TIME Health Care

How Prioritizing Women’s Health Can Lift Countries Out of Poverty

Countries can tap the potential of the world's historic number of youth and adolescents

There are currently 1.8 billion young people between ages 10 and 14, and about 600 million are adolescent girls. Their needs, if addressed, could help countries achieve rapid economic growth, according to a new report from the UN Population Fund.

The global community has never before been home to so many youth, and therefore so much untapped potential, the study says.

It’s possible to turn all that womanpower into prosperity. When it comes to international development, a country can experience accelerated growth during a period if its working-age population grows larger than its non-working age population, typically because fertility and mortality rates have dropped. This allows the country to become a more profitable society, a benefit called the “demographic dividend.” Given the high number of youth and adolescents today, the UN report says several countries are poised for this transition if they can ensure that their young people actually make it into the workforce.

Several factors can contribute to this transition, like increasing living standards and creating transparent regulatory environments, but one of the greatest factors cited by the UN report is if a country significantly prioritizes and invests in women’s health, including sexual health.

MORE: Why It Takes Teens Equipped With Condoms to Encourage Family Planning in Africa

As the report points out, about one in every three girls will be married by the time she turns 18—every day, 39,000 girls become child brides—and an estimated 33 million young women between ages 15 and 24 say they would use contraceptives if they had access to them. Unfortunately, contraceptive use among adolescent females is only 22%, due to limited availability. In many developing countries, once a woman is married off and starts having children, it’s often too difficult for her to enter the workforce, especially if she was married at a very young age and did not finish school. Getting pregnant at a young age also increases the risk of a dangerous pregnancy, once again raising the mortality rates for mothers and children.

“Child marriage, because it usually results in early pregnancy, is linked to deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and married girls are more likely than married women to suffer violence and other abuse at the hands of their husbands,” says the report.

The UN says that some of the most successful ways to make sure women are safe and can enter the workforce are to enforce their reproductive rights via family planning initiatives, to stop child marriage, prevent adolescent pregnancies, stop sexual and gender-based violence and expand access to education. If women can enter the workforce, they can contribute to their local economies.

Family planning programs not only empower women to determine their life’s trajectory, but they mean big payoffs for a country’s workforce and economy—something many countries still need to embrace.

TIME Venezuela

Venezuela Shocks Shoppers With Pregnant Schoolgirl Mannequins

A woman reacts in front of a display showing mannequins of pregnant schoolgirls at a shopping mall in Caracas
A woman reacts in front of a display showing mannequins of pregnant schoolgirls at a shopping mall in Caracas November 12, 2014. Carlos Garcia Rawlins—Reuters

The displays are meant to draw attention to the high teen pregnancy rate

Parents shopping for the uniforms that Venezuelan children wear until age 15 were startled to find the clothing advertised on adolescent, pregnant mannequins at a shopping mall in Caracas.

The displays were intended to draw attention to the high teen pregnancy rate in Venezuela, where 23 percent of all babies are born to mothers under the age of 18.

The scandal came only days after the United Nations expressed concern over the country’s high teen pregnancy and maternal mortality rates.

The mannequins will stay in the windows for a month, and may appear in other retail locations around the country.

[Reuters]

TIME celebrities

One Direction Met Kate Middleton and Harry Styles Congratulated Her on Her Bump

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Attend The Royal Variety Performance
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge meets boy band One Direction at The Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium on November 13, 2014 in London, England. Yui Mok—WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Duchess of Cambridge was attending the Royal Variety Show with Prince William

Harry Styles said Kate Middleton “didn’t look bumpy,” when he met her and congratulated her on her pregnancy on Thursday.

The Duchess of Cambridge and her husband Prince William met the One Direction singer and his fellow band members at the Palladium in London, where the royal couple had come to attend the Royal Variety Show.

“I said ‘Congratulations on the bump’,” Styles told The Mirror.

Middleton, who is expecting her second child, was greeted at the entrance by the boy band, which also comprises Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan.

“It’s the most nervous I think I’ve ever been in my life,” Payne said about meeting the royal couple.

[Mirror]

TIME Research

PTSD Raises Risk of Premature Birth, Study Says

The researchers hope that treating PTSD could reduce the risks of premature birth

An analysis of more than 16,000 births by female veterans found that women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are significantly more likely to give birth prematurely.

PTSD has long been suspected of increasing the risk of premature delivery, but the study, jointly conducted by Stanford University and the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, provides strong support for the need to treat mothers with PTSD.

“Stress is setting off biologic pathways that are inducing preterm labor,” Ciaran Phibbs, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford, said in a statement. The study, published online on Thursday in Obstetrics & Gynecology, offered hope that treatment could prove effective in reducing the risk. While women with PTSD in the year leading up to delivery faced a higher risk of premature delivery, women who had been diagnosed with PTSD but had not experienced symptoms of the disorder in the past year did not.

“This makes us hopeful that if you treat a mom who has active PTSD early in her pregnancy, her stress level could be reduced, and the risk of giving birth prematurely might go down,” Phibbs said.

The implications extend beyond women in combat, since PTSD is not unique to combat. In fact, half of the veterans in the study had never been deployed to combat.

TIME Developmental Disorders

ADHD Linked to the Air Pregnant Women Breathe

AR5037-001
Heavy traffic can pollute the air with compounds that can contribute to ADHD Alan Hicks—Getty Images

Everything an expectant mother does can have an impact on her baby’s development—including the air she breathes

Research has long connected what a mom-to-be eats and drinks to the health of her baby, and recent studies have even linked behavioral experiences such as stress, sleep and mood to the growing fetus’s development.

Now, scientists reporting in the journal PLOS ONE have pinpointed one exposure that could contribute to a baby’s higher risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), which the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control show affects around 11% of children aged four to 17 years.

MORE: Early Exposure to Air Pollution Tied to Higher Risk of Hyperactivity in Children

Frederica Perera, director of the center for environmental health sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and her colleagues focused in on how the pollutants in the air that pregnant women breathe can affect their babies’ cognitive development. Perera previously found a correlation between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) emitted by burning fossil fuels (such as in car exhaust and some forms of residential heating) to developmental delays by age three, reduced IQ in kindergartners and attentional problems by age six. So the team looked specifically at symptoms associated with concentration and evaluated how these effects connected to PAHs might be contributing to ADHD.

The scientists measured the level of PAHs in both the cord blood retrieved when the mothers gave birth and the mothers’ blood following delivery. They also collected urine samples from the children at age three or five years and analyzed them for PAH levels. The children born to mothers with higher levels of PAH during pregnancy had five-fold increased odds of showing symptoms of ADHD than those who were born to mothers with lower levels. The effect remained strong even after the researchers adjusted for the babies’ exposure to air pollution and smoking after birth.

“This is a new finding, and if the PAHs are identified as a contributor to ADHD, that opens up new avenues for preventing ADHD,” says Perera.

MORE: Study Links Exposure to Pollution with Lower IQ

PAHs, says Perera, circulate in the body for a long time, so even brief exposures could contribute to changes in the body. And each person processes the chemicals differently. Some may be more prone to breaking down the compounds into their potentially toxic elements, while others are less affected by the exposure.

While mothers may not be able to control some exposures, such as those from traffic and heating sources, there are some ways that expectant women can reduce their risk. Pushing local legislators to adopt clean air laws is one way to improve air quality, and on a more personal level, families can make sure that cooking areas have proper ventilation, avoid burning candles and incense and other sources of PAHs, and most importantly, ensure that they aren’t exposed to tobacco smoke. “Air quality is a policy problem, but individuals can be empowered to take steps,” Perera says.

MORE: Mom’s Exposure to Air Pollution Can Increase Kids’ Behavior Problems

Women who are pregnant can also eat more antioxidants from sources like fresh fruits and vegetables, since these can counteract some of the oxidative damage that PAHs wreak on fetal cells.

Perera stresses that limiting exposure to PAHs isn’t the only answer to reducing the increasing rate of ADHD in the country. Genetic and other environmental factors all contribute to the disorder, but identifying as many potential factors as possible could start to reduce the effect that the chemicals have not just on mothers, but on their developing babies as well.

TIME Television

Craig Ferguson Fed Ribs to a Pregnant Zoe Saldana

Guardians of the Galaxy star admitted she was having pregnancy cravings

Guardians of the Galaxy actress Zoe Saldana told Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show Wednesday that she was experiencing cravings– like any pregnant woman.

So the late night host responded by taking out a platter of ribs, donuts and sandwiches from behind his desk. He even brought out more food after a commercial break.

The actress has her due date in eight to ten weeks and will be having twin boys according to People. She’s promoting the animated move, Book of Life, which is in theaters now.

MONEY mortgages

Wells Fargo Settles Charges It Refused Mortgages to Moms

A woman walks past teller machines at a Wells Fargo bank in San Francisco, California.
Wells Fargo promised to enact new Temporary Leave Underwriting Guidelines and educate their loan officers. Robert Galbraith—Reuters

A woman says a mortgage loan officer told her, "Moms often don’t return to work after the birth of their little ones."

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage agreed Thursday to pay $5 million to settle allegations that its home loan officers discriminated against pregnant women and women on maternity leave out of fear that the mothers would not return to work, potentially jeopardizing their ability to repay the loans.

Six families alleged that loan officers employed by Wells Fargo, the biggest provider of home loans, made discriminatory comments during the mortgage application process, made loans unavailable to them, and even forced mothers to end maternity leave early and return to work before finalizing the loans. One of the six complainants was a real estate agent who alleges he lost a commission due to discrimination against one of his clients.

Lindsay Doyal, one of the women who filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, says that she was denied a mortgage despite providing several letters from her employer confirming that she intended to go back to work, the Washington Post reports. Doyal says she received an e-mail from a Wells Fargo loan officer that said, “moms often don’t return to work after the birth of their little ones.”

Since 2010, HUD has received 90 maternity leave discrimination complaints, 40 of which have been settled, with a total of almost $1.5 million going to loan applicants. The families in the Wells Fargo case will receive a total of $165,000, and Wells Fargo will create a fund of up to $5 million for other affected mortgage applicants.

“The settlement is significant for the six families who had the courage to file complaints, and for countless other families who will no longer fear losing out on a home simply because they are expecting a baby,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in a statement. “I’m committed to leveling the playing field for all families when it comes to mortgage lending. These types of settlements get us closer to ensuring that no qualified family will be singled out for discrimination.”

Wells Fargo promised to enact new Temporary Leave Underwriting Guidelines and educate their loan officers.

“We resolved these claims to avoid a lengthy legal dispute so we can continue to serve the needs of our customers,” Wells Fargo said in a statement. “Our underwriting is consistent with longstanding fair and responsible lending practices and our policies do not require that applicants on temporary leave return to work before being approved. The agreement resolves claims related to only five loan applications from a period when Wells Fargo processed a total of approximately 3 million applications from female customers.”

[Washington Post]

TIME women

Doing Shots in Vegas—The IVF Kind

Las Vegas sign
ranplett—Getty Images/Vetta

Who needs a man to get pregnant when you've got a lemon drop shot in one hand and a fertility shot in the other?

When people talk about doing shots in Vegas, this isn’t what they have in mind. But on a Tuesday night in July, I sat at the black granite dressing table in a bathroom at the Palazzo, my bikini still damp from the pool, and prepared to jab myself in the abdomen.

I had been thinking about freezing my eggs for a long time. At 38, happily single with a career just starting to take off and a lot of travel in my immediate future, I knew I wasn’t ready to start a family. But since I want a child of my own some day, I figured now was the time to freeze my eggs.

Once I’d decided on the procedure, I told all of my close friends. At first I felt sheepish, as if the decision signaled that I had “given up” on finding a partner. The traditional model of an American woman’s path to happiness and a family, reinforced in movies and television, does not leave much room for deviation. It feels as if the options are black and white—either you follow the traditional path (love, marriage, baby) or you’re a spinster with cats.

Luckily everyone—my parents, friends, and colleagues—was incredibly supportive. My friend Briita even texted me emoji of hypodermic needles and chicken eggs.

After getting over the exorbitant cost—the biggest barrier to egg freezing—my greatest fear was giving myself the shots. I imagined maneuvering giant horse needles into my butt, jabbing backward into the skin like puncturing a watermelon with a bread knife. Instead, the needle I held in the Vegas hotel bathroom was shorter than my thumbnail, and slid into the skin of my abdomen nearly effortlessly.

When Briita invited me to join her for a weekend in Vegas, I almost didn’t go because it was going to be the first night of my injections. But I figured if I had to do them, Vegas would be as good a place as anywhere.

Briita and I discussed the procedure poolside, lounging in the warm desert sun. Glancing at my watch, I realized the two-hour window for the injection time, which started at 6 p.m., was approaching. Briita gave me the idea to commemorate my first one: a shot for a shot.

A waitress came over, and we considered what kind of liquid encouragement was appropriate for my first stab into motherhood. “A lemon drop shot,” said Briita.

The drink arrived in a plastic mini-Solo cup. The purist in me wanted a real shot glass, but this would do.

“Do you want me to go with you?” Briita asked, her voice dropping, the words coming out more slowly and carefully, as if she wanted to offer her help but wasn’t exactly sure of the protocol.

“No, it’s fine. I got this. I’ll text you if I need help.”

Drink in hand, I went up to our palatial hotel room and retrieved my box of Follistim cartridges from its minibar perch on top of tiny cans of Red Bull and Heineken. I meticulously went through all the prepping steps, watching and re-watching YouTube instructional videos produced by fertility clinics, which usually featured married white couples with the husband administering the shot. They zoomed in on weirdly manicured and disembodied hands dialing back the dosage on the injection pen as if it were a gold watch on QVC.

The unofficial videos on YouTube by regular people were far more relatable. If a woman sitting at her computer could slide a needle into a soft roll of fat while talking to a camera without skipping a beat, then I knew I could do it. These women talked frankly about their fertility, the challenges of IVF, and the unexpected side effects. There were women struggling with infertility wishing each other good luck and “baby dust,” message boards where you could find “cycling partners” who were on the same hormone schedule, and endless tips about how to make the shots easier.

Pumping the music out of my iPhone (I had built an injection playlist that included Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” and LMFAO’s “Shots”), I laid out some paper towels on a “clean, flat surface,” sang along to the refrains, and giggled at every “shot” reference. Silly puns, it turns out, have great healing value. Aging, single motherhood, infertility, fear of dying alone—these issues are serious enough. When they’re coupled with a syringefest reminiscent of a scene from Pulp Fiction, you don’t need any more fear and trepidation. You need Pat Benatar, cranked up. There is something incredibly rewarding about drawing a deep breath, putting “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” on replay, and just getting it done.

I took a swig of the lemon drop shot with my left hand and steadied the needle with my right. I made two aborted attempts. And then I sank the needle into my belly, released the pinch of skin I was holding, and slowly pushed the medicine into my body. I counted to five, pulled out the needle, and began celebrating.

Las Vegas is such an impossible, unlikely place, a neon metropolis in the middle of the desert. Equally marvelous and unlikely is the technology that allows me to safely retrieve and freeze my eggs for future use, without a single incision. Because egg freezing only recently lost its “experimental” status and the success rates are not as well known as with embryo freezing, I decided to keep my options open and freeze both eggs and embryos. It feels a little bit like I’m living in a science fiction novel.

Now, a few months post-retrieval, I wonder when and how I will decide to use the eggs I’ve just nourished, protected, collected, and frozen. It’s possible I’ll meet someone and have children the traditional way. It’s possible I’ll marry in time for one child, but need to return to my frozen eggs for a second one. It’s possible I’ll decide to be a single mother, the way my mother was for many years. It’s possible I’ll adopt or decide not to have children at all, and be equally happy. But if I do have a daughter or son some day from the eggs I retrieved, I look forward to telling my child about the unexpected summer night in Vegas when it all started.

Tara Prescott is a lecturer in writing programs and faculty in residence at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is co-editor of Feminism in the Worlds of Neil Gaiman and editor of Neil Gaiman in the Twenty-first Century, to be released by McFarland & Company in 2015.

This piece originally appeared on Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME diabetes

Here’s Why Women Should Avoid Fried Food Before Pregnancy

Fried chicken
Getty Images

So much for those burger-and-fries cravings.

A new study published in Diabetologia found that women who eat more fried food before conceiving are at greater risk for developing gestational diabetes—the kind that starts or is first noticed during pregnancy. Researchers looked at diet questionnaires from about 15,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II.

Once they adjusted for BMI, researchers found that women who ate fried food seven or more times a week had an 88% greater risk for gestational diabetes than those who ate fried food less than once a week.

MORE: Mom’s Diabetes Linked To Autism and Developmental Delays

Interestingly, the association was particularly strong with fried foods eaten away from home compared to home-cooked fried food. Restaurants tend to reuse their oil for multiple fryings, a practice that deteriorates oils through oxidation and hydrogenation. “Refrying may produce more of those detrimental chemicals,” says co-author Cuilin Zhang, MD, an investigator at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Frying also creates inflammatory compounds that may contribute to cell damage and diabetes—which Zhang suspects are related to the fried food.

No one would argue that a chicken nugget is a health food, but that kind of dining may be more hazardous when you’re getting ready to eat for two.

TIME Race

Dear White Ladies, You Will Have To Raise Your Black Baby and Love Every Minute of It

Jennifer Cramblett
Jennifer Cramblett is interviewed at her attorney's home in Waite Hill, Ohio, on Oct. 1, 2014. Mark Duncan—AP

During her pregnancy, Jennifer Cramblett found out what she thought was sperm from donor vial No. 380, a white guy, actually came from donor No. 330, a black man

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

What to do? What to do? Jennifer Cramblett is suing a Chicago sperm bank for wrongful birth because a lab mix-up produced a baby of the wrong color — black.

The Uniontown, Ohio, resident who lives with her lesbian partner Amanda Zinkon and biracial daughter Payton, two, also alleges breach of warranty in the suit filed this week in the Circuit Court of Cook County, which has the largest population of black folks in America, by the way. (This population is what probably explains the creature that is Barack Obama, but that’s another story.)

During her pregnancy, Cramblett found out what she thought was sperm from donor vial No. 380, a white guy, actually came from donor No. 330, a black dude. So now this lesbian couple living what until very recently was widely considered a nontraditional lifestyle is clutching their chests over the prospect of having to raise a black girl, though they report having “bonded with Payton easily.”

It’s just that the neighbors are a problem. And the family.

“Family members, one uncle in particular, speak openly and derisively about persons of color. [Cramblett] did not know African-Americans until her college days at the University of Akron,” the suit says.

“Because of this background and upbringing, Jennifer acknowledges her limited cultural competency relative to African-Americans, and steep learning curve, particularly in small, homogenous Uniontown, which she regards as too racially intolerant.”

This suit, these women, America’s un-evolved racial attitudes present some problems, so let me start here:

They’re right.

The couple questions their “cultural competence” to raise a black child given their limited experience with black folks. Not enough white parents involved in what’s called transracial adoption question their competency in these matters. “Love will conquer all,” they say, until the first time they’re perplexed by the inability to get a comb through their little black girl’s hair, then cut her “bangs” that shrivel up into a curious forehead afro. Mark that No. 1 on things to discuss with the therapist when that little girl grows up.

As white women, they’re certainly typical. Most white people don’t have any black friends, as we know from a recent Public Religion Research Institute study showing three-quarters of white Americans don’t have any non-white pals. It’s so easy to pretend America’s racial problems (think: #jordandavis #ferguson) don’t exist until they populate your Twitter feed.

The couple also say they live in what they consider a racially insensitive town that might give the child hell one day. Yup, that could happen. Just ask Trayvon Martin. Oh, we can’t.

They didn’t ask for their lives to be turned into a giant social experiment. Yes, the sperm bank messed up big time, and they should take the hit for it. Whatever money this family receives could be used for Payton’s education or to provide enrichment opportunities of the culturally enriching kind so she just grows up happy and well rounded regardless of her skin color. I hope she doesn’t grow up hating herself or other black people because that happens, you know.

They’re wrong.

They’re gay, so they’re already a social experiment (meaning, homosexuality is only now being accepted as a norm in mainstream society). Gay marriage may soon one day be the law of the land, but the fact that it’s a fight proves the point.

They’re women living in what author Tara Mohr calls a “transitional historical moment.” On one hand, women have more freedom and opportunity than ever, thanks to everything from the first-wave feminism of 1848 Seneca Falls to the success of the 50-year-old Civil Rights Act of 1964, largely thought to be aimed at minorities like Payton. This law is totally responsible for breaking open workplace doors for women, mostly white ones. The very nature of being a woman is a social experiment.

Both women say they were sexually abused as girls, so when “you think of sperm, you think of sexual encounters and neither of us wanted to think of males in our lives again,” according to the suit. In other words, the fact that the baby came out in a way they didn’t plan underscored the lack of control they have felt over their own bodies.

These are strong women for surviving sexual abuse and carefully planning to have children who would be blood relatives by virtue of being inseminated by the same sperm. But did they consider the fact they could have had a boy?

The genetic engineering (and entitlement) tendencies of these women is nauseating. So what, life didn’t turn out the way they planned. Look at employment stats, housing numbers, the failure of public education and mass incarceration — that’s black life, baby.

And what? They don’t know any black lesbians? With children?

Each woman seeks an undetermined amount that exceeds $50,000 in damages. Because they certainly are — damaged.

Deborah Douglas is a journalist living in Chicago.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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