Women's Health Now Popular Posts

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Do low vitamin D levels matter during pregnancy?

Do low vitamin D levels matter during pregnancy?

By Adam Marcus

(Reuters Health) - Many women have low blood levels of vitamin D early in pregnancy, but whether that's a problem for their developing babies is uncertain, researchers have found.
The new study, by scientists in Australia, suggests that vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women may even be the norm, although defining deficiency is tricky.
However, the researchers did not find any solid evidence that it stunts fetal growth or causes other pregnancy-related complications.
The researchers analyzed 18 previous studies in which vitamin D levels were assessed in women in their first 3 months of pregnancy. Of those, five studies included information about the outcome of the pregnancy, including low birth weight and preeclampsia, a maternal complication that can be life-threatening.
The researchers, who reported their findings April 8 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found no clear definition of vitamin D deficiency during early pregnancy. Rather, women in the previous studies were considered "deficient" if they fell below a certain level based the particular population of women assessed.
Definitions of vitamin D deficiency in the studies varied widely, according to the researchers, from 12.5 to 50 nanomoles (nmol) per liter. Insufficiency ranged between 37.5 and 80 nmol per liter, while sufficiency ranged from above 50 to above 80 nmol per liter.
For comparison, a 2010 Institute of Medicine report states that levels of vitamin D above 50 nmol per liter are necessary for proper bone growth in nearly all people.
"Despite the variation in cut-points applied by studies," the authors wrote, "all reported a significant proportion of their sample to be vitamin D deficient. This has serious implications for the management of pregnancy as many pregnancy care providers are considering or implementing vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy."
Indeed, the only consistent picture to emerge from the analysis was that most women have low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy. White women typically had about twice the blood levels of vitamin D as non-white women, a reflection of the fact that darker skin pigments block ultraviolet rays.
Similarly, women living in northern latitudes had lower levels of vitamin D than those living nearer to the equator, where sunlight is more intense.
If vitamin D deficiency were linked to trouble with pregnancy or fetal development, identifying the problem early on could allow women to take supplements of the nutrient and correct the deficit. To date, no conclusive randomized, controlled study of the effects of vitamin D on pregnancy has been conducted.
But whether pregnant women are getting too little, or perhaps too much, vitamin D has been controversial. In November, the Institute of Medicine issued guidelines calling for pregnant women to receive 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D daily, with a maximum dose of no more than 4,000 IUs.
Still, a study last year by researchers in the United States suggested that pregnant women should dramatically increase their intake of vitamin D, in the form of supplements, to as much as 4,000 IUs per day. The authors said there is little danger at that level.
Bruce Hollis, a vitamin D expert at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, and a co-author of the 2010 study, said he was not surprised that vitamin D deficiency was not associated with impaired fetal growth and birth weight in the new study.
However, he said, "to me the biggest thing in pregnancy about vitamin D deficiency is that it compromises the ability to fight infection." That, in turn, could lead to serious problems that would only appear well after birth.
The authors of the new study could not be reached for comment.
SOURCE: bit.ly/jHj7jv American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, April 8, 2011.

Friday, April 29, 2011

8 Early Signs You May Be Pregnant

Early Signs of Pregnancy

Can't wait to find out if you're pregnant? These first symptoms of pregnancy may clue you in on the big news even sooner than you'd think.

When you’re TTC (trying to conceive), each passing month brings the same batch of questions: Did we hit the baby jackpot? Are those cramps, that bloating, that breast tenderness early signs of pregnancy — or just signs that it’s time for your monthly tampon run? The best way to confirm that you have a baby on board is to take a pregnancy test (preferably a digital one, since they offer more reliable results earlier). But while you’re waiting, check out these early pregnancy symptoms. None is pregnancy proof positive, but they can offer intriguing (if sometimes confusing) clues.
First Signs of Pregnancy
Even early on, your body doesn’t stay mum on whether you’re about to become a mom. These conception clues may let you in on the happy secret before the home pregnancy test gives you the readout of your dreams. Keep in mind that most early pregnancy symptoms can be pretty similar to those monthly PMS symptoms (Mother Nature’s perverse sense of humor at work?), which means you’ll definitely need that HPT for confirmation:
  • Tender, swollen, or painful breasts. Are your breasts yelling “Look, but don’t touch!”? Tingly, sore, full-feeling, tender, even painful-to-the-touch breasts and nipples are often one of the first symptoms of pregnancy (though, of course, they can also come along for the PMS ride, too). The blame for the pain lies with the hormones estrogen and progesterone that are starting their overtime shifts in the baby-readying department. After all, there are only nine months to go before those breasts will need to produce milk to feed your hungry newborn. 
  • Darkening areolas. While other breast changes may also signal that your period’s on its way, this symptom’s pretty much owned by pregnancy. Early pregnancy hormones can cause the areolas to darken in color and increase in diameter pretty soon after sperm and egg hook up. Also, the tiny bumps on the areolas that you may never have noticed before (they look like goose bumps but are actually oil-producing glands to lubricate your nipples) may become more pronounced and increase in size. 
  • Fatigue. Another one of the early symptoms of pregnancy is sheer exhaustion. Sluggishness. Sleepiness. The overwhelming urge to curl up on the couch and stay there all day — or never to get out from under the covers at all. The reason your get-up-and-go has gotten-up-and-gone? It’s those pregnancy hormones at work again, expending tons of energy to build the placenta — the life-support system for your baby. Some women find they also drag with PMS, though, making this symptom a tough one to call. 
  • Nausea. Queasiness is a sign of pregnancy that can sign on early, though it probably won’t be hitting its peak for a few weeks at least. That nagging nausea – which may soon be accompanied by vomiting -- is officially known as morning sickness, but anyone who’s suffered with it knows that it’s misnamed (it can strike morning, noon, or night). Hormones are largely to blame for making you green-around-the-gills, but not every new mom-to-be experiences morning sickness. 
  • Heightened sense of smell. Have you been sniffing around like a police dog lately? A heightened sense of smell – which can make even mild or formerly favorite aromas smell strong and unappealing – can appear early on the pregnancy scene. Once again (you’ll be doing this a lot), you can thank your pregnancy hormones for your more sensitive sniffer. Smell pregnancy, but keep coming up negative on those HPTs? Those PMS hormones can also put your nose on higher-than-usual alert. 
  • Spotting. Light spotting (aka implantation bleeding) before you’d expect your period (around five to 10 days after conception) can be another sign of early pregnancy. This bleeding occurs when the newly formed embryo (aka, your baby!) burrows into the uterine lining, making itself at home for the next nine months. Keep in mind, however, that only 20 percent of newly pregnant women will notice the mild, light-colored spotting -- the other 80 percent will have to look for other early pregnancy clues. 
  • Frequent urination. Me need to pee…again? This new gotta-go feeling is due to the pregnancy hormone hCG, which increases blood flow to your kidneys, helping them to more efficiently rid your body of fluid waste (you’ll be peeing for two, after all). Peeing up a storm, but you’re not pregnant? Check with the practitioner to see if you might have a UTI (especially it burns or hurts when you pee). 
  • Bloating. Is it pregnancy bloat – or pre-period bloat? That is the question, and it isn’t an easy question to answer (either way, you’ll have a hard time buttoning your skinny jeans). Even if you are expecting, it’s too soon to attribute your swell little belly to your baby (who’s still barely the size of a sesame seed at this point) – blame it, instead, on the hormone progesterone. Among its many other baby-making jobs, progesterone helps slow down digestion, allowing the nutrients from the foods you eat more time to enter your bloodstream and reach your baby-to-be. The downside? It allowsgas to hang out in your intestines longer.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Religious women use contraception regularly

Religious women use contraception regularly, report says
Most sexually active women use contraception, regardless of their religious beliefs, says a report from the Guttmacher Institute, an organization working to advance reproductive and sexual health  in the U.S. and worldwide.
"Regardless of religious affiliation, the majority of women use highly effective contraception methods, so any efforts to restrict access to these methods is going to impact these populations," said Rachel K. Jones, the lead author.
The report was based on a U.S. government survey that represented the nation. The data came from 2006-2008 interviews of over 7,000 women aged 15-44.
It found that 69% of sexually active women from any denomination were using highly effective birth control methods including sterilization, the pill or other hormonal method, or an intrauterine device (IUD). In addition, almost all have reported contraceptive use at some point, a figure that is similar among Catholic women.
Another key finding was that 68% of Catholics use one of the highly effective methods, but only 2% rely on natural family planning. That number is comparable to 73% of Mainline Protestants and 74% of Evangelicals.
"A lot of times, religion is either not associated with contraception at all, or, in the case of the Catholic church, being against contraception." Jones added. "In the real world, women who have religious beliefs and who attend church also use contraception."
In addition, male or female sterilization was most common in the Evangelical church; more than four in 10 women of this denomination use the method.
And marital status did not change things.
"Across religious denominations, married women are using highly effective contraceptive methods," she said.
Said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America,“These findings show yet again that birth control is a common practice — and a common need — for women of different faiths and backgrounds.
"As Congress considers yet another effort to bar Planned Parenthood from providing family planning services through federal health programs, it should listen to the message these findings convey.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fish During Pregnancy Reduces Preterm Birth Risk

Fish During Pregnancy Reduces Preterm Birth Risk
By Denise Reynolds

A new study, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, finds that among pregnant women at high risk of preterm birth, eating fish a few times a week appears to reduce the risk of delivering early. Researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital compared the diets of 852 pregnant women who were at higher than average risk of preterm delivery. Those who ate two or three servings of fish per week were about 40 percent less likely to deliver early than women who ate fish less than monthly. The reason for the association is not clear, but it is suspected that nutrients in the fish may help lower the odds for early delivery. Even with these findings, the researchers still stress that pregnant women should avoid fish that are high in mercury, such as swordfish and king mackerel.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Over 4,000 test-tube babies born at Tu Du hospital

Over 4,000 test-tube babies born at Tu Du hospital

As many as 4,060 test-tube babies were born at Tu Du Obstetrics Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
Hospital Deputy Director Hoang Thi Diem Tuyet made public the figure at a ceremony held on April 24 to celebrate the 14th founding anniversary of the hospital’s in vitro fertilisation (IVF) unit.
Established in August 1997, this was the first of its kind in Vietnam.
On April 30, 1998, Vietnam’s first three babies were born at the unit, using IVF technique and since then the number of test-tube babies has reached 9,000 nationwide.
Test-tube baby is a revolutionary treatment for those couples who can’t have a baby on their own because of various types of infertility.
According to statistics, between 7-10 percent of Vietnam’s fertility age population are infertile with about 50 percent of them being women.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Letter: Treatment is Available for Unexpected 'Leaks'

Letter: Treatment is Available for Unexpected 'Leaks'

Urinary incontinence is not something to feel shame about. It is a common problem, especially for women. Treatment options are available.

By Dr. Aparna D. Shah
If you have frequent urges to use the bathroom or suffer embarrassing "leaks" after coughing, sneezing or laughing, you’re not alone. Urinary incontinence is an incredibly common problem.  It affects over 25 million adult Americans and is three times more frequent in women, with numbers expected to increase as our population ages and awareness of the condition is raised.
Risk factors associated with urinary incontinence include but are not limited to: Genetics, pregnancy and childbirth, obesity, chronic heavy lifting, prior pelvic surgery or radiation, neurological diseases, or anything that contributes to weakening of pelvic support structures.  
However, despite how common urinary incontinence is, several widespread misconceptions exist. As a result, 50 percent of women suffering from urinary incontinence do not seek medical treatment. 
An estimated 14.8 million U.S. women experience urinary incontinence.  There are many reasons why these women choose not to seek medical treatment for their condition, including feelings of embarrassment and depression. Many women tolerate incontinence by using pads, believing that it is a "normal" part of aging. Sadly, many women believe that nothing can be done for their condition. 
Fortunately, such women can get help. 
The truth is that urinary incontinence affects women of all ages, including younger women, and there are multiple treatment options, both surgical and non-surgical to help alleviate the symptoms.  Most women can be cured or their condition significantly improved with appropriate evaluation and treatment.  Potential treatments options range from behavioral treatments, consisting of Kegel exercises, dietary changes, and bladder drills, to medications and surgical procedures.
What is important to remember is that urinary incontinence is a treatable medical condition, but the condition can only be treated if you ask for help.  At Fallon Clinic’s Urogynecology Department, we help women suffering from incontinence every day and encourage every woman to speak with her primary care physician for more information. Improving the quality of your life starts with seeking treatment for urinary incontinence.  
Dr. Aparna D. Shah practices urogynecology at Fallon Clinic in Westborough and Worcester.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

5 Myths about Planned Parenthood

Five myths about Planned Parenthood

By Clare Coleman

 I was a Planned Parenthood affiliate chief executive, supervising a network of clinics in New York state, during the early days of this terrible recession. We ran deficits, cut hours, closed centers and laid off staff members. In a recession, things get very difficult — more and more people are in need, while government funds lag and donations dwindle. But still we did not turn patients away, even if they could not pay. At the same time, we had to fight political battles to preserve women’s rights to basic care and information about their sexual health. Those battles continue: Thursday, the House voted to defund Planned Parenthood permanently; the Senate opposed that measure. Amid the debate, let’s address some of the misperceptions about this nearly 100-year-old health-care organization.
1. Planned Parenthood’s federal funding frees up other money to pay for abortions.

Opponents of Planned Parenthood insist that giving the organization federal dollars allows it to spend other money in its budget to provide abortions. That is not possible — there is no other money.

Title X is a federal grant program that exists solely to help low-income and uninsured people access contraceptives and sexual health care; 5.2 million people use the program annually. But Congress has never appropriated enough money to take care of the estimated 17 million Americans who need publicly funded family-planning care. There always are more patients than subsidies.

Further, a Title X grant is designed to help with costs, not to fully cover them. So family-planning programs are required to find other money to support the Title X project — not the other way around. For patients who qualify for Medicaid, reimbursement rates for reproductive health services are lower than the cost of the care. A typical family-planning visit might cost upward of $200, including the exam, lab tests and contraceptive method, but the Medicaid reimbursement rate may be as low as $20.

2. Ninety percent of what Planned Parenthood does is provide abortions.

That is what Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said this month in a speech against federal support for Planned Parenthood; his staff later said his assertion was “not intended to be a factual statement.”

Here is a factual statement: Planned Parenthood’s abortion care represents 3 percent of its medical services — 332,000 terminations out of a total of 11.4 million services provided in 2009. Nearly all the care offered at Planned Parenthood health centers is preventive services and screenings, including contraception, testing for sexually transmitted infections, pap smears and breast exams. Title X funds cannot be used for abortion care at any time, for any reason. Federal Medicaid funds can be used to reimburse a provider for an abortion when the pregnancy would endanger the life of the woman or resulted from rape or incest.

States can use their local tax dollars to support abortion care for low-income women, and 17 states do so under Medicaid. The capital city did, too — until last week, when Congressoverturned the District’s Medicaid abortion coverage.

3. Defunding Planned Parenthood will reduce abortions.
Contraception prevents the need for abortions, but most politicians who oppose abortion do not support birth control, either. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the chief House sponsor of a bill to bar abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from Title X, has praised a few elements of the program: pregnancy tests, breast cancer screening and HIV testing. He never mentions Title X’s essential work for 41 years — to provide information about and access to birth control, which 99 percent of Americans will use in their lifetime.

Opponents of Planned Parenthood insist that giving the organization federal dollars allows it to spend other money in its budget to provide abortions. That is not possible — there is no other money.

Title X is a federal grant program that exists solely to help low-income and uninsured people access contraceptives and sexual health care; 5.2 million people use the program annually. But Congress has never appropriated enough money to take care of the estimated 17 million Americans who need publicly funded family-planning care. There always are more patients than subsidies.

Further, a Title X grant is designed to help with costs, not to fully cover them. So family-planning programs are required to find other money to support the Title X project — not the other way around. For patients who qualify for Medicaid, reimbursement rates for reproductive health services are lower than the cost of the care. A typical family-planning visit might cost upward of $200, including the exam, lab tests and contraceptive method, but the Medicaid reimbursement rate may be as low as $20.

Women spend about five years either being pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and about 30 years trying not to get pregnant; the Guttmacher Institute estimates that half of the country’s unintended pregnancies end in abortion. If Pence wants to prevent abortions, he should lead the charge to triple Title X funding.

Instead, Pence has voted to eliminate Title X, and he has no answer for where the 5.2 million people served by that program would get care. Planned Parenthood centers offer contraception to nearly 2.5 million patients a year and serves 36 percent of all Title X patients.

Barring Planned Parenthood from participating in federal programs would lead to less access to birth control, more unintended pregnancies and more abortions.

4. Planned Parenthood serves only teenagers and prostitutes.
I’ve never had a chance to talk to Glenn Beck, who implied recently on his Fox radio show that only “hookers” use Planned Parenthood.But when I worked for the organization, I would ask our supporters to picture this: You’re a 22-year-old woman with a job you don’t love, a toddler you’d die for and no health insurance. You live paycheck to paycheck, and you always know to the penny how much cash you’ve got until the end of the month. You’re rushing home on Route 9 to relieve your mom, who’s with the kid, and the engine light on the car comes on. You feel a wave of panic. You know you’re always one emergency away from everything falling apart. That’s our patient — I always have her in my mind.

Inside the Beltway, it is easy to forget that millions live on that edge. Our typical patient is a working woman between 20 and 24, maybe in school, often with children. But our centers nationwide see women and men of all ages, races, income levels, and marital and social statuses. The number of men seen in Title X-funded centers has tripled in the past 10 years, and the fastest-growing group of women served by Title X is those over 44.

5. People don’t really need Planned Parenthood.

Three million patients each year visit Planned Parenthood’s more than 800 health centers in every state, in big cities and small towns. In some areas, Planned Parenthood and the Title X-funded system are the only sexual health providers for hundreds of miles.

We screen people for high blood pressure, anemia and diabetes; we counsel them about smoking cessation and obesity; we connect them to other primary-care providers and social services. The huge response to the attack on family planning and on Planned Parenthood — hundreds of thousands of Americans signing petitions, showing up at rallies, calling Congress – is extraordinary. But it doesn’t surprise me. One in five American women has gone to Planned Parenthood at some point in her life, for respectful, compassionate, quality care. And now those Americans are going to have our back.

Clare Coleman is the president and chief executive officer of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. She headed a Planned Parenthood network in New York’s Hudson Valley, and worked in the U.S. House and as a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood.

Friday, April 22, 2011

10 Things Your Bladder Says About Your Health

10 Things Your Bladder Says About Your Health

Bladder problems can strike adults of all ages, and they can signal a larger health problem. Learn ten possible reasons for urinary tract symptoms.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Winter may be linked to postpartum depression

Winter may be linked to postpartum depression

By Genevra Pittman

(Reuters Health) - Women who give birth in fall and winter may be more likely to get postpartum depression than those who deliver in the spring, suggests a new study from Sweden.
Dr. Sara Sylven and her colleagues at Uppsala University say that changes in the amount of daylight during each season may affect chemical pathways in the brain related to depression.
They note that compared to most countries, Sweden has a much bigger difference in its amount of daylight in winter versus summer. For that reason, the effect of the seasons on rates of postpartum depression might be more obvious there. But at least in similar locales, Sylven said, women who give birth in the colder, darker months should be watched more closely for symptoms of depression.
The question of whether there is a link between when a mother gives birth and her risk of depression soon after "really has flip-flopped a lot," Jennifer Jewell, who studied the association at the University of Colorado in Denver as a graduate student, told Reuters Health.
"There's a lot of mixed results out there, which I think indicates we need to know more about what we're trying to figure out," said Jewell, who was not involved in the current research.
Spurred on by that lack of concrete evidence, Sylven's team studied more than 2,000 women who gave birth at their institution over a 1-year period.
At 5 days, 6 weeks, and 6 months after giving birth, the women completed questionnaires on symptoms of depression, as well as how much social support they had and other medical and lifestyle-related topics.
Out of every 100 mothers, between 6 and 15 reported symptoms of postpartum depression, depending on how soon it was after they gave birth and in what season they gave birth.
After accounting for a variety of factors that could contribute to a new mother's stress, the authors found that women who gave birth in October through December were about twice as likely to have symptoms of postpartum depression after 6 weeks and 6 months as those who had children in April through June.
The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, can't prove that giving birth in the fall or winter causes postpartum depression, and Sylven said the reason for the link is still unexplained.
"We guess that some hormones could differ during the year," which could be related to depression risks, Sylven told Reuters Health. Also, she said, during the winter there's very little sunlight in Sweden, so a lack of vitamin D could be playing a role.
Depression that happens only in fall and winter - known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD - has been observed in the general population.
But Jewell isn't sure the new results would apply to women in countries that are closer to the equator and have less drastic changes in daylight from season to season.
The Swedish mothers are "at a pretty high latitude," she said. "They get some pretty different seasonal changes compared to the bulk of the United States."
Jewell said that to determine if this association exists universally, data on women from different countries could be combined if researchers figured out a way to analyze depression rates by the amount of daylight hours in the early days after birth.
Sylven noted that the effects of season on depression were most noticeable in healthy women who had no mental illnesses before giving birth.
She said the link between season and postpartum depression now has enough evidence behind it - at least in countries that have large variations in sunlight during the year - that doctors should be aware of it when treating new mothers.
"If there is such a big impact of season, we could have closer follow-up (for) the women giving birth during the autumn," Sylven said. Doctors should "think about this when (they) meet the women who will give birth in October, November, (and) December."
Jewell said that while the new research still leaves some unanswered questions, it's important to "make more women aware of (postpartum depression) and make more physicians aware of it so it's not something that's hidden and not talked about."
SOURCE: bit.ly/hlnUbb American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, online March 24, 2011.