Women’s Health

Starting an osteoporosis drug? Here’s what you need to know

Maneet Kaur, MD
Maneet Kaur, MD, Contributor

In its early stages, osteoporosis has no symptoms but causes millions of bone fractures every year, often resulting in loss of function and, disability and even death from the complications of the fracture. There are effective medications to prevent osteoporosis, but they can have serious (though rare) side effects. It’s best to talk discuss with your doctor to understand all your options and make an informed decision on how to best protect your bones.

Understanding the heart attack gender gap

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

We tend to think of heart attacks (and heart disease) as primarily happening to men. That might be because women tend to minimize any heart attack symptoms they experience — and to delay seeking treatment much longer than men. Recent studies on this “heart attack gender gap” have revealed several things that can help make sure every patient with heart disease gets the best treatment possible.

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.

Thyroid disease and breast cancer: Is there a link?

Mallika Marshall, MD
Mallika Marshall, MD, Contributing Editor

Researchers have wondered for a long time whether there might be a link between excess thyroid hormone and an increased risk of breast cancer. High levels of thyroid hormone have been shown to mimic estrogen, which fuels many breast cancers. A new study has suggested that there may indeed be a link — but it’s important to put the results into context.

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.

Zika, pregnancy, and winter travel: Many unknowns, and a cautious message

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

If you’re planning an escape from the dreary winter weather, and you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you may want to plan your destination carefully. There’s still a lot we don’t know about Zika virus — which is now widespread in several favorite tropical destinations, such as the Caribbean — and its potential pregnancy-related complications. Until we know more, it’s better to be safe and follow the precautions we’ve listed here.

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.

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.