Tell your fertility specialist about your mental health history

Fertility treatment patients and their partners are far more likely than the general population to experience major depressive disorder (MDD), and a key factor in predicting a patient’s risk is whether he or she has a previous diagnosis of MDD. But fertility treatment providers don’t always screen for that past history, according to new research from San Francisco State University.

Screening for previous episodes of MDD would alert a provider to refer those most at risk for major depression during treatment for counseling or support during treatment, the researchers say.

Mental health experts have long known that MDD is a recurring disease that is likely to occur during stressful life events such as fertility treatment. But this study, published in the May issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility, is the first to find that patient history is the key indicator of recurrence.

Researchers surveyed 174 women and 144 male partners who had unsuccessfully gone through fertility treatment. They found that 39.1 percent of the women and 15.3 percent of the men met the criteria for MDD during the 18-month course of the study, compared with the U.S. annual prevalence rate for MDD of 8.4 percent of women and 5.2 percent of men.

MDD can cause a couple to stop fertility treatment altogether or, if treatment is successful, MDD could occur during prenatal or post-partum times. So be sure to discuss your mental health history openly and honestly with your fertility care provider.

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Are iron supplements worth the money?

Not if you’re taking them to help your pregnancy. According to a review of the literature on iron supplementation and screening for pregnant women, babies and young children, conducted by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)—the body that sets many of the nation’s medical guidelines—taking iron supplements during pregnancy doesn’t appear to significantly change any health outcomes for mom or baby. And another review, one on infants and toddlers, found no evidence that iron supplements improved growth or development.

The study on pregnant women was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study on children appeared in Pediatrics.

The USPSTF now says that there isn’t enough evidence to recommend that pregnant women or infants and children take iron supplements or be screened for iron deficiencies. On the other hand, there isn’t enough evidence to recommend against it either.

The recommendations regarding prenatal supplements haven’t changed from those in 2006. But where USPSTF guidelines previously called for routine iron screening in pregnant women, they no longer recommend it.

An otherwise healthy pregnant woman who does not have symptoms of iron deficiency does not need more than 27 milligrams per day, according to Institute of Medicine recommendations.

As always, discuss vitamin and mineral supplementation with your doctor before starting any new supplement.

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Premature birth: Like mother, like child?

Were you born prematurely? If so, it’s more likely that your own baby will be born prematurely as well.

That’s the finding of a new study conducted in Canada. Researchers found that the odds of delivering a preterm infant, defined as being born before 37 weeks gestation, rose more than 40 percent for women who were born between 32 and 36 weeks themselves, regardless of other risk factors. And the earlier in pregnancy a woman had been born, the higher the prematurity risk for her child.

The researchers studied health records from about 900,000 women in Quebec who had delivered at least one baby. They then divided the women into three groups: women born before 32 weeks gestation; between 32 and 36 weeks; and at term, approximately 40 weeks. They discovered that just over 14 percent of women who were born before 32 weeks delivered babies prematurely during the study period, as did 13 percent of those born between 32 and 36 weeks. Nearly 10 percent of women born at term delivered prematurely, according to the study.

The researchers caution that this study, which was published in the May issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology was designed to find an association between a woman’s prematurity and her baby’s, not to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Still, if you were a preemie, let your obstetrician know.

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Another study refutes vaccine-autism link

Recent outbreaks of measles, whooping cough and other previously controlled childhood illnesses reveal the dangers of refusing to vaccinate your child. Many parents who choose not to vaccinate base their decision on the belief that vaccination may cause autism, despite enormous evidence to the contrary.

Another study, published in the April 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, provides additional evidence that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine does not raise the risk of autism, even among children who are at increased genetic risk for the disorder.

The MMR-autism link was raised in a small study done in 1998 that was later proved fraudulent. Since that time, a number of rigorous international studies have found no evidence to support that claim. The latest findings are based on insurance records for nearly 96,000 U.S. children with an older brother or sister, 2 percent of whom were on the autism spectrum. There was no evidence that the MMR vaccine raised the risk of autism in either those who had an autistic sibling—suggesting a genetic predisposition—or those who didn’t.

Measles and other childhood diseases can cause serious and sometimes fatal complications. We strongly urge parents to vaccinate their children. What are your thoughts? Please share them below.

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More warnings about e-cigarettes

Nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes may damage the developing brains of infants in the womb, as well as the brains of children and adolescents. That’s the conclusion of a new review of nicotine’s effects on animals by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report was published in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The harm in the animal brains occurs in areas involved in thinking and language development and short- and long-term memory, according to the review’s senior author, Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. The vapor in e-cigarettes contains nicotine, which can be inhaled by kids who are near people using these devices. Children can also be exposed to nicotine from surfaces where it has accumulated from the vapor. If children touch those surfaces and then place their hands into their mouths, they can potentially be exposed to nicotine.

It remains unclear exactly how much nicotine exposure developing babies, children and teens are getting from e-cigarettes, as well as what the potential harms are from that exposure, he said. And the amount of nicotine an e-cigarette delivers depends on the type of e-cigarette and can vary from as little as the equivalent of half a cigarette to as much as that of a whole cigarette.

E-cigarettes may help people trying to give up cigarettes, Dr. McAfee said, but they shouldn’t be used by pregnant women. In pregnant women, the developing fetus is exposed to nicotine from e-cigarettes because the mother’s blood is shared with the fetus.

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6 ways you can promote women’s health

“It’s never too early or late to work toward being your healthiest you!”

That’s the message from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health in kicking off National Women’s Health Week, which runs from May 10 to May 16. “We want to help you take control of your health,” it says.

How can you participate in National Women’s Health Week? The Office on Women’s Health invites women across the country to:

• Spread the word through social media with these resources. Use the #NWHW hashtag.

• Join the National Women’s Health Week Thunderclap.

• Take the National Women’s Health Week pledge.

• Organize activities or events.

• Learn what steps you should take for good health based on your age.

• Share National Women’s Health Week infocards with your friends, family and coworkers.

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This week, celebrate women’s health

The 16th annual National Women’s Health Week kicked off on Mother’s Day, May 10, and is celebrated until May 16. The goal of this special week-long observance, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, is to empower women to make their health a priority.

The week is also a time to help women understand what steps they can take to improve their health. To help achieve better physical and mental health, you can:

• Visit a doctor or nurse to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.

Be active.

Eat healthy.

• Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.

• Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, texting while driving, and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.

Find out about other healthy steps you should take based on your age.

What do you plan to do to celebrate women’s health? Share your ideas below.

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Help us ‘Paint the Town Pink’

For the ninth straight year, Paint the Town Pink is working to raise awareness of the importance of annual mammography across Monmouth and Ocean counties. RSCNJ is a business participant for Paint the Town Pink, and we urge all our friends to get involved throughout the month of May.

This event, a collaboration between Meridian Health and its surrounding towns, involves a breast cancer prevention, detection and treatment campaign along with fundraising to provide free screening mammography through the Pink Fund for uninsured and underserved women in the community.

For the entire month, women who visit Pink Partners are able to pledge to have their annual mammogram and to contribute toward another woman’s mammogram through pink donation banks.

Please help Paint the Town Pink. Learn more at the organization’s Facebook page and Web site. 

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Here comes summer—and leg cramps!

Pregnancy-associated nighttime leg cramps occur twice as often in summer as in winter, a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests.

Researchers looked at quinine prescriptions written for more than 31,000 people in British Columbia, Canada, over six years. Quinine is commonly prescribed to treat leg cramps. The researchers also analyzed the frequency of online searches about leg cramps by people in Australia and the United States.

Prescriptions for quinine in British Columbia and online searches about leg cramps in the United States peaked in July. Online searches about leg cramps in Australia were highest in January, which is mid-summer in that country.

“Although there are anecdotal reports of pregnancy-associated rest cramps being worse in summer, these findings establish the phenomenon of seasonality in rest cramps in the general population,” wrote Scott Garrison, M.D., M.P.H., a member of the medical faculty at the University of Alberta and at the Center for Hip Health and Mobility at the University of British Columbia, and colleagues.

If you suffer from cramps, talk to your doctor about treatment.

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Celebrating nurses

Nurses are often the unsung heroes of health care, but during the week of May 6-12, the American Nurses Association celebrates their contributions to delivering the highest level of quality care to their patients with National Nurses Week.

This year, the week’s theme is “Ethical practice. Quality care.” It recognizes the importance of ethics and acknowledges the commitment, compassion and care nurses display in their practice and profession.

The National Nurses Week focus is part of ANA’s 2015 Year of Ethics outreach to promote and advocate for the rights, health and safety of nurses and patients, and to increase public awareness of the role nurses play in providing ethical, quality health care. Learn how you can help sing the praises of nurses at the ANA website.

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