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Focus Is on Meds in Pregnancy

The Food and Drug Administration is partnering with several health maintenance organizations to study the effects of prescription medications during pregnancy. The new Medication Exposure in Pregnancy Risk Evaluation Program (MEPREP) will give researchers access to data from 11 health plan–affiliated sites across the country. In total, the sites have information on about 1 million births between 2001 and 2007. Studies will address the effects of medication in both pregnant women and their children, Dr. Gerald Dal Pan, director of surveillance and epidemiology at the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “Results of these studies will provide valuable information for patients and physicians when making decisions about medication during pregnancy.” The new program is a collaboration among the FDA, the HMO Research Network Center for Education and Research in Therapeutics, Kaiser Permanente's multiple research centers, and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

IOM to Study LGBT Health Issues

The Institute of Medicine plans to review the state of science concerning the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. An IOM committee will be charged with identifying knowledge gaps and outlining a specific research agenda for the National Institutes of Health. The committee is to examine LGBT health risks, health disparities, access to health care, and utilization. Late last year, the Center for American Progress found in its own study that there are significant disparities when it comes to LGBT health status. For instance, researchers for the think tank found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience psychological distress.

ACOG Backs Depression Screening

Ob.gyns. should strongly consider screening women for depression both during and after pregnancy, according to a new position statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. There are significant benefits to women and their families if depression is diagnosed and treated, the statement said. ACOG estimates that 14%-23% of pregnant women experience depression symptoms and that 5%-25% of women experience postpartum depression. “With over 4 million births in the [United States] every year, we're talking about a huge number of women with postpartum depression—between 200,000 to more than 1 million each year,” ACOG President Gerald F. Joseph said in a statement. The ACOG statement includes information on seven depression screening tools, each taking less than 10 minutes to perform. Practices should have a referral program in place for women who have depression symptoms. The position statement was published in the February issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology (2010;115:394-5).

Mixed Bag for Reproductive Rights

Supporters of abortion rights scored some major victories in 2009, but those were offset by abortion restrictions proposed as part of health care reform, according to the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation. The organization made the assessment in its annual report on abortion-related legislation and court decisions affecting reproductive rights. NARAL officials credited the Obama administration with lifting the Mexico City policy, which had barred federal funding of overseas programs that offer abortion services or referrals. The Obama administration also nominated several individuals with “prochoice records” to federal posts, NARAL noted. But Nancy Keenan, the organization's president, criticized lawmakers who put abortion restrictions in the health care reform bills passed in the House and Senate late last year. “For prochoice Americans, 2009 was a roller coaster ride,” Ms. Keenan said in a statement. “On one hand, we saw positive changes in policies that will make a difference in the lives of women and their families. On the other hand, antichoice politicians used health reform to advance destructive and divisive attacks on women's access to abortion coverage.”

Young Adults Skip Contraception

While the vast majority of unmarried adults under age 30 believe that pregnancies should be planned, only about half of them say they consistently use contraception. The findings come from a survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. It also found that 19% of the sexually active, unmarried adults said that they had not used contraception at all in the past 3 months. One factor may be misconceptions about birth control. The poll found that 27% of the young women and 34% of the men think it likely that using hormonal methods of contraception will lead to a serious health problem, such as cancer. Additionally, 59% of women and 49% of men said they believe that they might be infertile. The survey included 1,800 unmarried adults aged 18-29 years.

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