induction of labor

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


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From the “back in my day” department we have the following dispatch: If one of us residents were to refuse to care for a patient out of moral objection or fear for our safety, we would have gotten in big trouble. We would have been told to get cracking or get packing. I remember being horrified one day after I had taken care of a beautiful young Moslem woman who had endured the severest from of ritual Female Genital Mutilation. (FGM) Not only had her labia and clitoris been removed, but her skin had been sewn together to barely leave enough opening, on stretch, to have intercourse.  She had just had a normal vaginal delivery and it was all broken open. Despite the fact that she had frequent urinary tract infections and and constant pain with intercourse, she insisted that I put it all back together after the birth. I spent a great deal of time trying to reason with her about the medical inadvisability of this procedure. Despite my personal and professional objections, I had to do it. The patient explained to me that she would have felt humiliated in the eyes of her family if it were not repaired. It was an awful situation for me. I wonder now what would be the requirements for me in the same setting, given that “moral objections" are playing a role in medical care.

A new Harris Poll based study has revealed that 8 in 10 Americans “ do not believe doctors, nurses, pharmacists….” “ should be allowed to use their conscience or beliefs to refuse care.” Of course this pertains to many issues in Obstetrics and Gynecology, where one might be facing requests for routine abortion, or for abortion for grave anomalies not compatible with life outside the womb. Some people do not believe in birth control. Some do not believe that welfare mothers should have large numbers of children. Some people do not believe in women having multiple partners. Some people do not believe gay couples or single people should be able to use assisted reproductive technologies. The list goes on. 

A recent paper described a possible option of 12 weeks of paid family leave secured in a fiscally responsible way. Parents would have a choice to trade 6 weeks of delay in the disbursement of their Social Security checks later in life in exchange for 12 weeks of family leave earlier in life. We’ll see if the idea gets any takers Washington. 

As of this last Wednesday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has stated Family Planning will continue to be refunded. The grant money for the program is called Title X and amounts to 260 million dollars. 

North Carolina is connecting the dots. A bipartisan program, YES let me repeat that- BIPARTISAN program in the state, Carolina Cares, is advocating to expand Medicaid. The fetal and infant mortality in the state is unacceptable and available data indicates that expansion of Medicaid can decrease fetal and infant mortality simultaneously. Care through Medicaid targets exactly what places mothers and infants at risk: poverty, violence, lack of education, nutrition, and prenatal care. 

Several States are considering lifetime caps on Medicaid for those who are not children, pregnant, or disabled. If you are not any of these things, why should you need Medicaid ? The Conservative in me says you wouldn’t since you would simply work and earn and pay for insurance. The Liberal in me says, insurance is expensive, and there will always be people who are just poor, and they need comprehensive medical care more than anyone for them to even stand a chance at a decent life and productivity. 

Several States are leaving the Federal Government behind, and beginning work on their own versions of the Individual Mandate. These include Maryland, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, and DC. As reported previously, even more states have begun or finished work on laws guaranteeing contraceptive coverage for their citizens. 




In the "we already knew this" department, new research has shown that induction may lower complication rates. But the devil is in the details…angels too. It turns out inducing at 39 weeks was associated with less need for C section and fewer complications for mother and baby. However, dates must be accurate and the cervix must be soft and favorable to even consider it. The quality of the study was good and it was presented at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine. 

Think only old women lose urine? Think again. One third of women leak urine before thier first pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you think there is a problem. Urine loss may signal infection or other medical conditions. Most of the time it is just de-conditioned muscles and bad habits. 

Ever have preeclampsia ? This disorder, also called toxemia, will go away after delivery. However, mothers who had it either had a pre-existing tendency to high blood pressure beforehand or retain this tendency to high blood pressure afterward. If you had preeclampsia, check your BP regularly and know that you are at risk. I hear they make smart phone connected BP cuffs! 

The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a report indicating that as many as 10% of US babies are affected in some measure by fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). This has been unearthed by interviewing mothers of neurologically or behaviorally abnormal children. What was once believed to be primary neurological disorders are now felt to be related to maternal alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Likewise, I am very concerned about what we suspect but have not yet conclusively proven about the effect of marijuana on the brains of the unborn. 

Syphilis is on the rise, and herpes on the decline. Both infectious diseases are easy to detect, manageable to treat, and potentially catastrophic in pregnancy. Get screening if you have any doubts. 

Probiotics for babies? Experts are beginning to focus on the neonatal microbiome. That is the group of organisms in and on the baby which are considered to be normal and beneficial. Many of these come from mother, via delivery and breastfeeding. But what if a C section takes place and what if breastfeeding is curtailed? While amateur “seeding” of the flora has been tried, ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) does not recommend it. However, research interest in this topic is increasing. We do know that pregnant women should eat a pre-biotic diet rich in fruit vegetables and probiotic foods such as plain yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables, and even Kombucha in moderation. 

Stay tuned next for more exciting news from teh workd of Obstetrics and Gynecology, here on Medical Monday. 


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

Good Monday.

The CDC continues to study the relationship of the Zika virus to a severe brain anomaly called microcephaly. No one really doubts the association; The goal in documenting the association scientifically it to understand the mechanism of how the virus dose the damage and therefore how, ultimately to prevent or interrupt it. Similarly, new research this week provides stronger links between Zika infection and Guillaine Barre syndrome, or post viral partial paralysis. 

Zika virus has been seen as far north as Washington DC. Aedes Egyptae mosquitos have been identified there as well, and it is speculated that they survive the winter by staying indoors or in subways. Apparently the mosquito maps in the US are “not complete”. 

Preterm labor and delivery has vexed Obstetricians for decades. We have little to prevent it. We did feel were making inroads into predicting it using two specific tests: ultrasound measurement of the cervical length and a swab for a chemical called fetal fibronectin. However, according to new research these may not be as useful as previously thought. Risk factors for preterm birth are young age, low pre pregnancy maternal birthweight, smoking, short inter conceptual interval, urinary tract infections, and periodontal (gum) disease. 12% of all births in the US are preterm. Preterm delivery is the leading cause of neonatal mortality in the US. For more information, see our section HERE on preterm labor. 

A study reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health has shown that only about 42% of men have heard of emergency contraception, aka the morning after pill. This is a safe effective solution to prevent unplanned pregnancy. It is available over the counter. 

Essure is a device placed in the fallopian tubes for sterilization. It turns out to have a far higher complication rate than was previously believed or advertised. A powerful social media campaign brought this to the attention of the FDA who has now studied the matter and given its recommendations. Essure will not be pulled off the market. Instead, Bayer AG will be required to perform new studies on the implant. The FDA will also require a boxed warning and supply a checklist for physicians to review with patients. The FDA is currently seeking public input on the packaging. 

From the chickens and eggs department, a recently released study in the Journals of Gerontology showed that “ higher education, positive wellbeing, overall good health, and higher physical functioning all contribute to women maintaining good memory health after age 80.”  This data comes from a study initiated in 1991 and is a subset of the huge Women’s Health Initiative Study famous for its revelations about postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy. 

A recent study in older first time pregnant women shows that induction at or after 39 weeks is NOT associated with a bad birth experience or a higher risk of C section. This is contrary to the prevailing wisdom. 

This last week, the US Supreme Court has heard arguments over the matter of abortion facilities. At issue is whether they must meet hospital grade surgical standards. Proponents state this will make the facilities safer. Opponents say that this is a ruse, cost prohibitive and simply a legal way to close down all but a few facilities (75% of them according to ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Medical experts say this level of facility is not medically necessary for these procedures.

Meanwhile statistics in the US now indicate an 18 % drop in unplanned pregnancies between 2008 and 2011. One third of these pregnancies were averted though legal abortion. Further south, the staunchly Catholic South American countries grapple with the devastation of Zika induced microcephaly and the question of abortion should it be identified. 


Stay tuned next week for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health. 




Wellness Wednesday: Induction of Labor

Induction of labor is a hot topic. Some patients are dead set on avoiding it and some are begging for it. Induction of labor simply means using medicinal or mechanical means to start labor before it has on its own.

Inductions may be elective (by choice) or medically indicated. They may be accomplished by a variety of medicines and techniques. Induction of labor is an important tool in the Obstetric tool box.

Get a balanced perspective on induction of labor HERE