POLICY NEWS :
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.