Women's Health Watch

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Counseling Aids Postpartum Depression

Talk therapy and caring communication can help new mothers struggling with postpartum depression without the need for antidepressants, showed 2 studies reported in the January 16, 2009, online edition of BMJ.

In the first study, the researchers randomly assigned 418 mothers with postpartum depression to undergo 1-hour weekly visits for up to 8 weeks from a health care provider who delivered counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (sometimes referred to as talk therapy), or traditional postnatal care. The results found that at 6 months and 12 months, the mothers who received counseling or therapy had significant reductions in depression.

The second study looked at the benefit of telephone support to prevent postpartum depression. For this study, 701 women at high risk for postpartum depression were randomly assigned to standard postnatal care plus telephone support from women who had experienced postpartum depression. The researchers found that women who received peer support were 50% less prone to develop postpartum depression 12 weeks after giving birth.



New Moms Should Get Whooping Cough Vaccine

The recent comeback of whooping cough (pertussis) has prompted health experts to recommend that all new mothers receive the vaccine to protect against this illness before taking their newborns home from the hospital.

Few physicians, however, mention the shot to their patients. Infants, who are not vaccinated until 2 months old, are more vulnerable to whooping cough, explained study coauthor Tina Tan, MD. She said that half of babies with whooping cough get the illness from their parents, while an additional 25% to 35% get the cough from another member of the household.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that adults get vaccinated with a combination shot that guards against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. The findings were recently reported in Obstetrics & Gynecology.



Donated Kidneys Go to Younger Women

A new study, reported online January 7, 2009, in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, found disparities among women and kidney transplants. The findings were based on a review of >560,000 adults with advanced kidney disease reported to the United States Renal Data System and the United Network for Organ Sharing between 2000 and 2005.

The data showed that for women aged 18 to 45 years, access to kidney transplantation was equal to that of men. Women aged 56 to 65 had 15% less access, compared with men of the same age. Women between 65 and 75 years old had 29% less access, and women older than 75 years had 59% less access.

The researchers hypothesized that patients and physicians may see older and sicker women to be too weak to withstand a major surgical procedure.



Women Cannot Control Hunger

An analysis of brain scans on 13 women and 10 men showed that women are less able to suppress hunger when faced with their favorite foods, compared with men.

For the study, the participants were quizzed on their favorite foods and then were asked to fast overnight. The following day, they underwent brain scans while being presented with their favorite foods. The patients also used a cognitive inhibition technique.

Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (January 21, 2009), the researchers found that, whereas both men and women said the technique decreased their hunger, the brain scans showed that the men’s brain activity decreased, while the part of the women’s brains that responds to food stayed active.



Meet Exercise Goals with Self-Regulation

A self-regulation technique, which combines 2 cognitive-behavioral therapy strategies, may help women stick with their intentions to get more physical activity.

In mental contrasting, individuals name the way they want to change their behavior, spell out the best possible outcome of this behavior, and then name and envision the obstacle most likely to stand in the way of reaching their goal. In implementation intentions, individuals put their plans into “if-then” formats to help them make specific plans for attaining their goals and overcoming any challenges.

The study found that women who had self-regulation training were more conditioned to follow through with their intentions to be more active. The findings were reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (January 2009).

F A S T   F A C T: Women in nonmetropolitan areas generally have access to fewer health care resources.