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Do Childless Couples Have An Increased Risk Of Death And Mental Illness?

I hate scientific studies that don’t investigate the assumptions on which they’re based.  They do harm.  The findings slither around and get into the heads of people who treat people for the issues the research purports to understand.  And the misconceptions become protocol.  Here’s one example:

The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health published an article declaring a connection between childlessness and increased risk of death and mental illness.

Among the findings:

  • Having a child cut the risk of early death, particularly among women.
  • The early death rate from circulatory disease, cancers, and accidents among childless women was four times as high as that among those who gave birth to their own child, and 50% lower among women who adopted.
  • Similarly, rates of death were around twice as high among men who did not become parents, either biologically or through adoption.
  • The prevalence of mental illness in couples who adopted kids was around half that of other parents.

What the study states but doesn’t investigate is that for their research they used:  ”population-based health and social registers, we conducted a follow-up study of 21 276 childless couples in in vitro fertility treatment.”

Do you hear the sound of “WHAT!??!” beginning to reverberate?

Might it be that couples who have been living in the infertility system for months, maybe years and have had their original life script expectations erased, have had doctors and drugs and timetables invade their intimate time, have spent gobs of money, and have had repeated cycles of devastating disappointment may be in a very different state than couples who have CHOSEN not to have children?

And let me state my assumption up front.  Choosing not to have children is not dysfunctional.  It’s not a psychological condition.  It’s not an ethical/moral lapse.  It’s not a sign of immaturity or selfishness.  It’s a legitimate choice.

It may be that the researchers’ findings do apply to couples who undergo infertility treatment in order to have a child.

But there is harm in assuming that all couples who don’t have children are at higher risk for death and mental illness.


This post originally appeared at Barbara’s blog, In Sickness As In Health.

Complications Following The Birth Of Twins Result In The Mother’s Death

It’s an obstetrician’s worst nightmare and it continues to happen on a daily basis. The story of Michal Lura Friedman brings tears to my eyes. After 7 years of trying, the 44 year old songwriter finally became pregnant –with twins. Her husband, Jay Snyder, a free-lance voice-over artist, describes the 9 months of Friedman’s pregnancy as pure bliss. However towards the end, her blood pressure became elevated so she was scheduled to have a C. Section the day after Thanksgiving.

Snyder accompanied his wife to the hospital and witnessed the birth of his babies. Then Friedman began to bleed. And bleed. And bleed. At 9:30 p.m., she became yet another U.S. maternal mortality statistic.

At least 2 women die from complications of childbirth in the US daily. Some celebrities such as Christy Turlington Burns have become a Maternal Health Advocate as a result of first-hand experience. She Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Considering The Miracle Of Birth During This Holiday Season

When I think about Christmas, I instinctively think about the miracle of birth. Four million miracles (aka births) happen in our country each year and many more occur globally. On a hot summer night in the urban community of Harlem almost 30 years ago, I witnessed my first miracle as a volunteer and was never the same again.  The mother was a young teen who had been pushing for approximately forty-five minutes. She suddenly let out a piercing scream and out popped the hairy head of baby who started to wail. The mother sat straight up and peered down at the baby whose body had yet to be delivered. The delivery nurse admonished her to lie back down so that the baby could be delivered properly. Oh what a humorous and miraculous sight. I was in complete awe. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

History In The Making: Can Womb Transplant Be Successful?

Infertility or the inability to have a baby can be devastating and affects approximately 10 percent of the female population. There are many conditions that prevent women from having children including Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome (or MKHS). MKHS is a rare disorder that affects a woman’s ability to conceive. At present, for every 10,000 women, only 1 to 2 will be affected. Both Sara Ottoson of Sweden and Melina Arnold of Australia have this condition. MKHS is characterized by the absence of a vagina and part of the cervix. Patients with this condition have normal breast development and functioning ovaries. Genetically, they also have female or double X-chromosomes and look like normal women. The problem comes to light during adolescence when a teen fails to have a period. The condition is also known as Vaginal Agenesis because they are born without a true vagina, a problem that can be corrected through surgical and non-surgical procedures. Unfortunately, they are unable to have children and usually Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

The Amazing Patient Stories That Keep You Humbled

There are some patients that keep you humbled. Barbara Tate was one of those patients. With a shopping list of chronic conditions a mile long, she was told she could never carry a baby because she had miscarried two during her early 20’s. She suffered the hammer blows of diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and asthma.  And it doesn’t stop there. Tate also had a history of two slipped disks, a cellulitis infection and a non-cancerous tumor on her adrenal gland. In fact she was scheduled to have surgery until she discovered she was pregnant at the age of 43. She was strongly encouraged to terminate the pregnancy because of her multiple medical conditions but she didn’t. Tate viewed her pregnancy as a miracle and for all intent purposes, it was. After age 37, there is a rapid decline in the ability to conceive although not impossible.

Her baby was born three months early and it appears that she was unaware of the classic signs of premature labor. On the day of her child’s birth, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

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