All Women are Pre-Pregnant
A new set of CDC guidelines suggests that all women of child bearing age be considered potentially pregnant.
New federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves — and to be treated by the health care system — as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon. Among other things, this means all women between first menstrual period and menopause should take folic acid supplements, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and keep chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes under control.
While most of these recommendations are well known to women who are pregnant or seeking to get pregnant, experts say it’s important that women follow this advice throughout their reproductive lives, because about half of pregnancies are unplanned and so much damage can be done to a fetus between conception and the time the pregnancy is confirmed.
The recommendations aim to “increase public awareness of the importance of preconception health” and emphasize the “importance of managing risk factors prior to pregnancy,” said Samuel Posner, co-author of the guidelines and associate director for science in the division of reproductive health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued the report.
While this strikes me as plain common sense and something that would do no harm–not smoking, not getting obese, getting enough vitamins, and so forth would be good advice for men, after all–this announcement will have profound political implications once word gets around (the report was in yesterday’s WaPo).
Bitch, Ph.D., perhaps not surprisingly, is outraged.
Yes. “Healthier women have healthier pregnancies.” But healthier women are also healthier. Not that we give a s— about women’s health.
Because, after all, there are no guidelines out there for healthy living for women–it’s all about the fetus?
She also notes that she did all sorts of things she wasn’t supposed to when she was pregnant and her baby turned out just fine. N=1 and all that.
Shakespeare’s Sister joins in:
All I have to say is I AM NOT A BABY INCUBATOR! I am a human being who may or may not (and very likely not) give birth to another human being someday. The healthy decisions I make, I make for me, and I can’t think of a reason with a lesser capacity to dissuade me from making unhealthy decisions than the possibility I might accidentally get pregnant someday. If and when I decide to use my body to create another life, I’ll start making decisions on behalf of that potential life. Until then, my body is mine and mine alone, and I’d really f—ing appreciate it if everyone else would regard it that way as well. F—ing hell.
Even echidne, who once won an award for being a polite blogger, is angry about the tone of the report.
[T]he overall argument is that preconception care should apply to all women in their fertile years, including those who never plan to be pregnant, those who are not partnered and those who have finished their childbearing. Or rather, the existence of such groups of women among the fertile age group is mostly ignored in the report. It also ignores preconception planning for men but perhaps that is something that will appear in a separate recommendation around Father’s Day.
What exactly would “pre-conception planning for men” entail? Aside from producing and delivering sperm, men’s role in the process is rather limited.
And I’m still unhappy with the idea that all fertile women should live as if they might become pregnant tomorrow, even if they have no plans to have children any time soon. Consider alcohol. Drinking some red wine can be good for your heart but bad for an embryo. Should all women abstain from alcohol consumption, even at some risk to their own health? Or take a more serious question: What happens when a medical treatment a fertile-age woman needs might also harm a potential fetus? Is the recommendation that the woman should suffer without the treatment, even if she has no plans of becoming pregnant?
While I’m a doctor, I’m not a medical doctor. Still, one presumes that women of child bearing age would be pregnancy tested if there is any doubt, allowing them to make informed decisions. It would, after all, be devastating to accidentally kill one’s baby by thoughtlessly undergoing a procedure. And drinking a glass of red wine or two early in one’s pregnancy is unlikely to cause harm.
Indeed, as Ezra Klein reasonably notes:
Welcome to medical literature. If we actually listened to the reports, we’d all do aerobic exercise for 60-90 minutes a day, eat between 9 and 11 servings of fruits and vegetables (of different colors!), and never touch a donut. These are papers written by doctors intimately acquainted with the most heartbreaking and tragic eventualities imaginable. Their guidelines are written to create medically optimal outcomes. It’s up to us to balance them with our lives, our pleasures, and our risks.
Quite so. This isn’t a conspiracy of the evil patriarchy to keep women in their place. It’s the best judgment of the medical community at this point in time for avoiding what, to most women, would be devasting–inadvertantly killing or permanently harming a baby one didn’t realize one was carrying.
Is it fair that men don’t have to worry about taking folic acid? Uh…no? So what? That’s reality, not politics.
Update: Bradley Biggers thinks this is actually a sneaky tactic by the Leftist medical establishment:
This isn’t a case of “them” trying to disguise an anti-abortion agenda as being about healthy babies. This is a case of “us” trying to disguise the progressive agenda as being “pro-family.” We’re fighting fire with fire. Poor women, under the guise of “prepregnancy checkups,” will have added access to birth control. Minority women will have fewer poor pregnancy outcomes thanks to effective preventive care. Women as a whole will be given greater access to affordable health insurance… and all we have to do is put up with it being called “prepregnancy care” (a term taken from the scientific literature). Talk about the lesser of two evils.
An interesting hypothesis, at any rate.