Women’s Health

Contrary to popular belief, epidurals don’t prolong labor. Phew.

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

Challenging a long-held belief, a new study found that women who received epidural anesthesia during labor did not have prolonged labor or higher rates of cesarean births.

Urinary incontinence: Common and manageable

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

Nearly half of all women will experience some form of urinary incontinence during their lives. In addition to the discomfort, it can affect a person’s emotional health as well. But the condition can be managed for many women with lifestyle changes behavior therapy, or physical therapy.

Women and pain: Disparities in experience and treatment

Laura Kiesel
Laura Kiesel, Contributor

Most people dealing with chronic pain are women, but most pain research has been done on men. The disparity in how women are diagnosed and treated is unfair, and can be dangerous.

Flu shots during pregnancy

Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisholm, MD, Contributor

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.

Premenstrual dysphoria disorder: It’s biology, not a behavior choice

Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisholm, MD, Contributor

Women who experience severe mood changes in the weeks leading to their menstrual periods may have premenstrual dysphoria disorder. Because this condition is not yet well understood, getting a correct diagnosis can be challenging.

Binge drinking continues to rise — particularly among women and seniors

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Data from several surveys indicate that the percentage of women who drink has been increasing for decades. The numerous health effects associated with alcohol consumption mean that women should be especially attentive to how much they drink.

Time spent in “green” places linked with longer life in women

Elizabeth Pegg Frates, MD

Greenery might do more than just cheer us up. A recent study shows it lowers the mortality rate in women. Green spaces decrease levels of depression and pollution while increasing levels of social engagement and physical activity. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded greenery, get out there and enjoy it more. Even urban areas can increase their greenery by planting more trees and shrubs. See if you can get your community to plant more plants. It will help everyone out in the long run.

Postpartum depression: The worst kept secret

Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisholm, MD, Contributor

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.

Why medical experts say that teens should be allowed to make the abortion decision without telling their parents

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

The belief that teens should have the right to an abortion without parental knowledge or consent is supported by a group of medical associations, and is based primarily on concerns about safety and the medical consequences of requiring that parents be informed.

Cervical cancer screening update: Not your mother’s Pap smear

Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisholm, MD, Contributor

Recent research supports the theory the human papilloma virus (HPV) plays a critical role in the development of abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancers. Based on this knowledge, experts believe that many women are being over-screened and treated for abnormal cells that are unlikely to ever become cancerous. Testing for strains of HPV associated with cervical cancer, along with the Pap smear, may do a better job preventing cervical cancer than the Pap smear alone. Guidelines are evolving and that yearly Pap smear may be unnecessary for many women.