Women’s Health

Genital herpes: The painful facts about a tricky virus

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

While most people know that genital herpes is transmitted through sexual contact, many people don’t realize that it’s possible to carry the virus and infect others without showing outward symptoms or even being aware that they have it. A person with confirmed genital herpes can take medication to help decrease the chances of spreading the virus. However, it’s no guarantee, so it’s best to have a frank conversation with a new sexual partner.

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.

Female athlete triad: Protecting the health and bones of active young women

Elizabeth Matzkin, MD
Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, Contributor

Women who are especially active may be susceptible to a spectrum disorder known as the female athlete triad, a combination of symptoms rooted in inadequate nutrition that can ultimately lead to a greater risk of osteoporosis.

Quitting smoking during the second half of the menstrual cycle may help women kick the habit

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

Studies have shown that not only do women have a harder time quitting than men, but they also experience more severe health consequences from smoking. However, new research suggests that it may be easier for women to quit smoking during the second half of their menstrual cycle. During this time, the hormone progesterone is higher, and this appears to aid in quitting and avoiding relapse.

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.

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.