Sunday, June 26, 2005

Study of Home Birth Safety

The British Medical Journal recently published a study of the results for 5418 North American, low risk women who planned to deliver their babies at home with the help of a certified professional midwife, including the 12.1% of those women who were eventually transferred to a hospital. The rates of electronic fetal monitoring, episiotomy, c-section, and vacuum extraction were lower for the home births when compared to low risk hospital births. Mortality rates during and immediately after birth were similar for home births compared to hospitals. The authors conclude that home births with certified midwives are as safe as or perhaps safer than uncomplicated hospital births, and cite a study that found that hospital birth typically costs 3 times that of a home birth. The full text of the article is available online, along with citations for related articles and comments in response to the study. provides information for women considering using a midwife, including a searchable directory of midwifery practices (note that not all midwives perform home births).
The Midwives Alliance of North America provides helpful definitions of the different types of midwives and links to additional organizations.
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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Calcium and PMS, or Sponsored by Who?

You may have seen this story recently about calcium supplements possibly easing the symptoms of PMS. In trying to find the CNN article again, I found an earlier (1998) piece on CNN on the same topic. What you may not have noticed in either piece is the line, "The research, founded in part by the makers of Tums..." (The makers of Tums promote it as a source of calcium). The 2005 article does a better job of pointing this out, and that one of the authors is employed by the Tums maker. The 1998 CNN piece did not mention that the quoted researcher, Dr. Susan Thys-Jacobs, "is a consultant to and has a financial interest in SmithKline Beecham Consumer Brands," (the makers of Tums) at least as of a 2000 article she authored on the same topic (newer details not found).

I want to be very clear that I have not read the new study, so I do not dispute the results, and that may be possible that the drug company exerted no influence whatsoever over the study. I thought, though, that this was a good opportunity to point out that considering who is sponsoring or promoting research results can be important to consider, particularly if you get your health news from online news/magazines that may not provide full details. The published research articles may also provide details about side effects or negative results that are important to understand. If other studies sponsored by the drug company were done that did not show the reported benefits, have those results also been published? Have any other researchers been able to verify the work? Does the study measure what it claims to measure?

Just a friendly reminder to consider the source of ANY health information before acting on it. Consult with your health care provider about what is right for you!
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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Women's Health - A Call for Papers

For medical researchers:
The Journal of the American Medical Association is currently soliciting papers for a March 2006 issue of the journal that will be dedicated to women's health topics. Submissions should be received by December 1, 2005 for the best chance of being included in this issue. View the call for papers here.

For everyone else:
This special women's health issue of JAMA won't be published for almost a year, but when it is, check here for summaries of the articles presented.
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Friday, June 10, 2005

New Our Bodies, Ourselves

The Boston Women's Health Book Collective has released a new, 2005 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. The companion website offers excerpts from the book, extra online content, and links to websites related to each chapter's topic. Lists of other books for additional reading are also provided.
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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Fertility Preservation

You may have seen the recent story on what is being called the first successful ovary transplant in the United States (if not, get it from CNN here, or Reuters via MedlinePlus). Although not directly related to this story, it reminded me that women may experience infertility after radiation or chemotherapy for cancer. has a clear overview of how cancer affects fertility and different options for patients, called "Fertility and Cancer: What you Need to Know Before You Begin Treatment." The American Society for Reproductive Medicine also has a fact sheet on the topic (in PDF format).
fertileHOPE - provides financial assistance to cancer patients for egg, embryo, and sperm freezing prior to cancer treatment
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Uterine Cancer

Actress Anne Bancroft died yesterday of uterine cancer. Although this condition is accounts for only about 6% of cancers in U.S. women, you may want to take a minute to find out more about symptoms and diagnosis. There are several good guides to the disease online. Here are a few:
  • Detailed Guide: Uterine Sarcoma (American Cancer Society)
  • What You Need to Know about Cancer of the Uterus (National Cancer Institute)
  • Your Disease Risk: Uterine Cancer - online questionnaire that allows you to find out your risk of a condition compared to the average, with tips for prevention

    Also worth a look:
  • Female Sexuality after Cancer: What you and your Partner Need to Know (Mayo Clinic)
  • Current clinical trials related to uterine cancer ("uterine neoplasms")
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  • Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    40th anniversary of legal birth control

    Today is the 40th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, a June 7, 1965 Supreme Court ruling which overturned a CT state law that stated, "Any person who uses any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception shall be fined not less than fifty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days nor more than one year or be both fined and imprisoned. (emphasis added)" In other words, the use of birth control pills, even among married women, was punishable by imprisonment. Seriously. It was ruled unconstitutional based on a privacy rights argument. Apparently the same right was not extended to unmarried individuals until 1972.

    More info from:
    Planned Parenthood
    US Government Printing Office

    On a related, more recent note, the "Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act" was introduced in the House (HR. 1652) and Senate (S. 809) on April 15, 2005, which would prohibit pharmacists from refusing to fill women's birth control prescriptions.
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    Sunday, June 05, 2005

    NYT section on women's health

    The New York Times has a special section on women's health today. It includes an article titled "What's a Woman to Believe? The Latest on Shifting Guidelines," which summarizes current thinking on pap smears, mammograms, caesarean birth, and osteoporosis.

    You'll need a free login name and password to view the articles. You can sign up for one on the site, or borrow one from BugMeNot.
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    Share with Women

    The Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health (from the American College of Nurse-Midwives) offers free, full-text of the "Share with Women" series, articles from the journal that are written for women on a variety of topics. Written in easy-to-read language, the articles provide answers to common questions about topics such as postpartum depression, sexually transmitted diseases, folic acid, recognizing labor, c-sections, and many other issues.

    The articles are in PDF format, so you'll need to download the free Acrobat Reader software if you don't already have it.
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