Family Planning and Pregnancy

New depression screening guidelines outline very helpful, yet achievable goals

Michael Craig Miller, M.D.
Michael Craig Miller, M.D., Senior Editor, Mental Health Publishing, Harvard Health Publications

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently updated their guidelines on screening for depression. This time around, they recommended widespread screening through primary care practices, plus gave special attention to women who are pregnant or recently gave birth. These matter-of-fact, achievable guidelines and goals have the potential to reap enormous health benefits.

Lead poisoning: What everyone needs to know

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Even though the use of lead has been regulated for many years, tragedies like the one currently ongoing in Flint, Michigan still occur. Exposure to lead in childhood can have health effects that can change a child’s life forever. We’ve listed steps you can take to keep your child — and everyone in your home — safe from lead poisoning.

What you need to know about Zika virus

John Ross, MD, FIDSA
John Ross, MD, FIDSA, Contributing Editor

Zika, a formerly rare and obscure virus, has recently spread throughout the Pacific islands and the Americas. Although Zika virus rarely makes people seriously ill, it’s been implicated in a huge rise in the number of birth defects in babies born to mothers who’ve had Zika. Although its impact in the U.S. is expected to be much less severe than in warmer climates, we’ve listed some tips to reduce your exposure to the type of mosquito that carries Zika.

What parents need to know about pain in newborns

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

We used to think newborns are too young to truly experience pain, but they do — and it can affect their later development. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to lessen a newborn’s discomfort during many medical procedures. If your baby needs a procedure done, let your medical team know you want to do whatever you can to prevent or lessen his or her pain.

Teens and medicines that cause birth defects: Do doctors drop the ball?

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Doctors may prescribe medicines for teenage girls — for example for acne, depression, or migraines — that are known to cause birth defects. While most parents and doctors hope that these young women avoid pregnancy for many reasons, adults need to help adolescent girls understand the risks of the medications they take and have frank conversations about sex and birth control.

Where is best for birth: Hospital or home?

Jeffrey Ecker, MD
Jeffrey Ecker, MD, Contributing Editor

By the mid-20th century, most births took place in the hospital. But increasingly, some women are choosing to have their babies at home in an effort to avoid seemingly unnecessary interventions and find an alternative to hospital environments. We don’t have the best data to assess the safety of home birth. But a recent analysis offers insights that can help women make choices based on what they value the most.

C-section rates: Consider this when deciding where to have your baby

Hope Ricciotti, MD
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

For years, there has been concern about the high rate of cesarean births — but just how many cesareans are too many? A recent study suggests that a cesarean rate of 19% is about right. The reasons for high cesarean rates may be related more to each hospital’s circumstances and processes than to other, more commonly cited reasons. If you’re concerned, find out the C-section rate at the hospital where you plan to deliver your baby.

Yoga in pregnancy: Many poses are safer than once thought

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

Yoga can help relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, all of which are common during pregnancy. A new study shows that many yoga poses are safe for mothers-to-be and their babies. However, pregnant women should take certain precautions when doing yoga — for example, avoiding heated yoga classes and being careful not to over-stretch. It’s also important for pregnant women to check with their doctors to be sure there are no underlying health concerns before starting yoga.

Miscarriage: Keep breaking the silence

Hope Ricciotti, MD
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Many public figures have begun speaking up about their experiences with miscarriage. While it’s wonderful that they’re breaking the silence, a recent survey has revealed that the general public still has a lot of misconceptions about this surprisingly common event. Dr. Hope Ricciotti shares her reactions to the survey results, and her advice to women experiencing miscarriage.

Treating unexplained infertility: Answers still needed

Jeffrey Ecker, MD
Jeffrey Ecker, MD, Contributing Editor

One of the most common treatments for unexplained infertility is ovulation induction, in which a woman takes drugs that will increase the number of eggs the ovary releases in the hope that at least one will result in a pregnancy. But when too many eggs are available for fertilization, the rates of high-risk multiple pregnancies go up. A recent study compared three drugs used for ovulation induction and found that the one more likely to result in a live birth was also more likely to result in a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, or more). The options for treating unexplained infertility remain less than ideal, but careful choices mean that the pregnancies that do result will be safer for moms and babies.