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US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000)

Thalidomide, a drug capable of causing fetal abnormalities (teratogen), has caused greater than ten thousand birth defects worldwide since its introduction to the market as a pharmaceutical agent. Prior to discovering thalidomide's teratogenic effects in the early 1960s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not place regulations on drug approval or monitoring as it later did. By 1962, approximately 20,000 patients in the US had taken thalidomide as part of an unregulated clinical trial before any actions were taken to stop thalidomide's distribution.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Edwin Carlyle (Carl) Wood (1929–2011)

Edwin Carlyle Wood, also known as Carl Wood, was a physician who helped develop in vitro fertilization, or IVF, treatments. From 1964 to 1992, Wood worked as a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where he was one of the first in the world to lead a team of physicians to establish IVF as a proven treatment for infertility. IVF refers to a medical procedure in which scientists inseminate an egg cell with a sperm cell outside of the body, such as in a glass dish in a clinical setting.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Technologies, Reproduction

Studies of Thalidomide's Effects on Rodent Embryos from 1962-2008

Thalidomide is a sedative drug introduced to European markets on 1 October 1957 after extensive testing on rodent embryos to ensure its safety. Early laboratory tests in rodent populations showed that pregnant rodents could safely use it, so doctors prescribed Thalidomide to treat morning sickness in pregnant women. However, in humans Thalidomide interfered with embryonic and fetal development in ways not observed in rodent tests.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, Reproduction, Disorders

Eugen Steinach (1861–1944)

Eugen Steinach researched sex hormones and their effects on mammals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe. He experimented on rats by removing their testicles and implanting them elsewhere in their bodies, and he found that the testes interstitial cells produce male sex hormones. He developed the Steinach Rejuvenation Procedure, which he claimed could rejuvenate men by increasing their production of sex hormones. Steinach’s work on female sex hormones and on ovarian extracts led to the development of the first standardized injectable estrogen.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Corticosteroids' Effect on Fetal Lung Maturation (1972), by Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins and Ross Howie

In a clinical trial from 1969 to 1972, Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins and Ross Howie showed that if doctors treat pregnant women with corticosteroids before those women deliver prematurely, then those women's infants have fewer cases of respiratory distress syndrome than do similarly premature infants of women not treated with corticosteroids. Prior to the study, premature infants born before 32 weeks of gestation often died of respiratory distress syndrome, or the inability to inflate immature lungs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

History of the Monash IVF Research Program from 1971 to 1989

In 1971, a group of researchers founded the Monash IVF Research Program with the mission to discover how in vitro fertilization, or IVF, techniques could become a treatment for infertility in both men and women. The program included researcher Carl Wood and colleagues John Leeton, Alex Lopata, Alan Trounson, and Ian Johnston at the Queen Victoria Medical Center and Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Since the program’s establishment in 1971, the Monash IVF Research Program has helped to develop and implement many IVF technologies still used in clinical practice as of 2020.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

“Effects of Maternal Age, Parity, and Smoking on the Risk of Stillbirth” (1994), by Elizabeth Raymond, Sven Cnattingius, and John Kiely

In April 1994, Elizabeth Raymond, Sven Cnattingius, and John Kiely published “Effects of Maternal Age, Parity, and Smoking on the Risk of Stillbirth” in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, now known as BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The article examines how advanced maternal age, defined as delivery at thirty-five years old or older, cigarette smoking, and nulliparity, or the state of never having given birth, can negatively impact pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Publications

George Nicholas Papanicolaou (1883–1962)

George Nicholas Papanicolaou developed the Pap test in the United States during the twentieth century. The Pap test is a diagnostic procedure used to test for cervical cancer in women. Papanicolaou’s work helped improve the reproductive health of women by providing an effective means of identifying precancerous cells and improving the likelihood of early treatment and survival of cervical cancer.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

“Chapter Two: Minimum Initial Services Package (MISP)” in Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations: An Inter-agency Field Manual (1999), by the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises

In 1999, the Inter-agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises, hereafter the IAWG, wrote the Minimum Initial Services Package, hereafter MISP, which is the second chapter in Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations: An Inter-agency Field Manual. The IAWG wrote MISP for governments and agencies, who respond to humanitarian crises, as a guide for the provision of reproductive health services at the beginning of a humanitarian crises.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is a test used for prenatal diagnosis of inherited diseases, Rh incompatibility, neural tube defects, and lung maturity. Normally performed during the second trimester of a pregnancy, this invasive procedure allows the detection of health problems in the fetus as early as fifteen weeks gestation. Although amniocentesis does carry some significant risks, the medical community commonly accepts it as a safe and useful procedure.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

“Effect of Vaginal Sildenafil on the Outcome of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) After Multiple IVF Failures Attributed to Poor Endometrial Development” (2002), by Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch

Researchers Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch gave Viagra, also known as sildenafil, to women undergoing fertility treatment to test whether the medication could improve fertility and pregnancy rates. The researchers proposed that Viagra, typically indicated to treat erectile dysfunction in men, would help women with a history of failed past fertility treatments by thickening their endometrial lining, which is the layer of tissue in the uterus where an embryo implants during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction, Disorders

"The Familial Factor in Toxemia of Pregnancy" (1968), by Leon C. Chesley, et al.

In the 1950s and 1960s, researchers Leon Chesley, John Annitto, and Robert Cosgrove investigated the possible familial factor for the conditions of preeclampsia and eclampsia in pregnant women. Preeclampsia and eclampsia, which are related to high blood pressure, have unknown causes and affect at least five percent of all pregnancies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Experiments, Disorders

Anencephaly

Anencephaly is an open neural tube defect, meaning that part of the neural tube does not properly close or that it has reopened during early embryogenesis. An embryo with anencephaly develops without the top of the skull, but retains a partial skull, including the face. Anencephaly is one of the most common birth defects of the neural tube, occurring at a rate of approximately one in one thousand human pregnancies. The condition can be caused by environmental exposure to chemicals, dietary deficiencies, or genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

William Thomas Astbury (1898–1961)

William Thomas Astbury studied the structures of fibrous materials, including fabrics, proteins, and deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in England during the twentieth century. Astbury employed X-ray crystallography, a technique in which scientists use X-rays to learn about the molecular structures of materials. Astbury worked at a time when scientists had not yet identified DNA’s structure or function in genes, the genetic components responsible for how organisms develop and reproduce. He was one of the first scientists to use X-ray crystallography to study the structure of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness (1912), by Henry Herbert Goddard

In 1912, Henry Herbert Goddard published The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness, hereafter The Kallikak Family, in which he argues that people inherit feeble-mindedness, which is presently known as intellectual disability. Feeble-mindedness, according to Goddard, is the source of, what he refers to as, degeneracy, including behaviors such as alcoholism, criminal behavior, prostitution, and sexual promiscuity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Bowen v. Kendrick (1988)

On 29 June 1988, in Bowen v. Kendrick, the US Supreme Court ruled in a five-to-four decision that the 1981 Adolescent Family Life Act, or AFLA, was constitutional. Under AFLA, the US government could distribute federal funding for abstinence-only sexual education programs, oftentimes given to groups with religious affiliations. As a federal taxpayer, Chan Kendrick challenged the constitutionality of AFLA, claiming it violated the separation of church and state.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics, Outreach

“Of Pregnancy and Progeny” (1980), by Norbert Freinkel

Norbert Freinkel’s lecture Of Pregnancy and Progeny was published by the American Diabetes Association’s journal Diabetes in December of 1980. In the lecture, Freinkel argued that pregnancy changes the way that the female body breaks down and uses food. Through experiments that involved pregnant women as well as infants, Freinkel established the body’s maternal metabolism and how it affects both the mother and the infant. Freinkel’s main focus of research in the latter part of his life was diabetes, specifically in pregnant women.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

“Adherence to Combination Prophylaxis for Prevention of Mother-to-Child-Transmission of HIV in Tanzania” (2011), by Inga Kristen, Julius Sewangi, Andrea Kunz, Festo Dugange, Judith Ziske, Brigitte Jordan-Harder, Gundel Harms, and Stefanie Theuring

In 2011, Inga Kristen, Julius Sewangi, Andrea Kunz, Festo Dugange, Judith Ziske, Brigitte Jordan-Harder, Gundel Harms, and Stefanie Theuring published the article, “Adherence to Combination Prophylaxis for Prevention of Mother-to-Child-Transmission of HIV in Tanzania,” in PLoS ONE. Hereafter, “Adherence to Combination Prophylaxis,” the article details the authors’ investigation into the efficacy of a medication regimen called combination prophylaxis to prevent mother-to-child, or MTC, transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, before, during, and after delivery.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Evelyn Lorraine Rothman (1932–2007)

Evelyn Lorraine Rothman advocated for women’s reproductive rights and invented at-home kits for women’s health concerns in the late twentieth century in Los Angeles, California. Rothman provided women in the Los Angeles area with the means to perform self-examinations, pregnancy tests, and abortions on their own without assistance from a medical professional. Along with Carol Downer, Rothman cofounded the Federation of Feminist Health Centers in Los Angeles, California, and spent her career educating women on reproductive health.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"The Association between Depressive Symptoms and Social Support in Taiwanese Women During the Month" (2004), by Shu-Shya Heh et al.

In 2004, Shu-Shya Heh, Lindsey Coombes, and Helen Bartlett studied the association between Chinese postpartum (post-childbirth) practices and postpartum depression in Taiwanese women. The researchers surveyed Taiwanese women about the social support they received after giving birth and then evaluated the depression rates in the same women. Heh and her colleagues focused on the month following childbirth, which according to traditional Chinese medicine, is an important period that warrants a set of specialized practices to aid the woman's recovery.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Barry Morris Goldwater (1909–1998)

Barry Morris Goldwater was a Republican Arizona Senator and US presidential candidate in the twentieth-century whose policies supported the women's reproductive rights movement. Goldwater, a businessman and Air Force reservist, transitioned into politics in the 1950s. He helped align popular support for a conservative Republican Party in the 1960s. Throughout his life, he worked to maintain personal liberty and to limit governmental intrusion into citizens' private lives. Goldwater, influenced by his wife Margaret (Peggy) Goldwater, supported women's rights to abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Legal, Religion

Elinor Catherine Hamlin (1924- )

Elinor Catherine Hamlin founded and helped fund centers in Ethiopia to treat women affected by fistulas from obstetric complications. Obstetric fistulas develop in women who experience prolonged labor, as the pressure placed on the pelvis by the fetus during labor causes a hole, or fistula, to form between the vagina and the bladder (vesicovaginal fistula) or between the vagina and the rectum (rectovaginal fistula). Both of those conditions result in urinary or fecal incontinence, which often impacts womenÍs social status within their communities.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

"Presence of Fetal DNA in Maternal Plasma and Serum" (1997), by Dennis Lo, et al.

In the late 1990s researchers Yuk Ming Dennis Lo and his colleagues isolated fetal DNA extracted from pregnant woman’s blood. The technique enabled for more efficient and less invasive diagnoses of genetic abnormalities in fetuses, such as having too many copies of chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Using Digital PCR to Detect Fetal Chromosomal Aneuploidy in Maternal Blood (2007)

In 2007, Dennis Lo and his colleagues used digital polymerase chain reaction or PCR to detect trisomy 21 in maternal blood, validating the method as a means to detect fetal chromosomal aneuploidies, or an abnormal number of chromosomes in a cell. The team conducted their research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, and at the Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

John Chassar Moir (1900–1977)

John Chassar Moir lived in Scotland during the twentieth century and helped develop techniques to improve the health of pregnant women. Moir helped to discover compounds that doctors could administer to women after childbirth to prevent life-threatening blood loss. Those compounds included the ergot alkaloid called ergometrine, also called ergonovine, and d-lysergic acid beta-propanolamide. Moir tested ergometrine in postpartum patients and documented that it helped prevent or manage postpartum hemorrhage in women.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Disorders