2 December 2013:
It's no surprise that Christmas and New Year are bad for your health – after all, most of us indulge in too much 'holiday' food and drink and slacken off our usual exercise routine.
As well, for many women and their families, Christmas can seem like a blur of rushing around, over commitments and financial strain.
Jean Hailes for Women's Health reminds us all to take a deep breath as we rush headlong towards the end of the year.
For some people festivals such as Christmas can also serve to remind them how alone they are. According to Jane Fisher, the Jean Hailes professor of women's health, it's ok to take a moment to remember someone or to just sit quietly and reflect and think about them. "If you have friends or family struggling with feelings of sadness at this time of year, let them know that you are thinking of them."
Jean Hailes GP Dr Vivienne Whitechurch adds that you don't have to please everyone by catching up before Christmas. "Plan to meet in January when things are quieter and you feel more relaxed," she says.
And Jean Hailes endocrinologist Dr Sonia Davison encourages everyone to use the warmer weather to "get moving – take your family (and dog) for a brisk nightly walk to see the beautiful Christmas lights adorning the houses in your neighbourhood. It's a magical time to share with your family, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and you're getting fit at the same time!"
29 November 2013:
With 32% of women in Australia experiencing anxiety over their lifetime, Jean Hailes for Women's Health is proud to have partnered with MLC Community Foundation to develop an innovative evidence-based online resource aimed at preventing common mental health problems in women.
Launching in Melbourne today (Friday 29 November) by Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Anxiety: Learn, Think, Do is a proactive 'hub' of information that will help women to understand worry and anxiety, helping to reduce the prevalence of anxiety-related disorders across Australia.
The anxiety resource has been developed and co-authored by leading mental health specialists at Jean Hailes – Jane Fisher, the Jean Hailes Professor of Women's Health at Monash University and psychologist Dr Mandy Deeks, Head of Translation, Education and Communication.
"Women have a number of reproductive and health conditions that increase the risk of mental health issues such as anxiety," said Prof Fisher. "This includes women with fertility problems, pregnant women or women who have recently had a baby and women managing a chronic illness."
11 November 2013:
In support of Postnatal Depression Awareness Week (17-23 November), Jean Hailes for Women’s Health reminds everyone how important it is to care for, and support, new parents.
In the excitement following a birth, it is often the baby that can become the focus of attention; and the needs of the new mother or father can be overlooked – even by those people nearest to them.
Jane Fisher, the Jean Hailes Professor of Women’s Health at Monash University says all women and men who have recently had a baby need support and encouragement from loved ones in order to boost their confidence as parents and protect their mental health.
“All parents need extra kindness and empathy while learning to care for a baby, whether they are first time parents or a family in which there is a new baby and older children,” says Professor Fisher. “It is normal to feel worried, irritable and tearful some of the time, but if these are the main feelings a new parent experiences most of the time and there are no moments of joy, then it is worth consulting a health professional.”
In Australia about one in 10 women will experience depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth. While rates are much lower among men, many men can feel worried, in particular about the responsibilities for their family’s financial security. Some men deal with worries by using alcohol and up to one in four can drink too much.
“The good news is that mental health can be protected by supportive relationships with family and friends,” says Professor Fisher.
“There is a saying that ‘the birth of a baby is also the birth of a parent. Just like new babies, parents also have to learn new skills, and it is very important for them to have opportunities to discuss things they feel uncertain about with people they trust.”
28 October 2013:
Around a third of first-time mothers experience anxiety symptoms after the birth of their baby. And they are not alone in their anxiety, with 17 per cent of first-time fathers also feeling anxious and finding it difficult to adjust to parenthood during the first six months after their baby’s birth.
New Australian research, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, has found that anxiety and adjustment disorders are more common than post-natal depression in new parents.
Dr Karen Wynter, from the Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University, says the levels of anxiety and adjustment issues were higher than expected.
“Most people think of post-natal depression as the main issue for new parents, but we found depression is not nearly as prevalent as anxiety,” she says.
“I think the research shows that we also need to pay more attention to new fathers, because some of them will have problems adjusting to a new baby in the house. But I don’t think we are including men and asking them how they’re managing as much as we should at the moment.”
The study involved 172 couples from metro and rural areas and from different socio-economic backgrounds. Women and men from each couple were interviewed separately four weeks after the birth of their baby and again when their baby was six-months-old.
Based on the interviews, researchers assessed whether the new parents were displaying symptoms of depression, anxiety and/or adjustment disorders.
“Adjustment to a new baby is bound to have implications for women and men. At work things are usually predictable and go to plan and they’re confident they have the skills they need for their career,” says Dr Wynter.
“A baby doesn’t come with a manual to help new parents manage and parents may feel less confident about caring for a baby than about managing tasks at work. One might expect some adjustment issues and anxiety – but around a third of women and almost a fifth of men in the study reported that they were experiencing enough anxiety symptoms to interfere with their daily life. We were surprised to find that much anxiety.”
Dr Wynter says the study findings highlight the need for couples and for health professionals to be more aware that anxiety may arise after the arrival of a child, particularly a first baby.
24 October 2013:
|Poster: Shared vision for women’s health: a translation partnership between Jean Hailes and Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet
Jean Hailes for Women’s Health is proud to announce the development of a new online health information hub for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers.
This exciting initiative is being announced at the National Indigenous Women’s Health Workshop being held at Monash Medical Centre on 25-26 October 2013, an event designed to establish key priorities, inform research and provide evidence to inform policy and practice in the field of Indigenous women’s health.
Developed in partnership with the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (AIH), the new online resource aims to provide health workers with access to evidence-based key information about a variety of women’s reproductive life stages.
“We are delighted to be partnering with HealthInfoNet to provide a relevant and accessible online resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers across Australia,” said Jean Hailes project leader, Louise Browne. “Together, our organisations have combined research translation, expertise, knowledge transfer and community education and outreach to be able to provide the highest quality information on women’s health.”
Topics include the menstrual cycle, contraception, pregnancy planning, fertility issues, polycystic ovary syndrome and menopause.
“These topics were chosen with input from health workers and a range of health professionals working in the area of Indigenous health as the issues most relevant to their communities,” said Louise. “They provide important information for all women at various ages and life stages.”
14 October 2013:
In celebration of World Food Day (October 16) and National Nutrition Week (October 13-19), Jean Hailes for Women’s Health has created a cooking video series with resident naturopath and herbalist Sandra Villella explaining the nutritional benefits of simple and nutritious foods and recipes.
Understanding the nutritional value of the food you eat can help you make conscious decisions about your food choices, says Sandra, whose love of cooking comes from her Italian heritage, together with her extensive knowledge and research as a naturopath specialising in women’s health.
“You don't need to know the intricate details about nutrition but knowing that a certain food is high in calcium or rich in antioxidants, for example, may influence you to choose one food over another,” she says. “Think of eating well as an investment in your health.”
In the Jean Hailes Kitchen series, Sandra shows viewers how easy it is to eat well and simply, and explains the particular health benefits of some of her favourite ingredients for women at various times in their lives. The recipes can all be downloaded so you can keep them handy while cooking.
14 October 2013:
Around one in three Australian women over the age of 50 will sustain a fracture as a result of osteoporosis and the risk of fracture increases around the time of menopause.
As women approach menopause they need to focus more closely on maintaining healthy bones to avoid becoming a statistic, says Dr Sonia Davison, an endocrinologist at Jean Hailes for Women's Health.
Friday October 18 is World Menopause Day and Sunday October 20 is World Osteoporosis Day - a great time for women to focus on how menopause affects their bones.
"Around the time of menopause women can often worry about symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats and mood disturbance and they may not think of the impacts of menopause on their bones," says Dr Davison.
"Bone mineral density peaks between the ages of 25 and 30 and after that it gradually starts to decline," she says. "But that decline accelerates sharply around menopause. It's important at this stage in life that women see their doctor to find out what they can do to prevent fracture and osteoporosis."
Osteoporosis is a disease where bones get thinner, becoming more fragile and more likely to break. Because there are usually no symptoms, women may not realise they have the condition until a fracture occurs.
Menopause speeds up the thinning of bones and at this time your GP may recommend a DXA scan to check your bone density and to identify any risk factors for osteoporosis.
"The female hormone, oestrogen, plays a major role in maintaining bone mineral density. At menopause there's a drop in oestrogen levels and women lose about 2 per cent of bone mass each year after menopause," says Dr Davison.
The good news is there are ways to slow the loss of bone density and so reduce the risk of fracture.
"Hormone replacement therapy is an option for women aged under 60-years as it will help maintain bone mineral density," says Dr Davison.
Calcium and vitamin D are also important, as is weight-bearing exercise.
7 October 2013:
This year on World Mental Health Day (October 10), experts at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health are reminding women that taking time to reflect and recharge is important for their mental health and wellbeing.
A recent online poll during the inaugural Jean Hailes Women’s Health Week asking ‘How do you take time out for yourself?’ found that 20% of respondents said that this was difficult for them and that they needed to get better at taking time out for themselves.
“Women often expect a lot of themselves without realising that this can sap energy and enthusiasm,” says Jane Fisher, the Jean Hailes Professor of Women’s Health at Monash University. “We forget that for us to be able to keep giving to others, we not only have to look after ourselves, but we need to allow others to give to us too. We are great at looking after everyone else in our lives, but we often put ourselves last.”
Many women feel constantly over-committed; juggling obligations to their employer and colleagues, family members and friends. There is often limited time out to recharge. Setting aside time for personal needs is not easy in a busy life and may feel indulgent or selfish.
“There’s a great analogy that when you travel on a plane, the flight attendants instruction is to fasten your own oxygen mask before helping others. We can apply this same principle when managing priorities in our own lives.”
“It’s important for women to realise that attending to their own needs – socialising with friends, exercising, reading, making craft, going to a movie or having leisure time – helps give you the energy to care for others with affection and patience,” says Jane.
24 September 2013:
It’s never too early – or too late – to start looking after your heart health.
That’s the key message from health experts who are encouraging women of all ages to take care of their heart and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
World Heart Day (September 29) is highlighting the fact that from childhood through adulthood women can help prevent heart disease with some simple lifestyle changes.
Raising awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of Australian women is also important, says Dr Sonia Davison, an endocrinologist at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.
“I think many women wrongly believe that heart disease is a male problem and that they’ll die of something else – like breast cancer,” says Dr Davison.
“Because women are not aware of how many women have heart disease and because they severely under-estimate their risk of this disease, they are not taking steps that could reduce their risk.”
According to the Heart Foundation, women are almost three times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer, and almost 30 per cent of women have one or more risk factor for heart disease.
These are: being overweight, being physically inactive, smoking, having a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Dr Davison says apart from a family history, all of these risk factors can be managed.
“Firstly, knowing that you are at risk is important,” says Dr Davison.
“You may not know you are at risk, so it’s important to have regular check-ups with your GP, and look at your lifestyle and see what you can do to minimise the risks. Do this and it is less likely that you will have significant heart disease further down the track.”
20 September 2013:
Women in Australia who conceive using assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF – and who have a caesarean birth before going in to labour – are less likely to breastfeed. This is despite the majority of pregnant women stating that they want to breastfeed their baby for at least six months.
Australian researchers say the study findings highlight the complexity of the relationship between a mother's age, method of conception, type of birth and breast feeding. They also emphasise the importance of health professionals helping to build confidence in women to breast feed, particularly in women who have had an assisted conception and caesarean birth prior to labour.
"We hope this new data will encourage midwives, lactation consultants and doctors to provide women in this situation with additional assistance to help them establish breastfeeding," says Professor Jane Fisher, the Jean Hailes Professor of Women's Health at Monash University and lead author of the paper published this week in Acta Paediatrica.
"These are important findings and show that women using assisted reproductive technology (ART) to become pregnant need to be aware that they may find breastfeeding difficult, and so ask for support and help quickly after their babies are born," said A/Professor John McBain, Senior Fertility Specialist at Melbourne IVF and a co-author of the paper.