The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a bombshell alcohol recommendation to women on Feb. 2 that led to an explosion of responses. I was among those who commented on the fray, and I primarily addressed how the evidence itself about alcohol and pregnancy was obscured by the resulting backlash.
I also mentioned that I had previously interpreted the evidence differently over several years of covering periodic studies about light drinking and pregnancy. I didn’t go into a great deal of detail, however, on how I made that switch, and I thought that process might be instructive for other health journalists covering such controversial issues in which the science can be confusing. Writing about risk, in particular, can be incredibly thorny. Continue reading
Photo: CDCAedes aegypti
We’ve gathered some of the best, most science-based resources to help reporters who are covering Zika or may find themselves covering the emerging disease as the seasons change.
The NLM Outreach and Specific Populations Branch sent out this extensive list of resources from a wide range of U.S. and international health organizations. It includes information for special populations, epidemiology, detection and diagnosis, travel and does include some information in Spanish. Continue reading
Olga Khazan, a health writer for The Atlantic, often tackles health subjects bisecting traditional health and the impact on people’s lives. That can range from the heavy weight of medical bills to struggling home visit programs for poorer mothers. Earlier this year she looked at the impact of taking drugs – from meth to painkillers, on pregnant women in various states.
The story, “Into the Body of Another,” examined the jail terms some mothers received for taking various substances while pregnant despite the varying – and in some cases unknown – impact on their unborn children. Continue reading
There have been a lot of gripping tales of late highlighting the impact of the nation’s soaring heroin epidemic, especially on children and infants.
They’re all important – if tough – reads, but what really caught my eye recently was a separate but related resource package circulated by ProPublica, which details state laws regarding women whose newborn babies test positive for certain drugs. While authorities may be increasingly focused on the issue, the project looks not only at the wide variance of rules across state and even county lines, but how laws already on the books can have unintended consequences and disproportionately affect poor women. Continue reading
Laura Pemberton was in labor and ready to give birth at her home in Florida when a sheriff arrived at her door, took her into custody, strapped her legs together, and forced her to go to Tallahassee Memorial Regional Medical Center, where doctors had instigated urgent court proceedings.
They claimed that Pemberton was risking the life of her unborn child by attempting to have a vaginal birth after having had a previous cesarean surgery. The judge ordered the woman to undergo the operation, which she did against her will later that day in 1996.
Regina McKnight, 21 years old and pregnant, suffered a stillbirth that led to her arrest and conviction on homicide charges in South Carolina in 2001. Although the stillbirth later proved to be the result of an infection, prosecutors argued that McKnight caused the stillbirth because she used cocaine. A jury found her guilty after 15 minutes of deliberation and she was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Pregnant with her second child in 2005, 20-year-old Rachael Lowe went with her husband to a hospital to get help for her addiction to Oxycontin. An emergency room doctor reported her to Wisconsin state officials and Lowe wound up confined against her will in a psychiatric ward, where she received no prenatal care. She remained incarcerated for more than 25 days before a doctor testified that Lowe’s addiction posed no significant risk to the health of the fetus and a judge ordered her release.