t’s been a big year for women in news, with the rise of #MeToo and a better understanding of the hurdles women face in getting to the top spots in biopharma and health care. But what about women’s health? We looked back at our year of coverage and picked out 10 of our favorite stories.
Pregnancy is a medical black box in many ways, including in drug safety. For ethical reasons, we don’t test medicines on pregnant women and fetuses, and drug development lags when it comes to women’s diseases. A federal task force is studying medication use during pregnancy, but in the meantime, women and their doctors face a daunting decision: will my efforts to stay healthy harm me or my child?
In a year of increased attention to women dying in and just after childbirth, one Texas legislator wanted to turn her own experience into action to address how this issue disproportionately affects black women. Rep. Shawn Thierry, who said she suffered a strong and terrifying reaction to an epidural, authored the bill, which passed the House and was sent to the state Senate at the end of the legislative year.
As Zika virus infections continued in 2017, there came this frustrating revelation: testing has had its share of troubles. This has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to suggest multiple tests for pregnant women and to ask women in Zika-affected areas who are thinking of getting pregnant to get tested for Zika antibodies before they conceive, so clinicians can have a baseline for understanding test results later on.
For two women with metastatic breast cancer, a support group led to an incredible friendship that spanned a decade. As one of the women entered hospice, the other continued to be a presence in her life, witnessing her last moments. And at the end of each meeting of the group that brought them together, participants held a moment of silence and solidarity.
It was supposed to test an inexpensive way to spot cervical cancer in the developing world, but a clinical trial in India using community health workers and vinegar to identify women at risk has come under fire — and the resulting paper has been retracted — for issues related to informed consent and poor study design. The trial is one of three that have stoked controversy in India’s efforts to stem cervical cancer, including one funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In 2017, a telemedicine app that offers birth control continued expanding into conservative America, offering emergency contraception through the work of remote physicians. Nurx is already available in 15 states and Washington D.C., but as the company grows, it’s stirring a backlash.
While on assignment in Burkina Faso, a STAT reporter visited a women’s clinic trying to help women avoid back-to-back pregnancy through the use of non-hormonal contraception. A new law in the African nation gives women free health care for up to six weeks after birth, and in an overflowing waiting room, a team of roughly one dozen staffers works with women — and their mother-in-laws — to dispel myth and prevent abortion.
Many companies offer genetic tests that claim to help the test taker understand their risks of disease. This one claims to offer women information to help them understand their fertility, or lack thereof. But is this test legit? Or does it simply add to the anxiety many women feel about their fertility?
In the quest to have a healthy child, many parents choose genetic testing of embryos before implantation to rule out the most devastating of diseases. But what about genetic markers that portend later disease? It’s an ethical minefield for parents and clinicians, a decision made ever harder when the alternative is not being able to have a child at all.
Concussion affects women differently, and it’s been a challenge finding enough post-mortem brains to learn more about it. Enter Gina Danger, a MMA fighter, very much alive, who is part of a research project geared toward understanding the earliest aspects of brain trauma. Danger told STAT she’s not worried about her brain health right now, and not sure what she would do if her scans show signs of damage. She’s drawn to the fight, she says, for better, or for worse.