Thursday, August 21, 2014

Want to Get Pregnant? Reconsider Using The Pill To Prevent It Before

If you are ever thinking of becoming pregnant, you might not want to take the pill.

That's because a new study has found that not only does it shrink your ovaries, it also reduces the number of eggs you will have for the rest of your life.

According to, the birth control pill significantly affects ovarian reserve— or the number of immature eggs in a woman’s ovaries— which can be a predictor of future fertility.

A team in Denmark, who reported this to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting last month, said that two markers for ovarian reserve are markedly suppressed after prolonged birth control pill use, and ovaries are also markedly shrunken after prolonged pill use.

“During the last three years we have counseled 900 women, and 300 men, about their ability to conceive naturally,” team leader Kathrine Birch Petersen told Bioscience Technology via email. “The proportion of oral contraceptive users was 28 percent. We were surprised to find several young women with apparent diminished ovarian reserve parameters (ovarian volume, AFC and AMH). We found out it was due to the pill.”

Birch Peterson’s Fertility Assessment and Counseling Clinic at Copenhagen University Hospital, a public clinic in the Capital Region of Denmark, was founded "due to the increasing number of fertility treatments in Denmark,” says Birch Petersen. “Every tenth child is born after assisted reproduction.”

Her team decided to assess the reliability of preconception lifestyle and biological factors as predictors of fertility. Available evidence, which the new study does not challenge, has indicated that reproductive cycles return after a few months post-pill, with pregnancy likely among younger women within about six months.

But one concern for women taking birth control pills long term has been whether reproductive status is masked by them, according to

The phrase “ovarian reserve” refers to the ability of ovaries to churn out oocytes (eggs) that can be fertilized.  The Danish group found that ovarian reserves of women on the pill were much lower than those not on it, and ovarian volume was significantly smaller by between 29 and 52 percent— with the greatest shrinkage occurring in women aged 19 to 29.9 years.

The study looked at 833 women (aged 19 to 46 years) attending the Fertility Assessment and Counseling Clinic from August 2011 to April 2012, both users and non-users of birth control pills. About 30 percent were former pill users.

Birch Petersen’s team does not believe these changes are permanent. But as a result of the study, she said, women who are trying to get pregnant through the clinic who have been on the contraceptive pill are now advised that their ovaries may look older and smaller, and may possess only a few small  follicles, necessary for pregnancy, for a period of time after stopping.  This likely does not reflect future fertility for most women.

But it could matter to women undergoing premature menopause. Naturally diminished ovarian reserves could be masked by the effects of the pill, making it almost impossible to get pregnant. 

Don't Panic But Children's Colds Can Lead to Stroke

Yet one more thing to worry about.

Doctors are now finding that children's colds may lead to a risk of stroke.

According to, a new study suggests that colds and other minor infections may temporarily increase stroke risk in children.

 But before you panic, doctors say, don't.

“While the study does show an increased risk, the overall risk of stroke among children is still extremely low,” said Lars Marquardt, MD, DPhil, of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, who wrote a corresponding editorial. “Minor infections are very common in children while strokes are thankfully very rare. Parents should not be alarmed whatsoever if a child catches a simple cold.”

The study found that the risk of stroke was increased only within a three-day time frame between doctors’ visits for signs of infection and stroke, when it studied children who had colds which led to  strokes. A total of 10 of the 102 children who had a stroke had a doctor visit for an infection within three days of the stroke, or 9.8 percent, while only two of the 306 control participants, or 0.7 percent, had an infection during the same time period. The children who had strokes were 12 times more likely to have had an infection within the previous three days than the children without strokes. The total number of infections over a two-year period was not associated with increased stroke risk.

“These findings suggest that infection has a strong but short-lived effect on stroke risk,” said study author Heather J. Fullerton, MD, MAS, with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco. “We’ve seen this increase in stroke risk from infection in adults, but until now, an association has not been studied in children. It is possible that inflammatory conditions contribute more to the stroke risk in children, however, further research is needed to explore this possible association.”

Small Wedding = Divorce?

We had 10 people at our wedding.

Now a new study says the more people who witness your union, the better your chances for a happy marriage.

Uh oh.

(Disclaimer: we've been married 20 years.)

The study found that the more people who attend your wedding to share in the launch of your marriage, the better the chances you will be happily married years down the road. And, somewhat counter-intuitively, the more relationships you had prior to your marriage, the less likely you are to report a high-quality marriage, according to

 "The study challenges the idea that 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas' – the general notion that what happens in one’s younger years, before marriage, stays there and doesn’t impact the remainder of one’s life," newswise reports.

How people conduct their romantic lives before they tie the knot is linked to their odds of having happy marriages, the study’s authors argue. Past experiences, especially when it comes to love, sex and children, are associated with future marital quality.

Here's where I dispute that again.  Growing up in the "make love not war" generation in the 70s,  everyone had multiple partners, including my husband and me.  And we're still together (we've actually been together 31 years).

We've even beaten another divorce-enhancing stat -- we lived together before we got married.  For 10 years.

Study co-author Galena K. Rhoades, research associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver, said, “In most areas, more experience is better. You’re a better job candidate with more experience, not less. When it comes to relationship experience, though, we found that having more experience before getting married was associated with lower marital quality.”

Here's why: the more relationships you have, the more you can compare your spouse to those who came before. (Disclaimer:  Sometimes I do.)  Marriage involves leaving behind other options, which may be harder to do with a lot of experience, the researchers say.

More relationship experiences prior to marriage also means more experience breaking up, which may make for a more jaundiced view of love and relationships, Rhoades said. It’s also possible that some people have personality characteristics – such as liking to take risks or being harder to get along with – that both increase their odds of having many relationship experiences and decrease their odds of marital success, she added.

I'm much more excited by change than my husband.  I love variety and new experiences.  He, not so much.  But we've made it work -- you could say his steadiness offsets my fondness for risk-taking.

So, is there hope for us?  Since I've spent the majority of my adult life with my husband, I don't see too many chances of us going our separate ways, even without the DJ and dessert table and asking for cash gifts.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Risk -- Even Just The Thought of It Hurts Women More Than Men

A new study has found that women see risk a lot more negatively than men.

According to, "Risky situations increase anxiety for women but not for men, leading women to perform worse under these circumstances."

“On the surface, risky situations may not appear to be particularly disadvantageous to women, but these findings suggest otherwise,” the Web site quotes study author Susan R. Fisk, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Stanford University, who defines a risky situation as any setting with an uncertain outcome in which there can be both positive or negative results, depending on some combination of skill and chance.

And it doesn't have to be whether it's only just when you consider jumping out of an airplane with only a parachute on your back.  

According to Fisk, people often think of an extreme physical or financial risk when they think about a “risky situation.” Yet, in reality, people encounter risky situations all of the time. Fisk cites raising one’s hand to offer an idea at a meeting full of judgmental co-workers, giving a boss feedback on his or her performance, and volunteering for a difficult workplace assignment as examples of risky situations.

 My husband has never been a risk-taker (other than marrying me, of course).  He likes going to the same restaurant every Sunday night in the same town, our one night out, and we've been doing it for about 15 years.  Ever since the OTHER restaurant we used to go to closed down.

I, on the other hand, changed jobs about every two or three years when I was younger, on the other hand, even taking a stab at my own business (but I was very lucky, taking the huge corporation I worked for with me as a client).

But it's not so true today.  My husband, who's in his 60s, has had to reinvent himself.  He's a dentist in a world turned upside down (for practitioners) because of Obamacare.  So he's decided to start diagnosing patients for sleep apnea -- a great idea, but one which has come with a huge price tag.  Courses.  Equipment.  Travel.  And what if it doesn't work?

Shockingly, he's the one looking on the bright side.  I'm the one stewing about losing the house.  It's funny how we've switched places.  Of course, bringing a child into the world, as I did, 13 years ago may have something to do with that!

Fisk studied women in four groups, giving them scenarios ranging from risky (giving ideas to a judgmental group) to not (giving ideas to a non-judgmental group).

Fisk found that when scenarios were framed in a risky way, women were more anxious than when the scenarios were framed in a non-risky way. Women who received risky scenarios scored 13.6 percent higher on the anxiety test than those who received non-risky scenarios. The framing of the scenarios did not have a statistically significant effect on men’s anxiety.

Fisk argues that women’s increased anxiety in risky situations may be due to the fact that these types of circumstances are riskier for women than men. “Prior research suggests that even if a woman has the same objective performance as a man, others are likely to judge her performance as worse and attribute her failure to incompetence instead of poor luck,” Fisk explained. “Furthermore, this body of research suggests that even absent the judgment of others, failure in a risky situation is more costly to women as it may reinforce or create self-doubt about their own competence.”

You think?

 Increased anxiety in risky settings is problematic for women because it may depress their ability to achieve, as Fisk also found that women have worse task performance than men in risky situations, even when they have the same ability in a non-risky setting. Fisk’s data on performance came from two diverse sources: an in-person experiment that required participants to answer verbal SAT questions and test grades from a large undergraduate engineering course.

As you might suspect, the women did worse than the men, even with the same or better skills than the men.

 “My findings have troublesome implications for women’s ability to achieve equality in the workplace,” Fisk said. “People frequently encounter high-risk, high-reward situations in workplaces, and if women avoid these situations or perform more poorly in them because they are more anxious, they will reap fewer rewards than otherwise similar men.”

Fisk believes that women’s anxiety and poorer performance in risky situations “may be an unexplored contributor to the dearth of women in positions of leadership and power, as success in these kinds of circumstances is often a precursor to career advancement and promotion.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Study Says Women and Men Cheat for the Exact Same Reason: Boredom

I don't know if we should find this surprising but middle-aged women have affairs for passion and sex, not to leave their husbands.

According to a new study, women missing passion and sex in their marriages have affairs -- but no intention of divorcing their husbands.

I guess we like to have our cake, and eat it, too?  Sorry.  I couldn't resist.  But why not?  Men have been having it like this for years, if you believe the stats (of course, we do it, too).

“Being happy in marriage is far different than being happy in bed,” quotes Eric Anderson, a professor of masculinity, sexuality, and sport at the University of Winchester in England and the chief science officer at, a popular Web site for those interested in having extra-marital affairs.

In their study, Anderson and his co-authors focus on 100 heterosexual, married, females between the ages of 35 and 45, and their conversations with potential suitors on, in hopes of determining what drives this subset of women to infidelity.

The researchers found that the large majority of women — 67 percent — were seeking affairs because they wanted more romantic passion, which always included sex.

“But, the most surprising finding is that none of the 100 women were looking to leave their husbands,” said Anderson, who co-authored the study with Matthew H. Rafalow, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California-Irvine, and Matthew Ripley, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Southern California. “Instead, they were adamant that they were not looking for a new husband. Many even stated their overt love for their husbands, painting them in a positive light.”

Sound weird?  Not really.  Let's face it.  Relationships get pretty stale after you've been in them for 10 or 15 years.  Add kids, jobs, stress, aging parents -- and who wouldn't want a temporary escape?

Hold on to your horses.  According to Anderson, he thought women might be looking for sexual affairs because they were unhappy with their husbands or because they felt unloved by their husbands. “But this was not the case,” he said. “Our results reflect not martial disharmony, but the sexual monotony that is a social fact of the nature of long-term monogamous relationships. The most predictable thing about a relationship is that, the longer it progresses, the quality and the frequency of sex between the couple will fade. This is because we get used to and bored by the same body.” 

While popular culture suggests that men cheat because “they are horny and women cheat because there is something wrong with the emotional aspect of their relationship, our findings challenge these perceptions,” Anderson said. “Our research suggests that men and women are not as different from each other as some may think.”

Guess What? Companies Like Men Who Try to Balance Work/Life Better Than Women

Doesn't it just make you want to laugh (or cry)?  A new study has found that men who try to balance their work/home lives are viewed more favorably than women.

Say what?

According to, while some suggest that flexible work arrangements have the potential to reduce workplace inequality, a new study finds these arrangements may exacerbate discrimination based on parental status and gender.

Among those who made flexible work requests, men who asked to work from home two days a week in order to care for a child were significantly advantaged compared to women who made the same request. Study author Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at Furman University, also found that both men and women who made flexible work requests for childcare-related reasons were advantaged compared to those who made the same requests for other reasons. 

For her study, Munsch used a sample of 646 people who ranged in age from 18 to 65 and resided in the U.S. Participants were shown a transcript and told it was an actual conversation between a human resources representative and an employee. The employee either requested a flexible work arrangement or did not.

Among those who requested a flexible work arrangement, the employee either asked to come in early and leave early three days a week, or asked to work from home two days a week. Munsch also varied the gender of the employee and the reason for the request (involving childcare or not). After reading their transcript, participants were asked how likely they would be to grant the request and also to evaluate the employee on several measures, including how likeable, committed, dependable, and dedicated they found him or her.

Among those who read the scenario in which a man requested to work from home for childcare related reasons, 69.7 percent said they would be “likely” or “very likely” to approve the request, compared to 56.7 percent of those who read the scenario in which a woman made the request. Almost a quarter — 24.3 percent — found the man to be “extremely likeable,” compared to only 3 percent who found the woman to be “extremely likeable.”

 And, only 2.7 percent found the man “not at all” or “not very” committed, yet 15.5 percent found the woman “not at all” or “not very” committed.

“These results demonstrate how cultural notions of parenting influence perceptions of people who request flexible work,” Munsch said at “Today, we think of women’s responsibilities as including paid labor and domestic obligations, but we still regard bread-winning as men’s primary responsibility and we feel grateful if men contribute in the realm of childcare or to other household tasks.”

I've felt this discrimination, too, though it might have been directed at a man, too, if he had requested, as I did, at two recent job interviews, that I be allowed to work from home at least one day a week, to be available to my middle schooler, both of whose parents would then be working out of state.  Didn't get the jobs.

I suppose it would have made more sense to have requested this after I got the job.  But looking at this study, it seems probable I would have bombed, out no matter what!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Want To Get Pregnant? Be Careful What You Clean With

You might want to reconsider what you're cleaning with. A new study has found that chemicals in certain cleaning products have led to reproductive problems in mice.

According to, Virginia Tech researchers who were using a disinfectant when handling mice have discovered that two active ingredients in it cause declines in mouse reproduction.

Although the chemicals responsible for the declines are common in household cleaning products and disinfectants used in medical and food preparation settings, including hand sanitizers, academic scientists have never published a rigorous study, until now, on their safety or toxicity.

“If these chemicals are toxic to humans, they could also be contributing to the decline in human fertility seen in recent decades, as well as the increased need for assistive reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization,” said Dr. Terry Hrubec, a research assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

“It is likely that you have these chemicals in your house,” she said. “The answer to the question, ‘Are these chemicals harmful to humans?’ is that we simply don’t know.”

 However, she notes, her research team at the veterinary college did show the decline in reproductive performance of her mice.

Stumped by her initial findings, Hrubec noticed animal care staff in her laboratory wetting their hands with a disinfectant before touching the mice, newswise reports. When Hrubec tested whether the disinfectant might be causing reproductive decline, she came up with the unexpected finding.

“These chemicals have been around for 50 years,” said Hrubec, who is also an associate professor of anatomy at Blacksburg, Virginia’s Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. “They are generally considered safe, but no one has done rigorous scientific research to confirm this.”

The two active ingredients in the disinfectant — alkyl dimethyl benzalkonium chloride and didecyl dimethylammonium chloride — are typically listed by their abbreviations, ADBAC and DDAC, on ingredient lists.

They are a part of a larger class of chemicals called “quaternary ammonium compounds,” which are used for their antimicrobial and antistatic properties as well as their ability to lower surface tension between two liquids or a liquid and a solid.

They are found in commercial and householder cleaners, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, preservatives in makeup and other cosmetics, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets.

“We just tested the two active ingredients in the disinfectant, not the entire class of compounds,” Hrubec explained. “To be on the safe side, we need to do more research on these chemicals and find out how they could be affecting human health.”

 The bottom line: the research team found that the female mice took longer to get pregnant and had fewer offspring when they were around these chemicals. Forty percent of the mothers exposed to ADBAC and DDAC died in late pregnancy or during delivery.

Quaternary ammonium compounds like the ones used for the disinfectant in Hrubec’s lab were introduced in the 1950s and 1960s. Although some toxicity testing took place during this period, it was conducted by chemical manufacturers and not published.