Many women put off having hysterectomies for painful gynecological conditions out of concern that their sex lives will deteriorate. But researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine say they have found that women actually report improved sex lives after the surgery.
The study, reported in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Assn., found that women had sex more frequently and that it was more satisfying. Also, many of the women who had experienced pain during intercourse before the surgery said the pain had gone away.
Dr. Kristen H. Kjerulff and her colleagues studied 1,300 women from 28 hospitals, interviewing them before their surgeries and at regular intervals for up to two years afterward. All of the women had suffered pain for at least two years before seeing a doctor and then had tried a variety of treatments before settling on a hysterectomy as a last resort.
Kjerulff's team reported that the number of women having sex at least five times a month rose by 10% after the surgery. The number of women who reported experiencing orgasms rose from 63% before surgery to 72% after, while the number reporting strong orgasms rose from 45% to 57%. The rate of painful sex dropped from 40% before surgery to about 15% after.
An estimated 600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the United States each year, and critics charge that as many as half are unnecessary, needlessly endangering the woman's life. Despite her findings, Kjerulff argued that hysterectomy should remain the treatment of last resort.
Other researchers have reported contradictory findings, concluding that hysterectomies cause a deterioration of women's sex lives.
New Therapy for Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
A new microwave treatment to stop heavy menstrual bleeding is as safe and effective as the standard surgery, is somewhat quicker to perform, and is easier for surgeons to learn, according to Scottish physicians. In the conventional treatment, thin strips of the womb lining are removed under general anesthesia. In the new technique, called microwave endometrial ablation, or MEA, a probe is inserted through the cervix and used to paint the inside of the womb with microwaves. The radiation heats cells on the surface of the womb, causing them to die and slough off.
Dr. Kevin G. Cooper and his colleagues at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary studied a group of 263 women with heavy bleeding. Half received conventional surgery while the rest underwent MEA. The team reported in Saturday's Lancet that 77% of the women receiving MEA were totally or generally satisfied with it, about the same as the 75% expressing similar feelings toward surgery. Ninety-four percent of the women receiving MEA found it acceptable, compared with 90% of those receiving surgery. There were no differences in the medical outcomes of the procedures.
Coffee Study Examines Link to Miscarriages
Consuming one or two cups of coffee every day does not increase the risk of a miscarriage, but drinking five or more doubles the risk, according to the most definitive study yet of caffeine consumption. Previous studies have given conflicting results, probably because they relied primarily on questionnaires to estimate pregnant women's intake of caffeine. Dr. Mark Klebanoff and his colleagues at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development estimated consumption more directly by measuring levels of a chemical called paraxanthine in stored blood samples of pregnant women. Paraxanthine is a metabolite of caffeine, and it persists in the blood stream longer than caffeine itself, enabling the researchers to better estimate consumption.
Klebanoff and his colleagues reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine that, accounting for other crucial factors such as smoking, women who miscarried were more likely to have high paraxanthine levels than those who did not. But the difference became important only when the women consumed more than about 500 milligrams of caffeine a day.
Sugar Water, Pacifier Can Calm Babies in Pain
We've all heard it said that sugar helps the medicine go down, but sugar may actually help ease pain in newborn babies. And a pacifier may work even better.
French researchers have found that giving newborn babies who undergo painful medical procedures a little sugar water followed by a pacifier can help relieve their distress. The technique should be widely adopted for hospitalized infants, they contend in Saturday's British Medical Journal.
Dr. Ricardo Carbajal and his colleagues from Poissy Hospital studied 150 newborns and their response to pain during procedures, such as having blood drawn. The researchers assessed discomfort using a standard rating scale that takes into account facial expressions, limb movements and vocal expression. They found that giving a small amount of sugar water helped some, that a pacifier was better, but that the best results were obtained by combining the two.
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