risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. What do men possibly get out of this ? A survey of online forums show that it relates to a a belief about a male’s “natural” right to dominance and authority, to “spread his seed”. Although victims are commonly confused by how to describe what has happened to them, it is a form of sexual assault, i.e. rape. Switzerland has already established a legal precedent for convicting this as rape. 

In the “ finally” department, the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) has finally spoken out against unproven cancer treatments being hawked on the internet. They have called out 65 bogus products that not only have no proof, but also that may cause harm. They also mention that patients often believe these are substitutes for traditional therapies. 

Studies of general medical conditions are now known to greatly underrepresent women and minorities. This has important implications, since the results of those studies on topics as important as heart disease, cancer and diabetes may not be as relevant to women and minorities. 

One more tool has been added to the global toolbox used to fight post partum hemorrhage. It is called Tranexamic Acid. It reduces death from bleeding about 20 percent and is less than a dollar a dose. It is meant to be added to the other usual methods of preventing and treating hemorrhage, such as massage, draining the bladder, pitocin, cytotec, and methergine. The clinical trial to producing this information involved 20,000 women in 21 countries. It was funded by Wellcome Trust, Pfizer, Britain’s health department, and the Gates foundation. Tranexamic acid’s brand name is Lysteda, and interestingly, it is produced by a separate drug company, Ferring Pharmaceuticals. If you have a little time for extra reading, take a detour and read about the American British Pharmacist Sir Henry Wellcome HERE

Stay tuned for more drama from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology next week, on Medical Mondays. 

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

We start this Monday with the piece of grossly under reported news. few seem to be aware of the fact that prenatal cannabis use is linked with cognitive impairment academic under achievement in children. Both the American Academy Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advise against its use because best. Many patients assume that because it is legal it is safe. Marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient THC or tetrahydrocannabinol crosses the placenta to reach the fetus. It not only affects brain development and cognition but also birth weight as well. Have you seen anything about this lately? 

Planned home birth is again in the news. A new study shows that planned home birth  is associated with increased risk of complications, especially in women who are having their first baby or in those 41 weeks or more. This particular study looks at the rate of neonatal death, the most severe complication.  Researchers found that those who delivered with midwives at home had a neonatal death rate of 24.4 per 10,000 birth compared to 5.09 per 10,000 births delivering with a midwife in the hospital. 

300,000 babies are born in United States every month. Typically 273,000 women take time off of work to care for newborn whereas 22,000 men do the same. A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health as shown that maternity and paternity leave rates in the United States have been constant over the last 20 years. This may be related to the fact that only 12% of workers in the private sector have access to pay family leave. This lags far behind other developed nations of similar socioeconomic status.

Recent work from the Pew Research Center revealed the new president's views on vaccines are not shared with the majority of Americans who overwhelmingly support requiring children to be vaccinated before attending school. 82% of Americans support children receiving the MMR vaccine before attending school. 

Representatives from numerous physicians organizations have descended upon the halls of the Senate offices to lobby their respective representatives about the need to retain certain characteristics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These organizations include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American College of Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association. They have placed particular focus on the provisions for the care of women and children as these provide the foundation for lifelong medical care and wellness. They have placed particular emphasis on the need to have a replacement in place before the current plan is repealed. The same groups, representing over half a million United States physicians, sent a letter to the White House and Congressional leaders leaders asking them to ensure that women's health, including preventive prenatal and neonatal care, be protected. 

A subcommittee within the House is beginning to work on replacing the ACA. They are looking at the issue of preexisting conditions, and at age ratings which determine the charges paid for insurance by age. They're also considering a shorter grace period for those who fail to pay premiums on time. The process is contentious between Democrats and Republicans,  but it is also reportedly contentious between different Republican legislators as well. Republican lawmakers nowassert that they intend to “repair not repeal” the ACA. 

Last week, a meeting between State Insurance Commissioner's and brokers met with the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee. They warned the Committee that more healthcare plans are likely to”defect from the Affordable Care Act marketplaces unless Congress and the Trump administration provide concrete assurances within the next two months”. They also warned that those insurers that remain are likely to increase their rates by as much as 20% if this occurs. Specifically, the insurance industry wants GOP lawmakers to ensure that they will fund ACA subsidies in 2018. They need this information so that they can make their budgets for the next year. ACA subsidies are currently the subject of court battle between Republican Representatives and the White House. Amidst all this, the Department of Health and Human Services introduced a rule, the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Market Stabilization”, which is meant to stabilize the health insurance market for individuals. The GOP appears to understand that it is in everyone’s best interest to stabilize the insurance markets. 

Threat of repeal of the ACA continues to spur women women into seeking long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as MIrena (IUD) and Nexplanon (subderrmal insert). Month-to-month adoption of these methods is at record highs and continues to rise. Women are also stockpiling prescriptions of contraceptive and the prescriptions Some states such as New York are addressing the problem by requiring State governed insurance agencies to cover contraception with no or minimal copays. Massachusetts has developed a bill to provide free contraceptives to all of its residents. 

The is busy time for women’s health  and health care in general. Find out the names and contact information for your elected officials. Make your views known. 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.