Posted by on October 7, 2015 - 4:49pm

While recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that teen pregnancy rates have dropped (down 10% from 2012), the teen pregnancy rate is still substantially higher than in other industrialized nations. Protected sex does not seem to be a universal practice in the United States. Indeed, the CDC also reported that of the teens who'd had sex in the past three months, about 4 in 10 stated they didn't use a condom. Furthermore, despite the fact that nearly half of the 20 million new STDs contracted each year are by young people ages 15-24, only 1 in 5 sexually experienced teens have ever been tested for HIV. 

There is a dire need for schools to be more proactive in sex education, yet only 22 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education--and only 18 require that information on contraception be provided--yikes! How can we fix this information gap and catch up to other industrialized nations who have achieved greater success in reducing teen pregnancy and STD rates? The answer lies in demystifying the 'taboo' surrounding sex education and sexual health. Dr. Teresa Woodruff created a free online course to do just that. Introduction to Reproduction is now available for free, online, to all who wish to learn more about sexual and reproductive health--from a reliable source! Check out the course today and let's start to have more educated conversations about sexual and reproductive health!

Source: The Chicago Sun-Times

Posted by on October 6, 2015 - 3:24pm

Egg freezing is becoming more common among women who have concerns about their future fertility. Many women prefer to 'play it safe' and freeze their eggs while they are younger just in case they encounter fertility issues down the road. In order to determine whether women should or should not consider freezing their eggs at a young age, the ovarian reserve test was developed. This is a test can be administered to women when deciding whether they should freeze their eggs or whether they still have time to have a baby down the road. However, as great as it can be to know this information when making important life decisions, the ambiguity of the tests may mislead women--causing some to feel pressured to freeze their eggs too early or miss their window to conceive naturally--and there are also issues with the tests reliability.

Women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have--roughly 1-2 million--and this egg supply depletes over time until menopause, when a woman's eggs are gone. As the quantity of eggs diminishes, the quality also deteriorates--two factors that can impact fertility. The ovarian reserve test was not developed with egg freezing in mind. Rather, the test was initially conceived to measure egg supply in women who were struggling to get pregnant. Women who still had many eggs left, for instance, could respond well to ovarian stimulation and in vitro fertilization to achieve an embryo. The issue is that the test relies on analyzing levels of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) in women to discern if a woman's ovaries would respond well to drugs--and AMH levels can have drastic ranges from woman to woman. This means the results of this test can be incredibly difficult to analyze when there is such a wide variance of AMH levels among women of the same age. Due to the high variance of this test, it is not recommended yet for routine gynecologic exams. 

Source: NPR

Posted by on October 1, 2015 - 11:09am

Sex differences in systems and diseases are prevalent across every health field--and there is new research that indicates coronary treatment differs for men and women. A new study of insurance revealed that women get fewer aggressive treatments after a heart attack than men. Indeed, the study conducted by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association found that women are 27% less likely than men to get angioplasties and are 38% less likely to undergo coronary bypass surgery! Dr. Marla Mendelson, medical director for women's cardiovascular health at Northwestern compares these findings to her earlier research on gender differences in coronary car and says, "We've not come a long way." Since 1984 more women than men have died each year from heart disease, and it is the number 1 killer of women in the United States--so why is there such a gender gap in diagnosing and treating coronary conditions?

While women were historically neglected from clinical trials, it seems that since 2000 there has been a steady improvement in cardiovascular disease mortality rates for women--primarily from improved preventative care. Foundations such as "Go Red for Women" help raise awareness about women's risk of heart disease, but even then, only 54% of women recognize that heart disease is their leading cause of death (according to the CDC). Dr. Mendelson lauds Blue Cross for this research and indicates it's an important step for insurance companies to take. 

Source: The Chicago Tribune

Posted by on September 25, 2015 - 3:34pm

On Monday, September 28th, Northwestern University will launch “Introduction to Reproduction,” a free online class to teach students about reproductive health. Dr. Teresa Woodruff, Vice Chair for Research in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University, created this course in a partnership with Northwestern University’s Provost’s Office, NUIT, and Coursera to deliver the message of reproductive health to a global audience. This is not the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Northwestern University has produced through Coursera. Northwestern University’s Provost Daniel Linzer stated, “The University’s primary goal in working on the development of MOOCs is to give Northwestern faculty opportunities to experiment with new teaching tools, to reach a new and broader audience and to have an impact that extends beyond campus.”

Because of the often-taboo topics surrounding sexual and reproductive health, there is a lack of easily accessible, academically founded information in this area, yet there is no lack of curiosity about personal and familial needs related to reproductive health. The current lack of standard sex education in this country’s schooling system has contributed to some troubling facts—by the age of 25, 1 in 2 sexually active people will have contracted an STI, and nearly half of the 20 million new STDs diagnosed each year are among young people aged 15-24 years. Dr. Woodruff saw this as an informational gap that can have dire consequences on young people’s health. Dr. Woodruff stated, “I am delighted to work with NUIT in order to bring this new curriculum to as many people as possible,” hoping to surpass the average Coursera class enrollment of over 40,000 students.

Dr. Woodruff’s specialty in obstetrics and gynecology, coupled with her dedication to improving the accessibility of health information to the masses (see her videos on improving reproductive health options for cancer survivors), makes her the authoritative voice needed in this arena. Harlan Wallach, Associate Director of Media and Design at Northwestern, stated, “I’ve had the great opportunity to work with Teresa Woodruff for the past 10 years. Our ability to support her work in new educational paradigms has been the highlight of my career.”

Wallach elaborates on the innovative style of this MOOC by stating, “The role of social learning—as demonstrated via MOOCs—is the next stage beyond Twitter, blogs, and other social media platforms to support education.” Indeed, more and more people are seeking out health information online. Nowadays it is far more common to look up information online instead of going to libraries to do research or opening physical copies of encyclopedias to get information. For this reason, it is important that accurate and high-quality information is as easily accessible as the click of a button. Woodruff’s MOOC is user-friendly, informative, and pithy, and can be accessed for free by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Join us for this exciting launch on the 28th and learn how your reproductive health impacts you.

Posted by on September 23, 2015 - 9:10am

Many college freshmen arrive on campus with only a cursory middle or high school sex ed class in their background, having potentially ‘Googled’ for answers related to their sexual and reproductive health questions that seemed too taboo or embarrassing to discuss in person. Answers surrounding how to use contraception, how alcohol impairs sex, and how changing menstrual cycles impact pregnancy risk may be hidden in dated, dusty health class notebooks or between the lines in lifestyle magazines. But, more often than not, students have unanswered questions relating to their reproductive health, despite being on campus during a pivotal time in their sexual lives.

Sometimes students arrive on campus having no prior sexual education—seems unlikely? Not as uncommon as you think! John Oliver’s show “Last Week Tonight” recently shed light on the dismal standards of sex education in the United States. There is currently no required standard for sex education in this country’s schooling system, and of the 22 states that do have mandated sex education instruction, only 13 require this instruction to be medically accurate! Often when schools provide sex education, it is conflated with having sex, rather than an understanding of reproductive anatomy and function. Research indicates 1 in 4 college students contract STD’s and 42% of pregnancies result from inconsistent or incorrect contraceptive use—statistics that could likely improve with increased knowledge.

To close this knowledge gap, Dr. Teresa Woodruff, Vice Chair for Research in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University, created Introduction to Reproduction, a free online class to teach basic concepts in sexual and reproductive health. This course is everything first-year students need to know about sex and reproduction, and didn’t know to ask. “Having sex is not the same thing as knowing how it all works,” says Woodruff, and this crash-course in sexual and reproductive health demystifies myths that have been convoluted and twisted through decades of misconceptions and unanswered questions to ‘taboo’ inquiries. “If you Google the words ‘penis’ or ‘fallopian tube’ or ‘vagina,’ you get to places on the web that can be confusing at best or unsavory at worst—when all you are trying to find out is, ‘what does this mean?’” said Woodruff.

In a series of short (two to five minutes) videos, students will learn about the rise and fall of hormones, fallopian tubes, STD’s and how to avoid them, sexual violence, fertility after cancer, the workings of the penis, and much more. The course can be accessed by anyone, anytime, and anywhere, and delivers a biological, anatomical context to sex and reproduction. Much like AlcoholEdu provided a physiological context to socialized drinking, Introduction to Reproduction offers a biological lens through which to understand sex in relation to general health. It is time to have a candid conversation about sex and treat it as we would any other biological function; breaking the taboos surrounding this topic can bring us all one-step closer to improved holistic health.  

Picture Source

Posted by on September 23, 2015 - 9:05am

The truth about reproductive health education in the United States is troubling—and the medical community can help. There is currently no required standard for sex education in this country’s schooling system, and of the 22 states that have mandated sex education instruction, only 13 require this instruction to be medically accurate! Often when schools do provide sex education, it is conflated with having sex, rather than an understanding of reproductive anatomy and function. With 1 in 4 college students contracting STD’s and 42% of pregnancies resulting from inconsistent or incorrect contraceptive use, it’s time to better educate our patients on sexual and reproductive health.

Often when people have questions regarding their reproductive health they may gather pieces of information from friends, social media, or less-than-reliable online magazines and discussion boards, rather than from those who have the capacity to provide reliable information—their doctors. Sexual and reproductive health has been convoluted and twisted through decades of misconceptions and unanswered questions to ‘taboo’ inquiries. It is now time to approach this topic as we would any other health concern—with openness and candor. Most patients would not feel embarrassed going to their doctor with questions relating to pain in their leg—but this same patient may go weeks or months before bringing up an issue related to their reproductive or sexual health. We know this won’t change overnight. It’s difficult and oftentimes awkward to discuss such private matters with one’s doctor, but knowing one’s reproductive health and its biological connection to holistic health is crucial in taking charge of one’s body. So, what if there was a way to offer your patients accurate health information without taking time out of your scheduled appointment?

The answer is in a new, free online course developed out of Northwestern University. Dr. Teresa Woodruff, Vice Chair for Research in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University, created Introduction to Reproduction, a free online class to teach basic concepts in sexual and reproductive health. This is a crash-course in all things reproduction and is comprised of a series of short 2-5 minute videos that can be watched by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Referring your patients to this course can break the ice and initiate a dialogue in this area, making them feel more comfortable with their own reproductive health--demystifying terms such as ‘urethra’ or ‘cervix’ and giving your patients more confidence in this area. Help us spread the word about Introduction to Reproduction, and play a crucial role in changing the tide in sexual and reproductive health knowledge! 

Posted by on September 21, 2015 - 3:09pm

Parents often feel that having ‘the talk’ with their child is a rite of passage, signifying a dramatic shift in their child’s understanding of sex and babies beyond the age-old ‘stork-on-the-doorstep’ anecdote. Indeed, 82% of parents have talked to their children about topics related to sexuality, but only 43% of parents say they actually feel comfortable having these conversations—yikes! So, when do you start that conversation? What level of detail do you provide? How do you answer the first time your child asks, ‘Where do babies come from?’ If you have all these questions (and more), you are not alone!  It is imperative for parents to feel comfortable and confident with the information they’re passing along to their children so that they may make well-informed choices that impact their future sexual and reproductive health.

Dr. Teresa Woodruff, Vice Chair for Research in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University, created “Introduction to Reproduction,” a free online class to teach basic concepts in sexual and reproductive health. This is a crash-course in all things reproduction, and it can help you get your bearings as you start to navigate these types of conversations with your children. You already know about ‘the birds and the bees,’ but do you know the biology behind reproduction? This course approaches reproduction from a biological lens, making the topic more approachable and not as ‘taboo’ as it is often portrayed in popular culture. “The best feature of this course,” explains Dr. Woodruff, “is that it is coupled with an online lexicon, the Repropedia, which defines reproductive terms in lay-language, so you’ll never have to Google words like ‘penis’ or ‘fallopian tube’ or ‘vagina,’ which could take you to confusing or unsavory webpages.” All the information you need is in one place, from a trustworthy source—and having accurate and reliable reproductive health information is becoming increasingly important in the United States.

There is currently no required standard for sex education in this country’s schooling system, and of the 22 states that have mandated sex education instruction, only 13 require this instruction to be medically accurate! With 1 in 4 college students contracting STD’s and 42% of pregnancies resulting from inconsistent or incorrect contraceptive use, don’t you think your child should be armed with accurate sexual and reproductive health knowledge sooner, rather than later?

Introduction to Reproduction is comprised of a series of short 2-5 minute videos and can be completed at your own pace, on your own time, and in the comfort of your own home. “If you plan to talk to your child about sexual and reproductive health, you’re going to want this course in your back pocket,” says Dr. Woodruff. Reproductive health can be a complex topic convoluted with decades of misconceptions and unanswered questions; let’s get those questions answered and teach our children accurate sexual health information—a more informed future starts today.

Posted by on September 16, 2015 - 11:39am

Founder of the nonprofit healthcare organization WomanCare Global, Saundra Pelletier, and Hollywood actress Jessica Biel do not seem like a likely pair to launch a series of online videos surrounding "sex ed"--but that is exactly what they are doing. The duo is launching videos that will cover everything from puberty to contraception in the hops of demystifying some misconceptions regarding sexual and reproductive health. Topics that can often be seen as "scary" or "gross" will now be approached via real-life stories of girls and women going through hormonal changes that affect us all. Biel describes the tone for the videos to be "informative but also goofy, smart, witty," encouraging women to speak out and not feel embarrassed or ashamed for perfectly normal bodily functions.

Indeed, general knowledge on sex education and reproductive health is severely lacking. There is currently no required standard for sex education in this country's schooling system, and only 13 states require sex education instruction to be medically accurate! Celebrity and non-profit interventions such as Pelletier and Biel's videos will help reach a larger population of women--and men--who may not have had any formal education in this arena. Similarly, Dr. Teresa Woodruff at the Women's Health Research Institute, is also launching a series of educational videos surrounding reproductive health--geared towards both men and women. The goal is to provide collegiate proficiency in the field of reproductive health from a reliable, accurate source. Dr. Woodruff's course will serve as a course complement to the real-life stories that Biel and Pelletier are producing. We're excited to see the dissemination of accurate knowledge on reproductive health through these many outlets!

If you're interested in learning more about Dr. Woodruff's free, online course on Reproductive Health, click here!

Read more about Saundra Pelletier and Jessica Biel's sex ed videos here.

Posted by on September 14, 2015 - 10:05am

Teresa Woodruff, PhD, Director of the Women's Health Research Institute recently sat down with Discov-Her to discuss her field of oncofertility--check out the interview below!

As patients survival rates improve thanks to the development of more effective treatments, women can look forward to a life after cancer. However, many may face the possibility of infertility as a result of the disease itself or these lifesaving treatments. Oncofertility is an interdisciplinary field at the intersection of oncology and reproductive medicine, which expands fertility options for cancer survivors. DiscovHER interviewed Dr Teresa Woodruff, the founder of the Oncofertility Consortium, to learn more.
What inspired you to form the Oncofertility Consortium?
The Oncofertility Consortium was literally ‘born’ from the urgent unmet need of young female patients who were being sterilized by their cancer treatment. Ten years ago the phrase ‘families after cancer’ for women would have been an oxymoron if thought of at all. Today, due to the impressive rise in cancer survivors, this is not only a well-used phrase, but also an issue that women increasingly want addressed. Because both oncologists and fertility specialists need to be included in the solution, I created the work ‘oncofertility’. By including both specialties in the word, with no hyphen to separate the two, the need for integration was generated. And even as the lexicon is being established, the boundaries are being moved to the fertility needs of childhood cancer survivors. The life-preserving but fertility-threatening treatments offered to women and girls with cancer must be coupled with possibilities for preserving reproductive options. 
What is the importance of transdisciplinary teams, knowing that you work with specialists from various backgrounds?
I believe that the solutions to the most intractable problems in medicine include teams of individuals who bring different perspectives. In the case of oncofertility, we needed teams because the fertility concerns of young cancer patients could not be solved by one field - we had to integrate. Perhaps most importantly, if we wanted to make options available to patients now, we needed a 360 approach to the problem. We couldn’t just publish papers and wait for clinicians to catch on. We couldn’t just tell physicians to tell a young cancer patient at the time of diagnosis that she would be sterile without options - and we couldn’t let that patient wonder or worry what her church would say, how she might pay for the procedure, or who had rights to the tissue. So, bringing together all of the disciplines of the academy into oncofertility was a necessary first step.

Perhaps our Oncofertility ribbon tells this story best - when I coined the term “oncofertility” I knew we would need a way for physicians and patients to know they were with a group that was doing everything possible to make their hope of a future family a reality - even if this meant years of research and progress that might not help them, but would help someone in the future. So I looked at the list of ribbons - like the pink ribbon for breast cancer - but all of the colors were taken. So, I created a ribbon that is intrinsically interdisciplinary. It twines two colors - purple and green that embody clinical and basic science; humanities and the law; the deep knowledge of self with the spring green of eternal hopefulness for tomorrow. It has dots and smooth lines - the dots representing eggs or sperm or embryos or tissue, which then spools up into the structure of a ribbon, however you can see that ours is bowed - it is slightly pregnant. All of these parts make the ribbon just as our interdisciplinary team creates the field. 

What is your experience as a female scientist?

I began my work in oncofertility with women and girls. When I started the Consortium, men and pubertal boys were being offered sperm banking prior to treatment. But young women, with the same hope to survive their cancer were not offered any option nor told that their treatment would be sterilizing. They were told they would lose their hair follicles, but not their ovarian follicles (the latter is the structure that houses the female egg). Now we have equity between males and females - they are being told about the fertility threat of treatment and we have options for both sexes. 

Dr. Woodruff is the Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. She coined the termoncofertility to describe a new discipline that bridgesoncology and reproductive medicine in order to discover and apply new fertility preservation options for young patients with fertility-threatening diseases or treatments. Dr. Woodruff is also Chief of the Division of Fertility Preservation and Director of the Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern University.

Source: Discov-Her 


Posted by on September 10, 2015 - 3:12pm

So you have been dieting and exercising regularly and have noticed some weight loss, but all of a sudden you stop seeing any changes and your weight stays the same. Does this sound familiar? Don't get discouraged, it's normal for weight loss to slow down and even stop.  This phenomenon is called the "weight-loss plateau" and it's more common than you think.  Even the best planned weight loss program can become stalled.

According to the Mayo Clinic, here's why this happens: a rapid weight loss is common during the first few weeks of a well planned diet.  When calories are reduced the body gets needed energy by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate stored in the liver and muscles.  Glycogen holds a lot of water so when it is used up at the beginning of a diet, it also releases the water--about 4 grams per gram of glycogen, resulting in a sudden weight loss that is mostly water.

Once your diet progresses and  you start burning lean muscle tissue, your metabolism slows.  Metabolism is the process of converting food into energy.  When you lose weight you lose fat and lean muscle and this weigh-loss changes once your metabolism slows.  At this point,  you need to increase your exercise or decrease your food intake if you want to lose more weight.  If you continue the same diet/exercise regimen you started with, you will maintain your weight but probably not continue to drop many pounds.

To get past this weight loss plateau, you need to

  • Review your eating/exercise habits and be sure you haven't "cheated" along the way
  • Cut more calories, as long as you're staying within healthy ranges
  • Increase your workout either in time or intensity
  • Try to increase movement during the day--for instance, take stairs instead of the elevator, or run your errands on foot.
  • Applaud your success and make sure your goals are reasonable--just don't fall back.