Monday, September 22, 2008

Are Women Treated as Pre-Pregnant?

(Source: Candid Chatter)

Pre-Pregnancy was not a concept I had ever encountered in medical school. However, according to a post on the Well blog, it is a pervasive problem for many women under 40:

A recent report raised concerns about women of childbearing age sharing prescription drugs. While the focus of the study was on drug sharing, readers of the Well blog took the discussion in an entirely different direction.

“I agree that this is a serious issue, but I take great offense at the notion that this is particularly worrisome because these women are of childbearing age,” wrote reader Sharon. “Not all women are “pre-pregnant.” We are more than our uteruses!”

Reader Jennifer agreed.

“Framing this as a women’s issue because we have the ability to become pregnant is just insulting. I am tired of being thought of only as a breeding machine who should be regarded as “pre-pregnant” at all times.”

I was shocked by the reaction, although many other readers chimed in, agreeing that too often women in the health system are treated as “pre-pregnant.”

To talk more about the issue, I called Cindy Pearson, a long-time women’s health activist and executive director of the National Women’s Health Network.

“You accidentally stumbled into an area that women have had very intense feelings about for at least 40 years,” Ms. Pearson said. “American history is very heavily affected by the first time we as an entire country realized that drugs could cause harm to the fetus, and that was thalidomide in the early 1960s. It changed the course of medical care.”

While more awareness about the risks of drugs to a developing fetus is a good thing, it hasn’t always led to better health care for women, Ms. Pearson said.

“Ever since, women … feel that if they’re ovulating, they’re treated with bikini medicine,” Ms. Pearson said. “The attention all goes to their reproductive organs, and that is not right either.”

Strange. I've never encountered such an attitude in the past three years. And frankly, while I understand their concern, I think the risk of having a child without proper prenatal care is much worse potentially. The article states that health care for women was somehow worse because of this situation, but does not provide any evidence. Of course, that is not right either, but I still think it is better to err on the side of having too much prenatal care and overly focusing on the act of reproduction versus the alternative. Is it fair? Not entirely, but I think it's the most practical solution given how pregnancies often occur.

What do you think, ladies? Ever feel like you're treated as pre-pregnant? Please leave a comment and let me know what happened if you were treated this way.

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  1. In college, my girl friends and I used to get pissed off at the campus health center, which had the lowest threshold ever for doing pregnancy tests. come in with a cough, cold, or headache--you got a UPT.
    now, though, I see the point.
    I think the times article was... stupid. No one in the medical field that I've encountered thinks of women only as a representation of the status of their uteri. But, yes, women are treated as "pre-pregnant," because, as you wrote, the risks of poor prenatal care are just too great. And the risk of mothers coming back after the fact to complain about harm done to the child because of a missed dx of pregnancy is great, too.
    I think the article just provided too much hype for a necessary part of medical treatment. As a woman, I wouldn't want want my doctor to miss the diagnosis of pregnancy just because he/she didn't want to offend me by considering it.
    After all, it's the physician's job to consider all plausible diagnoses, even the things the patient won't or can't consider.
    Just as an aside: I frequent the NYT. Who the heck is Tara Parker-Pope and how is she qualified to write about health issies? Just wondering.

  2. Another thought: it's just like when the xray technicians ask you if there's a chance you could be pregnant. It's their job. And it's the right thing to do.



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