Archive for August, 2016

Birth control right after having a baby: Why it’s important, why it should be covered

Hope Ricciotti, MD

Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Many women may plan to start using birth control at their six-week postpartum checkup, but as many as 40% of women do not go to a follow-up appointment. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advocates for offering women the option of long-acting, implantable contraceptives in the period immediately following giving birth, before leaving the hospital. It’s safe, effective, and eliminates the need for an outpatient visit during a hectic time. Making postpartum contraception easily available and a covered benefit is essential to reduce unintended pregnancy and rapid, repeat pregnancy rates.

Shining a light on migraine relief

Michaela Kane


Migraine headaches affect millions of people, and one of the most common symptoms is sensitivity to light. A study tested the reactions of migraine sufferers to different colors of light, and found that some people said one specific color eased their pain somewhat.

An approach to therapy that may make depression treatment more accessible

James Cartreine, PhD

Contributing Editor

A recent study showed that behavioral activation can be an effective alternative to cognitive behavioral therapy for treating depression. This type of therapy emphasizes engaging in activities that can improve mental health, for example, connecting with people. Its advantage is that it takes less time and is less expensive to train people in behavioral activation so it may mean more therapists available at lower cost.

Saving lives by prescribing naloxone with opioid painkillers

Unintentional opioid overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. These drugs are prescribed to patients to help relieve pain, but overdoses happen because opioids can also depress breathing, sometimes stopping it altogether. But naloxone, also called Narcan, can help reverse the effects of an overdose. If doctors prescribe naloxone at the same time as opioids, overdose deaths may decrease.

Getting kids back to school: Inside out

Harvard Medical School authors have written a new book entitled Organize your Emotions, Optimize Your Life, that explains a way to frame how your mind processes a range of emotions. An adult version of the children’s movie Inside Out, the book proposes that the human psyche has nine inner “voices.” By addressing the distinct needs, agendas, and emotions people can better address life challenges, big and small. In this post we apply this model to getting your kids back to school in a positive and productive way.

Knee replacement: Life changing or a disappointment?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Osteoarthritis, the “wear and tear” form of arthritis, can cause pain and restricted movement in the joints. Joint replacement surgery (typically for knees and hips) can restore mobility and reduce pain. However, these procedures involve risk, recovery and rehabilitation time, and the joint may still not feel completely normal. However, for some, surgery may improve quality of life and be better than the alternatives.

Another study shows parents of newborns don’t always follow safe sleep recommendations

Claire McCarthy, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

A study found that parents of newborns frequently do not follow safe sleep guidelines for their babies even though it’s likely they are familiar with them. The most common mistake is putting blankets or other items in a baby’s crib, but cribs should be empty. While it’s hard to imagine sleeping on a bare mattress, babies really don’t need bedding. And it’s not worth risking your baby’s life for the sake of a blanket.

Why are our girls killing themselves?

An analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a significant increase in suicides in the United States since 1999. The increase was particularly high in girls ages 10 to 14, especially in the past decade, and this is likely attributable in part to risky use of social media and the prevalence of cyberbullying.

Marijuana: Health effects of recreational and medical use

Wynne Armand, MD


Regardless of whether or not marijuana is legal, using it can have long-term health effects, especially in those who are heavy users. Marijuana shows promise for treating certain medical conditions and symptoms, and further potential benefits are still being studied.

Get up, stand up, for your health: A little exercise offsets a lot of sitting

Sitting has been described as the “new smoking.” While that may sound discouraging if you’re always driving long distances or sitting in an office chair for hours on end, there is something you can do about it. Moderate exercising like walking the dog or riding a bike for just an hour a day could alleviate or even eliminate the dangers caused by sitting all day. And if you’re worried about a full hour, benefits still come from spreading those 60 minutes out throughout the day.