Family Planning and Pregnancy

Can hormonal birth control trigger depression?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

Research from Denmark found an association between the use of hormonal birth control and an increased likelihood of depression. While the risk of depression among women using hormonal forms of birth control was clearly increased, the overall number of women affected was small and was found to be highest in women under 20.

Birth control right after having a baby: Why it’s important, why it should be covered

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

Many women may plan to start using birth control at their six-week postpartum checkup, but as many as 40% of women do not go to a follow-up appointment. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advocates for offering women the option of long-acting, implantable contraceptives in the period immediately following giving birth, before leaving the hospital. It’s safe, effective, and eliminates the need for an outpatient visit during a hectic time. Making postpartum contraception easily available and a covered benefit is essential to reduce unintended pregnancy and rapid, repeat pregnancy rates.

What “native” Zika infections mean for the United States

Michaela Kane
Michaela Kane, Contributor

News that mosquitoes in the U.S. carry Zika is concerning, but experts say that Zika likely won’t spread here as it has in Central and South America. The virus poses a danger to pregnant women and their unborn children because Zika may cause microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby’s head is unusually small and the brain does not develop properly. The CDC warns pregnant women, or those trying to become pregnant, to avoid areas with high rates of Zika infection, and warns all travelers to such areas to take certain precautions.

Progesterone supplements don’t help prevent miscarriage

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

Miscarriages can be devastating — especially for women who experience recurrent miscarriage, defined as three or more in a row. Doctors used to give these women supplements of progesterone, a hormone that helps maintain a healthy pregnancy. However, a recent study has confirmed that these supplements don’t improve pregnancy outcomes. For those who experience recurrent miscarriage, the best solution may be to simply keep trying.

Should you swaddle your baby?

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

Swaddling a baby—wrapping him or her tightly in a blanket to give a sense of comfort and security—has been practiced for millennia. But it’s not right for all babies. In particular, several studies have revealed that swaddling can potentially cause problems hip problems and can even be dangerous if not practiced correctly. As always, if you have questions about swaddling your baby, it’s best to talk with your doctor.

Antidepressants and pregnancy: More research needed

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

A significant number of pregnant women suffer from depression. However, there are still many unanswered questions about how best to treat depression during pregnancy, especially regarding the use of a class of antidepressants called SSRIs. We’ve taken a look at some of the most salient research on the topic and listed tips for what to do if you’re pregnant (or planning a pregnancy) and think you may be depressed.

Zika: Worse than we thought?

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

Just a few months ago, public health experts were confident that there would be minimal spread of Zika virus into the United States. But as they’ve continued to study Zika and catalog its effects on countries around the world, they’re discovering that it might be scarier than they initially thought. We’ve summarized the latest findings on Zika and included tips to help you ward it off.

Over 35 and expecting: Is it safer to give birth “early”?

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

For women having children over age 35, the decision to induce labor is usually based on an increased risk of stillbirth. The duration of labor also factors into the decision, as does the possibility that induction could increase the chance of a cesarean birth, though current medical evidence does not necessarily support this assertion.

An obstetrician (who is also a feminist) weighs in on the CDC’s “no birth control, no drinking” recommendation

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

The CDC recently advised all sexually active women of childbearing age, and who aren’t on birth control, to avoid alcohol completely because of potential harmful effects to an unborn child. The science behind the recommendation is sound, but the way it was delivered has raised quite a few eyebrows. In this piece, Dr. Ricciotti examines where the message fell short and describes how she emphasizes shared decision-making and autonomy when she counsels her patients.

New depression screening guidelines benefit pregnant women and new moms–and everyone

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

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recently updated their guidelines on depression screening to include pregnant and postpartum women, which will be a great help to the many new moms who experience mood changes that go beyond the “baby blues.” The updated guidelines offer other benefits, too, that help improve everyone’s access to mental health care — especially those who can’t currently afford it.