Specialists in women and babies

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists was founded in Chicago in 1951, the latest in a line of associations that has sought to serve the organizational needs of specialists in medicine for women.

By the time the organization was founded, the controversy over whether the two specialties should be practiced separately or together had been largely resolved, which reflected an improvement of the status of obstetrics. (One 19th century proponent of keeping the two disciplines together had characterized obstetrics as "the portal to the temple of gynecology.")

Obstetricians are not the only doctors who deliver babies — family physicians attend about 20 percent of births nationally, and midwives, mostly nurse-midwives, handled about 8 percent of births in 2004. Still, obstetricians deliver the majority of American babies.

ACOG membership is voluntary. The group, now headquartered in Washington, D.C., has 52,000 members, more than 90 percent of board-certified OB-GYNs. Important ACOG activities include the annual meeting, continuing education and the publication of the monthly journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, the so-called Green Journal.

Some of  ACOG's members are specialists in maternal-fetal medicine, gynecologic oncology, reproductive endocrinology, and other areas.

At least the acronym still works: ACOG

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists begins its annual clinical meeting today in San Francisco. And so, I guess, does the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Where there was one organization, there now are two, and confusion abounds. I gather that even some ACOG members and staffers aren't sure exactly where the College leaves off and the Congress starts.

Here's "the basic explanation" I got from ACOG's press office when I inquired about the new name on the ACOG website:

The College and the Congress are two separate and distinct legal entities, although they are companion organizations.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a 501(c)(3) organization and its activities include producing the College's practice guidelines and other educational material.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a new 501(c)(6) organization that was formed December 31, 2008 and is operational as of January 1, 2010. The Congress focuses on socioeconomic, political, and grievance activities for its members.

Riddle me this

Here's an old riddle. I am using the cognitive scientist and author Douglas Hofstadter's version, which appeared in Scientific American in 1982. If you find you can't solve it, contact me and I'll email you the answer.

A father and his son were driving to a ball game when their car stalled on the railroad tracks. In the distance a train whistle blew a warning. Frantically, the father tried to start the engine, but in his panic, he couldn’t turn the key, and the car was hit by the onrushing train. An ambulance sped to the scene and picked them up. On the way to the hospital, the father died. The son was still alive but his condition was very serious, and he needed immediate surgery. The moment they arrived at the hospital, he was wheeled into an emergency operating room, and the surgeon came in, expecting a routine case. However, on seeing the boy, the surgeon blanched and muttered, “I can’t operate on this boy — he’s my son.”

What's the explanation? As Hofstadter wrote, "You'll know when you've got it, don't worry."

If Mama ain’t healthy…

We're halfway through National Women's Health Week, a time for women to remember that a mother's health is the linchpin for the whole family's health.

On Monday, National Women's Check-Up Day, we were all supposed to make all our necessary medical and dental appointments. If you missed it, you might consider making one or two of those appointments today.Art deco woman

If you're not sure what sort of maintenance you need to do, check out the Interactive Screening Chart and Immunization Tool on the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services website. It breaks down recommended exams, screenings and immunizations by age groups and classifications of health (mental health, reproductive health, oral health, to name a few).

The website notes that it's a good idea to talk with your health-care professional about the recommendations.

The basics of women's health are these, according to the HHR website:

*Get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of both each week.

*Eat a nutritious diet.

*Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.

*Avoid risky behaviors, such as smoking and not wearing a seatbelt.

*Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.

"The Favorite" by Leon-Francois Comerre, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“The Pill” at 50

We're in the thick of the 50th anniversary rumination on "the Pill," which has been blamed for precipitating "the sexual revolution" -- it was hardly the only impetus -- and has probably played a role in lowering maternal mortality as well. In May 1960, the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration began the process of allowing the pharmaceutical maker G.D. Searle & Company to market its drug Enovid as the first oral contraceptive.

A hundred million women worldwide use oral contraceptives now; where the average American women had 3.6 children in 1960, she now has 2. That's an important figure for our maternal mortality statistics, as the more children a woman has, the more likely she is to die in childbirth.The Pill

Margaret Sanger, who coined the term "birth control," was driven first to become a nurse and then to make disseminating birth-control information her life's work after watching her mother's 18 pregnancies contribute to her death at age 50.

When Sanger began her crusade, the Comstock Law of 1873, an anti-obscenity measure, made it illegal to publish information about birth control, and she was arrested more than once.

In 1936, ruling in U.S. vs. One Package of Japanese Pessaries, Judge Augustus Hand of the U.S. District Court of Appeals in New York exempted birth control devices from restriction under the Comstock Law, which had been absorbed into the Tariff Act of 1930. This was the first step toward making birth control legal. The case came out of Sanger's importation of a shipment of "pessaries," in this case essentially a diaphragm, for distribution through the birth control clinics she had fielded since 1916.

Working with the wealthy philanthropist Katharine Dexter McCormick, Sanger formed the organization that would become the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (In the spring of 1960, Sanger was 80 and McCormick was 84.)

The researchers John Rock and Gregory Pincus, working first independently and then together, developed an oral contraceptive that they tested in Puerto Rico to get around laws that persisted against birth control on the American mainland.

There have been some great recent stories about the Pill at 50 in the press. I thought Time magazine did a nice job of summing up the pre-Pill atmosphere, the history and today's landscape, and PBS has a useful timeline on birth control from "The American Experience" on its website.

Flashing back to a time when people were arrested for sharing information on birth control is pretty chilling, especially given the fact that it wasn't very long ago.

As Sanger put it, “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body.”

Image from Wikimedia Commons  http://creativecommons.org