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Women's Health Archive

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Wondering about COVID-19 vaccines if you’re pregnant or considering pregnancy?

Updated November 19, 2021
If you are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant, you may have questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Get informed by consulting trusted health sources, and talking with your medical providers.

Understanding intimate partner violence

Updated January 1, 2021

The pandemic may be making life harder for those in abusive relationships, but help is available.

A woman experiencing abuse at the hands of an intimate partner often feels isolated and alone. But the truth is, she has a lot of company. As many as one in three women in the United States has experienced intimate partner violence (IPV), which is violence involving a current or former spouse, partner, significant other, boyfriend or girlfriend, says Eve M. Valera, an associate professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. This number includes women from all different ages and backgrounds.

Those who experience IPV may be left with lingering health effects, including mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. IPV is also linked to a number of physical symptoms and conditions, according to the federal Office on Women's Health, such as digestive problems, migraine headaches, arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, sexual problems, and heart problems. Another area of growing concern for many researchers is the potential for cognitive changes caused by traumatic brain injuries linked to abuse, says Valera.

Irregular and long menstrual cycles linked to shorter life

Updated January 1, 2021

Research we're watching

Can your current or past menstrual cycle offer clues about your longevity? A study published Oct. 3, 2020, in The BMJ linked irregular or long menstrual cycles (defined as 40 days or more) throughout adolescence and adulthood to a higher risk of early death (before age 70), compared with that seen in women who had normal or short menstrual cycles. The study authors, who used data from nearly 80,000 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study II, found that the association was stronger for deaths from heart and blood vessel disease and in women who smoked.

Women in the study were, on average, 38 years old and had no history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes when the study began. Researchers asked them to recall the regularity and length of their menstrual cycles at various times in their life. The researchers followed the women for 24 years, noting deaths from various causes over time. The association of early death with irregular or long menstrual cycles persisted even after they corrected for other factors, such as lifestyle and family history.

Women with DCIS at increased risk for breast cancer death

Updated December 1, 2020

Research we're watching

Treatment for women with a type of early breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) might not be doing enough to prevent deaths from the disease, says a study published online Sept. 16, 2020, by JAMA Network Open. The study sought to determine whether women diagnosed with DCIS had a higher risk of dying from breast cancer than women who did not have the disease. They looked at 144,524 women who were diagnosed with DCIS from 1994 and 2014 and then treated for the condition. Researchers compared them against women without DCIS from the general population. They found that the women with DCIS had three times the risk of dying of breast cancer in the follow-up period, which ran until December 2016, than women without DCIS. Study authors suggest ways that might identify which women with DCIS need more aggressive therapy to prevent breast cancer death.

Image: © belchonock/Getty Images

Treating the pain of endometriosis

Published November 20, 2020

Endometriosis occurs in women when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows in other places in the body, most commonly within the pelvis, causing pain and other symptoms. Many women with this condition are not diagnosed properly until middle age. There are several options for treatment, and it may take time to find what works best for each person.

Birth control and high blood pressure: Which methods are safe for you?

Published November 13, 2020

Doctors typically recommend that women who have high blood pressure avoid using birth control that contains estrogen to avoid raising risks for a stroke or heart attack. According to a clinical update, this recommendation may be changing for some women with high blood pressure.

Can acupuncture help my menopause symptoms?

Updated November 1, 2020

Ask the doctors

Q. I've been experiencing some menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes. Can acupuncture help?

A. There is some evidence that acupuncture may be able to provide short-term relief from some menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes. Acupuncture is a long-used type of Chinese medicine in which a trained practitioner inserts thin needles into specific locations on your body.

A silent condition may be taking a toll on your health

Updated November 1, 2020

Identifying prediabetes early can help you head off diabetes and other long-term health problems.

Many women are living with an unseen health risk — prediabetes, a condition where blood sugar is elevated, but not high enough to meet the threshold for diabetes.

"Although prediabetes affects one in every three adults, nine out every 10 people with prediabetes don't know that they have it," says Dr. Osama Hamdy, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the obesity clinical program at the Joslin Diabetes Center.

Smokers may have higher risk of brain aneurysm

Updated November 1, 2020

Research we're watching

Need another reason to quit smoking? A study published in the September 2020 issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry found that women ages 30 to 60 who smoked had four times the risk of having a brain aneurysm (a weakened artery in the brain that bulges and could burst) compared with nonsmokers.

Researchers looked at nearly 550 women who had a brain scan performed, most often because of persistent headaches. The scans showed that 113 of them had one or more brain aneurysms. These individuals were then matched with 113 people who did not have brain aneurysms. In comparing the two groups, the researchers found not only that smoking drove up the risk of finding a brain aneurysm, but also that women who both smoked and had high blood pressure had seven times the risk compared to nonsmokers with normal blood pressure. If future research shows that smokers also have a significantly higher risk of brain aneurysm rupture, women smokers ages 30 to 60 might be candidates for aneurysm screening.

Talking to your doctor about an abusive relationship

Published October 29, 2020

Intimate partner violence can occur between people of any gender or sexual orientation. Abuse can leave people feeling isolated, confused, or hopeless, and talking to a health professional is one way to get help in the form of medical treatment or access to appropriate services.

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