1-24-20 Taking Viagra in early labour reduces the need for emergency caesarean
Taking Viagra during the very first stages of labour halves the need for an emergency caesarean, a clinical trial has found. During labour, contractions reduce blood flow to the placenta, meaning some babies don’t get enough oxygen. About one in four emergency caesarean operations are performed for this reason. “Most babies are able to tolerate this reduction in blood flow, but they may not be able to if, for example, the placenta isn’t functioning properly or the contractions are just too frequent,” says Sailesh Kumar at the University of Queensland, Australia. Kumar and his colleagues wondered if the drug sildenafil, sold under the brand name Viagra, could help to increase blood flow to a fetus in the same way that it boosts blood flow to the penis in men with erectile dysfunction. The drug works by widening the blood vessels. The researchers gave sildenafil to 150 pregnant women who were going into labour at Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane. To provide a comparison, another 150 women who were also in early labour were given placebo pills. In the sildenafil group, 51 per cent fewer emergency caesareans were needed and there were 43 per cent fewer cases of irregular heart rate patterns – a sign that a fetus is in distress. No major side effects were observed. The researchers are now planning a bigger trial involving more than 3000 women at 16 hospitals across Australia. They hope to confirm that sildenafil reduces fetal distress and emergency caesareans, and to demonstrate that this results in better health outcomes for babies. If this is shown to be the case, sildenafil may be routinely prescribed when labour begins, since it is hard to predict who will have problems with fetal distress and need an emergency caesarean, says Kumar.
1-22-20 Blood test can predict when women will have their last period
For some women, reaching the menopause can be one of life’s milestones, but when it will happen is a big unknown. Now a blood test can help predict when a woman’s last menstrual period is likely to be. The test, called MenoCheck, can’t give a firm date, but it can tell women who are over 47 if they are likely to stop having periods within the next year. It would be most useful for those considering being sterilised or having surgery for painful or heavy periods, says Nanette Santoro at the University of Colorado Medical School in Aurora. “They may be wondering how much longer they have to put up with this.” The average age at which menopause occurs is 51, but in most cases, it can happen any time from a person’s forties to early sixties. Periods usually become more infrequent before stopping for good. They stop because the ovaries run out of functioning eggs, which leads to lower levels of anti-Mullerian hormone – a chemical made by eggs – in blood. Previous tests haven’t been able to measure the very low levels of anti-Mullerian hormone present in the year or two before menopause. But MenoCheck, which has been on sale for about a year, is more sensitive. To see how well it does, Santoro’s team used it on blood samples taken at yearly intervals from about 1500 women taking part in a different menopause study. Santoro is a consultant for MenoCheck’s manufacturer Ansh Labs. The team found that those over 47 whose anti-Mullerian hormone level was below a certain cut-off had a 67 per cent chance of having their last period within the next year, and an 82 per cent chance of having it within two. Most women wouldn’t need to take the test to know that they are nearing the menopause, says Esther Eisenberg at the US’s National Institutes of Health.
1-17-20 How to raise money
A Los Angeles model raised more than $500,000 for Australian wildfire victims by offering nude selfies in exchange for proof of a $10 donation. Kaylen Ward, 20, made her self-pledge on Instagram on Jan. 3 under the name “The Naked Philanthropist” and was soon deluged with 50,000 charitable receipts made to accredited charities. But her amazing success also had unintended consequences when her family and boyfriend saw her online pledge. “My family disowned me, and the guy I like won’t talk to me,” she said. “But f--- it, save the koalas.”
1-15-20 Miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy may trigger PTSD and depression
One in six women who experience an early miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder nine months later. As people can experience the symptoms of PTSD for months, it is important that women are able to access psychological support should they need it, say the researchers behind the work. It is estimated that women have more miscarriages than live births over their lifetime. But the psychological effects are often “brushed under the carpet”, says Jessica Farren, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at St Marys Hospital in London. Women often don’t tell their friends, family and colleagues that they are pregnant until they have had their 12-week scan. If that scan reveals a miscarriage, they may feel unable to tell people, so miss out on support, says Farren. She and her colleagues asked 737 women who experienced a miscarriage during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or an ectopic pregnancy – in which the embryo attaches outside of the uterus, causing pregnancy loss – to fill out mental health questionnaires designed to diagnose anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The questionnaires were sent to the women one month after their pregnancy losses, and then again three and nine months after the losses. Nine months after experiencing a pregnancy loss, 18 per cent of women met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis, 17 per cent of women reported anxiety and 6 per cent of women had symptoms of moderate to severe depression. The figures are “terrifyingly high”, says Farren. “We have a problem on our hands that we haven’t up until now properly acknowledged or looked to treat.” That was the experience of Samantha* who had an early miscarriage last year. “Initially it was like a bereavement,” she says. “[My husband and I] both felt very connected to that baby and still do. I felt loss, emptiness, scared that I might not be able to have another child (but in some ways relieved that we’d been able to get pregnant)….We both had and still have moments where it hurts.”
1-14-20 'Miracle baby' born after womb transplant
Jennifer Gobrecht’s uterus transplant allowed her to have a baby, meaning Benjamin became only the second child in the US to be born through the procedure. The medical care to the Philadelphia family was provided by a transplant trial at Penn Medicine.
1-12-20 The U.S. immigration system is full of hurdles for pregnant women and new mothers
ICE data show that detentions of pregnant women increased by more than 50 percent from 2016 to 2018 A 19-year-old Honduran woman was nearly separated from her newborn soon after giving birth while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody this month, shortly after crossing the U.S. southern border. The teen had turned herself into CBP agents at the border while in labor, seeking medical services she could not get in Tijuana, Mexico, where she had been previously. "She asked the agent when she was going to be able to see her child, and they told her that she wasn't going to be able to see the baby and that she would be taken back to Border Patrol custody and returned to Mexico," said Erika Pinheiro, litigation and policy director of Al Otro Lado, a social justice legal organization representing the mother. Pinheiro told The World there have been numerous documented cases in which CPB or Immigration and Customs Enforcement have separated newborns from their mothers after births in U.S. custody. "There's actually probably dozens of cases like this every month along the U.S. border," she said. "And we're not entirely sure of the exact scope of the problem because most of it's done in secret." Following widespread media attention and public outrage, CBP officials announced that the young mother would be allowed to stay in the U.S. with her child as her asylum claim is adjudicated. Her case is just one example of the hurdles faced by pregnant migrant women and new mothers navigating the Trump administration's tightening immigration policies. ICE did not return The World's request for information regarding separations of newly born babies from their mothers. The Honduran teen could have been sent back to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols — a Trump administration policy under which asylum-seekers crossing at the U.S. southern border are returned to Mexico to await their U.S. immigration proceedings. And while MPP does have exceptions for vulnerable migrants — such as those with health issues — the decision to send someone to Mexico often comes down to the discretion of individual border officers. "Inconsistent review of those exceptions to the 'Remain in Mexico' policy are leading to human rights violations," said immigration attorney Ruby Powers. "The whole concept is a violation of human rights law and policy because of the lack of access to medical and legal care, as well as being left in squalor and makeshift tents along the border — children, pregnant women, people with medical conditions are at the whim of whoever comes along."
1-10-20 Cost of birth
Women who have health insurance pay an average out-of-pocket cost of $4,500 for the delivery of a baby, according to a study of 657,000 women by University of Michigan researchers. Those costs are largely the result of higher deductibles, as employers shift the soaring expense of health care onto employees.
1-10-20 Hungary to provide free fertility treatment to boost population
Hungary will provide free in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment to couples at state-run clinics, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has announced. He said fertility was of "strategic importance". Last month his government took over Hungary's fertility clinics. Mr Orban, a right-wing nationalist, has long advocated a "procreation over immigration" approach to deal with demographic decline. The country's population has been falling steadily for four decades. Mr Orban described details of his fertility policy on Thursday, after bringing six fertility clinics under state control in December. Free IVF treatment will be offered from 1 February, but it is not clear who exactly will be entitled to it. Mr Orban also said the government was considering an income tax exemption for women who have three children or more. Starting this month, those with at least four children have been exempt. "If we want Hungarian children instead of immigrants, and if the Hungarian economy can generate the necessary funding, then the only solution is to spend as much of the funds as possible on supporting families and raising children," the prime minister said. Mr Orban - who has been prime minister since 2010 - has based his campaigns on opposition to immigration. In September last year, he told an international summit on demography that while other European leaders believed immigration was the solution to falling population numbers, he rejected this. The prime minister then echoed the far-right "great replacement" theory, which claims that white European populations are being gradually replaced by people of non-European descent. "If Europe is not going to be populated by Europeans in the future, and we take this as given, then we are speaking about an exchange of populations, to replace the population of Europeans with others," Mr Orban told the conference at the time. "There are political forces in Europe who want a replacement of population for ideological or other reasons." (Webmaster's comment: Why would any woman want to have children in a right-wing nationalist country? Those countries are lethal to their civil rights!)
1-8-20 UK’s Vagina Museum busts myths with surgery tales and glitter tampons
The crowd-funded activists behind London's Vagina Museum have ambitious plans to get us much better informed about the reality of vaginas, vulvas and virginity. A GIANT, red, glittery tampon is the first thing you see as you walk into the Vagina Museum, a small gallery that recently opened in London and claims to be the first of its kind. The point of this exhibition, Muff Busters: Vagina myths and how to fight them, is to educate visitors about human anatomy, as well as tackling taboos and giving people confidence to talk to doctors about their bodies. When I first heard about the project, it sounded pretty old hat. Do we really still need this kind of consciousness-raising in the UK in 2020, where, until last year, the prime minister was a woman? But when I visited the museum, it made me think again. A display of images celebrating the normal diversity of gynaecological anatomy may seem like a cliché, until you recall that, in recent years, there has been a fivefold rise in the number of labial reduction surgeries by the National Health Service in the UK. According to a recent report by gynaecologists, this is partially due to unrealistic representations in pornography. The problem seems to be that people don’t know what typical genitals look like. Other exhibits aim to bust myths. Contrary to popular belief, the hymen isn’t a reliable indicator that a person has had sex. As a small area of mucosal skin around the edges of the vagina, the hymen may bleed a little when someone first has penetrative sex, but it usually doesn’t. It is so naturally variable that one individual may have regular sex and still retain some visible hymen tissue, while another may never have had sex and yet have no hymen at all. Nevertheless, this scrap of flesh has long been used to control the lives of girls and women the world over – and still is in some families. In November, US rapper TI said he took his daughter on yearly trips to a doctor to have her virginity “checked”, something that is medically impossible and that critics called abusive.
1-4-20 Is artificial-womb technology a tool for women's liberation?
Artificial wombs promise to relieve women of the physical oppression, but don't necessarily address the problem on the conceptual level. While some women experience pregnancy and childbirth as joyful, natural, and fulfilling, others find themselves recoiling in horror at the physical demands of carrying and sustaining a child in their womb, and even more so at the potential brutality of giving birth. Some might view the blood, sweat, and tears as a necessary and unavoidable part of life. Others, such as the radical feminist Shulamith Firestone, writing in her book The Dialectic of Sex (1970), assume a less forgiving view of the process as "barbaric" or akin to "sh*tting a pumpkin." Most, like myself, oscillate between the two positions, or else sit somewhere in between. Whatever one's position on the matter of the "naturalness" of pregnancy, it can't be denied that the development of artificial-womb technology (known as ectogenesis) would radically change the debate. First, there are the therapeutic benefits it promises: women prone to risky pregnancies could transfer the fetus to an artificial womb, thereby allowing fetal development to continue at little cost to their own physical health; likewise, fetuses at risk of premature birth could be transferred to artificial wombs to complete their development as required. The blood, sweat, and tears, it seems, might not be so intrinsic to the process after all. Second, the technology could have important social benefits for women. For Firestone, artificial wombs would eliminate a crucial condition that currently ensures women's oppression by neutralizing the heavily gendered process of reproduction. Though there exist indisputable biological differences between the sexes, she argued that this difference becomes oppressive in the unfair division of reproductive labor and its naturalization through the ideal of the nuclear family. But if fetuses were to develop in artificial wombs, women would finally be free to pursue their interests and desires outside of their reproductive duties.
1-1-20 Taking on Germany’s tampon tax: 'Periods are not a luxury'
In 2018, activists Nanna-Josephine Roloff and Yasemin Kotra decided to challenge Germany's luxury tax on all sanitary products. Their online petition gained more than 180,000 signatures in less than two years and led to a change in the law.