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Friday, May 11th, 2012

2012 -- The All-Male Leadership of ACOG

I just returned from the 60th Annual Clinical meeting of ACOG (Women’s Health Physicians).  I can’t explain it, but after being a member for over 30 years, it bothered me to no end to see ALL men on the dais as representatives of women’s health as if women couldn’t make policy about their own health.  When I was a resident, 95% of obstetricians were male.  Now, women comprise over 46% of practicing obstetricians and almost 80% of the OB/GYN resident physicians, YET all you see in the  governing body and officers (who set policy for the care of women) are 12 elderly Caucasian males.   Their very presence as leaders do not reflect the diversity of the ACOG membership today, yet there they are. No Blacks, No women, No minorities.  It’s as if ACOG were stuck in a time warp of 60 years ago!!  Since 1951, there have been only two female Presidents of the College and the last one was almost twenty years ago!  It seems so anachronistic and so wrong.

The male obstetricians have had the power to dictate and oversee women’s health for decades and it appears that they are NOT relinquishing it to any female any time soon; even if it pertains to women’s health!! It is a shame that in the 21st century, no one at ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) is reaching out for inclusion of women and minorities in its upper echelons.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

Introduction of ACOG’s leadership

HPV infections usually resolve on their own

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

It’s become common practice among some OB-GYNs to test for HPV, the human papilloma virus, due to the association of some strains of this sexually transmitted infection (STI) with cervical cancer.

But testing of women under the age of 30 is inadvisable. Because, although at least half of all sexually active men and women will get genital HPV at some point in their lives, the immune system will fight off and remove most of these infections from the body with no treatment. Seventy percent are gone within a year and 90 percent within two years.

It’s that 10 percent of cases we have to watch for. Some of those will lead to precancerous lesions in the cervix which, if left untreated, can develop into cervical cancer. But this process takes from 15 to 20 years. So, testing women under 30 for HPV leads to false positives, more testing, and perhaps invasive procedures in women who are at little or no risk of developing cervical cancer from HPV.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) therefore recommends that women under 30 not be tested for this STI, and I agree. If a woman under 30 has one of the high risk types of HPV, and if it persists, there will be ample time to find it and treat it. If she has one of the lower risk strains, it will probably be gone with no intervention within a year or two.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Pregnant or new mom and feeling depressed? Get help now.

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Pregnancy and childbirth alter the hormonal balance, which may explain why depression is so common at this stage of women’s lives. Up to 23 percent of pregnant women experience symptoms of depression and that figure rises to up to 25 percent among new mothers.

Many women decide to simply suffer through it without seeking help, but that could be a big mistake. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

“… untreated maternal depression negatively affects an infant’s cognitive, neurologic, and motor skill development. A mother’s untreated depression can also negatively impact older children’s mental health and behavior.”

Everyone feels sad some of the time. It’s normal to have a bad day. But if your bad day stretches into weeks, for your own sake and the sake of your baby, you need to get help. If you don’t have a therapist, ask your ob-gyn for a referral if you experience feelings of hopelessness, sadness or despair. Don’t suffer needlessly. Help is available.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Leading Ob-Gyn Group Backs Findings of My Weight Gain in Pregnancy Study

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Last June, in the Journal of the National Medical Association, I published the results of clinical trials that showed that it was safe for obese pregnant women who followed a well-balanced diet to gain little or no weight. Prior to my study, the conventional wisdom was that all women, even obese ones, should gain 26 to 35 pounds. That guidance had come from the most august body of ob-gyns in the U.S., The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), whose recommendations were based upon what we knew in the 1980s. That was before we fully understood the dangers of obesity in pregnancy. Yet, the guidelines had never been updated.

Being obese during pregnancy greatly increases the risks of preeclampsia, diabetes, stillbirth, and blood clots, among other problems. Gaining more weight if you’re already obese makes complications more likely while limiting weight gain makes them less so.

But until my study was published, obstetricians lacked the evidence that limiting weight gain among pregnant women was safe. The ACOG’s guidance from the 1980s stated that, unless a woman, obese or not, gained at least 26 pounds, the baby in her womb would be at risk of dying.

Right before my study results were published, a government body recommended that obese women gain somewhat less weight: between 11 and 20 pounds. It was a start but still not enough. And most board certified obstetricians would wait for the ACOG to – you’ll excuse the pun – weigh in before they changed their practices.

I’m delighted to say that, in a commentary in the peer-reviewed journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the ACOG has just come out in favor of limiting weight gain among obese pregnant women. My study, which was quoted in the commentary, appears to have been instrumental in effecting this turnaround.

Now that the ACOG is changing its recommendations, obstetricians are more likely to change how they manage their patients. Fewer women will be told that it’s fine to gain weight during pregnancy if you’re already obese. And that will mean healthier moms and healthier babies.

I’m proud to have played a role in helping to make this happen.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Why you MUST get a gynecological exam every year. Period.

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

You may have heard that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has just come out with new guidelines for how often women should get Pap smears. Rather than discussing the details of the guidelines, I want to stress one essential fact:

A Pap smear is not an annual pelvic exam. It’s just one small segment. If you’re over 21, you must still get a pelvic examination each year, every year, for as long as you live. Some years the Pap test will be part of the examination and some years, it may not be. Whether you get a Pap has nothing to do with whether you need to be examined.

You do. Here’s why.

During your annual pelvic exam, your physician evaluates you for many diseases and disorders that have nothing to do with Pap smears or cervical cancer. Among the most critical that your doctor checks for are ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and vulvar cancer.

If caught early, such cancers are highly treatable. If left undetected for years, as I fear might happen should women skip pelvic exams in years when they don’t get Pap tests, such cancers can be killers.

So, no matter what you’ve heard about the change in the guidelines for Pap smears, the take-away is that this change should not affect your behavior in any way; it’s merely guidance for your doctor.

Get your annual pelvic exam as you have in the past. Let your doctor decide whether the Pap should be part of it every two years or three years or if that particular test is necessary after age 70.

Remember that you’re not going to the doctor for just one test that detects just one type of cancer. You’re going to ensure that you’re in good gynecological health, and to get treated promptly if your doctor finds anything wrong.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH