Bit by bit, regulation by regulation, the Trump administration – followed by a notable list of states — has been shrinking women’s access to birth control and abortion services. From packing the courts with anti-choice judges to repeated (failed) attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, the White House has done its best to push reproductive freedom off the table. So, when a Connecticut hospital and two neighborhood health centers announced plans to collaborate and become the New Haven Primary Care Consortium, the conversation quickly turned to women’s reproductive health—as it should. Yale New Haven Hospital and two local federally qualified health centers proposed to merge services recently, with the clinics that serve adults, women’s reproductive needs and children moving to 150 Sargent Drive (Long Wharf). This is a big deal for the state’s health care landscape.
The Connecticut Childbirth & Women’s Center in Danbury is a 50-minute drive from Evelyn DeGraf’s home in Westchester. Pregnant with her second child, the 37-year-old didn’t hesitate to make the drive—she wanted her birth to be attended by a midwife, not a doctor. DeGraf believed midwifery care to be more personal and less rushed than that delivered by obstetrics/gynecologists (OB/GYNs). She also knew an OB/GYN would deem her relatively advanced maternal age and previous cesarean section history too high-risk to attempt a VBAC, or vaginal birth after cesarean section. But she had to drive roughly 35 miles to find a midwife because there aren’t many of them.
The United States’ maternal mortality rate is abysmal, and women of color are particularly vulnerable. No amount of fame or fortune can run interference when it comes to mothers dying or at-risk during pregnancy, childbirth, or early motherhood. And that holds especially true for African American women. At 26.4 per 100,000 live births, the U.S. has the worst rate of maternal death in the developed world—by several times over. Even more disquieting, the U.S. rate rose by 136 percent between 1990 and 2013.
Why do so many pregnant women and young mothers die? Your guess is as good as our government’s. We simply don’t know. Even the statistics we have aren’t current, though from all indications the U.S.’s mortality rate is rising, as it is in Afghanistan and Sudan. But in the U.S., the rate has risen by 136 percent between 1990 and 2013.
As fertility rates fall nationwide, Connecticut continues to rank among the lowest in the country—a trend doctors attribute to women here delaying childbearing. In 2016, the most recent year for which state-level data is available, Connecticut had 53.4 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, compared with a national average of 62 per 1,000 women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Just four states had lower rates than Connecticut in 2016, and all are in New England: Vermont at 50.3 births per 1,000 women, New Hampshire at 50.9, Rhode Island at 51.8 and Massachusetts at 51.9. The states with the highest fertility rates in 2016 were South Dakota at 77.7, North Dakota at 77.3, Utah at 76.2 and Alaska at 76.1, the CDC reports. Unlike birth rates, which take an entire population into account, fertility rates reflect the share of babies born to women of childbearing age. Connecticut typically ranks low on the list, along with other “high achievement, high education states,” said Dr. Harold J. Sauer, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale New Haven Health’s Bridgeport Hospital.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 700 women in the United States die each year as a result of pregnancy or pregnancy-related complications, and the rate has more than doubled since 1987. Pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births rose from 7.2 nationally in 1987 to 17.3 in 2013, peaking at 17.8 in 2009 and 2011. In Connecticut, there were eight pregnancy-related deaths from 2011 to 2014. But there’s no data available yet for the years since 2014 and at the moment there are precious few dollars devoted to accessing it
For more on this story by Christine Stuart of ctnewsjunkie.com click here.
A new study—the largest of its kind—says that women who are diagnosed with the most common type of early-stage breast cancer most likely don’t need chemotherapy after they’ve had endocrine (hormone) therapy. The news could lay to rest some anguished conversations between doctors and patients. When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, all medical muscle goes toward eliminating the cancer and reducing the possibility of a recurrence. But for many women, chemotherapy can have disastrous results. This study says that if the additional treatment isn’t necessary—or has little measurable positive effect—many women can skip it.
A growing number of reproductive-age women are taking prescription medication to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), data show, but doctors warn the effects of such drugs on pregnancies are largely unknown. The number of privately insured women nationwide between the ages of 15 and 44 who filled a prescription for an ADHD medication soared 344 percent from 2003 to 2015, from 0.9 percent to 4 percent, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ADHD medication use increased among all age brackets within that group and in all geographic regions, data show. The biggest spikes were seen in women ages 25 to 29, among which medication use jumped 700 percent, from 0.5 percent in 2003 to 4 percent in 2015. The second-largest increase was among women ages 30 to 34, which had a 560 percent increase from 0.5 percent to 3.3 percent, according to the CDC.
During the recent Women’s March in Hartford, Susan Eastwood, a board member of the nonprofit Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in CT, wandered among attendees and asked them about paid family leave. First, she asked women pushing strollers—ostensibly, women in their child-bearing years. They told her compelling stories about not having enough money to take time off from work. But the older women were particularly passionate. They are caring for elderly parents, for adult children with significant medical needs, or they’re batting their own health issues.
An ever-increasing number of women in the state are drinking to excess, state and federal data show. Statewide, female admissions to acute hospital emergency departments for alcohol-related reasons rose by 4.8 percent between fiscal years 2012 and 2016, according to the Connecticut Hospital Association. The female-only Eden Hill Recovery Retreat in Canaan fills an average of 10 to 12 beds per month; earlier in the center’s eight-year history, rarely were there more than eight beds occupied at a time. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine note an increase in the number of women enrolling in studies that examine the effectiveness of a medication to curb one’s desire to drink alcohol. The uptick in problem drinking among women in Connecticut mirrors a national trend.