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For Shame: Physicians Deny Care To Those Who Are Obese And Pregnant

How does one teach compassion? Either you have it or you don’t. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times made me cringe.  In South Florida, fifteen ob-gyn practices out of 105 polled said that would not take care of a pregnant woman who weighed more than 200 to 250 pounds.  The article goes on to describe two ob-gyn business partners who cited malpractice issues and fear of being sued as a reason for excluding obese women in their practice. So, what’s next? Will pregnant women be denied access to care based on bank accounts or zip codes? Where their children attend school? Whether they own a pet? Where do we draw the proverbial line?

One of my most frustrated moments in clinical practice was dealing with an imaging center who had cancelled my patient’s ultrasound procedure because they were “afraid she was going to break their table.” The patient was excited about her first pregnancy and wanted to do everything in her power to have a healthy baby. The first time I met her, she was almost apologetic about her weight. Most obese patients are. My staff had to locate an imaging center that was not only willing to accept the patient but her Medicaid insurance as well. No one should not have to endure that level of humiliation.

Whether we like it or not, Americans are obese and as physicians, we have done very little to reverse that process. I learned more about nutrition from Weight Watchers® then I did in medical school. Read more »

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

Pregnant Women And Exposure To Paint

I came across an article the other day about paint and pregnancy. Yes, that paint — the kind that you put on a canvas or slap on your walls. Did you know that paint is made of pigment particles in a liquid base called a medium? Oil paints are thinned or cleaned with paint thinners. Latex paints are thinned or cleaned with water. Most paint that’s used in the home is latex.

Can environmental forces affected pregnancy? The short answer is “yes,” according to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), whose mission is to study malformations of the unborn.

Regarding paint and pregnancy, the amount of exposure is important. A one-time household exposure causes fewer problems than ongoing exposure through a work setting. And there have been medical studies documenting babies being born with problems if their mothers abused toluene-containing paint in order to “get high.” Toluene is a paint thinner that can cause low birth weight, premature labor, small head size, and developmental delays. Again, these problems only occur if pregnant women have been exposed to very high levels of toluene — much higher levels than exposure based on a hobby or a professional painter.

According to OTIS, working as a painter doesn’t pose concrete risks to the pregnancy. However, any reduction in chemical exposure is always a good thing. Read more »

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

Postpartum Hemorrhage: What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know

Having a baby can be a beautiful thing until something goes wrong. The tragedy is that many high-risk conditions can be managed appropriately if the patient is cooperative and the healthcare provider is competent and well trained. Unfortunately, almost 600 pregnant women die in the U.S. each year from complications and the most common complication is significant blood loss after birth or postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). 

PPH occurs when there is a blood loss of 500 cc or greater for a vaginal delivery and 1,000 cc after a cesarean section (C-section). Or, if you were admitted with a hemoglobin of 12 and it drops by ten points to 11, there should be a high index of suspicion for PPH as well. Therefore, if you feel lightheaded or dizzy, have palpitations or an increased heart rate after delivering a baby, inform the hospital staff immediately.

The most common cause of PPH is uterine atony or lack of contractions after the baby is delivered. Any pregnant condition that stretches the uterus significantly — such as having twins or a higher gestation, excess amniotic fluid (aka polyhydramnios), a prolonged induction of labor (greater than 24 hours) — increases the risk of PPH. Retained products of conception, such as the placenta, also places the patient at risk for developing PPH.

Other risk factors for PPH include:

  • Women with a known placenta previa
  • African-American women
  • Hypertension or preeclampsia
  • Mothers with infants weighing greater than 8.8 pounds (or 4,000 grams)
  • Mothers with greater than seven children
  • Women with a history of hemophilia

If you have any of the risk factors listed above, please be proactive and discuss the possibility of a PPH with your healthcare provider. Read more »

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

The Importance Of Diagnosing Birth Defects

Birth defects, particularly those of the blood vessels, account for the majority of infant deaths, especially after the first week of life. Congenital heart disease (CHD) — meaning defects of the heart – is responsible for one-third of deaths between birth and the first year of life. Therefore, the diagnosis of CHD is critical in order to plan life-saving treatments, such as the proper place for the delivery, the type of delivery, and its timing. If it’s known in advance that an unborn baby has a heart problem and is delivered in a hospital that provides special care, its survival and future health will increase dramatically.

Who’s at risk for having CHD and which expectant moms should have further evaluation? Families who have a history of CHD — especially mothers, fathers, and siblings — should receive genetic counseling. Multiple medical studies over the past fifteen years have demonstrated the significance of genetics as a main culprit of CHD. Parents of a child with CHD have a two percent to three percent chance of having another affected child. If a mother or father has CHD, a fetal cardiac echo (an ultrasound of the heart) is definitely warranted.

Because the treatment of CHD in many cases is surgical, there’s an increasing number of patients who have survived into adulthood and have ultimately become parents. Research has documented that 4.1 percent of their children will have CHD. Children with mothers who have CHD are at a greater risk of inheriting the disease than if they have fathers with CHD. Mothers with cyanotic heart disease — that is, blood that is without oxygen that bypasses the lungs and goes directly to the blood vessels — also have a greater risk of having a baby with CHD. Read more »

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

Artificial Sweeteners And Telling Pregnant Women “In Moderation”

I can already tell that this pregnancy is different from my first. When I was pregnant with Little Isis, I drank no caffeine and took no over-the-counter medication. I remember having a few headaches and Mr. Isis fighting with me to take a headache pill. I would then proclaim dramatically, “But I can’t! What if it hurts the baby?!”

This morning, now pregnant with my second, I washed down a Zyrtec and two Tylenol with a cup of coffee. The little bugger is going to have to grow up with Little Isis. He might as well start building up his tolerance to exogenous substances at some point. I figure, now that its got a closed neural tube and a beating heart, we might as well begin.

Still, you can’t blame a pregnant woman for being a bit neurotic. The feeling that one is solely responsible for the well-being of a developing creature, combined with often contradictory advice, is enough to make anyone nuts. Most online advice is completely and utterly useless. Take this answer from Russell Turk, M.D. on the popular pregnancy website BabyCenter in response to the common question, “Is it safe to drink diet soda during pregnancy?” He answers:

Diet sodas often contain both caffeine and an artificial sweetener. There are several types of artificial sweeteners you may see on nutrition labels:

Aspartame (NutraSweet): Seems to be okay when consumed in moderation (the amount found in one or two 12-ounce servings of soda per day).

Saccharin (Sweet’n Low): Saccharin was found to cause birth defects in laboratory rats when consumed in very high amounts. Because its safety in smaller amounts is hard to prove, I would advise avoiding it.

Sucralose (Splenda): This relatively new sweetener, a modified form of regular table sugar, appears to be safe. But because it hasn’t been extensively studied, it’s best used in moderation.

It’s generally bad advice and leaves one wondering: “What is moderation? Will one soda hurt my baby? Will two sodas hurt my baby? How about three?” The default answer when we don’t know seems to be to tell women to do things in “moderation.” This places the sole responsibility on her to know what moderation means, and allows her to feel the guilt if something goes wrong. I think that these imprecise answers leave many women feeling helpless and afraid. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Brain Confounds Everything*

Latest Interviews

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

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