Prosthesis approved to help women with bladder muscle contraction

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today allowed marketing of the inFlow Intraurethral Valve-Pump, a replaceable urinary prosthesis for use in female adults who cannot contract the muscles necessary to push urine out of the bladder (impaired detrusor contractility or IDC).

IDC is a condition where patients are unable to spontaneously urinate due to insufficient bladder muscle contraction, which can result from significant neurologic disease or injury such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, spina bifida or diabetic neuropathy. IDC is typically managed with various types of catheters, including clean intermittent catheterization (CIC).

“The inFlow device allows women with IDC to urinate, without the need to catheterize daily or be attached to a urine drainage bag,” said William Maisel, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director for science and chief scientist in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “This may allow for increased mobility and the ability to be more self-sufficient.”

To read more click HERE.

Still time to comment on Sex Inclusion in Research

Today, NIH released a Guide Notice (NOT-OD-15-012) announcing that the response date for the Request for Information “Consideration of Sex As a Biological Variable in Biomedical Research,” has been extended to October 24th. If you have not had a chance to submit your thoughts, please do so by October 24th.

The issue of including more females in all level of research (cells, animals and human) has been a major national story…and an important one!   This request is part of the usual process for federal implementation and the more people who comment, the more likely the government will move quickly toward changing policies.

Apple and Facebook Announce Egg Freezing Health Coverage

In a bold announcement today, Apple and Facebook now will offer health coverage for their women employees to freeze their eggs. Egg freezing may enable women to protect and preserve their fertility—and with the steep price of $10,000+, this coverage may be seen as a significant investment in family planning, while others may see this as concerning. Climbing the corporate ladder while raising a family can be a significant barrier for many women and the health coverage to freeze one’s eggs can provide women with the choice and freedom to devote time to work and to one’s family. However, some argue this potentially pushing women to focus on their careers as primary and family as secondary.

Egg-freezing has reportedly doubled over the past year as women continue to seek this as a solution to longer fertility years. Indeed, the option to freeze one’s eggs has spurred feelings of empowerment in women, Emma Rosenblum even writing, “Not since the birth control pill has a medical technology had such potential to change family and career planning.” Women often report barriers surrounding a seeming choice between work or family. The action of Apple and Facebook is intended to alleviate some stress surrounding career and family planning, while empowering women with the more choices and control in life. While positive in their intentions, some may read Apple’s and Facebook’s new announcement as potentially implying that women should focus on their careers first and family planning second. Whatever the implications, this is certainly an game-changing announcement.

Source: NBC News


Pregnancy Possible during Perimenopause

Perimenopause  is the time when a women naturally starts having menopausal symptoms.  This natural change usually lasts about a year and is often referred to as the ‘menopause transition’.  At  this time, fertility declines but a woman may still get pregnant, and effective birth control should be used if she does not want to have a mid-life baby.  Generally, after a year of no menses, a woman can be considered infertile and menopausal.

There are several appropriate birth control methods recommended for perimenopausal women:

  • Hormonal oral contraceptives
  • Non-oral hormonal contraceptives (ring, patch, injection)
  • Intrauterine devices (IUD)
  • Sterilization
  • Barrier Methods (diaphragm, spermicide, sponge, condoms) though these require some discipline to be effective.

Natural family planning method (rhythm) is not recommended during perimenopause because women have irregular periods during this phase and it is hard to predict ovulation.  Emergency contraception is a back up option but it should not be considered as a regular birth control method.

Hormonal oral contraceptives have some benefits during this time including more regular cycles, less cramps and bleeding during periods, decreased risk of certain cancers and maintenance of bone strength.  It may also help with hot flashes and acne outbreaks that are common when hormones are fluctuating.   There are also some risks of oral contraceptives during perimenopause.  They include increased risk of blood clots (especially if a smoker or diabetic), some withdrawal bleeding, and delayed confirmation when menopause is reached.

To learn more about menopause, visit

Source:  North American Menopause Society


Northwestern Medicine to focus on fibroids

Uterine fibroids are the most common noncancerous tumors in women of childbearing age and the second most common reason these women undergo surgery. Uterine fibroids can lead to significant pain, bleeding, and fertility problems. Treatment options include watchful waiting; treatment with drugs or hormones, embolization, or ultrasound; and invasive procedures such as partial or total hysterectomy. However, there is little evidence about the effectiveness of these therapies or their outcomes, including fibroid reoccurrence and women’s ability to have children.

Northwestern Medicine will be one of ten investigational sites for a landmark study that seeks to improve the way uterine fibroids, one of the most prevalent health issues impacting women, are treated.

Erica E. Marsh, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist with Northwestern Fertility and Reproductive Medicine, serves as the principal investigator for Northwestern’s portion of the $20 million research project, which evaluates the effectiveness of different treatment strategies for women with uterine fibroids by building a national database tracking patients, treatments and outcomes.

“Right now there’s very, very little clinical trial data on fibroid outcomes,” said Marsh, who is also an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology-Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This type of study with a huge sample size in the thousands across the nation will allow us to start to tease apart some of those questions we’ve always asked ourselves as physicians who take care of women with fibroids. What can I tell my patients about the risk of occurrence after one treatment versus another? The impact on fertility? The likelihood that her symptoms will return? Having this type of outcomes data will allow us to answer some of those questions.”

OTC Medication Can Affect your Driving

Last Spring, CBS 60 Minutes, highlighted the fact that a popular prescription sleeping pill, Ambien, was causing next morning impaired driving in women.    This finding eventually resulted in the FDA halving the recommented dosage for women on the label.  Had the drug been well studied in both sexes, this difference would have been noted earlier in the discovery process with less adverse effects reported.  Now, there are steps being taken at the NIH and FDA to ensure both sexes are adequately included in drug and devices studies.

What about other drugs, especially those that are available over the counter?  Can they affect your driving?  It is important that you read the DRUG FACTS that come with the OTC medication especially the “active ingredient”  and the “warning” sections.   The “when using this product” section will include warnings about drowsiness or impaired driving.

Some of the most common OTC drugs that can cause drowsiness and impair driving include:

  • Antihistamines (used to treat cold symptoms, congestion, allergic symptoms)
  • Antidiarrheals (e.g. Imodium)
  • Anti-emetics (used to treat nausea, motion sickness, etc).

Source:  Food & Drug Administration


How much sugar is too much?

Who doesn’t like something sweet like a cupcake?   But how much is too much?  Our bodies need one type of sugar:   glucose!  It’s an important source of fuel for the body.

You don’t have to add glucose to your diet because your body can make it by breaking down food molecules from carbohydrates, proteins and fat.  Most of the sugars we consume are not just those that occur naturally in food (e.g., fruits, vegetable, and milk).   That would be okay.   Unfortunately, about 15% of the calories we eat come from sugars added during the processing or preparation of food. Added sugars can make your diet high in calories without any health benefits—adding weight but not essential nutrients.  The leading sources of unhealthy sugars are from soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks.

Over time, excess sweeteners can lead to poorer health especially in the form of obesity and cardiovascular problems.

So, are artificial sweeteners a healthy substitute?  To date, researchers have found no clear evidence that any approved sweeteners in the U.S. cause cancer or other serious problems.  The evidence on whether or not they help with weight loss is mixed.  While some people lose weight when substituting sweeteners for real sugar, the effect is usually short term, with weight creeping back on over time.

Researchers are exploring whether artificial sweeteners can affect healthy microbes in the gut and whether they alter the body’s ability to use glucose.   Other researchers are studying the effect of sweeteners on the brain’s reward circuitry which may lead to the intensity of a sweet which leads to a higher craving for sweets.  More to come on these studies!

Most experts agree that the key to good health is a well-balanced diet with a variety of natural foods and plenty of exercise.  Some suggestions for cutting unneeded sugar:

  • Drink water, fat free milk, unsweetened tea/coffee instead of sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks.
  • Reduce sugar in recipes (add 2/3 c instead of 1 c sugar)
  • Enhance flavor by using vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.
  • Eat fresh, canned, frozen and dried fruit without added sugar.
  • Use fruit to top cereal, pancakes, and toast instead of syrup, jam or sweet toppings
  • Pick foods with no or low sugar  (read labels)

Source:  NIH News in Health


Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and, in the city of Chicago there are many ways to get involved.  Classes, races, walks, performances, and seminars are scattered throughout the month of October. If you live in the Chicagoland area and want to honor breast cancer survivors, learn more, or raise awareness and funding to continue combating this cancer, be sure to check Eventbrite’s Breast Cancer Conferences calendar to see what’s going on in your area.  Your Northwestern community is also conducting symposiums and meetings on breast cancer this month.


If your schedule is too full for events, taking the PLEDGE is a simple way to educate yourself and others about breast cancer. The PLEDGE involves:

  • Prevention—ask your doctor and identify ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer
  • Learning—do your own research to increase your knowledge
  • Examination—get screened for breast cancer
  • Density—speak with your doctor about your breasts’ density to determine which screening approach is appropriate
  • Genetics—discuss your family history of breast cancer with your doctor to analyze your potential level of risk
  • Educate—teach others to take the PLEDGE

Over the course of a lifetime, a woman has a 12.3% risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Speak with your doctor, educate yourself, and educate others.

Source: ABC News

Research May Indicate HIV Diagnosis Reversal at Birth

A new drug treatment administered to HIV positive babies at birth shows high success rates in reversing an HIV positive diagnosis. While HIV positive mothers in the United States rarely pass HIV along to their children (due to preventative drugs and procedures), the likelihood of HIV positive babies being born in other parts of the world is still troubling. Research indicates that roughly 330,000 babies are infected with HIV each year. Women in less-developed countries are less likely to be treated during pregnancy, and therefore a post-birth option for HIV prevention or remission could be groundbreaking.

Babies in this trial received a high dose of AZT, 3TC, and nevirapine and were found to be HIV-negative and sero-reverted after being born with HIV. Researchers still need to closely monitor the children as they grow older to observe any long-term effects. While some researchers still remain skeptical, advising further research, these results could be an early indication of a game-changer in HIV prevention.

Source: The New York Times


President Obama Supports Women in STEM

President Obama’s speech on economy delivered today at Northwestern University emphasized the support of women as one tactic to improve our economy. President Obama stated, “Let’s inspire and support more women in growing fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.” Women are still underrepresented in certain STEM fields and medical disciplines. Furthermore, despite women outpacing men with undergraduate and graduate diplomas, they are still entering the workforce with lower salaries than men. Obama stated that ensure women’s equal pay will not only help women, but “it’ll give their families and the entire economy a boost.”

Obama’s speech emphasized strengthening our economy though multiple outlets, including healthcare, education, energy and technology. The President’s comments on equal pay for women and support of women in male-dominated fields was met with applause. As Obama stated, it’s time to “catch up to 2014″ and start giving women equal support to succeed and advance.

Read President Obama’s full speech here: The Wall Street Journal