Family Planning and Pregnancy

Access to safe, affordable birth control is a maternal health issue

When a pregnancy puts the life of the mother at risk, access to birth control is essential. As more women are experiencing medical complications from or with pregnancy or after giving birth, the issue is becoming even more important.

Using social media to help parents get vaccine questions answered

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Doctors want their patients to have access to accurate and helpful health information, and today that means online. Researchers found that expectant mothers who used a website that provided information about vaccines were more likely to get their babies vaccinated.

Why parents should save their baby’s cord blood — and give it away

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Because blood cells from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord can be used to treat or cure a variety of diseases, the American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging expectant parents to consider donating this blood to a public bank.

Flu shots during pregnancy

A recent small study linked the flu shot during pregnancy with an increased risk for miscarriage. However it did not establish that the flu shot causes miscarriage. Despite these results, pregnant women should be reassured that the benefits of getting a flu shot outweigh any potential risk.

Strong study shows no link between vasectomy and prostate cancer

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

In contrast to earlier research, a review of dozens of studies involving millions of men who had vasectomies found no proof that having a vasectomy increases a man’s risk of prostate cancer.

Have kids, live longer?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

A study of Swedish people found an association between having children and living longer. That does not mean there is a direct, causal connection, but it’s still worth considering how these circumstances may in fact be related.

Postpartum depression: The worst kept secret

Postpartum depression carries an unfortunate stigma, as symptoms of depression affect nearly 20% of new mothers. Early detection is key to ensure the best health for not just women, but for their new infants and family members as well. Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options that can support new mothers during a time that can be both joyous and challenging.

Can hormonal birth control trigger depression?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

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

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

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.